Repairing Ships, Increasing Longevity 修船增壽

In the bingyin year of the Song Xianchun era (1266), the Administrative Inspector for Linchuan, Nuan Weidao, a scholar of Shu, reported that his region had two stony paths separated by a river whose waters ran fast and wild through all four seasons. Further down there was a deep abyss, and only at that place was it possible to cross, although year in and year out those who drowned there were very numerous, as their small boats struck rocks and sank. A person called Xu Zongren decided to build a large vessel, bound with iron plates at both ends, personally hiring punt-hands who were dedicated to serving passing travellers and committed to performing virtuous works in order to accrue merit. It happened that a Person of the Way called at his gate and praised this order, addressing Xu: “The gentleman’s lifespan is restricted to [112] thirty-two, and ends this year.” On the evening of his birthday, he dreamed that he arrived at a government office, seeing a prince seated high in the hall, with three or four hundred spirits before the gates in wet robes, who presented a scroll to the prince: “Xu Zongren has saved many lives from death, with the utmost merit; we beg that husband and wife should enjoy long life, their descendants receive glory and high rank. The multitude wait only for the Zhongyuan festival; they will then cross the worldly bounds.” The prince gestured to his retinue, and with the following words instructed Zongren: “Special Extension by three ages.” He awoke and marvelled at this. From then on he found wholehearted joy in doing good works. Two of his sons and three of his grandsons served as officials. When Zongren died, people erected a hall for offerings by the side of the crossing, and it stands to this day.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.111-12 (Tale 194):

修船增壽

宋咸淳丙寅,臨川錄參暖昧道,蜀士也,嘗言其鄉有兩石嶠夾出一江,四時皆湍急,下則深淵,惟此處可以立渡,常年溺死者甚衆,蓋船小觸石即碎。有徐宗仁發心造一巨舟,兩頭裹以鐵葉,自僱篙手,專一撐過客人,且建善緣以薦亡者。忽有道人登門稱善命,謂徐曰:「公壽止得三 [112] 十二,止在今年。」生日之夕,夢至官府,見王者坐於堂上,而門首溼衣之鬼約三四百人,執一卷投於王前:「徐宗仁濟生拔死,功德莫大,乞與夫妻壽考,子孫榮貴,衆等只俟中元,即超淨界。」 王者指左右,以此詞示宗仁,云:「特延三紀。」覺而異之。自此一心好善樂施。二子、三孫,後有為官者。宗仁死,人為立祠於渡側,至今尚存。

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)

Releasing Quail, Extending Longevity 放鶉延壽

When Cai Yuanchang (i.e., Cai Jing 蔡京, 1047-1126 CE)[1] held power, he ate quail at every celebration. One evening, he dreamt that a yellow-robed old person said: “In the coming days you are to suffer murder; hopefully the gentleman may be spared this fate.” Cai asked: “What kind of person are you?” They then recited verses:

Several grains of millet could feed the gentleman;

Only meat in the congee can fill the gentleman.

For one congee several lives are cut short;

Putting down his chopsticks these are still not enough.

On the moments between mouth and stomach;

Fate and fortune are together dependent.

Wishing to warn the gentleman not to kill;

Life and death spin as if on a wheel.

He awoke and marvelled at this, making enquiries to those who prepared meals, acquiring several dozen yellow quails and releasing them. During the night he again dreamt of the yellow-robed old person, who said: “I am aware that the gentleman fulfilled the prayer, and has already saved lives. The Heavenly Emperor has now granted an extension to the gentleman’s lifespan.” Cai indeed subsequently enjoyed a long life before he passed away.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.114 (Tale 199):

放鶉延壽

蔡元長當國,每喜食鶉。一夕,夢黃衣老人曰:「來日當自被害,願公貸命。」蔡問:「汝何人?」乃誦詩云:「食君數粒粟,充君羹中肉。一羹斷數命,下筯猶未足。口腹須臾間,福禍相倚伏。願公戒勿殺,死生如轉轂。」覺而異之,詢於掌饍,得黃鶉數十,放之。經宿復夢黃衣老人曰:「感公從禱,已獲復生。今上帝已延公壽命矣。」後蔡果享高壽而卒。

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] On Cai Jing 蔡京, courtesy name Yuanchang 元長 (who died after banishment at a relatively advanced age) see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cai_Jing and the brilliant article by Charles Hartman, ‘A Textual History of Cai Jing’s Biography in the “Songshi”’, in  Emperor Huizong and Late Northern Song China: The Politics of Culture and the Culture of Politics (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006), pp. 517-64.

The Hairy Woman 毛女

The hairy woman’s courtesy name was Yujiang. She was seen among the Huaying Peaks by many generations of recluses and hunters. Her body had sprouted hairs, and she herself said that she was a palace maid to Qin Shihuang (259-210 BCE). When the Qin fell, she went into exile in the hills. A Person of the Way taught her to eat pine needles, and she thus avoided freezing and starvation. Her body gradually changed to become like this over a period up to the Western Han era (206 BCE -24 CE). This is already more than a hundred and seventy years ago. Taken from the Liexianzhuan (Biographies of Immortals).[1]

Li Fang, et al., Taiping guangji, ii, 59.365:

毛女

毛女。女字玉姜。在華陰山中。山客獵師。世世見之。形體生毛。自言秦始皇宮人也。秦亡。流亡入山。道士教食松葉。遂不饑寒。身輕如此。至西漢時。已百七十餘年矣。出列仙傳

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, 59.365-66

[1] On the Liexianzhuan 列仙傳, see http://www.chinaknowledge.de/Literature/Daoists/liexianzhuan.html

Taixuan Nü 太玄女

The Taixuannü, surname Zhuan, personal name He, lost her father as a child. Mother and child lived together for some time, and all said they would not survive long. Their sadness became worry. She often said: “The life of a human, once lost, cannot be restored. Moreover, I have heard that this span of life is limited, and life cannot be extended without perfecting the Way.” She then went to call on a sagely teacher, purifying her heart, seeking the Way and achieving the *wangzi* techniques. After practicing this for several years, she was then able to enter water without getting wet. At times of deep cold and snow, she could climb the ice in an unlined robe showing no change in countenance, warm in body and able to go on for several days. Moreover she was able to visit government offices, palace chambers, city markets and private residences in many other places. Not thinking this strange, pointing at them they would shift from their previous location. Doors and gates bearing locks would open upon her gesture; pointed at, mountains would crumble, pointed at, trees would fall; pointed at again, all of these would be restored. Taking disciples travelling through the mountains, when the sun set, she struck the rock with her staff, and opened up a door. Entering, there were chambers with beds, curtains and canopies, with food, provisions and wine as if this were normal. Even were she to travel ten thousand li, her whereabouts would often be like this. She could order small items to grow suddenly to the size of a house, and big things to shrink suddenly down to be like a hair or grain. Sometimes she would spit fire to cover the heavens, and sigh to extinguish it. She was also able to sit among flames, her clothes and shoes never scorching. Within a short period, she would change into an old man, change into a small child, change into a carthorse; there was no transformation she could not achieve. She practiced the thirty-six arts with complete dedication, bringing people back to life, and saving innumerable folk. It is not known from where her food or clothing came, and none achieved her powers. Her colour reduced ever more, but the hair on her temples was raven-black. Suddenly, in broad daylight, she ascended to heaven and departed.

From Nüxianzhuan.

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, 59.363

太玄女

太玄女,姓顓,名和,少喪父。或相其母子,皆曰不壽。惻然以為憂。常曰:「人之處世,一失不可復生。況聞壽限之促,非修道不可以延生也。」遂行訪明師,洗心求道,得王子之術。行之累年,遂能入水不濡。盛雪寒時,單衣冰上,而顏色不變,身體溫煖,可至積日。又能徙官府宮殿城市屋宅於他處,視之無異,指之即失其所在,門戶櫝櫃有關鑰者,指之即開,指山山摧,指樹樹拆,更指之,即復如故。將弟子行山間,日暮,以杖叩石,即開門戶。入其中,屋宇床褥幃帳,廩供酒食如常。雖行萬里,所在常爾。能令小物忽大如屋,大物忽小如毫芒。或吐火張天,噓之即滅。又能坐炎火之中,衣履不燃。須臾之間,或化老翁,或為小兒,或為車馬,無所不為。行三十六術甚效,起死廻生,救人無數。不知其何所服食,亦無得其術者。顏色益少,鬢髮如鴉。忽白日昇天而去。出女仙傳

Envy Harms Pregnancies 妒害胎孕

Wu Jieran came from Huangxi. His wife was fiercely jealous, and had had no children. His four concubines all became pregnant, and his wife, envious, dosed them with poison, leaving them infertile. The four concubines having married, their wombs were afflicted by the poison, and all were left without children. One evening, Wu saw a deity in his dream, who said: “Your wife has excessive envy in her heart. She has now harmed four concubines and left them childless. You have a son, and he too will therefore have a shortened life, and will preside over a lineage without descendants.” Afterwards Jieran did indeed have a son, but died that very day. The Wu lineage was then severed, alas.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.96 (Tale 164):

妒害胎孕

吳介然,黃溪人。妻妒悍,無子。有四妾皆孕,妻妒忌,投毒藥之,率皆不育。其四妾適人,胎宮為藥毒,亦皆無子。一夕,吳夢一神人曰:「爾妻妒心太過,今誤四妾無子。爾有一子,亦因而促壽,將亦主絕嗣。」後介然有一子,果天喪,吳家亦為之絕,哀哉!

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).

 

Slaughtered Eels Take a Life 殺鱔取命

The Buddhist priest Zhang Daolong of the Guangxiao Temple had been addicted to eating eel since birth, claiming that the warm flesh could provide additional warmth, and the bones and blood be fed to hens. This continued for several years. One day, he bought a tub of eels, planning to kill them the following morning. That night he dreamt that there were several hundred eels in the tub and among them two grew to be very large, suddenly taking on human form, standing up before him and saying: “Our people have long filled your belly; now we demand your life.” Zhang hacked off their heads with a blade and awoke with a start, his whole body bathed in cold sweat, and spent the whole day in a miserable daze, entirely unaware of his disciples’ words. Two months later, hearing a rumour that the cavalry of the Pacification and Control Commissioner Zhao were approaching, the monks fled together, Zhang hanging back alone to cook and eat his eels before following. His soup was only just ready when the horsemen arrived, and Zhang was taken prisoner. Tortured, beaten and facing demands for silver and gold, he had nothing to give, so the cavalry force-fed him the boiling soup, killing him.

The priests of the He Temple use this to warn people not to eat eels. These eels may be very small things that look like worms, but at midnight they can raise their heads and face the north. Because the people of the world desire a tasty mouthful and a full stomach, these will be slaughtered in restaurants on any given day, the numbers of lives harmed reaching untold tens of thousands. The deliciousness and flavour in this world is boundless, what bitterness in their consumption! If we can be aware of this warning, and better still encourage its spread, then the lives of many things will be preserved and our own lifespan extended too; this is truly a greatly laudable act, and should be taken seriously and never forgotten.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.99 (Tale 170):

殺鱔取命

光孝宮道人章道隆,生平嗜食鱔魚,謂肉暖可以資補,骨血可以餧雞。如是數載。一日,買鱔一盆,方欲次早殺之。夜夢盆中鱔魚數百條,中有兩條至大,忽化人形,立於其前,曰:「我輩久飽爾腹,今就爾索命。」章用刀砍其頭而驚覺,遍身冷汗,終日恍惚以不樂,以言其徒弟,俱不之悟。越二日,傳聞趙招討軍馬到來,道衆皆避,獨章欲俟煮鱔喫,後走。煮湯方沸而軍馬亦到,章為所獲。拷掠需索金銀,無可應付,為軍人以煮鱔湯灌口而死。自是合宮道士戒不食鱔。夫鱔至微之物,其形如蟲,夜半尚能矯首朝北。世人慾一甘口飽腹,與夫食肆一日所殺,不知所害幾萬命矣。世間珍味無限,何苦而食之!若能知戒,更加廣勸,則物得活命,而我壽亦延,實一大美事,宜信之毋忘。

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).

Slaughtered Geese Present a Case for Redress 殺鵝訴冤

During the Zhenghe era (1111-18), the Superintendant Yang Tongzhi was inspecting Wuzhou when a Buddhist priest came to call on him, saying: “It is said that Wei Shu of Qiantang is coming; could this be for a letter of recommendation?” Yang said: “Indeed, [100] I was just about to recommend him.” The priest said: “That would be fruitless. He is the subject of a complaint made by 500 geese to the authorities of the nether world, and is not long for this life.” Yang did not believe that this could be true. The following day, he sent someone with the letter of recommendation, but when they arrived, Wei had already passed away. Later, on a visit to the city, he asked Wei’s clerk about the cause of death, and was told: “He died after an illness.” He asked: “Did he ever slaughter geese?” The reply came: “He didn’t usually kill geese, but once received an order from Zhu, the Chancellor of Pingjiang, entrusting him to make goose with salted fish, so slaughtered 500 of them.”

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.99-100 (tale 170):

殺鵝訴冤

政和中,提舉楊通之按行婺州,一道人來謁,曰:「聞錢塘尉書至,豈求舉狀乎?」楊曰:「然, [100] 方欲薦之。」道人曰:「無益也。渠有五百鵝,見於陰府訴冤,非久於世者。」楊不以為然。明日,遣人送舉狀,及至,尉已殂矣。後到邑呼尉吏問死狀,曰「已病死」。曰:「嘗殺鵝乎?」答曰:「平日不殺,但前日被平江朱承宣委牒,委造鵝鮓,遂殺五百隻。」

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).