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

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Pei Zhang’s Unhappy Wife 裴章薄妻

Pei Zhang was from Hedong; his father Zhou had once garrisoned Jingzhou. Their private monk, Tan Zhao, had made great achievements in the Way, and able to comprehend good and bad fortune. As a youth Zhang had profound respect for Tan Zhao, who said that his career and prestige would surpass that of his father. When Zhang reached the ‘capping age’ (i.e., adulthood, at around 20), his father married him to a daughter of the Li family. On passing the age of thirty, Zhang followed a posting to Taiyuan, leaving his wife in Luozhong, ‘passing the door but never entering’ (i.e., being too busy to visit), never taking her along with him. Lady Li felt herself to have been born under an unlucky star, often wearing coarse clothes and a mourning hairstyle, reading Buddhist texts and eating simple food. After a further decade, when his father transferred from Jingzhou to garrison Taiyuan, Tan Zhao followed him. Zhang therefore saw Zhao to renew their acquaintance, but Zhao was shocked and sighed for a long time, addressing him: “Fifty years ago this poor cleric often said Your Excellency would scale the heights; now you are quite weakened and exhausted. How has this happened?” Zhang told him of his unhappy wife. Zhao said: “The lady has complained to the Lord on High, and he punishes Your Excellency.” Ten days later, he cut his stomach open with a knife in the bathtub; his five organs fell to the ground, and he subsequently died.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.13 (Tale 73):

裴章薄妻

河東裴章者,其父胄,曾鎮荊州。門僧曇照,道行甚高,能知休咎。章幼時為曇照所重,言其官班位望過於其父。章弱冠,父為娶李氏女。乃三十年餘,章從職太原,棄其妻於洛中,過門不入,別有所挈。李氏自感其薄命,常褐衣髽髺,讀佛書,蔬食。又十年,嚴經自荊州移鎮太原,曇照隨之。章因見照敍舊,照驚噫久之,謂之曰:「貧道五十年前常謂郎君必貴,今削盡,何也?」章自以薄妻之事啟之。照曰:「夫人生魂訴上帝,以罪處君。」後旬日,為其下以刀劃腹於浴斛,五臟墮地,遂死。

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)

Wang Fan’s Tomb 王樊冢

The Dunhuang shilu reports: When Wang Fan died, a thief opened his tomb and saw Wang Fan playing chupu (a form of boardgame) with someone; he rewarded the robber with wine, and the thief drank it in terror, watching someone lead a bronze horse out of the tomb. That night a divinity arrived at the city gate, announcing that it was the envoy of Wang Fan, that someone had opened his tomb, marking his lips by swallowing dark wine, and that when that person returned at dawn they could verify this and capture him. When the thief entered the city, those on the gate therefore bound and questioned him, and it was just as the divinity had said.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.8 (Tale 61):

王樊冢

《燉煌實錄》云:王樊卒,有盗開其冢,見王樊與人樗蒲,以酒賜盗者,盗者惶怖飲之,見有人牽銅馬出冢者。夜有神至城門,自言是王樊使,今有人發冢,以酒墨其唇,但至,可以驗而擒之。盗既入城,城門者乃縛詰之,如神言。

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 Copper Coffin Descends From Heaven 天降銅棺

Zou Su, the Wine Supervisor for Zhengzou, was just and impartial in office, and respected by people for that. In Zhengzhou one day, as the sun reached noon, wind and hail descended from the heavens, mist and cloud arose from all four sides around the north gate, and a black miasma spun out of it and arose vertically, meeting the heavens without dissipating. A lidless copper coffin descended from the sky, and music came loud and clear out of the empty air. At that time all of Zhengzhou’s junior clerks below the rank of prefect, generals and officers, scholars and commoners, monks and Daoists all changed their clothes and tried to get into the coffin. It being narrow outside and wide within, however, none were able to enter. Winding his wine supervisor’s kerchief as he arrived, Su was asked by the crowd to enter the coffin, and he had not the slightest difficulty. A moment later, a copper lid descended, circled by multi-coloured clouds, and it was all then lifted among the beautiful sound of immortals and the voices of cranes, amid auspicious clouds of heavenly fragrance, and, in a cloud of enduring mist, the coffin gradually turned to the north and departed. He now serves as the judge over longevity in the distant north.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.150 (Tale 263):

天降銅棺

鄭州監酒鄒宿,為官公正無私,人所推敬。一日,鄭州日方午,天降風雹,煙雲四起於北門,黑霧盤旋直上,衝天不散,降下無蓋銅棺一具,但聞空中音樂嘹喨。時鄭州自守倅以下官吏、將校、士庶、僧道,盡易衣服,欲入銅棺。而外狹內寬,皆莫能入。續監酒巾裹而來,衆請之入棺,亦無少(「少」,明刻本作「所」。)礙。少焉,復降銅蓋,綵雲繚繞,擎舉而上,仙韶鶴唳,瑞氣天香,靄靄不散,其棺冉冉向北而去。今為北極司壽限判官。

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).

The Thunder Deity Assigns Land 雷神分田

In West Qishi Village, in Luling, there was a field of fifty to sixty mu (a mu is about 6.7 acres), shaped like an axe. A pair of brothers were discussing its division, and the left and right of it being unequal, they argued ceaselessly, and eventually presented a case to the officials. After one or two years had passed, it was still unresolved. One day, a black cloud arose on all sides and a single strike of lightning scored a single line like that from a plough, from top to bottom, straight across the field, the mu divided as if by a carpenter’s angle, the cun (inches) entirely equal, and afterwards the brothers who owned the field abandoned and ceased their lawsuit. To this day the place is called Thunder God Field. From this it can be understood that the heavenly authorities understand earthly geometry, and that people should take this as a warning.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.222 (Tale 394):

雷神分田

廬陵之西七十里,有田約十五六畝,其形如斧,兄弟議分,左右只是不等,紛爭不已,遂訟之官。越一二年,亦無結斷。一日,黑雲四起,霹靂一聲而田中如犁畫,一條自上而下,畝角尺寸甚均,然後田主兄弟爭訟貽息。至今此處名雷公田。固知土幾何而上關造化,人亦可自警矣。

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).

A River God’s Retribution 江神報事

Yu Dujian, known as Shan, was from Xinshang. In the xinyou year of the Song Jingding era (1261), he was governor to Linjiang Commandery, and, due to a flood, people suffered from having to wade through the river. He received word that, at a crossing on the boundary with Jiangdong, a boat had foundered killing eighteen people, including the boatman. The governor was keen to uphold the law, so sent a soldier bearing Daoist paper figures and an official document to seek the river spirit for questioning. The soldier feared punishment, so made earnest entreaties [217] at the riverbank. An elderly white-robed person suddenly emerged, saying: “You go now; I’ll come to the offices tomorrow.” The soldier returned and made his report. When the day came, the governor sat in the hall and waited. It was already late when a wisp of cold wind was felt touching people, and he saw a person with bushy brows and white hair, dressed in white, who said: “The eighteen people who died had in a previous life formed a gang of powerful bandits who killed people, and were therefore taken together in death one day on the water.” The governor said: “The boatman among them; what then was his crime?” The elderly figure said: “That person was the bandit chief. The governor understands the affairs of human life in this world. He does not understand the affairs of the nether world’s authority, all of which are destined and certain, without slip or error.”

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.216-17 (Tale 384):

江神報事

俞杜澗名掞,信上人。宋景定辛酉知臨江軍,因大水,人病涉。言江東界有一渡,水漲舟覆,溺死十八人,梢子亦沉死。知府善行法,差一卒持神符及官牒追江神來問。卒畏譴責,力懇 [217] 於水濱。忽一白衣老人出云:「你且去,我明日自到官。」卒歸報。至日,知府坐廳等候。近晚,但覺冷風一陣拂人,見一人龐眉皓首,身著白,云:「十八人死者,前世曾結黨為強盗殺人,以一日聚死於水。」知府曰:「梢子又何辜?」老人曰:「此人正是賊首也。知府但知陽間世事,不知陰府事皆注定,並無差錯。」

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 Warning Against Selling Ancestral Graves 戒賣祖墳

From the dingchou year of the Zhiyuan era (1278), for more than ten years, rich families found themselves impoverished, with almost nothing left, their ancestral tombs overgrown and dirty, unreachable for ancestral offerings; they could not bear to admit this even to themselves. Who would have thought that such a disaster could have been seen [105] outside the Sitingji? In the vicinity there was a scholar who, seeing a prominent family sell their ancestral graveyard, could not bear his indignation, and at night inscribed a poem on their wall. The next day, when the wall was seen, both buyer and seller were full of shame, and retreated to the central chamber to discuss the matter. I read the poem. Its language was direct and ardent, with benefit to customs and morality, so I set it down here, to serve as a warning to public ways. The poem reads:

A family selects by wind and water

For descendants in countless generations

Who could know that latecomers

Would sell off their ancestors’ land?

Bargaining over digging in the dead of night

Celebrating the drunken signing of contracts

The seller is certainly inhuman

The buyer is also an evil type

If the land is well-chosen

The house will stand in wealth and honour

Those who come to sell

Their land will bring no good

Those future descendants emerging

They break from the pattern of precedent

Pretending that new families have strength

How can the creator have such selfish intent?

Those with coffins are laid bare

Those without abandoned bones

When new generations slide to poverty

When may they ever find burial?

Can you know those ‘below the springs’ (i.e., in the nether world)

Make no plaint for justice to the throne?

Say not that heaven is vast and obscure,

But stand before it in fear of calamity.

Ah! Those with human hearts, they should look at this and change their plans.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.104-5 (Tale 181):

戒賣祖墳

至元丁丑以來,十數年間,富家零落殆盡,祖墳蕪穢,弔祭不至,自不忍言。誰謂其禍又有 [105] 出於《思亭記》之外者!近有一士人,見一名家出賣祖墳,不勝其憤,夜題詩於牆壁。次日,觀望如堵,買者、賣者皆有愧色,議中寢。吾讀其詩,語直而切,以其有益於風教,故錄於此,庶可為世俗之戒也。詩曰:「人家擇風水,子孫百世計。誰知後來者,反賣祖宗地。商量寅夜掘,醉後樂書契。賣者固非人,買者亦惡類。其地若果佳,其家長富貴。其人賣至此,其地必不利。他時出子孫,斷是傚此例。借曰異姓強,造物豈私意?棺存且暴露,無者骸骨棄。後代轉日貧,何時可薶瘞。安知泉下人,含冤不訴帝?勿謂天茫茫,禍患恐立至。」吁!有人心者,宜於此焉變計矣。

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).