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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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.

Immortals Treat Sicknesses Of The Feet 仙醫足疾

The Imperial Student Xu Quan was from Wuzhou. One day, leaving his home village and hurrying by water towards Hangzhou, he rode a rice boat, seated each day atop the rice sacks with his feet folded beneath him, and nobody realized that an illness affected his feet. It happened that, one day, the boat leaked, so the boatman asked him to step onto the shore, in order to stop up the hole. When, the job being finished, he was invited back on board, the water had risen under heavy rain, and everyone bared their feet to step aboard. His fellow passengers noticed that his toes were all as short as a little toe, and asked him about it. He replied: “When I left my mother’s womb, my toes all pointed backwards. After two years had passed, it happened that a Daoist came along and insisted on looking at me, so the wet-nurse wrapped me up and took me out to show him. The Daoist ordered her to cook up a young lamb, and use the lambskin to wrap my feet overnight. The next day at dawn they were unwrapped, and it turned out that my toes all pointed forwards. On examination they were all this size and length.” He subsequently passed the imperial examinations.

[144] Duya Guiyuan was from Jinhua. At the beginning of the Song Shaoxi era (1190-94), he arrived at Longquan at Guacang, passing his days in singing praises, and, because he suffered from arthritis and both feet were stiff and spasming, he tottered along on wooden clogs, begging in the market. On the seventeenth night of the eighth month in the guichou year of the Chunyou era,[1] he was squatting by Magistrate Zhang’s back gate. It was already the third watch (11pm to 1am), and the moonlight was as bright as day. He saw a person, wearing a dark soft hat, black ribbon and white scholar’s robe, who descended from on high and, stepping forward slightly, addressed Yagui: “Why would you be here so deep in the night?” He said: “Due to illness and fatigue I cannot go anywhere.” The person selected various weeds from the roadside, rubbed them and broke them apart, then mixed them with ditchwater into a kind of pellet, which he gave to him, saying: “You should eat this.” Yagui realised that this was no ordinary person, and swallowed it without suspicion. The person then said: “Come back tomorrow night and meet me here.” They then departed. Yagui felt a stirring within his belly, becoming restless and unable to settle himself, dragging himself onto the Jichuan Bridge, leaning against the railing and dozing. After a long time he awoke and found he could stretch his feet a little, and trying to stand while holding the balustrade, his bones making chirping sounds like birdsong, he found himself able to walk. The next night he waited for the other person, but they didn’t come back. Yagui travelled around talking to people, but never found his whereabouts.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.143-44 (Tale 252):

仙醫足疾

徐上舍洤,婺州人。一日,自鄉泛舟趨杭,乘米舟,每日坐於米袋之上,惟疊足坐,人亦不知其有疾也。忽一日,舟漏,梢子請上岸,將塞舟。事畢請入時,水潦稍漲,皆跣足而入,同舟人見其足大小指皆短,從容問之,彼曰:「自出母胎,一足指皆向後。越二年,忽有道人來,必欲見,乳母抱出示之。道人命烹一小羊,用羊皮裹其足,一宿,次早掀開,則其指皆向前,但視足指有大小長短耳。」後亦登第。

[144] 杜亞歸元,金華人。宋紹熙初,到括蒼龍泉歌唱度日,因病風,兩足拘攣,木屐曳行,丐於市。淳祐癸丑八月十七夜,蹲於張通判後門,已三鼓矣,月明如晝,見一人青巾皁絛白襴衫,自最高軒下,行至其前少許,謂亞歸曰:「夜深何故在此?」曰:「病倦,去不得也。」其人於路旁采雜草,挼碎,掬溝之污水若彈然,授之曰:「汝可食此。」亞歸亦意其不凡人也,餌之不疑。其人曰:「明夜再來會我于此。」遂去。亞歸覺腹中攪戚不能自安,曳行至濟川橋上,倚柱假寐。良久,方覺其一足略能伸,試扶欄起立,骨磔磔然有聲,自此能行。次夜候之,其人不復來矣。亞歸遍以語人,後不知所在。

[1] This is 11 September 1253, but the Chunyou era (1241-53) had already finished some months before, on 30 January 1253.

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 Rustic Cuts Bamboo 野人破竹

Rustic Huang lived on Luofushan in Huizhou. In recent years someone lost their way in the hills, and saw a small thatched cottage where an elderly villager in leggings and headscarf was wielding a knife, slicing bamboo for weaving; he had no idea that this was an immortal. The lost traveller announced that he was famished. It was then the tenth month, in winter, and the rustic picked plums for him to eat. He ate several, and their flavour was sweet and fragrant, but not like that of a plum. On returning home he found he could refrain from eating grain without feeling hunger. Moreover, he had been sent back with some lengths of weaving bamboo, and on arriving and opening these, they were seven or eight zhang (i.e., 20-25m) in length, without joins. He then realized that the spirit he had encountered was Rustic Huang.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.136 (Tale 240):

野人破竹

黃野人,在惠州羅浮山中。近年有人入山失路,但見一小茅廬,一村翁裹布巾,操刀破竹篾,不知其為仙人也。失路者告飢,時冬十月,野人摘梅子與之喫。喫數枚,其味甘香,又不似梅子。歸家能辟穀不飢。又以竹篾數條遺之,歸開其篾,長七八丈而無節。方知所遇即仙人黃野人也。

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 Python Spirit Becomes A Demon 蟒精為妖

In Nanzhong there is the Xuanxian place for offerings, at the foot of a steep and rocky precipice, and at the top of that is a stony grotto cave. Tradition has it that this was the residence of supernatural beings, and at times it is shrouded and hidden by clouds and mist. Students of the Way often built houses beneath it, and would see an immortal manifest before them, saying: “Every year on the Zhongyuan day (the Ghost Festival; the fifteenth day of the seventh month), you should select a person of virtuous conduct at the altar, and they will then ascend as an immortal.” At this all of those who studied the way and admired immortals gathered together there. When the time came, people from near and far congregated beneath the altar, holding incense, gazing at the cave mouth and praying. Afterwards, a person of moral virtue was selected from among the crowd, dressed and capped spotlessly, and stood still on the dais for a long time, eventually ascending, at which the remainder were all left dejected, saying goodbye and leaving. Then a multi-coloured auspicious cloud gathered, extending from the cave over to the altar. The virtuous person, robe and hat quite still, rode the cloud and ascended to the grotto’s entrance, where a great scarlet lantern guided their way. The spectators without exception wept and snivelled in admiration and envy, gazing into the distance and making obeisance. This continued for several years, and none were chosen whose lack of virtue or destiny in the Way provoked resentment.

The next year, the crowd chose someone of great age, and just as he ascended, a person of the Way said that he had come from Wudangshan to take up residence at a monastery, and asked what was going on; everything was explained to him. The monk sighed in admiration of this, and said: “Ascension as an immortal, now, [260] who would have thought it could be so easy? In the void there must, however, be noble spirits among the strong celestial winds, and one must be able to intercept them. I have a token which can protect against this; please place it on your chest, and be careful not to lose it.” The virtuous one placed it on his chest, and was delighted. When the time came the multi-coloured cloud wound around his feet, and he gradually ascended.

The following day, the monk sent his people to the edge of the cliff, in order to look into the cave. There they saw the levitated person lying emaciated and haggard as if suffering from serious illness, breathing with difficulty and eventually just about able to speak. When questioned, he said: “Just as I reached the cave mouth, I caught sight of a huge python, spitting a haze that became clouds, with two eyes like fires. Just as it opened its jaws, intending to swallow me, there came a sudden quaking of wind and storm, striking it dead at the edge of the cavern.” When they looked, it was a python of several arm spans around, dozens of zhang (3.3m) in length. Moreover, there were skeletons piled up around the cave, which were the bones of the levitated people. The multi-coloured cloud was the python’s poisoned breath, and the scarlet lantern its glowing eyes.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.259-60 (Tale 471):

蟒精為妖

南中有選仙道場,在一峭崖石壁之下,其絕頂石洞穴,相傳以為神仙之窟宅,時有雲氣蒙藹。常有學道之人築室於下,見一仙人現前,曰:「每年中元日,宜推選有德行之人祭壇,當得上昇為仙。」於是學道慕仙之人咸萃於彼。至期,遠近之人齎香赴壇下,遙望洞門祝禱,而後衆推道德高者一人,嚴潔衣冠,佇立壇上,以候上昇,餘皆慘然訣別而退。於時有五色祥雲油然,自洞而至壇場。其道高者,衣冠不動,躡雲而昇至洞門,則有大紅紗燈籠引導。觀者靡不涕泗健羨,遙望作禮。如是者數年,人皆以為道緣德薄,未得應選為恨。至次年,衆又推舉一年高者,方上昇間,忽一道人云自武當山來掛搭,問其所以,具以實對。道人亦嗟羨之,曰:「上昇為仙, [260] 豈容易得?但虛空之中有剛風浩氣,必能遏截。吾有一符能禦之,請置於懷,慎勿遺失。」道德高者懷之,喜甚。至時果有五色祥雲捧足,冉冉而昇。踰日,道人遣其衆緣崖登視洞穴,見飛昇之人形容枯槁,橫卧於上,若重病者,奄奄氣息,久方能言。問之,則曰:「初至洞門,見一巨蟒,吐氣成雲,兩眼如火,方開口欲吞啗間,忽風雷大震,霹死於洞畔。」視之,蟒大數圍,長數十丈,又有骸骨積於巖穴之間,乃前後上昇者骨也。蓋五色雲者,乃蟒之毒氣也;紅紗燈籠者,蟒之眼光也。

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 Toilet Spirit Bewitches People 廁鬼迷人

Outside Hangzhou’s north gate stood an abandoned outhouse. People were often found drowned in the pit beneath, but nobody knew why. One day neighbours saw several people, in immaculate clothes and hats, enter the toilet, but after a long time had elapsed none emerged; they became very anxious and bewildered by this. Another person followed them in, likewise not emerging after a long time had passed, so they then followed behind to have a look. They found the first group of people dead in the waste pool, the later arrival also lying among them, but not yet dead; they immediately rescued him. Much later, when he first recovered his speech, he said: “At dawn there was a person carrying a letter of invitation to a banquet, but I saw a high and beautiful pavilion, filled with music. I didn’t realise it was actually a toilet.” The neighbours made an official report requesting demolition, and afterwards the hauntings ceased.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.245 (Tale 443):

廁鬼迷人

杭州北關門外廁舍,常有人死屍溺於溷池,莫曉其由。一日鄰舍見數人衣冠楚楚入廁,久之不出,殊切怪之。再後又有往者,亦久不出,遂跡其後視之,則前數人死於溷池,後入者亦墮其中,但未死耳,急行拯救。久之,始能言,曰:「旦上有人持簡相招赴宴,但見亭館高潔,鼓樂喧闐,即不知為廁舍也。」鄰為告官拆除,其後祟方絕。

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)