Magistrate Li Of Wangjiang 望江李令

Magistrate Li of Wangjiang lived in Shuzhou after his dismissal from office. He had two sons, who were extremely intelligent. The magistrate once went to drink wine, returning at sunset. A hundred paces short of his house, he saw his two sons coming to greet him. On reaching him, they grabbed him between them and gave him a beating. The magistrate was alarmed and angry. He let out a great cry, but it was a place far from other people, so nobody knew of his plight. They kept hitting him as he went, but, just as he was about to reach his home his two sons left him and departed. When he arrived at the gate, however, his two sons were just arriving to meet him below the hall. When he questioned them they both said that they had never stepped outside the gate. A little over a month later, the magistrate again held a drinking party, but this time told his host the whole story, asking if he could stay the night as he did not dare return. His sons, however, fearing that he would return at dusk and be beaten again, set out together to meet him. Halfway there, however, they saw their father, who asked them, angrily: “Why would you go out at night?” He then had his attendants beat them, before letting them go. The next day, the magistrate returned, and was even more shocked at these events. Before several months had passed, father and sons were all dead.

People of the region say: ‘In Shu there are mountain spirits, and they excel in such cruelty, as they are followers of Liqiu.’[1]

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, 353.2797:

望江李令

望江李令者。罷秩居舒州。有二子。甚聰慧。令嘗飲酒暮歸。去家數百步。見二子來迎。即共禽而毆之。令驚大怒。大呼。而遠方人絕。竟無知者。且行且毆。將至家。二子皆却走而去。及入門。二子復迎于堂下。問之。皆云未嘗出門。後月餘。令復飲酒於所親家。因具白其事。請留宿。不敢歸。而其子恐其及暮歸。復為所毆。即俱往迎之。及中途。見其父。怒曰。何故暮出。即使從者擊之。困而獲免。明日令歸。益駭其事。不數月。父子皆卒。郡人云。舒有山鬼。善為此厲。蓋黎丘之徒也。出稽神錄

[1] Translation revised with generous help from Ofer Waldman. Thanks Ofer!

A Qingzhou Traveller 青州客

During the Later Liang (907-23 CE), a traveller from Qingzhou encountered a gale while crossing the sea. Blown to a very distant place, when he looked into the distance he could make out mountains and rivers and a walled city. A veteran sailor told him: “We have been seized by the wind. I have never been here before, but have heard that the realm of the spirits is in these parts. Could this be it?” After a little while, their boat reached land, so he climbed onto the shore and set off towards the settlement. The houses and residences, fields and plots showed no difference from those of the Middle Realm. Whenever he saw people he bowed to them, but none of those people seemed to notice him. When he reached the town walls, there was a custodian at the gates. When bowed to, he likewise failed to respond. He entered the town, and all of the buildings and people were very dark in colour. When he reached the royal palace, a great banquet was taking place, with several dozen of the monarch’s attendants waiting on the feast. Their robes, hats, utensils, musical instruments and furnishings were diverse, but all of Chinese styles. Ke therefore ascended the hall, and approached close to the king’s seat in order to catch a glimpse of him. Suddenly, however, the king fell ill. His retinue held him up and withdrew him from the room, urgently summoning a shaman to make an examination. When the shaman arrived, he declared: “Someone has arrived from a yang region. Their yang energy presses on the people, and this is the cause of the monarch’s illness. They came here inadvertently, without intending to haunt us. They should be sent away thankfully, with food, drink, carts and horses. This is appropriate.” They then supplied wine and a meal, laying out seats in another chamber. The shaman gathered the group of ministers, and all made prayers and offerings, and Ke ate accordingly. Shortly after, a coachman arrived driving horses. [2796] Ke then mounted a horse and returned, arriving at the shore and boarding the ship, the people of that realm never once having caught sight of him. They caught a favourable wind once more, and managed to return home. At that time He Dejian was military governor of Qingzhou, and was close to Weibo’s military governor Yang Shihou, so sent this Ke to serve Wei. He told Shihou his tale, and Fan Xuangu from Wei heard it in person and informed your servant.

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, 353.2795-96:

青州客

朱梁時。青州有賈客泛海遇風。飄至一處。遠望有山川城郭。海師曰。自頃遭風者。未嘗至此。吾聞鬼國在是。得非此耶。頃之。舟至岸。因登岸。向城而去。其廬舍田畝。不殊中國。見人皆揖之。而人皆不見已。至城。有守門者。揖之。亦不應。入城。屋室人物甚殷。遂至王宮。正值大宴。君臣侍宴者數十。其衣冠器用絲竹陳設之類。多類中國。客因升殿。俯逼王坐以窺之。俄而王有疾。左右扶還。亟召巫者視之。巫至。有陽地人至此。陽氣逼人。故王病。其人偶來爾。無心為祟。以飲食車馬謝遣之。可矣。即具酒食。設座於別室。巫及其羣臣。皆來祀祝。客據按而食。俄有僕夫馭馬而至。 [2796] 客亦乘馬而歸。至岸登舟。國人竟不見己。復遇便風得歸。時賀德儉為青州節度。與魏博節度楊師厚有親。因遣此客使魏。其為師厚言之。魏人范宣古。親聞其事。為余言。出稽神錄

Huangfu Mei 皇甫枚

During the Guangqi era (885-87 CE), when Xizong (r. 872-88 CE) was in Liangzhou, in autumn, the ninth month, Huangfu Mei was in temporary accommodation awaiting transfer. In the tenth month, he arrived to the west of Gaoping County from Xiangzhou. 40 li southwest of the county. He was climbing a hill and passing a small brook when the sunlight seemed to become watery, mist and cloud dimming the light, the sun beginning to set and the wind rising. Muddled by numerous forks and turns, he found himself on a long ridge. Below him he caught sight of a thatched cottage, hedges of hibiscus scattered around it, and noisy voices from within. He craned his neck to look, and after a little a village woman emerged to the north of the west wing, wearing yellow robes of antique design, with unkempt hair and battered sandals. He called out to her repeatedly, but she did not turn towards him, instead bowing her head and returning inside. He then followed the slope down to the southeast, but when he reached the residence the gate was entirely crossed and wound about with kudzu vines. Thorns and brambles stretched across the courtyard, showing not the slightest sign of human passage, as if it had lain for a year or two. Mei hesitated, and stood, astonished, for a long time. He climbed the slope once more and looked out. From there he could see the government road, with people passing along it. He thus whipped his donkey towards it, and met a courier clerk of the county surnamed Duan. He told Duan all about it and lodged with Duan that night.

From Sanshuixiaodu.

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, 353.2792:

皇甫枚

光啟中。僖宗在梁州。秋九月。皇甫枚將赴調行在。與所親裴宜城者偕行。十月。自相州西抵高平縣。縣西南四十里。登山越玉溪。其日行旅稍稀。煙雲晝晦。日昃風勁。惑於多歧。上一長坂。下視有茅屋數間。槿籬疏散。其中有喧語聲。乃延望之。少頃。有村婦出自西廂之北。著黃故衣。蓬頭敗屨。連呼之不顧。但俛首而復入。乃循坂東南下。得及其居。至則荊扉橫葛。縈帶其上。茨棘羅生於其庭。略無人蹤。如涉一二年者矣。枚與裴生。愕立久之。復登坂長望。見官道有人行。乃策蹇驢赴之。至則郵吏將往端氏縣者也。乃與俱焉。是夜宿端氏。出三水小牘

You Shizi 游氏子

In the northern corner of Xudu’s western district there stood the residence of General Zhao. After the patriarch’s passing, his descendants had scattered. The place then became inauspicious, and nobody dared live there. A close friend of theirs then posted a notice on the village gates, reading: ‘If someone dares reside there, they may consider it a gift.’ At the beginning of the Qianfu era (874-80 CE), there came along one You Shizi, fierce and stubborn by nature, braver and quicker than most. On seeing the notice, he said: “Your humble servant is a brave warrior. Even if there are strange demons and weird spirits, I’ll certainly control them.” It was then the height of summer, and, when night fell, he took up his sword and entered. The house was deep and silent, and the entrance hall long and broad. You Shizi laid out his mat in the courtyard, arranged his summer robe and sat. When the end of the first watch had been sounded, all was silent, and there had been no alarms. You Shizi grew weary, so he used his sword as a pillow and lay down facing the hall.

Just as the half watch was about to sound, he suddenly heard a ga-ya sound as the rear gate opened. Candles were lit in even lines, and several dozen servants sprinkled water and swept the hall, opening the high windows, stretching out the scarlet curtains and embroidered drapes, laying out seating mats and precious objects. Strange and rare fragrances wafted among the eaves and pillars. You’s heart told him that these were only minor spirits, and he did not yet feel moved to use force against them. He waited to watch them through to the finish. After a short while, they took up musical instruments, and several dozen people dressed in red and purple ascended the stairs from the eastern wing. Several dozen singers and dancers emerged from behind the hall and entered through the front. Those in the purple robes remained [2786] in front, and people in red, green and white clothing formed a second layer. A further twenty or more people talked and laughed together happily, bowing to one another and sitting down. At this strings and pipes struck up together, glasses were raised and toasts shared as the dancers moved in unison.

You Shizi wanted to charge forward and seize their ringleader. He was about to get up when he felt something pressing down between his thighs. It was cold and it was heavy, and he simply could not rise. He wanted to shout out, but his mouth trembled, unable to make a sound, so he watched the happy celebrations continue on until a loud, loud drum sounded. At this the sitting mats dispersed, the lights and fires were all doused, and all was as still as it had first been. You Shizi was bathed in sweat, his heart racing, as he crawled prostrate to the exit. Only long after reaching the gate could he speak once more. In the end nobody dared to live in the house.

From Sanshui xiaodu.

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, 352.2785-86

游氏子

許都城西之北陬。有趙將軍宅。主父既沒。子孫流移。其處遂凶。莫敢居者。親近乃牓於里門曰。有居得者。便相奉。乾符初。許有游氏子者。性剛悍。拳捷過人。見牓曰。僕猛士也。縱奇妖異鬼。必有以制之。時盛夏。既夕。携劍而入。室宇深邃。前庭廣袤。游氏子設簟庭中。絺綌而坐。一鼓盡。聞寂無驚。游氏子倦。乃枕劍面堂而臥。再鼓將半。忽聞軋然開後門聲。蠟炬齊列。有役夫數十。於堂中洒掃。闢前軒。張朱簾繡幕。陳筵席寶器。異香馥於簷楹。游子心謂此小魅耳。未欲迫之。將觀其終。少頃。執樂器。紆朱紫者數十輩。自東廂升階。歌舞妓數十輩自後堂出。入於前堂。紫衣者居 [2786] 前。朱綠衣白衣者次之。亦二十許人。言笑自若。揖讓而坐。於是絲竹合奏。飛觴舉白。歌舞間作。游氏子欲前突。擒其渠魁。將起。乃覺髀間為物所壓。冷且重。不能興。欲大叫。口哆而不能聲。但觀堂上歡洽。直至嚴鼓。席方散。燈火既滅。寂爾如初。游氏子駭汗心悸。匍伏而出。至里門。良久方能語。其宅後卒無敢居者。出三水小牘

Wang Kun 王坤

In the spring of the fourth year Dazhong (850 CE), Wang Kun of Taiyuan was serving as Doctor to the National University. His maidservant, Qing Yun, had died several years before this, but one night he suddenly dreamed that Qing Yun arrived before his bed. Kun was extremely afraid, but rose and questioned her. Qing Yun said: “Your servant has not been a human for several years now, and found myself missing my mortal life, as if I was bound but had not forgotten my release. This evening I received the opportunity to serve by your side, and am very pleased to see you.” Kun was muddled, as if he was drunk, and did not realize that she was a spirit. Qing Yun then led Kun out through the doorway. The gate had already been locked, but she guided Kun through a crevice and he passed through without harm. They reached the centre of the road, and paced back and forth under the moon.

After some time had passed, Kun suddenly felt hungry, and told Qing Yun. Qing Yun replied: “Is there a friend in the village who would give to my darling? Point them out and we’ll ask them for food.” Kun had long been friends with the Scholar to the Imperial College Shi Guan, and he too resided in the village, so Kun went there with her. When they reached Guan’s gate, it was already closed and bolted. Qing Yun knocked upon it, and after a little while the gatekeeper opened a leaf of the door and looked out, but said: “I just heard a knock on the gate, but now I look all is quiet, with nothing to see. How can that be?” He closed the leaf again, but Qing Yun knocked on it once more, and then again, for a third time. The gatekeeper asked, in angry tones: “How come these evil spirits always come to knock on our door?” He then spat and cursed them. Qing Yun explained to Kun: “Mr Shi has already gone to sleep. We certainly can’t call on him now. I hope the gentleman can suggest somewhere else.” At that time there was a junior clerk of the Imperial College who was also from the same village. When he went out he often passed the other’s gate, and the clerk would often pass on his superior’s monthly salary and slips of paper reporting new [2779] appointments. Kun trusted him implicitly.

When they arrived together at his house, they saw one leaf of the door open, and someone carrying a jar of water to scatter onto the street. Qing Yun said: “We should enter with him.” When they had stepped inside, they saw that the junior clerk was dining with several other people. Initially, Kun stood in the courtyard, thinking that the clerk would descend the steps and bow to him, but after some time the clerk still hadn’t given any sign of such courtesy. Presently they saw a maid carrying noodle soup up the steps. Qing Yun struck the servant on the back, at which she fell on the steps, and the soup was all spilled. The clerk, his wife and servants all leapt up, saying fearfully: “This is a malign attack!” They then hurriedly summoned a spirit-medium. The medium told them: “There’s someone there, with a red official’s knee-cover and a silver seal, standing before us in the courtyard.” They therefore made offerings to him, so Kun and Qing Yun sat down together. When the food was finished, they set out together, and the female medium accompanied them to the gate, burning spirit-money beside the entrance. At this Qing Yun addressed Kun: “The gentleman should accompany your servant and depart.” Kun therefore followed her into the village. He looked around and saw that it was the start of summer.

When they reached open countryside in the outskirts after several dozen li, they came to a tomb. Qing Yun said: “This is where your servant dwells. The gentleman should follow and enter.” The mouth of the grave was pitch black and he could not make anything out. Suddenly he awoke in palpitations of pure terror, his back sweating and his body shaking all over. By then the dawn had already broken, but his heart was full of revulsion towards the dream, and he dared not tell anyone about it. That day, he therefore decided to invite Shi Guan. When they had sat down together, Guan told him: “Last night there was a spirit that knocked at my gate three times; we sent people to look but all was quiet and nobody was there. When dawn broke I crossed to see the junior clerk, and found the remains of spirit money. I stood and summoned the clerk to ask about it, and the clerk told me: ‘Your servant had a dinner party last night, and there was a sudden malign attack on our maid. The spirit-medium told us we were haunted by a spirit, so we made offerings in the courtyard. This is the burnt paper.'” All of this was exactly the same as Kun’s dream. Kun grew ever more afraid, so informed his wife and children. In the winter of that year, he did indeed die.

From Xuanshizhi.

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, 351.2778-79

王坤

太原王坤。大中四年春為國子博士。有婢輕雲。卒數年矣。一夕。忽夢輕雲至榻前。坤甚懼。起而訊之。輕雲曰。某自不為人數年矣。嘗念平生時。若縶而不忘解也。今夕得奉左右。亦幸會耳。坤懵然若醉。不寤為鬼也。輕雲即引坤出門。門已扃鐍。隙中導坤而過。曾無礙。行至衢中。步月徘徊。久之。坤忽飢。語於輕雲。輕雲曰。里中人有與郎善者乎。可以詣而求食也。坤素與太學博士石貫善。又同里居。坤因與偕行。至貫門。而門已鍵閉。輕雲叩之。有頃。閽者啟扉曰。向聞叩門。今寂無覩。何也。因闔扉。輕雲又扣之。如是者三。閽者怒曰。厲鬼安得輒扣吾門。且唾且罵之。輕白坤云。石生已寢。固不可詣矣。願郎更詣他所。時有國子監小吏。亦同里。每出。常經其門。吏與主月俸及條報除 [2779] 授。坤甚委信之。因與俱至其家。方見啟扉。有一人持水缶。注入衢中。輕雲曰。可偕入。既入。見小吏與數人會食。初。坤立於庭。以為小吏必降階迎拜。既而小吏不禮。俄見一婢捧湯餅登階。輕雲即毆婢背。遽仆於階。湯餅盡覆。小吏與妻奴俱起。驚曰。中惡。即急召巫者。巫曰。有一人。朱紱銀印。立於庭前。因祭之。坤與輕雲俱就坐。食已而偕去。女巫送到門。焚紙錢於門側。輕雲謂坤曰。郎可偕某而行。坤即隨出里中。望啟夏而去。至郊野數十里。見一墓。輕雲曰。此妾所居。郎可隨而入焉。坤即俛首曲躬而入。墓口曛黑不可辨。忽悸然驚寤。背汗股慄。時天已曉。心惡其夢。不敢語於人。是日。因召〈(明鈔本「召」作「訪」。)〉石貫。既坐。貫曰。昨夕有鬼扣吾門者三。遣視之。寂無所覩。至曉。過小吏。則有焚紙錢跡。即立召小吏。訊其事。小吏曰。某昨夕方會食。忽有婢中惡。巫云。鬼為祟。由是設祭於庭。焚紙於此。盡與坤夢同。坤益懼。因告妻孥。是歲冬。果卒。出宣室志

Fair Prices, High Honour 平糶榮顯

Chen Tianfu, of Dongshan in Chalingzhou, was known as a venerable elder. Every year, when he had grain he would sell it at fair prices; if he lacked grain he would borrow money, buy grain at high prices and sell it cheaply; the villagers found this extremely virtuous. One day, a cleric offered one hundred and twenty copper cash to buy a dou of rice, but Chen said: “If a cleric needs alms or provisions one should hand over a dou; what need is there for money?” The cleric accepted the rice and went out through his gate, then inscribed four lines on the wall:

All, near and far, call him venerable elder;

Borrowing, he buys rice to give as alms.

The future brings fragrant (cassia) children and fragrant (orchid) grandchildren;

Entering the jade hall with ease and ascending the golden horse. (i.e., entering palace service)

Chen subsequently became very wealthy, further increasing his grain warehousing, selling grain fairly and aiding the populace. He had three sons: the eldest Jisi, the second Jiyun and the third Jifang, who was named Lansun; father and sons all requested water transport for their locality. Lansun subsequently entered the national academy and was highly ranked in the examinations, ascending the official hierarchy to be Magistrate of Taiyuan.

People say: “The rewards for fair selling are extremely generous, and the cleric was certainly an immortal!”

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.110 (Tale 190):

平糶榮顯

茶陵州東山陳天福,素稱長者。每年有米肯平糶,無米與人借,又無米借錢,貴糴賤糶,鄉里甚德之。一日,有道人以銅錢一百二十為糴米一斗,陳云: 「道人要齋糧,當納上一斗,何必用錢!」道人受米出門,遂題四句於壁間云:「遠近皆稱陳長者,典錢糴米來施捨。他時桂子與蘭孫,平步玉堂上金馬。」陳後富有,起經濟倉,平糶濟人。生三子:長季思,次季雲,三季芳,名蘭孫,父子皆請鄉漕。蘭孫後補入國學登第,官至太原常丞。人云:「平糶之報甚豐,而道人其仙乎!」

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).

Guo Pu’s Multifaceted Wisdom 郭璞多智

The horse on which the Eastern Jin Marshal Zhao Gu was riding died suddenly, and the general let out a melancholy sigh. A guest arrived, and the clerks did not dare to inform him. Guo Pu[1] came to his gate, and announced: “I can save this horse.” The general thus summoned him for an audience. Pu ordered that thirty people should all hold long poles, and go east for thirty li, reaching a grave mound and a forest attached to an altar to the god of the land. They then dispersed and beat the area, at which they captured an ape-like beast, which they then carried back. When it came before the horse, the beast sniffed at it, and the horse arose as if to leap up. To this day macaques are placed in stables, for this very reason.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.18 (Tale 87):

郭璞多智

東晉大將軍趙固所乘馬暴卒,將軍悲惋。客至,吏不敢通。郭璞造門,語曰:「余能活此馬。」將軍遽召見。璞令三十人悉持長竿,東行三十里,遇丘陵社林,即散擊,俄頃擒一獸如猿。持歸。至馬前,獸以鼻吸馬,馬起躍如。至今以獮猴置馬厩,此其義也。

[1] On the polymath Guo Pu 郭璞 (276-324 CE), see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guo_Pu.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories) in Du yi zhi, Xuanshi Zhi 獨異志,宣室志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories, Stories from the Chamber of Dissemination), edited by Zhang Yongqin 张永钦 and Hou Zhiming 侯志明 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1983)