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

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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).

A Spirit Teaches Acupuncture 神授針法

Liaozhai, Chen Zhongsu, Duke Guan, was demoted to Hepu, impoverished and greatly fatigued. One day he was taking a nap when he dreamed that a spirit came to him and said: “How are you getting by?” Liaozhai said: “I worry from dawn to dusk.” The spirit said: “The Heavenly Emperor, because of your upright loyalty, sent me to come and appoint you as acupuncturist, to serve the people of Hepu, so you can support yourself.” Chen Liaozhai made a great bow to accept the instruction, and the spirit then pointed to various points on his body, saying: “For such-and-such an illness use the needle here, and for such-and-such an illness, use the needle here.” When he awoke, he had red patches all over his body, and got up hurriedly to record them. He stayed in Hepu for many years, relying on this skill for his food and clothing. Subsequently his family were all able to perform acupuncture, taking the spirit as their exemplar.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.226 (Tale 404):

神授針法

了齋陳忠肅公瓘,謫合浦,貧睏乏絕。一日晝寢,夢神人來問:「何以度日?」了齋曰:「正有朝夕之憂。」神人曰:「天帝以汝忠直,故遣來授汝針法,以救合浦之人,且可自給。」陳了齋甫拜受教,神就其身指示曰:「某病針此,某病針此。」既覺,紅斑滿體,急起錄之。在合浦累年,賴此以給衣食。後其家皆能用針,其效如神。

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 Spirit Rebukes A Musician 神譴樂人

The Dongyue Temple in Fenggao County was very austere, and observed an annual custom on the twenty-eighth day of the third month, where the townsfolk celebrated the birthday of the Yue Emperor. The old custom was to offer wine, and at the fourth cup to play the [225] tune ‘Ten Thousand Years of Joy’. In the Zhiyuan era (1264-94), the wuyin year (1278), the musician Wan Shou thought that, because that year’s harvest had failed, there would not be anyone to take charge of the affair, and also no offerings, so only played a popular tune in the mournful shang mode. Wan Shou later dreamed that he was escorted by yellow-robed clerks to a place below the hall of the True Lord Qingyuan at the Yue Temple, and the True Lord asked: “Yesterday, on the birthday of the Yue Emperor, wine was offered; why, on the fourth cup, did you just play some kind of popular ditty?” Wan Shou could not find a single word to respond. The True Lord spoke in judgement: “The sentence is: twenty canes across the back, three successive years of illness, banishment across the sea to be incarcerated in the demon cave.” The next day an abcess opened on his back, as big as a bowl in size. It persisted for three years, after which he died.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.224-25 (Tale 400):

神譴樂人

奉高縣東嶽廟甚嚴,年例以三月二十八日,市民慶賀岳帝壽辰。舊例酌獻,第四盞例是樂 [225] 奏《萬年歡》。至元戊寅,樂人萬壽心思是年荒歉,既無人主事,又無祗待,遂只奏商調小曲。後萬壽夢被黃衣吏攝至岳廟清源真君殿下,真君問曰:「前日嶽帝生日酌獻,你如何第四盞只奏小曲?」萬壽竟無辭以應。真君判云: 「決脊杖二十,連病三年,押赴海外鬼洞收管。」次日果背發一疽,其大如碗,連綿三歲而死。

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).

Shooting Spirit-Crows With Pellets 彈打神烏

Sister Qingxi was the third younger sister of Marquis Jiang, and in her temple were six paper-mulberry trees, luxuriant and widely spaced, offering cover and shade. There were crows that frequently raised their young in the trees, and one Xie Qing hurled pellets and killed several dozen of them, but then had the feeling that the spirit felt their loss. When night came, he dreamed that an exquisitely dressed woman, wearing an angry expression, approached and rebuked him: “Those crows are raised by me; why attack them? You have ten days to provide them with compensation.” The next day he went to the shrine at dawn to offer his thanks, but these were rejected, and after ten days he was dead.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.224 (Tale 399):

彈打神烏

清溪小姑乃蔣侯第三妹,廟中有六穀樹,扶疏蔭映。有烏常產育於樹。有謝慶者,挾彈彈殺數十枚,即覺精神若有所喪。至夜,夢一女衣裳楚楚,怒色而至,責曰:「烏我所養,何以見侵?限十日以汝償之。」次早往廟告謝,不許,旬日而卒。

 

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).

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):

興文杖士

南昌李知縣遷先聖殿於縣南,舁夫子像而不能動,縱(「縱」原作「從」,據明刻本改。)人多亦如之。有一士在側曰:「夫是謂仲尼。」李宰怒,正色責之。至夜,士人忽夢被二黃衣使攝至一所,有小殿廡,扁額曰「興文」。少頃一人坐中,曰:「汝為士人,讀先聖之書,豈當戲言侮慢先聖!」命左右決杖二十,勒罷為儒。及覺如癡,自後不識一字。今世之人好引聖語之言為戲,亦當以為戒。

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).