The Kaifeng Water Monster 開封水怪

Under the Song, during the Xuanhe era (1119-25), when someone arose from their bed in front of a tea shop and wiped down the couch, they noticed something crouching beside them like a dog; looking again in the bright light of dawn, it turned out to be a dragon. The person cried out loudly and fell to the ground. A short distance from the tea shop stood a workshop for military equipment. A group of soldiers from the workshop took away the dragon and ate it, but didn’t dare to report the matter. People in the capital all drew pictures to transmit and appreciate the sight; its body was only six or seven chi in length (about 2m), as [74] they have been painted for generations: the dragon’s scales being grey-black, its head like that of a donkey, its cheeks like those of a fish, the colour of its head a true green, with a horned brow, a very long back, splitting into two segments at the end; its voice was like that of a cow. A night later, at the fifth watch (about 4am), a red cloud came from the northwest and covered dozens of circuits, reaching towards heaven, crossing into the Purple Palace and the Great Bear; looking up, the stars all seemed to be separated by red gauze. When the sun rose it split with a tearing noise, which later became very great. This happened over several following evenings, the noise growing, its shaking lasting a long time and becoming extremely strong, with red clouds spreading from the northwest for tens of thousands of circuits, two clouds of black and white passing from the northwest to the northeast, the noise continuing without end, finally stopping at dawn. Several days later, water flooded into the capital, rising to more than ten zhang (33m). Diviners said that in bingwu the omens matched those of the fall of the Northern Qi (550-77), and later the nature of this matter became extremely clear.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.73-74 (Tale 129):

開封水怪

宋宣和間,開封縣前茶肆人晨起拭牀榻,睹若有大犬蹲其旁,質明視之,龍也。其人驚呼仆地。茶肆適與軍器作坊近,為作坊兵衆取而食之,不敢以聞。都人皆圖畫傳玩,身僅六七尺,若 [74] 世所繪,龍鱗蒼黑,驢首而兩頰如魚,頭色正綠,頂有角,坐極長,其際始分兩䏢,有聲如牛。越一夕五鼓,西北有赤氣數十道近天,犯紫宮北斗,仰視星皆若隔絳紗。方起時折裂一聲,然後大發。後數夕又作,聲益大,震且久,其發尤甚,而赤氣自西北數十萬道,中有黑白二氣自西北而由東北,其聲不絕,迨曉乃止。後數日,水犯都城,高十餘丈。占者謂丙午及北齊末占同,後事驗亦甚明也。

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).

An account of the same events is found in Anon., Xuanhe yishi 宣和遺事 [Neglected Events of the Proclaiming Harmony Regnal Period]. Dating it to the second year Xuanhe (1120), this places the incident within a series of disastrous portents, their meaning relating to the palace. The Xuanhe yishi version also, disappointingly, omits the discussion of painting traditions.

William O. Hennessey (tr.), Proclaiming Harmony, Michigan Papers in Chinese Studies, 41 (Ann Arbor, MI, Center for Chinese Studies, University of Michigan, 1991), pp. 41-42:

That summer, in the fifth month, a creature somewhat like a dragon appeared in front of a teashop in Kaifeng County. It was about six or seven feet long with blue black scales. It had a head like a donkey, but with fish-cheeks and a horn on top of its skull. It bellowed like an ox. As it happened, the shopkeeper was making up the beds that morning when he noticed something the size of a large dog beside him. When he looked closely, it was this dragon. He was so surprised he keeled over in fright. The teashop was situated very close to an arms manufactory, and when the wor­kers in the mill found out about the dragon they killed and ate it.

That night in the fifth watch, several score columns of crimson vapor rose to the sky in the northwest. When one looked up at the North Star, it was as if it were veiled in scarlet gauze. In the midst of it all were alternate streams of black and white vapor, from which emanated crackling sounds like thunder from time to time. Soon rain began to fall in torrents. The level of the river rose more than ten yards, seeping through the city walls and breaking down the dike on the Bian River. Although all the laborers available within the city were marshalled to help in the crisis, carrying straw and sandbags to stem the tide, they were unable to hold it back. Finally, Huizong called upon the executive of the Ministry of Revenue, Tang Lu, to take charge of the operations. In the morning, Lu went out on the river in a small dinghy to see what the flood was like so that it might be controlled. The emperor watched him from atop, a tower. When he [42] discovered it was Lu himself out on the waters, he wept. Several days later the waters leveled off and Lu went to see the emperor, who praised him highly. ‘The temples of Our ancestors are secure, thanks to your work,’ he said.

Lu responded, ‘Water is an element of the Yin class. Yin influences are ascendant and pervade even to the inner reaches of the city and palace. I pray Your Majesty will communicate directly with his ministers, sequester himself from feminine wiles and small-minded people, and heed well this warning from Heaven to make ready for the tribes.’ Huizong commended this memorial and accepted it.

Anon., Xinkan dasong xuanhe yishi 新刊大宋宣和遺事 (Neglected Events of the Proclaiming Harmony Regnal Period of the Great Song: A New Edition) (Shanghai: Gudian wenxue chubanshe, 1954), pp. 29-30:

夏,五月,有物若龍,長六七尺,蒼鱗黑色,驢首,兩頰如魚,頭色綠,頂有角,其聲如牛,見於開封縣茶肆前。時茶肆人早起拂拭床榻,見有物若大犬蹲其傍,熟視之,乃是龍也。其人吃驚,臥倒在地。茶肆與軍器作坊相近,遂被作坊軍人得知,殺龍而食之。是夕五鼓,西北有赤氣數十道衝天,仰視北斗星若隔絳紗,其中有間以白黑二炁,及時有折烈聲震如雷。未幾,霪雨大作,水高十餘丈,犯都城,已破汴堤,諸內侍役夫,擔草運土障之,不能禦。徽宗詔戶部侍郎唐恪治之。即日,恪乘小舟覽水之勢,而求所以導之。上登樓遙見,問之,乃恪也,為之出涕。數日,水平,恪入對,上勞之曰:「宗廟社稷獲安,卿之功也!」唐恪因回奏:「水乃陰類。陰炁之盛,以致犯城闕。願陛下垂意於馭臣,遠女寵,去小人,備夷狄,以益謹天戒。」徽 [30] 宗嘉納之。

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Rice and Dried Meat Filled Lung 米脯灌肺

In Hangzhou there was once a seller of filled lung soup. Each day when night fell he shouldered his carrying-pole and set off into the street, walking his rounds in harmony and peace. One evening, a scholar of the National University, arriving extremely drunk by the head of his pole, suddenly threw up in the pot. The seller, not daring to say anything, extinguished his lamp and entered a small alley, wiping off the extra material, and then came back out. Seeing that the vomit still included grains of rice, he stuck on a new straw marker, changing the name of his wares to ‘Rice and Dried Meat Filled Lung’. People who were ignorant of the situation bought and ate all of it.

Had it not been for this period of wild behaviour, that scholar would never have made this ‘payment’, and brought such a day of trade!

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.71 (Tale 123):

米脯灌肺

杭州舊有賣灌肺湯者,每於入夜,夯擔出街,旋行調和。一夕,有太學士人乘醉到擔頭,忽然漚酒入於鍋內,賣者不敢言,即滅燈火挑入小巷內,拭括加料而後復出。視之嘔中尚有飯糝,遂插標改其名曰「米脯灌肺」,不知者皆買食之。否則一時喧鬨,士人未必有償,而一日之經紀休矣!

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 Huge Serpent Spits A Pearl 巨蛇吐珠

A country woman surnamed Huang from Qinzhou once found rays of bright light shining out of her grain store at night; people marvelled greatly at it. One day, Huang took out the grain to dry in the sun, and saw among it a great snake coiled up in there, which spat out a round object emitting dazzling rays. When the serpent leapt up and departed, she picked up the object, which turned out to be a pearl. She held it close and returned. That night her room was  filled with light, and the neighbours reported the matter to the local officials. Because the officials pursued the matter rather urgently, the woman became alarmed. She therefore hid the pearl in a steamer basket and it was cooked. Afterwards its bright gleam faded to dullness. A scholar she later encountered said: “This was a snake pearl; had it not been cooked in the steamer its value would have been boundless!”

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.66 (Tale 114):

巨蛇吐珠

欽州村婦黃氏,禾屋內夜有光芒現,人甚訝之。一日,黃婦取禾曬曝,見禾中有一巨蛇蟠屈於彼,口吐一圓物,光耀奪目。蛇躍而出,婦拾而視之,乃一珠,懷而歸之。是夜滿室光耀,鄰右以其事首官,官司追索稍緊,其婦驚懼,以珠於甑內蒸過,遂晦而不明。後遇識者乃曰:「此蛇珠也,若不蒸過,則價無限矣!」

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 Toilet Spirit Bewitches People 廁鬼迷人

Outside Hangzhou’s north gate stood an abandoned outhouse. People were often found drowned in the pit beneath, but nobody knew why. One day neighbours saw several people, in immaculate clothes and hats, enter the toilet, but after a long time had elapsed none emerged; they became very anxious and bewildered by this. Another person followed them in, likewise not emerging after a long time had passed, so they then followed behind to have a look. They found the first group of people dead in the waste pool, the later arrival also lying among them, but not yet dead; they immediately rescued him. Much later, when he first recovered his speech, he said: “At dawn there was a person carrying a letter of invitation to a banquet, but I saw a high and beautiful pavilion, filled with music. I didn’t realise it was actually a toilet.” The neighbours made an official report requesting demolition, and afterwards the hauntings ceased.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.245 (Tale 443):

廁鬼迷人

杭州北關門外廁舍,常有人死屍溺於溷池,莫曉其由。一日鄰舍見數人衣冠楚楚入廁,久之不出,殊切怪之。再後又有往者,亦久不出,遂跡其後視之,則前數人死於溷池,後入者亦墮其中,但未死耳,急行拯救。久之,始能言,曰:「旦上有人持簡相招赴宴,但見亭館高潔,鼓樂喧闐,即不知為廁舍也。」鄰為告官拆除,其後祟方絕。

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)

 

A Doubting Heart Brings Forth a Spirit 疑心生鬼

There was formerly a Lin Ersi at the Wan’an postal relay station in the Jianning fu western garrison, who made his livelihood by selling pickled provisions. Every day, shouldering his load and going to the town for work, he had to pass through the execution ground where convicted criminals were killed. Lin Ersi always felt terror in his heart, so recklessly uttered curses to make himself feel stronger. One day he returned at dusk and as he reached the field someone approached from close behind, accompanying Lin. During their chat this person questioned Lin Ersi: “You always pass through here in the dark; can you really not fear spirits?” Lin Ersi replied: “I am a person, they’re spirits; why should I be afraid? If I do suddenly encounter them, I do have my knife.” The other said: “Although you don’t fear them, I fear them greatly.” He persisted in asking these questions; “I have you as a companion, but in case we did encounter a spirit, what should be done?” Lin stuck to his refusal to fear others, and his questioner continued, until finally the follower said: “You who travel without fearing spirits, what about having a go at turning your head and looking at me?” When Lin Ersi turned around the person turned out to be headless, at which he desperately threw aside his shoulder pole and rushed back home in terror, spending over a month in illness before he recovered. Can this be anything other than a doubting heart summoning ghostly insults?

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.243 (Tale 440):

疑心生鬼

建寧府西鎮萬安驛前有林二四者,以賣醃藏為活。每日荷擔往城生活,必須由刑人法場經過。林二四每有懼心,則肆詈以自壯。一日昏黑來歸,行到場中,背後有一人接踵而至,與林為伴。談間,因問(此處原多一「爾」字,據明刻本刪。)林二四:「爾居常暮夜過此,能不怕鬼否?」林二四答云:「我人彼鬼,吾何懼哉?卒然遇之,吾有刀耳。」其人曰:「爾雖不畏,我甚畏之。」又再三問曰:「我得爾為伴,萬一遇鬼,當如之何?」林堅以不怕他為辭,詰之至再,後一人曰:「爾道不怕鬼,試回頭看我如何?」林二四回頭,則一無頭人也,忙將擔撇了,驚走回家,病月餘而後愈。豈非疑心有以召鬼之侮乎!

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 Demon Mud-Baby 泥孩兒怪

In Lin’an it was customary that people enjoy themselves on the lake, and many buy one another Pingjiang mud-babies, often giving them to neighbouring households and calling them Local Specialty Statues. A woman from a Yuanxi household, because she had received one of these yabei children, set it up a bed and hung a screen of coloured silk from a cross-beam, playing with and treasuring it tirelessly. One day, while having an afternoon nap, she suddenly heard a person chanting poetry: “Embroidered bedding gives long years of service, passed from hand to hand; fragrant bed-curtains may be handed on in quick succession.” When she awoke, she couldn’t see anyone. That night, waking a little in the small hours, she again heard someone chant the same couplet. Woken with a start, in the dim moonlight she saw a teenager stepping through the screen from the west, and leapt up in alarm. It advanced and comforted her: “Don’t be frightened; I live not far from here, you have yearned for a child for such a long time, your soul and spirit have brought you to this. Do not wait, open the gates and enter.” She rose and saw that the door was closed just as before. The woman realised that he was a spirit, but could not resist combining with him. At times when the night was dark and the moon bright, that youth would sometimes come and go, having left her a gold ring. The woman had secretly placed it in a box, and after several days realised that it was actually just dirt; she was greatly shocked. Suddenly she saw that the gold ring was missing from the yabei child’s left upper arm, and knew that it was a demon, so she smashed it and threw the fragments in the river; the demon then vanished.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.232 (Tale 419):

泥孩兒怪

臨安風俗,嬉遊湖上者,相尚多買平江泥孩兒,仍與鄰家,謂之土宜像。院西有一民家女,因得壓被孩兒,歸置於牀屏綵橋之上,玩弄愛惜無厭。一日午睡,忽聞有人歌詩云:「繡被長年勞轉展,香幃還許暫偎隨。」及覺,不見有人。是夕,中夜睡微醒,復聞有歌前詩句。驚覺,月影朦朧,見一少年侵步帳西,女子驚起。進而撫之曰:「毋恐,我所居去此不遠,慕子之久,神魂到此,不待啟關而入。」起視扃鑰如故。女知其神,不得已與之合焉。正當風清月白之時,此子時復而來,因遺金環。女密投箱篋中,數日見金環實土為之,女心大驚。忽見壓被孩兒左臂上金環不存,知此為怪,遂碎而投諸河,其怪遂絕。

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 closely comparable tale is found in Tian Rucheng 田汝成, Xihu Youlan Zhi Yu 西湖遊覽志餘 (A Continued Record of Sightseeing at West Lake), (Shanghai: Shanghai Guji Chubanshe, 1980), 26.477-78:

宋時,臨安風俗,嬉遊湖上者,競買泥孩、鸎歌花、湖船回家,分送鄰里,名曰湖上土宜。象院西一民家女,買得一壓被孩兒,歸置屛橋之上,玩弄不厭。一日午睡,忽聞有歌詩者云:『繡被 [478] 長年勞展轉,香幃還許暫偎隨。』及覺,不見有人。是夜將半,復聞歌聲,時月影朦朧,見一少年,漸近帳前,女子驚起,少年進撫之曰:『毋恐,我所居,去此不遠,慕子姿色,神魂到此,人無知者。』女亦愛其丰采,遂與合焉。因遺女金環,女密置箱篋。明日,啓篋視環,乃土造者。女大驚,忽見壓被孩兒左臂失去金環,遂碎之,其怪乃絶。

A Corpse Dances 死屍鼓舞

In Hedong there was a villager whose wife had died recently and had not yet been prepared for her coffin. When night fell, his family suddenly became aware of a sound like music approaching slowly; when it reached the hall, her corpse began to move. A little layer, the music seemed to enter the roof of the hall, and her body then rose and danced. As the melody gradually moved away, the corpse turned and pirouetted out through the gates, following the as it departed. Her family were shocked and terrified, but the night was moonless and they did not dare pursue her. That same night the villager had just returned and, realising what had happened, took up a staff and followed her to a grove of tombs, and after about five or six li, again heard the music coming from a cypress grove. Drawing near to the trees, there was the glimmer of a fire, and the corpse was dancing next to it. The villager grasped his staff and beat the corpse until it fell on the ground. The music stopped, too, and he then returned, bearing the body in his back.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.241 (Tale 435):

死屍鼓舞

河東有一村民,妻新死未殮。日暮,其家忽覺有樂聲漸近,至庭宇,屍亦微動。少焉,樂聲入房,如在梁棟間,屍遂起舞。樂聲漸出,屍倒旋出門,隨樂聲而去。其家驚懼,時月黑不敢尋逐。將夜,村民方歸,知之,乃持杖逐至一墓林,約五六里,復聞樂聲在一柏林上,及近樹之下,有火熒然,屍方舞矣。村民持杖擊屍倒地,樂聲亦住,遂負屍而返。

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).