Qu Jingzhi 區敬之

In the first year of the Liu Song Yuanjia era (424 CE), Qu Jingzhi, who was from a Nankang County barracks household, boarded a boat with his son to travel upstream from the county. Threading deep into small streams, they reached wild and difficult territory where humans had never before set foot. In the evening they climbed the bank and found a place to spend the night, but Jingzhi suffered a sudden illness and died. His son kindled a fire and guarded the body. Suddenly he heard the distant sound of a voice, calling out “Uncle!” The filial son was suspicious and alarmed, but in the blink of an eye the shouting person was [2571] right there. About as tall as a human, it was covered in hair, right down to its feet, and a great deal of hair covered its face, leaving the seven apertures[1] quite invisible. It then asked the filial son his family and given names, and gave its condolences. The filial son was terrified, and assembled his firewood into a blaze. The thing told him it had come to offer sympathy, and that there was no reason to be afraid. He was about to feed the fire higher, when the figure sat by the corpe’s head and began to wail. When the boy stole a glance at it in the firelight, he noticed that the thing’s face covered the dead man’s, and that the corpse’s was split open down to the very bone. The filial son was horrified, and wanted to strike it, but had no stave or weapon. Before long, his father’s corpse was reduced to a succession of white bones, the skin and flesh having entirely vanished. He never worked out what kind of deity or spirit it was.

From Shuyiji.

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, 324.2570-71:


南康縣營民區敬之。宋元嘉元年。與息共乘舫。自縣泝流。深入小溪。幽荒險絕。人跡所未嘗至。夕登岸。停止舍中。敬之中惡猝死。其子燃火守尸。忽聞遠哭聲。呼阿舅。孝子驚疑。俛仰間。哭者已 [2571] 至。如人長大。被髮至足。髮多蔽面。不見七竅。因呼孝子姓名。慰唁之。孝子恐懼。遂聚〈遂聚二字原空缺。據明鈔本補。〉薪以燃火。此物言故來相慰。當何所畏。將須燃火。此物坐亡人頭邊哭。孝子於火光中竊窺之。見此物以面掩亡人面。亡人面須臾裂剝露骨。孝子懼。欲擊之。無兵杖。須臾。其父尸見白骨連續。而皮肉都盡。竟不測此物是何鬼神。出述異記

[1] The ‘seven apertures’ qiqiao 七竅 are the two eyes, two nostrils, two ears and a mouth.

Qin Shu 秦樹

The house of Qin Shu, of Pei Prefecture, was in Xiaoxin Village, within Qu’e. He was once returning from the capital, and was still more than twenty li distant when the sky darkened and he lost his way. In the distance he saw the light of a fire, so headed towards it. Eventually he saw a woman emerge holding a candle, but she told him: “I am a woman living alone, and may not invite guests to stay.” Shu said: “I need to get back to the road, but lost my way in the depths of night and was unable to go on. Please let me stay out here.” The woman assented to this. Shu then advanced and sat down, and it became clear that his host was indeed alone in a single room. Shu worried that her husband might come, and did not dare to sleep. The woman said: “Why be so suspicious? Keep calm. We should not suspect one another unjustly.” She laid out food for Shu, all of which was extremely old-fashioned in style. Shu said: “The lady has not yet married. I too have not yet married, and wish to marry. Could we be united?” The woman laughed: “Look at your servant’s lowly status; how could we possibly be man and wife?” She then withdrew within for the night. Around dawn Shu departed, and they clasped hands in parting. The woman said: “I have seen the gentleman once, but will never show my face again.” She then gave him a ring, which he tied to his belt, and saw him out through the gate. Shu walked hurriedly away for several paces with his head down. When he turned to see the place where he had stayed, it was just a tomb. For several days he forgot about the ring, but there it was tied up in his belt as before.

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, 324.2568:



A Fuyang Native 富陽人

At the beginning of the Song Yuanjia era (424-53 CE), a native of Fuyang surnamed Wang set up a crab-catching weir in an empty ditch. At dawn he went to look at it, and saw the end of a wooden casket, more than two chi (60cm) long, which had split the trap. The crabs had all escaped. He mended the weir, removing the casket and placing it on the bank. When he went to check on it the next day, he found the casket back in the weir, which was ruined in the same way. Wang mended the weir once more. When he went to look again, what he saw was the same as when he had started. Wang suspected that this piece of wood was a supernatural entity. He therefore put it in his crabbing basket, tied this to his carrying pole and returned. He said to himself: “When I get back I should chop this up and burn it.” Three li short of the house he heard a sudden movement, and turned his head to find that the wood had transformed into a thing with a human face, monkey body, one hand and one single foot. Addressing Wang, it said: “By nature I am very fond of crabs, so I entered the water and destroyed your crabbing weir. We have both already suffered greatly, and I hope the gentleman can forgive me, opening the basket and letting me out. I am a mountain spirit, and we should help one another; I could spread your weir wide and wait for your crabs.” Wang replied: “You bully and abuse people, but that changes now. Your crimes require a death sentence.” The thing turned and stamped, begging to be released, and asked over and over what Wang’s given and family names might be. Wang turned his head but refused to answer. As they came closer to the house, the thing said: “So you won’t release me, and you won’t tell me your name. There’s nothing for it but to await execution.” When Wang arrived at home, he kindled a fire and burned the thing. Afterwards all was still and there was no more strangeness.

Local customs call such things ‘mountain elves’,[1] and report that, if they know a person’s family and given names, they can cause harm to that person. They thus ask with great persistence, in order to cause injury and to free themselves.

From Shuyiji.

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, 323.2560:



[1] This term is shanxiao 山魈.

Wang Zhongwen 王仲文

Wang Zhongwen served as Registrar of Henan Prefecture, and resided to the north of Koushi County. He set off to return home in response to an auspicious sign. His route took him through an area of marshes and lakes, where he spotted a white dog following behind him. Zhongwen became very fond of it, and wanted to take it home, but it suddenly transformed and took on human shape. Standing six feet tall, and looking like a Fang Xiang mask,[1] with eyes of red flame, grinding teeth and a wagging tongue, it was quite abhorrent. He wanted to attack it, but it repulsed his assault for a time, and tried to get onto the carriage. Zhongwen was terrified, and quickly ordered his servants to beat it, but they were quite unable to do so. He thus dismounted and lashed out alongside his servants, but still could not hold it back. Their combined strength exhausted, they could strike out at it no longer, so gave up and fled. They told others of this, and, gathering ten or more people, wielding blades and clutching torches, they went together to see it, but were no longer able to find the place. After a month and a day, Zhongwen suddenly saw it again. He and his servant fled, but, before they could reach human habitation, he fell over quite dead.

From Xusoushenji.

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, 319.2532:



[1] This seems likely to refer to a ritual four-eyed mask worn by exorcists heading funeral processions. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fangxiangshi, https://dreamingsnowflake2013.tumblr.com/post/151446420249/the-warrior-who-defeats-evil-bangsangshi, http://yokai.com/housoushi/.  

Master Gu 顧氏

There was a person from Wuzhong surnamed Gu, who set off to a farmhouse, travelling through the day. He was still more than ten li from the house when he began to hear a very faint sound coming from the northwest. He lifted his head to see four or five hundred people, all wearing red robes and all two zhang in height (i.e., 6.6m). [2527] They advanced quickly to meet him and surrounded him in a triple ring. Gu’s breath came in blocked gasps, he turned and turned but was unable to escape. From dawn to the bu period (3-5pm), he was surrounded without release. His mouth could not find words, but his heart called out to Ursa Major. Another short while passed, then the spirits told one another: “This one has a true heart devoted to a deity. We should send him away.” They drifted away like evaporating fog. When Gu reached the house he lay down in extreme exhaustion. That night, in a place before the house a fire arose into great flames but did not burn anything. Numerous spirits gathered in confusion, some coming, some going, approaching Gu as if to talk, some passing through his clothing, some stopping on top of his head, where they were as light as a goose feather. At the first light of dawn, they vanished.

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, 319.2526-27:


吳中人姓顧。往田舍。晝行。去舍十餘里。但聞西北隱隱。因舉首。見四五百人。皆赤衣。長二丈。 [2527] 倏忽而至。三重圍之。顧氣奄奄不通。輾轉不得。旦至晡。圍不解。口不得語。心呼北斗。又食頃。鬼相謂曰。彼正心在神。可捨去。豁如霧除。顧歸舍。疲極臥。其夕。戶前一處。火甚盛而不燃。鬼紛紜相就。或往或來。呼顧談。或入去其被。或上頭而輕於鴻毛。開晨失。出幽明錄

Zhou Of Linhe 周臨賀

During the Jin era there was a man from Yixing with the surname Zhou. During the Yonghe era (345-57 CE), he set off from Guo on horseback, travelling with two followers. Dusk fell before they had reached the next settlement, but beside the road there stood a small, newly built thatched hut. They saw a woman emerge from the doorway to watch them, aged perhaps sixteen or seventeen, handsome in appearance and wearing fresh and clean clothes. Seeing Zhou pass, she said: “It is already dusk, and the next village is still distant; how could you have reached Linhe?” Zhou then asked if he could lodge there. The woman kindled a fire and cooked him a meal. Around the first watch (7-9pm), the voice of a small child was heard from outside, calling out to Axiang.[1] The woman replied: “Yes?” Soon after, the child said: “The officials call on you to push the thunder chariot!” The woman then departed, saying: “I have some business to attend to, and must go.” The night then filled with thunder and rain, and the woman returned around daybreak. When Zhou had mounted his horse, he looked back at the place where he had spent the night. He saw only a new tomb, with horse urine and straw scattered around the tomb entrance. Zhou sighed to himself in shock and amazement. Five years later, he was indeed serving as Prefectural Chief of Linhe.

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, 319.2525:



[1] Axiang 阿香 is the name of the deity who drove the thunder chariot 雷車 across the skies.

Zhu Yan 朱彥

Zhu Yan was from Yongjia, and his residence was in Yongning. He had just straightened up and taken a rest from opening up waste land when he suddenly heard the sounds of pipes and strings, and a young boy calling in time to the music. That night he saw someone, large and strongly built, who blew and extinguished his fire. Yan was courageous and was not scared by this. He refused to move his house, and never faced trouble again.

From Yiyuan.

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, 318.2515:



Mei Zhu 糜竺

Mei Zhu employed the arts of Tao Zhugong (i.e., the pursuit of wealth),[1] his daily profits amounting to millions upon millions, and his treasure-houses numbering in the thousands. Zhu’s character and behaviour could command even life and death. To one side of his family stables there was an ancient tomb, and a corpse lay within it. One night Zhu followed the sound of weeping, and suddenly saw a woman, backing towards him and uncovered above the waist. She said: “Long ago at the end of the Han era my tomb was opened by the Red Eyebrows,[2] who smashed my coffin and exposed my skin. Now my bare flesh lies upon the ground, and more than two hundred years have passed. I request that the general might rebury me more deeply, and beg some old cloth that I might cover myself.” Zhu thus ordered she be placed in a stone outer and baked clay inner coffin, setting out offerings when this was complete, and clothing her in black skirt and gown, placing all of this upon the tomb.

A year had passed when, passing a bend in the road, he suddenly saw that, at the woman’s burial place, a black cloud was winding about like a dragon serpent. Some people questioned Zhu: “Is this not a dragon demon?” Zhu had doubts about this strange occurrence, and so asked a household page about it. He said: “I have sometimes seen a Qing Luzhang coming and go through the gate as if it were quite natural. I wondered whether he was a deity, and didn’t dare speak up.” Zhu was by nature very suspicious, believed in avoiding those who made requests, and punishing those who spoke up with additional harshness. His page had therefore not spoken.

Zhu’s treasures were piled like hills and mountains, quite beyond reckoning, with all the utensils required to equip the land of immortals, and pearls as big as eggs scattered across the whole courtyard. It was therefore named the Treasure Court, but outsiders never got even a peep inside it. After a few days had passed, he suddenly saw a number of black-clothed youths, who came and told him: “Mei Zhu’s home will suffer a disastrous fire, and not one in ten thousand things will survive. Fortunately, because the gentleman was able to feel sympathy for an old skeleton, the Heavenly Way cannot unjustly punish the gentleman’s virtue. Therefore we will come and repulse this fire, and make sure that the gentleman’s property is not entirely destroyed. From now on, the gentleman should also take steps to defend himself.” Zhu then dug irrigation ditches to surround his inner treasure-house. Ten days later, a fire broke out within the treasure-house and burned his pearls and jades, leaving only one item in ten. It was all caused by a bronze mirror which caused dry things to ignite in the sun spontaneously.

As the fire reached its peak, [2512] he saw several dozen black-robed youths arrive and attack the flames. A dark energy arose like a cloud, then fell back upon flames to extinguish them. The youths also said: “You should gather many birds of the stork family to avert disaster. Storks are able to gather water on their nests. Your family should therefore gather a thousand jiaojing pond herons, and tend to them among the ditches. They hate fire.” Zhu sighed: “A person’s luck in gathering money has limits, and it must not brim over.” Zhu feared suffering disaster, but at that time the Three Kingdoms were waging war and expenditure increased ten-thousand-fold, so he contributed his treasures, buying chariots and robes for his former lord. Of his hundred million jin of gold, his woven silks, embroidered silks, felts and rugs, piled like hills and mountains, his thousand head of thoroughbred horses, when Shu were later defeated, not a thing remained. He died harbouring a grievance in his heart.

From Wangzinian shiyiji.

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, 317.2511-12:


糜竺用陶朱公計術。日益億萬之利。貲擬王侯。有寶庫千間。竺性能振生死。家馬廄屋側。有古冢。中有伏尸。竺夜尋其泣聲。忽見一婦人。袒背而來。云。昔漢末為赤眉所發。扣棺見剝。今袒肉在地。垂二百餘年。就將軍求更深埋。並乞弊衣自掩。竺即令為石椁瓦棺。設祭既畢。以青布裙衫。置於冢上。經一年。行於路曲。忽見前婦人葬所。青氣如龍虵之形。或有人問竺曰。將非龍怪耶。竺乃疑此異。乃問其家童。云。時見青蘆杖。自然出入於門。疑其神也。不敢言。竺為性多忌。信厭求之士。有言中忤。即加刑戮。故家童不言。竺貲貸如丘山。不可算記。內以方諸為具。及大珠如卵。散滿於庭。故謂之寶庭。而外人不得窺。數日。忽見有青衣童子數人來云。糜竺家當有火厄。萬不遺一。賴君能惻愍枯骨。天道不辜君德。故來禳却此火。當使君財物不盡。自今以後。亦宜自衛。竺乃掘溝渠。周繞其庫內。旬日。火從庫內起。燒其珠玉。十分得一。皆是陽燧得旱爍。自能燒物也。火盛之 [2512] 時。見數十青衣童子來撲火。有青氣如雲。復火上即滅。童子又云。多聚鸛鳥之類以禳災。鸛能聚水巢上也。家人乃收集鵁鶄數千頭。養於池渠之中。厭火也。竺歎曰。人生財運有限。不得盈溢。竺懼為身之患。時三國交兵。軍用萬倍。乃輸其珍寶車服。以助先主。黃金一億斤。錦綺繍氈罽。積如丘山。駿馬千匹。及蜀破後。無所有。飲恨而終。出王子年拾遺記


[1] Tao Zhugong was a minister of Yue who abandoned imperial service to become immensely rich, and whose name came to serve as a byword for extreme personal wealth.

[2] An uprising towards the end of the Western Han era (220 BCE – 8 CE), on which see http://chinaknowledge.de/History/Terms/chimei.html.

Liu Jiao 劉嶠

At the end of the Yongjia era (307-13 CE), there was a Liu Jiao who lived in Jinling. His elder brother had died young, and his sister-in-law lived as a widow. One night, his sister-in-law and a servant-girl were asleep in the hall when the servant suddenly cried out and hurried to his room. She told him: “On the wall where your sister-in-law sleeps there is a very strange and unwholesome sight.” Liu Jiao quickly picked up a knife and lit the fire. Just as he reached the woman, he saw that there were shapes like human faces on all four walls, their eyes opened wide and their tongues protruding. Some were tigers, some dragons, changing to take on every conceivable shape, and growing as he watched to over a zhang (3.3m) in length. His sister-in-law then died.

From Guanggujin wuxingji.

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, 359.2846:



Chen Adeng 陳阿登

During the Han era, one Gou Zhangren, from Guiji, was returning from Dongye, but night fell before he reached his gate. He saw the light of a fire by a small cottage at the roadside, so went to seek lodging. When he arrived, he found a young girl, who was not willing to stay the night alone with a man, so called to a girl from a neighbouring family to keep her company. That night they plucked the konghou harp together, and sang:

Kudzu grows on along the vine,

Slow along and slow back down the cord.

If you wish to learn my name,

Surname Chen, first name Adeng.

The next day he arrived outside the east wall, where a woman was selling food at a stall. He sat on the customer stool and told her what he had seen the previous night. The woman was shocked, and told him: “That was my daughter. She only died recently, and was buried outside the walls.”

From Lingguaiji.

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, 316.2504: