Wang Chengzhi 王騁之

The wife of Wang Chengzhi, from Langxie, was from the Xie clan of Chen Prefecture. She gave birth to a son, whose childhood name was Nuzi. After a year had passed, Wang summoned one of his wife’s maids to advance as his concubine. Xie fell ill and died in the eighth year of the Yuanjia era (431 CE). Wang’s graveyard was in Guiji, so she was temporarily interred on the eastern ridge at Jiankang. After the burial, when they had completed the fanyu funerary rite, he returned quickly by sedan chair. He was leaning on a table when he was pushed from the empty air and shoved over onto the floor. An angry voice then spoke: “Why did you not sing my lament? Do you order me to depart in silence?” Chengzhi replied: “It is not a permanent burial! The rites are therefore not complete.”

From Fayuanzhulin.

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, 325.2577:



Wang Hu 王胡

Wang Hu lived under [Liu] Song rule (420-79 CE), and was from Chang’an. His paternal uncle had been dead some years when, in the twenty-third year of the Yuanjia era (446 CE), he suddenly reappeared and returned to the family home. He demanded Hu improve his conduct, in which there were defects, family affairs having been neglected. He punished Hu with five strokes of the cane. Passersby people in the neighbourhood heard both their conversation and the noise of the beating. They could also see the welts left by the cane, but could not see the manifestation, which appeared only to Hu himself. His uncle told Hu: “I did not deserve death. The tomb passage waits for my number to appear on the register of spirits. Today there will be a great gathering of officials and troops, and I fear that the village may come to harm, so I do not set out.” Hu could also make out a crowd of spirits in noise and disorder beyond the village boundary.

Presently his uncle said goodbye and departed, telling him: “I will come on the seventh day of the seventh month. This will be short visit, and I wish to take you along the roads of the nether world, to make you understand the consequences of virtue and of evil. There is no need to be extravagant in laying out offerings; tea and cakes will suffice.”

When the day came, he did indeed return. He told Hu’s family: “I’m now taking Hu to see the sights. When the trip is complete he will return. There is no reason for alarm.” Hu then felt tired and laid on his bed, then became quite still, as if he were quite dead. His uncle then took Hu deep into the mountain ranges, where they observed the various spirits and demons. Finally, they reached the highest peaks, and the various spirits spoke to Hu, and also laid out food. The produce and flavours were not so different from those in the world of the living, but the ginger was especially fresh and delicious. Hu yearned for this, and was about to return when those around him laughed and told him: “You should stay and eat this. You won’t get far anyway.”

Hu saw a further place, a vast and beautiful building, with gorgeous canopies and elegant bamboo mats. There were [2565] two young monks living in it, and when Hu arrived they laid out a great spread of fruit, betel nuts and other produce. Hu spent a long time travelling, and saw all the conequences of virtue and vice, both sweet and bitter. He then said his farewells to return, and his uncle told him: “You now understand the need to cultivate virtue. When you return home seek the white-foot āranya temple; these people are ascetics of the highest order, and you should afford them respect as your teachers.” These priests of Chang’an had white feet, and so were known to people at that time as the white-foot āranya.[1] They were shown great respect by Wei Lu, with Prince Lu revering them as his teachers.[2]

Hu followed these instructions, travelling to study at Gaoshan with a young monk. Amid the crowds, however, he suddenly caught sight of those two monks. Hu was greatly shocked, and went to speak to them, asking when they had arrived. The two monks replied: “We poor clerics belong to this very temple. We are not aware of any prior acquaintance with the gentleman.” Hu again described their meeting in the high mountains, but the assembled monks told him: “The gentleman is simply mistaken. How could that have taken place?” When the next day dawned, however, the two monks had departed without saying farewell. Hu thus informed the gathered Buddhist monks about the whole matter, and his meeting with the two monks on Gaoshan. The crowd were all astonished, and sent people to seek the pair of monks, but their location remains unknown.

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, 323.2564-65:


宋王胡者。長安人也。叔死數載。元嘉二十三年。忽形見還家。責胡以修謹有缺。家事不理。罰胡五杖。傍人及鄰里。並聞其語及杖聲。又見杖瘢。而不見其形。唯胡獨得親接。叔謂胡曰。吾不應死。神道須吾筭諸鬼錄。今大從吏兵。恐驚損鄉里。故不將進耳。胡亦大見衆鬼紛鬧于村外。俄而辭去曰。吾來年七月七日。當復暫還。欲將汝行。遊歷幽途。使知罪福之報也。不須費設。若意不已。止可茶食耳。至期果還。語胡家人云。吾今將胡遊觀。觀畢當還。不足憂也。胡即頓臥牀上。泯然如盡。叔於是將胡遍觀群山。備觀鬼怪。末至嵩高山。諸鬼道胡。並有饌設。其品味不異世中。唯姜甚脆美。胡懷之將還。左右人笑云。止可此食。不得將遠也。胡又見一處。屋宇華曠。帳筵精美。有 [2565] 二少僧居焉。胡造之。二僧為設雜果梹榔等。胡遊歷久之。備見罪福苦樂之報。及辭歸。叔謂曰。汝即已知善之當修。返家尋白足阿練。此人戒行精高。可師事也。長安道人足白。故時人謂為白足阿練也。甚為魏虜所敬。虜王事為師。胡即奉此訓。遂與嵩山上年少僧者遊學。衆中忽見二僧。胡大驚。與敘乖闊。問何時來此。二僧云。貧道本住此寺。往日不意與君相識。胡復說嵩高之遇。衆僧云。君謬耳。豈有此耶。至明日。二僧不辭而去。胡乃具告諸沙門。敘說往日嵩山所見。衆咸驚怪。即追求二僧。不知所在。

[1] Sanskrit Āranya (hermitage, monastery) is transliterated in Chinese here as Alian 阿練, and elsewhere as Lanre/lanruo 蘭若 or Elianre/Alianruo 阿練若.

[2] This Wei Lu 魏虜 is not yet identified. Needs more work!

Shen Jizhi 沈寂之

Shen Jizhi was from Wuxing. During the Yuanjia era (424-53 CE), a spirit spoke and laughed at him suddenly out of the empty air, then continued to manifest, sometimes singing and sometimes weeping, and become especially exuberant at nighttime. Jizhi had a hearse, and the spirit pulled its traces alongside him and damaged it. Jizhi also had a great knife, which it hid in a deep pot. There was a large mirror, and that too was picked up and placed in a vessel.

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, 323.2564:



A New Ghost 新鬼

There was a newly deceased ghost, manifesting in weak, emaciated and fatigued state, that suddenly saw a friend from its living days, who had died some twenty years before, and was plump and strong. They asked after one another: “My friend, we’ve come to this?” and then he said: “I’m starving! My friend must know how everything works, so should favour me with some advice.” His friend the spirit said: “This is extremely simple, but requires the scaring of mortal folk. They must be very scared. Then they will grant my friend sustenance.” The new ghost set off and entered at the east end of a large village. There a family was making vīrya zeal offerings to the Buddha. In the western wing was a millstone, so the ghost shoved at the stone like a human grinding. The head of the household told his juniors: “The Buddha pities our family in its poverty, so ordered a spirit to turn the grindstone.” They thus brought a cartload of grain to give to him. That evening, he ground several hu, wore himself out and left.

He then scolded his ghost friend: “How could a friend be so deceitful? Nonetheless, I’ll go back; it must work now.” He followed a family into the western end of the hall. The family was venerating the Dao. Beside the door was a rice-hulling pestle. The ghost climbed onto it and started operating it like a person would. The people said: “Yesterday a spirit helped some people. Today it has returned to assist us. We should bring some unhusked rice to give to it, and send a servant girl with a winnowing fan.” By the evening, the spirit was exhausted, and hadn’t gained any sustenance. The spirit returned at sunset, and said, indignant: “We’re related by marriage; can anything be more important? How could you be so deceitful? I’ve helped two people, and haven’t got even a bowlful to eat!” His friend the spirit replied: “You’ve suffered bad luck, that’s all. These two households were worshiping the Buddha and serving the Dao; their emotions would be hard to stir. You should now seek a family of commoners and do some mischief. That can’t fail.”

The spirit set off again, finding a house with a bamboo pole in the doorway. He entered and found a group of women eating together before the window. In the courtyard was a white dog, so he picked it up and made it travel through thin air. The family were greatly shocked at seeing this, saying that such strangeness had never happened there before. A diviner told them: “A visiting spirit is seeking sustenance. You should kill the dog and lay out fruit and wine with food. Make offerings to it in the courtyard and you will be rid of it.” The family followed this advice, and the spirit thus received a lot of food. The ghost then continued to make mischief, just as his friend had taught.

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, 321.2544:



Liu Daoxi 劉道錫

In their youth, Liu Daoxi and his younger cousin Kang Zu did not believe in spirits. Their older cousin Xing Bo had seen spirits from a young age, but they were unable to accept his accounts when he spoke of it. Once, at a residence east of the Changguang Bridge in Jingkou, he told them: “There’s the ghost of a murder victim, over on the eastern fence.” Daoxi laughed, but then asked for the location and led Xing Bo over there, waving a large knife wishing to hack at it. Xing Bo called out from behind him: “The spirit’s hitting you!” Daoxi had not even reached the ghost’s place when he heard a sound like a great club swinging. Daoxi then dropped to the ground and only awoke after the night had passed. A month and a day later, Xing Bo again spoke up: “There’s a spirit up the tree at the eastern end of the government hall. In shape it is like a child, but it is so tall that it must be dangerous.” Kang Zu did not believe this, and asked how high up it was in the tree. He pointed to a clearly distinct spot. More than ten days passed, and then, on an evening with a waning moon, Daoxi stabbed with a halberd at the place where the spirit had been, then returned, nobody being any the following day, Xing Bo came around early, then suddenly said, quite shocked, “This spirit was stabbed by someone last night! It’s half-dead and quite unable to move.” Kang laughed out loud.

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, 320.2540:

劉道錫 劉道錫與從弟康祖。少不信有鬼。從兄興伯。少來見鬼。但辭論。不能相屈。嘗於京口長廣橋宅東。云。有殺鬼。在東籬上。道錫笑。便問其處。牽興伯俱去。捉大刀欲斫之。興伯在後喚云。鬼擊汝。道錫未及鬼處。便聞如有大杖聲。道錫因倒地。經宿乃醒。一月日都差。興伯復云。廳事東頭桑樹上有鬼。形尚孺。長必害人。康祖不信。問在樹高下。指處分明。經十餘日。是月晦夕。道錫逃闇中。以戟刺鬼所住。便還。人無知者。明日。興伯早來。忽驚曰。此鬼昨夜那得人刺之。殆死。都不能復動。死亦當不久。康大笑。出幽明錄

Ren Huairen 任懷仁

In the first year of the Jin Shengping era (357-61 CE), Ren Huairen was thirteen years old, and serving as Administrative Clerk to the Censorate. In his hometown was one Wang Zu, who served as a clerk, and who had long favoured him. By the time Huairen reached fifteen or sixteen, however, they had a number of [2537] disagreements. Zu was resentful, and when he travelled to Jiaxing, he killed Huairen, burying him at the edge of a field by the home of one Xu Zu. Later, when Zu happened to be taking a rest by the field, he suddenly noticed the presence of this grave. At each of his three daily eating times, dawn, noon and evening, he would divided his meal and make an offering to it, and call out: “Spirit at the head of the field, come share my food.” When he closed his eyes to sleep, he would also say: “Come and share my rest.” This went on for some time.

Later, one night he suddenly saw a person manifest. It addressed him: “Tomorrow my family will make offerings to mark the end of the mourning period. These offerings will be especially generous, and the gentleman should go there along with me.” Zu said: “I’m a mortal; we should not appear to one another.” The spirit told him: “I will hide the gentleman.” Zu then set off following the spirit, and after a short period they reached his home. There were many guests at the house, and the spirit led Zu up to the spirit tablet. The great spread of food then vanished, and the gathered family all cried out and wept, unable to control themselves, saying that their son had returned. He then saw Wang Zu arrive, and said: “This is my killer. I still fear him.” He then departed, and Xu Zu suddenly became visible. The family were quite shocked, and questioned him, at which he related the whole affair. They then followed Zu to pay respects at the grave. Once they had departed, the spirit never returned.

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, 320.2536-37:


晉升平元年。任懷仁年十三。為台書佐。鄉里有王祖復為令史。恒寵之。懷仁已十五六矣。頗有異 [2537] 意。祖銜恨。至嘉興。殺懷仁。以棺殯埋於徐祚家田頭。祚後宿息田上。忽見有塚。至朝中暮三時食。輒分以祭之。呼云。田頭鬼。來就我食。至瞑眠時。亦云。來伴我宿。如此積時。後夜忽見形云。我家明當除服作祭。祭甚豐厚。君明隨去。祚云。我是生人。不當相見。鬼云。我自隱君形。祚便隨鬼去。計行食頃。便到其家。家大有客。鬼將祚上靈座。大食滅。合家號泣。不能自勝。謂其兒還。見王祖來。便曰。此是殺我人。猶畏之。便走出。祚即形露。家中大驚。具問祚。因敘本末。遂隨祚迎喪。既去。鬼便斷絕。出幽明錄

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.

Ruan Zhan 阮瞻

Ruan Zhan had always maintained the no-spirit-theory, but there was a spirit which identified itself to him, and called upon him, staying over as his guest. After a brief chat, they talked about famous philosophies, and his guest turned out to be extremely talented. Finally, they turned to matters of spirits and deities. He became extremely bitter, so his guest at first submitted to him, but then went on, quite worked up: “Accounts of spirits and deities have been transmitted by sages and the virtuous from ancient times. How can the gentleman alone declare that they don’t exist?” He then transformed and took on an astonishing shape, then after a moment quite disappeared. Ruan was dumbfounded, his expression terrible to behold. Within the year he had fallen ill and died from the after-effects.

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, 319.2526:



Chen Qingsun 陳慶孫

Behind the house belonging to Chen Qingsun of Yingchuan there was a mystical tree, and many people went to seek blessings, so he erected a shrine and named it the Tianshen Temple. Qingsun had a black ox. A spirit spoke from the empty air, and said: “I am the Tianshen; this ox belongs to my master of ceremonies; if you do not give it to me then on the twentieth day of the next month your son will be killed.” Qingsun said: “Human life has an allotted span, and fate does not work through you.” When the day arrived, his son did indeed die. It spoke again: “If you don’t give it to me, when the fifth month arrives I will kill your wife.” He again failed to hand it over. When the time came, his wife did indeed die.

It came again and told him: “If you do not give it to me, in autumn I will kill you.” He again failed to hand it over. When autumn arrived, he did not die. The spirit then came and thanked him: “The gentleman has an upright character, and will now receive great fortune. I would prefer that  this matter is not spoken of; if heaven and earth hear of it, my crimes would not be minor. In truth, as a lesser spirit who had managed to gain access to human destiny, seeing the death dates for the gentleman’s wife and son, I used them to deceive the gentleman while simply seeking something to eat. I implore the gentleman’s forgiveness. The gentleman is in the record as living to eighty-three years, and his household will now find satisfaction, with aid from spirits and deities, and I will aid you as a servant.” He then heard a sound as if it were kowtowing.

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, 318.2522: