Tan Sheng 談生

At the age of forty Tan Sheng was without a wife. He often became aroused through study and reading. Suddenly one midnight a young woman appeared to him, aged fifteen or sixteen and peerless under heaven in her appearance, dress and posture. She came to Sheng so they could be husband and wife, but told him: “I am not like other people. Never let firelight shine upon me. Only after three years have passed may I be illuminated.” They then lived as man and wife. She’d bore a son, who was already two years old, when, unable to bear it any longer, Sheng waited until she was asleep then stealthily illuminated and examined her. Above her waist was living flesh, just like any human being, but below her waist were just dry bones. His wife awoke, and told him: “The gentleman has betrayed me. I had almost returned to life – why could you not bear to wait just one more year before examining me?” Sheng parted from her with thanks, weeping, as they could no longer be together.

She said: “Although my parting from the gentleman is entirely correct, I am still concerned for our child. You are poor and unable to support yourselves, so follow me a moment and I will leave you something of value. Sheng followed her as she entered a splendid hall, its rooms and furnishings all quite extraordinary. Indicating a pearl-stitched gown, she handed it to him and said: “You can support yourself with this.” She then tore away the front of the gown, left it with him and departed. Sheng subsequently took the robe to the market, where it was purchased by the household of the Suiyang Prince, earning him a thousand ten-thousand strings of cash.

The prince recognised the robe, however, and said: “This is my daughter’s gown. It must have been taken from her tomb.” He thus seized and beat Sheng, who told him the full truth, but the prince still did not believe him. They therefore went to view the tomb, and found the grave undisturbed, just like [2502] before. When they opened it, beneath the coffin lid they found the same gown. They called his child, and indeed he resembled the princess. The prince then believed the story, and summoned Tan Sheng, granting him the gown and installing him as princely consort. Their son was appointed Chancellor.[1]

From Lieyizhuan

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, 316.2501-2:

談生

談生者。年四十。無婦。常感激讀書。忽〈書忽原作詩經。據明鈔本改。〉夜半有女子。可年十五六。姿顏服飾。天下無雙。來就生為夫婦。乃〈乃原作之。據明鈔本改。〉言。我與人不同。勿以火照我也。三年之後。方可照。為夫妻。生一兒。已二歲。不能忍。夜伺其寢後。盜照視之。其腰上已生肉如人。腰下但有枯骨。婦覺。遂言曰。君負我。我垂生矣。何不能忍一歲而竟相照也。生辭謝。涕泣不可復止。云。與君雖大義永離。然顧念我兒。若貧不能自偕活者。暫隨我去。方遺君物。生隨之去。入華堂。室宇器物不凡。以一珠袍與之曰。可以自給。裂取生衣裾。留之而去。後生持袍詣市。睢陽王家買之。得錢千萬。王識之曰。是我女袍。此必發墓。乃取拷之。生具以實對。王猶不信。乃視女冢。冢完如 [2502] 故。發視之。果棺蓋下得衣裾。呼其兒。正類王女。王乃信之。即召談生。復賜遺衣。以為主壻。表其兒以為侍中。出列異傳

[1] With thanks to Ofer Waldman for greatly improving this translation!

A Guangling Clerk 廣陵吏人

A clerk from Guangling, surnamed Zhao, was sleeping alone in a chamber through the summer heat. Around midnight, he suddenly saw a tall person in a yellow robe enter via the door, followed by seven much smaller people, also wearing yellow. The stranger muttered to himself: “Looked everywhere without result, and now here, eh?” He shouted at him to get up, and said: “This can now be carried out.” One of the yellow-robed people stepped forwards and said: “This life is not yet finished, and we cannot just take it away. It would be better to make a record of this.” The taller person then reached inside his robe and brought out a seal. They made a seal impression on his left arm and departed. When dawn came he inspected it. The seal stuck closely to his skin, and its characters were like the ancient seal script. The lower character was shi 識 ‘knowledge’, the right looked like xian 仙 ‘immortal’, the left like ji 記 ‘record’, but the one above that could not be read. It is not known how Zhao ended up.

From Jishenlu.

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), viii, 353.2800:

廣陵吏人

廣陵吏姓趙。當暑。獨寢一室。中夜。忽見大黃衣人自門而入。從小黃衣七人。謂己曰。處處尋不得。乃在此耶。叱起之。曰。可以行矣。一黃衣前曰。天年未盡。未可遽行。宜有以記之可也。大人即探懷。出一印。印其左臂而去。及明視之。印文著肉。字若古篆。識其下。右若仙字。左若記字。其上不可識。趙後不知所終。出稽神錄

A Wuyuan Soldier’s Wife 婺源軍人妻

In a dingyou year, the wife of a soldier from Jianwei in Wuyuan died, so he remarried. His second wife terribly mistreated his children by the first wife, and the husband was quite unable to stop this. One day, he suddenly saw his dead wife pass through the gate and enter. Furious at the second wife, she said: “Who among the people will not die? How could anyone lack all motherly feelings? Yet you abuse our children like this? I have recently made a complaint to the authorities of the nether world, and they granted me a break of ten days in which I am to teach you. If you then fail to change, I would surely be able to kill the gentleman.” Husband and wife were both terrified and bowed over and over, then provided her with food and drink. They once invited trusted friends from among their neighbours, greeting them and chatting as normal, but these other people could hear her voice, despite only the husband being able to see her. When night fell, she set up a bed in another room. The husband wished to spend the night with her, but was not allowed. When the ten days were up, she was about to depart, but again reprimanded the second wife and urged her to improve. Her words were very [2800] earnest and thoughtful. She escorted the family members together to her tomb, and when they were a little over a hundred paces from the grave, said: “You should all stop here.” She then said her goodbyes in a polite and courteous manner, then departed. Just as she reached a cypress grove all of the family could see her, in clothes and appearance seeming just they had in life. When she reached the tomb, she disappeared.

The officer of the Jianwei Army Wang Yanchang reported that it occurred like this.

From Jishenlu.

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), viii, 353.2799-800:

婺源軍人妻

丁酉歲。婺源建威軍人妻死更娶。其後妻虐遇前妻之子過甚。夫不能制。一日。忽見亡妻自門而入。大怒後妻曰。人誰無死。孰無母子之情。乃虐我兒女如是耶。吾比訴與地下所司。今與我假十日。使我誨汝。汝遂不改。必能殺君。夫妻皆恐懼再拜。即為具酒食。徧召親黨鄰里。問訊敘話如常。他人但聞其聲。唯夫見之。及夜。為設榻別室。夫欲從之宿。不可。滿十日。將去。復責勵其後妻。言甚 [2800] 切至。舉家親族共送至墓。去墓百餘步。曰。諸人可止矣。復殷勤辭訣而去。將及柏林中。諸人皆見之。衣服容色如平生。及墓乃沒。建威軍使汪延昌言如是。出稽神錄

A Fox Takes the Form of a Dead Person 狐戀亡人

Chen Chengwu’s household was poor, without an income, and he lived alone in a small house, but having once seen a village woman of great beauty, his heart often cherished her memory. One evening the woman suddenly arrived before his narrow bed, saying: “My heart has long wished to be united with you, but there are many people in my home, and I could not come and go. Now they have all gone away, so I came especially to visit you.” Chen was delighted to be united with her, his tender sentiments intense, quite unaware that she was a disembodied spirit. Enjoying contact from dawn to dusk, his face grew sallow and drawn, and he fell ill and died. Upon his death those who came to prepare his funeral saw only an elderly fox (i.e., instead of a woman), cradling its head in its paws by Chen’s grave and howling in a most sorrowful way. They raised the coffin and approached the fire, and the fox followed them, disappearing from view as soon as it reached the flames, leaving no trace.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.249 (Tale 450):

狐戀亡人

陳承務家貧無取資,獨處小室,曾見一村婦有色,心常思慕。一夕婦忽至榻前,曰:「吾心欲與子合久矣,奈屋內人稠,不能出入。今皆他出,特來相訪。」陳喜與合,情意稠密,莫知其為人鬼也。朝暮往來,面色黃瘁,感疾而卒。及其死也,為治喪事,但見老狐扶頭坐於陳喪之側,嗚嗚聲有悲哀之狀。舉棺就火,狐(「狐」原作「婦」,據明刻本改。)亦隨之,至火滅方不見其蹤影。

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)

An Ox Avenges an Old Injustice 牛報宿冤

Wu Gongyuan had a secluded family residence, and once a pedlar arrived travelling alone; unable to continue through the darkness, he sought shelter there. The host was extremely attentive, but, seeing that he was from elsewhere and coveting his possessions, conspired that night with his son to rob and kill him, kicking the corpse into a flooded field below the road. He then ploughed the field himself, so nobody would know. Extremely poor for a long time, after this his situation improved somewhat. Several years later, he dreamed that the dead merchant came (back). When dawn arrived, the village head announced that an ox had given birth to a calf. Fully grown, the ox was vigorous and strong; growing extremely fond of it, Gongyuan fed and reared it diligently. When it reached full strength, he took it to plough the flooded field, but the ox suddenly became enraged, striking its master with its horns. Mouth and nose streaming blood, he died several days later. The household then fell into ruin.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.123 (Tale 215):

牛報宿冤

吳公源有一家居僻靜,有一商販者獨行到彼,昏黑不可前,遂投宿焉。主人溫存甚至,見其為他處人,又有所齎,中夜父子相與謀殺而有其物,乃蹋其尸於路下渢田。田既自耕,人無知者。舊實貧窘,至此稍温。數年之後,夜夢死商來。及早,莊頭忽報牛生一子。牛長而健有力,甚愛之,餧飼勤至。暨壯,耕渢田,牛忽奮怒,角觸其主,囗鼻流血,數日而亡。其家遂敗。

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 Corpse Dances 死屍鼓舞

In Hedong there was a villager whose wife had died recently and had not yet been prepared for her coffin. When night fell, his family suddenly became aware of a sound like music approaching slowly; when it reached the hall, her corpse began to move. A little layer, the music seemed to enter the roof of the hall, and her body then rose and danced. As the melody gradually moved away, the corpse turned and pirouetted out through the gates, following the as it departed. Her family were shocked and terrified, but the night was moonless and they did not dare pursue her. That same night the villager had just returned and, realising what had happened, took up a staff and followed her to a grove of tombs, and after about five or six li, again heard the music coming from a cypress grove. Drawing near to the trees, there was the glimmer of a fire, and the corpse was dancing next to it. The villager grasped his staff and beat the corpse until it fell on the ground. The music stopped, too, and he then returned, bearing the body in his back.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.241 (Tale 435):

死屍鼓舞

河東有一村民,妻新死未殮。日暮,其家忽覺有樂聲漸近,至庭宇,屍亦微動。少焉,樂聲入房,如在梁棟間,屍遂起舞。樂聲漸出,屍倒旋出門,隨樂聲而去。其家驚懼,時月黑不敢尋逐。將夜,村民方歸,知之,乃持杖逐至一墓林,約五六里,復聞樂聲在一柏林上,及近樹之下,有火熒然,屍方舞矣。村民持杖擊屍倒地,樂聲亦住,遂負屍而返。

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 Person Transformed into a Tiger 人變虎

Wang Yong, of Black Fish Gorge, in Wangcheng County, Guo Prefecture, was a charcoal-burner by trade. He often walked in the valley by the stream and saw two black fish, a little over a chi (c. 33cm) in length, swimming on top of the water. Yong, tired and hungry from cutting wood, then gutted and ate one of them. His younger brother was shocked and said: “This fish is a spirit being belonging to the valley; how could my elder brother kill it?” Soon after this, his wife brought food to them, but Yong kept on wielding his axe, and when he did eventually turn around, his wife realised that his appearance had changed, and called his brother over to look at him; Yong suddenly shed his clothes, calling and leaping, and, changed into a tiger, headed straight for the mountains. He would sometimes kill roe deer and stags, throwing them into the house at night; he was like this for two years.

One day at dusk he knocked on the door and announced himself, saying: “I am Wang Yong.” His younger brother replied: “My elder brother has been transformed into a tiger for three years now; what ghost is taking my brother’s [230] name?” He spoke again: “I previously killed a black fish; the officials of the underworld banished me as a tiger, and, because of harming people, they gave me a hundred lashes; now I have obtained return to my body; you have a look, there is no doubt.” His younger brother was delighted, hastily opening the door. He saw a person with a head just like a tiger’s and died of fright. The whole family screamed and yelled, and fled, and in the end the villagers beat him to death. His wife’s family confirmed that his body bore a distinctive black mark, and that it was truly Wang Yong; his head never changed back.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.229-30 (Tale 412):

人變虎

虢州王城縣黑魚谷王用,業燒炭。於谷中有水方數步,常見二黑魚,長尺餘,遊於水上。用伐木饑困,遂宰一食之。其弟驚曰:「此魚乃谷中靈物,兄奈何殺之?」有頃其妻餉之,用運斤不已,久乃轉面,妻覺狀貌有異,呼其弟視之,忽脫衣號躍,變為虎焉。徑入山,時殺麞鹿,夜擲於家,如此二年。一日昏暮,叩門自鳴曰:「我王用也。」弟應曰:「我兄變為虎三年矣,何鬼假吾兄 [230] 姓名?」又曰:「我往年殺黑魚,冥官謫為虎,因傷人,又笞予一百,得復人身,汝視予,無疑也。」弟喜,遽開門,見一人,頭猶是虎,因怖死。舉家叫呼奔避,竟為村人格殺之。其妻屬驗其身有黑志,信王用也,但首未變爾。

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).