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!

A Wuyuan Soldier’s Wife 婺源軍人妻

In a dingyou year, the wife of a soldier from Jianwei in Wuyuan died, so he remarried. His second wife terribly mistreated his children by the first wife, and the husband was quite unable to stop this. One day, he suddenly saw his dead wife pass through the gate and enter. Furious at the second wife, she said: “Who among the people will not die? How could anyone lack all motherly feelings? Yet you abuse our children like this? I have recently made a complaint to the authorities of the nether world, and they granted me a break of ten days in which I am to teach you. If you then fail to change, I would surely be able to kill the gentleman.” Husband and wife were both terrified and bowed over and over, then provided her with food and drink. They once invited trusted friends from among their neighbours, greeting them and chatting as normal, but these other people could hear her voice, despite only the husband being able to see her. When night fell, she set up a bed in another room. The husband wished to spend the night with her, but was not allowed. When the ten days were up, she was about to depart, but again reprimanded the second wife and urged her to improve. Her words were very [2800] earnest and thoughtful. She escorted the family members together to her tomb, and when they were a little over a hundred paces from the grave, said: “You should all stop here.” She then said her goodbyes in a polite and courteous manner, then departed. Just as she reached a cypress grove all of the family could see her, in clothes and appearance seeming just they had in life. When she reached the tomb, she disappeared.

The officer of the Jianwei Army Wang Yanchang reported that it occurred like this.

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, 353.2799-800:

婺源軍人妻

丁酉歲。婺源建威軍人妻死更娶。其後妻虐遇前妻之子過甚。夫不能制。一日。忽見亡妻自門而入。大怒後妻曰。人誰無死。孰無母子之情。乃虐我兒女如是耶。吾比訴與地下所司。今與我假十日。使我誨汝。汝遂不改。必能殺君。夫妻皆恐懼再拜。即為具酒食。徧召親黨鄰里。問訊敘話如常。他人但聞其聲。唯夫見之。及夜。為設榻別室。夫欲從之宿。不可。滿十日。將去。復責勵其後妻。言甚 [2800] 切至。舉家親族共送至墓。去墓百餘步。曰。諸人可止矣。復殷勤辭訣而去。將及柏林中。諸人皆見之。衣服容色如平生。及墓乃沒。建威軍使汪延昌言如是。出稽神錄

Li Yun 李雲

The former county official of Nanzheng Li Yun wished to take in a concubine in Chang’an, but her mother would not allow it. Yun said: “I give my oath that I shall not marry.” She therefore permitted it, and he named the concubine Chu Bin. After several years the concubine died. A number of years having passed after her death, he married the lady Chen, daughter of the former Governor of Nanzheng. On the day of the wedding, Yun was washing in the bathroom when he saw Chu Bin approaching bearing a dose of medicine. She came right up and addressed Yun: “You promised me you would not marry, but now you make yourself son-in-law to the Chen household. I have nothing to present as a gift, but grant a bundle of fragrance to add to your hot bath.” She poured all of the medicine into the bathtub, stirred it with a hairpin, and then left. Yun was greatly unsettled by this, but, becoming very tired, was unable to climb out of the tub. His limbs and torso dissolved like cotton, his bones and muscles dispersed.

From Wenqilu.

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, 352.2786:

李雲

前南鄭縣尉李雲。於長安求納一姬。其母未許。雲曰。予誓不婚。乃許之。號姬曰楚賓。數年後。姬卒。卒後經歲。遂婚前南鄭令沈氏女。及婚日。雲及浴於淨室。見楚賓執一藥來。徑前。謂雲曰。誓余不婚。今又與沈家作女壻。無物奉。贈君香一帖。以資浴湯。瀉藥末入浴斛中。釵子攪水訖而去。雲甚覺不安。困羸不能出浴。遂卒。肢體如棉。筋骨並散。出聞奇錄

Release A Dragon, Receive A Reward 放龍獲報

On the bank of the Lu River Li Yuan saw a small scarlet snake. Less than a chi in length, it was being harassed by a shepherd boy. Yuan bought it with a hundred cash, and released it among the thick vegetation. The following year, he was crossing the Long Bridge[1] again, and saw the Jinshi scholar Zhu Jun coming to call on him, saying: “Jun lives just a few hundred paces from the end of the bridge; their Excellency sends an invitation, if you will pardon me and sit.” Leading him to sit together in a boat, they travelled to a mountain, with richly decorated buildings and halls, all very tightly guarded. Presently, a person wearing a tall hat and ceremonial robes summoned Yuan, saying: “Our young son suffered misfortune and almost died at the hands of a mischievous boy; his humble life depended on the gentleman’s help.” Turning to Jun he ordered that he bow again, and then ordered a banquet be laid out, mixing products of land and sea, saying: “I am a fish of the southern seas; having achieved merit in life, the Heavenly Emperor decreed that I reside here, styling me Anliu Wang. I have a young servant, with the childhood name Yunjie, and I now present her to you; if you accept her, she will be of help.” Yuan therefore did not depart. He subsequently went to sit the civil examinations; when the test was due on the following day, Yunjie stealthily obtained the exam questions; Yuan then prepared his composition in advance, and, on entering the examination hall, felt great satisfaction, achieved great success and a recommendation as an imperial scholar. Yunjie said goodbye to him, saying: “I have obeyed the prince’s order and dare not stay long.” A poem of parting read:

Six years here to repay deep benevolence,

Saying farewell to the aquatic realm and the region of fish.

None say that newly-weds should be parted again,

All wish to share ancient love with new people.

Li Yuan was thus newly married at that time.

**uncertain translation**

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.118 (Tale 205):

放龍獲報

李元於吳江岸見小朱蛇,長不滿尺,為牧童所困。元以百錢買之,放於茂草中。明年,再經長橋,有進士朱浚來謁見,曰:「浚居橋尾數百步耳,大人遣奉召,幸恕坐。」邀同舟,至一山,樓殿寶飾,侍衛甚嚴。俄一人高冠道服,引元坐:曰:「小兒不幸,幾死頑童之手,賴君子活此微命。」顧浚令再拜,乃命置酒,水陸交錯,曰:「吾乃南海之鱗,有功於世,天帝詔居此,封安流王。吾有小奴,小字雲姐,今於贈子,子納之,當得其助。」元乃別去。後赴禮闈,明日當試,雲姐私入竊所試題目出,元乃檢閱宿構,入試,大得意,高捷薦名登科。雲姐告辭曰:「奉王命不敢久留。」作詩別曰:「六年於此報深恩,水國魚鄉是去程。莫謂初婚又相別,都將舊愛與新人。」時李元新娶故也。

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)

[1] An ancient structure in Jiangsu Province.

Li Yuangong 李元恭

*Translation revised with the generous help of Ofer Waldman – thanks Ofer!*

The Tang-era Vice-President of the Ministry of Personnel Li Yuangong[1] had a granddaughter, a Miss Cui, peaceful of countenance and extremely beautiful, fifteen or sixteen years old, who was suddenly afflicted by a demonic illness. When this had lasted for a long time, the fox manifested itself as a young man, calling himself ‘Gentleman Hu’; they repeatedly sought scholars of magic, but were unable to make it go away. Yuangong’s son possessed a broad education and great wisdom, and often asked: “Does Gentleman Hu also possess learning or not?” And so the fox engaged in discussions, missing not a single topic. He employed many questions to probe the fox, who tended to be closely acquainted with music. After a long time of this, he addressed Miss Cui, saying: “Nobody should remain without education.” He therefore brought an elderly man to teach Miss Cui Classics and History, and over three years she acquired a degree of expertise [204] in the cardinal principles of the various schools. He also brought a person to teach her calligraphy, and, after a single year, she came to be considered an expert calligrapher. He also said: “How can a married woman not have studied music? The konghou and pipa, though present in all music, are not so suitable as study of the qin.” He further summoned another person, saying that he was skilled at playing the qin, and stating that his surname was Hu, and that he was a scholar of Yangdi County in the Sui era. He taught her all the various tunes, preparing her fully in their subtleties, and she was quite unsurpassed on other famous songs. As to himself he claimed: “I am skilled at Guanglingsan,[2] which many encounters with Ji Zhong San[3] did not get him to teach it to other men.” He was also especially good at transmitting the wonders of Wuyeti.[4] Li later asked: “Why does Gentleman Hu not marry and return home?” The fox was extremely pleased, bowing again in thanks and saying: “I have long cherished this, too, but have not dared, purely due to being a pleb” That day, he bowed over and over to the family, leaping about in the utmost joy. Li asked: “Mr Hu wishes to return home with his wife; where is his residence?” The fox said: “Before the residence there are two large bamboos.” At that time the Li residence had a bamboo garden, and Li, going to search around there, found a small hole between two of the great trees; it turned out to be a fox’s lair, drawing water to fill it. At first they captured a badger, a raccoon dog, and several dozen small foxes. Eventually an elderly fox, wearing an unlined green robe, followed them out of the hole; it was the same robe he was always wearing. The family spoke joyfully: “Now Mr Hu has emerged!” They killed him, and the strange events stopped.
From Guangyiji 廣異記 (Extensive Records of the Strange)

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Era of Great Harmony), ix, 449.3671-72:

李元恭
唐吏部侍郎李元恭。其外孫女崔氏。容色殊麗。年十五六。忽得魅疾。久之。狐遂見形為少年。自稱 [3672] 胡郎。累求術士不能去。元恭子博學多智。常問胡郎亦學否。狐乃談論。無所不至。多質疑于狐。頗狎樂。久之。謂崔氏曰。人生不可不學。乃引一老人授崔經史。前後三載。頗通諸家大義。又引一人。教之書。涉一載。又以工書著稱。又云。婦人何不會音聲。箜篌琵琶。此故凡樂。不如學琴。復引一人至。云善彈琴。言姓胡。是隋時陽翟縣博士。悉教諸曲。備盡其妙。及他名曲。不可勝紀。自云亦善廣陵散。比屢見嵇中散。不使授人。其于烏夜啼。尤善傳其妙。李後問。胡郎何以不迎婦歸家。狐甚喜。便拜謝云。亦久懷之。所不敢者。以人微故爾。是日遍拜家人。歡躍備至。李問胡郎欲迎女子。宅在何所。狐云。某舍門前有二大竹。時李氏家有竹園。李因尋行所。見二大竹間有一小孔。竟是狐窟。引水灌之。初得猯狢及他狐數十枚。最後有一老狐。衣綠衫。從孔中出。是其素所著衫也。家人喜云。胡郎出矣。殺之。其怪遂絕。出《廣異記》

The version found in Guangyiji is essentially identical; here is the Chinese text, from the combined volume Tang Lin 唐臨; Dai Fu 戴孚, Mingbaoji; Guangyiji 冥報記 / 廣異記 (Records of Netherworld Vengeance / Extensive Records of The Strange) (Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju, 1992), pp. 203-4:

李元恭

唐吏部侍郎李元恭,其外孫女崔氏,容色殊麗,年十五六,忽得魅疾。久之,狐遂見形為少年,自稱胡郎,累求術士不能去。元恭子博學多智,常問:「胡郎亦學否?」狐乃談論,無所不至,多質疑于狐,頗狎樂。久之,謂崔氏曰:「人生不可不學。」乃引一老人授崔經史,前後三載,頗通 [204] 諸家大義。又引一人教之書,涉一載,又以工書著稱。又云:「婦人何不會音聲,箜篌琵琶,此故凡樂,不如學琴。」復引一人至,云善彈琴,言姓胡,是隋時陽翟縣博士。悉教諸曲,備盡其妙,及他名曲,不可勝紀。自云:「亦善《廣陵散》,比屢見嵇中散,不使授人。」其于《烏夜啼》尤善,傳其妙。李後問:「胡郎何以不迎婦歸家?」狐甚喜,便拜謝云:「亦久懷之,所不敢者,以人微故爾。」是日,遍拜家人,歡躍備至。李問:「胡郎欲迎女子,宅在何所?」狐云:「某舍門前有二大竹。」時李氏家有竹園,李因尋行所,見二大竹間有一小孔,竟是狐窟,引水灌之。初得猯狢及他狐數十枚,最後有一老狐,衣綠衫,從孔中出,是其素所著衫也。家人喜云:「胡郎出矣!」殺之,其怪遂絕。

[1] On Li Yuangong 李元恭 (d. c. 702 CE), see CBDB Person ID 0195948.

[2] On this piece of music, see https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%B9%BF%E9%99%B5%E6%95%A3.

[3] This refers to Ji Kang嵆康 courtesy name Shuye 叔夜 (223-62 CE), an acclaimed scholar and qin player. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ji_Kang.

[4] On this piece of music, see https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E4%B9%8C%E5%A4%9C%E5%95%BC.

Pei Zhang’s Unhappy Wife 裴章薄妻

Pei Zhang was from Hedong; his father Zhou had once garrisoned Jingzhou. Their private monk, Tan Zhao, had made great achievements in the Way, and able to comprehend good and bad fortune. As a youth Zhang had profound respect for Tan Zhao, who said that his career and prestige would surpass that of his father. When Zhang reached the ‘capping age’ (i.e., adulthood, at around 20), his father married him to a daughter of the Li family. On passing the age of thirty, Zhang followed a posting to Taiyuan, leaving his wife in Luozhong, ‘passing the door but never entering’ (i.e., being too busy to visit), never taking her along with him. Lady Li felt herself to have been born under an unlucky star, often wearing coarse clothes and a mourning hairstyle, reading Buddhist texts and eating simple food. After a further decade, when his father transferred from Jingzhou to garrison Taiyuan, Tan Zhao followed him. Zhang therefore saw Zhao to renew their acquaintance, but Zhao was shocked and sighed for a long time, addressing him: “Fifty years ago this poor cleric often said Your Excellency would scale the heights; now you are quite weakened and exhausted. How has this happened?” Zhang told him of his unhappy wife. Zhao said: “The lady has complained to the Lord on High, and he punishes Your Excellency.” Ten days later, he cut his stomach open with a knife in the bathtub; his five organs fell to the ground, and he subsequently died.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.13 (Tale 73):

裴章薄妻

河東裴章者,其父胄,曾鎮荊州。門僧曇照,道行甚高,能知休咎。章幼時為曇照所重,言其官班位望過於其父。章弱冠,父為娶李氏女。乃三十年餘,章從職太原,棄其妻於洛中,過門不入,別有所挈。李氏自感其薄命,常褐衣髽髺,讀佛書,蔬食。又十年,嚴經自荊州移鎮太原,曇照隨之。章因見照敍舊,照驚噫久之,謂之曰:「貧道五十年前常謂郎君必貴,今削盡,何也?」章自以薄妻之事啟之。照曰:「夫人生魂訴上帝,以罪處君。」後旬日,為其下以刀劃腹於浴斛,五臟墮地,遂死。

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)

Yuan Ke’s Wife 園客妻

Yuan Ke’s wife was a goddess. Yuan Ke was from Jiyin; graceful in appearance and virtuous, many people in his district wished to give their daughters to him in marriage, but he would never wed. He often planted multi-coloured fragrant herbs, storing them for several decades and then taking their seeds. Suddenly, there were multi-coloured moths gathered on his plants. Ke gathered them and laid them on a sheet, where they bore silkworms. When the silkworms emerged, there was a woman who came and helped Ke to raise them, also feeding them with the fragrant herbs. When the silkworms were fully grown, they obtained 130 cocoons. Each cocoon was the size of an urn, and each cocoon took six or seven days to spin. When the spinning was complete, the woman and Yuan Ke departed together. Jiyin has a silkworm shrine to this day.

Taken 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

園客妻

園客妻,神女也。園客者,濟陰人也,美姿貌而良,邑人多欲以女妻之,客終不娶。常種五色香草,積數十年,服食其實。忽有五色蛾集香草上。客收而薦之以布。生華蠶焉。至蠶出時,有一女自來助客養蠶,亦以香草飼之。蠶壯,得繭百三十枚。繭大如甕,每一繭,繰六七日乃盡。繰訖,此女與園客俱去,濟陰今有華蠶祠焉。出女仙傳