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

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Chang Rong 昌容

Chang Rong was the daughter of the Prince of Shang, and practiced Daoism on Changshan, eating penglei[1] stems for more than two hundred years, but appearing little over twenty. Skilled in finding zicao,[2] she would sell it to dyers, obtaining money to give to the poor and unwell, coming and going to towns and cities, where she was seen by generation after generation. Among people near and far, those who served her numbered over a thousand, but it was never understood how she cultivated the Way. She often travelled in the day, but her shadow could not be seen. Some said: “Chang Rong is one who can exercise asceticism.” She suddenly ascended to the heavens and departed.

From the 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, 59.362:

昌容

昌容者,商王女也,修道於常山,食蓬蔂根二百餘年,顏如二十許。能致紫草,鬻與染工,得錢以與貧病者,往來城市,世世見之。遠近之人,奉事者千餘家,竟不知其所修之道。常行日中,不見其影。或云:「昌容能煉形者也。」忽冲天而去。出女仙傳

[1] This penglei 蓬蔂 seems to be Rubus parvifolius, on which see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubus_parvifolius.

[2] This zicao 紫草 seems to be Lithospermum erythrorhizon (purple or red gromwell, etc.). See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithospermum_erythrorhizon.

Blazing Star Beauty* 明星玉女

The Jade Maiden of Venus lived on Huashan. Drinking a jade brew, she ascended to the heavens in broad daylight. On the mountain peak there was a stone turtle, its breadth several mu, and its height three ren. At its side there was a stone staircase, and all this was visible from afar. Before the Jade Maiden’s shrine there was a five-dan stone mortar, called ‘the Jade Maiden’s hair-washing bowl.’ The colour of water within it was a deep transparent green; rain did not cause it to overflow, and drought did not cause it to dry out. In the hall stood a single jade horse.

From the Jixianlu.

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, 59.362

明星玉女

明星玉女者,居華山。服玉漿,白日昇天。山頂石龜,其廣數畝,高三仞。其側有梯磴,遠皆見。玉女祠前有五石臼,號曰玉女洗頭盆。其中水色,碧綠澄澈,雨不加溢,旱不減耗。祠內有玉石馬一匹焉。出集仙錄

*Title edited to adopt the excellent suggestion from Ofer Waldman (see comments).

 

The Birth Of Dongfang Shuo 東方朔出生

The wife of Zhang Shaoping, née Tian, lived alone as a widow for several years after Shaoping’s death, but suddenly one night dreamed that a person came down from heaven and pressed on her belly, due to which she became pregnant. She therefore said: “Pregnant without a husband; if people hear of this they will abandon me.” She migrated to find a new place to the east. At the new moon of the fifth month, she gave birth to a son. Because she was living in the east, she called him Dongfang Shuo[1] (‘New Moon of the East’). Some say that he was the spirit of Jupiter, multi-talented and boundlessly erudite.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.6 (Tale 44):

東方朔出生

張少平妻田氏,少平卒後,累年寡居,忽夢一人自天而下,壓其腹,因而懷孕。乃曰:「無夫而孕,人聞棄我也。」徙於代,依東方。五月朔旦,生一子。以其居代東方,名之東方朔。或言歲星精,多能,無不該博。

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 the Han-era scholar Dongfang Shuo 東方朔 (c. 160 – c. 93 BCE), see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dongfang_Shuo. He is also credited with the compilation of the Shenyijing 神異經 – see https://huhaixinwen.wordpress.com/2018/10/18/li-ziangs-strange-encounter-%E6%9D%8E%E5%AD%90%E6%98%82%E5%A5%87%E9%81%87/

A Dog-Headed Bride 狗頭新婦

When Jia Dan[1] was serving as commander of Huazhou, in Suanzao County there was a common woman who served a lady but showed her no respect. Because the lady was extremely old, and could see through neither of her eyes, when it came to her breakfast, the woman placed dog dung among the food and gave it to the lady. The lady having eaten this, her qi became abnormal. Her son having returned from travelling to distant parts, the lady asked her son: “What is this stuff? That woman gave it to me to eat.” Her son raised his face to heaven and gave a great howl. After a little while, [5] a lightning bolt came down, and it was as if someone had severed her head and replaced it with that of a dog. Jia ordered she be led into the county, and reported as one lacking filial respect. People at the time called her the ‘dog-headed bride’.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.4-5 (Tale 31):

狗頭新婦

賈耽為滑州節度,酸棗縣有俚婦事姑不敬,故年甚老,無雙目,旦食,婦以食裏納犬糞授姑。故食之,覺有異氣。其子出遠還,故問其子:「此何物?向者婦與吾食。」其子仰天大哭。有頃, [5] 雷電發,若有人截婦首,以犬續之。耽令牽行於境內,以告不孝者。時人謂之「狗頭新婦」。

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] Jia Dan 賈耽, courtesy name Dunshi 敦詩, 730-805 CE, a geographer and prime minister under the Tang. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jia_Dan.

Riding A Raft, Reaching The Heavenly Crossing 乘槎至天津

Hai Ruo[1] lived on an island in the sea, and every year on the eighth month a raft floated past on the currents. This continued for years without fail. Someone provisioned a raft and set off, arriving at a place where they saw a person watering cattle in a river. There was also a weaving woman,[2] and when they asked her what place it was, her cattle-watering father spoke: “You should go back and ask Yan Junping of Shu;[3] he ought to know.” The person returned and called on Junping. Junping said: “On such-and-such a day, month and year, a comet crossed into the Big Dipper and Altair. Having calculated the dates, it must have been you.” The person then realized that, floating with the current, their raft had reached the Heavenly Crossing.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.1 (Tale 2):

乘槎至天津

海若居海島,每至八月即有流槎過。如是,累年不失期。其人齎糧槎而往,及至一處,見有人飲牛於河,又見織女,問其處,飲牛之父曰:「可歸問蜀嚴君平,當知之。」其人歸,詣君平。君平曰:「某年月日,有客星犯斗牛,計時,即汝也。」其人乃知隨流槎至天津。

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] Hai Ruo 海若 is a spirit of the sea. See https://baike.baidu.com/item/%E6%B5%B7%E8%8B%A5/9723235.

[2] This ‘weaving woman’ signifies Vega, brightest star in the Lyra constellation.

[3] Yan Junping 嚴君平 (86 BCE -10CE) was a famous Daoist scholar from Sichuan. See https://baike.baidu.com/item/%E4%B8%A5%E5%90%9B%E5%B9%B3.

A Copper Coffin Descends From Heaven 天降銅棺

Zou Su, the Wine Supervisor for Zhengzou, was just and impartial in office, and respected by people for that. In Zhengzhou one day, as the sun reached noon, wind and hail descended from the heavens, mist and cloud arose from all four sides around the north gate, and a black miasma spun out of it and arose vertically, meeting the heavens without dissipating. A lidless copper coffin descended from the sky, and music came loud and clear out of the empty air. At that time all of Zhengzhou’s junior clerks below the rank of prefect, generals and officers, scholars and commoners, monks and Daoists all changed their clothes and tried to get into the coffin. It being narrow outside and wide within, however, none were able to enter. Winding his wine supervisor’s kerchief as he arrived, Su was asked by the crowd to enter the coffin, and he had not the slightest difficulty. A moment later, a copper lid descended, circled by multi-coloured clouds, and it was all then lifted among the beautiful sound of immortals and the voices of cranes, amid auspicious clouds of heavenly fragrance, and, in a cloud of enduring mist, the coffin gradually turned to the north and departed. He now serves as the judge over longevity in the distant north.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.150 (Tale 263):

天降銅棺

鄭州監酒鄒宿,為官公正無私,人所推敬。一日,鄭州日方午,天降風雹,煙雲四起於北門,黑霧盤旋直上,衝天不散,降下無蓋銅棺一具,但聞空中音樂嘹喨。時鄭州自守倅以下官吏、將校、士庶、僧道,盡易衣服,欲入銅棺。而外狹內寬,皆莫能入。續監酒巾裹而來,衆請之入棺,亦無少(「少」,明刻本作「所」。)礙。少焉,復降銅蓋,綵雲繚繞,擎舉而上,仙韶鶴唳,瑞氣天香,靄靄不散,其棺冉冉向北而去。今為北極司壽限判官。

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).