Repairing Ships, Increasing Longevity 修船增壽

In the bingyin year of the Song Xianchun era (1266), the Administrative Inspector for Linchuan, Nuan Weidao, a scholar of Shu, reported that his region had two stony paths separated by a river whose waters ran fast and wild through all four seasons. Further down there was a deep abyss, and only at that place was it possible to cross, although year in and year out those who drowned there were very numerous, as their small boats struck rocks and sank. A person called Xu Zongren decided to build a large vessel, bound with iron plates at both ends, personally hiring punt-hands who were dedicated to serving passing travellers and committed to performing virtuous works in order to accrue merit. It happened that a Person of the Way called at his gate and praised this order, addressing Xu: “The gentleman’s lifespan is restricted to [112] thirty-two, and ends this year.” On the evening of his birthday, he dreamed that he arrived at a government office, seeing a prince seated high in the hall, with three or four hundred spirits before the gates in wet robes, who presented a scroll to the prince: “Xu Zongren has saved many lives from death, with the utmost merit; we beg that husband and wife should enjoy long life, their descendants receive glory and high rank. The multitude wait only for the Zhongyuan festival; they will then cross the worldly bounds.” The prince gestured to his retinue, and with the following words instructed Zongren: “Special Extension by three ages.” He awoke and marvelled at this. From then on he found wholehearted joy in doing good works. Two of his sons and three of his grandsons served as officials. When Zongren died, people erected a hall for offerings by the side of the crossing, and it stands to this day.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.111-12 (Tale 194):

修船增壽

宋咸淳丙寅,臨川錄參暖昧道,蜀士也,嘗言其鄉有兩石嶠夾出一江,四時皆湍急,下則深淵,惟此處可以立渡,常年溺死者甚衆,蓋船小觸石即碎。有徐宗仁發心造一巨舟,兩頭裹以鐵葉,自僱篙手,專一撐過客人,且建善緣以薦亡者。忽有道人登門稱善命,謂徐曰:「公壽止得三 [112] 十二,止在今年。」生日之夕,夢至官府,見王者坐於堂上,而門首溼衣之鬼約三四百人,執一卷投於王前:「徐宗仁濟生拔死,功德莫大,乞與夫妻壽考,子孫榮貴,衆等只俟中元,即超淨界。」 王者指左右,以此詞示宗仁,云:「特延三紀。」覺而異之。自此一心好善樂施。二子、三孫,後有為官者。宗仁死,人為立祠於渡側,至今尚存。

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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Providing Congee, Accruing Merit 施粥有功

Zhu Ran, of Sha County in Nanjianzhou, distributed congee as aid to the poor in years of bad harvests. He subsequently had a son who was extremely intelligent, and requested he be entered into the examinations. When the year’s results were about to be revealed, it happened that people on the street fancied they saw people running around celebrating examination success and carrying a banner bearing the four characters: “Reward for Giving Congee”. When the results were opened, his son had gained a particularly high first place.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.111 (Tale 192):

施粥有功

南劍州沙縣祝染者,遇歉歲,為粥以施貧。後生一子聰慧,請舉入學。年榜將開,忽街上人夢捷者奔馳而過,報狀元榜,手持一大旗,上書四字,曰「施粥之報」。及榜開,其子特科狀元。

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).

Giving Birth To A Dragon 產龍

In Weibo Village, Pingding, in the summer of the yisi year,[1] there was a woman named Ma who was a sorcerer, aged over fifty, and who was pregnant for more than six years, finally this year giving birth to a dragon. When the officials asked after the cause of this, the woman told them that, after remaining pregnant for three or four years without giving birth, her husband, Registrar Cao, feared that the baby had changed into a demon, so drove her away. When the birth approached, she saw people descend from a haze and array themselves before her, as if they were within a government office. One person spoke to her personally, saying, “What has been entrusted to you over several years will today depart; next year the mother will be happy indeed.” When he had finished speaking, a white-robed person took her by the arm and departed; on reaching the gate, she grew confused and lost consciousness, only reviving after a long time had passed. The people around her said that three thunderclaps had emerged from dark clouds, and a dragon had flown from the woman’s body, leaving its mother behind.

Yuan Haowen 元好問, Xu Yijian zhi 續夷堅志 (Continued Records of the Listener), 1.6

產龍

平定葦泊村,乙巳夏,一婦名馬師婆,年五十許,懷孕六年有餘,今年方產一龍。官司問所由,此婦說,懷孕至三四年不產,其夫曹主簿懼為變怪,即遣逐之。及臨產,怳忽中見人從羅列其前,如在官府中,一人前自陳云:「寄託數年,今當舍去,明年阿母快活矣。」言訖,一白衣人掖之而去,至門,昏不知人,久之乃甦。旁人為說晦冥中雷震者三,龍從婦身飛去,遂失身孕所在。

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] This would be the forty-second year of the 60-year cycle, so in this case perhaps either 1185 or 1245 CE.

Han Gan Paints Horses 韓幹畫馬

Han Gan[1] of the Tang was skilled at painting horses. While he was leading a quiet life at home, a person suddenly appeared, arriving wearing a black hat and red robe. Gan asked him: “What brings you here?” He replied: “I am an agent of the nether world. I heard that the gentleman is skilled at painting horses, and hoped to be granted one.” Gan erected a painting and burned it. Several days later he went out, and somebody bowed to him in thanks, saying: “Having benefited from the gentleman’s kindness, I have been spared the pain of trudging through hill and water, and you will also receive a reward for this service.” The following day, somebody brought a hundred bolts of white silk, not knowing where it had come from; Gan accepted and used it.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.19 (Tale 98):

韓幹畫馬

唐韓幹善畫馬,閑居之際,忽有一人,玄冠朱衣而至。幹問曰:「何緣及此?」對曰:「我鬼使也。聞君善畫良馬,願賜一匹。」幹立畫焚之。數日因出,有人揖而謝曰:「蒙君惠駿足,免為山水跋涉之苦,亦有以酬效。」明日,有人送素縑百匹,不知其來,幹收而用之。

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 Han Gan韓幹 (c. 706-783), see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Han_Gan.

Heavenly Wrath On Corrupt Officials 天譴墨吏

At the beginning of the Tang Zhenguan era (627-49 CE), the Director of Danyang, Wang Qiong, was summoned and dismissed in his third year. Qiong was extremely resentful, and took a great deal of money, visiting the Maoshan Daoist Ye Lingzhong, and seeking a memorial to the throne that would predict the future. Lingzhong was ninety years old, and, when forced to produce the petition, the paper floated up on incense smoke and disappeared into the mists. Soon after it fell back to the ground, with a note in red ink added to the end: “Accepting a hundred liang of gold, taking three years’ salary, murdering two people; these will be resolved after death.” One year later, Qiong died suddenly without illness.

上1.16 (Tale 85):

天譴墨吏

唐貞觀初,丹陽令王瓊,三年調集,遭黜。瓊甚憤惋,乃齎百千,詣茅山道士葉靈中,求章奏以問吉凶。靈中年九十,強為奏之,其章隨香烟飛上,縹渺不見。食頃復墮地,有朱書批其末,云:「受金百兩,折祿三年;枉殺二人,死後處斷。」一歲,瓊無疾暴卒。

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)

A version of the same tale, showing several variations, is found in the Taiping Guangji:

Ye Xuzhong 葉虛中

At the beginning of the Tang Zhenguan era (627-49 CE), the Director of Danyang, Wang Qiong, was summoned and dismissed in his third year. He was extremely resentful, and visited the Maoshan Daoist Ye Xuzhong, seeking a memorial to the throne that would predict the future. Xuzhong was over ninety years old, and, when forced to produce the petition, the paper floated up on incense smoke and disappeared into the mists. Soon after it fell back to the ground, with a note in red ink added to the end: “Accepting a hundred liang of gold, taking three years’ salary, murdering two people; these will be resolved after death.” One year later, Qiong did indeed meet a sudden end. From Duyizhi.

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, 73.456-57:

葉虛中

唐貞觀初。丹陽令王瓊。三年調集。皆黜落。甚憤惋。乃齋宿于茅山道士葉虛中。求奏章以問吉凶。虛中年九十餘。彊為奏之。其章隨香煙飛上。縹渺不見。食頃復墮地。有朱書批其末云。受金百兩。折 [457] 祿三年。枉殺二人。死後處分。後一歲。瓊果得暴疾終。出獨異志

A Copper Coffin Descends From Heaven 天降銅棺

Zou Su, the Wine Supervisor for Zhengzou, was just and impartial in office, and respected by people for that. In Zhengzhou one day, as the sun reached noon, wind and hail descended from the heavens, mist and cloud arose from all four sides around the north gate, and a black miasma spun out of it and arose vertically, meeting the heavens without dissipating. A lidless copper coffin descended from the sky, and music came loud and clear out of the empty air. At that time all of Zhengzhou’s junior clerks below the rank of prefect, generals and officers, scholars and commoners, monks and Daoists all changed their clothes and tried to get into the coffin. It being narrow outside and wide within, however, none were able to enter. Winding his wine supervisor’s kerchief as he arrived, Su was asked by the crowd to enter the coffin, and he had not the slightest difficulty. A moment later, a copper lid descended, circled by multi-coloured clouds, and it was all then lifted among the beautiful sound of immortals and the voices of cranes, amid auspicious clouds of heavenly fragrance, and, in a cloud of enduring mist, the coffin gradually turned to the north and departed. He now serves as the judge over longevity in the distant north.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.150 (Tale 263):

天降銅棺

鄭州監酒鄒宿,為官公正無私,人所推敬。一日,鄭州日方午,天降風雹,煙雲四起於北門,黑霧盤旋直上,衝天不散,降下無蓋銅棺一具,但聞空中音樂嘹喨。時鄭州自守倅以下官吏、將校、士庶、僧道,盡易衣服,欲入銅棺。而外狹內寬,皆莫能入。續監酒巾裹而來,衆請之入棺,亦無少(「少」,明刻本作「所」。)礙。少焉,復降銅蓋,綵雲繚繞,擎舉而上,仙韶鶴唳,瑞氣天香,靄靄不散,其棺冉冉向北而去。今為北極司壽限判官。

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 Woman Dies and Becomes A Snake 女死變蛇

A family in Linchuan had a daughter, very shrewd and clever, who died at age thirteen, and was buried next to the White Pagoda at Liutai. After several days, a white lotus flower grew up on the grave, shaped like a big fungus, about a foot in size at its base; due to this praise by the assembled immortals it was called the Buddha-girl Tomb. A scholar passed it and remarked to the crowd: “There must be a monstrous thing beneath; we should excavate and examine it urgently.” When the crowd dug her up, they tore open the coffin to see a huge python atop the jacket; there was no longer a girl at all, and they released it in their confusion. The girl’s mother said: “While pregnant with this girl, in dreams I repeatedly saw a huge python come and touch the bed curtains; crying out and looking with the lamp, all was quiet and there was nothing to see. Now I realise that this was an uncanny thing.”

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.243 (Tale 439):

女死變蛇

臨川民家生一女,甚慧黠,年十三死,瘞於流臺白塔之側。數日,有白蓮花生於墳上,似大菌,蒂長尺許,衆神之稱,(「之稱」原作「稱之」,據明刻本改。)曰佛女墳。有一士人過之,言於衆曰:「下必有怪物,急宜掘視。」衆掘之,剖棺見一巨蟒在衣衿上,不復有女子矣,惑遂解。其母云:「孕此女時,寢夢間屢見巨蟒來觸幃帳,呼燈視之,寂無所有,今方知是怪物也。」

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).