Taixuan Nü 太玄女

The Taixuannü, surname Zhuan, personal name He, lost her father as a child. Mother and child lived together for some time, and all said they would not survive long. Their sadness became worry. She often said: “The life of a human, once lost, cannot be restored. Moreover, I have heard that this span of life is limited, and life cannot be extended without perfecting the Way.” She then went to call on a sagely teacher, purifying her heart, seeking the Way and achieving the *wangzi* techniques. After practicing this for several years, she was then able to enter water without getting wet. At times of deep cold and snow, she could climb the ice in an unlined robe showing no change in countenance, warm in body and able to go on for several days. Moreover she was able to visit government offices, palace chambers, city markets and private residences in many other places. Not thinking this strange, pointing at them they would shift from their previous location. Doors and gates bearing locks would open upon her gesture; pointed at, mountains would crumble, pointed at, trees would fall; pointed at again, all of these would be restored. Taking disciples travelling through the mountains, when the sun set, she struck the rock with her staff, and opened up a door. Entering, there were chambers with beds, curtains and canopies, with food, provisions and wine as if this were normal. Even were she to travel ten thousand li, her whereabouts would often be like this. She could order small items to grow suddenly to the size of a house, and big things to shrink suddenly down to be like a hair or grain. Sometimes she would spit fire to cover the heavens, and sigh to extinguish it. She was also able to sit among flames, her clothes and shoes never scorching. Within a short period, she would change into an old man, change into a small child, change into a carthorse; there was no transformation she could not achieve. She practiced the thirty-six arts with complete dedication, bringing people back to life, and saving innumerable folk. It is not known from where her food or clothing came, and none achieved her powers. Her colour reduced ever more, but the hair on her temples was raven-black. Suddenly, in broad daylight, she ascended to heaven and departed.

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

太玄女

太玄女,姓顓,名和,少喪父。或相其母子,皆曰不壽。惻然以為憂。常曰:「人之處世,一失不可復生。況聞壽限之促,非修道不可以延生也。」遂行訪明師,洗心求道,得王子之術。行之累年,遂能入水不濡。盛雪寒時,單衣冰上,而顏色不變,身體溫煖,可至積日。又能徙官府宮殿城市屋宅於他處,視之無異,指之即失其所在,門戶櫝櫃有關鑰者,指之即開,指山山摧,指樹樹拆,更指之,即復如故。將弟子行山間,日暮,以杖叩石,即開門戶。入其中,屋宇床褥幃帳,廩供酒食如常。雖行萬里,所在常爾。能令小物忽大如屋,大物忽小如毫芒。或吐火張天,噓之即滅。又能坐炎火之中,衣履不燃。須臾之間,或化老翁,或為小兒,或為車馬,無所不為。行三十六術甚效,起死廻生,救人無數。不知其何所服食,亦無得其術者。顏色益少,鬢髮如鴉。忽白日昇天而去。出女仙傳

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Chang Rong 昌容

Chang Rong was the daughter of the Prince of Shang, and practiced Daoism on Changshan, eating penglei[1] stems for more than two hundred years, but appearing little over twenty. Skilled in finding zicao,[2] she would sell it to dyers, obtaining money to give to the poor and unwell, coming and going to towns and cities, where she was seen by generation after generation. Among people near and far, those who served her numbered over a thousand, but it was never understood how she cultivated the Way. She often travelled in the day, but her shadow could not be seen. Some said: “Chang Rong is one who can exercise asceticism.” She suddenly ascended to the heavens and departed.

From the 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, 59.362:

昌容

昌容者,商王女也,修道於常山,食蓬蔂根二百餘年,顏如二十許。能致紫草,鬻與染工,得錢以與貧病者,往來城市,世世見之。遠近之人,奉事者千餘家,竟不知其所修之道。常行日中,不見其影。或云:「昌容能煉形者也。」忽冲天而去。出女仙傳

[1] This penglei 蓬蔂 seems to be Rubus parvifolius, on which see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubus_parvifolius.

[2] This zicao 紫草 seems to be Lithospermum erythrorhizon (purple or red gromwell, etc.). See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithospermum_erythrorhizon.

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)

Heng’e Flees To The Moon 姮娥奔月

Yi[1] was baking magic medicine, and, when it was finished, his wife Heng’e[2] stole and ate it, then fled into the moon.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.4 (Tale 29):

姮娥奔月

羿燒仙藥,藥成。其妻姮娥竊而食之,遂奔入月中。

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)

[1] Also known as Hou Yi 后羿, this is a mythical archer, who performed the feat of shooting down multiple suns threatening to scorch the earth. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hou_Yi. For the story of Erkhii Mergen, a Mongolian parallel to this tale, see https://h2g2.com/entry/A580079.

[2] On Heng’e, or Chang’e, the Moon Goddess, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chang%27e.

Zhao Wei 趙未

Zhao Wei of the Jin, when he was eight sui in age, grew prodigiously in a single night, his body reaching eight chi (c. 2.4m), and whiskers covering his entire chin. Three days later he died.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.4 (Tale 25)

趙未

晉趙未,年八歲,一夕異長,身長八尺,髭鬚滿頷。三日而死。

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)

Punishing A Python Through The Law 法誅蟒精

The Qiongzhou Daoist Zhang Biyun (lit. ‘Jade Cloud Zhang’) performed the Thunder Rites. He was famous across Sichuan, supernatural beings resenting and fearing him. At that time the ‘Disciple of Heshan’ Wei Wenweng (Wei Liaoweng 魏了翁?[1]) was governing Xuzhou, and his wife fell ill, the sickness persisting for a long time without recovery, so he dispatched a runner with a letter describing it, sending it to Biyun. Biyun thus wrote out two talismans and gave them to the runner, praying and saying: “Burn these within the hall, and through this a thing within your kitchen will be cremated.” The runner returned and reported to Wenweng, burning it as instructed. Several days later, they found the chambers filled with a foul smell, and suddenly noticed beneath a shelf [164] a giant python, five or six zhang in length (c.17-20m), and already quite dead. His household then understood that this was a python demon, and his wife’s illness was then cured.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.163-64 (Tale 284):

法誅蟒精

邛州道士張碧雲,行雷法,四川有名,鬼神望而畏之。時魏鶴山弟文翁知敘州,內人得病,纏緜不愈,差二承局持書與狀,去投碧雲。碧雲即書二符與承局,祝云:「堂內焚化,以一就竈中焚化。」承局歸告文翁,如其言焚之。數日後,但聞滿屋臭穢,忽於閣(「閣」原作「闔」,據明刻本改。)板 [164] 下見一巨蟒,長五六丈,已死。其家方知為祟者蟒也,夫人之病遂安。

[1] On Wei Liaoweng 魏了翁, see http://www.chinaknowledge.de/History/Song/personsweiliaoweng.html

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).

Discarding Fame and Studying the Way 棄名學道

Chen Shunqing was from Jiangnan. In order to sit the civil examinations he went to Chang’an, and spent a decade there without returning. One day, he called on a monk at the Qinglong Monastery, but, unable to meet him, he waited in the warming room, where there was an old man from Zhongnanshan who was also waiting for a monk. They sat for a long time. On the wall was a Huanyingtu map, and Shunqing searched for the Jiangnan route, sighing “If I could return from here, I would not regret being without success.” The old man said: “This is a simple thing.” He arose and snapped a leaf from the bamboo standing before the step, placed it on the Wei River, and said: “Fix your eyes on this, and you will get what you desire.” Shunqing stared hard at the Wei River, seeing violent waves and a heavy swell, and an extremely large boat; it was as if he boarded the boat, which set off at high speed, travelling to the Chanku Monastery, where he inscribed a poem, which read:

Bells sound when the night breeze grows urgent,

Tumultuous crows also [149] gather to gaze on the winter forest.

Hold now the oars in sadness and sigh,

A lone lotus flower towering like a mountain peak.

The next day, he arrived at Tongguan, and composed another poem, which read:

Bringing shame by planning to return home,

Overcoming the shame of failing to return.

When he arrived at his home, his wife and children received him with great delight. He stayed for two nights, and then said: “The examination period is pressing close; I must not stay long.” He then boarded the boat again, composing a poem of farewell to his wife:

Wine increases sorrow with each sip;

Completing a poem I mix chanting with tears.

He floated away, his family stunned and stupefied, saying that he was a ghost. He arrived suddenly at the Wei River, and hurried to the Qinglong Monastery. The monk had still not returned, and the old man of the mountain was still sitting wrapped in his coarse clothing. Shunqing said: “Can that not have been a dream?” The old man said: “You’ll understand this yourself in the coming days.” After a month had passed, his family came to visit, narrating all that had happened, reciting all of the poems he had inscribed there. Chen later achieved enlightenment, having no wish to pursue an official post, but entering Zhongnanshan, remaining as a hermit and never emerging again.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.148-49 (Tale 260):

棄名學道

陳舜卿,江南人。舉進士,至長安,十年不歸。一日,於青龍寺訪僧不值,憩於火閣,有終南山翁,亦俟僧。坐久之,壁間有《寰瀛圖》,舜卿尋江南路,歎曰:「得自此歸,不悔無成。」翁曰:「此易耳。」起折階前竹葉置渭水中,曰:「注目於此,則如願。」舜卿熟視,見渭水波濤洶湧,一舟甚大,怳然而登舟,其去極速,行次禪窟寺,題詩云:「霜鍾鳴時夕風急,亂鴉(「鴉」,原作「雅」,今改。)又 [149] 望寒林集。此時輟棹悲且吟,獨坐蓮華一峰立。」明日,次潼關,又作詩云:「已作羞歸計,猶勝羞不歸。」及至其家,妻子迎見甚喜。信宿,曰:「試期已逼,不可久留。」乃復登舟,作詩別妻曰:「酒至添愁飲,詩成和淚吟。」 飄然而去。家人驚愕,謂為鬼物。倏忽復至渭水,趨青龍寺,僧猶未歸,山翁猶擁褐而坐。舜卿曰:「豈非夢耶?」翁曰:「〔他日〕(據明刻本補。)自知之。」 經月,家人來訪,具述所以,題詩宛然皆在。陳後頓悟,不圖仕宦,而入終南山,隱而不出。

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 version of the same tale is found in Taiping Guangji, vol. ii, 74.462-63:

Chen Jiqing 陳季卿

Chen Jiqing’s home was in Jiangnan. He said farewell to his household for a decade and took the civil examinations, determined not to return without having succeeded. He lodged in the capital, selling books to keep himself clothed and fed and frequently visiting the monks at the Qinglong Monastery. Once it happened that the monk was elsewhere, so he rested in the warming room in order to wait for him. There was an old man from Zhongnanshan who was also waiting for a monk, sitting by the stove, and he bowed to Jiqing and beckoned him to the fire. They sat for a long time. He addressed Jiqing, saying: “It is already late afternoon. Are you not very hungry?” Jiqing said: “Starving, to be honest, but the monk is not here yet, so what can be done?” The old man untied a small bag from within his sleeve and took out about a cun (c.3.3cm) piece of medicine, simmering it in a cup of water and handing it to Jiqing, saying: “This will allay your hunger slightly.” After sipping it to the end, he was satisfied and comfortable, the suffering of hunger being washed away he felt much better. On the eastern wall there was a Huanyingtu map, and Shunqing searched for the Jiangnan route, and let out a long sigh, saying: “If I could float from the Wei River to the Yellow River, swim to the Luohe River, on to the Huai and cross to the Yangtze, I would reach my home, and I would not regret returning without achievement.” The old man laughed and said: “This is not so hard to achieve.” He ordered a novice to break a leaf from the bamboo standing in front of the step. Making a boat from the leaf, he placed it on the map, on top of the Wei River, and said: “The gentleman should fix his eyes on this boat, and he will receive that which he has been desiring, even arriving at his home, but should take care not to linger there too long.” Jiqing stared hard at it for a long time, gradually coming to feel the waves of the Wei River, as the single leaf grew large and became an extended sail. [463] Suddenly, it was as if he had boarded the boat, which set off from the Wei to the Yellow River, mooring at the Chanku Monastery, where he inscribed a poem on the southern pillar:

Bells sound when the night breeze grows urgent,

Tumultuous crows also gather to gaze on the winter forest.

Hold now the oars in sadness and sigh,

A lone lotus flower towering like a mountain peak.

The next day, he arrived at Tongguan, and disembarked. He inscribed another poem on the door of the Putongyuan to the east of the pass gates, and this read:

Crossing the Pass ashamed by failed ambition,

Myriad unfinished matters disturb my thoughts.

Downslope a horse lacks strength,

Sweeping the gate dust fills my robes.

Many schemes and plans unfulfilled,

Heart and mouth unable to agree.

Bringing shame by planning to return home,

Overcoming the shame of failing to return.

From Shandong the places he passed through were all just as he had desired. After ten days he arrived at his home, and his wife, children and brothers bowed and welcomed him at the gate. That evening he composed the poem ‘Gazing Late at the River Pavilion’, inscribing it in the study. It read:

Standing facing the river pavilion, eyes filled with sorrow,

Dedicated ten years before to distant and long-term service.

Field and garden are already scattered like floating clouds,

Home village peace swept away like flowing water.

Meeting nobody on the river other than elderly anglers,

On the banks both old friends and sandpipers are hard to find.

It is not through old age; dusk does not yet approach,

Chanting to the distant peaks and bowing the white head.

That evening he spoke to his wife: “The examination period approaches.” He stayed for two nights, and then said: “The examination period is pressing close; I must not stay long.” He then boarded the boat again, composing a poem of farewell to his wife:

Cold dew lies white in slanting moonlight,

Tonight I depart and leave my heart behind.

Wine increases sorrow with each sip;

Completing a poem I chant through tears.

The farewell song perches in the phoenix flute,

The crane laments parting on the jade zither.

In the clear night I pine for this place,

The autumn wind rippling my half blanket.

As he was about to board the boat, he left another poem for his brothers, which read:

I have planned this for a long time,

It can only be fate delaying so far.

Old friends are all distant and detached,

My own path still leading into the distance.

The north wind leaves fine flakes of snow,

These declining years are a time of clouds.

Melancholy and regret lie pure on the riverbank,

This humble self is rich in time.

After the first watch (7-9pm) he again boarded the leaf boat, floating away as his wife, children, brothers and family wept and wailed on the riverbank, saying that he must have been a ghost. The leaf boat rippled along, following his previous route and arriving at Weibin. He then hired a ride and travelled back to the Qinglong Monastery. It seemed that the monk was still sitting wrapped in his coarse clothing. Jiqing thanked him, saying: “I returned and have come back. Can that not have been a dream?” The old man laughed and said: “You’ll understand this after sixty days, but now it is late, and the monk has still not come.” The old man departed and Jiqing returned to his host. After two months had passed, his wife and children sent gold and silks and came from Jiangnan, saying that Jiqing had passed away, and they had therefore come to visit. His wife said: “You returned on such-and-such a day of such-and-such a month. That evening you composed a poem in the study. You also left two poems behind, so I came to realise that this was not a dream.”

The next spring Jiqing failed the examinations and returned to the east. Arriving at Chanku and the Guanmen Buddhist temple, he saw the two pieces he had inscribed there; the ink was still fresh. The following year Jiqing passed the examinations, but fasted and entered Zhongnanshan.

Taken from Muyiji (Esteeming the Unusual: A Record)[1]

[1] Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Period of Great Harmony), 10 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), ii, 74.462-63:

陳季卿

陳季卿者。家於江南。辭家十年。舉進士。志不能無成歸。羇棲輦下。鬻書判給衣食。常訪僧於青龍寺。遇僧他適。因息於暖閣中。以待僧還。有終南山翁。亦伺僧歸。方擁爐而坐。揖季卿就爐。坐久。謂季卿曰。日已晡矣。得無餒乎。季卿曰。實飢矣。僧且不在。為之奈何。翁乃於肘後解一小囊。出藥方寸。止煎一杯。與季卿曰。粗可療飢矣。季卿啜訖。充然暢適。飢寒之苦。洗然而愈。東壁有寰瀛圖。季卿乃尋江南路。因長歎曰。得自渭泛於河。遊於洛。泳於淮。濟于江。達于家。亦不悔無成而歸。翁笑曰。此不難致。乃命僧童折堦前一竹葉。作葉舟。置圖中渭水之上。曰。公但注目於此舟。則如公向來所願耳。然至家。愼勿久留。季卿熟視久之。稍覺渭水波浪。一葉漸大。席帆既張。 [463] 恍然若登舟。始自渭及河。維舟於禪窟蘭若。題詩於南楹云。霜鐘鳴時夕風急。亂鴉又望寒林集。此時輟棹悲且吟。獨坐蓮花一峯立。明日。次潼關。登岸。題句於關門東普通院門云。度關悲失志。萬緖亂心機。下坂馬無力。掃門塵滿衣。計謀多不就。心口自相違。已作羞歸計。還勝羞不歸。自陝東。凡所經歷。一如前願。旬余至家。妻子兄弟。拜迎於門。夕有江亭晚望詩。題于書齋云。立向江亭滿目愁。十年前事信悠悠。田園已逐浮雲散。鄉里平隨逝水流。川上莫逢諸釣叟。浦邊難得舊沙鷗。不緣齒髮未遲暮。吟對遠山堪白頭。此夕謂其妻曰。吾試期近。不可久留。即當進棹。乃吟一章別其妻云。月斜寒露白。此夕去留心。酒至添愁飲。詩成和淚吟。離歌棲鳳管。別鶴怨瑤琴。明夜相思處。秋風吹半衾。將登舟。又留一章別諸兄弟云。謀身非不早。其奈命來遲。舊友皆霄漠。此身猶路歧。北風微雪後。晚景有雲時。惆悵清江上。區區趁試期。一更後。復登葉舟。泛江而逝。兄弟妻屬。慟哭於濱。謂其鬼物矣。一葉漾漾。遵舊途至於渭濱。乃賃乘。復遊青龍寺。宛然見山翁擁褐而坐。季卿謝曰。歸則歸矣。得非夢乎。翁笑曰。後六十日方自知。而日將晚。僧尚不至。翁去。季卿還主人。後二月。季卿之妻子。賫金帛。自江南來。謂季卿厭世矣。故來訪之。妻曰。某月某日歸。是夕作詩於西齋。並留別二章。始知非夢。明年春。季卿下第東歸。至禪窟及關門蘭若。見所題兩篇。翰墨尚新。後年季卿成名。遂絕粒。入南山去。

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