Releasing Quail, Extending Longevity 放鶉延壽

When Cai Yuanchang (i.e., Cai Jing 蔡京, 1047-1126 CE)[1] held power, he ate quail at every celebration. One evening, he dreamt that a yellow-robed old person said: “In the coming days you are to suffer murder; hopefully the gentleman may be spared this fate.” Cai asked: “What kind of person are you?” They then recited verses:

Several grains of millet could feed the gentleman;

Only meat in the congee can fill the gentleman.

For one congee several lives are cut short;

Putting down his chopsticks these are still not enough.

On the moments between mouth and stomach;

Fate and fortune are together dependent.

Wishing to warn the gentleman not to kill;

Life and death spin as if on a wheel.

He awoke and marvelled at this, making enquiries to those who prepared meals, acquiring several dozen yellow quails and releasing them. During the night he again dreamt of the yellow-robed old person, who said: “I am aware that the gentleman fulfilled the prayer, and has already saved lives. The Heavenly Emperor has now granted an extension to the gentleman’s lifespan.” Cai indeed subsequently enjoyed a long life before he passed away.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.114 (Tale 199):

放鶉延壽

蔡元長當國,每喜食鶉。一夕,夢黃衣老人曰:「來日當自被害,願公貸命。」蔡問:「汝何人?」乃誦詩云:「食君數粒粟,充君羹中肉。一羹斷數命,下筯猶未足。口腹須臾間,福禍相倚伏。願公戒勿殺,死生如轉轂。」覺而異之,詢於掌饍,得黃鶉數十,放之。經宿復夢黃衣老人曰:「感公從禱,已獲復生。今上帝已延公壽命矣。」後蔡果享高壽而卒。

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] On Cai Jing 蔡京, courtesy name Yuanchang 元長 (who died after banishment at a relatively advanced age) see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cai_Jing and the brilliant article by Charles Hartman, ‘A Textual History of Cai Jing’s Biography in the “Songshi”’, in  Emperor Huizong and Late Northern Song China: The Politics of Culture and the Culture of Politics (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006), pp. 517-64.

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A Spirit Uproots A Tree 鬼拔樹

Towards the end of the Xingding 興定 era (1217-1220 CE), a peasant from Caozhou 曹州 was walking along the road one day, when he was caught in a sudden shower. From the empty air a voice spoke: “Brave enough?” He then heard a loud laughing sound. The person went on a further half-li, and saw a large willow tree torn up by its roots and thrown several dozen paces. In the mud there was the print of a great thigh and buttocks, about as big as a grain container. That spirit must have pulled up a tree and then just fallen on its back and laughed!

Yuan Haowen 元好問, Xu Yijian zhi 續夷堅志 (Continued Records of the Listener), 2.26:

鬼拔樹

興定末,曹州一農民,一日行道中,忽驟雨。聞空中人語云:「敢否」?俄又聞大笑聲。此人行半里,見道左大柳樹拔根出,擲之十步外,泥中印大臀髀痕,如麥籠許,蓋神拔樹偃坐泥中破笑耳。

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)

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.

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).

An Honest Heart Moves Heaven 平心感天

Chen Renfu, of Tiaolu Village, Gao’an County, resided in some wealth in a farmhouse in the village, specializing in the study of Buddhism and Daoism. Each year, in the spring, he would reserve two thousand dan of millet, and, in the fifth or sixth month of the following year, when grain was expensive, he would sell his grain at a reduced price. When the money was handed over, he’d have the buyers enter the granary themselves and would not let them take anything until the scales were perfectly level. The village all called him ‘Chen Weigh-It-Yourself’. At that time there was a terrible drought; the prefectural chief prayed for relief, but without result. One night he dreamed that the town god said: “Chen Weigh-It-Yourself has the rain.” When he awoke from the dream, he sent servants to seek a meeting at the prefecture offices. On seeing him, he was delighted, preparing candles and incense, having monks chant sutras and ordering them to pray for his longevity. Chen said: “Your servant is just a villager, lacking any skill with which to pray for rain.” The prefectural chief told him about the dream, and urged him strongly. Chen had no choice but to light incense and turn his face to heaven, praying earnestly and begging for three days of continuous heavy rain to relieve somewhat the worry and pain of the populace. When evening fell there was indeed a great rainfall, which only stopped after three days, and the people of the prefecture were all delighted. This benevolent elder’s daily reduction of grain prices was enough to move the heavens.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.108 (Tale 189):

平心感天

高安縣調露鄉陳仁父,居村田宅稍富,專事釋老之學。每年春留穀二千石,至次年五六月米貴之時,減價發糶,既交錢,令糴者自入倉內量出,不許多取,務要兩平。一村稱之曰「陳自量」。時大旱,太守祈求不應,夜夢城隍曰:「調露鄉陳自量有雨。」夢覺,差人尋訪赴郡。太守見之,喜具香燭,僧道誦經,就令祈禱。陳曰:「某村夫,無術可以祈雨。」太守以所夢事告,強之。陳不免炷香,對空而禱,乞降霖雨三日,以濟焦沽(「沽」,疑當作「枯」。)少甦民望。至晚果大雨,三日方止,一郡之人皆悅。蓋仁父平日減米價,足以感天也。

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).

Zhao Yun Causes Catastrophe Through Drink 趙雲因酒德禍

*Translation edited with help from Ofer Waldman – many thanks, Ofer!*

At the beginning of the Tang Zhenyuan era (785-805 CE), there was a Zhao Yun of Tianshui, who travelled widely in Fuzhi, passing through Zhongbu County. The officials were holding a feast, and the clerks had apprehended a prisoner, but his crime was not very serious, so the officials wanted to release him. Yun was drunk, and therefore urged them to increase his penalty, resulting in twenty strokes of the cane. Some months later, Yun crossed the border, leaving by the Luzi Pass, and met a person on the road, who invited him to talk. When night fell, they drew Yun down a smaller path to his residence, several li from the road. They then ordered him wine and poured drinks, later asking him: “Is the gentleman acquainted with us or not?” Yun said: “Never. Though this behaviour has in truth left the past quite murky.” They then said: “Some months ago. Because this section respects the gentleman, I suffered unjust punishment; I never had any quarrel with the gentleman, but at the gentleman’s urging I suffered heavy punishment.” Yun hurriedly arose and apologised to him. The other replied: “I have waited a long time for you. Who would have thought this chance would come to wipe clean your petty insult.” He then ordered his retinue to drag Yun into a chamber. In the room there was a great pit, more than three zhang in depth (i.e., over 10m deep), with only a few dozen dou of wine dregs stored inside. Stripping off his clothes, they shoved Yun in. Growing hungry, he fed himself with the grain, and when thirsty he drank the juices, clouding his mind from dawn to dusk. After about a month, they bound him and brought him out, causing people to wrinkle their noses and foreheads and to twist their limbs. His hands and fingers, arms and legs had all aged, and, once exposed to the wind, he froze and even his voice changed. Thinking him quite humbled from his previous status, they had him perform menial duties at the Wuyan relay service. After several years, when his younger brother was serving as Censor, he left the capital to visit the prison at Mingzhou, where Yun succeeded in informing him of past events. [16] His younger brother reported the matter to the Investigating Censor Li Xian, who sent soldiers to search, seizing the bandit and extinguishing all of his faction. As their execution approached they still did not hide or blink, but said that: “Changing a person like that, from one end to another, would require several generations!”

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.15-16 (Tale 82):

趙雲因酒德禍

唐元和初,有天水趙雲,客遊鄜畤,過中部縣。縣寮有讌,吏擒一囚至,其罪不甚重,官寮願縱之。雲醉,因勸加於刑責,於是杖之二十。累月,雲出塞,行及蘆子關,道逢一人,邀之言款。日暮,延雲下道過其居,去路數里。於是命酒偶酌,既而問之曰:「君省相識否?」雲曰:「未嘗。此行實昧平昔。」乃曰:「前月。於是部值君,遭罹橫罪,與君素無讐隙,為君所勸,因被重刑。」雲遽起謝之。其人曰:「吾望子久矣,豈虞於此獲雪小恥。」乃命左右拽入一室。室有大坑,深三丈餘,中唯貯酒糟數十斛。剝去其衣,推雲於中。饑食其糟,渴飲其汁,旦夕昏昏。幾一月,乃縛出之,使人蹙頞鼻額、挼捩肢體,手指、肩髀,皆改於舊,提出風中,倐然凝定,至於聲亦改。以為賤隸,為烏延驛中雜役。累歲,會其弟為御史,出按靈州獄,雲以前事密疏示之。 [16] 其弟告於觀察使李銛。由是發卒討尋,盡得姦人,而覆滅其黨。臨刑亦無隱䁥,云前後如此變改人者,數代矣。

此條又見《廣記》卷二八六,題為《中部民》。

 

The tale is also found in Taiping Guangji, in a version that shows several small variations:

The Zhongbu Populace

At the beginning of the Tang Zhenyuan era (785-805 CE), there was a Zhao Yun of Tianshui, who travelled widely in Fuzhi, passing through Zhongbu County. The officials were holding a feast, and the clerks had apprehended a prisoner, but his crime was not very serious, so the officials wanted to release him. Yun was drunk, and therefore urged them to increase his penalty, resulting in a flogging. Some months later, Yun crossed the border, leaving by the Luzi Pass, and met a person on the road, joking with him and using kind words. When night fell, they drew Yun down a smaller path to his residence, several li from the road. They then ordered him wine and poured drinks, later asking him: “Is the gentleman acquainted with us or not?” Yun said: “Never. Though this behaviour has in truth left the past quite murky.” They spoke again: “On such and such a month and day. Because this section respects the gentleman, one suffered unjust punishment; I never had any quarrel with the gentleman, why would the gentleman urge them on, causing me to suffer heavy punishment?” Yun hurriedly arose and apologised to him. The other replied: “I have waited a long time for you. Who would have thought this chance would come to wipe clean your petty insult.” He then ordered his retinue to drag Yun into a chamber. In the room there was a great pit, more than three zhang in depth (i.e., over 10m deep), with only a few dozen dou of wine dregs stored inside. Stripping off his clothes, they shoved Yun in. Growing hungry, he fed himself with the grain, and when thirsty he drank the juices, and in this way clouded his mind for about a month. They then bound him and brought him out, causing people to wrinkle their noses and foreheads. His limbs twisted. His hands and fingers, arms and legs had all aged, and, once exposed to the wind, he froze and even his voice changed. Having humbled him from his previous status, and left him brooding, they had him perform menial duties at the Wuyan relay service. After several years, when his younger brother was serving as Censor, he left the capital to visit the prison at Mingzhou, where Yun succeeded in informing him of past events. [16] His younger brother reported the matter to the Investigating Censor Li Ming, who sent soldiers to search, capturing all of the evil plotters and extinguishing all of his faction. As their execution approached they still did not hide or blink, but said that: “Changing a person like that, from one end to another, would require several generations!” From Du Yi Zhi.

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), vi, 286.2279:

中部民

唐元和初。有天水趙雲。客遊鄜畤。過中部縣。縣僚有燕。吏擒一囚至。其罪不甚重。官僚願縱之。雲醉。因勸加於刑。於是杖之。累月。雲出塞。行及蘆子關。道逢一人。耍之言款。日暮。延雲下道過其居。去路數里。於是命酒偶酌。既而問曰。君省相識否。雲曰。未嘗此行。實昧平昔。復曰:「前某月日。於是部值君。某遭罹橫罪。與君素無讐隙。奈何為君所勸,因被重刑。雲遽起謝之。其人曰。吾望子久矣。豈虞於此獲雪小耻。乃命左右。拽入一室。室有大坑。深三丈餘。坑中唯貯酒糟數十斛。剝去其衣。推雲於中。飢食其糟。渴飲其汁。於是昏昏幾一月。乃縛出之。使人蹙頞鼻額。挼捩肢體。其手指肩髀。皆改舊形。提出風中。倐然凝定。至於聲亦改。遂以賤隸蓄之。為烏延驛中雜役。累歲。會其弟為御史。出按靈州獄。雲以前事密疏示之。其弟言於觀察使李銘。由是發卒討尋。盡得奸宄。乃覆滅其黨。臨刑亦無隱䁥。云前後如此變改人者,數代矣。出獨異志

Taixuan Nü 太玄女

The Taixuannü, surname Zhuan, personal name He, lost her father as a child. Mother and child lived together for some time, and all said they would not survive long. Their sadness became worry. She often said: “The life of a human, once lost, cannot be restored. Moreover, I have heard that this span of life is limited, and life cannot be extended without perfecting the Way.” She then went to call on a sagely teacher, purifying her heart, seeking the Way and achieving the *wangzi* techniques. After practicing this for several years, she was then able to enter water without getting wet. At times of deep cold and snow, she could climb the ice in an unlined robe showing no change in countenance, warm in body and able to go on for several days. Moreover she was able to visit government offices, palace chambers, city markets and private residences in many other places. Not thinking this strange, pointing at them they would shift from their previous location. Doors and gates bearing locks would open upon her gesture; pointed at, mountains would crumble, pointed at, trees would fall; pointed at again, all of these would be restored. Taking disciples travelling through the mountains, when the sun set, she struck the rock with her staff, and opened up a door. Entering, there were chambers with beds, curtains and canopies, with food, provisions and wine as if this were normal. Even were she to travel ten thousand li, her whereabouts would often be like this. She could order small items to grow suddenly to the size of a house, and big things to shrink suddenly down to be like a hair or grain. Sometimes she would spit fire to cover the heavens, and sigh to extinguish it. She was also able to sit among flames, her clothes and shoes never scorching. Within a short period, she would change into an old man, change into a small child, change into a carthorse; there was no transformation she could not achieve. She practiced the thirty-six arts with complete dedication, bringing people back to life, and saving innumerable folk. It is not known from where her food or clothing came, and none achieved her powers. Her colour reduced ever more, but the hair on her temples was raven-black. Suddenly, in broad daylight, she ascended to heaven and departed.

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

太玄女

太玄女,姓顓,名和,少喪父。或相其母子,皆曰不壽。惻然以為憂。常曰:「人之處世,一失不可復生。況聞壽限之促,非修道不可以延生也。」遂行訪明師,洗心求道,得王子之術。行之累年,遂能入水不濡。盛雪寒時,單衣冰上,而顏色不變,身體溫煖,可至積日。又能徙官府宮殿城市屋宅於他處,視之無異,指之即失其所在,門戶櫝櫃有關鑰者,指之即開,指山山摧,指樹樹拆,更指之,即復如故。將弟子行山間,日暮,以杖叩石,即開門戶。入其中,屋宇床褥幃帳,廩供酒食如常。雖行萬里,所在常爾。能令小物忽大如屋,大物忽小如毫芒。或吐火張天,噓之即滅。又能坐炎火之中,衣履不燃。須臾之間,或化老翁,或為小兒,或為車馬,無所不為。行三十六術甚效,起死廻生,救人無數。不知其何所服食,亦無得其術者。顏色益少,鬢髮如鴉。忽白日昇天而去。出女仙傳