Xuanzang Ordains A Pine 玄奘摩頂松

At the beginning of the Tang era there was a monk called Xuanzang who went to the western regions and brought scriptures, in a single journey of seventeen years.[1] On the day of his departure, in the Lingyan Monastery in Qizhou, a pine stood in the courtyard, and Zang touched his hand to its branches, saying: “I go west to seek the teachings of the Buddha; you should grow to the west; if I return, these twigs should face east: let my pupils and disciples know of it.”[2] When he left, the branches pointed westward year by year, growing several zhang (c. 3.3m). One day, they were suddenly pointed to the east, and his pupils and disciples said: “The Master has returned.” They thus went west to greet him. Zang had indeed returned, and obtained six hundred volumes of Buddhist scriptures. To this day people still call it ‘the ordained pine’.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.17 (Tale 86):

玄奘摩頂松

唐初有僧玄奘往西域取經,一去十七年。始去之日,於齊州靈巖寺院,有松一本立於庭,奘以手摩其枝曰:「吾西去求佛教,汝可西長;若歸,即此枝東向:使吾門人弟子知之。」及去,其枝年年西指,約長數丈。一年忽東向指,門人弟子曰:「教主歸矣。」乃西迎之。奘果還歸,得佛經六百部。至今衆謂之「摩頂松」。

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)

An account in the Taiping Guangji pairs this story with a tale describing an incident during Xuanzang’s journey:

Xuanzang 玄奘

The Śramaṇa (Buddhist ascetic) Xuanzang’s secular surname was Chen, and he was from Yanshi County.[3] As a youth he was intelligent, and studious in behaviour. At the beginning of the Tang Wude era (618-26 CE), he went to the Western Regions to fetch scriptures. When he reached the Kubhā realm, the road became perilous, with tigers and leopards[4] he could not pass. Zang did not know what to do, so he locked himself into a room and sat. When night came he opened the door, and saw an elderly monk, whose head and face bore sores and wounds, and body showed discharge and blood. Sitting alone on the bed, he had no idea from where he had come; Zang therefore bowed courteously and diligently sought his help. The monk dictated a section of the Duoxinjing (the Prajñā-Pāramitā Hrdaya Sūtra), and ordered Zang to recite it. He then found that the landscape broadened and flattened, and the road opened up, the wild beasts hiding themselves, and the monsters retreating into concealment, allowing him to reach the land of the Buddha. He took six hundred works of scripture and returned, and his Prajñā-Pāramitā Hrdaya Sūtra is recited to this day. At the beginning, when Zang was about to depart for the Western Regions, there was a pine tree in the Lingyan Monastery, and Zang, standing in the courtyard, touched its branches with his hand and said: “I am going west to seek the Buddha’s teachings. You should grow to the west, and if I return, you should stop and turn to the east, so that my disciples can be informed.” He then left. Its branches then grew westward as year followed year, reaching several zhang in length (a zhang is c. 3.3m). One year it suddenly turned back around. His disciples said: “The Master has returned!” They then went west to greet him, and Zang had indeed come back. To this day people still call it the ‘ordained pine.’ Taken from Duyizhi and Tangxinyu.

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, 92.606:

玄奘

沙門玄奘俗姓陳。偃師縣人也。幼聰慧。有操行。唐武德初。往西域取經。行至罽賓國。道險。虎豹不可過。奘不知為計。乃鏁房門而坐。至夕開門。見一老僧。頭面瘡痍。身體膿血。牀上獨坐。莫知來由。奘乃禮拜勤求。僧口授多心經一卷。令奘誦之。遂得山川平昜。道路開闢。虎豹藏形。魔鬼潛跡。遂至佛國。取經六百部而歸。其多心經至今誦之。初奘將往西域。於靈巖寺有松一樹。奘立於庭。以手摩其枝曰。吾西去求佛教。汝可西長。若吾歸。即却東廻。使吾弟子知之。及去。其枝年年西指。約長數丈。一年忽東廻。門人弟子曰。教主歸矣。乃西迎之。奘果還。至今衆謂此松為摩頂松。出獨異志及唐新語

[1] On Xuanzang (c. 602-64 CE), see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xuanzang.

[2] The late Glen Dudbridge states that this was a pine twig planted by Xuanzang, rather than an extant tree standing in the courtyard when he visited; I don’t see this reading in either version (but am happy to be corrected). See Glen Dudbridge, The “Hsi-yu Chi”: A Study of Antecedents to the Sixteenth-Century Chinese Novel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970), p. 22.

[3] On the term Śramaṇa, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C5%9Arama%E1%B9%87a.

[4] The phrase 虎豹could also refer to violent people.

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Chancellor In The Mountains 山中宰相

Tao Hongjing (452-536 CE) lived as a recluse on Maoshan, and whenever Emperor Wu of Liang (464-549) faced a major problem, he would send an express edict to him for counsel on the decision. People at the time called him ‘Chancellor in the Mountains’.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.14 (Tale 75):

山中宰相

陶弘景隱居茆山,梁武帝每有大事,飛詔與之參決。時人謂隱居為「山中宰相」。

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)

Government Troops Harm The Populace 官軍殘民

During the Tang, Li You served as General of Huaixi, and in the twelfth year Yuanhe (817 CE) he returned to the country carrying funds. When Duke Pei defeated Wu Yuanji, some among the Han army stripped the clothes of women leaving their bodies entirely naked [9]. You had a new wife, née Jiang, who had reached her fifth month of pregnancy, but was seized by the rampaging troops, who sliced her belly with a blade, and Jiang stopped breathing and fell to the ground. You returned and saw this; her belly gaped more than a chi (c.30 cm), so he removed his jacket and wrapped her. His wife came to soon after, receiving some divine medicine and recovering. After a full ten months she gave birth to a son. The court returned You to serve the realm with honour, and awarded a post to his son. The son was named Xingxiu (‘Cultivating Conduct’), and served as military governor for Nanhai at an age a little over thirty; resigning and returning, he died on the road.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.8-9 (Tale 62):

官軍殘民

唐李祐為淮西將,元和十二年送款歸國。裴公破吴元濟,入其城,漢軍有剝婦人衣至裸體 [9] 者。祐有新婦姜氏,懷姙五月矣,為亂卒所刼,以刀劃其腹,姜氏氣絕踣地。祐歸見之,腹開尺餘,因脱衣襦裹之。婦一夕復蘇,傳以神藥而平。滿十月而產一男。朝廷以祐歸國功,授一子官。子曰行修,年三十餘,為南海節度,罷歸,卒於道。

This story is also found in Taiping Guangji at juan 29, entitled ‘Li You’s Wife’.

此條又見《廣記》卷二一九,題為《李祐婦》。

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)

The Birth Of Dongfang Shuo 東方朔出生

The wife of Zhang Shaoping, née Tian, lived alone as a widow for several years after Shaoping’s death, but suddenly one night dreamed that a person came down from heaven and pressed on her belly, due to which she became pregnant. She therefore said: “Pregnant without a husband; if people hear of this they will abandon me.” She migrated to find a new place to the east. At the new moon of the fifth month, she gave birth to a son. Because she was living in the east, she called him Dongfang Shuo[1] (‘New Moon of the East’). Some say that he was the spirit of Jupiter, multi-talented and boundlessly erudite.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.6 (Tale 44):

東方朔出生

張少平妻田氏,少平卒後,累年寡居,忽夢一人自天而下,壓其腹,因而懷孕。乃曰:「無夫而孕,人聞棄我也。」徙於代,依東方。五月朔旦,生一子。以其居代東方,名之東方朔。或言歲星精,多能,無不該博。

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] On the Han-era scholar Dongfang Shuo 東方朔 (c. 160 – c. 93 BCE), see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dongfang_Shuo. He is also credited with the compilation of the Shenyijing 神異經 – see https://huhaixinwen.wordpress.com/2018/10/18/li-ziangs-strange-encounter-%E6%9D%8E%E5%AD%90%E6%98%82%E5%A5%87%E9%81%87/

A Dog-Headed Bride 狗頭新婦

When Jia Dan[1] was serving as commander of Huazhou, in Suanzao County there was a common woman who served a lady but showed her no respect. Because the lady was extremely old, and could see through neither of her eyes, when it came to her breakfast, the woman placed dog dung among the food and gave it to the lady. The lady having eaten this, her qi became abnormal. Her son having returned from travelling to distant parts, the lady asked her son: “What is this stuff? That woman gave it to me to eat.” Her son raised his face to heaven and gave a great howl. After a little while, [5] a lightning bolt came down, and it was as if someone had severed her head and replaced it with that of a dog. Jia ordered she be led into the county, and reported as one lacking filial respect. People at the time called her the ‘dog-headed bride’.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.4-5 (Tale 31):

狗頭新婦

賈耽為滑州節度,酸棗縣有俚婦事姑不敬,故年甚老,無雙目,旦食,婦以食裏納犬糞授姑。故食之,覺有異氣。其子出遠還,故問其子:「此何物?向者婦與吾食。」其子仰天大哭。有頃, [5] 雷電發,若有人截婦首,以犬續之。耽令牽行於境內,以告不孝者。時人謂之「狗頭新婦」。

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] Jia Dan 賈耽, courtesy name Dunshi 敦詩, 730-805 CE, a geographer and prime minister under the Tang. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jia_Dan.

An Immortal Treats Reversed Hands 仙醫反掌

In the market of Huofu, in Wanzai County, there was a beggar surnamed Guo, whose left hand and both feet were all twisted upwards. This only allowed him to scrape along the ground leaning on a staff held in his right hand, so people called him ‘Scrape Guo’. His mother was elderly and suffered from arthritis; his younger brother suffered in the same way. Scrape went out to beg on the first and fifteenth day of each month. The people of the market all felt sympathy for him and treated him generously, so he was able to support both mother and brother, gathering a month’s worth of provisions, and he went on like this for eighteen years without resentment. In the winter of the second year Yuanzhen (1296), he encountered a Daoist who, seeing his extreme poverty, and his voluntary support for mother and younger brother, he then took five balls of medicine and gave them to Scrape, saying: “If you take my medicine, your long-standing trouble will immediately be resolved.” Scrape took them as instructed, and his hand and feet were then as normal. Not having expected such healing of his illness, he no longer had a reason for his begging, and people were no longer generous to him. Just as he found himself in dire need, he again encountered the same Daoist. Scrape thanked him, and entreated him, saying: “When I received the kind grant of medicine, I happened to forget that my mother is ill; not having shared it with her, my mother now remains [146] ill.” The Daoist gave him five more medicine balls; his mother took two balls, and it was as if her illness had vanished. He still had three balls, and this came to the attention of a wealthy person living near the village who suffered from the same condition. The rich person spoke to Scrape: “It is said you have three pellets of a wonder drug; I will buy these from you for one ingot’s worth of paper money.” Scrape replied that he did not want to accept money, but did want to relieve his condition, and, if he could supply the needs of their three mouths for life, he would happily give him the medicine. Afterwards, when the effect had been demonstrated, the wealthy person kept his word and supported them.

It can only be that Scrape Guo’s single-minded filial piety led him to encounter this immortal and benefit from boundless good fortune. Why, if a beggar can devote himself in this way, others should certainly examine their own conduct.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.145-46 (Tale 255):

仙醫反掌

萬載縣獲賦市,有丐者姓郭,左手及兩足皆反掌於上,止得右手拄地擦行,人遂名以「郭擦」。母老病風,弟病亦然。擦每月朔望出丐,一市人皆憐而惠之,遂得養母及弟,僅得一月之食,如此者十八年無怨。元貞二年冬,遇一道人,見其貧苦,又甘心養母與弟,遂與藥五丸與擦,云:「汝服吾藥,宿疾頓可。」擦如教服之,手足隨即如常。不料疾愈,無可託辭以丐,而人亦無惠之者。方窘急間,又遇元道人。擦謝之,且祈之云:「向蒙惠藥,偶忘母疾,未曾分與,今母尚 [146] 病。」道人再以五丸與之,其母服兩丸,其疾如失。尚餘三丸,適為里近富人所知,其病亦同,富人與擦云:「聞汝有妙藥三丸,以鈔一錠與汝回贖。」擦應言不願受鈔,願病安,三口乞終身供給,遂以藥授之。後果效,富人守信供給之,得非郭擦一念孝悌,獲遇神仙以受無窮之福。吁!丐者而處心如此,人亦可以自反矣。

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).

Inserting A Hairpin, Sprouting Bamboo 插簪生筍

In Ji’an City there was an altar to Madame Wei, located ten li south of the walls. When the Lady was producing her pills of immortality, an elderly village woman repeatedly offered her tea, and the Lady, divining her intentions, pulled out a hairpin and inserted it beneath the woman’s hedge, saying: “Every year, on the final day of the fourth month, this will sprout a bamboo shoot, which will supply your family with food.” The following year, the ground there sprouted bamboo, sweet in flavour and without roots or young sprouts. The villagers called it the ‘Deficit-Filling Bamboo’, and it grows there to this day.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.134 (Tale 234):

插簪生筍

吉安城有魏夫人壇,在城南十里。夫人煉丹時,有村嫗屢以茶獻,夫人感其意,遂拔簪插于籬下,曰:「年年四月盡,當生筍,可供汝家之食饌。」次年,其地筍生,味甘而無根苗,鄉人名曰「填補筍」,至今有之。

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).