Zhong Yao 鍾繇

Zhong Yao (151-230 CE) suddenly stopped attending the morning court, and his mood and character were quite different to what people had become used to. When a fellow official asked him why this was, he responded: “A woman often comes to me; she has a beauty that is not of the mortal world.” His colleague replied: “This must be a ghost. You should kill it; afterwards it will stay away from your home.” He asked: “How could I intend to slaughter something possessing such a form?” Yuanchang replied: “There is no such problem.” In the end he eagerly called her to him, but could not bear to carry out the plan, so only lightly wounded her. She left immediately, staunching the blood with fresh silk floss, which was scattered along her route. The following day, he sent people to follow these traces. They came to a great tomb. In a coffin lay a woman, her body appearing still to be alive. Wearing a white silk gown and a cinnabar-embroidered waistcoat, there was a wound on one of her thighs, and the waistcoat showed signs of her having wiped away blood. From then the visits ceased.

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, 317.2509:

鍾繇

鍾繇忽不復朝會。意性有異於常。寮友問其故。云。常有婦人來。美麗非凡間者。曰。必是鬼物。可殺之。後來止戶外。曰。何以有相殺意。元常曰。無此。慇懃呼入。意亦有不忍。乃微傷之。便出去。以新綿拭血。竟路。明日。使人尋跡。至一大冢。棺中一婦人。形體如生。白練衫。丹繡裲襠。傷一髀。以裲襠中綿拭血。自此便絕。出幽明錄

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:

陳阿登

漢會稽句章人。至東野還。暮不及門。見路傍小屋然火。因投宿。至。有一少女。不欲與丈夫共宿。呼鄰家女自伴。夜共彈箜篌。歌曰。連綿葛上藤。一緩復一絙。汝欲知我姓。姓陳名阿登。明至東郭外。有賣食母在肆中。此人寄坐。因說昨所見。母驚曰。此是我女。近亡。葬於郭外爾。出靈怪集

Wang Fan 王樊

The Dunhuang shilu reports: When Wang Fan died, a thief opened his tomb and saw Wang Fan playing chupu (a form of boardgame) with someone; he rewarded the robber with wine, and the thief drank it in terror, watching someone lead a bronze horse out of the tomb. That night a divinity arrived at the city gate, announcing that it was the envoy of Wang Fan, that someone had opened his tomb, marking his lips by swallowing dark wine, and that, at dawn, when that person returned, they could verify this and capture him. When the thief entered the city, those on the gate therefore bound and questioned him, and it was just as the divinity had said. From Duyizhi.

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, 317.2507:

王樊

敦煌實錄云。王樊卒。有盜開其冢。見樊與人樗蒲。以酒賜盜者。盜者惶怖。飲之。見有人牽銅馬出冢者。夜有神人至城門。自云。我王樊之使。今有發冢者。以酒墨其脣訖。旦至。可以驗而擒之。盜即入城。城門者乃縛詰之。如神所言。出獨異志

The Zhonghua shuju edition of Du yi zhi presents a very slightly different version of the story:

Wang Fan’s Tomb 王樊冢

The Dunhuang shilu reports: When Wang Fan died, a thief opened his tomb and saw Wang Fan playing chupu (a form of boardgame) with someone; he rewarded the robber with wine, and the thief drank it in terror, watching someone lead a bronze horse out of the tomb. That night a divinity arrived at the city gate, announcing that it was the envoy of Wang Fan, that someone had opened his tomb, marking his lips by swallowing dark wine, and that, at dawn, when that person returned, they could verify this and capture him. When the thief entered the city, those on the gate therefore bound and questioned him, and it was just as the divinity had said.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.8 (Tale 61):

王樊冢

《燉煌實錄》云:王樊卒,有盗開其冢,見王樊與人樗蒲,以酒賜盗者,盗者惶怖飲之,見有人牽銅馬出冢者。夜有神至城門,自言是王樊使,今有人發冢,以酒墨其唇,但至,可以驗而擒之。盗既入城,城門者乃縛詰之,如神言。

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)

Master Ren Of Wu 吳任生

Master Ren, from Wu Prefecture, was skilled at spotting spirits, and his cottage was on Dongtingshan. He often looked like a young boy, and, according to the custom of Wu and Chu, none knew his birthdate. During the Baoli era (825-26 CE), there was a youth, surnamed Yang, the son of a Qiankunshan military officer, who was living apart in Wu Prefecture. He would often, of a daytime, meet a few people of a similar age and go boating together.

When they went to the Huqiu Temple, Master Ren was in the boat with them. Their talk touched on spirits and deities, and Master Yang said: “People and spirits leave different traces. Because spirits have died they cannot be seen.” Master Ren laughed: “Spirits are extremely numerous. People are just unable to recognise them. Only I can pick them out.” They turned to look at a woman, dressed in dark robes, holding a small boy and walking along the bank. The Master pointed and said: “This is a spirit. The thing she is embracing is nothing more than the ethereal soul of an infant.” Yang said: “But then how can you tell that she is a spirit?” The Master replied: “So the gentleman thinks I’m all talk?” He then called out in a stern voice: “You are a spirit. Have you stolen the child of a living person?” When the woman heard this she was terrified, and started to hurry back the way she had come. Before she had taken more than a few dozen steps, she vanished. Master Yang was both impressed and astonished.

When evening came, they returned. Several dozen li from the city walls there was a house on the riverbank, with mats laid out for a feast. There was a sorceress, who encouraged them to take seats at her left, and libations were made to the deities. Master Yang and Master Ren both asked her about this, and the sorceress told them: “Today a villager’s baby died of a sudden illness, but now it has revived so we are holding a banquet in gratitude.” They then ordered that the child be brought out for them to see, and it was indeed the infant that the woman had been carrying. The guests were all amazed and alarmed at this, and thanked Master Ren, saying: “The gentleman is truly an adept of the Way; we had no idea!”

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), vii, 347.2746:

吳任生

吳郡任生者。善視鬼。廬於洞庭山。貌常若童兒。吳楚之俗。莫能究其甲子。寶曆中。有前崑山尉楊氏子。僑居吳郡。常一日。里中三數輩。相與泛舟。俱遊虎丘寺。時任生在舟中。且語及鬼神事。楊生曰。人鬼殊迹。故鬼卒不可見矣。任生笑曰。鬼甚多。人不能識耳。我獨識之。然顧一婦人。衣青衣。擁豎兒。步於岸。生指語曰。此鬼也。其擁者乃嬰兒之〈之原作也。據明鈔本改。〉生魂耳。楊曰。然則何以辨其鬼耶。生曰。君第觀我與語。即厲聲呼曰。爾鬼也。竊生人之子乎。其婦人聞而驚懾。遂疾廻去。步未十數。遽亡見矣。楊生且歎且異。及晚還。去郭數里。岸傍一家。陳筵席。有女巫。鼓舞於其左。乃醮神也。楊生與任生俱問之。巫曰。今日里中人有嬰兒暴卒。今則寤矣。故設筵以謝。遂命出嬰兒以視。則真婦人所擁者。諸客驚歎之。謝任生曰。先生真道術者。吾不得而知也。出宣室志

Tan Sheng 談生

At the age of forty Tan Sheng was without a wife. He often became aroused through study and reading. Suddenly one midnight a young woman appeared to him, aged fifteen or sixteen and peerless under heaven in her appearance, dress and posture. She came to Sheng so they could be husband and wife, but told him: “I am not like other people. Never let firelight shine upon me. Only after three years have passed may I be illuminated.” They then lived as man and wife. She’d bore a son, who was already two years old, when, unable to bear it any longer, Sheng waited until she was asleep then stealthily illuminated and examined her. Above her waist was living flesh, just like any human being, but below her waist were just dry bones. His wife awoke, and told him: “The gentleman has betrayed me. I had almost returned to life – why could you not bear to wait just one more year before examining me?” Sheng parted from her with thanks, weeping, as they could no longer be together.

She said: “Although my parting from the gentleman is entirely correct, I am still concerned for our child. You are poor and unable to support yourselves, so follow me a moment and I will leave you something of value. Sheng followed her as she entered a splendid hall, its rooms and furnishings all quite extraordinary. Indicating a pearl-stitched gown, she handed it to him and said: “You can support yourself with this.” She then tore away the front of the gown, left it with him and departed. Sheng subsequently took the robe to the market, where it was purchased by the household of the Suiyang Prince, earning him a thousand ten-thousand strings of cash.

The prince recognised the robe, however, and said: “This is my daughter’s gown. It must have been taken from her tomb.” He thus seized and beat Sheng, who told him the full truth, but the prince still did not believe him. They therefore went to view the tomb, and found the grave undisturbed, just like [2502] before. When they opened it, beneath the coffin lid they found the same gown. They called his child, and indeed he resembled the princess. The prince then believed the story, and summoned Tan Sheng, granting him the gown and installing him as princely consort. Their son was appointed Chancellor.[1]

From Lieyizhuan

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, 316.2501-2:

談生

談生者。年四十。無婦。常感激讀書。忽〈書忽原作詩經。據明鈔本改。〉夜半有女子。可年十五六。姿顏服飾。天下無雙。來就生為夫婦。乃〈乃原作之。據明鈔本改。〉言。我與人不同。勿以火照我也。三年之後。方可照。為夫妻。生一兒。已二歲。不能忍。夜伺其寢後。盜照視之。其腰上已生肉如人。腰下但有枯骨。婦覺。遂言曰。君負我。我垂生矣。何不能忍一歲而竟相照也。生辭謝。涕泣不可復止。云。與君雖大義永離。然顧念我兒。若貧不能自偕活者。暫隨我去。方遺君物。生隨之去。入華堂。室宇器物不凡。以一珠袍與之曰。可以自給。裂取生衣裾。留之而去。後生持袍詣市。睢陽王家買之。得錢千萬。王識之曰。是我女袍。此必發墓。乃取拷之。生具以實對。王猶不信。乃視女冢。冢完如 [2502] 故。發視之。果棺蓋下得衣裾。呼其兒。正類王女。王乃信之。即召談生。復賜遺衣。以為主壻。表其兒以為侍中。出列異傳

[1] With thanks to Ofer Waldman for greatly improving this translation!

A Wuyuan Soldier’s Wife 婺源軍人妻

In a dingyou year, the wife of a soldier from Jianwei in Wuyuan died, so he remarried. His second wife terribly mistreated his children by the first wife, and the husband was quite unable to stop this. One day, he suddenly saw his dead wife pass through the gate and enter. Furious at the second wife, she said: “Who among the people will not die? How could anyone lack all motherly feelings? Yet you abuse our children like this? I have recently made a complaint to the authorities of the nether world, and they granted me a break of ten days in which I am to teach you. If you then fail to change, I would surely be able to kill the gentleman.” Husband and wife were both terrified and bowed over and over, then provided her with food and drink. They once invited trusted friends from among their neighbours, greeting them and chatting as normal, but these other people could hear her voice, despite only the husband being able to see her. When night fell, she set up a bed in another room. The husband wished to spend the night with her, but was not allowed. When the ten days were up, she was about to depart, but again reprimanded the second wife and urged her to improve. Her words were very [2800] earnest and thoughtful. She escorted the family members together to her tomb, and when they were a little over a hundred paces from the grave, said: “You should all stop here.” She then said her goodbyes in a polite and courteous manner, then departed. Just as she reached a cypress grove all of the family could see her, in clothes and appearance seeming just they had in life. When she reached the tomb, she disappeared.

The officer of the Jianwei Army Wang Yanchang reported that it occurred like this.

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, 353.2799-800:

婺源軍人妻

丁酉歲。婺源建威軍人妻死更娶。其後妻虐遇前妻之子過甚。夫不能制。一日。忽見亡妻自門而入。大怒後妻曰。人誰無死。孰無母子之情。乃虐我兒女如是耶。吾比訴與地下所司。今與我假十日。使我誨汝。汝遂不改。必能殺君。夫妻皆恐懼再拜。即為具酒食。徧召親黨鄰里。問訊敘話如常。他人但聞其聲。唯夫見之。及夜。為設榻別室。夫欲從之宿。不可。滿十日。將去。復責勵其後妻。言甚 [2800] 切至。舉家親族共送至墓。去墓百餘步。曰。諸人可止矣。復殷勤辭訣而去。將及柏林中。諸人皆見之。衣服容色如平生。及墓乃沒。建威軍使汪延昌言如是。出稽神錄

The Jiankang Musician 建康樂人

In Jiankang there was a musician. One evening he went to the market, and saw two drivers, who told him: “Assistant Judge Lu summons you.” He departed following them, and came to a large residence, furnished with great magnificence. There were more than ten guests in all, generously provided with wine. They were only served drinks, however, without any food. Moreover, the wine did not reach the musician. When dawn came all dispersed. The musician was extremely tired, so lay down on a bed outside the gates. When he awoke, he was out in the countryside, next to a large tomb. He asked the villagers about it, and was told: “Legend has it that this is the tomb of Assistant Judge Lu. It is not clear what era he lived in.”

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, 353.2798:

建康樂人

建康有樂人。日晚如市。見二僕夫云。陸判官召。隨之而去。至大宅。陳設甚嚴。賓客十餘人。皆善酒。惟飲酒而不設食。酒亦不及樂人。向曙而散。樂人困甚。因臥門外牀上。既寤。乃在草間。旁有大塚。問其里人。云。相傳陸判官之塚。不知何時人也。出稽神錄

Zhu Yanshou 朱延壽

In his latter years, the governor of Shouzhou Zhu Yanshou was once bathing in his chamber when he saw two people outside his window. Both had dark faces, vermillion hair and black robes, and grasped books in their hands. One of them said: “I have accepted an order [2797] to come and fetch him.” Another said: “I too have accepted an order to come and fetch him.” One said: “I received the order first.” Yanshou then called out to those attending him. The pair immediately vanished. When his attendants arrived, they all said there had not been anyone there at all. Before long, he was dead.

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, 353.2796-97:

朱延壽

壽州刺史朱延壽。末年。浴於室中。窺見窗外有二人。皆青面朱髮青衣。手執文書。一人曰。我受命 [2797] 來取。一人曰。我亦受命來取。一人又曰。我受命在前。延壽因呼侍者。二人即滅。侍者至。問外有何人。皆云無人。俄而被殺。出稽神錄

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!

Zhou Yuanshu 周元樞

Zhou Yuanshu was from Suiyang, and served as Secretary-General to Pinglu, residing in the official dwelling at Linzi. One night, when he was about to go to bed, he suddenly heard the sounds of a great many horses and heavy baggage carts. Knocking on his door he sent someone out, who reported: “Li Sikong waits to call on you.” Yuanshu thought through the people he knew, but this was not among them. He therefore concluded: ‘He must be somebody from my home region I do not yet know.’ He then went out to see the guest, invited him to be seated, and asked politely where he had come from. The reply came: “I come to make my home at this very place, and have not yet anywhere to stop, so seek to dwell in this residence.” Yuanshu was shocked, and asked: “Why come here?” He replied: “This is our former home.” Yuanshu said to him: “I came here on an official post, and the house has long been passed down as a government residence. When did the gentleman live here?” The other replied: “I lived here once in the Kaihuang era under the Sui.” (i.e., 581-601 CE) Yuanshu said: “In that case, must not the gentleman surely be a spirit?” He said: “Yes, indeed. The regional officials have permitted me to establish a shrine here, and therefore ask the gentleman simply to move on.” Yuanshu could not agree, and said: “People ought not to mix with spirits. Can it really be that I am about to die, and the gentleman can therefore bully me? Even if that is so, there are no grounds for handing over this residence to the gentleman. Even were I to die, I should still make my case against the gentleman.” He therefore summoned his wife and children, and told them: “I am going to die. Place plenty of paper and brushes in my coffin, as I am going to engage in a disputation with the gentleman Li.” They provided wine to drink, and the pair made several hundred toasts, their speech growing ever more stern. The visitor seemed about to depart, but stayed back, and, after a long time had passed, a servant came and spoke: “A message for the lady from Sikong. Secretary Zhou is emotionless. How can one dispute with such a person? He invites catastrophe.” At this the visitor then said farewell and departed. They showed him to the door, and he then suddenly vanished. Yuanshu remained in good health.

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, 353.2796:

周元樞

周元樞者。睢陽人。為平盧掌書記。寄居臨淄官舍。一夕將寢。忽有車馬輜重甚衆。扣門使報曰。李司空候謁。元樞念親知輩皆無此人。因自思。必鄉曲之舊。吾不及知矣。即出見之。延坐。請問其所從來。曰。吾亦新家至此。未有所止。求居此宅矣。元樞驚曰。何至是。對曰。此吾之舊宅也。元樞曰。吾從官至此。相傳云。書寄之公署也。君何時居此。曰。隋開皇中嘗居之。元樞曰。若爾。君定是鬼耶。曰。然。地府許我立廟於此。故請君移去爾。元樞不可。曰。人不當與鬼相接。豈吾將死。故君得凌我耶。雖然。理不當以此宅授君。吾雖死。必與君訟。因召妻子曰。我死。必多置紙筆於棺中。將與李君對訟。即具酒與之飲。相酬數百盃。詞色愈厲。客將去。復留之。良久。一蒼頭來云。夫人傳語司空。周書記木石人也。安可與之論難。自取困哉。客於是辭謝而去。送之出門。倏忽不見。元樞竟無恙。出稽神錄