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.

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An Unscrupulous Officer of the Way 法官不戒

Zhang Shengyuan, known as the ‘Sender of Thunder’, diligently followed the Way of Thunder, possessing exceptional power and efficacy; the populace all treated him as a transcendent. He resided in Lingdao Hall. One evening, when he was walking in the mountains, he defiled a village woman. When he returned at dusk, he lit a lamp, but there came the sound of a mouth eating and chewing, and suddenly dead fell to the ground. When the thunder spirits are like this, how can those scholars who follow the Way be disrespectful?

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.166 (Tale 289):

法官不戒

張聲遠,名雷發,奉行雷法,甚有靈驗,衆皆神之。寓廬陵道堂。一晚山行,污一村婦。暮歸,堂中焚炷,但口中作吃吃之聲,忽仆地竟死。雷將之靈如此,行法之士忽慢可乎?

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).

Wang Fan’s Tomb 王樊冢

The Dunhuang shilu reports: When Wang Fan died, a thief opened his tomb and saw Wang Fan playing chupu (a form of boardgame) with someone; he rewarded the robber with wine, and the thief drank it in terror, watching someone lead a bronze horse out of the tomb. That night a divinity arrived at the city gate, announcing that it was the envoy of Wang Fan, that someone had opened his tomb, marking his lips by swallowing dark wine, and that when that person returned at dawn they could verify this and capture him. When the thief entered the city, those on the gate therefore bound and questioned him, and it was just as the divinity had said.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.8 (Tale 61):

王樊冢

《燉煌實錄》云:王樊卒,有盗開其冢,見王樊與人樗蒲,以酒賜盗者,盗者惶怖飲之,見有人牽銅馬出冢者。夜有神至城門,自言是王樊使,今有人發冢,以酒墨其唇,但至,可以驗而擒之。盗既入城,城門者乃縛詰之,如神言。

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)

Ban Meng 班孟

Ban Meng’s background is unknown; some say they were a woman. Able to travel by flying for days at a time, they could also sit and talk to people from the empty air. They were also able to enter the earth, at first disappearing from feet to chest, then entering fully, only leaving a kerchief behind, which after a long time would disappear entirely, too. Slicing the ground by pointing, a well could be constructed ready to be draw from. Blowing the roof-tiles from houses, tiles would be sent flying among people’s houses and homes. Mulberry shoots numbering in the thousands, Meng could combine them all into one, piled like a mountain and remaining like that for more than ten days; by blowing on them they could be returned to growing as before in their former places. They could moreover swallow a mouthful of ink, stretch out paper before them, chew and spit it out, the whole forming characters across the paper, each bearing full meaning. They took wine and cinnabar, but over four hundred years less and less, eventually entering Dazhishan.

From Shenxianzhuan.

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, 61.382

班孟

班孟者。不知何許人也。或云女子也。能飛行經日。又能坐空虛中與人語。又能入地中。初去時沒足至胸。漸入。但餘冠幘。良久而盡沒不見。以指刺地。即成井可吸。吹人屋上瓦。瓦飛入人家間。桑果數千株。孟皆拔聚之成一。積如山。如此十餘日。吹之各還其故處如常。又能含墨一口中。舒紙着前。嚼墨噴之。皆成文字。竟紙。各有意義。服酒丹。年四百歲更少。入大治山中。出神仙傳

Celestial Grandmas Sell Medicine 仙姥貨藥

In Xiangtan there lived a Mr Zhou; his wife having been ill for two years, he sought medicines and asked the gods, but in his ignorance this had not the slightest effect, and eventually he just burned night-incense and prayed. One day, two women wearing dark robes came to his gate selling medicine; they withdrew, saying: “We specialize in women’s medicine.” Zhou hurriedly invited them in, requesting that they take her pulse and treat the illness. The women said: “There is no need for examination, but we ask for a light to illuminate her.” After they had looked, they said: “Why has she not taken the Jiyin pills made by Lady Wei of Nanyue?” Zhou asked: “How could a single pill relieve two years of illness?” The women replied: “Try it and see.” They opened a medicine pouch, handing over a pill and ordering that it be swallowed with warm wine. As the medicine approached her mouth, it released an unusually delicious fragrance, and the illness was subsequently [143] entirely shrugged off. The patient then asked to dress and go out to give thanks, but the two women had suddenly vanished.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.142-43 (Tale 250):

仙姥貨藥

湘潭有周某者,妻病已兩年,求醫問神,茫無寸效,惟燒夜香祈禱而已。一日,有兩婦人青衣登門貨藥,卻云:「專醫婦人。」周急延之,請診脈治病。婦人曰:「不須診,但借火一照可也。」見訖,云:「何不服南嶽魏夫人濟陰丹?」周曰:「容修合。」婦人曰:「自送一丸。」周曰:「一丸豈能療兩年之病?」婦人曰:「試服。」開藥包,以一丸授之,令溫酒嚥下。藥纔到口,香味異常,其病隨 [143] 即如脫。病者即求攬衣出謝,而兩婦人忽亦不見矣。

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).

The Great Serpent Of Chengdu 成都長蛇

In the Xianchun era, on the sixth day of the fourth month in the yichou year (23 April, 1265), the clerk Xia Yingchen of the Tanzhou government office made a report in an imperial bulletin, and one section within it read:

In Shenwenjiang County, Chengdu Prefecture, there was a mottled yellow snake, more than a hundred zhang (a zhang is about 3.3m) in length, a spirit radiance extending more than three hundred paces around, its mouth spitting out a fragrance of pepper and plum flowers, its vapour scorching more than twenty li; those people and animals killed by it are innumerable. On the third day of the seventh month last year (27 July, 1264), this prefecture gathered more than two thousand five hundred soldiers to apprehend it, but the serpent used its tail to turn and sweep the troops away. More than five hundred were drowned, and the rest all fled in terror. The emperor decreed that the Daoist Masters of Shu use their powers to deal with the matter; they have just slain it, and its bones are like mountains.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.259 (Tale 470):

成都長蛇

咸淳乙丑四月六日,潭州書局夏應辰錄邸報從遞來,內一項云:「成都府申溫江縣有黃花斑蛇一條,長百餘丈,神光照三百餘步,口吐椒梅花香,薰灼二十餘里,殺人畜無數。去年七月三日,本府差甲士二千五百餘人收捕,蛇用尾掉卷軍士,溺死者五百餘人,餘皆驚遁。上旨命天師蜀中有法之士治之,方戮死,骨如山。」

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).

Human Face, Pig Body 人面豬形

[257] In the Zhiyuan era, the gengchen year (1280), a sow in the household of Yang Liusi, to the east of Longquan County in Chuzhou, gave birth to a litter of seven. One of them had a pig’s body and a human face, eyes like those of a phoenix, a long and curved lower jaw, its mouth and nose leaving it unable to suckle milk. This form was terrifying, so after a day it was shot dead.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.256-57 (Tale 465):

人面豬形

[257] 至元庚辰,處州龍泉縣東楊六四家豬母生七子,其一豬身人面,眼相如鳳,下頷長而彎腫,其口鼻不能食乳,怪狀可畏,踰日而斃。

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).