Releasing Quail, Extending Longevity 放鶉延壽

When Cai Yuanchang (i.e., Cai Jing 蔡京, 1047-1126 CE)[1] held power, he ate quail at every celebration. One evening, he dreamt that a yellow-robed old person said: “In the coming days you are to suffer murder; hopefully the gentleman may be spared this fate.” Cai asked: “What kind of person are you?” They then recited verses:

Several grains of millet could feed the gentleman;

Only meat in the congee can fill the gentleman.

For one congee several lives are cut short;

Putting down his chopsticks these are still not enough.

On the moments between mouth and stomach;

Fate and fortune are together dependent.

Wishing to warn the gentleman not to kill;

Life and death spin as if on a wheel.

He awoke and marvelled at this, making enquiries to those who prepared meals, acquiring several dozen yellow quails and releasing them. During the night he again dreamt of the yellow-robed old person, who said: “I am aware that the gentleman fulfilled the prayer, and has already saved lives. The Heavenly Emperor has now granted an extension to the gentleman’s lifespan.” Cai indeed subsequently enjoyed a long life before he passed away.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.114 (Tale 199):

放鶉延壽

蔡元長當國,每喜食鶉。一夕,夢黃衣老人曰:「來日當自被害,願公貸命。」蔡問:「汝何人?」乃誦詩云:「食君數粒粟,充君羹中肉。一羹斷數命,下筯猶未足。口腹須臾間,福禍相倚伏。願公戒勿殺,死生如轉轂。」覺而異之,詢於掌饍,得黃鶉數十,放之。經宿復夢黃衣老人曰:「感公從禱,已獲復生。今上帝已延公壽命矣。」後蔡果享高壽而卒。

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)

[1] On Cai Jing 蔡京, courtesy name Yuanchang 元長 (who died after banishment at a relatively advanced age) see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cai_Jing and the brilliant article by Charles Hartman, ‘A Textual History of Cai Jing’s Biography in the “Songshi”’, in  Emperor Huizong and Late Northern Song China: The Politics of Culture and the Culture of Politics (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006), pp. 517-64.

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Release A Dragon, Receive A Reward 放龍獲報

On the bank of the Lu River Li Yuan saw a small scarlet snake. Less than a chi in length, it was being harassed by a shepherd boy. Yuan bought it with a hundred cash, and released it among the thick vegetation. The following year, he was crossing the Long Bridge[1] again, and saw the Jinshi scholar Zhu Jun coming to call on him, saying: “Jun lives just a few hundred paces from the end of the bridge; their Excellency sends an invitation, if you will pardon me and sit.” Leading him to sit together in a boat, they travelled to a mountain, with richly decorated buildings and halls, all very tightly guarded. Presently, a person wearing a tall hat and ceremonial robes summoned Yuan, saying: “Our young son suffered misfortune and almost died at the hands of a mischievous boy; his humble life depended on the gentleman’s help.” Turning to Jun he ordered that he bow again, and then ordered a banquet be laid out, mixing products of land and sea, saying: “I am a fish of the southern seas; having achieved merit in life, the Heavenly Emperor decreed that I reside here, styling me Anliu Wang. I have a young servant, with the childhood name Yunjie, and I now present her to you; if you accept her, she will be of help.” Yuan therefore did not depart. He subsequently went to sit the civil examinations; when the test was due on the following day, Yunjie stealthily obtained the exam questions; Yuan then prepared his composition in advance, and, on entering the examination hall, felt great satisfaction, achieved great success and a recommendation as an imperial scholar. Yunjie said goodbye to him, saying: “I have obeyed the prince’s order and dare not stay long.” A poem of parting read:

Six years here to repay deep benevolence,

Saying farewell to the aquatic realm and the region of fish.

None say that newly-weds should be parted again,

All wish to share ancient love with new people.

Li Yuan was thus newly married at that time.

**uncertain translation**

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.118 (Tale 205):

放龍獲報

李元於吳江岸見小朱蛇,長不滿尺,為牧童所困。元以百錢買之,放於茂草中。明年,再經長橋,有進士朱浚來謁見,曰:「浚居橋尾數百步耳,大人遣奉召,幸恕坐。」邀同舟,至一山,樓殿寶飾,侍衛甚嚴。俄一人高冠道服,引元坐:曰:「小兒不幸,幾死頑童之手,賴君子活此微命。」顧浚令再拜,乃命置酒,水陸交錯,曰:「吾乃南海之鱗,有功於世,天帝詔居此,封安流王。吾有小奴,小字雲姐,今於贈子,子納之,當得其助。」元乃別去。後赴禮闈,明日當試,雲姐私入竊所試題目出,元乃檢閱宿構,入試,大得意,高捷薦名登科。雲姐告辭曰:「奉王命不敢久留。」作詩別曰:「六年於此報深恩,水國魚鄉是去程。莫謂初婚又相別,都將舊愛與新人。」時李元新娶故也。

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)

[1] An ancient structure in Jiangsu Province.

Zhao Yun Causes Catastrophe Through Drink 趙雲因酒德禍

*Translation edited with help from Ofer Waldman – many thanks, Ofer!*

At the beginning of the Tang Zhenyuan era (785-805 CE), there was a Zhao Yun of Tianshui, who travelled widely in Fuzhi, passing through Zhongbu County. The officials were holding a feast, and the clerks had apprehended a prisoner, but his crime was not very serious, so the officials wanted to release him. Yun was drunk, and therefore urged them to increase his penalty, resulting in twenty strokes of the cane. Some months later, Yun crossed the border, leaving by the Luzi Pass, and met a person on the road, who invited him to talk. When night fell, they drew Yun down a smaller path to his residence, several li from the road. They then ordered him wine and poured drinks, later asking him: “Is the gentleman acquainted with us or not?” Yun said: “Never. Though this behaviour has in truth left the past quite murky.” They then said: “Some months ago. Because this section respects the gentleman, I suffered unjust punishment; I never had any quarrel with the gentleman, but at the gentleman’s urging I suffered heavy punishment.” Yun hurriedly arose and apologised to him. The other replied: “I have waited a long time for you. Who would have thought this chance would come to wipe clean your petty insult.” He then ordered his retinue to drag Yun into a chamber. In the room there was a great pit, more than three zhang in depth (i.e., over 10m deep), with only a few dozen dou of wine dregs stored inside. Stripping off his clothes, they shoved Yun in. Growing hungry, he fed himself with the grain, and when thirsty he drank the juices, clouding his mind from dawn to dusk. After about a month, they bound him and brought him out, causing people to wrinkle their noses and foreheads and to twist their limbs. His hands and fingers, arms and legs had all aged, and, once exposed to the wind, he froze and even his voice changed. Thinking him quite humbled from his previous status, they had him perform menial duties at the Wuyan relay service. After several years, when his younger brother was serving as Censor, he left the capital to visit the prison at Mingzhou, where Yun succeeded in informing him of past events. [16] His younger brother reported the matter to the Investigating Censor Li Xian, who sent soldiers to search, seizing the bandit and extinguishing all of his faction. As their execution approached they still did not hide or blink, but said that: “Changing a person like that, from one end to another, would require several generations!”

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.15-16 (Tale 82):

趙雲因酒德禍

唐元和初,有天水趙雲,客遊鄜畤,過中部縣。縣寮有讌,吏擒一囚至,其罪不甚重,官寮願縱之。雲醉,因勸加於刑責,於是杖之二十。累月,雲出塞,行及蘆子關,道逢一人,邀之言款。日暮,延雲下道過其居,去路數里。於是命酒偶酌,既而問之曰:「君省相識否?」雲曰:「未嘗。此行實昧平昔。」乃曰:「前月。於是部值君,遭罹橫罪,與君素無讐隙,為君所勸,因被重刑。」雲遽起謝之。其人曰:「吾望子久矣,豈虞於此獲雪小恥。」乃命左右拽入一室。室有大坑,深三丈餘,中唯貯酒糟數十斛。剝去其衣,推雲於中。饑食其糟,渴飲其汁,旦夕昏昏。幾一月,乃縛出之,使人蹙頞鼻額、挼捩肢體,手指、肩髀,皆改於舊,提出風中,倐然凝定,至於聲亦改。以為賤隸,為烏延驛中雜役。累歲,會其弟為御史,出按靈州獄,雲以前事密疏示之。 [16] 其弟告於觀察使李銛。由是發卒討尋,盡得姦人,而覆滅其黨。臨刑亦無隱䁥,云前後如此變改人者,數代矣。

此條又見《廣記》卷二八六,題為《中部民》。

 

The tale is also found in Taiping Guangji, in a version that shows several small variations:

The Zhongbu Populace

At the beginning of the Tang Zhenyuan era (785-805 CE), there was a Zhao Yun of Tianshui, who travelled widely in Fuzhi, passing through Zhongbu County. The officials were holding a feast, and the clerks had apprehended a prisoner, but his crime was not very serious, so the officials wanted to release him. Yun was drunk, and therefore urged them to increase his penalty, resulting in a flogging. Some months later, Yun crossed the border, leaving by the Luzi Pass, and met a person on the road, joking with him and using kind words. When night fell, they drew Yun down a smaller path to his residence, several li from the road. They then ordered him wine and poured drinks, later asking him: “Is the gentleman acquainted with us or not?” Yun said: “Never. Though this behaviour has in truth left the past quite murky.” They spoke again: “On such and such a month and day. Because this section respects the gentleman, one suffered unjust punishment; I never had any quarrel with the gentleman, why would the gentleman urge them on, causing me to suffer heavy punishment?” Yun hurriedly arose and apologised to him. The other replied: “I have waited a long time for you. Who would have thought this chance would come to wipe clean your petty insult.” He then ordered his retinue to drag Yun into a chamber. In the room there was a great pit, more than three zhang in depth (i.e., over 10m deep), with only a few dozen dou of wine dregs stored inside. Stripping off his clothes, they shoved Yun in. Growing hungry, he fed himself with the grain, and when thirsty he drank the juices, and in this way clouded his mind for about a month. They then bound him and brought him out, causing people to wrinkle their noses and foreheads. His limbs twisted. His hands and fingers, arms and legs had all aged, and, once exposed to the wind, he froze and even his voice changed. Having humbled him from his previous status, and left him brooding, they had him perform menial duties at the Wuyan relay service. After several years, when his younger brother was serving as Censor, he left the capital to visit the prison at Mingzhou, where Yun succeeded in informing him of past events. [16] His younger brother reported the matter to the Investigating Censor Li Ming, who sent soldiers to search, capturing all of the evil plotters and extinguishing all of his faction. As their execution approached they still did not hide or blink, but said that: “Changing a person like that, from one end to another, would require several generations!” From Du Yi Zhi.

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), vi, 286.2279:

中部民

唐元和初。有天水趙雲。客遊鄜畤。過中部縣。縣僚有燕。吏擒一囚至。其罪不甚重。官僚願縱之。雲醉。因勸加於刑。於是杖之。累月。雲出塞。行及蘆子關。道逢一人。耍之言款。日暮。延雲下道過其居。去路數里。於是命酒偶酌。既而問曰。君省相識否。雲曰。未嘗此行。實昧平昔。復曰:「前某月日。於是部值君。某遭罹橫罪。與君素無讐隙。奈何為君所勸,因被重刑。雲遽起謝之。其人曰。吾望子久矣。豈虞於此獲雪小耻。乃命左右。拽入一室。室有大坑。深三丈餘。坑中唯貯酒糟數十斛。剝去其衣。推雲於中。飢食其糟。渴飲其汁。於是昏昏幾一月。乃縛出之。使人蹙頞鼻額。挼捩肢體。其手指肩髀。皆改舊形。提出風中。倐然凝定。至於聲亦改。遂以賤隸蓄之。為烏延驛中雜役。累歲。會其弟為御史。出按靈州獄。雲以前事密疏示之。其弟言於觀察使李銘。由是發卒討尋。盡得奸宄。乃覆滅其黨。臨刑亦無隱䁥。云前後如此變改人者,數代矣。出獨異志

The Shaoyang Cowherd 韶陽牧牛人

In Shaoyang there was a cowherd, and one morning a cow licked his arm, leaving it brilliant white in colour. This delighted him, so he stripped off and told the cow to lick him everywhere, becoming white all over. Within several days the cowherd died of a sudden illness. His family felt hate over the matter, killing the cow, and summoning the entire village to eat it together. Those who ate numbered several dozen in all, and they all died in a single evening.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.4 (Tale 28):

韶陽牧牛人

韶陽有一人牧牛,一旦,牛舐其臂,而色皎白。此人樂之,即袒其體,令牛遍舐,皆白。其人數日間暴卒。其家恨,殺此牛,召村社同食之。凡食者數十人,一夕同卒。

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories) 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)

Tie Guai Appears In A Dream 鐵拐託夢

Zhang Jushi was a clerk in the Song capital, and his taboo name was Daochun. His wife, née Ma, left the household (for religion), and founded an Academy Assisting The True Way in Huzhou City. Firmly dedicated to the Way, she lived on Fangzi Alley, off Xiuwen Lane, and opened the Pharmacy to Academy Assisting The True Way, in the gengchen year of the Zhiyuan era (1280), and often provided meals to Buddhist and Daoist monks. One day, having first distributed 100 tickets for vegetarian meals, when the day came these were taken as evidence for those attending the food provision. As the time approached, however, the tickets collected amounted only to ninety-nine, so they were missing one. Jushi paid without asking, and therefore provided ninety-nine percent of the meals, but this left him feeling less than entirely satisfied. The next night, he dreamed that a Daoist came to report to him: “The ticket is with me, Guai.”[1] On awaking and reflecting on this, he realised that there hadn’t been a ticket made out to Master Guai, so went urgently and found a boat to the Daoist temple from the pavilion over the well. Knocking at the temple gate and looking, he indeed daw that (the statue of) Guai bore a meal slip, and inscribed upon it were four sentences:

Going especially to receive a meal

I saw that I was not dealt with.

Returning empty-bellied,

My meal-ticket tied to my staff.

He thus understood that immortals also attend worldly alms feasts.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.131 (Tale 229):

鐵拐託夢

張居士,宋朝都吏也,諱道純。妻馬氏,俱出家,創輔真道院於湖州市。好道甚堅,住修文坊扇子巷,開輔真道院藥局,至元庚辰,常齋僧道。一日,先散俵子一百個,至日憑此赴齋。臨期,收俵子只九十九個,不見一個。居士付之不問,徑支齋九十九分,此心終不滿。次夜,夢一道人來告,曰:「俵子在我拐上。」覺而細思,其日並無策拐者,想是道院鐵拐先生,亟於井亭下覓舟往道院。扣門觀之,果見拐上有俵子,題得四句云:「特來赴齋,見我不采。空腹且歸,俵縛我拐。」因知仙亦赴凡齋矣。

[1] This is Li Tieguai 鐵拐李 (“Iron Crutch Li”), a daoist immortal. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Li_Tieguai.

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).

 

Immortal Lü’s Sword Bag 呂仙劍袋

The mother of Chancellor Jia, Lady of the Two Realms, had organised meals for mendicant Daoists, when suddenly a crowd of Daoist priests came supporting a pregnant woman who was about to give birth. Before the refectory could even pause, she gave birth to a baby on the ground. The crowd of priests then picked her up and departed, leaving the infant on the floor. When people picked the baby up, it turned out to be a bag of swords. They then realised that Duke Lü [131] was exercising his spirit to play jokes on common customs.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.130-31 (Tale 227):

呂仙劍袋

賈平章母兩國夫人設雲水道人閒(明刻本、明抄本無「閒」宇。)齋,忽有羣道人扶一孕婦將產而來。齋未罷,產嬰兒在地,羣道人即扶女子而去,只留嬰兒在地。扶起嬰兒,乃一劍袋也。始知呂公 [131] 弄精魂以戲凡俗云。

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 Two Sages of Yuelu Monastery 岳麓寺二聖

In Hengyue there was the Yuelu Monastery, rebuilt and refurbished in brilliant gold and jade, its lustre dazzling everyone. A wandering Hu (northwestern) monk visited the temple, and addressed its abbot: “If, at the northeastern corner [214] a Tusita Bridge could be built over a small stream, once completed it would resemble the Western Heaven.” The following day the abbot brought together a multitude to discuss this transformation, and after some years it was complete.

The two sages of the temple gate then appeared to the abbot in a dream, saying: “This temple resembles the Western Heaven above, but now it falls short and the spirit of Mars is coming to burn and seize it. You should urgently take your multitude south to meet him by the ten li bridge.” On awaking, the abbot was terrified, and gathered his monks to go out front and wait. From dawn to evening, nobody came. When the sky darkened, they suddenly saw a priest, hair loose and unkempt around his temples, his clothes old and shabby, approaching them very slowly. The crowd of monks bowed as they saw him, leading him to the temple, making a great gathering with food and chanting, treating him with great honour, and begging him sorrowfully: “This temple has been built and repaired through the begging of alms; it is newly completed after more than a decade of hard work. If it should one day be reduced to a field of ashes, how could that not be regretted? We beg that the star lord would have a special mercy on us, and extend a brief pardon.” The priest was astonished, and said: “How could a poor cleric have such power?” The crowd of monks begged and supplicated over and over, so he asked: “Who was it that told you I was the spirit of Mars? If I could understand, perhaps this can be sorted out.” The abbot had no choice but to speak directly: “The two sages of the temple gate manifested in a dream.” The priest said: “You should make up several dozen widths of sticky paper and build them together to resemble the halls and chambers of this temple. Then burn it with lots of spirit money, so as to dispel this issue.”

The assembled monks did as he instructed, and burned it all. Just after the fifth watch (about dawn), the multitude escorted the priest out through the mountain gate, where he scolded the two sages: “Who taught you to shoot your mouths off like this? Who taught you to see the bone and not the flesh, the flesh and not the bone?” When they escorted him to the bridge of the previous day, cloud and mist arose on all sides, and the priest suddenly vanished. When the multitude returned to the mountain gate, the two sages collapsed into earth and dust, leaving only their wooden frames. When the abbot had them re-sculpted, within ten days they had fallen apart once more. To this day the temple’s mountain gate lacks its two guardian sages.

後2.213-14 (Tale 379):

岳麓寺二聖

衡岳有岳麓寺,重新修建,金碧輝煌,光彩爍人。有胡僧雲遊詣寺,與寺主言:「若於東北角 [214] 上小溪中造一座兜率橋,成則類西天矣。」寺主翌日集大衆題化,積年橋成。山門下二聖忽現夢於寺主云:「本寺類西天上界,今差火德星君來焚取,可急聚大衆南去十里溪橋邊迎之。」夢覺,寺主驚,遂集僧衆前去往候。自朝至晚,無往來者。天將昏,忽有一道人,鬢髮鬅鬙,身衣藍縷,徐徐然來。僧衆見之下拜,迎至寺,大作齋會,待之甚至,哀懇之曰:「此寺緣化修造,以十數年之辛勤方能圓就,若一旦為煨燼之場,寧不可惜!慾望星君特發慈悲,姑與原宥。」道人驚曰:「貧道安有此!」僧衆再三哀告不已,乃問曰:「誰與汝說我是火德星君,言若明白,當與料理。」寺主不得已,直云:「山門下二聖現夢。」道人云:「可打黏紙數十幅,一一綵繪本寺殿宇房廊樣式,多將紙錢前來燒化,庶可消禳。」僧衆如其教焚訖。五更初,衆送道人出山門下,乃指駡二聖云:「誰教汝饒舌,教汝骨不見肉,肉不見骨。」及送至昨日橋邊,雲霧四起,道人倏然不見。衆回山門,則二聖泥土皆落,隻有木胎。寺主再裝塑之,越旬日又落。至今本寺山門下無金剛二聖也。

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).