Celestial Grandmas Sell Medicine 仙姥貨藥

In Xiangtan there lived a Mr Zhou; his wife having been ill for two years, he sought medicines and asked the gods, but in his ignorance this had not the slightest effect, and eventually he just burned night-incense and prayed. One day, two women wearing dark robes came to his gate selling medicine; they withdrew, saying: “We specialize in women’s medicine.” Zhou hurriedly invited them in, requesting that they take her pulse and treat the illness. The women said: “There is no need for examination, but we ask for a light to illuminate her.” After they had looked, they said: “Why has she not taken the Jiyin pills made by Lady Wei of Nanyue?” Zhou asked: “How could a single pill relieve two years of illness?” The women replied: “Try it and see.” They opened a medicine pouch, handing over a pill and ordering that it be swallowed with warm wine. As the medicine approached her mouth, it released an unusually delicious fragrance, and the illness was subsequently [143] entirely shrugged off. The patient then asked to dress and go out to give thanks, but the two women had suddenly vanished.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.142-43 (Tale 250):

仙姥貨藥

湘潭有周某者,妻病已兩年,求醫問神,茫無寸效,惟燒夜香祈禱而已。一日,有兩婦人青衣登門貨藥,卻云:「專醫婦人。」周急延之,請診脈治病。婦人曰:「不須診,但借火一照可也。」見訖,云:「何不服南嶽魏夫人濟陰丹?」周曰:「容修合。」婦人曰:「自送一丸。」周曰:「一丸豈能療兩年之病?」婦人曰:「試服。」開藥包,以一丸授之,令溫酒嚥下。藥纔到口,香味異常,其病隨 [143] 即如脫。病者即求攬衣出謝,而兩婦人忽亦不見矣。

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).

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A Clam Reveals Its Power 蛤蜊顯聖

When Chancellor Shi attained power, the governor of the capital selected a tray of clams as an offering. That night the gentleman saw a gleam of light emerging from one clam among the others in the tray. Picking up and examining it, he realized it was quite unlike the others, and when struck it would not crack open. The gentleman suspected that it was a marvel, so placed it on a table, burned incense and prayed to it. Presently the clam cracked open of its own accord, revealing two people, their faces and eyebrows dignified and handsome, bodies and physiques extremely beautiful, hair in buns, hair tasseled and ornamented, wearing lotus-flower shoes, just like those statues people in this world devote to the servants of the Buddha. The gentleman then had a temple grotto carved from various fragrant woods, and to calm their spirits added ornamentation of gold and jade, until the brightness dazzled the eye. He ordered the gathered monks to take them into the Buddhist monastery and attend to them. It is not known how all of this finished.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.267 (Tale 485):

蛤蜊顯聖

史丞相當國,京尹選大蛤蜊一盤以獻。是夜公見盤中一蛤蜊有光,取而視之,獨異其他,劈而不裂。公疑異之,取而致几上,焚香祝之。俄頃蛤自裂開,中有二人,形眉端秀,體格悉備,螺髻纓絡,足履蓮花,與人世所事佛像一般。公遂以諸香木刻成巖殿,以安其神,加以金玉為飾,光耀奪目,令衆僧送入佛寺安奉,後不知所終。

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 Pair of Dragons Reveal Themselves 雙龍現形

Liu Dongwei was skilled at painting dragons, and one day a husband and wife came to his gate and said: “Dragons are male and female, and their forms differ. The males have horns that are wavelike and concave, their eyes deep and noses slit, their fins pointed and scales thick, strong above and weaker below, and their tails glow with bright flame. The females’ horns are extravagant, wavelike and even, their eyes shallow and their noses straight; their fins rounded and their scales thin, their tails are strong and thick.” Wei said: “How do you know this?” The people said: “We are ourselves dragons.” They transformed into a pair of dragons and flew away.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.265 (Tale 480):

現形

劉洞微善畫龍,一日有夫婦造其門曰:「龍有雌雄,其壯不同,雄者角浪凹,目深鼻豁,鬐尖鱗密,上壯下殺,尾火燁燁。雌者角靡浪平,目淺鼻直,鬐圓鱗薄,尾壯於腹。」微曰:「何以知之?」其人曰:「吾身即龍。」化為雙龍飛去。

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 Python Spirit Becomes A Demon 蟒精為妖

In Nanzhong there is the Xuanxian place for offerings, at the foot of a steep and rocky precipice, and at the top of that is a stony grotto cave. Tradition has it that this was the residence of supernatural beings, and at times it is shrouded and hidden by clouds and mist. Students of the Way often built houses beneath it, and would see an immortal manifest before them, saying: “Every year on the Zhongyuan day (the Ghost Festival; the fifteenth day of the seventh month), you should select a person of virtuous conduct at the altar, and they will then ascend as an immortal.” At this all of those who studied the way and admired immortals gathered together there. When the time came, people from near and far congregated beneath the altar, holding incense, gazing at the cave mouth and praying. Afterwards, a person of moral virtue was selected from among the crowd, dressed and capped spotlessly, and stood still on the dais for a long time, eventually ascending, at which the remainder were all left dejected, saying goodbye and leaving. Then a multi-coloured auspicious cloud gathered, extending from the cave over to the altar. The virtuous person, robe and hat quite still, rode the cloud and ascended to the grotto’s entrance, where a great scarlet lantern guided their way. The spectators without exception wept and snivelled in admiration and envy, gazing into the distance and making obeisance. This continued for several years, and none were chosen whose lack of virtue or destiny in the Way provoked resentment.

The next year, the crowd chose someone of great age, and just as he ascended, a person of the Way said that he had come from Wudangshan to take up residence at a monastery, and asked what was going on; everything was explained to him. The monk sighed in admiration of this, and said: “Ascension as an immortal, now, [260] who would have thought it could be so easy? In the void there must, however, be noble spirits among the strong celestial winds, and one must be able to intercept them. I have a token which can protect against this; please place it on your chest, and be careful not to lose it.” The virtuous one placed it on his chest, and was delighted. When the time came the multi-coloured cloud wound around his feet, and he gradually ascended.

The following day, the monk sent his people to the edge of the cliff, in order to look into the cave. There they saw the levitated person lying emaciated and haggard as if suffering from serious illness, breathing with difficulty and eventually just about able to speak. When questioned, he said: “Just as I reached the cave mouth, I caught sight of a huge python, spitting a haze that became clouds, with two eyes like fires. Just as it opened its jaws, intending to swallow me, there came a sudden quaking of wind and storm, striking it dead at the edge of the cavern.” When they looked, it was a python of several arm spans around, dozens of zhang (3.3m) in length. Moreover, there were skeletons piled up around the cave, which were the bones of the levitated people. The multi-coloured cloud was the python’s poisoned breath, and the scarlet lantern its glowing eyes.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.259-60 (Tale 471):

蟒精為妖

南中有選仙道場,在一峭崖石壁之下,其絕頂石洞穴,相傳以為神仙之窟宅,時有雲氣蒙藹。常有學道之人築室於下,見一仙人現前,曰:「每年中元日,宜推選有德行之人祭壇,當得上昇為仙。」於是學道慕仙之人咸萃於彼。至期,遠近之人齎香赴壇下,遙望洞門祝禱,而後衆推道德高者一人,嚴潔衣冠,佇立壇上,以候上昇,餘皆慘然訣別而退。於時有五色祥雲油然,自洞而至壇場。其道高者,衣冠不動,躡雲而昇至洞門,則有大紅紗燈籠引導。觀者靡不涕泗健羨,遙望作禮。如是者數年,人皆以為道緣德薄,未得應選為恨。至次年,衆又推舉一年高者,方上昇間,忽一道人云自武當山來掛搭,問其所以,具以實對。道人亦嗟羨之,曰:「上昇為仙, [260] 豈容易得?但虛空之中有剛風浩氣,必能遏截。吾有一符能禦之,請置於懷,慎勿遺失。」道德高者懷之,喜甚。至時果有五色祥雲捧足,冉冉而昇。踰日,道人遣其衆緣崖登視洞穴,見飛昇之人形容枯槁,橫卧於上,若重病者,奄奄氣息,久方能言。問之,則曰:「初至洞門,見一巨蟒,吐氣成雲,兩眼如火,方開口欲吞啗間,忽風雷大震,霹死於洞畔。」視之,蟒大數圍,長數十丈,又有骸骨積於巖穴之間,乃前後上昇者骨也。蓋五色雲者,乃蟒之毒氣也;紅紗燈籠者,蟒之眼光也。

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).

A Strange Serpent Spits Light 異蛇吐光

In Huizhou, among the peaks facing the river old serpent lived in secret; it was several zhang in length (a zhang is c.3.3m), and none knew its age. Whenever the year of the Song court’s civil examination arrived, it spat out a thing emitting a strange light. When this was a single glowing ball, one person would pass the examinations; if there were two then two would pass. The scholars of Hui would make a special trip and spend the night at a riverside building, to check the number of snake lights, to verify their exam success in the coming year.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.258 (Tale 468):

異蛇吐光

惠州對江山中,有老蛇隱於其間,其長數丈,莫知年數。宋朝科舉年則夜吐異光。若光一團,則主一人登科;若光二團,則二人登科。惠之士人專以夜宿於江樓,望蛇光之有無,以為次年科舉之驗也。

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).

A Brightly-Coloured Dragon Emblem 龍章五色

[3] The childhood name of Song Wudi, Liu Yu (356-422 CE) was Jinu. On the first evening after his birth, a splendid auspicious light penetrated the chamber. In his days of poverty and hardship, he arrived at the Zhulin Temple in Jingkou, lying down in the classroom, where there appeared the imperial dragon emblem in bright colours; the monks of the temple were astonished by it. Where the emperor halted and resided, people often saw a pair of small dragons, like the yi bird[1] in appearance. Later, when he attacked Dixinzhou, there was a huge serpent, several zhang (c.3.33m) in length, and the emperor shot and wounded it. The following day, on returning there, he suddenly heard a sound like a mortar and pestle, and the emperor went to observe this, seeing several youths all dressed in (servants’) dark robes, pounding medicine among the thick vegetation. The emperor questioned them, and a youth said: “Our king turned into a snake and went out, but was shot by Liu Jinu, so we are preparing medicine to help him.” The emperor said: “The king can then be immortal, why did he not kill?” The youth said: “The king Jinu cannot be killed. He is marked by the Heavenly Mandate; how can he be killed?” The emperor shouted at them, and all fled. He took all the medicine and returned, using it to treat wounds from metal, and none so treated did not recover. Now the Bencao calls this Liu Jinu, and this name is taken from Wudi.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前1.2-3 (Tale 2):

龍章五色

[3] 宋武帝劉裕,小字寄奴。始生之夕,祥光燦爛,洞燭一室。微時游京口竹林寺,臥於講堂上,有五色龍章,寺僧見而驚異之。帝所居止,常見有二小龍如附翼狀。後伐荻新洲,有大蛇長數丈,帝射傷之。明日復至,俄聞杵臼聲,帝往覘之,見數童子皆衣青衣,擣藥榛莽中。帝詢之,童子曰:「我王化為蛇而出,為劉寄奴所射,故為合藥傅之。」帝曰:「王果能神,何不殺之?」童子曰:「寄奴王者不死。天之所命,豈可殺也!」帝叱之,皆逸。盡收其藥而返,以傅金瘡,無不愈者。今《本草》稱劉寄奴,蓋以武帝而得名也。

[1] Here yi 翼 refers to a bird described in Shanhaijing, which, having a single wing, can only fly in pairs.

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).

Taking Pills, Getting Ulcers 服丹發疽

The household of Instructor Ding Guang of Baozhou included many attendants and concubines, and he was deeply committed to wine and sexual pleasure. At that time there was a Daoist passing through the prefecture, who claimed to be a hundred years old and able to smelt great pills, the taking of which enabled the fulfilment of all sensual desires while retaining good health without danger of illness, and allowing later transcendent elevation to the heavens. The prefectural head provided him with accommodation, and presented his compliments. On a selected day, the pill baking began, smelting following his specific method, and after forty-nine days it was finished, its spirit-gleam illuminating the heavens. They arranged a banquet with music to celebrate together, planning to take the pills afterwards. When Guang heard of this, he wrote a letter to be presented, begging to be allowed a measure for his own recuperation. The Daoist was unwilling, due to his common bones, but the prefectural head begged that his request be fulfilled, so he received a half portion, and Guang took it with delight. Several days later, the prefectural commander and magistrate developed ulcers on their backs. The Daoist fled by night, and the prefectural head reported death after death. Guang himself developed boils on his waist, and became terrified, drinking yellow earth water to relieve it, and eventually recovered. The following year, he again developed a hot rash, and therefore soaked himself in a bath; when water entered the sores, he could no longer rise. Cinnabar poisoning is sometimes like this, so we record it here, as a warning to the public.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.104 (Tale 180):

服丹發疽

保州教授丁廣,家多侍妾,以酒色沉縱。會有道人過郡,自言數百歲,能煉大丹,服之可以飽嗜欲,而康健無疾,然後飛昇度世。守貳館之,以先生之禮事之。選日創丹竈,依其法煉之,四十九日而成,神光燭天。置酒大合樂相慶,然後嘗之。廣聞之,裁書以獻,乞取刀圭,以養病者。道人以其骨凡不肯與,守貳憐之為請,僅得半粒,廣欣然服之。不數日,郡將、通判皆疽發於背。道人宵遁,守貳相繼告殂。廣腰間生一癤,甚皇恐,飲地漿解之,得愈。明年,復作熱躁,因澡身,水入瘡囗,不能起。金石之毒,有如此者,故書於此,以為世戒也。

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).