An Immortal Treats Tumours 仙醫瘤疾

Li Zhongweng had a tumour in his nose. As big as a walnut, he feared it would gradually increase in size, and tried many methods to treat it, but without effect. Arriving at a guesthouse in Xiangyang, he encountered a Daoist and they drank together happily, passing the cup day and night. When they were about to part, the Daoist took out a small gourd, about as big as a jujube, and poured out three millet-sized grains of medicine, giving these to Zhongweng and saying: “At night you should puncture the root of the tumour with a needle, and stitch the medicine into this needle-hole; the next day the tumour should fall away. The other two grains are to treat strange illnesses.” Zhongweng used the needle as instructed. By midnight, he felt the medicine moving around the base of the growth and twisting around. When dawn arrived he touched it, and found that the tumour was already quite gone. Hurrying to a mirror to examine his face, he saw that there was not even a scar. He therefore marvelled at the miracle, and kept the remaining grains secret. When his young daughter fell over and broke a tooth, he placed one of the medicine grains in the tooth root, and after an evening her teeth returned to their even shape. He took a liang (31.25g) of mercury and placed it on the blade of a hoe, then put the last grain on this, at which it transformed into the finest quality gold. He then understood that these were pills of the Great Elixir smelted by the immortals.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.145 (Tale 254):

仙醫瘤疾

李仲翁,鼻間生一瘤,大如胡桃,懼其浸大,百方治之不效。至襄陽客邸,遇一道人喜飲,日夕周旋,臨別,出一小瓢如棗大,傾藥三粒如粟,授仲翁曰: 「汝夜以鍼刺瘤根,納藥鍼穴內,明日瘤當自落。其二粒以救奇疾也。」仲翁如其教用鍼。至夜半,覺藥巡瘤根而轉。至曉捫之,則瘤已失矣。急取鏡照之,更無瘢痕,因大神之,秘其餘藥。其女小時倒地,折齒不生,取藥納齒根,一夕齒平復。以水銀一兩置銚間,取藥投之,則化為紫金矣,方知其為神仙所煉大丹也。

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).

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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 Temple Spirit Becomes A Tiger 廟神化虎

In the Zhiyuan era, the guisi year (1293), in Nengling Village, in Yuanzhou, there was a small inn by the side of a road, with only an old woman and a boy living there. Every night after the second watch (9-11pm), a tiger would squat on top of the Spring Hall. It happened that, one evening, three or four soldiers came looking for accommodation, and when the woman turned them away because of the tiger, the military multitude said: “We have spears, swords, bows and arrows; we’re not scared of him.” She then gave them a room. When midnight came, the old woman said: “The tiger has come!” The assembled troops peeped at it from behind the window, and it was indeed so, so they fired several arrows. The tiger departed bearing several shafts. The following day the group of soldiers and the old woman followed the blood trail together and searched for tracks, eventually finding, on a statue at a temple to the heavenly judge, the arrows pulled out and crushed, the hair of pigs and dogs still on its belly, blood traces at the corners of its mouth. From then the tiger never returned.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.224 (Tale 398):

廟神化虎

至元癸巳,袁州能嶺村落間路旁有小店,惟一老婦同一子居之。每夜二更餘,有一虎蹲坐於春堂之上。忽一晚,有軍三四人來投宿,婦以虎卻之,衆軍曰: 「我有鎗刀弓箭,不怕他。」乃共宿一房。至中夜,月明,老婦曰:「虎來矣!」衆軍於窗內竊視之,果爾,遂連施數箭。虎帶箭而去。明日衆軍與老婦共隨血路而尋其蹤,乃在一廟判官身上,拔箭而擊碎之,腹中尚有豬犬毛,口角尚有血存,自此虎不復有矣。

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).

Ghosts Play Music 鬼動絲竹

Zhao [?]Efu was Deputy Magistrate in Tanzhou, and had been in the post for two months. One evening, returning from a drinking engagement with colleagues, at midnight he heard the sound of strings and woodwind coming from the next wall; Zhao wondered at this, and questioned his retinue, who answered: “Next door is an old residence with courtyard and garden; whenever it is rainy and overcast music and drums start up together, but it is not music of this world.” Once, not long after, Chong, one of Zhao’s deputies, had died suddenly, and when they were about to collect his coffin Chong’s corpse suddenly leapt up and sat, [?]stiffening its feet[?], and sticking out its tongue three or four cun (roughly inches), it then bit down, and blood flowing freely, suddenly fell on its back and [?]expired[?]. Outside the hall the music sounded even more clear and resonant than before. It was then they realised that these were ghosts of those dying suddenly.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.238 (Tale 429):

鬼動絲竹

趙通判[王+葛]夫倅潭州,在任兩月。一夕,同僚會飲歸,夜半聞隔牆有管絃絲竹之聲,趙怪之,問左右,乃曰:「隔牆乃是舊宅院花園,凡遇陰雨,鼓樂交作,非陽世之音樂也。」曾不踰時,趙倅一寵暴亡,臨斂棺時,寵屍忽躍起而坐,札腳,吐舌長三四寸,咬血淋漓,須臾偃逝,庭外絲竹之音響亮非常比。時乃知皆此暴亡之鬼也。

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).

Squeezing the Souls of Dancers and Musicians 掩魂妓樂

In Nanhai Prefecture there was one surnamed Yang, who called himself a retired scholar, and once told people: “I have skill in magic.” The prefectural chief was keen on sorcery, and was delighted to hear of the retired scholar’s arrival. He never held a banquet or a tour without first summoning the gentleman. One day, because he had to wait on the prefectural chief, the latter was holding a feast in the prefectural hall, there was a great review of dancers and musicians, but the retired scholar was unable to take part. At that time a number of other guests were also unable to join the feast, so they spoke to the scholar: “The gentleman once claimed magical skill. Today the prefectural chief is holding a great feast and the gentleman is not invited; can a magical act move him?” The scholar laughed and said: “This is extremely easy. I can summon the prefectural chief for the gentleman to bring dancers and music and pour your drinks!” He therefore ordered the provision of wine, and had the various guests get into a circle and sit. After a little while, several dozen women emerged from an empty chamber in the western corridor, jewelled and clothed in lustre and brilliance. Each carried a musical instrument, and on his order they played and began to sing and dance. Some of the guests asked where they had come from, but they all just laughed without speaking. When midnight came, the gentleman addressed the dancers, saying: “You may return.” At this they all departed downwards through the empty room in the western corridor. The [86] guests looked at each other in astonished admiration, and suspected that they were some kind of spirits or goblins. Until the next day one after another passed around the rumour, saying that the prefectural chief held a feast last night, and all the musicians fell to the ground, their eyes blinking but unable to speak, as if they’d suffered strokes. A physician was hurriedly summoned to treat them, and said: “They are in good health, but their immortal souls are being squeezed; at midnight they will be able to rise, and will not require medicine.” Indeed, when midnight came, the musicians awoke as if from sleep, and all were able to rise and stand. When the prefectural chief questioned them, the musicians all said: “We suffered deceit and followed Scholar Yang’s respectful summons; why is he not at the Prefectural Chief’s banquet?” The throng of guests marvelled at this, and questioned Scholar Yang, but he just smiled and refused to answer. They then realized that the dancers’ souls had been squeezed by Scholar Yang.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.85-86 (Tale 148):

掩魂妓樂

南海郡有楊氏,以居士自號,嘗謂人曰:「我有奇術。」郡太守好奇術,聞居士來,甚喜。每宴遊未嘗不首召居士。一日因須侍太守,太守會宴於郡齋,大閱妓樂,而居士不得預。時有數客亦皆不得預宴,因謂居士曰:「先生嘗自負有奇術,今日太守大宴,先生不得預,設一術以動之乎?」居士笑曰:「甚易耳。君試觀之,我能為君召太守處妓樂至此佐酒乎!」因命具酒,使諸客環列而坐。少頃,俄有數十婦人自西廊空室而出,裝飾華煥,各攜樂器而至,乃命奏樂,且歌且舞。客或訊其所自,皆笑而不言。至夜分,居士謂諸妓曰:「可歸矣。」於是皆入西廊下空室中去。諸 [86] 客相顧駭歎,皆疑其鬼物妖惑。至明日鬨傳曰:太守昨夕宴會,諸妓樂並皆仆地,瞬目不能言,以為卒中,急召醫人診候,醫曰:「無恙,但為人掩魂,夜分各能起,不必服藥。」果至中宵,諸妓如睡之醒,皆能起立。太守質問,諸妓皆云:「適蒙楊居士召祗應,須(「須」,疑為「頃」之誤。)緣何卻在太守筵中?」衆客為怪,詰之楊居士,居士笑而不答,方知諸妓為楊居士掩魂矣。

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).

A parallel tale is found in the tenth-century collection Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Era of Great Harmony), and as usual this is substantially more detailed than our Huhai version:

Retired Scholar Yang 楊居士

In Hainan Prefecture there was a Scholar Yang. His given name has been forgotten. He referred to himself as Retired Scholar Yang, and often wandered around the various Nanhai prefectures, frequently lodging as a guest with other people, and it is not known where he stopped. He told people: “I have strange talents; you people are mediocre, and could never achieve such knowledge.” Afterwards he often visited the prefecture, meeting the prefectural chief, who was very inquisitive. On hearing that the scholar had arrived, he was delighted and rewarded him generously, ordering that he be brought drink. He never held a banquet without summoning the scholar, and the scholar became very conceited. One day, drunk, he offended the prefectural chief in a way the chief could not tolerate.

Later, there was a feast in the prefectural chamber, with a review of musicians and performers, but the scholar was not invited. There were several other guests who had not received summons from the prefectural chief, and they therefore spoke to the scholar: “The gentleman was once conceited about his hocus-pocus; your humble servant looked up to you for advice but you had no time for me. Meeting you one day like this is truly fortunate. Nonetheless, today we hear that the prefectural chief is holding a banquet in the prefectural chamber, but the gentleman has not been invited to join it. If the gentleman cannot change this through an act of magic, then he must not possess such strange arts.” The scholar laughed and said: “This is just the least of my skill. You gentlemen should watch me, and I will summon his dancers for you; we should bring out some drinks.” They all said they wished this to happen, so the scholar ordered that wine be brought and directed the guests to set out their mats in a circle and sit.

He next ordered a boy to close up a small chamber in the western wing. He left the door closed for a while before opening it, at which three or four beautiful people came down, decked out with a gorgeous magnificence, and came towards them bearing instruments. The scholar said: “How is your servant’s art now?” The guests all marveled at this and could not work out what was happening. He told them to sit down and indicated that the music be started. Some of the guests questioned him about his art, but he just smiled and would not answer. Eventually it grew dark and midnight came, at which the scholar told all the musicians: “You should now return.” At this they all rose and returned down through the empty western chamber. The guests looked at one another and exclaimed in admiration, but still suspected that it was a matter of demonic conjuring.

The next day, a clerk in the prefecture said: “The prefectural chief held a feast last night in the prefectural offices. [469] When the musicians were seated and arranged, they suddenly fell to the ground without explanation. In a moment, a violent storm arose, blowing away their instruments and disappearing. When midnight came, the players all awoke, and their instruments returned to their former places. When the prefectural chief questioned the musicians, they all said that it had gone dark and they had been unable to see anything. In the end they could not work out what had caused it, and the guests were all greatly shocked and therefore everyone talked about the matter. Someone told the prefectural chief, who gasped with astonishment and sent for him. He did not dare stay in the prefecture. This all took place at the beginning of the Kaicheng era (836-41 CE). This was taken from Xuanshi zhi 宣室志.[1]

楊居士

海南(明鈔本海南作南海。)郡有楊居士。亡其名。以居士自目。往往遊南海枝郡。常寄食於人。亦不知其所止。謂人曰。我有奇術。汝輩庸人。固不得而識矣。後常至郡。會太守好奇者。聞居士來。甚喜。且厚其禮。命飲之。每宴遊。未嘗不首召居士。居士亦以此自負。一日使酒忤太守。太守不能容。後又會宴於郡室。閱妓樂。而居士不得預。時有數客。亦不在太守召中。因謂居士曰。先生嘗自負有奇術。某向者仰望之不暇。一日遇先生於此。誠幸矣。雖然。今聞太守大宴客於郡齋。而先生不得預其間。即不能設一奇術以動之乎。必先生果無奇術耶。居士笑曰。此末術耳。君試觀我。我為君召其妓。可以佐酒。皆曰。願為之。居士因命具酒。使諸客環席而坐。又命小童閉西廡空室。久之乃啟之。有三四美人自廡下來。裝飾華煥。擕樂而至。居士曰。某之術何如。諸客人大異之。殆不可測。乃命列坐。奏樂且歌。客或訊其術。居士但笑而不答。時昏晦。至夜分。居士謂諸妓曰。可歸矣。于是皆起。入西廡下空室中。客相目駭歎。然尚疑其鬼物妖惑。明日。有郡中吏曰。太守昨夕宴郡閤。 [469] 妓樂列坐。無何皆仆地。瞬息暴風起。飄其樂器而去。迨至夜分。諸妓方寤。樂器亦歸于舊所。太守質問衆妓。皆云黑無所見。竟不窮其由。諸客皆大驚。因盡以事對。或告於太守。太守歎異。即謝而遣之。不敢留于郡中。時開成初也。出《宣室志》

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, 75.468-69

[1] This is a ten-juan collection by Zhang Du 張讀, who passed his civil service examination in 852 CE. See Zhang Du 張讀, Xuanshi zhi 宣室志 (Stories from the Chamber of Dissemination), 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); Fletcher Coleman, ‘On the Role of Religion in Tang Tales: An Introduction to Zhang Du’s Xuanshi zhi’ (2013), Asian Languages & Civilizations Graduate Theses & Dissertations, 9 (https://scholar.colorado.edu/asia_gradetds/9, accessed 23/04/18).