Chen Fan 陳蕃

During Chen Fan’s humble years, he once lodged at the household of a Huang Shen.[1] Shen’s wife gave birth during the night, but Fan was not aware of this. During the third watch (11pm to 1am), there was a knock on the door. After a long time, this was answered, and he heard the person enter and say: “There is someone within the gates; I must not step forward.” They were then told: “You can go by the back gate.” Presently he heard the stranger return, and that person, having entered, being questioned by them: “Is there a son? What is his name? What age will he reach?” The one who had come and returned said: “It is a son, named Anu. He will live to fifteen.” They questioned him again: “After that point how will he be killed?” He replied: “He will fall to the ground and die during the construction of a house.” Fan heard this but did not believe it. Fifteen years later he was serving as prefectural chief for Yuzhang, and sent a messenger to ask at the house after the child Anu. He reported: “He was helping the master to build a house when the ridgepole fell. He subsequently died.” 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, 316.2502:

陳蕃

陳蕃微時。嘗行宿主人黃申家。申婦夜產。蕃不知。夜三更。有扣門者。久許。聞裏有人應云。門裏有人。不可前。相告云。從後門往。俄聞往者還。門內者問之。見何兒。名何。當幾歲。還者云。是男。名阿奴。當十五歲。又問曰。後當若為死。答曰。為人作屋。落地死。蕃聞而不信。後十五年。為豫章太守。遣吏征問。昔兒阿奴所在。家云。助東家作屋。墮楝亡沒。出幽明錄

This tale is also transmitted in the anonymous early to mid-fourteenth-century collection 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), with substantial variations in detail:

Life And Death Predestined 生死前定

When Chen Zhongju was poor and humble, he stayed in the household of a Huang Shen in Jiujiang. One night, when Shen’s wife gave birth, someone knocked at the door, and, when questioned, they replied: “Within the gates is a person of eminence; I must not step forward, but should follow the back gate in going.” Presently he heard the stranger return, and the people inside asked: “Did she have a boy or a girl?” The stranger replied: “She had a boy, named Anu, who on reaching fifteen sui will fall to the ground and die during the construction of a house.” Zhongju made a mental note of this. Fifteen years later he was serving as prefectural chief for Yuzhang, and sent a messenger to ask at the house after the child Anu. He reported: “He was helping the master to build a house when the ridgepole fell and he was killed.” Zhongju did indeed subsequently achieve great eminence.

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), 前1.41 (Tale 74):

生死前定

陳仲舉微時,宿九江黃申家。申婦夜產,有扣門者,聞應云:「門裏有貴人,不可前,宜從後門往。」俄聞往者還,門內者問云:「生男或女?」答曰:「生男,名阿奴,當十五歲為人作屋落地死。」仲舉默記之。後十五年為豫章太守,遣吏問昔兒阿奴所在家,云:「助東家作屋墮棟而死。」仲舉後果大貴。

[1] This refers to the Eastern Han official Chen Fan 陳蕃 (d. 168 CE), courtesy name Zhongju 仲舉, who rose to serve as Grand Mentor (taifu 太傅), but died in prison during factional struggles at the court. See his lengthy biography at Houhanshu 66.2159-71.

Gongsun Da 公孫達

During the Ganlu era,[1] Gongsun Da of Renchen died in office at Chen Prefecture. When they were about to prepare him for burial, his sons, together with the prefectural clerks, numbering several dozen people, were approaching the funeral scene when his five-year-old son began to speak in tongues, sounding just like his father. He scolded the people gathered for only weeping, and then called out to all his sons as a further warning. His sons and the rest were unable to control their grief, so he comforted and encouraged them:

The fortune of the four seasons,

Still has beginning and end.

Human life may be cut short,

Who can avoid this fate?

If the tongue makes a thousand words,

All should accord with the hidden meaning.

His sons questioned him again: “Nothing is known of any who have died. The intelligence of Your Excellency is a unique exception. Are there deities and spirits?” He replied: “The matter of spirits and deities is beyond your knowledge.” He then requested paper and brush, and he wrote. Having filled the page with meaningful poetry, he tossed it to the ground and died.

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, 316.2499:

公孫達

任城公孫達。甘露中。陳郡卒官。將斂。兒及郡吏數十人臨喪。達五歲兒。忽作靈語。音聲如父。呵衆人哭止。因呼諸子。以次教誡。兒等悲哀不能自勝。及慰勉之曰。四時之運。猶有始終。人修短殊。誰不致此。語千餘言。皆合文章。兒又問曰。人亡皆無所知。唯大人聰明殊特。有神靈耶。答曰。鬼神之事。非爾所知也。因索紙筆作書。辭義滿紙。投地遂絕。出列異傳

[1] The Ganlu 甘露 era could refer to either 53-50 BCE, 254-59 CE, 265-66 CE, or 359-64 CE.

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

Zhu Yanshou 朱延壽

In his latter years, the governor of Shouzhou Zhu Yanshou was once bathing in his chamber when he saw two people outside his window. Both had dark faces, vermillion hair and black robes, and grasped books in their hands. One of them said: “I have accepted an order [2797] to come and fetch him.” Another said: “I too have accepted an order to come and fetch him.” One said: “I received the order first.” Yanshou then called out to those attending him. The pair immediately vanished. When his attendants arrived, they all said there had not been anyone there at all. Before long, he was dead.

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, 353.2796-97:

朱延壽

壽州刺史朱延壽。末年。浴於室中。窺見窗外有二人。皆青面朱髮青衣。手執文書。一人曰。我受命 [2797] 來取。一人曰。我亦受命來取。一人又曰。我受命在前。延壽因呼侍者。二人即滅。侍者至。問外有何人。皆云無人。俄而被殺。出稽神錄

The Monk Da An 大安和尚

During the reign of Tang Zetian (i.e., Wu Zetian, r. 690-705 CE), there was a woman who called herself Saint Bodhisattva. Wherever a person’s mind went, this woman would always know. The Empress Dowager summoned her to court, and everything she said before and after were verified, so she was served with great respect in the palace. After several months, she came to be called the True Bodhisattva. After that the monk Da An entered the palace. The Empress Dowager asked him whether or not he had met the female Bodhisattva. An replied: “Where is the Bodhisattva? I would like to see her.” It was decreed that they should meet. The monk took on a lofty and distant demeanour. After a long pause, Dan An asked: “If you have skill in mental contemplation, try and see. Where is my mind?” The answer came: “The master’s mind is among the bells by the nine rings at the top of the pagoda.” After a little while, he asked again. She said: “Listening to the Dharma in the Tushita Maitreya Temple.” When he asked for a third time, he was beyond thinking or not-thinking. All were as she said. The Empress Dowager was delighted. Da An therefore placed his mind among the land of the four Arhat saints, and so she was not able to find it. Da An scolded the woman: “My mind was placed in the place of the Arhats, and you were no longer able to find it. If you were among the Bodhisattvas, how could this be the case?” The woman said she submitted, but then transformed into a female fox, descended the stairs and departed; nobody knows where she went.

From Guangyiji.

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), ix, 447.3660:

大安和尚

唐則天在位,有女人自稱聖菩薩。人心所在,女必知之。太后召入宮,前後所言皆驗,宮中敬事之。數月,謂為真菩薩。其後大安和尚入宮,太后問見女菩薩未?安曰:「菩薩何在?願一見之。」敕令與之相見。和尚風神邈然。久之,大安曰:「汝善觀心,試觀我心安在?」答曰:「師心在塔頭相輪邊鈴中。」尋復問之。曰:「在兜率天彌勒宮中聽法。」第三問之,在非非想天。「皆如其言。太后忻悅。大安因且置心於四果阿羅漢地,則不能知。大安呵曰:「我心始置阿羅漢之地,汝已不知。若置于菩薩諸佛之地,何由可料!」女詞屈,變作牝狐,下階而走,不知所適。出廣異記

*Translation edited after feedback from Ofer Waldman – thanks Ofer!*

Zhang Jian 張簡

Teaching Assistant to the Tang Imperial Academy Zhang Jian was from Koushi in Henan. He once gave a lecture at a provincial school on ‘Selected Literature’. A fox sprite took on Jian’s form, delivered a lecture on a book, and then departed. When Jian arrived soon after, his pupils were bewildered and asked him about it. Jian was surprised and said: “The former must have been a fox sprite.” He cancelled the lecture and returned to his rooms. He saw his younger sister sitting winding silk, and she spoke to Jian: “The food I have just cooked is cold; why has elder brother come so late?” Jian seated himself but after waiting for a long time his food still didn’t arrive. He reproached his sister, but she said: “I didn’t see you arrive in the first place; it must have been that fox sprite. If we see it again, kill it!” He came back the next day. He saw his younger sister sitting winding silk, and she spoke to Jian: “The demon has just gone behind the rooms.” Jian took up a cudgel. He saw his real younger sister emerging from the toilet, and attacked her. His sister screamed “It’s me!” Jian did not believe her, and he beat her to death. When he went to ask the silk-winder, she immediately turned into a fox and departed.

From Chaoye qianzai.

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), ix, 447.3658:

張簡

唐國子監助教張簡,河南緱氏人也。曾為鄉學講《文選》。有野狐假簡形,講一紙書而去。須臾簡至,弟子怪問之。簡異曰:「前來者必野狐也。」講罷歸舍,見妹坐絡絲,謂簡曰:「適煮菜冷,兄來何遲?」簡坐,久待不至,乃責其妹。妹曰:「元不見兄來,此必是野狐也。更見即殺之!」明日又來。見妹坐絡絲,謂簡曰:「鬼魅適向舍後。」簡遂持棒。見真妹從廁上出來,遂擊之。妹號叫曰:「是兒。」簡不信,因擊殺之。問絡絲者,化為野狐而走。出朝野僉載

A Fox-Dragon 狐龍

Beneath Lishan there was a white fox. It startled and bothered the people below the peak, but they were unable to get rid of it. One day during the Tang Ganfu era (874-80 CE), it suddenly took a bath in a hot spring. Before long, clouds arose and mists bubbled up, and a violent wind began to blow. It transformed into a white dragon, ascended the clouds and departed. For some time afterwards there was dark and gloom, and people frequently saw the white dragon soaring over the mountain’s flanks. This continued for three years. Then an old man appeared, approaching each night and weeping before the peak. After several days people waited for him and asked him why. The old man said: “My Fox-Dragon is dead. That is the reason.” They asked him why he called it a fox-dragon, and again why he wept. The old man said: “The fox-dragon was a fox and became a dragon. After three years it died. I am the fox-dragon’s son.” The people questioned him again, asking: “How can a fox turn into a dragon?” The old man replied: “This fox grew endowed with the vital energy of the west, its whiskers white in colour. It did not travel with the crowds, did not join with its vicinity. The fox was entrusted with the skirts of Lishan for more than a thousand years. Later, it happened to unite with a female dragon. The heavens were aware of this, and so decreed it become a dragon, and also that, like a human, it could leave the mortal plane and become a sage.” When he had finished speaking he vanished.

From Qishiji.

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), x, 455.3718:

狐龍

驪山下有一白狐。驚撓山下人。不能去除。唐乾符中。忽一日突溫泉自浴。須臾之間。雲蒸霧湧。狂風大起。化一白龍。昇天而去。後或陰暗。往往有人見白龍飛騰山畔。如此三年。忽有一老父。每臨夜。即哭於山前。數日。人乃伺而問其故。老父曰。我狐龍死。故哭爾。人問之。何以名狐龍。老父又何哭也。老父曰。狐龍者。自狐而成龍。三年而死。我狐龍之子也。人又問曰。狐何能化為龍。老父曰。此狐也。稟西方之正氣而生。胡白色。不與衆遊。不與近處。狐託於驪山下千餘年。後偶合於雌龍。上天知之。遂命為龍。亦猶人間自凡而成聖耳。言訖而滅。

出奇事記