An Honest Heart Moves Heaven 平心感天

Chen Renfu, of Tiaolu Village, Gao’an County, resided in some wealth in a farmhouse in the village, specializing in the study of Buddhism and Daoism. Each year, in the spring, he would reserve two thousand dan of millet, and, in the fifth or sixth month of the following year, when grain was expensive, he would sell his grain at a reduced price. When the money was handed over, he’d have the buyers enter the granary themselves and would not let them take anything until the scales were perfectly level. The village all called him ‘Chen Weigh-It-Yourself’. At that time there was a terrible drought; the prefectural chief prayed for relief, but without result. One night he dreamed that the town god said: “Chen Weigh-It-Yourself has the rain.” When he awoke from the dream, he sent servants to seek a meeting at the prefecture offices. On seeing him, he was delighted, preparing candles and incense, having monks chant sutras and ordering them to pray for his longevity. Chen said: “Your servant is just a villager, lacking any skill with which to pray for rain.” The prefectural chief told him about the dream, and urged him strongly. Chen had no choice but to light incense and turn his face to heaven, praying earnestly and begging for three days of continuous heavy rain to relieve somewhat the worry and pain of the populace. When evening fell there was indeed a great rainfall, which only stopped after three days, and the people of the prefecture were all delighted. This benevolent elder’s daily reduction of grain prices was enough to move the heavens.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.108 (Tale 189):

平心感天

高安縣調露鄉陳仁父,居村田宅稍富,專事釋老之學。每年春留穀二千石,至次年五六月米貴之時,減價發糶,既交錢,令糴者自入倉內量出,不許多取,務要兩平。一村稱之曰「陳自量」。時大旱,太守祈求不應,夜夢城隍曰:「調露鄉陳自量有雨。」夢覺,差人尋訪赴郡。太守見之,喜具香燭,僧道誦經,就令祈禱。陳曰:「某村夫,無術可以祈雨。」太守以所夢事告,強之。陳不免炷香,對空而禱,乞降霖雨三日,以濟焦沽(「沽」,疑當作「枯」。)少甦民望。至晚果大雨,三日方止,一郡之人皆悅。蓋仁父平日減米價,足以感天也。

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).

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Heavenly Wrath On Corrupt Officials 天譴墨吏

At the beginning of the Tang Zhenguan era (627-49 CE), the Director of Danyang, Wang Qiong, was summoned and dismissed in his third year. Qiong was extremely resentful, and took a great deal of money, visiting the Maoshan Daoist Ye Lingzhong, and seeking a memorial to the throne that would predict the future. Lingzhong was ninety years old, and, when forced to produce the petition, the paper floated up on incense smoke and disappeared into the mists. Soon after it fell back to the ground, with a note in red ink added to the end: “Accepting a hundred liang of gold, taking three years’ salary, murdering two people; these will be resolved after death.” One year later, Qiong died suddenly without illness.

上1.16 (Tale 85):

天譴墨吏

唐貞觀初,丹陽令王瓊,三年調集,遭黜。瓊甚憤惋,乃齎百千,詣茅山道士葉靈中,求章奏以問吉凶。靈中年九十,強為奏之,其章隨香烟飛上,縹渺不見。食頃復墮地,有朱書批其末,云:「受金百兩,折祿三年;枉殺二人,死後處斷。」一歲,瓊無疾暴卒。

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 version of the same tale, showing several variations, is found in the Taiping Guangji:

Ye Xuzhong 葉虛中

At the beginning of the Tang Zhenguan era (627-49 CE), the Director of Danyang, Wang Qiong, was summoned and dismissed in his third year. He was extremely resentful, and visited the Maoshan Daoist Ye Xuzhong, seeking a memorial to the throne that would predict the future. Xuzhong was over ninety years old, and, when forced to produce the petition, the paper floated up on incense smoke and disappeared into the mists. Soon after it fell back to the ground, with a note in red ink added to the end: “Accepting a hundred liang of gold, taking three years’ salary, murdering two people; these will be resolved after death.” One year later, Qiong did indeed meet a sudden end. From Duyizhi.

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), ii, 73.456-57:

葉虛中

唐貞觀初。丹陽令王瓊。三年調集。皆黜落。甚憤惋。乃齋宿于茅山道士葉虛中。求奏章以問吉凶。虛中年九十餘。彊為奏之。其章隨香煙飛上。縹渺不見。食頃復墮地。有朱書批其末云。受金百兩。折 [457] 祿三年。枉殺二人。死後處分。後一歲。瓊果得暴疾終。出獨異志

The Celestial Master Executes A Serpent 天師誅蛇

In Dongyang County, in Wuzhou, there was a Guo Langzhong, whose family depended on and lived among the mountains. The crags and rocks were steep and dangerous, the trees and forests deep and thick, and there were often great serpents that became demons that people were unable to deal with. Guo had a daughter, sixteen sui in age and of great beauty, who suddenly vanished and could not be found. Her parents suspected she had been deluded by a ghost, and thought about her endlessly, morning and night, sending people to offer incense and a letter to Longhushan, to call on and request help from the Guanmiao Celestial Master. The master intended to set off the next day, and that night dreamed that the school’s founder spoke to him: “You should not go; I will sort this out myself.” Suddenly, one day, there was a person of religion who arrived at the Guo household, and calling on him asked: “What matter disturbs your family?” Guo replied with the matter of his missing daughter. The person of religion said: “I have the power of the Way; you should send people after me to seek her.” They then sent people following after him, and on reaching the hills behind the house [163] he ordered the people to close their eyes, listen for his cry, and then open their eyes. When the cry came, they opened their eyes to see flames erupt from the hillside, with a great serpent burning among them, and the girl standing before it. On questioning, it emerged that the serpent had become a bewitching spirit. The demon then died. The religious then gave the girl an amulet to wear, and she regained her former peace.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.162-63 (Tale 282):

天師誅蛇

婺州東陽縣有郭郎中,家依山而居,山石險峻,樹林深密,常有大蛇為妖,人所不能治。郭有一女年十六歲,容貌甚麗,忽尋不見。父母疑為祟所惑,朝夕思慕不已,遣人齎香信詣龍虎山,迎請觀妙天師救治。師欲翌日起(「起」,明刻本、明抄本作「啟」。)行,是夜(「夜」作「以」,據明刻本、明抄本改。)夢祖師云:「汝毋往,吾將自治之。」忽一日,有〔道〕(據明刻本、明抄本補。)人到郭家,謁問之曰:「爾家中有何憂事?」郭以失女事對。道人曰:「我有道法,爾當遣人隨我尋之。」遂遣人隨去,至屋後 [163] 山中,令其人閉目,謂聞喝聲即開。及喝一聲,開目見山中火發,焚一大蛇於中,女立于前。詢之,乃此蛇為魅。其怪遂絕。道人乃給符與女服,獲安如故。

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).

Celestial Grandmas Sell Medicine 仙姥貨藥

In Xiangtan there lived a Mr Zhou; his wife having been ill for two years, he sought medicines and asked the gods, but in his ignorance this had not the slightest effect, and eventually he just burned night-incense and prayed. One day, two women wearing dark robes came to his gate selling medicine; they withdrew, saying: “We specialize in women’s medicine.” Zhou hurriedly invited them in, requesting that they take her pulse and treat the illness. The women said: “There is no need for examination, but we ask for a light to illuminate her.” After they had looked, they said: “Why has she not taken the Jiyin pills made by Lady Wei of Nanyue?” Zhou asked: “How could a single pill relieve two years of illness?” The women replied: “Try it and see.” They opened a medicine pouch, handing over a pill and ordering that it be swallowed with warm wine. As the medicine approached her mouth, it released an unusually delicious fragrance, and the illness was subsequently [143] entirely shrugged off. The patient then asked to dress and go out to give thanks, but the two women had suddenly vanished.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.142-43 (Tale 250):

仙姥貨藥

湘潭有周某者,妻病已兩年,求醫問神,茫無寸效,惟燒夜香祈禱而已。一日,有兩婦人青衣登門貨藥,卻云:「專醫婦人。」周急延之,請診脈治病。婦人曰:「不須診,但借火一照可也。」見訖,云:「何不服南嶽魏夫人濟陰丹?」周曰:「容修合。」婦人曰:「自送一丸。」周曰:「一丸豈能療兩年之病?」婦人曰:「試服。」開藥包,以一丸授之,令溫酒嚥下。藥纔到口,香味異常,其病隨 [143] 即如脫。病者即求攬衣出謝,而兩婦人忽亦不見矣。

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).

Immortal Lü Brings Enlightenment 呂仙教化

During the Song Jingding era (1260-64), the family of Qian Yan, guard commander for Shaowu, had a shop selling incense and spirit money, and often gave alms to mendicant monks, always contributing one copper dangsanqian (‘worth three’) coin, and never skimping, showing weariness or forgetting. One day, as they rose at dawn to open the shop, there was a religious holding a palm-leaf fan who came to the gate to receive alms. He happened to meet Yan’s wife, who, being angry owing to an unrelated matter, and showing this in words and expression, threw two dangsanqian coins onto the fan, from which they then fell on the floor. The religious trampled them underfoot, without even a turn of the head, and departed as if floating on air. When Yan himself emerged to pick up the coins, they were bonded to the cobblestone, and even using all his strength he was quite unable to shift them. The onlookers were shocked and marveled at this, and hurried to find the religious, who had vanished without a trace. When they scooped out the cobble using a pickaxe, a poem was found inscribed on the back:

The Master’s great vow spans the cosmos,

Until today it has encountered no boundary.

Intending with special purpose to return once more,

Pity the lady Yan whose character hampers immortals.

The cobblestone is now in the city god’s temple and can be inspected.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.129 (Tale 224):

呂仙教化

宋景定年間,邵武軍衛(「衛」,明抄本作「衙」。)前殷家香紙店,常供雲水道人,每緣(「緣」明刻本、明抄本作「員」。)奉銅當三錢一个,未嘗少倦忽。一日,早起開店,有道人持椶扇,登門結緣,適逢殷家婦人以他事遷怒,形於辭色,連以兩枚當三錢擲在椶扇中,遂流於地。道人以足踐之,更不回顧,飄然而去。殷自出拾起元錢,則固結於磚上,用力亦不能動矣。觀者駭異,急尋訪道人,已杳然不見。復將鋤頭連磚穵出,見磚背有詩曰:「先生大願度三千,直到如今不得緣。得得此來還有意,可憐殷氏骨難仙。」今此石砌在城隍廟中,可考。

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 Clam Reveals Its Power 蛤蜊顯聖

When Chancellor Shi attained power, the governor of the capital selected a tray of clams as an offering. That night the gentleman saw a gleam of light emerging from one clam among the others in the tray. Picking up and examining it, he realized it was quite unlike the others, and when struck it would not crack open. The gentleman suspected that it was a marvel, so placed it on a table, burned incense and prayed to it. Presently the clam cracked open of its own accord, revealing two people, their faces and eyebrows dignified and handsome, bodies and physiques extremely beautiful, hair in buns, hair tasseled and ornamented, wearing lotus-flower shoes, just like those statues people in this world devote to the servants of the Buddha. The gentleman then had a temple grotto carved from various fragrant woods, and to calm their spirits added ornamentation of gold and jade, until the brightness dazzled the eye. He ordered the gathered monks to take them into the Buddhist monastery and attend to them. It is not known how all of this finished.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.267 (Tale 485):

蛤蜊顯聖

史丞相當國,京尹選大蛤蜊一盤以獻。是夜公見盤中一蛤蜊有光,取而視之,獨異其他,劈而不裂。公疑異之,取而致几上,焚香祝之。俄頃蛤自裂開,中有二人,形眉端秀,體格悉備,螺髻纓絡,足履蓮花,與人世所事佛像一般。公遂以諸香木刻成巖殿,以安其神,加以金玉為飾,光耀奪目,令衆僧送入佛寺安奉,後不知所終。

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 Python Spirit Becomes A Demon 蟒精為妖

In Nanzhong there is the Xuanxian place for offerings, at the foot of a steep and rocky precipice, and at the top of that is a stony grotto cave. Tradition has it that this was the residence of supernatural beings, and at times it is shrouded and hidden by clouds and mist. Students of the Way often built houses beneath it, and would see an immortal manifest before them, saying: “Every year on the Zhongyuan day (the Ghost Festival; the fifteenth day of the seventh month), you should select a person of virtuous conduct at the altar, and they will then ascend as an immortal.” At this all of those who studied the way and admired immortals gathered together there. When the time came, people from near and far congregated beneath the altar, holding incense, gazing at the cave mouth and praying. Afterwards, a person of moral virtue was selected from among the crowd, dressed and capped spotlessly, and stood still on the dais for a long time, eventually ascending, at which the remainder were all left dejected, saying goodbye and leaving. Then a multi-coloured auspicious cloud gathered, extending from the cave over to the altar. The virtuous person, robe and hat quite still, rode the cloud and ascended to the grotto’s entrance, where a great scarlet lantern guided their way. The spectators without exception wept and snivelled in admiration and envy, gazing into the distance and making obeisance. This continued for several years, and none were chosen whose lack of virtue or destiny in the Way provoked resentment.

The next year, the crowd chose someone of great age, and just as he ascended, a person of the Way said that he had come from Wudangshan to take up residence at a monastery, and asked what was going on; everything was explained to him. The monk sighed in admiration of this, and said: “Ascension as an immortal, now, [260] who would have thought it could be so easy? In the void there must, however, be noble spirits among the strong celestial winds, and one must be able to intercept them. I have a token which can protect against this; please place it on your chest, and be careful not to lose it.” The virtuous one placed it on his chest, and was delighted. When the time came the multi-coloured cloud wound around his feet, and he gradually ascended.

The following day, the monk sent his people to the edge of the cliff, in order to look into the cave. There they saw the levitated person lying emaciated and haggard as if suffering from serious illness, breathing with difficulty and eventually just about able to speak. When questioned, he said: “Just as I reached the cave mouth, I caught sight of a huge python, spitting a haze that became clouds, with two eyes like fires. Just as it opened its jaws, intending to swallow me, there came a sudden quaking of wind and storm, striking it dead at the edge of the cavern.” When they looked, it was a python of several arm spans around, dozens of zhang (3.3m) in length. Moreover, there were skeletons piled up around the cave, which were the bones of the levitated people. The multi-coloured cloud was the python’s poisoned breath, and the scarlet lantern its glowing eyes.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.259-60 (Tale 471):

蟒精為妖

南中有選仙道場,在一峭崖石壁之下,其絕頂石洞穴,相傳以為神仙之窟宅,時有雲氣蒙藹。常有學道之人築室於下,見一仙人現前,曰:「每年中元日,宜推選有德行之人祭壇,當得上昇為仙。」於是學道慕仙之人咸萃於彼。至期,遠近之人齎香赴壇下,遙望洞門祝禱,而後衆推道德高者一人,嚴潔衣冠,佇立壇上,以候上昇,餘皆慘然訣別而退。於時有五色祥雲油然,自洞而至壇場。其道高者,衣冠不動,躡雲而昇至洞門,則有大紅紗燈籠引導。觀者靡不涕泗健羨,遙望作禮。如是者數年,人皆以為道緣德薄,未得應選為恨。至次年,衆又推舉一年高者,方上昇間,忽一道人云自武當山來掛搭,問其所以,具以實對。道人亦嗟羨之,曰:「上昇為仙, [260] 豈容易得?但虛空之中有剛風浩氣,必能遏截。吾有一符能禦之,請置於懷,慎勿遺失。」道德高者懷之,喜甚。至時果有五色祥雲捧足,冉冉而昇。踰日,道人遣其衆緣崖登視洞穴,見飛昇之人形容枯槁,橫卧於上,若重病者,奄奄氣息,久方能言。問之,則曰:「初至洞門,見一巨蟒,吐氣成雲,兩眼如火,方開口欲吞啗間,忽風雷大震,霹死於洞畔。」視之,蟒大數圍,長數十丈,又有骸骨積於巖穴之間,乃前後上昇者骨也。蓋五色雲者,乃蟒之毒氣也;紅紗燈籠者,蟒之眼光也。

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).