Sima Yi 司馬義

The Palace Guard official Sima Yi had a concubine named Biyu, who was skilled at playing and singing. During the Taiyuan era (376-96 CE), Yi developed a fatal illness, and told Biyu: “When I die, you must not marry another, or it would be your death.” She replied: “I sincerely uphold your order.” After his funeral, a neighbouring household wished to take her in marriage. Biyu was about to depart, when she saw Yi entering the gate on horseback. He drew his bow and shot her, catching her straight in the throat. Her throat then became extremely painful, her posture became very strange, and all of a sudden she died. After more than ten days, however, she revived, although remained unable to speak. All four of her limbs seemed as though they had been beaten. After a full year she was again able to speak, but still could not make herself clear. Biyu was no longer beautiful, and her voice had been taken away. She had already suffered catastrophe, and was indeed unable to marry.

From Zhenyilu.

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, 321.2545:



Zhang Zichang 張子長

During the Jin era (265-420 CE), Li Zhongwen, prefectural chief of Wudu, was in the prefecture when he lost his daughter, aged eighteen, and buried her temporarily north of the prefectural walls. There was a man named Zhang Shi who temporarily took over from him as prefectural chief, and Shi’s son, courtesy name Zichang, was twenty years old, and served in his retinue at the government office. He dreamed of a girl, aged seventeen or eighteen, of unusual beauty, who told him she was the daughter of the former prefectural chief. She had died tragically young, but now there was an opportunity to be resurrected, and as their hearts had found love, she had come and manifested to him. This continued over five or six evenings.

Suddenly, she appeared in the daytime, her clothing and fragrance rare and distinguished, and they became man and wife. When they lay down her clothing was all marked, as if she were a virgin. Later, Zhongwen sent a maid to inspect his daughter’s tomb, and she therefore stopped to call on Shizhi’s wife. On entering the government office, she caught sight of one of the girl’s shoes beneath Zichang’s bed. Grasping it she wept and called out that the tomb had been opened, taking the shoe back with her. When she showed Zhongwen, he was stunned, and sent people to ask Shizhi: “How can the gentleman’s son have obtained a dead girl’s shoe?” When Shizhi summoned and questioned him, his son explained the whole matter. Li and Zhang both said this must be a supernatural occurrence. When they opened the coffin and looked, her body already looked like fresh meat, but her countenance was just as it had been. She only had a shoe in her right foot. Zichang saw the girl in a dream, and she told him: “I had recently attained life, but now my place of rest has been disturbed, and from now on my dead flesh will decay and I will not achieve life. My heart contains ten thousand regrets; I can no longer speak.” Sobbing, she departed.

From Fayuan zhulin.

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, 319.2524:



Wang Gongbo 王恭伯

Wang Gongbo, courtesy name Zisheng, who lived under the Jin (265-420 CE) and came from Guiji, was elegant in appearance and skilled at playing the zither. While serving the Crown Prince as Palace Secretary, he requested leave to rest in Wu. On reaching the courier’s lodge at the Changmen Gate,[1] he gazed at the moon and played his zither. Presently a woman appeared, with a girl following her, who addressed Gongbo: “Your servant has always loved the zither, and would like to play it with you.” In appearance she was extremely beautiful. Gongbo stayed the night with her, and took his leave a little before daybreak, receiving presents of a padded brocade sachet of fragrance and a jade hairpin. Gongbo then gave her another jade hairpin as a parting gift.

Soon after, when the sun rose, he heard that the daughter of Liu Huiji, Magistrate of Wu County, had died on a nearby boat, and that a jade hairpin and spice sachet had gone missing from before her funeral tablet. Soon [2520] after, government clerks searched through the neighbouring boats. When they arrived at Gongbo’s vessel they seized him. Gongbo was scared, and related the whole story, telling them: “I gave her a jade hairpin, too.” Huiji ordered that this be investigated, and they did indeed find this in the dead girl’s hair. Huiji broke down and wept, calling out to Gongbo with the courtesy due a son-in-law. His daughter had been called Zhihua, and she had died at age sixteen.

From Xingzicaishanhebieji.

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, 318.2519-20:


晉世王恭伯。字子升。會稽人。美姿容。善鼓琴。為東宮舍人。求假休吳。到閶門郵亭。望月鼓琴。俄有一女子。從一女。謂恭伯曰。妾平生愛琴。願共撫之。其姿質甚麗。恭伯留之宿。向曉而別。以錦褥香囊為訣。恭伯以玉簪贈行。俄而天曉。聞鄰船有吳縣令劉惠基亡女。靈前失錦褥及香囊。斯 [2520] 須。有官吏遍搜鄰船。至恭伯船。獲之。恭伯懼。因述其〈明鈔本述其作還之。〉言。我亦贈其玉簪。惠基令檢。果於亡女頭上獲之。惠基乃慟哭。因呼恭伯以子壻之禮。其女名稚華。年十六而卒。出刑子才山河別記

[1] This may refer to the famous west gate of Suzhou 蘇州 or the western gate in Yangzhou 揚州.

Zhong Yao 鍾繇

Zhong Yao (151-230 CE) suddenly stopped attending the morning court, and his mood and character were quite different to what people had become used to. When a fellow official asked him why this was, he responded: “A woman often comes to me; she has a beauty that is not of the mortal world.” His colleague replied: “This must be a ghost. You should kill it; afterwards it will stay away from your home.” He asked: “How could I intend to slaughter something possessing such a form?” Yuanchang replied: “There is no such problem.” In the end he eagerly called her to him, but could not bear to carry out the plan, so only lightly wounded her. She left immediately, staunching the blood with fresh silk floss, which was scattered along her route. The following day, he sent people to follow these traces. They came to a great tomb. In a coffin lay a woman, her body appearing still to be alive. Wearing a white silk gown and a cinnabar-embroidered waistcoat, there was a wound on one of her thighs, and the waistcoat showed signs of her having wiped away blood. From then the visits ceased.

From Youminglu.

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, 317.2509:



Wu Xiang 吳祥

The Han-era clerk of Zhuji County, Wu Xiang, feared exhaustion in official service. He thus fled to hide in a remote mountain area. On his journey he came across a stream. It was getting close to dusk, but he saw a young girl, extremely beautiful and wearing multi-coloured garments. She said: “I live alone, without village or district, with only an old woman, only a dozen or so steps from here.” When Xiang heard this he was very pleased, so set off following her. They had travelled a li or more when they reached her home. Her family were extremely poor, but prepared food for Xiang. He finished by the first watch (7-9pm), at which he heard an old woman call out: “Sister Zhang?” The girl answered: “Yes?” Xiang asked who it had been, and she replied: “A lonely old woman back along the road.” The two slept together until dawn, and Xiang set off at the cock’s crow. The two had fallen in love, and the young woman gave him a purple scarf. Xiang bound it as a kerchief and set off back to the place of their meeting the previous day. When he came to cross the stream, however, the water was rushing violently, and too deep to wade. He thus returned to the girl’s home, but found nothing as it had been the previous night, with only a tomb remaining.

From Fayuanzhulin.

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, 317.2505:



Wu Tao 鄔濤

Wu Tao was from Runan. He had skill and knowledge of ancient writings and was committed to the arts of the Way. While travelling he stopped temporarily at the Yiwu County guesthouse in Wuzhou. After more than a month, suddenly a girl appeared, with two serving maids arriving at night.[1] One of the maids came forward and told him: “This young lady is surnamed Wang.” That evening she turned and looked at the gentleman. Tao looked at her, and she was extremely beautiful. He thought, ‘this is the daughter of a great noble’, but did not dare speak. The lady Wang smiled, and said: “The esteemed scholar does not value wine or beauty; how can a mere concubine gain his trust?” Tao then rose and bowed to her, saying: “Such lowly scholars would not dare direct their gaze thus.” The lady Wang ordered a maid to bring her clothing and utensils to Tao’s bedchamber, lighting bright candles and laying out wine and food. They drank several rounds, and then lady Wang rose and addressed Tao: “Your servant is a young orphan without anyone to turn to, and would like to serve the gentleman at his pillow and mat. Would that be acceptable?” Tao initially refused in his humility, but then relented and permitted it in his sincerity. The lady Wang departed at dawn and arrived at dusk, and this continued for several months.

Yang Jingxiao, a Daoist of Tao’s acquaintance, visited and stayed at the residence. On seeing that Tao’s countenance had altered, he advised: “The gentleman has been deluded by spirits and demons. This must be broken off, or death will follow.” Tao questioned him about this in alarm, and then related the whole story. Jingxiao told him: “This is a spirit.” He then provided two amulets, one to attach to clothing, and the other to be fixed above the gate. He said: “When this spirit arrives, she will become very angry. Be careful not to speak to her.” Tao accepted these instructions. When the young woman arrived that night, she saw the token above the gate, let fly a string of curses, and departed, saying: “Remove that tomorrow, or suffer great misfortune.” Tao called on Jingxiao the next day and told him all about it. Jingxiao told him: “When she returns tonight, you should sprinkle her with this water on which I have cast a spell. That will surely bring things to an end.” Tao returned carrying the water. That night, when the woman returned, she was extremely sad and angry. Tao then sprinkled her with the water Jingxiao had treated. Her visits then ceased.

From Jiyiji.

[1] With thanks to Ofer Waldman for the improved translation here.

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, 347.2747:



A Wudu Woman 武都女

In Wudu there was a man who transformed into a woman, beautiful and elegant. This woman was an elemental.[1] The prince of Shu accepted her as a concubine, but she was not accustomed to the climate, so wished to leave. Her host, wishing to keep her, played songs from Dongping to cheer her up. Before long, however, she had passed away. The prince mourned her, and sent five strong fellows to Wudu, picking up earth to make a grave mound for his concubine. The earth mound covered several mu (a mu equals 6.67 acres), and rose seven zhang in height (about 25m), and upon it there was a stone mirror. Today this is Wudan, at the north edge of Chengdu.

From Huayangguozhi.

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, 359.2839:



[1] The character used here is jing 精, which carries a wide range of meanings, including ‘spirit’, ‘goblin’ and ‘demon’. Possibly overstating a distinction between gui 鬼 and jing, I had originally opted for ’demon’ here, but reconsidered this after the ever-helpful Ofer Waldman suggested that ‘spirit’ was less likely to be confused with the yao 妖 ‘demon’ of the chapter heading. After consulting Schafer’s translation of the Taiping guangji table of contents, I have decided (with reservations) to follow his ‘elemental’ reading for jing 精, in order to avoid involving a connotation of evil to the character. See Edward Schafer, ‘The Table of Contents of the “T’ai p’ing kuang chi”,’ CLEAR 2 (1980), 258-63 (262).

Zhang Yuan 張瑗

The Jiangnan eunuch Zhang Yuan was crossing the New Bridge at Jiankang when he suddenly saw a beautiful woman hurrying along with her robe gaping open. Tuan was extremely surprised and regarded her closely, but the woman then turned her head, transformed into a whirlwind and attacked Yuan. Yuan’s horse was knocked over, injuring his face. He returned a little over a month later. At first his horse reared, and then it lifted a hoof and had to return lame. From then on whenever he crossed that bridge his horse would always limp and lift a hoof. In the end there were no other strange events.

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:



Zhang Fei’s Temple Attendant 張飛廟祝

A little over ten li outside the walls of Zizhou lies a temple to Zhang Fei (d. 221 CE). Within it a clay idol stands guard. One night it stirred the emotions of a temple attendant’s wife and, after a year had passed, she bore a daughter, her hair like vermillion and her eyebrows, eyes, hands and feet all just like those of the idol in shape. When she reached adulthood, all of the people feared her. Every official posted to Zizhou would always visit the temple and call her out to see her, some of these leaving gifts of money and silks. She remains there even today.

From Yerenxianhua.

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, 353.2798:



Shao Yuanxiu 邵元休

During the Tianfu era (901-4), the Han Councillor to the Bureau of the Left Shao Yuanxiu, who was not yet twenty years old, lived in a government residence in Yanzhou. In the house there was only a midwife and a maidservant. At the southernmost end of the wing running west from the hall was a study. When night fell the whole household extinguished the lamps and slept soundly. The lamp in the study was also extinguished, and Shao rested his head on a volume and dozed, but heard, coming from the west of the hall, soft light sounds, like a woman’s footsteps. They ascended the hall stairs, and arrived first at the eastern wing, where the rooms of the female servants lay. Pausing whenever they passed a door, he then heard them continue and reach the south wing. There stood an unbolted door to the chamber, and it pulled open the door and entered. Next he heard a great crash, as if of porcelain thrown to shatter on the floor. Xi then entered the study. Outside the window the moon showed new and thin. He saw something. It seemed extremely large, he could not discern its face, but it was six or seven chi in height (i.e., two metres or more), seeming to have its head swathed in deep black silk, and it stood below the door. Shao, unafraid, rebuked it in a stern voice, and shouted at it several times. It did not make the slightest attempt to respond, but departed, moving like the wind. Shao wanted to pick up his pillow and strike it, but it was already gone. He heard it again, moving to the west of the hall, but the sounds then ceased. When dawn broke, he made a careful examination of the objects inside the southern room, finding, laid on the tea couch, white porcelain that had been smashed against the ground. When he subsequently questioned people about the matter he was told: “A military commissioner frequently stays at this residence. When his daughter died, he used the western hall as a chapel of rest for a time, and she still visits her servants.” There was a near neighbour who had known the girl, and said: “She was very tall in stature; that must have been her mortal soul.”

From Yutang xianhua.

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, 353.2794: