Lightning Strikes The Unfilial 雷擊不孝

In Wugongkou, in Wen, there were two criminal youths intending to make trouble. As each still had a mother, they plotted together that each would kill the other’s parent, and they could then stage an uprising. The chief plotter [20] was one Chen Wusi, who was then apprenticed in a restaurant as a cook, but not yet being allowed to prepare food, was stationed at the rear of the kitchen. A shepherd boy, called Wang Zheng, suddenly saw a person, a full zhang (3.3m) in height, enter the gate bearing a brocade-wrapped document. Everything went hazy for a while. It then came back out grasping the youth. There was the sound of a thunderclap. Wusi’s kerchief was pierced through, a hole visible deep into the crown of his head. He leaned against the wall and died.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前1.19-20 (Tale 34):

雷擊不孝

溫之吳公口有二惡少,謀欲生事,尚各有母,欲假手於同謀者互殺其母,而後舉事。其主謀 [20] 者陳五四者,正在練店內烹飪,尚未得食,立於竈後。有牧童王正,忽見有丈身之人攜錦皮簿書入門,恍惚間,先攜小童出門外,霹靂一聲,五四頭巾穿破,頭頂上一竅穿透,靠壁而死。

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)

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Hostel Pavilion Spiders 館亭蜘蛛

There was a Censor called Wei Jun who was once responsible for Jiangxia. Sent back to the capital with a message, on his return journey he stopped to transact business at a hostel pavilion. He suddenly noticed a white spider descending from one of the pavilion columns, its body extremely small. Wei Jun said: “This is a danger to people. I have heard that, though small, when it bites people even good medicine has no effect.” He therefore directed that it be killed. Presently he saw another white one descending, and had it killed like the last one. Looking up beyond it he saw that the web led to a lair, so he ordered his retinue to fetch a broom and sweep it all away, and said: “I have now eliminated the threat to life.” The following day, wishing to leave, he touched the column with his hand as he passed, and felt a sharp unbearable pain; it turned out to be the bite of a white spider on the column. Wei Jun was shocked, and immediately flicked it away. It soon swelled up, and before several days had passed this affected his entire arm. Due to this he was carried to Jiangxia in a sedan chair. Physicians and medicines had no effect, and eventually his left arm was pouring blood; when his blood was exhausted he died. Before this Wei Jun’s lady mother was in Jiangxia, and dreamed that a white-robed person addressed her: “My two brothers, younger and elder, were killed by your son. I have reported to the heavenly emperor, and the emperor has avenged this injustice according to my request.” When they finished speaking, the lady awoke in shock. Marvelling greatly at it, she was too disturbed to speak. A little more than ten days later, when Wei Jun arrived and she heard the full story, she came to understand the dream, realising that the day of her vision was indeed that on which he had killed the spider in the hostel pavilion. The lady wept and said: “How can you live for long now?” Several days later Wei Jun died.

Zhang Du 張讀, Xuanshi Zhi 宣室志 (Stories from the Chamber of Dissemination),1.3 (Tale 4):

館亭蜘蛛

有御史韋君,嘗從事江夏,復以奉使至京,既還,道次商於館亭中。忽見亭柱有白蜘蛛曳而下,狀甚微。韋君曰:「是為人之患也。吾聞汝雖小,螫人,良藥無及。」因以指殺焉。俄又見一白者下,如前所殺之。且視其上,有綱為窟,韋乃命左右挈箒盡為盡掃去,且曰:「為人患者,吾已除矣。」明日欲去,因以手撫去柱,忽覺指痛不可忍,乃是有一白蜘蛛螫其上。韋君驚,即拂去。俄遂腫焉,不數日而盡一臂。由是肩輿舁至江夏。醫藥無及,竟以左臂潰為血,血盡而終。先是韋君先夫人在江夏,夢一白衣人謂曰:「我弟兄二人為汝子所殺。吾告上帝,帝用雪其寃,且遂吾請。」言畢,夫人驚寤。甚異之,惡不能言。後旬餘而韋君至,具得其狀,方悟所夢,覺為夢日,果其殺蜘蛛於館亭時也。夫人泣曰:「其能久乎!」數日而韋君終矣。

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)

The version transmitted in the Taiping Guangji varies slightly from this:

Wei Jun 韋君

There was a Censor called Wei Jun who was once responsible for Jiangxia. Sent back to the capital with a message, on his return journey he stopped to transact business at a hostel pavilion. He suddenly noticed a white spider descending from one of the pavilion columns, its body extremely small. Wei Jun said: “This is a danger to people. I have heard that, though small, when it bites people even good medicine has no effect.” He therefore directed that it be killed. Presently he saw another white one descending, and had it killed like the last one. Looking up beyond it he saw that the web led to a lair, so he ordered his retinue to fetch a broom to remove it all, and said: “I have now eliminated the threat to life.” The following day, about to leave, he touched the column with his hand as he passed, and felt a sharp pain that he could not bear; it turned out to be the bite of a white spider on the column. Wei Jun was shocked, and immediately flicked it away. Soon the swelling grew, and before several days had passed this affected his entire arm. Due to this he was carried to Jiangxia in a sedan chair. Physicians and medicines had no effect, and eventually his left arm was pouring blood; when his blood was exhausted he died. Before this Wei Jun’s lady mother was in Jiangxia, and dreamed that a white-robed person addressed her: “I had three brothers, younger and elder, and two were killed by your son. I have reported to the heavenly emperor, and the emperor felt sympathy and agreed to my request.” When they finished speaking, the lady awoke in shock. Marvelling greatly at it, she was too disturbed to speak. A little more than ten days later, when Wei Jun arrived and she heard the full story, she came to understand the dream, realising that the day of her vision was indeed that on which he had been in the hostel pavilion. The lady wept and said: “How can you live for long now?” Several days later Wei Jun died.

From Xuanshizhi

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), x, 476.3920:

韋君

有御史韋君嘗從事江夏。後以奉使至京。既還。道次商於。館亭中。忽見亭柱有白蜘蛛曳而下。狀甚微。韋君曰。是人之患也。吾聞雖小。螫人。良藥無及。因以指殺焉。俄又見一白者下。如前所殺之。且觀其上。有綱為窟。韋乃命左右挈帚。盡為去。且曰。為人患者。吾已除矣。明日將去。因以手撫去柱。忽覺指痛。不可忍之。乃是有一白蜘蛛螫其上。韋君驚。即拂去。俄遂腫延。不數日而盡一臂。由是肩舁至江夏。醫藥無及。竟以左臂潰為血。血盡而終。先是韋君先夫人在江夏。夢一白衣人謂曰。我弟兄三人。其二人為汝子所殺。吾告上帝。帝用憫其寃。且遂吾請。言畢。夫人驚寤。甚異之。惡不能言。後旬餘而韋君至。具得其狀。方悟所夢。覺為夢日。果其館亭時也。夫人泣曰。其能久乎。數日而韋君終矣。出宣室志

A Beauty 玉兒(當是其名)

In the Taiyuan temple college there used to be a ghostly woman, who had been the concubine of Judicial Commissioner Song Danyi, but had, due to the envy of his wife, been beaten to death and buried where she fell next to the school; a mulberry tree sprouted on the spot. The spirit would sometimes enter the temple hostel, and make jokes with people; it was quite unlike a haunting. During the Dading era (1161-89 CE), there were several people staying overnight and studying in the room, and, after the third watch (i.e., at about 1am), they suddenly heard the sound of footsteps outside the window. Before long she had entered the room, going about and touching all those who slept there, saying ‘this one will pass’, ‘this one won’t pass’. Soon after, she said “Don’t be alarmed, don’t be alarmed.” When the time came, all came out as she had said.

Education Intendant Ma Chizheng reported that those sleepers were Zhao Wenqing, Duan Guohua and Guo Jizhi.

Yuan Haowen 元好問, Xu Yijian zhi 續夷堅志 (Continued Records of the Listener), 1.12:

玉兒(當是其名)

太原廟學,舊有鬼婦人,是宋旦一提刑妾,為正室妒,捶而死,倒埋學旁,其處有桑生焉。此鬼時入齋舍,與人戲語,然不為祟也。大定中,有數人夜宿時習齋,三更後,忽聞窗外履聲,須臾,入齋,以手遍拊睡者,云此人及第,此人不及第。既而曰:「休驚休驚也。」及至後,皆如其言。

學正馬持正說,睡者趙文卿、段國華、郭及之。

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)

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.

Gan Bao’s Jealous Mother 干寶母妬

Gan Bao’s[1] mother was jealous, and when the time came to bury his father, she secretly pushed a slave-girl into the tomb. More than ten years later, his mother died, and was to be buried alongside his father. When they opened the grave, the slave-girl was lying on top of the coffin, and she eventually revived. They questioned her, but she was just like she had been before, and would serve as directed without any discernible change.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.3 (Tale 19):

干寶母妬

干寶母妬,當葬父時,潛推一婢於墓中。十餘年後,母亡,與父合葬,開墓,婢伏於棺上,久而乃生。問之,如平昔之時,指使無異。

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] Gan Bao 干寶 (d. 336 CE) was the compiler of the Soushenji. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gan_Bao.

A River God’s Retribution 江神報事

Yu Dujian, known as Shan, was from Xinshang. In the xinyou year of the Song Jingding era (1261), he was governor to Linjiang Commandery, and, due to a flood, people suffered from having to wade through the river. He received word that, at a crossing on the boundary with Jiangdong, a boat had foundered killing eighteen people, including the boatman. The governor was keen to uphold the law, so sent a soldier bearing Daoist paper figures and an official document to seek the river spirit for questioning. The soldier feared punishment, so made earnest entreaties [217] at the riverbank. An elderly white-robed person suddenly emerged, saying: “You go now; I’ll come to the offices tomorrow.” The soldier returned and made his report. When the day came, the governor sat in the hall and waited. It was already late when a wisp of cold wind was felt touching people, and he saw a person with bushy brows and white hair, dressed in white, who said: “The eighteen people who died had in a previous life formed a gang of powerful bandits who killed people, and were therefore taken together in death one day on the water.” The governor said: “The boatman among them; what then was his crime?” The elderly figure said: “That person was the bandit chief. The governor understands the affairs of human life in this world. He does not understand the affairs of the nether world’s authority, all of which are destined and certain, without slip or error.”

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.216-17 (Tale 384):

江神報事

俞杜澗名掞,信上人。宋景定辛酉知臨江軍,因大水,人病涉。言江東界有一渡,水漲舟覆,溺死十八人,梢子亦沉死。知府善行法,差一卒持神符及官牒追江神來問。卒畏譴責,力懇 [217] 於水濱。忽一白衣老人出云:「你且去,我明日自到官。」卒歸報。至日,知府坐廳等候。近晚,但覺冷風一陣拂人,見一人龐眉皓首,身著白,云:「十八人死者,前世曾結黨為強盗殺人,以一日聚死於水。」知府曰:「梢子又何辜?」老人曰:「此人正是賊首也。知府但知陽間世事,不知陰府事皆注定,並無差錯。」

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 Dead Child Demands A Life 死兒索命

The wife of Chin Shisi once drowned a child. Later she became pregnant, and when the birth was due, she suddenly dreamed that she encountered an old woman carrying a child. Soon after, the woman said: “I’ll take you away; you’ll come later.” Later, on the eve of the new year, she went into confinement, but the placenta ruptured, bad blood agitated her heart, and she died.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.122 (Tale 212):

死兒索命

陳十四妻,嘗溺死一子。後有孕,當分娩,忽夢一老嫗攜一小兒相見。須臾,嫗曰:「我且帶去,你卻來。」後於歲除日坐蓐,胞衣中斷,惡血衝心,隨即隕絕。

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).