Zhang Jian 張簡

Teaching Assistant to the Tang Imperial Academy Zhang Jian was from Koushi in Henan. He once gave a lecture at a provincial school on ‘Selected Literature’. A fox sprite took on Jian’s form, delivered a lecture on a book, and then departed. When Jian arrived soon after, his pupils were bewildered and asked him about it. Jian was surprised and said: “The former must have been a fox sprite.” He cancelled the lecture and returned to his rooms. He saw his younger sister sitting winding silk, and she spoke to Jian: “The food I have just cooked is cold; why has elder brother come so late?” Jian seated himself but after waiting for a long time his food still didn’t arrive. He reproached his sister, but she said: “I didn’t see you arrive in the first place; it must have been that fox sprite. If we see it again, kill it!” He came back the next day. He saw his younger sister sitting winding silk, and she spoke to Jian: “The demon has just gone behind the rooms.” Jian took up a cudgel. He saw his real younger sister emerging from the toilet, and attacked her. His sister screamed “It’s me!” Jian did not believe her, and he beat her to death. When he went to ask the silk-winder, she immediately turned into a fox and departed.

From Chaoye qianzai.

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), ix, 447.3658:

張簡

唐國子監助教張簡,河南緱氏人也。曾為鄉學講《文選》。有野狐假簡形,講一紙書而去。須臾簡至,弟子怪問之。簡異曰:「前來者必野狐也。」講罷歸舍,見妹坐絡絲,謂簡曰:「適煮菜冷,兄來何遲?」簡坐,久待不至,乃責其妹。妹曰:「元不見兄來,此必是野狐也。更見即殺之!」明日又來。見妹坐絡絲,謂簡曰:「鬼魅適向舍後。」簡遂持棒。見真妹從廁上出來,遂擊之。妹號叫曰:「是兒。」簡不信,因擊殺之。問絡絲者,化為野狐而走。出朝野僉載

Fox Deities 狐神

Since the early Tang, many among the common folk have served fox spirits, making offerings inside their homes to request benevolence. Their food and drink is the same as that of humans. Those who served them did not share a single master. At the time there was an adage that said: ‘No successful village lacks a fox demon.’

From Chaoye qianzai.

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), ix, 447.3658:

狐神

唐初已來,百姓多事狐神。房中祭祀以乞恩。食飲與人同之。事者非一主。當時有諺曰:「無狐魅,不成村。」出朝野僉載

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:

鬼拔樹

興定末,曹州一農民,一日行道中,忽驟雨。聞空中人語云:「敢否」?俄又聞大笑聲。此人行半里,見道左大柳樹拔根出,擲之十步外,泥中印大臀髀痕,如麥籠許,蓋神拔樹偃坐泥中破笑耳。

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)

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

A Pig’s Earring 猪耳鐶

The gentleman Jiang Songwei travelled from Shu via Xia, and on reaching the Yun’an Pass killed a pig as a temple sacrifice. When it came to washing the offering, he saw a single ring below one ear, inky coloured, clear and glistening; it must have formerly been a person and a thieving criminal.[1]

Hong Mai, Yi Jian Zhi, ii, 丙18.514

猪耳鐶

將仕郎宋衞自蜀道出峽,至雲安關,殺猪賽廟。洗牲時,見耳下一方鐶,墨色猶明潤,蓋必前身為人而犯盜者也。

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)

[1] This refers to the practice of tattooing a ring behind the ear as punishment for convicted thieves or bandits. On this practice, see Songshi 宋史 201.5018; Carrie E. Reed, ‘Tattoo in Early China’, Journal of the American Oriental Society 120 (2000), 360-76: 365. (the article is available online here)

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:

揚州雷鬼

上官彥衡侍郎,家居揚州。夫人楊氏白晝在堂中與兒女聚坐,忽雷雨大作,奇鬼從空隕於地,長僅三尺許,面及肉色皆青,首上加幘,如世間幞頭,乃肉為之,與額相連。顧見人,掩面如笑。既而觀者漸衆,笑亦不止。頃之,大霆激於屋表,雲霾晦冥,不辨人物,倏爾乘空而去。

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)

An Honest Heart Moves Heaven 平心感天

Chen Renfu, of Tiaolu Village, Gao’an County, resided in some wealth in a farmhouse in the village, specializing in the study of Buddhism and Daoism. Each year, in the spring, he would reserve two thousand dan of millet, and, in the fifth or sixth month of the following year, when grain was expensive, he would sell his grain at a reduced price. When the money was handed over, he’d have the buyers enter the granary themselves and would not let them take anything until the scales were perfectly level. The village all called him ‘Chen Weigh-It-Yourself’. At that time there was a terrible drought; the prefectural chief prayed for relief, but without result. One night he dreamed that the town god said: “Chen Weigh-It-Yourself has the rain.” When he awoke from the dream, he sent servants to seek a meeting at the prefecture offices. On seeing him, he was delighted, preparing candles and incense, having monks chant sutras and ordering them to pray for his longevity. Chen said: “Your servant is just a villager, lacking any skill with which to pray for rain.” The prefectural chief told him about the dream, and urged him strongly. Chen had no choice but to light incense and turn his face to heaven, praying earnestly and begging for three days of continuous heavy rain to relieve somewhat the worry and pain of the populace. When evening fell there was indeed a great rainfall, which only stopped after three days, and the people of the prefecture were all delighted. This benevolent elder’s daily reduction of grain prices was enough to move the heavens.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.108 (Tale 189):

平心感天

高安縣調露鄉陳仁父,居村田宅稍富,專事釋老之學。每年春留穀二千石,至次年五六月米貴之時,減價發糶,既交錢,令糴者自入倉內量出,不許多取,務要兩平。一村稱之曰「陳自量」。時大旱,太守祈求不應,夜夢城隍曰:「調露鄉陳自量有雨。」夢覺,差人尋訪赴郡。太守見之,喜具香燭,僧道誦經,就令祈禱。陳曰:「某村夫,無術可以祈雨。」太守以所夢事告,強之。陳不免炷香,對空而禱,乞降霖雨三日,以濟焦沽(「沽」,疑當作「枯」。)少甦民望。至晚果大雨,三日方止,一郡之人皆悅。蓋仁父平日減米價,足以感天也。

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).