A Daoist Sends A Letter 道人寄書

Before the seat of the Linchuan County Magistrate is a stone peak, topped with a small pavilion, and this is protected by a vermillion railing. A seventy-year-old army veteran said:

Beneath this peak was an immortal paradise. Long ago there was an Attaché to the Guard in Zhejiang who, encountering an immortal there, was given a letter, and told: “If I may trouble you, when you are about to leave Fuzhou, please knock on the rock below Ram’s Horn Peak that stands before the town, and there will be the letter’s recipient.” When the attaché returned, he knocked on the stone, and saw a red gate open to a cave, snaggletoothed with glazed tiles, and with windows and a pavilion, quite different from those seen in the human world. Elderly men and women all came out to greet and question him, giving him a cup of broth to drink that was fragrant and beguiling in flavour, and telling him: “The attaché can stay here.” The attaché said: “I have young and old to care for, and do not wish to remain here.” They gave him a sheng (about 1 litre) of grain, and although the attaché threw it to the ground angrily, a dozen or so grains stuck to the skirt of his robe. They then showed him out of the gate, which turned out to be on the riverbank at Wushigang. When he worked out the date, it turned out that he’d been gone more than a year. Later, he saw that the ten or more grains were actually tiny nuggets of gold.

From this we know that the stone at the peak is a border with the territory of the immortals, and that the attaché was not fated to enjoy their good fortune!

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.137 (Tale 241):

道人寄書

臨川郡治前有石山,覆以小亭,及結朱闌護之。有七十歲老兵云:此石山下有洞天福地。昔有一承局在浙,間逢一道人寄書云:「煩將去撫州州前羊角山投下,請扣石,自有人接書。」承局歸,往叩石間,即見朱門洞開,碧瓦參差,亭臺窗戶,殊異人間世。翁姥男女皆歡迎出問,飲以湯一杯,香味襲人,且謂:「承局可留此。」承局曰:「我有老小,不願留止。」與以穀一升,承局怒擲之地,但存十數粒粘於布裙間。遂送出門,乃是烏石岡江畔。以年月計之,則已過一年以外。後見穀十數粒,乃瓜子金也。因知仙境在石山之下,而承局亦無緣分也夫!

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 Deity Treats Serpent Birth 神救產蛇

The daughter in law of old man Xu Qing of Jianning Prefecture became pregnant, but went seventeen months without giving birth, so the whole family grew worried and apprehensive. It happened that a woman came to their gate, identifying herself under the surname Chen, a specialist in treating difficult birth. Xu was delighted, asking her to stay and telling Chen about the matter. She said: “This is a simple matter.” She ordered Xu to set up a chamber in a separate building of several stories, cutting an aperture in the central storey, sealing up the lower storey with boards and nails, and installing the pregnant woman in the building, where the woman Chen would also reside. Chen ordered several servants to take up staves and gather below the building, waiting to beat to death anything that fell to the ground. Chen breathed on and massaged the pregnant woman, and at dawn she gave birth to a small serpent, just over a chi (33cm) in length; as it fell from the aperture in the wall, the group of servants beat it to death. The pregnant woman was safe and sound, and the whole family raised their hands and celebrated together, offering generous gifts in thanks, but none were accepted. She did require, however, a handkerchief, on which she had them apply the characters ‘Xu so-and-so rewards the lady Chen, saviour of the pregnant.’

Chen said: “Your servant resides in such-and-such a place within Gutian County, in Fuzhou, those neighbours around are such-and-such people, and in former times they looked on me with favour, as if deceived, it is very fortunate.” She said farewell, left through the gate, and suddenly vanished; doubt and wonder persisted in their hearts about this. Later, Xu governed Fuzhou, and, remembering the incident, sent people to seek and question her neighbours, who said: “Here there is only the temple to Lady Chen; she often manifests in the world to help manage difficult pregnancies.” When examined carefully, the handkerchief inscribed by Xu could be seen hanging on the front of her statue. When they returned to report, Xu went to the temple, upgrading the lady’s titulature and ornamenting the temple [223] eaves.

All who pray in earnest for male descendants or to rescue women from dangerous pregnancies find their prayers answered, and to this day her incense and candles are especially abundant.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.222-23 (Tale 395):

神救產蛇

建寧府徐清叟子婦懷孕,十有七月不產,舉家憂懼。忽一婦人踵門,自言姓陳,專醫難產。(「難產」,明刻本作「產難」,下同。〕徐喜,留之,以事告陳婦。曰:「此易耳。」令徐別治有樓之室,樓中心鑿一竅,樓下周圍用板釘壁,置產婦於樓,陳婦同居焉。陳令備數僕持杖樓下,候有物墮地即箠死之。陳婦以產婦吹呵按摩,但見產一小蛇,長尺餘,自竅而下,羣僕箠殺之。產婦平安,全家舉手相慶,重以禮物謝之,俱不受。但需手帕一事,令其親書「徐某贈救產陳氏」數字。陳曰:「某居福州古田縣某處,左右鄰某人,異日若蒙青目,萬幸。」辭別出門,忽已不見,心常疑異之。後徐知福州,憶(「憶」原作「議」,據明刻本改。)其事,遣人尋訪所居鄰舍,云:「此間止有陳夫人廟,常化身於世救治難產。」細視之,則徐所題之手帕縣於像前。人歸以報,徐為諸於朝,增加封號,宏其廟 [223] 宇。凡有祈求男嗣及婦人難產,禱之立應,至今香火尤盛。

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).