A Disobedient Horse in Jizhou 濟州逆馬

At the beginning of the Zhenghe era (1111-18), a horse belonging to a villager in Jizhou gave birth to a foal. After seven days, it was just as big as its mother. On its forehead was a single eye, with two eyeballs; its nose had a snout like that of a dragon. Around its snout and on its hooves were markings like those of a tiger. In colour it was bright red, and from both of its forelegs arose fleshy flames. One evening, it ate its own mother, leaving not the slightest trace of skin or bone, and escaped into the fields. The populace feared that it might cause trouble, so gathered several dozen people to pursue and kill it. A painter living nearby painted it to show people. This beast can indeed be numbered among the ungrateful children!

Hong Mai 洪邁, He Zhuo 何卓 (ed.), Yi Jian Zhi 夷堅志 (Record of Yi Jian) 4 volumes (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1981), iv, 丁, 7.592:

濟州逆馬

政和初,濟州村民家馬生駒,七日,大與母等,額上一目,中有二晴,鼻吻如龍,吻邊與蹄上斑文如虎,色正赤,兩膊皆起肉焰。一夕,食其母,皮骨無遺,逸出田間。民慮其為患,集數十人追殺之。近邸畫工圖其形以示人,蓋獸中梟獍也。

Crocodiles 骨雷

Crocodiles come from the realm of Funan, being two or three zhang in length (i.e. 10 to 13 metres), with four feet, like a gecko in shape. They frequently swallow people whole, and the princes of Funan order people to catch these fish and place them in their moats, so that criminals can be thrown to them. If they are worthy of death, the crocodiles will eat them; if they are without guilt, this will be scented and they will not be eaten. Crocodiles are also called hulei; bears are able to control them, grasping their snouts and dragging them to the bank, then pulling them apart and eating them. Also known as gulei, they transform into tigers in autumn, having three talons, and issue forth from the two prefectures Si and Lei in Nanhai; Yingpan Village in Linhai has many of them.

From Zhiwenji.

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), x, 464.3822:

骨雷

扶南國出鱷魚。大者二三丈。四足。似守宮狀。常生吞人。扶南王令人捕此魚。置於塹中。以罪人投之。若合死。鱷魚乃食之。無罪者。嗅而不食。鱷魚別號忽雷。熊能制之。握其觜至岸。裂擘食之。一名骨雷。秋化為虎。三爪。出南海思雷二州。臨海英潘村多有之。

出洽聞記

Releasing Quail, Extending Longevity 放鶉延壽

When Cai Yuanchang (i.e., Cai Jing 蔡京, 1047-1126 CE)[1] held power, he ate quail at every celebration. One evening, he dreamt that a yellow-robed old person said: “In the coming days you are to suffer murder; hopefully the gentleman may be spared this fate.” Cai asked: “What kind of person are you?” They then recited verses:

Several grains of millet could feed the gentleman;

Only meat in the congee can fill the gentleman.

For one congee several lives are cut short;

Putting down his chopsticks these are still not enough.

On the moments between mouth and stomach;

Fate and fortune are together dependent.

Wishing to warn the gentleman not to kill;

Life and death spin as if on a wheel.

He awoke and marvelled at this, making enquiries to those who prepared meals, acquiring several dozen yellow quails and releasing them. During the night he again dreamt of the yellow-robed old person, who said: “I am aware that the gentleman fulfilled the prayer, and has already saved lives. The Heavenly Emperor has now granted an extension to the gentleman’s lifespan.” Cai indeed subsequently enjoyed a long life before he passed away.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.114 (Tale 199):

放鶉延壽

蔡元長當國,每喜食鶉。一夕,夢黃衣老人曰:「來日當自被害,願公貸命。」蔡問:「汝何人?」乃誦詩云:「食君數粒粟,充君羹中肉。一羹斷數命,下筯猶未足。口腹須臾間,福禍相倚伏。願公戒勿殺,死生如轉轂。」覺而異之,詢於掌饍,得黃鶉數十,放之。經宿復夢黃衣老人曰:「感公從禱,已獲復生。今上帝已延公壽命矣。」後蔡果享高壽而卒。

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] On Cai Jing 蔡京, courtesy name Yuanchang 元長 (who died after banishment at a relatively advanced age) see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cai_Jing and the brilliant article by Charles Hartman, ‘A Textual History of Cai Jing’s Biography in the “Songshi”’, in  Emperor Huizong and Late Northern Song China: The Politics of Culture and the Culture of Politics (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006), pp. 517-64.

Zhang Baocang Achieves Eminence Through Medicine 張寶藏因醫致貴

During the Tang Zhenguan era (627-49 CE), Zhang Baocang was returning to Yueyang after ending his duty as Chief Secretary to the Imperial Guard, when he encountered a youth hunting and eating fresh meat in the wilds. Leaning against a tree he let out a long sigh and said: “Zhang Baocang is aged seventy and has never once had meat and wine like this; what a shame!” By his side there was a monk, who pointed and said: “Within sixty days, you will ascend to the third official grade; how is this something to sigh over?” When he finished speaking, he vanished. Baocang marvelled at this, and immediately returned to the capital. At that time Taizong (r. 626-49 CE) was suffering terribly with dysentery, and a crowd of physicians had no effect, so a decree was promulgated asking whether anyone in the court or retinue had the ability to treat the illness, promising them a rich reward. Baocang had once suffered from the same disease, so prepared a memorial to the throne in answer to the decree, prescribing beans simmered in milk. The emperor took it, and recovered instantly. A decree was passed down to the minister of state appointing him to the fifth official grade. Wei Wei obstructed this, so for more than a month he did not advance any plans. The emperor’s illness recurred, and he asked his retinue: “I previously took beans simmered in milk and this was effective.” He again ordered them to bring him forward, and after a single sip was cured once more. The emperor asked: “I had ordered to award him advancement to grade five, but have not seen him accept the post; why is this?” Wei was afraid, and said: “At the time the decree was issued, it was not clear whether this would be a military or civil branch of the clerks.” The emperor grew angry: “For governing we require a chancellor; we might as well appoint him to the third grade. I am the Son of Heaven; how can this not be up to me?” He therefore said in a loud voice: “Granted civil office in the third grade!” He stood and was appointed Minister for Protocol, and that was exactly sixty days later.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.13 (Tale 74):

張寶藏因醫致貴

唐貞觀中,張寶藏為金吾長史嘗因下直歸櫟陽,路逢少年畋獵,割鮮野食。倚樹長歎曰:「張寶藏身年七十,未嘗得一食酒肉如此者,可悲哉!」傍有一僧,指曰:「六十日內,官登三品,何足歎也。」言訖不見。寶藏異之,即時還京。時太宗苦病痢疾,衆醫不效,即下詔問殿廷左右,有能治此疾者,當重賞之。寶藏曾困此疾,即具疏答詔,以乳煎蓽方進。上服之,立瘥。宣下宰臣:與五品官。魏微難之,逾月不進擬。上疾復作,問左右曰:「吾前服乳煎蓽茇有效。」復令進之,一啜又平復。上問曰:「嘗令與進方人五品官,不見除授,何也?」徵懼曰:「奉詔之際,未知文武二吏。」上怒曰:「治得宰相,不妨授三品;我天子也,豈不及汝邪?」乃厲聲曰:「與三品文官!」立授鴻臚卿,時正六十日矣。

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)

A Person Becomes A Tiger 人化虎

Niu Jing was ill for three months, and turned into a tiger. Then, when he ate another tiger, he turned back into a human. While he was a tiger, he was unaware that he had been a human; while human, he did not know that he had been a tiger.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.6 (Tale 48):

牛京病三月,化而為虎,遂食其虎復化為人。當其為虎時,不知其為人;及其為人,又不知其為虎。

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)

Tigers Thank A Midwife 虎謝老娘

In the Zhiyuan era, the jiashen year (1284), an old woman surnamed Wu lived outside the city of Wenzhou, and at night, during the second watch (9-11pm), a sedan chair stood at her gate, and someone knocked and said: “I request the midwife deliver a baby.” When the midwife opened the gate, he delightedly beckoned her into the sedan chair. She could see little except that the two bearers ran with great speed, paying no heed to thorns and brambles. They arrived at a place with a tall and spacious house, lit brightly by lamps and candles, where a woman lay in confinement. The midwife went through the delivery, which turned out to be a son, and when the washing was finished returned, arriving at home after midnight. When her family asked about it all, the midwife acted as though it had been a dream, and didn’t know what kind of family it had been. Suddenly they saw two tigers roaring and thundering at the gate, and were absolutely terrified. When they opened the gate the next day, they found hung on the fence a side of pork and a leg of beef, and the neighbours all around marvelled at this. This was tigers coming to thank the midwife; who then can say that animals don’t possess human feelings?

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.252 (Tale 454):

虎謝老娘

至元甲申,溫州城外有老娘姓吳,夜二更有荷轎者立於門首,敲門曰:「請老娘收生。」老娘開門,喜而入轎。但見輿夫二人行步甚速,雖荊棘亦不顧也。到一所,屋宇高敞,燈燭明麗,一女子坐蓐。老娘與之收生,得一男子,洗畢而歸,到家夜已中矣。其家問之,老娘如夢,亦不知為何人之家。忽見二虎咆哮於門,驚甚。次日開門,見籬上有豬肉一邊,牛肉一腳,左右鄰里莫不怪之。蓋虎以此來謝老娘也,誰謂禽獸無人心哉!

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 Spirit Treats A Bone In The Throat 神醫骨鯁

Wang Youliang of Poyang, while eating a spicy pig’s trotter, accidentally swallowed a finger-sized bone which stuck in his throat and for several days could not be gulped down. Despite spitting and salivating being painful, he could take a little drink and soup, but his family were extremely worried about him. At dusk, when he was beginning to doze, he saw a scarlet-robed figure approach and tell him: “It is said you suffer from a bone. I have medicine, which is simply the finest southern pengsha.”[1] Awaking, he requested a small piece, held it in his mouth until it dissolved, and then on eating, was able to swallow freely as before. This can be seen as an example of spirits granting their secrets in the aid of others.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.226 (Tale 403):

神醫骨鯁

鄱陽汪友良因食辣蹄,誤吞骨如指大,鯁於喉間,累日不下,雖咳唾亦痛,但略通湯飲,家人絕憂之。於昏睡次,睹一朱衣來告曰:「聞汝苦骨,吾有一藥,唯南鵬砂最妙。」覺而索砂一小塊,淨洗含化,纔食頃,脫然如失。此殆神明陰授以方濟人云。

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] Pengsha 鵬砂 refers to borax, or sodium tetraborate.