Repairing Ships, Increasing Longevity 修船增壽

In the bingyin year of the Song Xianchun era (1266), the Administrative Inspector for Linchuan, Nuan Weidao, a scholar of Shu, reported that his region had two stony paths separated by a river whose waters ran fast and wild through all four seasons. Further down there was a deep abyss, and only at that place was it possible to cross, although year in and year out those who drowned there were very numerous, as their small boats struck rocks and sank. A person called Xu Zongren decided to build a large vessel, bound with iron plates at both ends, personally hiring punt-hands who were dedicated to serving passing travellers and committed to performing virtuous works in order to accrue merit. It happened that a Person of the Way called at his gate and praised this order, addressing Xu: “The gentleman’s lifespan is restricted to [112] thirty-two, and ends this year.” On the evening of his birthday, he dreamed that he arrived at a government office, seeing a prince seated high in the hall, with three or four hundred spirits before the gates in wet robes, who presented a scroll to the prince: “Xu Zongren has saved many lives from death, with the utmost merit; we beg that husband and wife should enjoy long life, their descendants receive glory and high rank. The multitude wait only for the Zhongyuan festival; they will then cross the worldly bounds.” The prince gestured to his retinue, and with the following words instructed Zongren: “Special Extension by three ages.” He awoke and marvelled at this. From then on he found wholehearted joy in doing good works. Two of his sons and three of his grandsons served as officials. When Zongren died, people erected a hall for offerings by the side of the crossing, and it stands to this day.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.111-12 (Tale 194):

修船增壽

宋咸淳丙寅,臨川錄參暖昧道,蜀士也,嘗言其鄉有兩石嶠夾出一江,四時皆湍急,下則深淵,惟此處可以立渡,常年溺死者甚衆,蓋船小觸石即碎。有徐宗仁發心造一巨舟,兩頭裹以鐵葉,自僱篙手,專一撐過客人,且建善緣以薦亡者。忽有道人登門稱善命,謂徐曰:「公壽止得三 [112] 十二,止在今年。」生日之夕,夢至官府,見王者坐於堂上,而門首溼衣之鬼約三四百人,執一卷投於王前:「徐宗仁濟生拔死,功德莫大,乞與夫妻壽考,子孫榮貴,衆等只俟中元,即超淨界。」 王者指左右,以此詞示宗仁,云:「特延三紀。」覺而異之。自此一心好善樂施。二子、三孫,後有為官者。宗仁死,人為立祠於渡側,至今尚存。

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)

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A Spirit Rebukes A Musician 神譴樂人

The Dongyue Temple in Fenggao County was very austere, and observed an annual custom on the twenty-eighth day of the third month, where the townsfolk celebrated the birthday of the Yue Emperor. The old custom was to offer wine, and at the fourth cup to play the [225] tune ‘Ten Thousand Years of Joy’. In the Zhiyuan era (1264-94), the wuyin year (1278), the musician Wan Shou thought that, because that year’s harvest had failed, there would not be anyone to take charge of the affair, and also no offerings, so only played a popular tune in the mournful shang mode. Wan Shou later dreamed that he was escorted by yellow-robed clerks to a place below the hall of the True Lord Qingyuan at the Yue Temple, and the True Lord asked: “Yesterday, on the birthday of the Yue Emperor, wine was offered; why, on the fourth cup, did you just play some kind of popular ditty?” Wan Shou could not find a single word to respond. The True Lord spoke in judgement: “The sentence is: twenty canes across the back, three successive years of illness, banishment across the sea to be incarcerated in the demon cave.” The next day an abcess opened on his back, as big as a bowl in size. It persisted for three years, after which he died.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.224-25 (Tale 400):

神譴樂人

奉高縣東嶽廟甚嚴,年例以三月二十八日,市民慶賀岳帝壽辰。舊例酌獻,第四盞例是樂 [225] 奏《萬年歡》。至元戊寅,樂人萬壽心思是年荒歉,既無人主事,又無祗待,遂只奏商調小曲。後萬壽夢被黃衣吏攝至岳廟清源真君殿下,真君問曰:「前日嶽帝生日酌獻,你如何第四盞只奏小曲?」萬壽竟無辭以應。真君判云: 「決脊杖二十,連病三年,押赴海外鬼洞收管。」次日果背發一疽,其大如碗,連綿三歲而死。

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).

Stopping the Releasing Life Festival 罷放生會

The Yanxiang Temple in Tanzhou had celebrated the Releasing Life Festival for many years in the third, fourth, sixth and eighth months. On the third day of the third month in the first year Kangding (16 April 1040), the birthday of Zhenwu (the Lord of Profound Heaven), birds and animals of the water were bought in advance, taken in ceremonial order past the prefectural pavilion and approaching the Yangtze, led by bells and cymbals, they were set free with chants and praise. Among these living things some were hurled towards the void and took flight, some were scattered into the water and swam. Of those that flew, some sank back down, some lay on the river’s surface. Some of the birds had their feet or wings trapped by glue, and others were hunted and shot with bows and arrows or catapults and pellets; when they are injured and killed in this way, the sound of their lamentations and cries cannot be borne. When the aquatic creatures are lured into the broad net and seized, or hunted with the bamboo basket and taken, scales, shells, heads and tails all torn and damaged, leaping and jumping with mouth wide but cries unheard; this sight cannot be borne. People from the four distant quarters having just heard of this release of life, vied with one another to stretch their nets and sell in the market, this having the contrary result of causing harm to living creatures. When the monk Sun Yuan’an was presiding over the hall, a mendicant priest approached the foot of the pulpit, intending to speak on the cause of the gathering, opposing Yuan’an’s offerings to the release. The priest said: “It should not be called ‘releasing life’, as it is premeditated murder.” None among the whole group opposed this, and afterwards the ceremony was abandoned. In the main this thing called release of life is actually the sale and purchase of animals and fish, bringing great wealth to hunters. Fulfilling this sees nets stretched wide for later release; how can this be right?

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.72 (Tale 126):

罷放生會

潭州延祥宮,遞年三月、四月、六月、八月有放生社會。康定元年三月三日真武生辰,預買飛禽水族,例往州亭,臨大江,用磬鈸引導,讚詠放生。諸般物命或向空而飛,或漾水而遊,其飛沉之物,或向空復墮,或水面仰浮,飛禽者翅與足或被膠黏,或弓彈射獵,如有傷折,哀鳴愁噪之聲不忍聞也。如水族者罾釣張取、籮籃采捕,鱗甲頭尾皆有破損,跳躍張口之狀但叫嗸不出,不忍目之。四遠之人纔聞放生,爭競張捕以賣於市,反至損害物命。道士損元宴升堂,有雲遊道士至講下,願講此會之因,元宴遂以放生祝壽為對,道人曰:「非曰放生,即是故殺。」周無以對。後此會遂廢。大抵放生之說,遇有禽魚之類出賣者,買而放之則獲福無量,發章張羅網捕之而後縱之,豈可乎!

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 Spirit Steals Mantou 鬼偷饅頭

The Xiang household of Yongjia was occupied by a spirit; sometimes this thing, shaped like a person with disheveled hair, appeared and disappeared across their home, and called itself ‘Grand Duke’. The Xiangs thought this normal, and did not recognise its anomalous nature. Whatever they wanted, they had only to call to the Grand Duke in the kitchen, and that thing would then appear. When Xiang’s wife became pregnant, she wished to eat a plain meal of mantou steamed buns, and so called to the Grand Duke, and he appeared after the second watch (9-12pm) bearing a steamer layer of piping hot mantou, spreading warm vapour. Several days later, news spread that people at the Qichi ferry crossing were missing a steamer layer of mantou from a festival of offerings to earth and water. Later, Xiang’s wife gave birth to a child; it lacked eyebrows and eyes, but had a mouth and could suckle; first she wanted to drown it, but suddenly heard the Grand Duke speak out of thin air: “The child must not be drowned; feed it for the time being, and soon there will be reason for gratitude.” After more than two months had passed, Mrs Xiang was cuddling the baby on her bed, when the Grand Duke suddenly placed two silver tablets on the bed, seized the child and left; afterwards this strangeness stopped.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.236 (Tale 425):

鬼偷饅頭

永嘉項家為邪神所據,時有一物,人形而蓬首,出沒其家,自呼曰「大公」。項以為常,不為怪異。凡有所求,只於廚間呼大公,物則隨至。項妻有孕,想齋饅頭食,遂叫大公一聲,至二更餘,捧一層蒸饅頭而來,蒸氣尚暖。越數日,人傳七尺渡頭人家設水陸齋,失了饅頭一層。後項婦生一子如冬瓜狀,無眉目,但有口能乳,方欲溺之,忽聞大公空中作聲曰:「子不可溺,權以乳哺,當有以謝。」踰兩月,項婦方抱子在牀,忽大公置白金二笏於牀,奪抱此子而去,後其怪亦息。

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).