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)

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A Daoist Sends A Letter 道人寄書

Before the seat of the Linchuan County Magistrate is a stone peak, topped with a small pavilion, and this is protected by a vermillion railing. A seventy-year-old army veteran said:

Beneath this peak was an immortal paradise. Long ago there was an Attaché to the Guard in Zhejiang who, encountering an immortal there, was given a letter, and told: “If I may trouble you, when you are about to leave Fuzhou, please knock on the rock below Ram’s Horn Peak that stands before the town, and there will be the letter’s recipient.” When the attaché returned, he knocked on the stone, and saw a red gate open to a cave, snaggletoothed with glazed tiles, and with windows and a pavilion, quite different from those seen in the human world. Elderly men and women all came out to greet and question him, giving him a cup of broth to drink that was fragrant and beguiling in flavour, and telling him: “The attaché can stay here.” The attaché said: “I have young and old to care for, and do not wish to remain here.” They gave him a sheng (about 1 litre) of grain, and although the attaché threw it to the ground angrily, a dozen or so grains stuck to the skirt of his robe. They then showed him out of the gate, which turned out to be on the riverbank at Wushigang. When he worked out the date, it turned out that he’d been gone more than a year. Later, he saw that the ten or more grains were actually tiny nuggets of gold.

From this we know that the stone at the peak is a border with the territory of the immortals, and that the attaché was not fated to enjoy their good fortune!

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.137 (Tale 241):

道人寄書

臨川郡治前有石山,覆以小亭,及結朱闌護之。有七十歲老兵云:此石山下有洞天福地。昔有一承局在浙,間逢一道人寄書云:「煩將去撫州州前羊角山投下,請扣石,自有人接書。」承局歸,往叩石間,即見朱門洞開,碧瓦參差,亭臺窗戶,殊異人間世。翁姥男女皆歡迎出問,飲以湯一杯,香味襲人,且謂:「承局可留此。」承局曰:「我有老小,不願留止。」與以穀一升,承局怒擲之地,但存十數粒粘於布裙間。遂送出門,乃是烏石岡江畔。以年月計之,則已過一年以外。後見穀十數粒,乃瓜子金也。因知仙境在石山之下,而承局亦無緣分也夫!

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 Woman Dies and Becomes A Snake 女死變蛇

A family in Linchuan had a daughter, very shrewd and clever, who died at age thirteen, and was buried next to the White Pagoda at Liutai. After several days, a white lotus flower grew up on the grave, shaped like a big fungus, about a foot in size at its base; due to this praise by the assembled immortals it was called the Buddha-girl Tomb. A scholar passed it and remarked to the crowd: “There must be a monstrous thing beneath; we should excavate and examine it urgently.” When the crowd dug her up, they tore open the coffin to see a huge python atop the jacket; there was no longer a girl at all, and they released it in their confusion. The girl’s mother said: “While pregnant with this girl, in dreams I repeatedly saw a huge python come and touch the bed curtains; crying out and looking with the lamp, all was quiet and there was nothing to see. Now I realise that this was an uncanny thing.”

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.243 (Tale 439):

女死變蛇

臨川民家生一女,甚慧黠,年十三死,瘞於流臺白塔之側。數日,有白蓮花生於墳上,似大菌,蒂長尺許,衆神之稱,(「之稱」原作「稱之」,據明刻本改。)曰佛女墳。有一士人過之,言於衆曰:「下必有怪物,急宜掘視。」衆掘之,剖棺見一巨蟒在衣衿上,不復有女子矣,惑遂解。其母云:「孕此女時,寢夢間屢見巨蟒來觸幃帳,呼燈視之,寂無所有,今方知是怪物也。」

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).