Release A Dragon, Receive A Reward 放龍獲報

On the bank of the Lu River Li Yuan saw a small scarlet snake. Less than a chi in length, it was being harassed by a shepherd boy. Yuan bought it with a hundred cash, and released it among the thick vegetation. The following year, he was crossing the Long Bridge[1] again, and saw the Jinshi scholar Zhu Jun coming to call on him, saying: “Jun lives just a few hundred paces from the end of the bridge; their Excellency sends an invitation, if you will pardon me and sit.” Leading him to sit together in a boat, they travelled to a mountain, with richly decorated buildings and halls, all very tightly guarded. Presently, a person wearing a tall hat and ceremonial robes summoned Yuan, saying: “Our young son suffered misfortune and almost died at the hands of a mischievous boy; his humble life depended on the gentleman’s help.” Turning to Jun he ordered that he bow again, and then ordered a banquet be laid out, mixing products of land and sea, saying: “I am a fish of the southern seas; having achieved merit in life, the Heavenly Emperor decreed that I reside here, styling me Anliu Wang. I have a young servant, with the childhood name Yunjie, and I now present her to you; if you accept her, she will be of help.” Yuan therefore did not depart. He subsequently went to sit the civil examinations; when the test was due on the following day, Yunjie stealthily obtained the exam questions; Yuan then prepared his composition in advance, and, on entering the examination hall, felt great satisfaction, achieved great success and a recommendation as an imperial scholar. Yunjie said goodbye to him, saying: “I have obeyed the prince’s order and dare not stay long.” A poem of parting read:

Six years here to repay deep benevolence,

Saying farewell to the aquatic realm and the region of fish.

None say that newly-weds should be parted again,

All wish to share ancient love with new people.

Li Yuan was thus newly married at that time.

**uncertain translation**

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.118 (Tale 205):

放龍獲報

李元於吳江岸見小朱蛇,長不滿尺,為牧童所困。元以百錢買之,放於茂草中。明年,再經長橋,有進士朱浚來謁見,曰:「浚居橋尾數百步耳,大人遣奉召,幸恕坐。」邀同舟,至一山,樓殿寶飾,侍衛甚嚴。俄一人高冠道服,引元坐:曰:「小兒不幸,幾死頑童之手,賴君子活此微命。」顧浚令再拜,乃命置酒,水陸交錯,曰:「吾乃南海之鱗,有功於世,天帝詔居此,封安流王。吾有小奴,小字雲姐,今於贈子,子納之,當得其助。」元乃別去。後赴禮闈,明日當試,雲姐私入竊所試題目出,元乃檢閱宿構,入試,大得意,高捷薦名登科。雲姐告辭曰:「奉王命不敢久留。」作詩別曰:「六年於此報深恩,水國魚鄉是去程。莫謂初婚又相別,都將舊愛與新人。」時李元新娶故也。

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)

[1] An ancient structure in Jiangsu Province.

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Han Gan Paints Horses 韓幹畫馬

Han Gan[1] of the Tang was skilled at painting horses. While he was leading a quiet life at home, a person suddenly appeared, arriving wearing a black hat and red robe. Gan asked him: “What brings you here?” He replied: “I am an agent of the nether world. I heard that the gentleman is skilled at painting horses, and hoped to be granted one.” Gan erected a painting and burned it. Several days later he went out, and somebody bowed to him in thanks, saying: “Having benefited from the gentleman’s kindness, I have been spared the pain of trudging through hill and water, and you will also receive a reward for this service.” The following day, somebody brought a hundred bolts of white silk, not knowing where it had come from; Gan accepted and used it.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.19 (Tale 98):

韓幹畫馬

唐韓幹善畫馬,閑居之際,忽有一人,玄冠朱衣而至。幹問曰:「何緣及此?」對曰:「我鬼使也。聞君善畫良馬,願賜一匹。」幹立畫焚之。數日因出,有人揖而謝曰:「蒙君惠駿足,免為山水跋涉之苦,亦有以酬效。」明日,有人送素縑百匹,不知其來,幹收而用之。

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)

[1] On Han Gan韓幹 (c. 706-783), see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Han_Gan.

Mercy to Sparrows is Repaid 慈仁雀報

[121] County Constable He of Jingxing was by nature kind and merciful. Whenever he went out, if he saw someone catching sparrows, he would destroy their equipment and chase the people away. When he saw sparrows alive he would always buy and release them; seeing dead ones, he would warn those responsible to change their trade. He carried on like this for three years. When the time for his transfer drew near, the local populace suffered robbery and murder at the hands of bandits, and his superior urged urgent action, but he was unable to catch them. Then a flock of several hundred sparrows flew up to meet around his horse’s head; He marveled at this. The sparrow flock then flew towards and over a straw hut several hundred paces from the road. He sent troops to search the building, and it turned out that there were seven people lying quite unaware in a drunken stupor, each with booty and weapons by their side. Capturing them, they were indeed the thieves, and were turned over to the authorities. Constable He successfully fulfilled his task, and ultimately took up orders as a thief-taker. In ancient times there was faith in such payment of moral debts.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.120-21 (Tale 210):

慈仁雀報

[121] 井陘何縣尉,天資仁慈。每出,見捕雀者,必毀其具、逐其人。見活雀,必買而放之;見死者,必戒使易業。如是者三年。代期將近,鄉民有被盗劫殺者,上司督促急迫,不能捕獲。卻有羣雀數百飛迎馬首,何深異之。既而羣雀飛往路旁百步外草舍上,何遣卒搜屋下,果有七人醉卧未醒,及有贓仗在傍,禽之,乃真盗也,遂解於官。何尉美解,竟授捕盗賞秩。古有銜環之報,信矣。

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).