A Toad Emissary From Heaven 蝦蟇天使

Li Kui served as Vice-President of the Board of Rites during the Qianyuan era (758-59 CE). Once, seated during the daytime in the porch of his hall, he suddenly heard a great shaking from within the hall, as if a wall had collapsed. Kui was alarmed, and went in to investigate. He saw a toad prostrate on the floor, several chi in height, uniquely tall and quite alone. Kui was gripped by both fear and wonder, and none dared approach it. Eventually he ordered a houseboy to take a large pot and cover it. A guest said: “This toad is a thing from the moon, and is an emissary from the heavens. If a heavenly emissary comes to the gentleman’s hall, how can this not indicate the heavenly emperor’s award of a post to the gentleman?” When the next dawn broke, he removed the cover to look, but it had already vanished. Several days later, he was indeed appointed Vice-President Administrator of the Central Secretariat.

Zhang Du 張讀, Xuanshi Zhi 宣室志 (Stories from the Chamber of Dissemination), 1.1 (Tale 1):

蝦蟇天使

李揆於乾元中為禮部侍郎,嘗一日晝坐於堂之前軒,忽聞堂中有聱極震,若牆圮。揆驚,入視之。見一蝦蟇俯於地,高數尺,魁然殊狀。揆且驚且異,莫窮其來。卽命家童以巨缶蓋之。客曰:「夫蝦蟇者,月中之物,亦天使也。今天使來公堂,豈非上帝以榮命付公乎?」黎明,啟視之,已亡見矣。後數日,果拜中書侍郎平章事。

又見《廣記》卷四七四,題為《李揆》;《紺珠集》卷五,題為《蝦䗫天使》;《類說》卷二三,題為《見蝦䗫》。後二書所引均為節文。

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:

Li Kui 李揆

Li Kui of the Tang served as Vice-President of the Board of Rites during the Qiantian era. Once, seated during the daytime in the porch of his hall, he suddenly heard a great shaking from within the hall, as if a wall had collapsed. Kui was alarmed, and went in to investigate. He saw a toad prostrate on the floor, several chi in height, uniquely tall and quite alone. Kui was gripped by both fear and wonder, and none dared approach it. Eventually he ordered a houseboy to take a large pot and cover it. Someone named Jie said: “This toad is a lifeform from the moon, and is an emissary from the heavens. If a heavenly emissary comes to the gentleman’s hall, how can this not indicate the heavenly emperor’s secret order for the gentleman?” When the next dawn broke, he removed the cover to look, but it had already vanished. Several days later, he was indeed appointed Vice-President Administrator of the Central Secretariat. Taken from the 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, 474.3907:

李揆

唐李揆。乾天中。為禮部侍郎。嘗一日。晝坐於堂之前軒。忽聞堂中有聱極震。若牆圮。揆驚入視之。見一蝦蟇。俯於地。高數尺。魁然殊狀。揆且驚且異。莫窮其來。卽命家童。以巨缶蓋焉。有解曰。夫蝦蟇月中之蟲。亦天使也。今天使來公堂。豈非上帝以密命付公乎。其明啟視之。已亡見矣。後數日。果拜中書侍郎平章事。出宣室志

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A Beauty 玉兒(當是其名)

In the Taiyuan temple college there used to be a ghostly woman, who had been the concubine of Judicial Commissioner Song Danyi, but had, due to the envy of his wife, been beaten to death and buried where she fell next to the school; a mulberry tree sprouted on the spot. The spirit would sometimes enter the temple hostel, and make jokes with people; it was quite unlike a haunting. During the Dading era (1161-89 CE), there were several people staying overnight and studying in the room, and, after the third watch (i.e., at about 1am), they suddenly heard the sound of footsteps outside the window. Before long she had entered the room, going about and touching all those who slept there, saying ‘this one will pass’, ‘this one won’t pass’. Soon after, she said “Don’t be alarmed, don’t be alarmed.” When the time came, all came out as she had said.

Education Intendant Ma Chizheng reported that those sleepers were Zhao Wenqing, Duan Guohua and Guo Jizhi.

Yuan Haowen 元好問, Xu Yijian zhi 續夷堅志 (Continued Records of the Listener), 1.12:

玉兒(當是其名)

太原廟學,舊有鬼婦人,是宋旦一提刑妾,為正室妒,捶而死,倒埋學旁,其處有桑生焉。此鬼時入齋舍,與人戲語,然不為祟也。大定中,有數人夜宿時習齋,三更後,忽聞窗外履聲,須臾,入齋,以手遍拊睡者,云此人及第,此人不及第。既而曰:「休驚休驚也。」及至後,皆如其言。

學正馬持正說,睡者趙文卿、段國華、郭及之。

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)

Providing Congee, Accruing Merit 施粥有功

Zhu Ran, of Sha County in Nanjianzhou, distributed congee as aid to the poor in years of bad harvests. He subsequently had a son who was extremely intelligent, and requested he be entered into the examinations. When the year’s results were about to be revealed, it happened that people on the street fancied they saw people running around celebrating examination success and carrying a banner bearing the four characters: “Reward for Giving Congee”. When the results were opened, his son had gained a particularly high first place.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.111 (Tale 192):

施粥有功

南劍州沙縣祝染者,遇歉歲,為粥以施貧。後生一子聰慧,請舉入學。年榜將開,忽街上人夢捷者奔馳而過,報狀元榜,手持一大旗,上書四字,曰「施粥之報」。及榜開,其子特科狀元。

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).

Fair Prices, High Honour 平糶榮顯

Chen Tianfu, of Dongshan in Chalingzhou, was known as a venerable elder. Every year, when he had grain he would sell it at fair prices; if he lacked grain he would borrow money, buy grain at high prices and sell it cheaply; the villagers found this extremely virtuous. One day, a cleric offered one hundred and twenty copper cash to buy a dou of rice, but Chen said: “If a cleric needs alms or provisions one should hand over a dou; what need is there for money?” The cleric accepted the rice and went out through his gate, then inscribed four lines on the wall:

All, near and far, call him venerable elder;

Borrowing, he buys rice to give as alms.

The future brings fragrant (cassia) children and fragrant (orchid) grandchildren;

Entering the jade hall with ease and ascending the golden horse. (i.e., entering palace service)

Chen subsequently became very wealthy, further increasing his grain warehousing, selling grain fairly and aiding the populace. He had three sons: the eldest Jisi, the second Jiyun and the third Jifang, who was named Lansun; father and sons all requested water transport for their locality. Lansun subsequently entered the national academy and was highly ranked in the examinations, ascending the official hierarchy to be Magistrate of Taiyuan.

People say: “The rewards for fair selling are extremely generous, and the cleric was certainly an immortal!”

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.110 (Tale 190):

平糶榮顯

茶陵州東山陳天福,素稱長者。每年有米肯平糶,無米與人借,又無米借錢,貴糴賤糶,鄉里甚德之。一日,有道人以銅錢一百二十為糴米一斗,陳云: 「道人要齋糧,當納上一斗,何必用錢!」道人受米出門,遂題四句於壁間云:「遠近皆稱陳長者,典錢糴米來施捨。他時桂子與蘭孫,平步玉堂上金馬。」陳後富有,起經濟倉,平糶濟人。生三子:長季思,次季雲,三季芳,名蘭孫,父子皆請鄉漕。蘭孫後補入國學登第,官至太原常丞。人云:「平糶之報甚豐,而道人其仙乎!」

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).

Not Taking Other’s Property 不取他物

Yang Zhongfeng Cun was from Bantang, in Jishui. In the eighth year of the Song Yuanfeng era (1085 CE), he was going to the provincial capital Kaifeng, and stayed in a traveller’s hostel in Xizhou. When he lay down, he became aware of something between mat and bed and which stuck into his [109] back; when he uncovered and looked at it this turned out to be salt production certificates to 20,000 yin in value. The following day, he asked the host: “Who stayed here the previous evening?” The host replied: “A great Huaidian merchant, surnamed such-and-such, was the guest.” The gentleman said: “He is an old acquaintance; if he returns, tell him I’m staying on such-and-such a road, with such-and-such a family.” He also wrote large characters on the wall, reading: “On such-and-such a year, month and day, Yang Cun of Luling stayed here.” He then went on his way. Before many days had passed, the merchant did indeed follow his former route, searching everywhere for it. When he reached the village to rest, the landlord told him about the gentleman, taking him to see the words he had written on the wall, after which he set off to the capital to visit the gentleman. The gentleman said: “So it turns out to be yours then! We should inform the authorities so they can return it to you.” The merchant said: “As you instruct.” The gentleman asked the officials to give all of it to the merchant, but the officials divided it in two halves. The gentleman said: “Had your servant wanted it, he could already have possessed it all merely by staying quiet.” The merchant had no option, so relinquished several hundred strings of coins to fund meals at the Xiangguo Monastery in the capital, in order to pray for the gentleman’s good fortune. That year, the gentleman was included on the list of imperial examination graduates. He rose through the government ranks up to Grand Master of Palace Service, and his sons and grandsons achieved great eminence.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.108-9 (Tale 188):

不取他物

楊中奉存,吉水湴塘人。宋元豐八年,赴省開封,宿息州旅舍。既卧,覺牀席間有物礙其 [109] 背,揭視之,乃鹽鈔二萬引。明日,詢主人曰:「前夕何人宿此?」主人曰:「淮甸一巨商某姓客也。」公曰:「此吾故人,設其人回,可與之言,吾在某坊某人家安歇。」又大書於所宿之房曰:「某年月日,廬陵楊存寓此。」遂行。不數日,商人果從故道,處處物色之。至息邨,主人以公言告,且使自觀壁間所書,乃徑去京師訪公。公曰:「果汝物耶!當聞之官以歸汝。」商曰:「如教。」公請府悉以授商,府使中分之。公曰:「使某欲之,前日奄為已有,泯默不言矣。」商不能強,乃捐數百緡,就京師相國寺設齋,為公祈福。是年,公中焦蹈榜下。歷官至中奉大夫,子孫貴顯。

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).

Li Yuangong 李元恭

*Translation revised with the generous help of Ofer Waldman – thanks Ofer!*

The Tang-era Vice-President of the Ministry of Personnel Li Yuangong[1] had a granddaughter, a Miss Cui, peaceful of countenance and extremely beautiful, fifteen or sixteen years old, who was suddenly afflicted by a demonic illness. When this had lasted for a long time, the fox manifested itself as a young man, calling himself ‘Gentleman Hu’; they repeatedly sought scholars of magic, but were unable to make it go away. Yuangong’s son possessed a broad education and great wisdom, and often asked: “Does Gentleman Hu also possess learning or not?” And so the fox engaged in discussions, missing not a single topic. He employed many questions to probe the fox, who tended to be closely acquainted with music. After a long time of this, he addressed Miss Cui, saying: “Nobody should remain without education.” He therefore brought an elderly man to teach Miss Cui Classics and History, and over three years she acquired a degree of expertise [204] in the cardinal principles of the various schools. He also brought a person to teach her calligraphy, and, after a single year, she came to be considered an expert calligrapher. He also said: “How can a married woman not have studied music? The konghou and pipa, though present in all music, are not so suitable as study of the qin.” He further summoned another person, saying that he was skilled at playing the qin, and stating that his surname was Hu, and that he was a scholar of Yangdi County in the Sui era. He taught her all the various tunes, preparing her fully in their subtleties, and she was quite unsurpassed on other famous songs. As to himself he claimed: “I am skilled at Guanglingsan,[2] which many encounters with Ji Zhong San[3] did not get him to teach it to other men.” He was also especially good at transmitting the wonders of Wuyeti.[4] Li later asked: “Why does Gentleman Hu not marry and return home?” The fox was extremely pleased, bowing again in thanks and saying: “I have long cherished this, too, but have not dared, purely due to being a pleb” That day, he bowed over and over to the family, leaping about in the utmost joy. Li asked: “Mr Hu wishes to return home with his wife; where is his residence?” The fox said: “Before the residence there are two large bamboos.” At that time the Li residence had a bamboo garden, and Li, going to search around there, found a small hole between two of the great trees; it turned out to be a fox’s lair, drawing water to fill it. At first they captured a badger, a raccoon dog, and several dozen small foxes. Eventually an elderly fox, wearing an unlined green robe, followed them out of the hole; it was the same robe he was always wearing. The family spoke joyfully: “Now Mr Hu has emerged!” They killed him, and the strange events stopped.
From Guangyiji 廣異記 (Extensive Records of the Strange)

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Era of Great Harmony), ix, 449.3671-72:

李元恭
唐吏部侍郎李元恭。其外孫女崔氏。容色殊麗。年十五六。忽得魅疾。久之。狐遂見形為少年。自稱 [3672] 胡郎。累求術士不能去。元恭子博學多智。常問胡郎亦學否。狐乃談論。無所不至。多質疑于狐。頗狎樂。久之。謂崔氏曰。人生不可不學。乃引一老人授崔經史。前後三載。頗通諸家大義。又引一人。教之書。涉一載。又以工書著稱。又云。婦人何不會音聲。箜篌琵琶。此故凡樂。不如學琴。復引一人至。云善彈琴。言姓胡。是隋時陽翟縣博士。悉教諸曲。備盡其妙。及他名曲。不可勝紀。自云亦善廣陵散。比屢見嵇中散。不使授人。其于烏夜啼。尤善傳其妙。李後問。胡郎何以不迎婦歸家。狐甚喜。便拜謝云。亦久懷之。所不敢者。以人微故爾。是日遍拜家人。歡躍備至。李問胡郎欲迎女子。宅在何所。狐云。某舍門前有二大竹。時李氏家有竹園。李因尋行所。見二大竹間有一小孔。竟是狐窟。引水灌之。初得猯狢及他狐數十枚。最後有一老狐。衣綠衫。從孔中出。是其素所著衫也。家人喜云。胡郎出矣。殺之。其怪遂絕。出《廣異記》

The version found in Guangyiji is essentially identical; here is the Chinese text, from the combined volume Tang Lin 唐臨; Dai Fu 戴孚, Mingbaoji; Guangyiji 冥報記 / 廣異記 (Records of Netherworld Vengeance / Extensive Records of The Strange) (Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju, 1992), pp. 203-4:

李元恭

唐吏部侍郎李元恭,其外孫女崔氏,容色殊麗,年十五六,忽得魅疾。久之,狐遂見形為少年,自稱胡郎,累求術士不能去。元恭子博學多智,常問:「胡郎亦學否?」狐乃談論,無所不至,多質疑于狐,頗狎樂。久之,謂崔氏曰:「人生不可不學。」乃引一老人授崔經史,前後三載,頗通 [204] 諸家大義。又引一人教之書,涉一載,又以工書著稱。又云:「婦人何不會音聲,箜篌琵琶,此故凡樂,不如學琴。」復引一人至,云善彈琴,言姓胡,是隋時陽翟縣博士。悉教諸曲,備盡其妙,及他名曲,不可勝紀。自云:「亦善《廣陵散》,比屢見嵇中散,不使授人。」其于《烏夜啼》尤善,傳其妙。李後問:「胡郎何以不迎婦歸家?」狐甚喜,便拜謝云:「亦久懷之,所不敢者,以人微故爾。」是日,遍拜家人,歡躍備至。李問:「胡郎欲迎女子,宅在何所?」狐云:「某舍門前有二大竹。」時李氏家有竹園,李因尋行所,見二大竹間有一小孔,竟是狐窟,引水灌之。初得猯狢及他狐數十枚,最後有一老狐,衣綠衫,從孔中出,是其素所著衫也。家人喜云:「胡郎出矣!」殺之,其怪遂絕。

[1] On Li Yuangong 李元恭 (d. c. 702 CE), see CBDB Person ID 0195948.

[2] On this piece of music, see https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%B9%BF%E9%99%B5%E6%95%A3.

[3] This refers to Ji Kang嵆康 courtesy name Shuye 叔夜 (223-62 CE), an acclaimed scholar and qin player. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ji_Kang.

[4] On this piece of music, see https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E4%B9%8C%E5%A4%9C%E5%95%BC.

Zhang Baocang Achieves Eminence Through Medicine 張寶藏因醫致貴

During the Tang Zhenguan era (627-49 CE), Zhang Baocang was returning to Yueyang after ending his duty as Chief Secretary to the Imperial Guard, when he encountered a youth hunting and eating fresh meat in the wilds. Leaning against a tree he let out a long sigh and said: “Zhang Baocang is aged seventy and has never once had meat and wine like this; what a shame!” By his side there was a monk, who pointed and said: “Within sixty days, you will ascend to the third official grade; how is this something to sigh over?” When he finished speaking, he vanished. Baocang marvelled at this, and immediately returned to the capital. At that time Taizong (r. 626-49 CE) was suffering terribly with dysentery, and a crowd of physicians had no effect, so a decree was promulgated asking whether anyone in the court or retinue had the ability to treat the illness, promising them a rich reward. Baocang had once suffered from the same disease, so prepared a memorial to the throne in answer to the decree, prescribing beans simmered in milk. The emperor took it, and recovered instantly. A decree was passed down to the minister of state appointing him to the fifth official grade. Wei Wei obstructed this, so for more than a month he did not advance any plans. The emperor’s illness recurred, and he asked his retinue: “I previously took beans simmered in milk and this was effective.” He again ordered them to bring him forward, and after a single sip was cured once more. The emperor asked: “I had ordered to award him advancement to grade five, but have not seen him accept the post; why is this?” Wei was afraid, and said: “At the time the decree was issued, it was not clear whether this would be a military or civil branch of the clerks.” The emperor grew angry: “For governing we require a chancellor; we might as well appoint him to the third grade. I am the Son of Heaven; how can this not be up to me?” He therefore said in a loud voice: “Granted civil office in the third grade!” He stood and was appointed Minister for Protocol, and that was exactly sixty days later.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.13 (Tale 74):

張寶藏因醫致貴

唐貞觀中,張寶藏為金吾長史嘗因下直歸櫟陽,路逢少年畋獵,割鮮野食。倚樹長歎曰:「張寶藏身年七十,未嘗得一食酒肉如此者,可悲哉!」傍有一僧,指曰:「六十日內,官登三品,何足歎也。」言訖不見。寶藏異之,即時還京。時太宗苦病痢疾,衆醫不效,即下詔問殿廷左右,有能治此疾者,當重賞之。寶藏曾困此疾,即具疏答詔,以乳煎蓽方進。上服之,立瘥。宣下宰臣:與五品官。魏微難之,逾月不進擬。上疾復作,問左右曰:「吾前服乳煎蓽茇有效。」復令進之,一啜又平復。上問曰:「嘗令與進方人五品官,不見除授,何也?」徵懼曰:「奉詔之際,未知文武二吏。」上怒曰:「治得宰相,不妨授三品;我天子也,豈不及汝邪?」乃厲聲曰:「與三品文官!」立授鴻臚卿,時正六十日矣。

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)