An Elm Demon 榆木為怪

Lü Yijian, Duke Shen, served several times as a magistrate in Shu, but the name of his prefecture has been forgotten. The government office had long experienced a ghostly manifestation, named Great Aunt Yu, who was an elm spirit. In form she looked like an ancient and ugly woman, and she frequently emerged in the kitchen, encountered among a crowd of maids, who often saw her. The household, having seen her over a long period, did not think her strange. The Duke called out a question to her, at which she bowed low and said: “Your servant has long been resident in this hall, and though not human, I dare not cause misfortune.” The Duke then laid the matter aside and asked no more questions. She often predicted that he must later become very influential. One day she suddenly announced that she was pregnant, and the maids mocked her. She herself said that she would soon give birth, and then disappeared for over a month. Then, all of a sudden, her voice was heard, saying: “I have given birth; [264] please come and look. In the back garden, to the southwest of the elm tree, there’s another, and that’s my child.” They looked, and it was true.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.263-64 (Tale 477):

榆木為怪

呂申公夷簡常通判蜀中,忘其郡名。廨宇中素有鬼物,號俞老姑,乃榆木精,其狀一老醜婦,常出廚間與羣婢為偶,或時見之。家人見之久,亦不為怪。公呼問之,即下階拜(「階拜」原作「拜階」,據抄配本改。)云:「妾在於(抄配本無「於」字。)堂府日久,雖非人,然不敢為禍。」公亦置而不問。常謂公他日必大貴。一日忽懷妊,羣婢戲之。自言非久當產,遂月餘不見。忽出云:「已產矣, [264] 請視之,後園榆木西南生大贅乃是。」視之,果然。

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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The Cishan Deity Manifests 祠山神顯

Zhang Dadi, of Cishan in Guangde, when he first manifested his nature, once turned into a pig in order to regulate the waterways, and for this reason many people of the prefecture do not eat pigs, treating them as a taboo. The people of the prefecture obeyed this very sincerely, and warned people to avoid pork. The Tang subject Lou Yin (833-909), whose name is famous across All Under Heaven, ridiculed the deities and spirits in every place he visited. He once passed this temple, and inscribed a poem on the wall:

Traversing roads in the world’s farthest corners

Never once in life misled by fallacy.

He was about to write another pair of lines, when his hand was suddenly grasped and dragged upwards, as if by a person. He heard someone speak: “If the second couplet isn’t good, your hand could be snapped off.” Luo, terrified, said: “How about it isn’t written at all, to accord with the deity’s order?” His hand was then restored as before. He continued to write:

Zhang Dadi of Cishan,

Is Lord of Spirits in All Under Heaven.

 

During the Song Jingding era (1260-64), there was a palace, lying four li north of Taipingzhou city, which had extremely powerful spirits. A wealthy family made a great refurbishment of the temple there, using curved tiles numbering in the [216] tens of thousands. When the time came to open the several kilns, their simple clay tiles had all been transformed and showed a glossy blue-green glaze. As the artisans came to complete the project, they found themselves three hundred tiles short, so continued to heat the kilns, the artisans placing several tens of thousands of tiles in the kiln, intending that they should all be transformed and glazed, to sell on and make a small profit. When removed from the kiln, three hundred had received the glaze, but the rest were all simple clay.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.215-16 (Tale 382):

祠山神顯

廣德軍祠山張大帝,初發靈時,嘗化為豬以治水,故郡人多不食豬,自為諱物。郡人事之甚謹,戒不食豬肉。唐人羅隱,名彰天下,所至之處,鬼神無不為之譏諷。嘗過其廟,題詩於壁曰:「踏遍天涯路,平生不信邪。」方欲題後二句,(此處原多一「於」字,據明刻本刪。)俄手如人拽起狀,聞人語曰:「若後二句不佳,能折爾手。」羅悚懼曰:「如不佳,甘照神語。」手遂如故。續題曰:「祠山張大帝,天下鬼神爺。」宋景定年間,太平州城北四里外有行宮極靈,富家巨室重新廟宇,計用筒瓦數 [216] 萬口,臨時起窰三五所燒造,其土瓦盡皆變成青色琉璃。結蓋將畢工,尚少三百口,續行燒造,匠者復以數萬入竈,意其變琉璃,庶可轉鬻以圖小利。及出窰,則三百口為琉璃,餘者皆土瓦也。

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).