Dai Chengbo 戴承伯

During the Yuanhui era (473-77 CE), Dai Chengbo of the [Liu] Song bought into the Pipa Temple under the jurisdiction of Xingzhou. His inscribed tablet erroneously claimed an empty plot to the east as his residence. At nightfall he suddenly heard the sound of angry cursing and, getting up to look, saw a person of remarkably odd shape. When Chengbo questioned him, he replied: “My surname is Xi, and I’m the one who originally dwelled here. How can the gentleman wrest it away from me?” Chengbo said: “Dai Jin sold the land; I do not deserve blame.” The spirit replied: “Benefitting self, harming others; what has this to do with Jin? If you do not leave quickly, I will have to inform the Magistrates.” On finishing speaking, it vanished. Chengbo was stubborn by nature, and refused to move for it. Within ten days, he had succumbed to a sudden illness and died.

From Zhugongjiushi.

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), vii, 323.2566:

戴承伯 宋戴承伯。元徽中。買荊州治下枇杷寺。其額乃悞東空地為宅。日暮。忽聞恚罵之聲。起視。有人形狀可怪。承伯問之。答曰。我姓龔。本居此宅。君為何強奪。承伯曰。戴瑾賣地。不應見咎。鬼曰。利身妨物。何預瑾乎。不速去。當令君知。言訖而沒。承伯性剛。不為之動。旬日。暴疾卒。出渚宮舊事

Xu Daorao 徐道饒

In the tenth year of the Yuanjia era (433 CE), Xu Daorao suddenly saw a spirit, which told him it was one of his ancestors. At that time it was winter, and the weather was fine and clear. He had previously gathered rice and placed it beneath the roof, and the spirit told him: “You should lay out your rice to dry tomorrow.” Even though the skies were full of rain, and it had not yet cleared up, Rao followed this advice, and the spirit also assisted with the hand-cart.[1] Later on, there was indeed continuous heavy rain. When it was visible to people, the spirit resembled a rhesus monkey. Rao requested talismans from a priest and suspended them at doors and windows. The spirit then gave a great laugh, and said: “You want to stop me with that? I can come and go via the dog flap!” Despite having said this, it no longer entered the house. After several days had passed, it sighed and said: “Your uncle Xu Bao is coming; I should not be seen by him.” The next day he did indeed arrive, and from then the strange events ceased.

From Yiyuan.

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), vii, 323.2562-63:

Xu Daorao 徐道饒

[2563] 徐道饒。以元嘉十年。忽見一鬼。自言是其先人。于時冬日。天氣清朗。先積稻屋下。云。汝明日可曝穀。天方大雨。未有晴時。饒從其教。鬼亦助輦。後果霖雨。時有見者。形如獼猴。饒就道士請符。懸著窗戶。鬼便大笑。欲以此斷我。我自能從狗竇中入。雖則此語。而不復進。經數日。歎云。徐叔寶來。吾不宜見之。后日果至。於是遂絕。出異苑

[1] This translation was revised with generous help from Ofer Waldman. Thanks Ofer!

A Secretary 給使

Quite recently someone took on a junior secretary. Over a long period the secretary repeatedly sought to return home, but without success. Some time later, this same clerk was sleeping beneath a south-facing window, when his employer noticed a woman in the doorway. Aged fifty or sixty, she was large and plump, and walked with some difficulty. As the clerk was sleeping, his covers had slipped off, and when the woman reached his bedside, she picked up the blanket and covered him again. She turned and went out through the door, but when the clerk turned on his side the cover slipped again, and the woman again put it back as it had been. The employer thought this very strange, and asked his clerk the following day why he had been so keen to return home. The clerk told him: “My mother is ill.” He asked again about her appearance and age, and all were just as he had seen, the only difference being that he said she was thin. Questioned again about her trouble, he replied: “A swelling sickness.” At this he gave the clerk leave to return. He set off, but on reaching home he was told that his mother had already been buried. It turned out that the fat shape he witnessed was a result of the swelling illness.

From Youminglu.

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), vii, 323.2561:



Ruan Yuzhi 阮瑜之

In the tenth year of the Jin Taiyuan era (386 CE), Ruan Yuzhi resided before the Shixing Pagoda. Orphaned very young, he was unable to support himself and frequently wept and sobbed. He suddenly saw a spirit appear before his father’s inscribed brick, which told him: “A father has died and returned to the Rain Deity. Why weep for so long? After three years have passed, the gentleman’s family will be able to support itself, but for the time being your servant will aid the gentleman’s family. I will not cause harm, and should not be feared as inauspicious, but will rather bring fortune to the gentleman’s household.” After this the spirit remained in their home, and whenever the household needed something, the spirit would provide it. After two or three years, the gentleman’s circumstances had changed. Fed by the spirit, he would chat and laugh together with it. When Ruan asked its surname, it replied: “My surname is Li, and first name Liuzhi; I am the gentleman’s brother-in-law.” Ruan asked: “How did the gentleman come to me?” The spirit told him: “Your servant has endured hardships, and has now been sent for a time to live the way of ghosts, and assigned to the gentleman’s home. After four or five years I should depart.” Ruan asked him: “Where would you go then?” He replied: “To be reborn into the mortal world.” When that time came, he did indeed say farewell and leave.

From Youminglu.

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), vii, 320.2539:



Cai Mo 蔡謨

Around the time Cai Mo[1] was appointed to serve as Grand Master for Splendid Happiness, he was at home and suddenly heard the sound of weeping and wailing coming from the southeast, as if someone had just died. Soon after, he saw a young girl, a dead person who also wailed at their separation. He did not understand what was going on, but feared that this was the result of a family conflict. Suddenly, he heard the cry of an immortal soul, and soon after witnessed the living girl ascend through thin air into the heavens above. The meaning of this could only be extremely inauspicious. Before long he fell ill, and then died.

From Lingyizhi.

Moreover 又

Someone reported that Mo was seated at the place of honour in the government hall when he suddenly heard a voice ‘calling back the mortal soul’[2] from the neighbours to the left. He thus left the hall and went to the front to look. Straight away he saw a newly bereaved family, and an elderly woman, wearing a yellow half-sleeved garment of silk gauze on top, and a pale green skirt below, floating in the air and ascending into the heavens. He heard a cry, and turned his head to look, then came three cries, and he turned his head each time. He paced up and down for a long time, and when the sounds finally stopped, there was nothing more to be seen. He questioned the family attending the burial, and they told him that the clothing worn by the deceased was just as he had described it.

From Youminglu

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), vii, 320.2533:




[1] On Cai Mou 蔡謨, 281-356 CE, courtesy name Daoming 道明, see Jinshu 晉書 77.2033-41.

[2] A funeral ritual involving entreating the deceased to return to their body before burial.

Wang Zhongwen 王仲文

Wang Zhongwen served as Registrar of Henan Prefecture, and resided to the north of Koushi County. He set off to return home in response to an auspicious sign. His route took him through an area of marshes and lakes, where he spotted a white dog following behind him. Zhongwen became very fond of it, and wanted to take it home, but it suddenly transformed and took on human shape. Standing six feet tall, and looking like a Fang Xiang mask,[1] with eyes of red flame, grinding teeth and a wagging tongue, it was quite abhorrent. He wanted to attack it, but it repulsed his assault for a time, and tried to get onto the carriage. Zhongwen was terrified, and quickly ordered his servants to beat it, but they were quite unable to do so. He thus dismounted and lashed out alongside his servants, but still could not hold it back. Their combined strength exhausted, they could strike out at it no longer, so gave up and fled. They told others of this, and, gathering ten or more people, wielding blades and clutching torches, they went together to see it, but were no longer able to find the place. After a month and a day, Zhongwen suddenly saw it again. He and his servant fled, but, before they could reach human habitation, he fell over quite dead.

From Xusoushenji.

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), vii, 319.2532:



[1] This seems likely to refer to a ritual four-eyed mask worn by exorcists heading funeral processions. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fangxiangshi, https://dreamingsnowflake2013.tumblr.com/post/151446420249/the-warrior-who-defeats-evil-bangsangshi, http://yokai.com/housoushi/.  

Chen Su 陳素

In the first year of the Jin Shengping era (357 CE), the family of Chen Su, of Shan County, were wealthy. After a decade of marriage to his wife, he still lacked a son, so wished to take a concubine. His wife prayed to the ancestral hall’s deities and suddenly became pregnant. The same happened to the wife of their neighbour, a commoner. She therefore bribed the neighbour’s wife, saying: “If I give birth to a boy, that would be the will of heaven. If it is a girl, and yours is a boy, we should swap.” This was quickly agreed between them. The neighbour’s wife had a boy, and three days later Su’s wife bore a daughter. The exchange was quickly made. Su was absolutely delighted with his son. They had raised the child for thirteen years when, during prayers, an elderly housemaid who often saw spirits spoke up and said: “I see the gentleman’s ancestors; they’re coming to the gate and then stopping. But I also see a crowd of commoners who have come and seated themselves to eat our offerings.” The father was extremely alarmed and amazed, and then welcomed the spirits as they arrived. He prayed that they might become temporarily visible, and they told him they were all relatives. Su then went inside and questioned his wife. Terrified, she told him about the swap. The boy was returned to his original family, and their daughter taken back.

From Youminglu.

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), vii, 319.2527:



A Jiangzhou Clerk 江州錄事

Under the Jin, when Huan Baonu[1] was serving in Jiangzhou, there was a copyist named Gan, whose home was below the Linchuan prefectural offices. When, aged thirteen, Gan’s son fell ill and died, he buried the boy amid a crowd of tombs to the east of his house. Ten days later, he suddenly heard the sound of drumming, singing and music coming from the eastern road. Perhaps a hundred people passed along it to reach the Gan household and asked: “Is the copyist there? We came to call upon him, and his virtuous son is also with us.” Only voices were heard; no shapes of bodies were visible. He then brought out several earthenware wine jars and handed them over. They tipped and vanished, and then the two jars returned, both quite empty, and he heard the sound of drumbeats start up again. The Linchuan prefectural chief said that this had been a trick committed by someone, and that they must come forward and identify themselves, but after time passed none had. When Gan was heard to speak of the affair he was very alarmed.

From Youminglu.

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), vii, 319.2527:



[1] This seems to be Huan Si 桓嗣, courtesy name Gongzu 恭祖, childhood name Baonu 豹奴, grandson of Huan Yi 桓彝 (276-328 CE). His brief biography is found at Jinshu 74.1953.

Zhu Zizhi 朱子之

Zhu Zizhi, from Dongyang Prefecture, had a spirit which had long visited his household. When Zizhi’s son fell ill with heart pains, the spirit told them: “I will seek a treatment for you.” It then said: “Bake a tiger pellet; if he drinks it, then he will recover. Give me a large halberd, and I will fetch one for you.” The family quickly fetched a halberd and gave it to the spirit. The spirit hefted the weapon and departed. After a little while it returned, laying the halberd down in the courtyard. It threw a tiger pellet onto the floor, and they heated it immediately.[1]

From Qixieji.

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), vii, 318.2517:



[1] Translation amended with the help of Ofer Waldman. Thanks Ofer!

Zhu Yan 朱彥

Zhu Yan was from Yongjia, and his residence was in Yongning. He had just straightened up and taken a rest from opening up waste land when he suddenly heard the sounds of pipes and strings, and a young boy calling in time to the music. That night he saw someone, large and strongly built, who blew and extinguished his fire. Yan was courageous and was not scared by this. He refused to move his house, and never faced trouble again.

From Yiyuan.

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), vii, 318.2515: