Li Yuangong 李元恭

*Translation revised with the generous help of Ofer Waldman – thanks Ofer!*

The Tang-era Vice-President of the Ministry of Personnel Li Yuangong[1] had a granddaughter, a Miss Cui, peaceful of countenance and extremely beautiful, fifteen or sixteen years old, who was suddenly afflicted by a demonic illness. When this had lasted for a long time, the fox manifested itself as a young man, calling himself ‘Gentleman Hu’; they repeatedly sought scholars of magic, but were unable to make it go away. Yuangong’s son possessed a broad education and great wisdom, and often asked: “Does Gentleman Hu also possess learning or not?” And so the fox engaged in discussions, missing not a single topic. He employed many questions to probe the fox, who tended to be closely acquainted with music. After a long time of this, he addressed Miss Cui, saying: “Nobody should remain without education.” He therefore brought an elderly man to teach Miss Cui Classics and History, and over three years she acquired a degree of expertise [204] in the cardinal principles of the various schools. He also brought a person to teach her calligraphy, and, after a single year, she came to be considered an expert calligrapher. He also said: “How can a married woman not have studied music? The konghou and pipa, though present in all music, are not so suitable as study of the qin.” He further summoned another person, saying that he was skilled at playing the qin, and stating that his surname was Hu, and that he was a scholar of Yangdi County in the Sui era. He taught her all the various tunes, preparing her fully in their subtleties, and she was quite unsurpassed on other famous songs. As to himself he claimed: “I am skilled at Guanglingsan,[2] which many encounters with Ji Zhong San[3] did not get him to teach it to other men.” He was also especially good at transmitting the wonders of Wuyeti.[4] Li later asked: “Why does Gentleman Hu not marry and return home?” The fox was extremely pleased, bowing again in thanks and saying: “I have long cherished this, too, but have not dared, purely due to being a pleb” That day, he bowed over and over to the family, leaping about in the utmost joy. Li asked: “Mr Hu wishes to return home with his wife; where is his residence?” The fox said: “Before the residence there are two large bamboos.” At that time the Li residence had a bamboo garden, and Li, going to search around there, found a small hole between two of the great trees; it turned out to be a fox’s lair, drawing water to fill it. At first they captured a badger, a raccoon dog, and several dozen small foxes. Eventually an elderly fox, wearing an unlined green robe, followed them out of the hole; it was the same robe he was always wearing. The family spoke joyfully: “Now Mr Hu has emerged!” They killed him, and the strange events stopped.
From Guangyiji 廣異記 (Extensive Records of the Strange)

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Era of Great Harmony), ix, 449.3671-72:

李元恭
唐吏部侍郎李元恭。其外孫女崔氏。容色殊麗。年十五六。忽得魅疾。久之。狐遂見形為少年。自稱 [3672] 胡郎。累求術士不能去。元恭子博學多智。常問胡郎亦學否。狐乃談論。無所不至。多質疑于狐。頗狎樂。久之。謂崔氏曰。人生不可不學。乃引一老人授崔經史。前後三載。頗通諸家大義。又引一人。教之書。涉一載。又以工書著稱。又云。婦人何不會音聲。箜篌琵琶。此故凡樂。不如學琴。復引一人至。云善彈琴。言姓胡。是隋時陽翟縣博士。悉教諸曲。備盡其妙。及他名曲。不可勝紀。自云亦善廣陵散。比屢見嵇中散。不使授人。其于烏夜啼。尤善傳其妙。李後問。胡郎何以不迎婦歸家。狐甚喜。便拜謝云。亦久懷之。所不敢者。以人微故爾。是日遍拜家人。歡躍備至。李問胡郎欲迎女子。宅在何所。狐云。某舍門前有二大竹。時李氏家有竹園。李因尋行所。見二大竹間有一小孔。竟是狐窟。引水灌之。初得猯狢及他狐數十枚。最後有一老狐。衣綠衫。從孔中出。是其素所著衫也。家人喜云。胡郎出矣。殺之。其怪遂絕。出《廣異記》

The version found in Guangyiji is essentially identical; here is the Chinese text, from the combined volume Tang Lin 唐臨; Dai Fu 戴孚, Mingbaoji; Guangyiji 冥報記 / 廣異記 (Records of Netherworld Vengeance / Extensive Records of The Strange) (Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju, 1992), pp. 203-4:

李元恭

唐吏部侍郎李元恭,其外孫女崔氏,容色殊麗,年十五六,忽得魅疾。久之,狐遂見形為少年,自稱胡郎,累求術士不能去。元恭子博學多智,常問:「胡郎亦學否?」狐乃談論,無所不至,多質疑于狐,頗狎樂。久之,謂崔氏曰:「人生不可不學。」乃引一老人授崔經史,前後三載,頗通 [204] 諸家大義。又引一人教之書,涉一載,又以工書著稱。又云:「婦人何不會音聲,箜篌琵琶,此故凡樂,不如學琴。」復引一人至,云善彈琴,言姓胡,是隋時陽翟縣博士。悉教諸曲,備盡其妙,及他名曲,不可勝紀。自云:「亦善《廣陵散》,比屢見嵇中散,不使授人。」其于《烏夜啼》尤善,傳其妙。李後問:「胡郎何以不迎婦歸家?」狐甚喜,便拜謝云:「亦久懷之,所不敢者,以人微故爾。」是日,遍拜家人,歡躍備至。李問:「胡郎欲迎女子,宅在何所?」狐云:「某舍門前有二大竹。」時李氏家有竹園,李因尋行所,見二大竹間有一小孔,竟是狐窟,引水灌之。初得猯狢及他狐數十枚,最後有一老狐,衣綠衫,從孔中出,是其素所著衫也。家人喜云:「胡郎出矣!」殺之,其怪遂絕。

[1] On Li Yuangong 李元恭 (d. c. 702 CE), see CBDB Person ID 0195948.

[2] On this piece of music, see https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%B9%BF%E9%99%B5%E6%95%A3.

[3] This refers to Ji Kang嵆康 courtesy name Shuye 叔夜 (223-62 CE), an acclaimed scholar and qin player. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ji_Kang.

[4] On this piece of music, see https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E4%B9%8C%E5%A4%9C%E5%95%BC.

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The Way Kills A Spider Demon 法誅蛛怪

In a household belonging to Jianning fu there was a married second daughter, who returned to the household for the new spring, and went to stroll with her younger sister in the flower garden to the side of the house. As they entered the garden gate there was a spider, deep red in colour, which descended onto her arm and could not be flicked away. The girl thought it a demon, and though desperate could not get rid of it. Returning, she fell ill and died. At the beginning of spring the following year, her younger sister walked again in that place to remember the dead and the past, and had not even finished speaking when the same thing descended onto her arm. The girl rushed back, also feeling the illness starting to develop, and told her mother: “Elder sister saw this last year and then died; now I have seen it again and fear that I will not be spared. This is a demon; I have heard that Huang Jinzhuang performs the Way with great efficacy. We should hurry and send people to ask for a talisman and curing water.” Her mother did as she said. Gentleman Huang sent out a talisman with instructions to burn it in the stove. Soon after, thick clouds arose on all sides, thunder and rain descending all at once, the neighbours saw a mountainside appear in the air before the gate, and saw a scarlet woman struck as if by a lightning spirit, over and over again. Before long, there was a single great thunderclap, and they saw the woman fall out of the sky and into the valley. Soon after the rain stopped, and, going to look, they saw the corpse of a woman laid out there. The demonic effects then ceased.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.164 (Tale 285):

法誅蛛怪

建寧府人家有二女適人,因春首歸家,(「家」,明抄本作「寧」。)與其妹同遊屋側花園。方入園門,有一蜘蛛,真紅色,墮其臂,拂之不去。女以為怪,意殊不釋,歸感疾而死。次年春初,其妹再遊其地,因感舊事,言未竟,此物復墮其臂。其女急回,亦感病,語其母曰:「姊去年見此而死,今我又復見之,恐不可免。此是一怪,聞黃金莊行法甚靈,可急遣人問討符水。」母如其言。黃公為遣將發符,令以符於竈中燒化。須臾,陰雲四起,雷雨交作,鄰人但見門前之山旁空中,見有一真紅婦人為雷神所擊,往來數四。須臾,霹靂一聲,見此婦人自空中跌下坑谷。須臾雨霽,往視,見一婦人橫尸在焉。其怪方絕。

Yuan Haowen 元好問, Chang Zhenguo 常振國 (ed), Xu Yijian zhi 續夷堅志 (Continued Records of the Listener), and Anon., Jin Xin 金心 (ed.), Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi 湖海新聞夷堅續志 (Continuation of Records of the Listener with New Items from the Lakes and Seas) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1986).

Punishing A Python Through The Law 法誅蟒精

The Qiongzhou Daoist Zhang Biyun (lit. ‘Jade Cloud Zhang’) performed the Thunder Rites. He was famous across Sichuan, supernatural beings resenting and fearing him. At that time the ‘Disciple of Heshan’ Wei Wenweng (Wei Liaoweng 魏了翁?[1]) was governing Xuzhou, and his wife fell ill, the sickness persisting for a long time without recovery, so he dispatched a runner with a letter describing it, sending it to Biyun. Biyun thus wrote out two talismans and gave them to the runner, praying and saying: “Burn these within the hall, and through this a thing within your kitchen will be cremated.” The runner returned and reported to Wenweng, burning it as instructed. Several days later, they found the chambers filled with a foul smell, and suddenly noticed beneath a shelf [164] a giant python, five or six zhang in length (c.17-20m), and already quite dead. His household then understood that this was a python demon, and his wife’s illness was then cured.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.163-64 (Tale 284):

法誅蟒精

邛州道士張碧雲,行雷法,四川有名,鬼神望而畏之。時魏鶴山弟文翁知敘州,內人得病,纏緜不愈,差二承局持書與狀,去投碧雲。碧雲即書二符與承局,祝云:「堂內焚化,以一就竈中焚化。」承局歸告文翁,如其言焚之。數日後,但聞滿屋臭穢,忽於閣(「閣」原作「闔」,據明刻本改。)板 [164] 下見一巨蟒,長五六丈,已死。其家方知為祟者蟒也,夫人之病遂安。

[1] On Wei Liaoweng 魏了翁, see http://www.chinaknowledge.de/History/Song/personsweiliaoweng.html

Yuan Haowen 元好問, Chang Zhenguo 常振國 (ed), Xu Yijian zhi 續夷堅志 (Continued Records of the Listener), and Anon., Jin Xin 金心 (ed.), Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi 湖海新聞夷堅續志 (Continuation of Records of the Listener with New Items from the Lakes and Seas) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1986).

The Celestial Master Executes A Serpent 天師誅蛇

In Dongyang County, in Wuzhou, there was a Guo Langzhong, whose family depended on and lived among the mountains. The crags and rocks were steep and dangerous, the trees and forests deep and thick, and there were often great serpents that became demons that people were unable to deal with. Guo had a daughter, sixteen sui in age and of great beauty, who suddenly vanished and could not be found. Her parents suspected she had been deluded by a ghost, and thought about her endlessly, morning and night, sending people to offer incense and a letter to Longhushan, to call on and request help from the Guanmiao Celestial Master. The master intended to set off the next day, and that night dreamed that the school’s founder spoke to him: “You should not go; I will sort this out myself.” Suddenly, one day, there was a person of religion who arrived at the Guo household, and calling on him asked: “What matter disturbs your family?” Guo replied with the matter of his missing daughter. The person of religion said: “I have the power of the Way; you should send people after me to seek her.” They then sent people following after him, and on reaching the hills behind the house [163] he ordered the people to close their eyes, listen for his cry, and then open their eyes. When the cry came, they opened their eyes to see flames erupt from the hillside, with a great serpent burning among them, and the girl standing before it. On questioning, it emerged that the serpent had become a bewitching spirit. The demon then died. The religious then gave the girl an amulet to wear, and she regained her former peace.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.162-63 (Tale 282):

天師誅蛇

婺州東陽縣有郭郎中,家依山而居,山石險峻,樹林深密,常有大蛇為妖,人所不能治。郭有一女年十六歲,容貌甚麗,忽尋不見。父母疑為祟所惑,朝夕思慕不已,遣人齎香信詣龍虎山,迎請觀妙天師救治。師欲翌日起(「起」,明刻本、明抄本作「啟」。)行,是夜(「夜」作「以」,據明刻本、明抄本改。)夢祖師云:「汝毋往,吾將自治之。」忽一日,有〔道〕(據明刻本、明抄本補。)人到郭家,謁問之曰:「爾家中有何憂事?」郭以失女事對。道人曰:「我有道法,爾當遣人隨我尋之。」遂遣人隨去,至屋後 [163] 山中,令其人閉目,謂聞喝聲即開。及喝一聲,開目見山中火發,焚一大蛇於中,女立于前。詢之,乃此蛇為魅。其怪遂絕。道人乃給符與女服,獲安如故。

Yuan Haowen 元好問, Chang Zhenguo 常振國 (ed), Xu Yijian zhi 續夷堅志 (Continued Records of the Listener), and Anon., Jin Xin 金心 (ed.), Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi 湖海新聞夷堅續志 (Continuation of Records of the Listener with New Items from the Lakes and Seas) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1986).

A Stone Turtle is Able to Walk 石龜能行

By the side of the Chuzhou government office was an ancient stone stele, recording someone’s good governance, even their courtesy name having been rubbed away over the years. Beneath the stele was a stone turtle, which emerged to roam about every night. The government clerks marvelled at this, making offerings to it in search of blessings and fortune, and it never failed to provide results. Due to this prayers to it never ceased for a single day, and it was named ‘Great King Transcendant Turtle’. Eventually a new prefectural chief took over, and, believing it to be a demon, not only would not make offerings, but even had it thrown in the river. The residence was then without calm or peace, but the clerks and populace lifted it back out and made offerings, thus restoring their good fortune. They later encountered a supernatural being who recognised that the turtle was indeed a demon, and smashed it, after which the uncanny events ceased.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.264 (Tale 478):

石龜能行

處州設廳側有一石古碑,亦不知紀載何人善政,字亦漫滅。碑之下有石龜,每夜出遊。官吏奇之,祭以邀福,無不驗者。由是禱祈無寧日,名之曰靈龜大王。續有太守來,以為怪,非惟不祭,且投之水。居不遑安,吏民再扶起而祭之,因此獲福。後遇異人,知其為怪,碎之,而怪方息。

Yuan Haowen 元好問, Chang Zhenguo 常振國 (ed), Xu Yijian zhi 續夷堅志 (Continued Records of the Listener), and Anon., Jin Xin 金心 (ed.), Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi 湖海新聞夷堅續志 (Continuation of Records of the Listener with New Items from the Lakes and Seas) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1986).

A Rat Turns A Spinning Wheel 鼠運緯車

The family of Constable Wu Guinian of Jintian often saw a person wearing a kerchief and a Huai robe, sometimes sitting beneath the moon, sometimes seated before the flowers, sometimes reclining by the pond, sometimes sitting on the building, changing and never looking quite the same. One day it was leaning against the gate with its hand, and Constable Wu said: “This is a household spirit; please return to the ancestral hall.” It then vanished. They also had a spinning wheel, which when night came could spin of its own accord, and this continued for several nights running. One evening, Wu covered his lamp with a pail and sat down next to it. He heard something descend the stairs, uncovering the matter step by step. Before long the spinning wheel began to spin once more, so he quickly removed the pail, leaving the lamp shining brightly, and the strange thing without time to change its shape. He saw a large rat, the size of a small pig, turning the wheel with its tail. He later treated it according to the Buddhist law, at which the demon vanished.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.257 (Tale 467):

鼠運緯車

金田吳尉龜年,其家常見有一人淮巾袍帶,或坐月下,或坐花前,或坐池畔,或坐樓上,變見不一。一日以手柱門上,吳尉曰:「此家神也,請歸祠堂。」遂不見。又有一緯車,遇夜自能運轉,如此已數夕矣。一夕,吳以燈覆桶下,坐其旁,聞一物自樓梯下,步步分曉。須臾其緯車復運轉,急去桶,燈明,其怪物不及變形。乃見一大鼠如小豬兒狀,以尾拽其車。後以(此處原多一「其」字,據明刻本刪。)法治之,其怪乃絕。

Yuan Haowen 元好問, Chang Zhenguo 常振國 (ed), Xu Yijian zhi 續夷堅志 (Continued Records of the Listener), and Anon., Jin Xin 金心 (ed.), Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi 湖海新聞夷堅續志 (Continuation of Records of the Listener with New Items from the Lakes and Seas) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1986).

A Dog Spirit Seduces A Woman 犬精迷婦

Wang such-and-such of Anren County once went away on business, making two trips without returning, and leaving his wife and mother at home. His wife suddenly became pregnant, and her mother-in-law grew suspicious. One evening the mother-in-law waited until the silence of night fell, and then secretly approached the wife’s room to investigate the matter, where she heard the woman making a ‘woo woo’ sound. When the next day dawned, the mother-in-law again approached the wife’s room, and questioned her, to which she said: “Whenever the second watch (9-11pm) arrives, a thing like a great board lays upon my body; I am unable to move, only when the cock’s crow sounds does it rise, releasing my body and departing.” Her mother-in-law began to understand, and looked under her body; the sleeping mat was soaked through with a white fluid, so she then knew it was a matter of demonic seduction. She ordered a procession of shamanic masters to treat it, but all failed to have any effect. One of the shamans secretly scattered ashes across the floor, however, and when inspected these revealed a dog’s pawprint. They followed the prints out to the road, and were led to such-and-such a household, where they bought the dog with paper money and boiled it on an altar out in front. The woman who had been seduced wept and howled as if she had been widowed, and after two days gave birth to a thing like a rabbit, without shedding a spot of blood. She was fortunate not to die, but lives to this day in a state of imbecility.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.255 (Tale 461):

犬精迷婦

安仁縣王某出外經商,兩載未歸,留婦及母在家。婦忽有孕,阿姑疑之。一夕阿姑伺夜靜,密造婦房前以察之,似聞婦有嗚嗚聲。至天明,阿姑再造婦房,詰問,乃曰:「每至二更時候,有一物若巨板狀伏於身上,不可動,至雞鳴物方離身起去。」阿姑方悟,視其身下,白汁滿席,方知為妖怪所惑。累命師巫救治,皆莫驗。巫乃密布灰篩於地,視之,乃犬迹也。隨路迹蹤,追至某家,就用鈔買至壇前烹之。所迷之婦若喪其偶,號哭不勝,越兩日,生下兩物如兔,更無點血,幸得不死,至今癡呆。

Yuan Haowen 元好問, Chang Zhenguo 常振國 (ed), Xu Yijian zhi 續夷堅志 (Continued Records of the Listener), and Anon., Jin Xin 金心 (ed.), Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi 湖海新聞夷堅續志 (Continuation of Records of the Listener with New Items from the Lakes and Seas) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1986).