Li Yuangong 李元恭

*Translation revised with the generous help of Ofer Waldman – thanks Ofer!*

The Tang-era Vice-President of the Ministry of Personnel Li Yuangong[1] had a granddaughter, a Miss Cui, peaceful of countenance and extremely beautiful, fifteen or sixteen years old, who was suddenly afflicted by a demonic illness. When this had lasted for a long time, the fox manifested itself as a young man, calling himself ‘Gentleman Hu’; they repeatedly sought scholars of magic, but were unable to make it go away. Yuangong’s son possessed a broad education and great wisdom, and often asked: “Does Gentleman Hu also possess learning or not?” And so the fox engaged in discussions, missing not a single topic. He employed many questions to probe the fox, who tended to be closely acquainted with music. After a long time of this, he addressed Miss Cui, saying: “Nobody should remain without education.” He therefore brought an elderly man to teach Miss Cui Classics and History, and over three years she acquired a degree of expertise [204] in the cardinal principles of the various schools. He also brought a person to teach her calligraphy, and, after a single year, she came to be considered an expert calligrapher. He also said: “How can a married woman not have studied music? The konghou and pipa, though present in all music, are not so suitable as study of the qin.” He further summoned another person, saying that he was skilled at playing the qin, and stating that his surname was Hu, and that he was a scholar of Yangdi County in the Sui era. He taught her all the various tunes, preparing her fully in their subtleties, and she was quite unsurpassed on other famous songs. As to himself he claimed: “I am skilled at Guanglingsan,[2] which many encounters with Ji Zhong San[3] did not get him to teach it to other men.” He was also especially good at transmitting the wonders of Wuyeti.[4] Li later asked: “Why does Gentleman Hu not marry and return home?” The fox was extremely pleased, bowing again in thanks and saying: “I have long cherished this, too, but have not dared, purely due to being a pleb” That day, he bowed over and over to the family, leaping about in the utmost joy. Li asked: “Mr Hu wishes to return home with his wife; where is his residence?” The fox said: “Before the residence there are two large bamboos.” At that time the Li residence had a bamboo garden, and Li, going to search around there, found a small hole between two of the great trees; it turned out to be a fox’s lair, drawing water to fill it. At first they captured a badger, a raccoon dog, and several dozen small foxes. Eventually an elderly fox, wearing an unlined green robe, followed them out of the hole; it was the same robe he was always wearing. The family spoke joyfully: “Now Mr Hu has emerged!” They killed him, and the strange events stopped.
From Guangyiji 廣異記 (Extensive Records of the Strange)

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Era of Great Harmony), ix, 449.3671-72:

李元恭
唐吏部侍郎李元恭。其外孫女崔氏。容色殊麗。年十五六。忽得魅疾。久之。狐遂見形為少年。自稱 [3672] 胡郎。累求術士不能去。元恭子博學多智。常問胡郎亦學否。狐乃談論。無所不至。多質疑于狐。頗狎樂。久之。謂崔氏曰。人生不可不學。乃引一老人授崔經史。前後三載。頗通諸家大義。又引一人。教之書。涉一載。又以工書著稱。又云。婦人何不會音聲。箜篌琵琶。此故凡樂。不如學琴。復引一人至。云善彈琴。言姓胡。是隋時陽翟縣博士。悉教諸曲。備盡其妙。及他名曲。不可勝紀。自云亦善廣陵散。比屢見嵇中散。不使授人。其于烏夜啼。尤善傳其妙。李後問。胡郎何以不迎婦歸家。狐甚喜。便拜謝云。亦久懷之。所不敢者。以人微故爾。是日遍拜家人。歡躍備至。李問胡郎欲迎女子。宅在何所。狐云。某舍門前有二大竹。時李氏家有竹園。李因尋行所。見二大竹間有一小孔。竟是狐窟。引水灌之。初得猯狢及他狐數十枚。最後有一老狐。衣綠衫。從孔中出。是其素所著衫也。家人喜云。胡郎出矣。殺之。其怪遂絕。出《廣異記》

The version found in Guangyiji is essentially identical; here is the Chinese text, from the combined volume Tang Lin 唐臨; Dai Fu 戴孚, Mingbaoji; Guangyiji 冥報記 / 廣異記 (Records of Netherworld Vengeance / Extensive Records of The Strange) (Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju, 1992), pp. 203-4:

李元恭

唐吏部侍郎李元恭,其外孫女崔氏,容色殊麗,年十五六,忽得魅疾。久之,狐遂見形為少年,自稱胡郎,累求術士不能去。元恭子博學多智,常問:「胡郎亦學否?」狐乃談論,無所不至,多質疑于狐,頗狎樂。久之,謂崔氏曰:「人生不可不學。」乃引一老人授崔經史,前後三載,頗通 [204] 諸家大義。又引一人教之書,涉一載,又以工書著稱。又云:「婦人何不會音聲,箜篌琵琶,此故凡樂,不如學琴。」復引一人至,云善彈琴,言姓胡,是隋時陽翟縣博士。悉教諸曲,備盡其妙,及他名曲,不可勝紀。自云:「亦善《廣陵散》,比屢見嵇中散,不使授人。」其于《烏夜啼》尤善,傳其妙。李後問:「胡郎何以不迎婦歸家?」狐甚喜,便拜謝云:「亦久懷之,所不敢者,以人微故爾。」是日,遍拜家人,歡躍備至。李問:「胡郎欲迎女子,宅在何所?」狐云:「某舍門前有二大竹。」時李氏家有竹園,李因尋行所,見二大竹間有一小孔,竟是狐窟,引水灌之。初得猯狢及他狐數十枚,最後有一老狐,衣綠衫,從孔中出,是其素所著衫也。家人喜云:「胡郎出矣!」殺之,其怪遂絕。

[1] On Li Yuangong 李元恭 (d. c. 702 CE), see CBDB Person ID 0195948.

[2] On this piece of music, see https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%B9%BF%E9%99%B5%E6%95%A3.

[3] This refers to Ji Kang嵆康 courtesy name Shuye 叔夜 (223-62 CE), an acclaimed scholar and qin player. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ji_Kang.

[4] On this piece of music, see https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E4%B9%8C%E5%A4%9C%E5%95%BC.

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Han Huang’s Clear Judgement 韓滉明察

Han Huang, Duke Jin (727-87 CE) was garrisoning Zhexi, his orders followed far and wide. At that time, Chen Shaoyou was military governor for Huainan, and when, in governing the populace, he had a case he was unable to straighten out, he went to call on Duke Jin, who would always resolve it. The revenue from Zheyou was sent across the river in a boat, but this was sunk by raging waves. When the boatman recruited people to dredge it up, they couldn’t find two strings of coins, so the populace had to make up the numbers. Jin went in person to the crossing, led an inspection, and then made a demand of the river spirits, indicating the money and saying: “This is dry money; it is not for those in the water to take.” He asked the clerk, and the clerk replied in confirmation. He again spoke to the shame of the matter. Suddenly the two strings of coins bobbed up on the wavetops, so he then plucked them out.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.9 (Tale 63):

韓滉明察

韓晉公滉鎮浙西,威令大行。時陳少游為淮南節度,理民有寃不得伸者,往詣晉公,必據而平之。浙右進錢,船渡江,為驚濤所溺。篙工募人漉出,二緡不得,衆以錢填其數。滉自至津,部視之,乃責江神,因指其錢曰:「此錢乾,非水中得之者。」問吏,吏具實對。復挩詞詬。俄然二緡浮出波上,遂以取之。

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)

Riding A Raft, Reaching The Heavenly Crossing 乘槎至天津

Hai Ruo[1] lived on an island in the sea, and every year on the eighth month a raft floated past on the currents. This continued for years without fail. Someone provisioned a raft and set off, arriving at a place where they saw a person watering cattle in a river. There was also a weaving woman,[2] and when they asked her what place it was, her cattle-watering father spoke: “You should go back and ask Yan Junping of Shu;[3] he ought to know.” The person returned and called on Junping. Junping said: “On such-and-such a day, month and year, a comet crossed into the Big Dipper and Altair. Having calculated the dates, it must have been you.” The person then realized that, floating with the current, their raft had reached the Heavenly Crossing.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.1 (Tale 2):

乘槎至天津

海若居海島,每至八月即有流槎過。如是,累年不失期。其人齎糧槎而往,及至一處,見有人飲牛於河,又見織女,問其處,飲牛之父曰:「可歸問蜀嚴君平,當知之。」其人歸,詣君平。君平曰:「某年月日,有客星犯斗牛,計時,即汝也。」其人乃知隨流槎至天津。

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)

[1] Hai Ruo 海若 is a spirit of the sea. See https://baike.baidu.com/item/%E6%B5%B7%E8%8B%A5/9723235.

[2] This ‘weaving woman’ signifies Vega, brightest star in the Lyra constellation.

[3] Yan Junping 嚴君平 (86 BCE -10CE) was a famous Daoist scholar from Sichuan. See https://baike.baidu.com/item/%E4%B8%A5%E5%90%9B%E5%B9%B3.

Immortal Lü Brings Enlightenment 呂仙教化

During the Song Jingding era (1260-64), the family of Qian Yan, guard commander for Shaowu, had a shop selling incense and spirit money, and often gave alms to mendicant monks, always contributing one copper dangsanqian (‘worth three’) coin, and never skimping, showing weariness or forgetting. One day, as they rose at dawn to open the shop, there was a religious holding a palm-leaf fan who came to the gate to receive alms. He happened to meet Yan’s wife, who, being angry owing to an unrelated matter, and showing this in words and expression, threw two dangsanqian coins onto the fan, from which they then fell on the floor. The religious trampled them underfoot, without even a turn of the head, and departed as if floating on air. When Yan himself emerged to pick up the coins, they were bonded to the cobblestone, and even using all his strength he was quite unable to shift them. The onlookers were shocked and marveled at this, and hurried to find the religious, who had vanished without a trace. When they scooped out the cobble using a pickaxe, a poem was found inscribed on the back:

The Master’s great vow spans the cosmos,

Until today it has encountered no boundary.

Intending with special purpose to return once more,

Pity the lady Yan whose character hampers immortals.

The cobblestone is now in the city god’s temple and can be inspected.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.129 (Tale 224):

呂仙教化

宋景定年間,邵武軍衛(「衛」,明抄本作「衙」。)前殷家香紙店,常供雲水道人,每緣(「緣」明刻本、明抄本作「員」。)奉銅當三錢一个,未嘗少倦忽。一日,早起開店,有道人持椶扇,登門結緣,適逢殷家婦人以他事遷怒,形於辭色,連以兩枚當三錢擲在椶扇中,遂流於地。道人以足踐之,更不回顧,飄然而去。殷自出拾起元錢,則固結於磚上,用力亦不能動矣。觀者駭異,急尋訪道人,已杳然不見。復將鋤頭連磚穵出,見磚背有詩曰:「先生大願度三千,直到如今不得緣。得得此來還有意,可憐殷氏骨難仙。」今此石砌在城隍廟中,可考。

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 Uses Human Speech 神作人言

In the Song era, in a county belonging to Tanzhou there was a pawnbroker called Zhang Yong, who cut down a vertical post from the shrine to a spirit to reinforce the framework of a residence. The beam was finished but not yet painted. When Zhang and his dependents entered the house to look, they would often hear somebody answering them; if they asked for tea, it would say “Tea is coming.” If they asked for wine, it would say “Wine is coming.” There was nobody to be seen, but a voice could be heard. The population said this must be the spirit of the temple who had come to take the wood and secretly occupied the house, and if they could have an official of good fortune to calm and control it, they could later gradually move in successfully.

At that time a registrar called Zhao was travelling to his post, and, before entering the government hostel, stayed there for several days, and the voice temporarily stopped. Zhang then moved into the residence, but suddenly heard someone speaking again: “You had an official intimidate me, and will undergo imprisonment and come to meet me.” After that it fell silent. More than a year had passed when Zhang was summoned by a messenger from his superior and placed in charge of a prison, where he died one day, his body turning blue-black all over. When an official was appointed to investigate this, Zhang’s servant reported: “In the early morning I brought his meal, so I cooked an eel carp and sent it to him. He had only just finished eating when he tried to lie down and he died. [221] My sister-in-law once said that eel carp heads could treat illness, so the head has been preserved.” It was demanded that the head be examined, and the fish turned out to have four eyes. From this Zhang’s family understood that this must be a haunting by the spirit of the temple, and that this had cost him his life, so they decided to drop further legal proceedings.

It is well-known that four-eyed fish can kill people.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.220-21 (Tale 391):

神作人言

宋朝潭之屬縣有典押張永者,伐神廟木豎一居稍壯,構架已畢,但未粉飾。張與其眷屬入內觀看,常有人應答,如喚茶,則曰「茶來」,如索酒,則曰「酒來」,不見有人,但聞有聲。衆謂此必廟神來取木而陰據此屋,若先得官員福氣鎮壓,然後徐徐遷入為好。適有趙主簿赴任,未入官舍,先寓數日,則其聲頓失。張遂遷入屋,忽又聞有云:「你令官員嚇我,候過獄中來與你相會。」自爾寂然。越一年餘,張為上司專人追呼,置司存(上三字原作「存置司」,據明刻本改。)於獄,一日死,而遍身青黑,委官究問,則其僕供云:「早晨送飯,乃煮一鰻鯉來與押,才喫未久,求卧而死。 [221] 其嫂曾云,鰻鯉魚頭可以醫瘵,今此頭尚存。」索至看驗,魚乃四目。其眷屬自知此必廟神為祟,以戕其性命,甘願息訟。信知四目魚能殺人者也。

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 Well Spirit Shows Itself 井神現身

Wu Zhan lived near Jingxi, where there was a particularly clear and limpid spring on which the population relied. Zhan protected it with a bamboo fence, to keep out the dirt. One day, Wu was by the side of the spring when he caught a white snail and put it in an earthen jar. Whenever he came in from outside, he found food and drink already prepared in his kitchen, and he was shocked and astonished. One day he managed to peep in, and saw a woman emerge from the shell and take up a cooking knife. Wu hurried in towards her. She was unable to return to her shell, and told him truthfully: “I am a spring spirit. Because the gentleman respected and protected my source, and because it is known that the gentleman is a widower, I was commanded to prepare food for the gentleman. If the gentleman eats my food, he will attain the Way.” When her speech was finished she vanished.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.219 (Tale 388):

井神現身

吳湛居臨荊溪,有一泉極清澈,衆人賴之,湛為竹籬遮護,不令穢入。一日,吳於泉側得一白螺,歸置之甕中,每自外歸,則廚中飲食已辦,心大驚異。一日竊窺,乃一女子自螺中而出,手自操刀。吳急趨之,女子大窘,不容歸殼,實告吳曰:「吾乃泉神,以君敬護泉源,且知君鰥居,命〔吾〕(據明刻本補。)為君操饌。君食吾饌,當得道矣。」言訖不見。

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).

Lu Ban Builds A Stone Bridge 魯般造石橋

To the south of Zhaozhou city there is a stone bridge, which was constructed by Lu Ban (c.507–444 BCE), and is extremely robust, that is to say from ancient times until today is quite without later rebuilding. It happened that the prefecture had a spirit surnamed Zhang. Passing the bridge while riding on a donkey, Zhang laughed and said: “This stone of this bridge is strong and sound; if I cross can it survive without shaking?” He then mounted the bridge, and the structure swayed as if it would collapse. Lu Ban stood beneath it and steadied the structure with his hands, returning it to its former sturdiness. To this day traces of the hooves, tail and head of the donkey ridden by Zhang are visible atop the bridge, and prints of Lu Ban’s hands can be seen below. This has been passed down from ancient times, but others have not recorded it in writing, so it is set down here.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.218 (tale 387)

魯般造石橋

趙州城南有石橋一座,乃魯般所造,極堅固,意謂古今無第二手矣。忽其州有神姓張,騎驢而過橋,張神笑曰:「(明刻本此處多「人言」二字。)此橋石堅而柱壯,如我過能無震動乎?」於是登橋,而橋搖動若傾狀。魯般在下以兩手托定,而堅壯如故。至今橋上則有張神所乘驢之頭尾及四足痕,橋下則有魯般兩手痕。此古老相傳,他文未載,故及之。

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).