Remarkable People, Remarkable Matters 異人異事

Yi Yin[1] had no father and was born in Kongsang. The wife of Yu[2] turned to stone, her stomach later slitting open to give birth to Qi.[3] Laojun (i.e., Laozi) had ears that were seven chi in length (about 2.1m); he spent eighty-one years in his mother’s womb, splitting open her left side to be born, and at birth the hair on his temples was pure white. King Yan of Xu[4] was without bones but possessed sagely virtue. Liu Yong[5] enjoyed eating people’s scabs. King Wen (of Zhou)[6] had four breasts. Gao Yao[7] had a bird’s beak. Yao’s[8] eyebrows were eight-coloured. Tang’s[9] (the Shang founder) arm had four elbow-joints. Yu’s ears had triple openings. Li Lou (aka Li Zhu) could distinguish Qiu from Bo from ten li away. Hong Yan, minister of Wei, opened his own belly to receive Duke Yi’s liver.[10] When King Mu of Zhou ascended as Son of Heaven, the traces of his chariot-wheels and horses spread across ‘all-under-heaven’ and in all he travelled one yi and one wan (100,100,000) li (c.33,033,000 miles).

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.1 (Tale 1):

異人異事

伊尹無父,生於空桑中。禹妻化為石,後剖腹而生啟。老君耳長七尺,在母腹中八十一年,剖左脇而生,及生,鬢髮皓白。徐偃王無骨而有聖德。劉邕好食人瘡痂。文王四乳。臯陶鳥喙。堯眉八彩。湯臂四肘。禹耳三漏。離婁察見秋亳於十里之外。衛臣弘演開己腹納懿公之肝。周穆貴為天子,車轍馬迹遍於天下,凡遊行一億一萬里。

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] Yi Yin 伊尹 (c.1600-1549 BCE) is famed as a minister under the Shang Dynasty. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yi_Yin.

[2] This is Yu the Great, legendary founder of the Xia夏. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yu_the_Great.

[3] This is Qi 啟, monarch over the Xia. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qi_of_Xia.

[4] A king ruling around 944 BCE; see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xu_(state).

[5] This is likely a figure of some note in the Three Kingdoms era. See https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%8A%89%E9%82%95_(%E8%9C%80%E6%BC%A2).

[6] 1152-1056 BCE. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Wen_of_Zhou.

[7] See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gao_Yao_(minister).

[8] Traditionally c. 2356-2255 BCE. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emperor_Yao.

[9] Traditionally r. 1675-46 BCE. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tang_of_Shang.

[10] Duke Yi died c. 660 BCE. See https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E8%A1%9B%E6%87%BF%E5%85%AC.

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The Venerable Rat Ancestor 老鼠祖公

In the Bujin Cloister, in Shanggao, Ruizhou, an elderly monk was ill, so lay down through the day. The temple was serene and tranquil, but below his feet was a jar containing leftover millet. A rat therefore called his peers together, but, circling around the jar, they could not get at the food, and soon scattered. After some time had passed they came back carrying together a large rat, and then gathered around to listen as he spoke haltingly, like a minister announcing a decree. The group of rats then dashed around, lifting and dropping the jar. After a short while the jar tipped and the millet spilled out.  The monk clapped his hands and tried to chase them, and the rats fled and scattered, leaving the large rat alone on the floor, old and unable to move. The monk sighed and marveled at it, moved to pity for it. People call it the Venerable Rat Ancestor.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.257 (Tale 466):

老鼠祖公

瑞州上高布金院有老僧病,因晝卧。僧房閒靜,蹋前瓶有餘粟,鼠乃呼儔旅,繞瓶側,不能得食,須臾皆散。久之共舁一大鼠至,鼠附耳囁嚅,若相誥詔之狀。羣鼠趕逐,起瓶上下。少頃瓶倒粟傾,僧拍手逐之,羣鼠走散,偶遺一大鼠在地,老不能動,僧嗟異而憐之,人謂之鼠祖公。

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 Female Divinity Rebukes In A Dream 女神報夢

The Noble Prime Minister Jiang Guxin (i.e. Jiang Wanli, 1198-1275), went roaming with two or three friends during his period of poverty. On reaching a temple, they saw the figure of a boy, and at the next temple, a female deity. Guxin and his friends joked together and so carried the male deity to the female divinity’s temple, saying that they were bearing the groom into his wedding. That night Guxin had a dream in which the female deity gathered the hem of her robe and started to speak: “The child is a chaste and pure spirit, following orders to receive offerings in that place. Please take the boy back to his temple, and do not sully my moral integrity. The gentleman will in future act as prime minister, so I come to report to a superior. The other three people following the gentleman will all receive some censure.” The next day he gathered his friends, and was about to tell them of this, each spoke of a dream in which the female spirit faced and rebuked them, so the gentleman held his tongue and kept his secret, carrying the boy spirit back to his temple. Subsequently the gentleman indeed ascended to the position of prime minister, but his friends all suffered serious illness, and were fortunate to avoid death.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.220 (Tale 390):

女神報夢

朱丞相江古心,微時與二三友閑行,至一廟,乃男子身,次至一廟,乃女神也。古心與諸友戲,以男子神舁至女神廟,云(「云」原作「去」,據明刻本改。)送來入贅。是夜古心夢女神斂袵而啟曰:「兒乃貞潔之神,奉命血食斯土,請舁男神歸廟,毋污我大節。公異日當揆,故來稟覆。其三人隨從公者,亦略加譴矣。」次日會諸友,方欲話及,各言夜夢女神面責,公遂隱而不言,舁男神歸廟。後公果登相位,而諸友皆患重病,幸而免死。

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).

Wenshan Becomes An Immortal 文山為神

Guo Yuanyi came from Luling. He once followed Wenshan Tianxiang[1] on his travels, and also performed dedicated service among the troops. In the bingshen year of the Yuanzhen era (1296), while living at home he fell ill and died, but a slight warmth was retained in his heart and chest, and, during the time he was laid out in his home before he could be buried, he revived, and said: “A person in a yellow turban escorted me to a place like a government office. There was someone dressed like a prince in gold and purple, seated raised above the hall. Your servant whispered a question to the officials on guard: ‘Who is this official presiding over the hall?’ They answered: ‘This is Prime Minister Wen.’ Your servant was secretly pleased: ‘Being long acquainted with the prime minister, he must offer the protection of a close relationship.’ I therefore mounted the dais and made a bow to one side, and Duke Wen said: ‘In our friendship how can I not provide you with protection? Nonetheless, your number is up; what can be done? You may return to wrap up your plans and domestic affairs, and then come.’” Guo, having spoken in this way, said his goodbyes to his family, settled all of his outstanding business, and then died.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.210 (Tale 374):

文山為神

郭元益,廬陵人。嘗從文山天祥遊,亦曾馳驅兵間。元貞丙申,居家抱病而死,但心胸間微暖,未殮,經宿還魂,云:「有黃巾人追至一所,若公府,見一金紫如王者狀,坐於殿上。某私問吏卒云:『殿上官何人?』答曰:『即文丞相也。』某私喜曰:『與丞相有舊,必蒙周庇。』因上殿,方一揖間,文公曰:『朋友間吾豈不能回護汝,但數至此,奈何!汝可回去區畫家事即來。』」郭如其言,與家人敍別,分付了當方死。

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] This is Wen Tianxiang 文天祥 (1236-83), courtesy name Songduan 宋端, also known as Wenshan 文山, who passed the civil examinations in 1256, and became famous for his resistance to Mongol rule, his eventual execution and his writing. His biography is found at Songshi 418.12533-40. See also the brief introduction here: http://www.chinaknowledge.de/History/Song/personswentianxiang.html

Lightning Demolishes A Diviner’s Shop 雷撤卦肆

In Longquan County there was one Minister Si, who revered spirits and deities, and was devoted to good deeds. When Gan Yuan rebuilt the Jizhou Bridge, at the north gate he painted an image of the Heavenly King. There was a scholar Hu (his given name has been forgotten), who chiseled this out of the beam and moved it, renting it to Revisor Li as a sign for his divination business, where it was used to bring in profit. Hu Si brought the matter before the authorities as a lawsuit, but the circuit officials looked around and were afraid to make enquiries. Minister Si then took up the incense burner devoted to the Heavenly King, carried it around the town, and called on the heavens to curse him. Several days after, the skies darkened bringing rain and lightning, and the diviner’s shop was demolished. The townsfolk therefore named him ‘Hu King of Heaven’.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.106 (Tale 184):

雷撤卦肆

龍泉縣有四郎,敬信神佛,好為善事。幹緣再建濟州橋,於橋之北門繪一天王像。有胡學士不顯其名,鑿其梁柱,浮搭一間,賃與李祕校作卦肆以收利。胡四經官訟之,縣道觀望不敢問。四郎輒肩天王香鑪,繞市呼天以呪之。數日後,陰雨迅雷,竟撤卦肆。邑人以胡天王號之。

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).

Duke Yi Lays Foundations 益公屋基

When Duke Yi of Zhou resigned as minister and returned home, he wandered field and village at leisure. One day, bringing along a diviner to look at the land more than ten li beyond Wunikeng, seeing a large area owned by a peasant family, he said: “This place is ringed by peaks and water; wouldn’t it be perfect as a pleasure garden?” Soon after this speech an elderly man and woman emerged to meet them, saying: “Last night we dreamed that a constellation achieving Buddha merit came seeking land; today the noble minister arrives; we wish to present the land as an offering.” [85] The Duke compensated them generously to build a house elsewhere. Suddenly he saw that there were three unclaimed tombs of two or three zhang in length. Those around him wished to remove them, but he said: “In life we have neighbours, and in death too. Every year we will honour them, preparing wine three times, a jar of food, and ten bundles of paper as offerings.” This was later inscribed on a wooden tablet before the hall, ensuring that his descendants continued in honour and respect; this can surely be called greatness in faith and magnanimity.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.84-85 (Tale 146):

益公屋基

周益公辭相歸,徜徉田里。日攜術者過十里外烏泥坑相地,見一農家住場曰:「此處山水環抱,將可為樂丘乎?」言未幾,翁媼出迎曰:「夜來夢見婁至德佛來尋地,今日相公來,願以地獻。」 [85] 公厚資別為造屋。忽見二、三丈許有三所無主墓,左右者欲去之,公曰:「生有鄰,死亦如之。每年拜掃,當備酒三行、飯一盂、紙十束同祭。」仍鏤榜堂前,使子孫遵守,可謂忠厚之至矣。

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).

Rain Hat and Rice Husk 青笠米皮

Ying Long, the talented scholar from Zou, once said:

In Yu Borough there is Ruiguang Crag, a little over ten li from the county seat, and in it there is the platform where the prime minister Li Gang (1083-1140) used to read. Long ago on the crag there was a monk called Danxia [56], who was able to predict the future. One day he went to visit the monk, knocked on his door, and received a note that read: “The rain hat, removing the rice husk, in this season, will be truly radiant.” Later the gentleman served as prime minister, during the Jingkang 靖康 era (1126-27). These words can therefore be understood and verified: the ‘rain hat’ (qingliruo 青笠箬) is Jing 靖; ‘removing the rice husk’ 米去皮 makes kang 康.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前1.55-56 (Tale 98):

青笠米皮

鄒狀元應龍嘗謂:予里中有瑞光巖,去縣十餘里,中有丞相李綱讀書臺。昔巖中有僧丹霞 [56] 者,能前知。一日訪僧,扣之,乃書云:「青箬笠,米去(「米去」原作「去米」,據元刻本改。)皮,此時節,正光輝。」後公於靖康年作相。因知此言之驗,青笠箬靖也,米去皮康也。

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).