The Henggong Fish 橫公魚

In the northern wastes there is a Lake Shi, a thousand li on each side. The banks are over five zhang high (one zhang is c. 3.3m), and it is permanently frozen, thawing only for forty or fifty days in summer. There lives the Henggong Fish, seven to eight chi in length (more than 2 metres), shaped like a carp and red. In daytime they stay in the water, but at night take human form. Stabbing will not pierce them, boiling will not kill them. Only a fire of two dark plum branches will finish them off. Eating them will halt illness caused by malign influence.

From Shenyilu.

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), x, 464.3822:

北方荒中有石湖。方千里。岸深五丈餘。恒氷。唯夏至左右五六十日解耳。有橫公魚。長七八尺。形如鯉而赤。晝在水中。夜化為人。刺之不入。煮之不死。以烏梅二枚煮之則死。食之可止邪病。出神異錄

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A Toad Emissary From Heaven 蝦蟇天使

Li Kui served as Vice-President of the Board of Rites during the Qianyuan era (758-59 CE). Once, seated during the daytime in the porch of his hall, he suddenly heard a great shaking from within the hall, as if a wall had collapsed. Kui was alarmed, and went in to investigate. He saw a toad prostrate on the floor, several chi in height, uniquely tall and quite alone. Kui was gripped by both fear and wonder, and none dared approach it. Eventually he ordered a houseboy to take a large pot and cover it. A guest said: “This toad is a thing from the moon, and is an emissary from the heavens. If a heavenly emissary comes to the gentleman’s hall, how can this not indicate the heavenly emperor’s award of a post to the gentleman?” When the next dawn broke, he removed the cover to look, but it had already vanished. Several days later, he was indeed appointed Vice-President Administrator of the Central Secretariat.

Zhang Du 張讀, Xuanshi Zhi 宣室志 (Stories from the Chamber of Dissemination), 1.1 (Tale 1):

蝦蟇天使

李揆於乾元中為禮部侍郎,嘗一日晝坐於堂之前軒,忽聞堂中有聱極震,若牆圮。揆驚,入視之。見一蝦蟇俯於地,高數尺,魁然殊狀。揆且驚且異,莫窮其來。卽命家童以巨缶蓋之。客曰:「夫蝦蟇者,月中之物,亦天使也。今天使來公堂,豈非上帝以榮命付公乎?」黎明,啟視之,已亡見矣。後數日,果拜中書侍郎平章事。

又見《廣記》卷四七四,題為《李揆》;《紺珠集》卷五,題為《蝦䗫天使》;《類說》卷二三,題為《見蝦䗫》。後二書所引均為節文。

Zhang Du 張讀, Xuanshi Zhi 宣室志 (Stories from the Chamber of Dissemination) 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)

The version transmitted in the Taiping Guangji varies slightly from this:

Li Kui 李揆

Li Kui of the Tang served as Vice-President of the Board of Rites during the Qiantian era. Once, seated during the daytime in the porch of his hall, he suddenly heard a great shaking from within the hall, as if a wall had collapsed. Kui was alarmed, and went in to investigate. He saw a toad prostrate on the floor, several chi in height, uniquely tall and quite alone. Kui was gripped by both fear and wonder, and none dared approach it. Eventually he ordered a houseboy to take a large pot and cover it. Someone named Jie said: “This toad is a lifeform from the moon, and is an emissary from the heavens. If a heavenly emissary comes to the gentleman’s hall, how can this not indicate the heavenly emperor’s secret order for the gentleman?” When the next dawn broke, he removed the cover to look, but it had already vanished. Several days later, he was indeed appointed Vice-President Administrator of the Central Secretariat. Taken from the Xuanshizhi

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Period of Great Harmony), 10 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), x, 474.3907:

李揆

唐李揆。乾天中。為禮部侍郎。嘗一日。晝坐於堂之前軒。忽聞堂中有聱極震。若牆圮。揆驚入視之。見一蝦蟇。俯於地。高數尺。魁然殊狀。揆且驚且異。莫窮其來。卽命家童。以巨缶蓋焉。有解曰。夫蝦蟇月中之蟲。亦天使也。今天使來公堂。豈非上帝以密命付公乎。其明啟視之。已亡見矣。後數日。果拜中書侍郎平章事。出宣室志

Voles 田鼠

In the renxu 壬戌 year of the Zhengda 正大 era,[1] the peasant population of Beishan 北山, in Neixiang 內鄉 (in present-day Henan province) reported that voles were eating their grain. The rodents were as big as rabbits, gathering in their tens and hundreds, and wherever they passed grain and millet simply vanished. When hunting households shot at them they took many heads, some of which weighed more than ten jin 斤, the colour of their coats being like that of otters. Rodents of such size have never before been seen.

Yuan Haowen 元好問, Xu Yijian zhi 續夷堅志 (Continued Records of the Listener), 1.16:

田鼠

正大壬戌,內鄉北山農民告田鼠食稼,鼠大如兔,十百為羣,所過禾稼為空。獵戶射得數頭,有重十餘斤者,毛色似水獺。未嘗聞如此大鼠也。

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)

[1] This is confusing. The Zhengda era declared by the Jin 金 polity ran from 1224 to 1234 CE. It does not seem to have included a renxu year; the first renxu year would have been in 1262.

The Xiao of Geshan 閣山𤡔

In the xinmao year of the Gandao era (1171 CE), no rain fell in Raozhou for a very long time, and the rivers’ flow was blocked. Three fishermen of Geshan Route went empty-handed to the Fan River to catch fish. Two went ahead, but one of them felt his two thighs suddenly turn cold as ice, feeling a slight trace of saliva, and, terrified lest there be the lair of a xiao beneath him, scrambled out urgently.[1] One person alone did not see this and, having told his family he would provide for them, stayed to return at dusk. Two days later, his corpse floated some five li distant, with a fist-sized hole below the left thigh, the whole body entirely white, that being due to a xiao having curled around it and sucked his blood. In shape the xiao is just like an eel, eight or nine chi in length (c.2.7m), and is a kind of flood dragon. Among the Geshan populace, one Li Shi once caught one of these.

Hong Mai, Yi Jian Zhi, ii, 丙17.509

閣山𤡔

亁道辛卯歲,饒州久不雨,江流皆澁。閣山道漁者三人,空手入番江捕魚。二人先出,其一覺兩股忽冷如冰,微有涎沫,懼𤡔穴其下,故急出。獨一人不見,告其家守之,至暮而還。後二日,尸浮於五里外,左股下一穴如拳大,舉體皆白,蓋為𤡔所繞而吮其血也。𤡔狀全與鰻鱺魚同,長至八九尺,亦蛟類也。閣山民李十嘗捕得之。

Hong Mai 洪邁, He Zhuo 何卓 (ed.), Yi Jian Zhi 夷堅志 (Record of Yi Jian) 4 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1981)

[1] The character xiao 𤡔 is treated by the MOE dictionary of character variants as a variation on xiao 梟 ‘owl’, but this story clearly indicates a rather interesting and different aquatic nature for the creature in question. See http://dict2.variants.moe.edu.tw/yitia/fra/fra01951.htm.

Yuan Ke’s Wife 園客妻

Yuan Ke’s wife was a goddess. Yuan Ke was from Jiyin; graceful in appearance and virtuous, many people in his district wished to give their daughters to him in marriage, but he would never wed. He often planted multi-coloured fragrant herbs, storing them for several decades and then taking their seeds. Suddenly, there were multi-coloured moths gathered on his plants. Ke gathered them and laid them on a sheet, where they bore silkworms. When the silkworms emerged, there was a woman who came and helped Ke to raise them, also feeding them with the fragrant herbs. When the silkworms were fully grown, they obtained 130 cocoons. Each cocoon was the size of an urn, and each cocoon took six or seven days to spin. When the spinning was complete, the woman and Yuan Ke departed together. Jiyin has a silkworm shrine to this day.

Taken from Nüxianzhuan.

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), ii, 59.363

園客妻

園客妻,神女也。園客者,濟陰人也,美姿貌而良,邑人多欲以女妻之,客終不娶。常種五色香草,積數十年,服食其實。忽有五色蛾集香草上。客收而薦之以布。生華蠶焉。至蠶出時,有一女自來助客養蠶,亦以香草飼之。蠶壯,得繭百三十枚。繭大如甕,每一繭,繰六七日乃盡。繰訖,此女與園客俱去,濟陰今有華蠶祠焉。出女仙傳

Punishing A Python Through The Law 法誅蟒精

The Qiongzhou Daoist Zhang Biyun (lit. ‘Jade Cloud Zhang’) performed the Thunder Rites. He was famous across Sichuan, supernatural beings resenting and fearing him. At that time the ‘Disciple of Heshan’ Wei Wenweng (Wei Liaoweng 魏了翁?[1]) was governing Xuzhou, and his wife fell ill, the sickness persisting for a long time without recovery, so he dispatched a runner with a letter describing it, sending it to Biyun. Biyun thus wrote out two talismans and gave them to the runner, praying and saying: “Burn these within the hall, and through this a thing within your kitchen will be cremated.” The runner returned and reported to Wenweng, burning it as instructed. Several days later, they found the chambers filled with a foul smell, and suddenly noticed beneath a shelf [164] a giant python, five or six zhang in length (c.17-20m), and already quite dead. His household then understood that this was a python demon, and his wife’s illness was then cured.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.163-64 (Tale 284):

法誅蟒精

邛州道士張碧雲,行雷法,四川有名,鬼神望而畏之。時魏鶴山弟文翁知敘州,內人得病,纏緜不愈,差二承局持書與狀,去投碧雲。碧雲即書二符與承局,祝云:「堂內焚化,以一就竈中焚化。」承局歸告文翁,如其言焚之。數日後,但聞滿屋臭穢,忽於閣(「閣」原作「闔」,據明刻本改。)板 [164] 下見一巨蟒,長五六丈,已死。其家方知為祟者蟒也,夫人之病遂安。

[1] On Wei Liaoweng 魏了翁, see http://www.chinaknowledge.de/History/Song/personsweiliaoweng.html

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).

The Celestial Master Executes A Turtle 天師斬黿

In the wuxu year of the Dade era (1298), there was an ancient dyke at the southern fringe of the various prefectures’ salt production offices. The dyke was thirty li from the sea, but the ground extending from it was very alkaline and the swell of the tide eroded the dyke every year, flooding the salt-works. The power of the sea encroached upon the prefectural capital, and when news of this reached the government office, they built up the dyke across more than two hundred zhang (660m), but within three days it had collapsed again. Everyone said that water demons had caused the damage, and that this was not something people could repair. The provincial council informed the Department of State Affairs, who respectfully received the letter and courteously invited the thirty-eighth Celestial Master to hurry and visit Hangzhou. At that time the provincial officials combined to make five days of offerings, day and night, beginning from the first day of the fifth month (10 June, 1298). When these offerings were finished, the Celestial Master sent a Master of the Law on board a boat, to throw an iron tally into the river. Initially the iron tally bounced and leapt among the waves, but after a moment it sank, wind, thunder, lightning and fog circling and winding around it. The following day they looked at the river and saw the sand rising through the day, and the dyke returned to its previous form, rising out of the river’s centre. In a depression on the sand there was a strange thing, killed by a lightning strike upon it, and more than two zhang (6.6m) across, shaped like a soft-shelled turtle, but bearing a shell. The provincial office sent a memorial to the court upon hearing of it, and they received lofty and generous commendation and reward.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.163 (Tale 283):

天師斬黿

大德戊戌年,鹽官州州南瀕古塘,塘距海三十里,地橫亙皆斥鹵,比年潮汐衝齧,鹽場陷焉。海勢侵逼州治,州以事聞於省府,復加修築塘岸二百餘丈,不三日復圮,皆謂水怪為害,非人力能復。省咨都省聞奏,欽奉玉音,禮請卅八代天師馳驛詣杭州。時合省官僚,以五月朔就佑聖觀建醮五晝夜。醮畢,天師遣法師乘船,投鐵符于江。初則鐵符跳躍浪中,食頃方沉,風雷電霧旋繚(「繚」,明刻本作「遶」。)于中。明日視之,沙漲日增,堤岸復舊,江心突起。沙湫中有異物,為雷殛死于上,廣二丈長許,狀如黿,有殼。省府聞奏于朝,崇(「崇」,明刻本作「榮」。)錫旌賞。

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).