Release A Dragon, Receive A Reward 放龍獲報

On the bank of the Lu River Li Yuan saw a small scarlet snake. Less than a chi in length, it was being harassed by a shepherd boy. Yuan bought it with a hundred cash, and released it among the thick vegetation. The following year, he was crossing the Long Bridge[1] again, and saw the Jinshi scholar Zhu Jun coming to call on him, saying: “Jun lives just a few hundred paces from the end of the bridge; their Excellency sends an invitation, if you will pardon me and sit.” Leading him to sit together in a boat, they travelled to a mountain, with richly decorated buildings and halls, all very tightly guarded. Presently, a person wearing a tall hat and ceremonial robes summoned Yuan, saying: “Our young son suffered misfortune and almost died at the hands of a mischievous boy; his humble life depended on the gentleman’s help.” Turning to Jun he ordered that he bow again, and then ordered a banquet be laid out, mixing products of land and sea, saying: “I am a fish of the southern seas; having achieved merit in life, the Heavenly Emperor decreed that I reside here, styling me Anliu Wang. I have a young servant, with the childhood name Yunjie, and I now present her to you; if you accept her, she will be of help.” Yuan therefore did not depart. He subsequently went to sit the civil examinations; when the test was due on the following day, Yunjie stealthily obtained the exam questions; Yuan then prepared his composition in advance, and, on entering the examination hall, felt great satisfaction, achieved great success and a recommendation as an imperial scholar. Yunjie said goodbye to him, saying: “I have obeyed the prince’s order and dare not stay long.” A poem of parting read:

Six years here to repay deep benevolence,

Saying farewell to the aquatic realm and the region of fish.

None say that newly-weds should be parted again,

All wish to share ancient love with new people.

Li Yuan was thus newly married at that time.

**uncertain translation**

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.118 (Tale 205):

放龍獲報

李元於吳江岸見小朱蛇,長不滿尺,為牧童所困。元以百錢買之,放於茂草中。明年,再經長橋,有進士朱浚來謁見,曰:「浚居橋尾數百步耳,大人遣奉召,幸恕坐。」邀同舟,至一山,樓殿寶飾,侍衛甚嚴。俄一人高冠道服,引元坐:曰:「小兒不幸,幾死頑童之手,賴君子活此微命。」顧浚令再拜,乃命置酒,水陸交錯,曰:「吾乃南海之鱗,有功於世,天帝詔居此,封安流王。吾有小奴,小字雲姐,今於贈子,子納之,當得其助。」元乃別去。後赴禮闈,明日當試,雲姐私入竊所試題目出,元乃檢閱宿構,入試,大得意,高捷薦名登科。雲姐告辭曰:「奉王命不敢久留。」作詩別曰:「六年於此報深恩,水國魚鄉是去程。莫謂初婚又相別,都將舊愛與新人。」時李元新娶故也。

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] An ancient structure in Jiangsu Province.

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Xie Lingyun’s Beard 謝靈運鬚

Xie Lingyun (385-433 CE), facing execution, cut off his beard and gave it to a Buddhist monastery in Guangzhou. The beard was three chi in length (c. 1m), and exists to this day.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.20 (Tale 99):

謝靈運鬚

謝靈運臨刑,剪其鬚施廣州佛寺。鬚長三尺,今存焉。

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)

Han Gan Paints Horses 韓幹畫馬

Han Gan[1] of the Tang was skilled at painting horses. While he was leading a quiet life at home, a person suddenly appeared, arriving wearing a black hat and red robe. Gan asked him: “What brings you here?” He replied: “I am an agent of the nether world. I heard that the gentleman is skilled at painting horses, and hoped to be granted one.” Gan erected a painting and burned it. Several days later he went out, and somebody bowed to him in thanks, saying: “Having benefited from the gentleman’s kindness, I have been spared the pain of trudging through hill and water, and you will also receive a reward for this service.” The following day, somebody brought a hundred bolts of white silk, not knowing where it had come from; Gan accepted and used it.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.19 (Tale 98):

韓幹畫馬

唐韓幹善畫馬,閑居之際,忽有一人,玄冠朱衣而至。幹問曰:「何緣及此?」對曰:「我鬼使也。聞君善畫良馬,願賜一匹。」幹立畫焚之。數日因出,有人揖而謝曰:「蒙君惠駿足,免為山水跋涉之苦,亦有以酬效。」明日,有人送素縑百匹,不知其來,幹收而用之。

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)

[1] On Han Gan韓幹 (c. 706-783), see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Han_Gan.

Tang Of Shang Prays To Heaven 商湯祝天

The Shuoyuan records: In the reign of Tang 湯 (c. 1675-46 BCE) there was a great drought lasting seven years, frying sand and rotting stone. Due to this, he had people use tripods to pray to the mountains and rivers, ordering them to pray: “Does our governance lack moderation? Do we make our populace ill? Are our gifts suitable? Do slanderers prosper? Is our palace sublime? Are female intrigues succeeding? Why not grant us the greatest of rains?” When they had finished speaking, heaven sent great rains.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.18 (Tale 88):

商湯祝天

《說苑》曰:湯時大旱七年,煎沙爛石。於是使人以三足鼎祝山川,教之祝曰:「政不節耶?使民疾耶?苞苴行耶?讒夫昌耶?宮室崇耶?女謁盛耶?何不雨之極也?」言未既,天大雨。

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)

Liu Pi Requests Divination 劉闢求卦

Soon after Liu Pi[1] of the Tang had passed the imperial examinations, he visited a diviner to confirm, by means of casting yarrow from a calabash, that he would certainly receive an official salary. The gourd released a blind pair, and when the diviner was finished, he spoke to Pi: “Twenty years from now, you will be appointed in the southwest, and it will not end well.” Pi left rolls of silk as a gift. Afterwards, he ‘threw off his commoner’s clothes’, following Secretariat Chief Wei to Xichuan and rising to serve as Imperial Censor and Superior Administrator of the Army On Campaign. After twenty years, Wei passed away, sending Pi to court to report this, requesting advancement to Dongchuan. The decree did not permit this. Pi therefore dressed in simple clothes and rode alone back to the calabash diviner. Using the yarrow, when the stalks had aligned and the divination was complete, they addressed Pi: “Twenty years ago I once made a divination for someone and received the result ‘Mishap to follow’. Now we get the same reading again; is this not the virtue of the ancients?” Pi then submitted in agreement. The calabash diviner said: “If you ask other people about this, catastrophe will reach you.” Pi did not entirely trust him. He returned to Shu, and indeed rebelled. Emperor Xianzong (r. 805-20 CE) caught him and executed him on Gao Street.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.11 (Tale 67):

劉闢求卦

唐劉闢初登第,詣卜者葫蘆生筮得一卦,以定官祿。葫蘆生雙瞽,卦成,謂闢曰:「自此二十年,祿在西南,不得善終。」闢留束素與之。其後脫褐,從韋令公西川,官至御史大夫,為行軍司馬。既二十年,韋病薨,使闢入奏,請益東川。詔未允。闢乃微服單騎,復詣葫蘆生。筮之,揲蓍成卦,謂闢曰:「吾二十年前常與一人曾卜得『無妄之隨』,今復得此卦,非曩昔賢乎?」闢即依阿唯諾。葫蘆生曰:「若審其人,禍將至矣。」闢不甚信。乃歸蜀,果叛。憲宗皇帝擒之,戮之藁街。

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] On Liu Pi 劉闢 (d. 806 CE), see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liu_Pi_(official).

Li Ji’s Daughter 李勣女

In the first year Zhenguan (627 CE), Li Ji’s (594-669 CE)[1] beloved daughter died, and she was buried at Bei Mang, with a servant’s cottage built next to the tomb. One day, the daughter suddenly appeared to the servant and said: “I did not die in the first place, but was rather stolen away by the spirit of a great tree. Now, the spirit having left on a pilgrimage to Xiyue, I have therefore managed to run away. I knew that you were here, so I came. I have already been parted from my parents, and returning from this would be humiliating, so I cannot go back. If you hide me, I can reward you with great wealth.” The servant was flabbergasted, but eventually agreed, and built another room for her. The girl sometimes left at dawn to return at dusk, sometimes left at nightfall to return at dawn, her every step like the wind. A month later, she suddenly brought ten jin of gold (about 5 kg) as a gift, and the servant accepted it. When he went to sell it, however, the family who had lost it seized the servant to report the matter. The governor of Luoyang was determined to get to the bottom of the matter, so the servant told the full story. When they followed him to seize her, the girl had already gone, and the remaining gold had all turned into yellow rock. (Taken from the Sunxianglu).

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, 327.2601:

李勣女

貞觀元年,李勣愛女卒,葬北邙,使家僮廬於墓側。一日,女子忽詣家僮曰:「我本不死,被大樹之神竊我。今值其神出朝西嶽,故得便奔出。知爾在此,是以來。我已離父母,復有此辱恥,不可歸。幸爾匿我,我能以致富報爾。」家僮駭愕,良久乃許,遂別置一室。其女或朝出暮至,或夜出曉來,行步如風。一月後,忽携黃金十斤以賜,家僮受之。出賣數兩,乃民家所失,主者執家僮以告。洛陽令推窮其由,家僮具述此事,及追取,此女已失,其餘金盡化為黃石焉。(出《孫相錄》,陳校本作出《瀟湘錄》)

[1] This seems likely to be Li Shiji 李世勣 (594-669), courtesy name Maogong 懋功, posthumously known as Duke Zhenwu of Ying 英貞武公. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Li_Shiji.

Cui Gong Attains the Way 崔公得道

Cui Gong Attains the Way 崔公得道

In the renchen year of the Zhiyuan era (1292), Cui Gong of Qingchengshan in Guanzhou lived with old woman Cui in a thatched cottage by the mountain gate intersection and sold firewood. One day, he was going into the hills to gather firewood, when suddenly Magu (the Hemp Maiden Immortal)[1] was sitting there on a rock. He bowed to her, and the immortal asked him: “Do you desire an official post?” Cui replied: “What would I do with an official post?” She asked again: “Do you desire money?” He replied: “Too much money harms a person.” She asked again: “Do you desire magnificent clothing?” He replied: “I’m a man who sells firewood; what would I do with magnificent clothes?” She again asked: “If these three are not desired by you, what is it that you want right now?” Cui Gong laughed and said: “I need this beard to sweep the floor; that would be the best thing.” Magu stroked the beard and drew back her hand, the beard extending along with her hand, eventually growing to reach the ground. When he returned home, people thought it a marvel. Afterwards, he stopped eating, and told people’s fortunes as if he were a spirit, the entire town gathering like a wall of spectators. They each offered cloth or money as alms, but he wouldn’t accept even a single piece of copper cash. A year later, husband and wife both went into the mountains, and where they ended up nobody knows.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.148 (Tale 259):

崔公得道

至元壬辰,灌州青城山崔公,與崔婆在山門路口茅屋下賣柴。一日,入山采柴,忽麻姑仙坐石上,拜之,仙問曰:「汝欲官否?」崔應云:「我用官何為?」又問:「欲錢否?」應云:「錢多害己。」又問:「欲華衣否?」應云:「我是賣柴漢,何用華衣為?」又問:「此三者非汝所欲,今所欲何事?」崔公笑云:「我要此鬚拖地便好。」麻姑引手捋之,鬚隨手而長,竟至垂地。歸家,人以為訝。後不食,言人禍福如神,合城觀者如堵。凡有布施錢,一文亦不受。一年後,夫妻俱入山,不知所終。

[1] On Magu, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magu_(deity)

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).