Hostel Pavilion Spiders 館亭蜘蛛

There was a Censor called Wei Jun who was once responsible for Jiangxia. Sent back to the capital with a message, on his return journey he stopped to transact business at a hostel pavilion. He suddenly noticed a white spider descending from one of the pavilion columns, its body extremely small. Wei Jun said: “This is a danger to people. I have heard that, though small, when it bites people even good medicine has no effect.” He therefore directed that it be killed. Presently he saw another white one descending, and had it killed like the last one. Looking up beyond it he saw that the web led to a lair, so he ordered his retinue to fetch a broom and sweep it all away, and said: “I have now eliminated the threat to life.” The following day, wishing to leave, he touched the column with his hand as he passed, and felt a sharp unbearable pain; it turned out to be the bite of a white spider on the column. Wei Jun was shocked, and immediately flicked it away. It soon swelled up, and before several days had passed this affected his entire arm. Due to this he was carried to Jiangxia in a sedan chair. Physicians and medicines had no effect, and eventually his left arm was pouring blood; when his blood was exhausted he died. Before this Wei Jun’s lady mother was in Jiangxia, and dreamed that a white-robed person addressed her: “My two brothers, younger and elder, were killed by your son. I have reported to the heavenly emperor, and the emperor has avenged this injustice according to my request.” When they finished speaking, the lady awoke in shock. Marvelling greatly at it, she was too disturbed to speak. A little more than ten days later, when Wei Jun arrived and she heard the full story, she came to understand the dream, realising that the day of her vision was indeed that on which he had killed the spider in the hostel pavilion. The lady wept and said: “How can you live for long now?” Several days later Wei Jun died.

Zhang Du 張讀, Xuanshi Zhi 宣室志 (Stories from the Chamber of Dissemination),1.3 (Tale 4):

館亭蜘蛛

有御史韋君,嘗從事江夏,復以奉使至京,既還,道次商於館亭中。忽見亭柱有白蜘蛛曳而下,狀甚微。韋君曰:「是為人之患也。吾聞汝雖小,螫人,良藥無及。」因以指殺焉。俄又見一白者下,如前所殺之。且視其上,有綱為窟,韋乃命左右挈箒盡為盡掃去,且曰:「為人患者,吾已除矣。」明日欲去,因以手撫去柱,忽覺指痛不可忍,乃是有一白蜘蛛螫其上。韋君驚,即拂去。俄遂腫焉,不數日而盡一臂。由是肩輿舁至江夏。醫藥無及,竟以左臂潰為血,血盡而終。先是韋君先夫人在江夏,夢一白衣人謂曰:「我弟兄二人為汝子所殺。吾告上帝,帝用雪其寃,且遂吾請。」言畢,夫人驚寤。甚異之,惡不能言。後旬餘而韋君至,具得其狀,方悟所夢,覺為夢日,果其殺蜘蛛於館亭時也。夫人泣曰:「其能久乎!」數日而韋君終矣。

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:

Wei Jun 韋君

There was a Censor called Wei Jun who was once responsible for Jiangxia. Sent back to the capital with a message, on his return journey he stopped to transact business at a hostel pavilion. He suddenly noticed a white spider descending from one of the pavilion columns, its body extremely small. Wei Jun said: “This is a danger to people. I have heard that, though small, when it bites people even good medicine has no effect.” He therefore directed that it be killed. Presently he saw another white one descending, and had it killed like the last one. Looking up beyond it he saw that the web led to a lair, so he ordered his retinue to fetch a broom to remove it all, and said: “I have now eliminated the threat to life.” The following day, about to leave, he touched the column with his hand as he passed, and felt a sharp pain that he could not bear; it turned out to be the bite of a white spider on the column. Wei Jun was shocked, and immediately flicked it away. Soon the swelling grew, and before several days had passed this affected his entire arm. Due to this he was carried to Jiangxia in a sedan chair. Physicians and medicines had no effect, and eventually his left arm was pouring blood; when his blood was exhausted he died. Before this Wei Jun’s lady mother was in Jiangxia, and dreamed that a white-robed person addressed her: “I had three brothers, younger and elder, and two were killed by your son. I have reported to the heavenly emperor, and the emperor felt sympathy and agreed to my request.” When they finished speaking, the lady awoke in shock. Marvelling greatly at it, she was too disturbed to speak. A little more than ten days later, when Wei Jun arrived and she heard the full story, she came to understand the dream, realising that the day of her vision was indeed that on which he had been in the hostel pavilion. The lady wept and said: “How can you live for long now?” Several days later Wei Jun died.

From 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, 476.3920:

韋君

有御史韋君嘗從事江夏。後以奉使至京。既還。道次商於。館亭中。忽見亭柱有白蜘蛛曳而下。狀甚微。韋君曰。是人之患也。吾聞雖小。螫人。良藥無及。因以指殺焉。俄又見一白者下。如前所殺之。且觀其上。有綱為窟。韋乃命左右挈帚。盡為去。且曰。為人患者。吾已除矣。明日將去。因以手撫去柱。忽覺指痛。不可忍之。乃是有一白蜘蛛螫其上。韋君驚。即拂去。俄遂腫延。不數日而盡一臂。由是肩舁至江夏。醫藥無及。竟以左臂潰為血。血盡而終。先是韋君先夫人在江夏。夢一白衣人謂曰。我弟兄三人。其二人為汝子所殺。吾告上帝。帝用憫其寃。且遂吾請。言畢。夫人驚寤。甚異之。惡不能言。後旬餘而韋君至。具得其狀。方悟所夢。覺為夢日。果其館亭時也。夫人泣曰。其能久乎。數日而韋君終矣。出宣室志

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

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.

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.

Pei Zhang’s Unhappy Wife 裴章薄妻

Pei Zhang was from Hedong; his father Zhou had once garrisoned Jingzhou. Their private monk, Tan Zhao, had made great achievements in the Way, and able to comprehend good and bad fortune. As a youth Zhang had profound respect for Tan Zhao, who said that his career and prestige would surpass that of his father. When Zhang reached the ‘capping age’ (i.e., adulthood, at around 20), his father married him to a daughter of the Li family. On passing the age of thirty, Zhang followed a posting to Taiyuan, leaving his wife in Luozhong, ‘passing the door but never entering’ (i.e., being too busy to visit), never taking her along with him. Lady Li felt herself to have been born under an unlucky star, often wearing coarse clothes and a mourning hairstyle, reading Buddhist texts and eating simple food. After a further decade, when his father transferred from Jingzhou to garrison Taiyuan, Tan Zhao followed him. Zhang therefore saw Zhao to renew their acquaintance, but Zhao was shocked and sighed for a long time, addressing him: “Fifty years ago this poor cleric often said Your Excellency would scale the heights; now you are quite weakened and exhausted. How has this happened?” Zhang told him of his unhappy wife. Zhao said: “The lady has complained to the Lord on High, and he punishes Your Excellency.” Ten days later, he cut his stomach open with a knife in the bathtub; his five organs fell to the ground, and he subsequently died.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.13 (Tale 73):

裴章薄妻

河東裴章者,其父胄,曾鎮荊州。門僧曇照,道行甚高,能知休咎。章幼時為曇照所重,言其官班位望過於其父。章弱冠,父為娶李氏女。乃三十年餘,章從職太原,棄其妻於洛中,過門不入,別有所挈。李氏自感其薄命,常褐衣髽髺,讀佛書,蔬食。又十年,嚴經自荊州移鎮太原,曇照隨之。章因見照敍舊,照驚噫久之,謂之曰:「貧道五十年前常謂郎君必貴,今削盡,何也?」章自以薄妻之事啟之。照曰:「夫人生魂訴上帝,以罪處君。」後旬日,為其下以刀劃腹於浴斛,五臟墮地,遂死。

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 Woman Eats Fuling Fungus 女食茯苓

In Changqiushan, in Pujiang County, Qiongzhou, there was a woman surnamed Yang, who lived by the riverside. Her father went to the market, bought two carp and returned, ordering his daughter to boil and wash them. The woman did not [140] kill them, but released them in the water as a joke, doing this lightheartedly and then wandering off.

Her mother and father wanting to whip her, the girl then fled into Changqiushan’s Daoist temple, depending on a lay Daoist, obediently providing him with fuel and water. Whenever the Daoist sent her to carry water, she would stay away a long time and not return, and one of the other female servants feared she might have a lover outside, and therefore pressured and questioned her, until she said: “When I lower the well-bucket, an infant grabs the rope and rises; we play a while, and then it drops back into the well; there is nothing other than that.” The Daoist said: “You should take a cloth sack and bag it.” The girl did as he said, and when she took the bag to the temple and opened it to look, they found a lump of fuling fungus, placing it in the rice steamer and cooking it. The Daoist had crossed the river in response to an invitation, but the water had risen and he had not yet returned. The girl having noticed that the steamer smelled extremely delicious, then took and ate some, and as the day drew on eventually ate it all.

It happened that the Heavenly Emperor’s envoy summoned her, and in broad daylight she became an immortal and departed. When her home village informed the county, the county registrar Wei Wang went into the mountains to make a detailed investigation. A small piece of fungus was left over, so he also took and ate this, subsequently also departing as an immortal. The registrar was then placed among twenty-four heavenly masters who provide governance.

As I see it the immortals are extremely numerous, and, as they cannot all be laid out here, I record this to show to people in the future.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.139-40 (Tale 246):

女食茯苓

邛州蒲江縣長秋山,有女子姓楊,濱江而住。其父入市,買二鯉歸,令女子烹洗。其女不 [140] 殺,放水中戲,悠然而逝。父母欲箠之,此女遂奔入長秋山一道觀,依火居道士,供柴水之奉。道士每日使之擔水,忽去久不歸,道婆恐其有外慕,因苦問之,乃云:「於弔水時,有一嬰孩扶繩而上,同嬉一時,又投井中,非有他也。」道士云:「可將布袋袋之。」其女子如其言,袋至宮中開看,乃是一塊茯苓,置之飯甑蒸熟。道士適渡江赴請,水漲未歸,其女子聞其蒸熟甚香,遂取食之,日久食盡,忽天帝差使者召之,白日仙去。其鄉村申縣,縣委王主簿入山體究,止餘茯苓一小塊,簿亦取而食之,竟仙去。主簿,乃天師排定二十四治之一者。吾觀神仙者甚多,皆不載此,因錄之,以示來者。

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 Lord of Profound Heaven Manifests 玄帝現像

Wang Daozhi was known as Lay Scholar Free of Knowledge, and lived to the west of Anfu. In his household were collected eighteen of the very finest statues of arhats, and every month he had monks perform rites and make offerings to them. They had a plum blossom [129] that fruited in its porcelain vase, and people thought this an auspicious sign. One day, his family fell ill, and he dreamed that two scrolls were offered before the arhats, saying: “You should go north in person, and ask the Profound Emperor to provide healing.” The following day, a monk came to the gate and asked: “Why do you not attend the immortal?” He replied: “I have no image.” The monk said: “You should invite an artist.” An image of the emperor then appeared on the table, face like a full moon, black robes and golden armour, feet treading on turtles and serpents, five generals to his right and left, holding knives, grasping banners held erect and surrounded by streamers. Known as the Five Dragons, their might and grandeur was far beyond that which one might usually see. When the image was finished it was traced by hand and then vanished. The illness was then cured, and his household treasured the icon.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.128-29 (Tale 223):

玄帝現像

王道之,號無識居士,住安福之西。其家蓄十八羅漢像最精妙,月月命僧禮而供之。有梅花 [129] 結實於甆瓶,人以為瑞。一日,其家病作,羅漢前兩軸獻夢云: 「待自去北方,請玄帝來救治。」明日,一僧登門曰:「如何不奉真聖?」答曰:「無像。」僧曰:「可邀畫匠(「匠」原作「像」,據明刻本、明抄本改。)來。」就桌上現(此處原衍「像」字,據明刻本、明抄本刪。)出帝像,面如滿月,皁袍金甲,足踏龜蛇,左右五將,持刀執纛樹幡,號五龍,猛烈雄偉,非尋常所有者。描訖,像隨手而沒。後病癒,其家寶藏之。

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).