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:



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

Ruan Yuzhi 阮瑜之

In the tenth year of the Jin Taiyuan era (386 CE), Ruan Yuzhi resided before the Shixing Pagoda. Orphaned very young, he was unable to support himself and frequently wept and sobbed. He suddenly saw a spirit appear before his father’s inscribed brick, which told him: “A father has died and returned to the Rain Deity. Why weep for so long? After three years have passed, the gentleman’s family will be able to support itself, but for the time being your servant will aid the gentleman’s family. I will not cause harm, and should not be feared as inauspicious, but will rather bring fortune to the gentleman’s household.” After this the spirit remained in their home, and whenever the household needed something, the spirit would provide it. After two or three years, the gentleman’s circumstances had changed. Fed by the spirit, he would chat and laugh together with it. When Ruan asked its surname, it replied: “My surname is Li, and first name Liuzhi; I am the gentleman’s brother-in-law.” Ruan asked: “How did the gentleman come to me?” The spirit told him: “Your servant has endured hardships, and has now been sent for a time to live the way of ghosts, and assigned to the gentleman’s home. After four or five years I should depart.” Ruan asked him: “Where would you go then?” He replied: “To be reborn into the mortal world.” When that time came, he did indeed say farewell and leave.

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, 320.2539:



Liu Ta 劉他

Liu Ta, who resided at Xiakou, suddenly saw a spirit, which came to reside at the Liu household. Initially it stayed dark and indistinct, and seemed to look like a person wearing plain white trousers. From then on it came every few days, and then stopped [2531] hiding itself or going away. It enjoyed pilfering food, and, though not causing major problems, made life difficult. At first none dared scold or rebuke it, however. One Ji Yizi, a bullying man who refused to believe in spirits, arrived at the Liu household, and asked his host: “Where’s your family’s ghost? Summon it so I can tell it off for you.” They then heard noises coming from the roofbeams. At that time many guests had gathered there, and all looked up together. A tangle of things were thrown down, hitting Yizi square in the face. When examined, these turned out to be underwear belonging to the ladies of the house. When he continued to act ferociously, they all laughed delightedly at him. Ji, very embarrassed, washed his face and departed.

Someone told Liu: “As this spirit steals food and consumes it, it must have physical form. It should be attacked with poison.” Liu therefore cooked up some yege (冶葛, known as ‘heartbreak grass’ or Gelsemium elegans) in a neighbour’s house and secretly brought back two sheng of its juice. When night fell, he had broom millet cooked and placed on the table, then covered it with a bowl. Later on they heard the spirit arrive from outside, lift the bowl, take the millet and eat it. It then threw the bowl, smashing it, and departed. Before long, they heard the sound of spitting from above, and a ferociously angry beating at the window-frames. Liu prepared himself to fight it but still did not dare to enter the room. By the time of the fourth watch (1-3 am), the matter was at an end.

From Xusoushenji.

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, 319.2530-31:


劉他在下口居。忽有一鬼。來住劉家。初因闇。髣髴見形如人。著白布袴。自爾後。數日一來。不復 [2531] 隱形。便不去。喜偷食。不以為患。然且難之。初不敢呵罵。吉翼子者。強梁不信鬼。至劉家。謂主人。卿家鬼何在。喚來。今為卿罵之。即聞屋梁作聲。時大有客。共仰視。便紛紜擲一物下。正著翼子面。視之。乃主人家婦女褻衣。惡猶著焉。衆共大笑為樂。吉大慙。洗面而去。有人語劉。此鬼偷食乃食盡。必有形之物。可以毒藥中之。劉即於他家煮冶葛。取二升汁。密齎還。向夜。令作糜。著於几上。以盆復之。後聞鬼外來。發盆取糜。既吃。擲破甌出去。須臾。聞在屋頭吐。嗔怒非常。便棒打窗戶。劉先以防備。與鬪。亦不敢入戶。至四更中。然後遂絕。出續搜神記

Ruan Deru 阮德如

Ruan Deru once saw a spirit in the toilet. More than a zhang (3.3m) in length, it was black in colour, its eyes were large and it was wearing an unlined white garment and a military flat-top headdress. As it departed it passed very close, but Deru’s heart was calm and his qi settled. He laughed and said: “People say spirits are abominable. It is indeed so.” The spirit blushed and withdrew.

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, 318.2521:



Yang Xian 楊羨

Towards the end of the Xiaowu Emperor’s Taiyuan era (376-96 CE), Yang Xian, of Wu County, found a thing like a monkey, with a hairy human face. Whenever Xian ate, this spirit would steal his food away. When Xian’s wife was working at her loom, Xian took up a knife to kill the spirit. The creature ran up to the loom, and Xian’s wife was transformed into a spirit, so Xian thus hacked at her. He then saw the spirit leap away. Clapping its hands and emitting a great cackle, the spirit departed. Xian suddenly came to his senses. He looked at his wife, cut into more than ten pieces. She had been six months’ pregnant, and in her belly the child had already sprouted hair. Xian let out an anguished sigh of pain and died.

From Guang Gujin Wuxingji.

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, 318.2517:



Xing Qun 邢群

In the second year Dazhong (848 CE) Counsellor to the Board of Punishments Xing Qun was residing in Luozhong, having previously served as the provincial governor of Shezhou. He fell seriously ill. Qun had long been friendly with the Imperial Censor Zhu Guan. At that time Guan had left office in the Huai-Hai area to reside in Yiluo, but had then fallen ill and died. Qun was not aware of this, however. Lying down one day, he suddenly heard someone knocking on his door, so ordered it be answered. Seeing Guan arriving on horseback, Qun invited him to enter and sit. Prior to this Qun had heard that Guan had been unwell, and was delighted to see him visit. He said: “Having been informed the gentleman was ill, we express our humble concern.” Guan said: “Your servant was unwell, but has now recovered, but for the gentleman’s illness we express our humble concern. It shouldn’t be more than a day or two before you hear of me.” They talked and laughed together before he departed. When Guan called on Qun, Guan must already have been dead.

From Xuanshizhi.

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), viii, 351.2777:



A Spirit Uproots A Tree 鬼拔樹

Towards the end of the Xingding 興定 era (1217-1220 CE), a peasant from Caozhou 曹州 was walking along the road one day, when he was caught in a sudden shower. From the empty air a voice spoke: “Brave enough?” He then heard a loud laughing sound. The person went on a further half-li, and saw a large willow tree torn up by its roots and thrown several dozen paces. In the mud there was the print of a great thigh and buttocks, about as big as a grain container. That spirit must have pulled up a tree and then just fallen on its back and laughed!

Yuan Haowen 元好問, Xu Yijian zhi 續夷堅志 (Continued Records of the Listener), 2.26:



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 Yangzhou Thunder Spirit 揚州雷鬼

The senior official Gentleman Yan Heng resided with his household in Yangzhou. His wife, the Lady Yang, was sitting together, in broad daylight, with their sons and daughters in the hall when thunder and rain suddenly burst forth, and a strange apparition fell from the empty air onto the floor. A little over three chi in height (i.e., about a metre), its face and flesh were both black, and it wore a turban on its head, like the head-cloths of the present day, but as if it were made of flesh, this was joined to its forehead. Turning to look at the people, it covered its face as if in laughter. Before long the crowd grew more and more numerous, but its laughter continued without pause. After a moment, a great thunderbolt erupted outside, thick clouds bringing sombre darkness so people could not be distinguished from one another, and it quickly climbed the empty air and departed.

Hong Mai, Yi Jian Zhi, ii, 7.421:



Hong Mai 洪邁, He Zhuo 何卓 (ed.), Yi Jian Zhi 夷堅志 (Record of Yi Jian) 4 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1981)