Gongsun Da 公孫達

During the Ganlu era,[1] Gongsun Da of Renchen died in office at Chen Prefecture. When they were about to prepare him for burial, his sons, together with the prefectural clerks, numbering several dozen people, were approaching the funeral scene when his five-year-old son began to speak in tongues, sounding just like his father. He scolded the people gathered for only weeping, and then called out to all his sons as a further warning. His sons and the rest were unable to control their grief, so he comforted and encouraged them:

The fortune of the four seasons,

Still has beginning and end.

Human life may be cut short,

Who can avoid this fate?

If the tongue makes a thousand words,

All should accord with the hidden meaning.

His sons questioned him again: “Nothing is known of any who have died. The intelligence of Your Excellency is a unique exception. Are there deities and spirits?” He replied: “The matter of spirits and deities is beyond your knowledge.” He then requested paper and brush, and he wrote. Having filled the page with meaningful poetry, he tossed it to the ground and died.

From Lieyizhuan.

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Era of Great Harmony), 10 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), vii, 316.2499:

公孫達

任城公孫達。甘露中。陳郡卒官。將斂。兒及郡吏數十人臨喪。達五歲兒。忽作靈語。音聲如父。呵衆人哭止。因呼諸子。以次教誡。兒等悲哀不能自勝。及慰勉之曰。四時之運。猶有始終。人修短殊。誰不致此。語千餘言。皆合文章。兒又問曰。人亡皆無所知。唯大人聰明殊特。有神靈耶。答曰。鬼神之事。非爾所知也。因索紙筆作書。辭義滿紙。投地遂絕。出列異傳

[1] The Ganlu 甘露 era could refer to either 53-50 BCE, 254-59 CE, 265-66 CE, or 359-64 CE.

A Wuyuan Soldier’s Wife 婺源軍人妻

In a dingyou year, the wife of a soldier from Jianwei in Wuyuan died, so he remarried. His second wife terribly mistreated his children by the first wife, and the husband was quite unable to stop this. One day, he suddenly saw his dead wife pass through the gate and enter. Furious at the second wife, she said: “Who among the people will not die? How could anyone lack all motherly feelings? Yet you abuse our children like this? I have recently made a complaint to the authorities of the nether world, and they granted me a break of ten days in which I am to teach you. If you then fail to change, I would surely be able to kill the gentleman.” Husband and wife were both terrified and bowed over and over, then provided her with food and drink. They once invited trusted friends from among their neighbours, greeting them and chatting as normal, but these other people could hear her voice, despite only the husband being able to see her. When night fell, she set up a bed in another room. The husband wished to spend the night with her, but was not allowed. When the ten days were up, she was about to depart, but again reprimanded the second wife and urged her to improve. Her words were very [2800] earnest and thoughtful. She escorted the family members together to her tomb, and when they were a little over a hundred paces from the grave, said: “You should all stop here.” She then said her goodbyes in a polite and courteous manner, then departed. Just as she reached a cypress grove all of the family could see her, in clothes and appearance seeming just they had in life. When she reached the tomb, she disappeared.

The officer of the Jianwei Army Wang Yanchang reported that it occurred like this.

From Jishenlu.

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Era of Great Harmony), 10 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), viii, 353.2799-800:

婺源軍人妻

丁酉歲。婺源建威軍人妻死更娶。其後妻虐遇前妻之子過甚。夫不能制。一日。忽見亡妻自門而入。大怒後妻曰。人誰無死。孰無母子之情。乃虐我兒女如是耶。吾比訴與地下所司。今與我假十日。使我誨汝。汝遂不改。必能殺君。夫妻皆恐懼再拜。即為具酒食。徧召親黨鄰里。問訊敘話如常。他人但聞其聲。唯夫見之。及夜。為設榻別室。夫欲從之宿。不可。滿十日。將去。復責勵其後妻。言甚 [2800] 切至。舉家親族共送至墓。去墓百餘步。曰。諸人可止矣。復殷勤辭訣而去。將及柏林中。諸人皆見之。衣服容色如平生。及墓乃沒。建威軍使汪延昌言如是。出稽神錄

Magistrate Li Of Wangjiang 望江李令

Magistrate Li of Wangjiang lived in Shuzhou after his dismissal from office. He had two sons, who were extremely intelligent. The magistrate once went to drink wine, returning at sunset. A hundred paces short of his house, he saw his two sons coming to greet him. On reaching him, they grabbed him between them and gave him a beating. The magistrate was alarmed and angry. He let out a great cry, but it was a place far from other people, so nobody knew of his plight. They kept hitting him as he went, but, just as he was about to reach his home his two sons left him and departed. When he arrived at the gate, however, his two sons were just arriving to meet him below the hall. When he questioned them they both said that they had never stepped outside the gate. A little over a month later, the magistrate again held a drinking party, but this time told his host the whole story, asking if he could stay the night as he did not dare return. His sons, however, fearing that he would return at dusk and be beaten again, set out together to meet him. Halfway there, however, they saw their father, who asked them, angrily: “Why would you go out at night?” He then had his attendants beat them, before letting them go. The next day, the magistrate returned, and was even more shocked at these events. Before several months had passed, father and sons were all dead.

People of the region say: ‘In Shu there are mountain spirits, and they excel in such cruelty, as they are followers of Liqiu.’[1]

From Jishenlu.

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Era of Great Harmony), 10 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), viii, 353.2797:

望江李令

望江李令者。罷秩居舒州。有二子。甚聰慧。令嘗飲酒暮歸。去家數百步。見二子來迎。即共禽而毆之。令驚大怒。大呼。而遠方人絕。竟無知者。且行且毆。將至家。二子皆却走而去。及入門。二子復迎于堂下。問之。皆云未嘗出門。後月餘。令復飲酒於所親家。因具白其事。請留宿。不敢歸。而其子恐其及暮歸。復為所毆。即俱往迎之。及中途。見其父。怒曰。何故暮出。即使從者擊之。困而獲免。明日令歸。益駭其事。不數月。父子皆卒。郡人云。舒有山鬼。善為此厲。蓋黎丘之徒也。出稽神錄

[1] Translation revised with generous help from Ofer Waldman. Thanks Ofer!

Mou Ying 牟穎

When Mou Ying, from Luoyang, was still young, he accidentally, due to drunkenness, left the city and reached open country. He only came to at midnight, resting at the roadside, where he saw an exposed skeleton. Ying was extremely distressed by this, and when dawn broke he stooped over and buried it. That night, he dreamed of a youth, of perhaps just over twenty, robed in white silk and bearing a sword. He bowed to Ying, and said: “I am a stubborn bandit. My whole life I have wilfully injured and slaughtered and indulged in injustice. Recently I clashed with my peers, and was killed, buried by the roadside. Over a long time, rain and wind caused my bones to become exposed. Your servant was reburied by the gentleman, so I have come to thank you. In life I was a fierce and brutal man. In death I am a fierce and brutal ghost. You could allow me shelter and rest, but the gentleman would have to pour a small libation to me every night. I will ever respond to the gentleman’s requirements, and I am already obliged to the gentlemen. Neither hunger or thirst will reach you, and you will always receive the objects of your requests and desires.” In his dream Ying promised this.

When he awoke, he thus had a try at laying out offerings and secretly spoke prayers. That night he again dreamed of the ghost, who said: “I have already entrusted myself to the gentleman. Whenever the gentleman wishes to direct me, he should just call out ‘Chi ding zi’. Speak softly of your affairs and I will always respond to the sound and arrive.” Ying then would always call for him in secret, ordering him to steal, to take other people’s property. His voice never went unanswered or wishes unfulfilled, so he became rich on gold and jewels. One day, Ting noticed that a woman in a neighbouring household was very beautiful, and fell in love with her. He therefore called ‘chi ding zi’ and ordered him to steal her away. The neighbour’s wife arrived at midnight, leaping over the outside wall as she came. Ying jumped up in shock, but treated her with courtesy, asking why she had come. The woman replied: “I had not intended to come, but was suddenly seized by someone who brought me to your chamber. It was suddenly as if I had woken from a dream. [2785] I don’t know what kind of demon it could have been, or what it intended, but whenever I try to return home, I weep without cease.” Ying felt great sympathy for her, and she stayed in secret for several days. Her family made urgent attempts to see her, however, and eventually reported the matter to the authorities.

When Ying became aware of this, he and the woman came up with a ruse. He had her return but then, setting out to a different house, state that she had no idea which evil spirit had spirited her away, and refuse to return to her former home. After she had returned to her family, every third or fifth night she was then picked up by a person and removed to Ying’s house, but, not staying until dawn, she would always be returned home. A year passed, and her family knew nothing about this. She found it deeply strange that Ying possessed such powers of sorcery, so urgently approached Ying and asked: “If you do not explain this to me, I will have to expose the whole affair.” Ying therefore related the truth about the whole matter. The neighbour’s wife then reported it to her family, and together they made a plan to deal with the matter. Her family then secretly requested a Daoist to come and clean away these illicit arts. They then waited. Chidingzi arrived at their gate as soon as night had fallen, but, seeing the great array of magic figures, he was driven back and returned. He explained to Ying: “They repelled me with orthodox magic, but their power is only fragile. If the gentleman fights alongside me we should be able to steal away that woman, and this time you must not allow her to return.” After this speech he set off again, and in a moment a great tempest of wind and rain arose around the neighbour’s house. The entire residence turned black, and the various talismans and prohibitions seemed to be swept away all of a sudden. The woman vanished once more, so once dawn had broken her husband went to the government officials. They accompanied him to Ying’s house bent on arresting him, so Ying fled with the woman. It is not known where they went.

From Xiaoxianglu.

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Era of Great Harmony), 10 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), viii, 352.2784-85:

牟穎

洛陽人牟穎。少年時。因醉。誤出郊野。夜半方醒。息於路旁。見一發露骸骨。穎甚傷念之。達曙。躬身掩埋。其夕。夢一少年。可二十已來。衣白練衣。仗一劍。拜穎曰。我彊寇耳。平生恣意殺害。作不平事。近與同輩爭。遂為所害。埋於路旁。久經風雨。所以發露。蒙君復藏。我故來謝君。我生為凶勇人。死亦為兇勇鬼。若能容我棲託。但君每夜微奠祭我。我常應君指使。我既得託於君。不至飢渴。足得令君所求狥意也。穎夢中許之。及覺。乃試設祭饗。暗以祀禱祈。夜又夢鬼曰。我已託君矣。君每欲使我。即呼赤丁子一聲。輕言其事。我必應聲而至也。穎遂每潛告。令竊盜。盜人之財物。無不應聲遂意。後致富有金寶。一日。穎見鄰家婦有美色。愛之。乃呼赤丁子令竊焉。鄰婦至夜半。忽至外踰垣而至。穎驚起款曲。問其所由來。婦曰。我本無心。忽夜被一人擒我至君室。忽如夢 [2785] 覺。我亦不知何怪也。不知何計。却得還家。悲泣不已。穎甚閔之。潛留數日。而其婦家人求訪極切。至於告官。穎知之。乃與婦人詐謀。令婦人出別墅。却自歸。言不知被何妖精取去。今却得廻。婦人至家後。再每三夜或五夜。依前被一人取至穎家。不至曉。即却送歸。經一年。家人皆不覺。婦人深怪穎有此妖術。後因至切。問於穎曰。若不白我。我必自發此事。穎遂具述其實。鄰婦遂告於家人。共圖此患。家人乃密請一道流。潔淨作禁法以伺之。赤丁子方夜至其門。見符籙甚多。却反。白於穎曰。彼以正法拒我。但力微耳。與君力爭。當惡取此婦人。此來必須不放回也。言訖復去。須臾。鄰家飄驟風起。一宅俱黑色。但是符籙禁法之物。一時如掃。復失婦人。至曙。其夫遂去官。同來穎宅擒捉。穎乃携此婦人逃。不知所之。出瀟湘錄

Hostel Pavilion Spiders 館亭蜘蛛

There was a Censor called Wei Jun who was once responsible for Jiangxia. Sent back to the capital with a message, on his return journey he stopped to transact business at a hostel pavilion. He suddenly noticed a white spider descending from one of the pavilion columns, its body extremely small. Wei Jun said: “This is a danger to people. I have heard that, though small, when it bites people even good medicine has no effect.” He therefore directed that it be killed. Presently he saw another white one descending, and had it killed like the last one. Looking up beyond it he saw that the web led to a lair, so he ordered his retinue to fetch a broom and sweep it all away, and said: “I have now eliminated the threat to life.” The following day, wishing to leave, he touched the column with his hand as he passed, and felt a sharp unbearable pain; it turned out to be the bite of a white spider on the column. Wei Jun was shocked, and immediately flicked it away. It soon swelled up, and before several days had passed this affected his entire arm. Due to this he was carried to Jiangxia in a sedan chair. Physicians and medicines had no effect, and eventually his left arm was pouring blood; when his blood was exhausted he died. Before this Wei Jun’s lady mother was in Jiangxia, and dreamed that a white-robed person addressed her: “My two brothers, younger and elder, were killed by your son. I have reported to the heavenly emperor, and the emperor has avenged this injustice according to my request.” When they finished speaking, the lady awoke in shock. Marvelling greatly at it, she was too disturbed to speak. A little more than ten days later, when Wei Jun arrived and she heard the full story, she came to understand the dream, realising that the day of her vision was indeed that on which he had killed the spider in the hostel pavilion. The lady wept and said: “How can you live for long now?” Several days later Wei Jun died.

Zhang Du 張讀, Xuanshi Zhi 宣室志 (Stories from the Chamber of Dissemination),1.3 (Tale 4):

館亭蜘蛛

有御史韋君,嘗從事江夏,復以奉使至京,既還,道次商於館亭中。忽見亭柱有白蜘蛛曳而下,狀甚微。韋君曰:「是為人之患也。吾聞汝雖小,螫人,良藥無及。」因以指殺焉。俄又見一白者下,如前所殺之。且視其上,有綱為窟,韋乃命左右挈箒盡為盡掃去,且曰:「為人患者,吾已除矣。」明日欲去,因以手撫去柱,忽覺指痛不可忍,乃是有一白蜘蛛螫其上。韋君驚,即拂去。俄遂腫焉,不數日而盡一臂。由是肩輿舁至江夏。醫藥無及,竟以左臂潰為血,血盡而終。先是韋君先夫人在江夏,夢一白衣人謂曰:「我弟兄二人為汝子所殺。吾告上帝,帝用雪其寃,且遂吾請。」言畢,夫人驚寤。甚異之,惡不能言。後旬餘而韋君至,具得其狀,方悟所夢,覺為夢日,果其殺蜘蛛於館亭時也。夫人泣曰:「其能久乎!」數日而韋君終矣。

Zhang Du 張讀, Xuanshi Zhi 宣室志 (Stories from the Chamber of Dissemination)in Du yi zhi, Xuanshi Zhi 獨異志,宣室志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories, Stories from the Chamber of Dissemination), edited by Zhang Yongqin 张永钦 and Hou Zhiming 侯志明 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1983)

The version transmitted in the Taiping Guangji varies slightly from this:

Wei Jun 韋君

There was a Censor called Wei Jun who was once responsible for Jiangxia. Sent back to the capital with a message, on his return journey he stopped to transact business at a hostel pavilion. He suddenly noticed a white spider descending from one of the pavilion columns, its body extremely small. Wei Jun said: “This is a danger to people. I have heard that, though small, when it bites people even good medicine has no effect.” He therefore directed that it be killed. Presently he saw another white one descending, and had it killed like the last one. Looking up beyond it he saw that the web led to a lair, so he ordered his retinue to fetch a broom to remove it all, and said: “I have now eliminated the threat to life.” The following day, about to leave, he touched the column with his hand as he passed, and felt a sharp pain that he could not bear; it turned out to be the bite of a white spider on the column. Wei Jun was shocked, and immediately flicked it away. Soon the swelling grew, and before several days had passed this affected his entire arm. Due to this he was carried to Jiangxia in a sedan chair. Physicians and medicines had no effect, and eventually his left arm was pouring blood; when his blood was exhausted he died. Before this Wei Jun’s lady mother was in Jiangxia, and dreamed that a white-robed person addressed her: “I had three brothers, younger and elder, and two were killed by your son. I have reported to the heavenly emperor, and the emperor felt sympathy and agreed to my request.” When they finished speaking, the lady awoke in shock. Marvelling greatly at it, she was too disturbed to speak. A little more than ten days later, when Wei Jun arrived and she heard the full story, she came to understand the dream, realising that the day of her vision was indeed that on which he had been in the hostel pavilion. The lady wept and said: “How can you live for long now?” Several days later Wei Jun died.

From Xuanshizhi

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Period of Great Harmony), 10 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), x, 476.3920:

韋君

有御史韋君嘗從事江夏。後以奉使至京。既還。道次商於。館亭中。忽見亭柱有白蜘蛛曳而下。狀甚微。韋君曰。是人之患也。吾聞雖小。螫人。良藥無及。因以指殺焉。俄又見一白者下。如前所殺之。且觀其上。有綱為窟。韋乃命左右挈帚。盡為去。且曰。為人患者。吾已除矣。明日將去。因以手撫去柱。忽覺指痛。不可忍之。乃是有一白蜘蛛螫其上。韋君驚。即拂去。俄遂腫延。不數日而盡一臂。由是肩舁至江夏。醫藥無及。竟以左臂潰為血。血盡而終。先是韋君先夫人在江夏。夢一白衣人謂曰。我弟兄三人。其二人為汝子所殺。吾告上帝。帝用憫其寃。且遂吾請。言畢。夫人驚寤。甚異之。惡不能言。後旬餘而韋君至。具得其狀。方悟所夢。覺為夢日。果其館亭時也。夫人泣曰。其能久乎。數日而韋君終矣。出宣室志

The Haimen Tiger 海門虎

In the eighth month of the second year Chunxi (18 August to 16 September, 1175), in Xiasha, Haiman County, Tongzhou, a savage tiger suddenly emerged. Of the oxen, sheep, pigs and dogs belonging to the populace, a great many were consumed. The residents feared its coming, and when dusk fell would emerge to fend it off. The windows and doors of old Man Chen’s cottage were all flimsy and would collapse at a touch. Chen spoke to his wife and children, saying: “The tiger will only eat a certain number of people. Our family has eight members, and I fear we are due a catastrophe, so I will now go and undertake that role.” His wife and children lamented and urged him not to, but he paid no heed. When he opened the door, he saw the tiger. It bore an arrow in its flank, so he reached with his hand and pulled it out. The tiger leapt into the air and roared, made a show of great happiness, and departed. The next night, it threw a wild pig to them as a reward, and from then on was seen no more.

Hong Mai 洪邁, He Zhuo 何卓 (ed.), Yi Jian Zhi 夷堅志 (Record of Yi Jian) 4 volumes (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1981), iii, 庚, 4.1166:

海門虎

淳熙二年八月,通州海門縣下沙忽有虎暴,民家牛羊豬狗,遭食者多。居人畏其來,至暮輒出避。陳老翁村舍窗戶籬壁,皆為觸倒。陳語妻子曰:「虎吃人自係定數。我一家人八口,恐須有合受禍者,我今出外自當之。」妻子挽勸不聽。卽開門,見虎肋間帶一箭,手為之拔取。虎騰身哮吼,為感悅之狀而去。次夜,擲一野彘以報,自此絕跡。

A Fox-Dragon 狐龍

Beneath Lishan there was a white fox. It startled and bothered the people below the peak, but they were unable to get rid of it. One day during the Tang Ganfu era (874-80 CE), it suddenly took a bath in a hot spring. Before long, clouds arose and mists bubbled up, and a violent wind began to blow. It transformed into a white dragon, ascended the clouds and departed. For some time afterwards there was dark and gloom, and people frequently saw the white dragon soaring over the mountain’s flanks. This continued for three years. Then an old man appeared, approaching each night and weeping before the peak. After several days people waited for him and asked him why. The old man said: “My Fox-Dragon is dead. That is the reason.” They asked him why he called it a fox-dragon, and again why he wept. The old man said: “The fox-dragon was a fox and became a dragon. After three years it died. I am the fox-dragon’s son.” The people questioned him again, asking: “How can a fox turn into a dragon?” The old man replied: “This fox grew endowed with the vital energy of the west, its whiskers white in colour. It did not travel with the crowds, did not join with its vicinity. The fox was entrusted with the skirts of Lishan for more than a thousand years. Later, it happened to unite with a female dragon. The heavens were aware of this, and so decreed it become a dragon, and also that, like a human, it could leave the mortal plane and become a sage.” When he had finished speaking he vanished.

From Qishiji.

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Era of Great Harmony), 10 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), x, 455.3718:

狐龍

驪山下有一白狐。驚撓山下人。不能去除。唐乾符中。忽一日突溫泉自浴。須臾之間。雲蒸霧湧。狂風大起。化一白龍。昇天而去。後或陰暗。往往有人見白龍飛騰山畔。如此三年。忽有一老父。每臨夜。即哭於山前。數日。人乃伺而問其故。老父曰。我狐龍死。故哭爾。人問之。何以名狐龍。老父又何哭也。老父曰。狐龍者。自狐而成龍。三年而死。我狐龍之子也。人又問曰。狐何能化為龍。老父曰。此狐也。稟西方之正氣而生。胡白色。不與衆遊。不與近處。狐託於驪山下千餘年。後偶合於雌龍。上天知之。遂命為龍。亦猶人間自凡而成聖耳。言訖而滅。

出奇事記