Suo Yi 索頤

The father of one Suo Yi, who lived in Xiangcheng under the Liu Song (420-79 CE), did not believe in the strange or the monstrous. There was an ill-fated house, where residents always died, but which his father quickly bought to live in. For many years there was calm and good fortune, and his descendants prospered as he served as a ‘two thousand bushel’ official.[1] He then received an official transfer. Before he departed, he invited relatives near and far to gather for food and wine to see him off. Yi’s father then told them: “Is there, in the end, good or bad luck under heaven? This place has been called cursed, but since we have resided here there have been many years of peace and good fortune. Moreover, now we have gained promotion; where are these spirits? From now on, this residence will be known for good luck, and we will dwell without suspicion.”

On finishing this speech, he went to the toilet. Before long, he saw a thing emerging from the wall. About the size of a rolled mat, it was a little over five chi tall (c. 1.5m). Yi’s father went back, took up a blade, and hacked at it. It stopped, then turned into two people. He hacked at it again, horizontally, and it became four people. They then wrested the blade away from him, hacking back against Suo, and killing him. Taking up knives they reached the raised seating area and stabbed his children and grandchildren to death. Killing all of those named Suo, only those with other family names were spared.

Yi, who was then only young, was scooped up by his wet nurse and taken out through a rear gate, hiding with another family, and he alone survived. Yi’s courtesy name is Jingzhen, and he rose to occupy the post of prefectural chief in Xiangdong.

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, 324.2575-76:


[2576] 宋襄城索頤。其父為人。不信妖邪。有一宅凶。居者輙死。父便買居之。多年安吉。子孫昌盛。為二千石。當徙家之官。臨去。請會內外親戚。酒食既行。父乃言曰。天下竟有吉凶否。此向來言凶。自吾居之。多年安吉。又得遷官。鬼為何在。自今以後。便為吉宅。居無嫌也。語訖如廁。須臾。見壁中有一物。為卷席大。高五尺許。頤父〈賾父二字原空闕。據黃本補。〉便還取刀斫之。中斷。便化為兩人。復橫斫之。又成四人。便奪取刀。反斫索。殺之。持刀至座上。斫殺其子弟。凡姓索必死。唯異姓無他。頤尚幼。乳母抱出後門。藏他家。止其一身獲免。頤字景真。位至湘東太守。出法苑珠林

[1] ‘Two thousand bushel’ (er qian dan 二千石) refers to the official salary paid in grain to prefectural officials.

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:



Wang Hu 王胡

Wang Hu lived under [Liu] Song rule (420-79 CE), and was from Chang’an. His paternal uncle had been dead some years when, in the twenty-third year of the Yuanjia era (446 CE), he suddenly reappeared and returned to the family home. He demanded Hu improve his conduct, in which there were defects, family affairs having been neglected. He punished Hu with five strokes of the cane. Passersby people in the neighbourhood heard both their conversation and the noise of the beating. They could also see the welts left by the cane, but could not see the manifestation, which appeared only to Hu himself. His uncle told Hu: “I did not deserve death. The tomb passage waits for my number to appear on the register of spirits. Today there will be a great gathering of officials and troops, and I fear that the village may come to harm, so I do not set out.” Hu could also make out a crowd of spirits in noise and disorder beyond the village boundary.

Presently his uncle said goodbye and departed, telling him: “I will come on the seventh day of the seventh month. This will be short visit, and I wish to take you along the roads of the nether world, to make you understand the consequences of virtue and of evil. There is no need to be extravagant in laying out offerings; tea and cakes will suffice.”

When the day came, he did indeed return. He told Hu’s family: “I’m now taking Hu to see the sights. When the trip is complete he will return. There is no reason for alarm.” Hu then felt tired and laid on his bed, then became quite still, as if he were quite dead. His uncle then took Hu deep into the mountain ranges, where they observed the various spirits and demons. Finally, they reached the highest peaks, and the various spirits spoke to Hu, and also laid out food. The produce and flavours were not so different from those in the world of the living, but the ginger was especially fresh and delicious. Hu yearned for this, and was about to return when those around him laughed and told him: “You should stay and eat this. You won’t get far anyway.”

Hu saw a further place, a vast and beautiful building, with gorgeous canopies and elegant bamboo mats. There were [2565] two young monks living in it, and when Hu arrived they laid out a great spread of fruit, betel nuts and other produce. Hu spent a long time travelling, and saw all the conequences of virtue and vice, both sweet and bitter. He then said his farewells to return, and his uncle told him: “You now understand the need to cultivate virtue. When you return home seek the white-foot āranya temple; these people are ascetics of the highest order, and you should afford them respect as your teachers.” These priests of Chang’an had white feet, and so were known to people at that time as the white-foot āranya.[1] They were shown great respect by Wei Lu, with Prince Lu revering them as his teachers.[2]

Hu followed these instructions, travelling to study at Gaoshan with a young monk. Amid the crowds, however, he suddenly caught sight of those two monks. Hu was greatly shocked, and went to speak to them, asking when they had arrived. The two monks replied: “We poor clerics belong to this very temple. We are not aware of any prior acquaintance with the gentleman.” Hu again described their meeting in the high mountains, but the assembled monks told him: “The gentleman is simply mistaken. How could that have taken place?” When the next day dawned, however, the two monks had departed without saying farewell. Hu thus informed the gathered Buddhist monks about the whole matter, and his meeting with the two monks on Gaoshan. The crowd were all astonished, and sent people to seek the pair of monks, but their location remains unknown.

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, 323.2564-65:


宋王胡者。長安人也。叔死數載。元嘉二十三年。忽形見還家。責胡以修謹有缺。家事不理。罰胡五杖。傍人及鄰里。並聞其語及杖聲。又見杖瘢。而不見其形。唯胡獨得親接。叔謂胡曰。吾不應死。神道須吾筭諸鬼錄。今大從吏兵。恐驚損鄉里。故不將進耳。胡亦大見衆鬼紛鬧于村外。俄而辭去曰。吾來年七月七日。當復暫還。欲將汝行。遊歷幽途。使知罪福之報也。不須費設。若意不已。止可茶食耳。至期果還。語胡家人云。吾今將胡遊觀。觀畢當還。不足憂也。胡即頓臥牀上。泯然如盡。叔於是將胡遍觀群山。備觀鬼怪。末至嵩高山。諸鬼道胡。並有饌設。其品味不異世中。唯姜甚脆美。胡懷之將還。左右人笑云。止可此食。不得將遠也。胡又見一處。屋宇華曠。帳筵精美。有 [2565] 二少僧居焉。胡造之。二僧為設雜果梹榔等。胡遊歷久之。備見罪福苦樂之報。及辭歸。叔謂曰。汝即已知善之當修。返家尋白足阿練。此人戒行精高。可師事也。長安道人足白。故時人謂為白足阿練也。甚為魏虜所敬。虜王事為師。胡即奉此訓。遂與嵩山上年少僧者遊學。衆中忽見二僧。胡大驚。與敘乖闊。問何時來此。二僧云。貧道本住此寺。往日不意與君相識。胡復說嵩高之遇。衆僧云。君謬耳。豈有此耶。至明日。二僧不辭而去。胡乃具告諸沙門。敘說往日嵩山所見。衆咸驚怪。即追求二僧。不知所在。

[1] Sanskrit Āranya (hermitage, monastery) is transliterated in Chinese here as Alian 阿練, and elsewhere as Lanre/lanruo 蘭若 or Elianre/Alianruo 阿練若.

[2] This Wei Lu 魏虜 is not yet identified. Needs more work!

Xie Lingyun 謝靈運

In the fifth year Yuanjia (428 CE), Xie Lingyun[1] suddenly saw Xie Hui (390-426 CE).[2] Carrying his head in his hands, he came and sat by Lingyun’s bed, blood flowing and splashing around him and onto the marten-fur robe he was wearing, even flowing to fill a small casket. When Lingyun went to Linchuan Prefecture, huge worms suddenly appeared in his rice. Soon after he was executed.

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, 323.2562:



[1] Xie Lingyun 謝靈運 (385-433 CE), a highly regarded poet, was executed after becoming enmeshed in intrigues at the Liu Song court. His biography is found at Songshu, 617.1743-79.

[2] This is Xie Hui 謝晦 (courtesy name Xuanming 宣明, 390-426 CE), a senior general and highly regarded strategist implicated in revolt and rebellion against the Liu Song and eventually defeated and executed in 426 CE. His biography is found at Songshu, 414.1347-61. This tale is clearly an omen of doom.

Zhang Kai 張闓

In the second year Jianwu,[1] Zhang Kai of [lacuna] City, was returning from the fields to his residence when he saw someone lying by the roadside. When asked about this, he replied: “I’ve injured my foot, and cannot go any further. My family is in Nanchu and I have no way of letting them know. Kai felt sorry for him. Having a cart following carrying some things, he discarded these to allow him to ride. When they arrived at the house, however, the man didn’t make the slightest show of gratitude, but rather told Kai: “In truth there was no injury, it was just a kind of test.” Kai was furious, and said: “What kind of person are you, who dares to toy with me?” He replied: “I’m just a spirit. I have been tasked with recruiting an envoy to Beitai (i.e., Wutai Shan?), and, seeing that the gentleman is senior to me, could not bear to simply take you. I thus feigned illness and lay down by the roadside. Abandoning your luggage so that I could be carried is an act that has truly moved me by its sincerity. Nonetheless, you should accept your fate and come with me. I have no discretion in the matter, so what can be done?” Kai was shocked, and begged the spirit to allow him to stay, making offerings of wine and a suckling pig. The spirit feasted with him, and both wept as he begged the spirit again to save him. The spirit then asked: “Is there anyone who shares the gentleman’s given and courtesy names?” Kai told it: “There’s a man from Qiao called Huang Kai.” “The gentleman should call on him,” The spirit told him: “I will follow.” When Kai reached the house, the owner came out to see him. The spirit waved a red cloth above his head, and as the man turned pierced his heart with a needle, disappearing before the owner could detect it. It told Kai: “The gentleman will be a senior official, and, your servant cherishing that, therefore broke laws to help you. The ways of the nether world are secret and mysterious, and this matter should not be divulged.” After Kai had left, the owner of the other house suffered terrible heart pain, and by midnight he had [2547] passed away. Kai lived to be sixty, and attained the office of Glorious Grand Master.

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, 321.2546-47:


□城張闓。以建武二年。從野還宅。見一人臥道側。問之。云。足病。不能復去。家在南楚。無所告訴。闓憫之。有後車載物。棄以載之。既達家。此人了無感色。且語闓曰。向實不病。聊相試耳。闓大怒曰。君是何人。而敢弄我也。答曰。我是鬼耳。承北臺使來相收錄。見君長者。不忍相取。故佯為病臥道側。向乃捐物見載。誠銜此意。然被命而來。不自由。奈何。闓驚。請留鬼。以豚酒祀之。鬼相為酹享。於是流涕。固請求救。鬼曰。有與君同名字者否。闓曰。有僑人黃闓。鬼曰。君可詣之。我當自往。闓到家。主人出見。鬼以赤摽摽其頭。因回手。以小鈹刺其心。主人覺。鬼便出。謂闓曰。君有貴相。某為惜之。故虧法以相濟。然神道幽密。不可宣泄。闓去後。主人暴心痛。夜半便 [2547] 死。闓年六十。位至光祿大夫。出甄異錄

[1] This could potentially refer to 26 CE, during the reign of Guangwudi 光武帝 Guang (r. 25-57), of the Eastern Han; 318 CE, under Yuandi 元帝 Yuan Di (r. 317-322), of the Eastern Jin 東晉; or 495, under Mingdi 明帝 Ming Di (r. 494-498) of the Southern Qi 南齊.

Ruan Yuzhi 阮瑜之

In the tenth year of the Jin Taiyuan era (386 CE), Ruan Yuzhi resided before the Shixing Pagoda. Orphaned very young, he was unable to support himself and frequently wept and sobbed. He suddenly saw a spirit appear before his father’s inscribed brick, which told him: “A father has died and returned to the Rain Deity. Why weep for so long? After three years have passed, the gentleman’s family will be able to support itself, but for the time being your servant will aid the gentleman’s family. I will not cause harm, and should not be feared as inauspicious, but will rather bring fortune to the gentleman’s household.” After this the spirit remained in their home, and whenever the household needed something, the spirit would provide it. After two or three years, the gentleman’s circumstances had changed. Fed by the spirit, he would chat and laugh together with it. When Ruan asked its surname, it replied: “My surname is Li, and first name Liuzhi; I am the gentleman’s brother-in-law.” Ruan asked: “How did the gentleman come to me?” The spirit told him: “Your servant has endured hardships, and has now been sent for a time to live the way of ghosts, and assigned to the gentleman’s home. After four or five years I should depart.” Ruan asked him: “Where would you go then?” He replied: “To be reborn into the mortal world.” When that time came, he did indeed say farewell and leave.

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, 320.2539:



Ren Huairen 任懷仁

In the first year of the Jin Shengping era (357-61 CE), Ren Huairen was thirteen years old, and serving as Administrative Clerk to the Censorate. In his hometown was one Wang Zu, who served as a clerk, and who had long favoured him. By the time Huairen reached fifteen or sixteen, however, they had a number of [2537] disagreements. Zu was resentful, and when he travelled to Jiaxing, he killed Huairen, burying him at the edge of a field by the home of one Xu Zu. Later, when Zu happened to be taking a rest by the field, he suddenly noticed the presence of this grave. At each of his three daily eating times, dawn, noon and evening, he would divided his meal and make an offering to it, and call out: “Spirit at the head of the field, come share my food.” When he closed his eyes to sleep, he would also say: “Come and share my rest.” This went on for some time.

Later, one night he suddenly saw a person manifest. It addressed him: “Tomorrow my family will make offerings to mark the end of the mourning period. These offerings will be especially generous, and the gentleman should go there along with me.” Zu said: “I’m a mortal; we should not appear to one another.” The spirit told him: “I will hide the gentleman.” Zu then set off following the spirit, and after a short period they reached his home. There were many guests at the house, and the spirit led Zu up to the spirit tablet. The great spread of food then vanished, and the gathered family all cried out and wept, unable to control themselves, saying that their son had returned. He then saw Wang Zu arrive, and said: “This is my killer. I still fear him.” He then departed, and Xu Zu suddenly became visible. The family were quite shocked, and questioned him, at which he related the whole affair. They then followed Zu to pay respects at the grave. Once they had departed, the spirit never returned.

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, 320.2536-37:


晉升平元年。任懷仁年十三。為台書佐。鄉里有王祖復為令史。恒寵之。懷仁已十五六矣。頗有異 [2537] 意。祖銜恨。至嘉興。殺懷仁。以棺殯埋於徐祚家田頭。祚後宿息田上。忽見有塚。至朝中暮三時食。輒分以祭之。呼云。田頭鬼。來就我食。至瞑眠時。亦云。來伴我宿。如此積時。後夜忽見形云。我家明當除服作祭。祭甚豐厚。君明隨去。祚云。我是生人。不當相見。鬼云。我自隱君形。祚便隨鬼去。計行食頃。便到其家。家大有客。鬼將祚上靈座。大食滅。合家號泣。不能自勝。謂其兒還。見王祖來。便曰。此是殺我人。猶畏之。便走出。祚即形露。家中大驚。具問祚。因敘本末。遂隨祚迎喪。既去。鬼便斷絕。出幽明錄

Liu Ta 劉他

Liu Ta, who resided at Xiakou, suddenly saw a spirit, which came to reside at the Liu household. Initially it stayed dark and indistinct, and seemed to look like a person wearing plain white trousers. From then on it came every few days, and then stopped [2531] hiding itself or going away. It enjoyed pilfering food, and, though not causing major problems, made life difficult. At first none dared scold or rebuke it, however. One Ji Yizi, a bullying man who refused to believe in spirits, arrived at the Liu household, and asked his host: “Where’s your family’s ghost? Summon it so I can tell it off for you.” They then heard noises coming from the roofbeams. At that time many guests had gathered there, and all looked up together. A tangle of things were thrown down, hitting Yizi square in the face. When examined, these turned out to be underwear belonging to the ladies of the house. When he continued to act ferociously, they all laughed delightedly at him. Ji, very embarrassed, washed his face and departed.

Someone told Liu: “As this spirit steals food and consumes it, it must have physical form. It should be attacked with poison.” Liu therefore cooked up some yege (冶葛, known as ‘heartbreak grass’ or Gelsemium elegans) in a neighbour’s house and secretly brought back two sheng of its juice. When night fell, he had broom millet cooked and placed on the table, then covered it with a bowl. Later on they heard the spirit arrive from outside, lift the bowl, take the millet and eat it. It then threw the bowl, smashing it, and departed. Before long, they heard the sound of spitting from above, and a ferociously angry beating at the window-frames. Liu prepared himself to fight it but still did not dare to enter the room. By the time of the fourth watch (1-3 am), the matter was at an end.

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, 319.2530-31:


劉他在下口居。忽有一鬼。來住劉家。初因闇。髣髴見形如人。著白布袴。自爾後。數日一來。不復 [2531] 隱形。便不去。喜偷食。不以為患。然且難之。初不敢呵罵。吉翼子者。強梁不信鬼。至劉家。謂主人。卿家鬼何在。喚來。今為卿罵之。即聞屋梁作聲。時大有客。共仰視。便紛紜擲一物下。正著翼子面。視之。乃主人家婦女褻衣。惡猶著焉。衆共大笑為樂。吉大慙。洗面而去。有人語劉。此鬼偷食乃食盡。必有形之物。可以毒藥中之。劉即於他家煮冶葛。取二升汁。密齎還。向夜。令作糜。著於几上。以盆復之。後聞鬼外來。發盆取糜。既吃。擲破甌出去。須臾。聞在屋頭吐。嗔怒非常。便棒打窗戶。劉先以防備。與鬪。亦不敢入戶。至四更中。然後遂絕。出續搜神記

Chen Su 陳素

In the first year of the Jin Shengping era (357 CE), the family of Chen Su, of Shan County, were wealthy. After a decade of marriage to his wife, he still lacked a son, so wished to take a concubine. His wife prayed to the ancestral hall’s deities and suddenly became pregnant. The same happened to the wife of their neighbour, a commoner. She therefore bribed the neighbour’s wife, saying: “If I give birth to a boy, that would be the will of heaven. If it is a girl, and yours is a boy, we should swap.” This was quickly agreed between them. The neighbour’s wife had a boy, and three days later Su’s wife bore a daughter. The exchange was quickly made. Su was absolutely delighted with his son. They had raised the child for thirteen years when, during prayers, an elderly housemaid who often saw spirits spoke up and said: “I see the gentleman’s ancestors; they’re coming to the gate and then stopping. But I also see a crowd of commoners who have come and seated themselves to eat our offerings.” The father was extremely alarmed and amazed, and then welcomed the spirits as they arrived. He prayed that they might become temporarily visible, and they told him they were all relatives. Su then went inside and questioned his wife. Terrified, she told him about the swap. The boy was returned to his original family, and their daughter taken back.

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, 319.2527:



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.