Tan Sheng 談生

At the age of forty Tan Sheng was without a wife. He often became aroused through study and reading. Suddenly one midnight a young woman appeared to him, aged fifteen or sixteen and peerless under heaven in her appearance, dress and posture. She came to Sheng so they could be husband and wife, but told him: “I am not like other people. Never let firelight shine upon me. Only after three years have passed may I be illuminated.” They then lived as man and wife. She’d bore a son, who was already two years old, when, unable to bear it any longer, Sheng waited until she was asleep then stealthily illuminated and examined her. Above her waist was living flesh, just like any human being, but below her waist were just dry bones. His wife awoke, and told him: “The gentleman has betrayed me. I had almost returned to life – why could you not bear to wait just one more year before examining me?” Sheng parted from her with thanks, weeping, as they could no longer be together.

She said: “Although my parting from the gentleman is entirely correct, I am still concerned for our child. You are poor and unable to support yourselves, so follow me a moment and I will leave you something of value. Sheng followed her as she entered a splendid hall, its rooms and furnishings all quite extraordinary. Indicating a pearl-stitched gown, she handed it to him and said: “You can support yourself with this.” She then tore away the front of the gown, left it with him and departed. Sheng subsequently took the robe to the market, where it was purchased by the household of the Suiyang Prince, earning him a thousand ten-thousand strings of cash.

The prince recognised the robe, however, and said: “This is my daughter’s gown. It must have been taken from her tomb.” He thus seized and beat Sheng, who told him the full truth, but the prince still did not believe him. They therefore went to view the tomb, and found the grave undisturbed, just like [2502] before. When they opened it, beneath the coffin lid they found the same gown. They called his child, and indeed he resembled the princess. The prince then believed the story, and summoned Tan Sheng, granting him the gown and installing him as princely consort. Their son was appointed Chancellor.[1]

From Lieyizhuan

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, 316.2501-2:

談生

談生者。年四十。無婦。常感激讀書。忽〈書忽原作詩經。據明鈔本改。〉夜半有女子。可年十五六。姿顏服飾。天下無雙。來就生為夫婦。乃〈乃原作之。據明鈔本改。〉言。我與人不同。勿以火照我也。三年之後。方可照。為夫妻。生一兒。已二歲。不能忍。夜伺其寢後。盜照視之。其腰上已生肉如人。腰下但有枯骨。婦覺。遂言曰。君負我。我垂生矣。何不能忍一歲而竟相照也。生辭謝。涕泣不可復止。云。與君雖大義永離。然顧念我兒。若貧不能自偕活者。暫隨我去。方遺君物。生隨之去。入華堂。室宇器物不凡。以一珠袍與之曰。可以自給。裂取生衣裾。留之而去。後生持袍詣市。睢陽王家買之。得錢千萬。王識之曰。是我女袍。此必發墓。乃取拷之。生具以實對。王猶不信。乃視女冢。冢完如 [2502] 故。發視之。果棺蓋下得衣裾。呼其兒。正類王女。王乃信之。即召談生。復賜遺衣。以為主壻。表其兒以為侍中。出列異傳

[1] With thanks to Ofer Waldman for greatly improving this translation!

The Jiankang Musician 建康樂人

In Jiankang there was a musician. One evening he went to the market, and saw two drivers, who told him: “Assistant Judge Lu summons you.” He departed following them, and came to a large residence, furnished with great magnificence. There were more than ten guests in all, generously provided with wine. They were only served drinks, however, without any food. Moreover, the wine did not reach the musician. When dawn came all dispersed. The musician was extremely tired, so lay down on a bed outside the gates. When he awoke, he was out in the countryside, next to a large tomb. He asked the villagers about it, and was told: “Legend has it that this is the tomb of Assistant Judge Lu. It is not clear what era he lived in.”

From Jishenlu.

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, 353.2798:

建康樂人

建康有樂人。日晚如市。見二僕夫云。陸判官召。隨之而去。至大宅。陳設甚嚴。賓客十餘人。皆善酒。惟飲酒而不設食。酒亦不及樂人。向曙而散。樂人困甚。因臥門外牀上。既寤。乃在草間。旁有大塚。問其里人。云。相傳陸判官之塚。不知何時人也。出稽神錄

Yang Xinglian’s Wooden Puppet 楊行廉木偶

Yang Xinglian of Shu was meticulous and ingenious, and once carved wood into a monk, which extended its hand in the Yizhou market and begged for coins. When it its hands were filled with fifty coins, it would lean and pour them into a jar, saying the word “give alms”.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.7 (Tale 55):

楊行廉木偶

蜀人楊行廉精巧,嘗刻木為僧,於益州市引手乞錢。錢滿五十於手,則自傾寫下瓶,口言「布施」字。

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories) in Du yi zhi, Xuanshi Zhi 獨異志,宣室志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories, Stories from the Chamber of Dissemination), edited by Zhang Yongqin 张永钦 and Hou Zhiming 侯志明 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1983)

An Immortal Treats Reversed Hands 仙醫反掌

In the market of Huofu, in Wanzai County, there was a beggar surnamed Guo, whose left hand and both feet were all twisted upwards. This only allowed him to scrape along the ground leaning on a staff held in his right hand, so people called him ‘Scrape Guo’. His mother was elderly and suffered from arthritis; his younger brother suffered in the same way. Scrape went out to beg on the first and fifteenth day of each month. The people of the market all felt sympathy for him and treated him generously, so he was able to support both mother and brother, gathering a month’s worth of provisions, and he went on like this for eighteen years without resentment. In the winter of the second year Yuanzhen (1296), he encountered a Daoist who, seeing his extreme poverty, and his voluntary support for mother and younger brother, he then took five balls of medicine and gave them to Scrape, saying: “If you take my medicine, your long-standing trouble will immediately be resolved.” Scrape took them as instructed, and his hand and feet were then as normal. Not having expected such healing of his illness, he no longer had a reason for his begging, and people were no longer generous to him. Just as he found himself in dire need, he again encountered the same Daoist. Scrape thanked him, and entreated him, saying: “When I received the kind grant of medicine, I happened to forget that my mother is ill; not having shared it with her, my mother now remains [146] ill.” The Daoist gave him five more medicine balls; his mother took two balls, and it was as if her illness had vanished. He still had three balls, and this came to the attention of a wealthy person living near the village who suffered from the same condition. The rich person spoke to Scrape: “It is said you have three pellets of a wonder drug; I will buy these from you for one ingot’s worth of paper money.” Scrape replied that he did not want to accept money, but did want to relieve his condition, and, if he could supply the needs of their three mouths for life, he would happily give him the medicine. Afterwards, when the effect had been demonstrated, the wealthy person kept his word and supported them.

It can only be that Scrape Guo’s single-minded filial piety led him to encounter this immortal and benefit from boundless good fortune. Why, if a beggar can devote himself in this way, others should certainly examine their own conduct.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.145-46 (Tale 255):

仙醫反掌

萬載縣獲賦市,有丐者姓郭,左手及兩足皆反掌於上,止得右手拄地擦行,人遂名以「郭擦」。母老病風,弟病亦然。擦每月朔望出丐,一市人皆憐而惠之,遂得養母及弟,僅得一月之食,如此者十八年無怨。元貞二年冬,遇一道人,見其貧苦,又甘心養母與弟,遂與藥五丸與擦,云:「汝服吾藥,宿疾頓可。」擦如教服之,手足隨即如常。不料疾愈,無可託辭以丐,而人亦無惠之者。方窘急間,又遇元道人。擦謝之,且祈之云:「向蒙惠藥,偶忘母疾,未曾分與,今母尚 [146] 病。」道人再以五丸與之,其母服兩丸,其疾如失。尚餘三丸,適為里近富人所知,其病亦同,富人與擦云:「聞汝有妙藥三丸,以鈔一錠與汝回贖。」擦應言不願受鈔,願病安,三口乞終身供給,遂以藥授之。後果效,富人守信供給之,得非郭擦一念孝悌,獲遇神仙以受無窮之福。吁!丐者而處心如此,人亦可以自反矣。

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).

An Immortal Treats A Hunchback 仙醫曲背

Monk Li of Xichuan had a disciple whose back was so bent that they could not look upwards, and because the medicine market had closed, saw a Daoist, who said: “If the scholar has money, I beg two or three hundred cash for wine.” The scholar said: “I am poor and lack money, but there is some weak wine in my residence; will you have a drink with me?” The Daoist accepted happily and accompanied him. When the wine was half finished, the Daoist said: “Why is your back curved?” The scholar said: “Unfortunately I happened to suffer this illness; there is nothing to be done about it.” The Daoist therefore took out thirty grains of medicine, saying: “In the coming days, at the fifth watch (3-5am) face east, take these with freshly drawn water, and do not become alarmed if you feel a slight pain.” The scholar did as instructed and, having taken the medicine, felt an extreme and unbearable dryness, turning and thrashing on his bed and regretting it bitterly. Nevertheless, every time he stretched himself he felt slightly more comfortable, and by the next day his back was quite straight.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.143 (Tale 251):

仙醫曲背

西川李和尚,有門人背傴不能仰視,因藥市罷,見一道士,云:「秀才有錢,丐一二百文為酒資。」書生謂:「貧無錢,所居有薄釀,同一醉可乎?」道士欣然便往。酒半,道士問:「何故背傴?」書生言:「不幸遇此疾,無如之何。」道士因出藥三十粒,云:「來日五更面東,新汲水下,覺微痛不足怪。」書生如教,既服藥,燥甚不可勝,展轉牀上,亦甚悔之。然每一伸縮,漸覺舒快,比明身已直矣。

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).

The Spirit of Harmony 和合之神

Elder Brother Wan Hui had tousled hair, his face bore a laughing smile, his right hand held a drum, his left hand grasped the stick. Among those buying and selling in the markets of Hangzhou, and in the households of the populace, there were none who did not make offerings to him, giving at least a meal, saying that he was the spirit of harmony, and that those who offered to him even could bring people back from myriads of li in distance. Those buying and selling in business prayed to him, and none went unfulfilled, so they called him ‘ten thousand returns.’ Offerings are also made to him at the Tiezhu Temple and Wudang Peak Temple in Longxing.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.21 (Tale 393):

和合之神

萬回哥哥,蓬頭,面帶笑容,左手擎鼓,右手執棒。杭州市肆買賣及居民之家無不奉祀,一飯必祭,云是和合之神,奉祀之,可以使人在萬里之外,亦能回來。買賣經營禱之,無不應驗,故名萬回。龍興鐵柱觀側、武當山觀內亦奉祀之。

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).