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

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Not Taking Other’s Property 不取他物

Yang Zhongfeng Cun was from Bantang, in Jishui. In the eighth year of the Song Yuanfeng era (1085 CE), he was going to the provincial capital Kaifeng, and stayed in a traveller’s hostel in Xizhou. When he lay down, he became aware of something between mat and bed and which stuck into his [109] back; when he uncovered and looked at it this turned out to be salt production certificates to 20,000 yin in value. The following day, he asked the host: “Who stayed here the previous evening?” The host replied: “A great Huaidian merchant, surnamed such-and-such, was the guest.” The gentleman said: “He is an old acquaintance; if he returns, tell him I’m staying on such-and-such a road, with such-and-such a family.” He also wrote large characters on the wall, reading: “On such-and-such a year, month and day, Yang Cun of Luling stayed here.” He then went on his way. Before many days had passed, the merchant did indeed follow his former route, searching everywhere for it. When he reached the village to rest, the landlord told him about the gentleman, taking him to see the words he had written on the wall, after which he set off to the capital to visit the gentleman. The gentleman said: “So it turns out to be yours then! We should inform the authorities so they can return it to you.” The merchant said: “As you instruct.” The gentleman asked the officials to give all of it to the merchant, but the officials divided it in two halves. The gentleman said: “Had your servant wanted it, he could already have possessed it all merely by staying quiet.” The merchant had no option, so relinquished several hundred strings of coins to fund meals at the Xiangguo Monastery in the capital, in order to pray for the gentleman’s good fortune. That year, the gentleman was included on the list of imperial examination graduates. He rose through the government ranks up to Grand Master of Palace Service, and his sons and grandsons achieved great eminence.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.108-9 (Tale 188):

不取他物

楊中奉存,吉水湴塘人。宋元豐八年,赴省開封,宿息州旅舍。既卧,覺牀席間有物礙其 [109] 背,揭視之,乃鹽鈔二萬引。明日,詢主人曰:「前夕何人宿此?」主人曰:「淮甸一巨商某姓客也。」公曰:「此吾故人,設其人回,可與之言,吾在某坊某人家安歇。」又大書於所宿之房曰:「某年月日,廬陵楊存寓此。」遂行。不數日,商人果從故道,處處物色之。至息邨,主人以公言告,且使自觀壁間所書,乃徑去京師訪公。公曰:「果汝物耶!當聞之官以歸汝。」商曰:「如教。」公請府悉以授商,府使中分之。公曰:「使某欲之,前日奄為已有,泯默不言矣。」商不能強,乃捐數百緡,就京師相國寺設齋,為公祈福。是年,公中焦蹈榜下。歷官至中奉大夫,子孫貴顯。

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 Shaoyang Cowherd 韶陽牧牛人

In Shaoyang there was a cowherd, and one morning a cow licked his arm, leaving it brilliant white in colour. This delighted him, so he stripped off and told the cow to lick him everywhere, becoming white all over. Within several days the cowherd died of a sudden illness. His family felt hate over the matter, killing the cow, and summoning the entire village to eat it together. Those who ate numbered several dozen in all, and they all died in a single evening.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.4 (Tale 28):

韶陽牧牛人

韶陽有一人牧牛,一旦,牛舐其臂,而色皎白。此人樂之,即袒其體,令牛遍舐,皆白。其人數日間暴卒。其家恨,殺此牛,召村社同食之。凡食者數十人,一夕同卒。

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)

A Snake In A Tangerine 橘中有蛇

Hui Qing of the Tang had a tangerine tree in his Jingzhou courtyard, and at the very tip of its branches there was a single huge fruit, unique among all others. He therefore summoned guests, picked it, and, in preparation for eating, cut it open. Inside was a coiled vermillion serpent.

橘中有蛇

唐惠卿,荊州庭中有橘樹,其末有一實甚大,獨異之。由是會賓客,摘而將食,乃剖之,有一赤蛇蟠於其中。

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)

An Immortal Treats Tumours 仙醫瘤疾

Li Zhongweng had a tumour in his nose. As big as a walnut, he feared it would gradually increase in size, and tried many methods to treat it, but without effect. Arriving at a guesthouse in Xiangyang, he encountered a Daoist and they drank together happily, passing the cup day and night. When they were about to part, the Daoist took out a small gourd, about as big as a jujube, and poured out three millet-sized grains of medicine, giving these to Zhongweng and saying: “At night you should puncture the root of the tumour with a needle, and stitch the medicine into this needle-hole; the next day the tumour should fall away. The other two grains are to treat strange illnesses.” Zhongweng used the needle as instructed. By midnight, he felt the medicine moving around the base of the growth and twisting around. When dawn arrived he touched it, and found that the tumour was already quite gone. Hurrying to a mirror to examine his face, he saw that there was not even a scar. He therefore marvelled at the miracle, and kept the remaining grains secret. When his young daughter fell over and broke a tooth, he placed one of the medicine grains in the tooth root, and after an evening her teeth returned to their even shape. He took a liang (31.25g) of mercury and placed it on the blade of a hoe, then put the last grain on this, at which it transformed into the finest quality gold. He then understood that these were pills of the Great Elixir smelted by the immortals.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.145 (Tale 254):

仙醫瘤疾

李仲翁,鼻間生一瘤,大如胡桃,懼其浸大,百方治之不效。至襄陽客邸,遇一道人喜飲,日夕周旋,臨別,出一小瓢如棗大,傾藥三粒如粟,授仲翁曰: 「汝夜以鍼刺瘤根,納藥鍼穴內,明日瘤當自落。其二粒以救奇疾也。」仲翁如其教用鍼。至夜半,覺藥巡瘤根而轉。至曉捫之,則瘤已失矣。急取鏡照之,更無瘢痕,因大神之,秘其餘藥。其女小時倒地,折齒不生,取藥納齒根,一夕齒平復。以水銀一兩置銚間,取藥投之,則化為紫金矣,方知其為神仙所煉大丹也。

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 Camphor Spirit Bewitches People 樟精惑人

In winter, the jiaxu year of the Xianchun era (1274), two men offered paper money at the third bridge in Hangzhou, inviting travelling entertainers to wait upon them, saying that it was for a Governor Zhang’s wedding, and also stipulating in advance that they must not play melodies in the Golden Goblet Palace mode. The entertainers asked: “In what place?” They said: “On the border of Wuxi County in Jiangyin.” The entertainers asked: “When does the even take place?” They said: “Tonight.” The entertainers said: “That is more than five hundred li away; it is already evening. How can we get there?” The reply came: “You all lie in the boat; we will push it along.” The group all followed this instruction, and the boat sped along as if it were flying. They passed through Chang’an, Chongde, Suxiu and Wujiang, and around the second watch (9-11pm), they went ashore at a large mansion. The entertainers struck up their music as arranged, and saw that the seated guests were all small and short, the lamps burning with green flames, and soon it became dim and dark. On reaching the fourth watch (1-3am), there was no food or drink; people became hungry and annoyed, so they played in the Golden Goblet Palace mode. The seated guests and wine servers became very alarmed, and some tried to stop them, but the musicians would not listen. Suddenly there was a gust of black wind, people and room all vanished, and instead they saw a great tree filling the starry heavens. Following the barking of a dog the musicians took refuge in a nearby house and asked the people about it. They replied: “There is a camphor tree spirit here that can delude people. You have been bewitched!” The next morning there was indeed a huge camphor there. The two men were therefore the two messengers of the temple close to the tree, and the rest were temple spirits.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.262 (Tale 475):

樟精惑人

咸淳甲戌冬,有二男子齎官會於杭州三橋,請路歧人祗應,云是張府姻事,先議定不許用黃鍾宮曲調。路歧人曰:「在何處?」曰:「在江陰無錫縣界。」 路歧人曰:「事在幾時?」曰:「在今夜。」路歧人曰:「此間相去五百餘里,又日暮,如何可到?」應曰:「汝等皆卧舟中,我自撐去。」衆從之,舟行如飛。經長安、崇德、蘇秀、吳江,約二更,上岸至一大府第,路歧人如約奏樂,見坐客行酒人皆短小,燈燭焰青,既而幽暗。至四更無飲饌,人飢且怒,因奏黃鍾宮。坐客與行酒人皆驚,亦有止之者。樂人不顧。須臾黑風一陣,人與屋俱亡,但見一大樹滿天星宿。因犬吠,投人家問之,人曰:「此間有樟樹精,能惑人,汝被惑矣!」 天明,果一大樟樹也。二男子乃樹近廟中二使,其餘皆其廟神也。

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 Frog Becomes A Spirit 蝦蟆為精

Wei Heshan was receiving guests, and was with a Mr Shi in the official hostel. After three rounds of toasts, Heshan went in. Then two servant girls emerged, each holding a candle, and said: “The Grand Councillor invites Professor [261] Shi.” Mr Shi went in after them, and the other guests all marvelled at this. Shortly after, Heshan emerged and asked: “Where did Mr Shi go?” The crowd said: “He followed two maids sent to invite him in.” Heshan was alarmed, and asked: “Where are they?” He then ordered his retinue to go and search everywhere. They suddenly heard a human voice coming from the pond, and hurriedly kindled a fire to illuminate it. They found Mr Shi, jumping into the water and already half submerged. The gathered people helped him up and used the cooking fire to warm and revive him. When they asked him why, he said: “Following the two maids’ invitation I arrived below a great building, and entering the central hall found a person dressed in green robes seated in the middle, who indicated a young woman and said: ‘It is ordered that you take her to wife; the rites will be completed this night.’ The gathering then swarmed around us as we entered the bedchamber. Your servant said: ‘My elderly mother still lives; she has not been consulted. Not right! Not right!’ I had no idea that we were in the water.” The next day, Heshan ordered people to drain the pond and inside it they found a frog as big as a grain scoop, with only four or five small frogs. Some suspected that this was a frog spirit.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.260-61 (Tale 473):

蝦蟆為精

魏鶴山會客,館中史先生與焉。酒三行,鶴山入內,忽有兩丫鬟秉二燭出,云:「參政請史教 [261] 授。」史君相隨而入,諸客怪之。少頃,鶴山出問:「史先生安往?」衆曰:「適先生令二婢請入內矣。」鶴山驚曰:「安有此?」於是令左右遍去搜尋,忽聞塘中人聲,急舉火照之,則史先生已半身投水矣。衆扶掖上,用火炙蘇,問其故,則曰:「適二丫鬟請到一大屋下,入中堂,有一人身綠衣坐於中,指一小女云: 『令與汝為妻,今夕成禮。』衆遂簇擁入房。某曰:『有老母在,未曾報覆,不可!不可!』不知身在水中。」次日,鶴山令人幹塘,內有蝦蟆一隻,大如斗,小蝦蟆四五而已。或者疑其為蝦蟆精也。

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).