Master Ren Of Wu 吳任生

Master Ren, from Wu Prefecture, was skilled at spotting spirits, and his cottage was on Dongtingshan. He often looked like a young boy, and, according to the custom of Wu and Chu, none knew his birthdate. During the Baoli era (825-26 CE), there was a youth, surnamed Yang, the son of a Qiankunshan military officer, who was living apart in Wu Prefecture. He would often, of a daytime, meet a few people of a similar age and go boating together.

When they went to the Huqiu Temple, Master Ren was in the boat with them. Their talk touched on spirits and deities, and Master Yang said: “People and spirits leave different traces. Because spirits have died they cannot be seen.” Master Ren laughed: “Spirits are extremely numerous. People are just unable to recognise them. Only I can pick them out.” They turned to look at a woman, dressed in dark robes, holding a small boy and walking along the bank. The Master pointed and said: “This is a spirit. The thing she is embracing is nothing more than the ethereal soul of an infant.” Yang said: “But then how can you tell that she is a spirit?” The Master replied: “So the gentleman thinks I’m all talk?” He then called out in a stern voice: “You are a spirit. Have you stolen the child of a living person?” When the woman heard this she was terrified, and started to hurry back the way she had come. Before she had taken more than a few dozen steps, she vanished. Master Yang was both impressed and astonished.

When evening came, they returned. Several dozen li from the city walls there was a house on the riverbank, with mats laid out for a feast. There was a sorceress, who encouraged them to take seats at her left, and libations were made to the deities. Master Yang and Master Ren both asked her about this, and the sorceress told them: “Today a villager’s baby died of a sudden illness, but now it has revived so we are holding a banquet in gratitude.” They then ordered that the child be brought out for them to see, and it was indeed the infant that the woman had been carrying. The guests were all amazed and alarmed at this, and thanked Master Ren, saying: “The gentleman is truly an adept of the Way; we had no idea!”

From Xuanshizhi.

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, 347.2746:

吳任生

吳郡任生者。善視鬼。廬於洞庭山。貌常若童兒。吳楚之俗。莫能究其甲子。寶曆中。有前崑山尉楊氏子。僑居吳郡。常一日。里中三數輩。相與泛舟。俱遊虎丘寺。時任生在舟中。且語及鬼神事。楊生曰。人鬼殊迹。故鬼卒不可見矣。任生笑曰。鬼甚多。人不能識耳。我獨識之。然顧一婦人。衣青衣。擁豎兒。步於岸。生指語曰。此鬼也。其擁者乃嬰兒之〈之原作也。據明鈔本改。〉生魂耳。楊曰。然則何以辨其鬼耶。生曰。君第觀我與語。即厲聲呼曰。爾鬼也。竊生人之子乎。其婦人聞而驚懾。遂疾廻去。步未十數。遽亡見矣。楊生且歎且異。及晚還。去郭數里。岸傍一家。陳筵席。有女巫。鼓舞於其左。乃醮神也。楊生與任生俱問之。巫曰。今日里中人有嬰兒暴卒。今則寤矣。故設筵以謝。遂命出嬰兒以視。則真婦人所擁者。諸客驚歎之。謝任生曰。先生真道術者。吾不得而知也。出宣室志

Chen Deyu 陳德遇

In a xinhai year, the collaborator official to the Jiangnan Treasury Chen Jurang, courtesy name Deyu, spent nights in the treasury. His wife remained at home. At the beginning of the fifth watch (around 3am), she suddenly dreamed that two clerks, carrying documents in their hands, emerged from their gate and entered, asking whether that was the household of Chen Deyu. She said: “Indeed.” “Where is Deyu?” “At the treasury.” The clerks were about to depart, but his wife followed and called to them: “My husband’s courtesy name is Deyu, that’s all. There is an official of the Treasury of Court Vestments named Chen Deyu, and his house is nearby at Dongqu.” The two clerks looked at one another and exclaimed: “There have been some errors!” They then left. Soon after, Deyu arose one morning and went to the toilet. He remarked to himself that he had become ill, and went back to bed. Some time after that he died. The two men both lived to the west of the administrative centre.

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:

陳德遇

辛亥歲。江南偽右藏庫官陳居讓字德遇。直宿庫中。其妻在家。五更初。忽夢二吏。手把文書。自門而入。問此陳德遇家耶。曰。然。德遇何在。曰。在庫中。吏將去。妻追呼之曰。家夫〈夫原作父。據明鈔本、許本改。〉字德遇耳。有主衣庫官陳德遇者。家近在東曲。二吏相視而嘻曰。幾誤矣。遂去。邇日。德遇晨起如廁。自云有疾。還臥。良久遂卒。二人並居治城之西。出稽神錄

Huang Yanrang 黃延讓

The Jiankang clerk Huang Yanrang once held a drinking party at home. When night fell his guests dispersed. He was not very drunk, but suddenly felt his body start to float, and flew away, unable to stop himself. After travelling for what was likely more than ten li, he reached a large mansion. All was still and nobody was around. Before the house was a small building. Within this building was a bed; Yanrang was extremely tired, so lay down upon it. When he awoke, he was lying among grasses before Jiangshan, beyond the Zhongcheng moat. Due to his distracted state he fell ill, and it was more than a year before he recovered.

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:

黃延讓

建康吏黃延讓嘗飲酒於親家。迨夜而散。不甚醉。恍然而身浮。飄飄而行。不能自制。行可十數里。至一大宅。寂然無人。堂前有一小房。房中有牀。延讓困甚。因寢牀上。及寤。乃在蔣山前草間。踰重城複塹矣。因恍惚得疾。歲餘乃愈。出稽神錄

A Qingzhou Traveller 青州客

During the Later Liang (907-23 CE), a traveller from Qingzhou encountered a gale while crossing the sea. Blown to a very distant place, when he looked into the distance he could make out mountains and rivers and a walled city. A veteran sailor told him: “We have been seized by the wind. I have never been here before, but have heard that the realm of the spirits is in these parts. Could this be it?” After a little while, their boat reached land, so he climbed onto the shore and set off towards the settlement. The houses and residences, fields and plots showed no difference from those of the Middle Realm. Whenever he saw people he bowed to them, but none of those people seemed to notice him. When he reached the town walls, there was a custodian at the gates. When bowed to, he likewise failed to respond. He entered the town, and all of the buildings and people were very dark in colour. When he reached the royal palace, a great banquet was taking place, with several dozen of the monarch’s attendants waiting on the feast. Their robes, hats, utensils, musical instruments and furnishings were diverse, but all of Chinese styles. Ke therefore ascended the hall, and approached close to the king’s seat in order to catch a glimpse of him. Suddenly, however, the king fell ill. His retinue held him up and withdrew him from the room, urgently summoning a shaman to make an examination. When the shaman arrived, he declared: “Someone has arrived from a yang region. Their yang energy presses on the people, and this is the cause of the monarch’s illness. They came here inadvertently, without intending to haunt us. They should be sent away thankfully, with food, drink, carts and horses. This is appropriate.” They then supplied wine and a meal, laying out seats in another chamber. The shaman gathered the group of ministers, and all made prayers and offerings, and Ke ate accordingly. Shortly after, a coachman arrived driving horses. [2796] Ke then mounted a horse and returned, arriving at the shore and boarding the ship, the people of that realm never once having caught sight of him. They caught a favourable wind once more, and managed to return home. At that time He Dejian was military governor of Qingzhou, and was close to Weibo’s military governor Yang Shihou, so sent this Ke to serve Wei. He told Shihou his tale, and Fan Xuangu from Wei heard it in person and informed your servant.

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, 353.2795-96:

青州客

朱梁時。青州有賈客泛海遇風。飄至一處。遠望有山川城郭。海師曰。自頃遭風者。未嘗至此。吾聞鬼國在是。得非此耶。頃之。舟至岸。因登岸。向城而去。其廬舍田畝。不殊中國。見人皆揖之。而人皆不見已。至城。有守門者。揖之。亦不應。入城。屋室人物甚殷。遂至王宮。正值大宴。君臣侍宴者數十。其衣冠器用絲竹陳設之類。多類中國。客因升殿。俯逼王坐以窺之。俄而王有疾。左右扶還。亟召巫者視之。巫至。有陽地人至此。陽氣逼人。故王病。其人偶來爾。無心為祟。以飲食車馬謝遣之。可矣。即具酒食。設座於別室。巫及其羣臣。皆來祀祝。客據按而食。俄有僕夫馭馬而至。 [2796] 客亦乘馬而歸。至岸登舟。國人竟不見己。復遇便風得歸。時賀德儉為青州節度。與魏博節度楊師厚有親。因遣此客使魏。其為師厚言之。魏人范宣古。親聞其事。為余言。出稽神錄

Zheng Zong 鄭總

Because his concubine had fallen ill the Jinshi scholar Zheng Zong did not want to sit the civil examination. The concubine told him: “You must not abandon your chance for a woman.” As she was so determined in her request, Zong thus entered the capital. That spring he failed the examinations and returned east. When he got home his concubine had died. Ten months after her burial, late at night, he happened not to have gone to bed, and heard the noise of someone moving outside the room. When he opened the door to look, it turned out to be his dead concubine. He invited her into the room, sat her down, and asked what it was that she needed. She only wanted tea, so Zong personally boiled some for her. When she had finished sipping it, Zong, because their young children were sleeping, asked whether she wanted to go together and see them. The concubine said: “We must not. They are young, and I fear it could be a shock.” When she had finished speaking she said farewell, and, as soon as she reached the threshold, vanished.

From Wenqilu.

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, 352.2786:

鄭總

進士鄭總。以妾病。欲不赴舉。妾曰。不可為一婦人而廢舉。固請之。總遂入京。其春下第東歸。及家妾卒。既葬旬月後。夜深。偶未〈未原作來據明抄本改。〉寢。聞室外有人行聲。開戶觀之。乃亡妾也。召入室而坐。問其所要。但求好茶。總自烹與之。啜訖。總以小兒女也睡。欲呼與相見。妾曰。不可。渠年小。恐驚之。言訖辭去。才出戶。不見。出聞奇錄

Fang Qianli 房千里

Outside the south gate of Chunzhou stood a residence for nether world officials. When Fang Qianli was dismissed from office he sought treatment in that prefecture, and the governor assigned him to the residence. In the eastern wing there was an inner chamber. A servant was once snoozing there, when suddenly a red-robed man, of very imposing build, came straight up before him. The servant fled in panic, and informed Qianli. After one or two nights, this happened again. Qianli did not believe him, but no longer sent him to the room. After several months had passed, he moved to the Brook Pavilion. He again entrusted the eastern chamber to clerks for their rest. In broad daylight, one of them saw a boy, draped in an ancient gauzy robe and hurrying towards him. It said: “You will not stay here long.” The clerk fled the house in panic. All of this was related to the subordinate officials. An elderly general, Lu Jianzong, said: “During the Yuanhe era (806-20 CE), they punished Master Li. His travels having been brought to an end he was banished to this prefecture, and instructed to commit suicide right here.” The clerk’s report did not omit any of this.

From Touhuangzalu.

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, 351.2780

房千里

春州南門外有仙署館。館中有盧公亭。房千里貶官。尋醫于斯(斯原作新。據明鈔本改。)州。太守館之於是。東廂有內室。僕夫假寐。忽有朱衣人。甚魁偉。直來其前。僕輩驚走。告千里。既一二夕。又然。千里不信。然不復置于室內。後累月。徒居溪亭。復有假掾吏寄與東室。晝日。見一男子披紗裳。屣履而來。曰。若無久駐此。掾驚出戶。俱以狀白於僚吏。有老牙門將陸建宗曰。元和中。誅李師道。其從事陸行儉流于是州。賜死於是。掾所白之狀。(狀原作將。據明抄本改。)果省不謬。出投荒雜錄

Li Zhong 李重

In the fifth year Dazhong (851),[1] the Investigating Secretary-General in charge of the Heyin Iron and Salt Production Li Zhong was dismissed from office, and went to live in Hedong Prefecture. He fell ill, and over a ten-day period this illness became ever more serious, as he sank deeply into his bed. One evening, he told his servant: “I am ill and unable to rise.” He then ordered that the door be locked, but suddenly heard a rustling sound within the room. Zhong looked towards it, and saw a man in a deep red robe. It was Cai Xingji, Governor of Hexi. There was also another person, dressed in a folded white robe, standing behind him. Zhong was on good terms with Xingji, but was surprised, and said: “Censor Cai has arrived!” He ordered that they be invited up, and both, including the person in white, sat down. Before long, he saw that Xingji’s body was gradually growing, hands, feet, mouth and nose all increasing in size along with it. Looking hard, he realised that it was not actually Xingji. Zhong was astounded, and so called out to the Censor. Zhong then noticed that his own body [2778] had recovered somewhat and that he was able to rise. He leaned his back against the wall and sat, asking: “Your servant’s illness has gone on for ten months. Now I feel much better; how can it not have been down to this?” The other replied: “The gentleman’s illness has reached the exact point.” He then indicated the white-robed person; “This is my youngest brother. He is skilled at divination, so I had him calculate for Zhong.” The white-robed man reached into his sleeve and withdrew a small wooden ape, placing it on the divan. After a little while the ape jumped and leaped from side to side several times before standing still. The white-robed man then told him: “The divination is complete. The Secretary-General’s illness is not something to worry about. He will reach sixty-two, but there will also be calamity.” Zhong asked: “Will the Censor drink some wine?” He replied: “How could one dare not take a drink?” Zhong thus ordered wine be brought. When the cup was placed before the red-robed man, he said: “I have my own drinking vessel.” He then brought out a cup from his clothing. At first it seemed to be silver, but once filled his cup flipped and turned without cease. Looked at closely it turned out to be made of paper. The two men each emptied two full cups, then the guest returned the vessel into his robe and left. He again warned Zhong: “After the gentleman has recovered, be careful not to drink wine, or disaster will indeed find you.” Zhong thanked him and made a promise. After some time of this the pair departed. When they reached the courtyard the pair were suddenly nowhere to be seen. The outer gate was checked but it remained as firmly bolted as before. When they looked before the divan, the wine lay on the floor – it had clearly been drunk by two spirits. Zhong’s health improved from then on, but before long he went back to drinking like he had before. The following year, he was demoted to serve as Minister of War for Hangzhou.

From Xuanshizhi.

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, 351.2777-78:

李重

太中五年。檢校郎中知鹽鐵河陰院事李重罷職。居河東郡。被疾。旬日益甚。沈然在榻。一夕。告其僕曰。我病不能起矣。即令扃鍵其門。忽聞庭中窣然有聲。重視之。見一人衣緋。乃河西令蔡行己也。又有一人。衣白疊衣。在其後。重與行己善。即驚曰。蔡侍御來。因命延上。與白衣者俱坐。頃之。見行己身漸長。手足口鼻。亦隨而大焉。細視之。乃非行己也。重心異也。然因以侍御呼焉。重遂覺身 [2778] 稍可舉。即負壁而坐。問曰。某病旬月矣。今愈甚。得不中於此乎。其人曰。君之疾當間矣。即指白衣者。吾之季弟。善卜。乃命卜重。白衣者於袖中出一小木猿。置榻上。既而其猿左右跳躑。數四而定。白衣者曰。卦成矣。郎中之病。固無足憂。當至六十二。然亦有災。重曰。侍御飲酒乎。曰。安敢不飲。重遂命酒。以杯置於前。朱衣者曰。吾自有飲器。乃於衣中出一杯。初似銀。及既酌。而其杯翻翻不定。細視。乃紙為者。二人各盡二杯。已而收其杯於衣中。將去。又誡重曰。君愈之後。慎無飲酒。禍且及矣。重謝而諾之。良久遂去。至庭中。乃無所見。視其外門。扃鍵如舊。又見其榻前。酒在地。蓋二鬼所飲也。重自是病癒。既而飲酒如初。其年。謫為杭州司馬。出宣室志

[1] The Zhonghua Shuju edition has Taizhong 太中here.

Xing Qun 邢群

In the second year Dazhong (848 CE) Counsellor to the Board of Punishments Xing Qun was residing in Luozhong, having previously served as the provincial governor of Shezhou. He fell seriously ill. Qun had long been friendly with the Imperial Censor Zhu Guan. At that time Guan had left office in the Huai-Hai area to reside in Yiluo, but had then fallen ill and died. Qun was not aware of this, however. Lying down one day, he suddenly heard someone knocking on his door, so ordered it be answered. Seeing Guan arriving on horseback, Qun invited him to enter and sit. Prior to this Qun had heard that Guan had been unwell, and was delighted to see him visit. He said: “Having been informed the gentleman was ill, we express our humble concern.” Guan said: “Your servant was unwell, but has now recovered, but for the gentleman’s illness we express our humble concern. It shouldn’t be more than a day or two before you hear of me.” They talked and laughed together before he departed. When Guan called on Qun, Guan must already have been dead.

From Xuanshizhi.

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, 351.2777:

邢群

刑部員外邢群。大中二年。以前歙州刺史居洛中。疾甚。群素與御史朱琯善。時琯自淮海從事罷居伊洛。病卒。而群未知。嘗晝臥。忽聞扣門者。令視之。見琯騎而來。群即延入坐。先是群聞琯病。及見來。甚喜。曰。向聞君疾。亦無足憂。琯曰。某嘗病。今則愈矣。然君之疾。亦無足憂。不一二日。當聞耳。言笑久之。方去。琯訪群之時。乃琯卒也。出宣室志

Traitorous And Unfilial 悖逆不孝

In the village of Cunluo, in Yangzhou, within Shu, there was a man surnamed Wang who had once turned against his father and mother. People mocked him, the officials punished him, but he would not repent. One day he became seriously ill. Nearby was a temple devoted to a powerful spirit, and this addressed him in a dream: “If you approach my hall, burn incense and promise offerings, you will recover.” The betrayer dragged his exhausted body out of bed and departed. When he fell to his knees in prostration, a great snake suddenly emerged from beneath the altar. With a red crown and a black body, it was over a zhang (3.3m) in length, and wound itself around his body, keeping its head stationary before his face and licking it all the while. He cried out to the spirit for help, swearing on his life that he would never again dare to be insolent. The snake drew back, unwound itself and departed. From then on he changed resolutely into a filial son.

The unfilial are punished by the spirits, and the nether world is indeed to be feared!

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前1.21 (Tale 36):

悖逆不孝

蜀洋州村落間有姓汪者,嘗悖逆其父母,人諷之,官罪之,皆不悛。一日病甚,近有威靈廟神,夢之云:「汝可來吾祠下,燒香許祭即愈。」悖逆之人扶憊而去。方跪拜間,神坐下忽有一大蛇出,紅冠黑質,長一丈餘,絞其身,仍以頭對其面而舐之。其人遂拜告於神,誓死不敢無狀,蛇方逡巡脫去。自後痛改為孝子。不孝為神所譴,冥冥間可畏也。

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)

An Earthworm Kills 蚯蚓殺人

At the start of the Baoli era (825 CE), in Changsha there lived a Wang Sou, whose family was poor, and who made his living by tilling the soil. One day, while out in the country, he was stung by an earthworm on the upper arm. The pain he suffered from this was extreme, so he hurried back. His agony grew and became unbearable, nights spent groaning until dawn, days spent moaning to evening, and this continued for a full month. A physician stated: “This is a case of extreme poisoning. At the start of the malady, numerous medicines would have had effect. The effects having deepened, I now have no way of knowing what to do.” Several days later, the illness had grown much worse, and he suddenly heard a noise emerging from his upper arm, quiet and [3] subtle, like the crying of an earthworm. After several more days, the noise grew ever louder, like the sound of thousands crying together. His pain grew and multiplied accordingly, and that evening he finally passed away.

Zhang Du 張讀, Xuanshi Zhi 宣室志 (Stories from the Chamber of Dissemination), 1.2-3 (Tale 3):

蚯蚓殺人

寶曆初,長沙有民王叟者,家貧,營田為業。一日於野,為蚯蚓螫其臂,痛楚甚,遂馳以歸。其痛益不可忍,夜呻而曉,晝吟而夕,如是者凡旬月。有醫者云:「此受毒之甚者也。病之始,庶藥有及。狀且深矣,則吾不得而知也。」後數日,病益甚,忽聞臂中有聲,幽然而 [3] 微,若蚯蚓吟者。又數日,其聲益響,如合千萬音。其痛亦隨而多焉。是夕果卒。

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:

Wang Sou

At the start of the Baoli era (825 CE), in Changsha there lived a Wang Sou, whose family was poor, and who made his living by diligent farming. One day, while out in the country, he was stung by an earthworm on the upper arm. The pain he suffered from this was extreme, so he hurried back. His agony [3918] grew and became unbearable, nights spent groaning until dawn, days spent moaning to evening, and this continued for more than ten days. A physician stated: “This is extreme poisoning. At the start of the malady, numerous medicines would have had effect. The effects having deepened, I now have no way of knowing what to do.” Several days later, the illness had grown much worse, and he suddenly heard a noise emerging from his upper arm, quiet and subtle, like an earthworm. After several more days, the noise grew ever greater, like the sound of thousands crying together. His pain grew and multiplied accordingly, and that evening he finally passed away.

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, 476.3917-18:

王叟

寶曆初。長沙有民王叟者。家貧。力田為業。一日耕於野。為蚯蚓螫其臂。痛楚甚。遂馳以歸。其痛 [3918] 益不可忍。夜呻而曉。晝吟而夕。如是者凡旬餘。有醫者云。此毒之甚者也。病之始。庶藥有及。狀且深矣。則吾不得而知也。後數日。病益甚。忽聞臂中有聲。幽然而微。若蚯蚓者。又數日。其聲益大。如合千萬音。其痛亦隨而多焉。是夕果卒。出宣室志