Xingwen Beats A Scholar 興文杖士

When Li, a county governor of Nanchang, moved the Confucius hall to the south of the county, he lifted the statue of the master but was quite unable to move it, and many of his subordinates also tried but had the same problem. There was a scholar who spoke from beside him, saying: “The gentleman should be called Zhongni” (This is another name for Confucius, but seems to be a pun, as a different zhong 重 can mean ‘heavy’, and this ni can mean ‘stop’ or ‘prevent’). Warden Li grew angry, and rebuked him with a stern countenance. When night came, in a dream the scholar was suddenly taken by two yellow-robed people to a place where in a side-room a horizontal board read ‘Xingwen’. After a little while a person sat down there and said: “You claim to be a scholar, reading the books of past sages; how can you make jokes and slight the ancient master?” He ordered the attendants to punish him with twenty strokes of the stave, and ordered that he be removed from the Confucian classicists. When he awoke he was feeble-minded, and could not recognise a single character.

Those among the present generation who treat the sagely words as jokes should indeed treat this as a warning.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.221 (Tale 392):



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).