Zhou Shi 周式

Zhou Shi lived in Xiapei under the Han. He once travelled to Donghai, and along the way he encountered a clerk, carrying a book, who asked for a lift on his carriage. After they had travelled a little over ten li, he spoke to Shi: “I have to pay a quick visit. I will leave my book in the gentleman’s care. See that you do not open it.” When he had departed, Shi stealthily opened and examined the book. It recorded all of the people’s deaths, and Shi’s name was right there in the lower column. Before long the clerk returned, and Shi was still looking at the book. The clerk addressed him angrily: “This is why I told you! Why would you suddenly start to look at it?” Shi kowtowed until blood flowed from his head. After some time of this the clerk told him: “I am grateful that the gentleman brought me so far, but this book cannot be altered. The gentleman will depart today. Go home. Do not leave your door for three years, and you will be reprieved. Do not speak of having seen my book.” Shi returned home and did not leave.

More than two years passed. His family all thought this very strange. When a neighbour passed away, his father became very angry, and ordered him to go to mourn, leaving Shi unable to refuse. When he passed through the gate, he immediately encountered the clerk, who told him: “I ordered you not to leave for three years, but today you emerge from your gate. What option do I have? I tried to prevent you looking, and arranged a continuous punishment, but now I see you, and have no choice. In three days’ time, we will come for you.” Shi returned weeping, and recounted the whole matter. His father still did not believe him, but his mother watched over him, weeping day and night. When high noon arrived on the third day, they did indeed take him, and he died immediately.

From Fayuanzhulin.

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), vii, 316.2504:

周式

漢下邳周式。嘗至東海。道逢一吏。持一卷書。求寄載。行十餘里。謂式曰。吾暫有所過。留書寄君船中。慎勿發之。去後。式盜發視書。皆諸死人錄。下條有式名。須臾吏還。式猶視書。吏怒曰。故以相告。何忽視之。式扣頭流血。良久曰。感卿遠相載。此書不可除。卿今日已去。還家。三年勿出門。可得度也。勿道見吾書。式還不出。已二年餘。家皆怪之。鄰人卒亡。父怒。使往弔之。式不得止。適出門。便見此吏。吏曰。吾令汝三年勿出。而今出門。知復奈何。吾求不見。連相為得鞭杖。今已見汝。無可奈何。後三日日中。當相取也。式還涕泣。具道如此。父故不信。母晝夜與相守涕泣。至三日日中時。見來取。便死。出法苑珠林

A Guangling Clerk 廣陵吏人

A clerk from Guangling, surnamed Zhao, was sleeping alone in a chamber through the summer heat. Around midnight, he suddenly saw a tall person in a yellow robe enter via the door, followed by seven much smaller people, also wearing yellow. The stranger muttered to himself: “Looked everywhere without result, and now here, eh?” He shouted at him to get up, and said: “This can now be carried out.” One of the yellow-robed people stepped forwards and said: “This life is not yet finished, and we cannot just take it away. It would be better to make a record of this.” The taller person then reached inside his robe and brought out a seal. They made a seal impression on his left arm and departed. When dawn came he inspected it. The seal stuck closely to his skin, and its characters were like the ancient seal script. The lower character was shi 識 ‘knowledge’, the right looked like xian 仙 ‘immortal’, the left like ji 記 ‘record’, but the one above that could not be read. It is not known how Zhao ended up.

From Jishenlu.

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), viii, 353.2800:

廣陵吏人

廣陵吏姓趙。當暑。獨寢一室。中夜。忽見大黃衣人自門而入。從小黃衣七人。謂己曰。處處尋不得。乃在此耶。叱起之。曰。可以行矣。一黃衣前曰。天年未盡。未可遽行。宜有以記之可也。大人即探懷。出一印。印其左臂而去。及明視之。印文著肉。字若古篆。識其下。右若仙字。左若記字。其上不可識。趙後不知所終。出稽神錄

Chen Deyu 陳德遇

In a xinhai year, the collaborator official to the Jiangnan Treasury Chen Jurang, courtesy name Deyu, spent nights in the treasury. His wife remained at home. At the beginning of the fifth watch (around 3am), she suddenly dreamed that two clerks, carrying documents in their hands, emerged from their gate and entered, asking whether that was the household of Chen Deyu. She said: “Indeed.” “Where is Deyu?” “At the treasury.” The clerks were about to depart, but his wife followed and called to them: “My husband’s courtesy name is Deyu, that’s all. There is an official of the Treasury of Court Vestments named Chen Deyu, and his house is nearby at Dongqu.” The two clerks looked at one another and exclaimed: “There have been some errors!” They then left. Soon after, Deyu arose one morning and went to the toilet. He remarked to himself that he had become ill, and went back to bed. Some time after that he died. The two men both lived to the west of the administrative centre.

From Jishenlu.

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), viii, 353.2800:

陳德遇

辛亥歲。江南偽右藏庫官陳居讓字德遇。直宿庫中。其妻在家。五更初。忽夢二吏。手把文書。自門而入。問此陳德遇家耶。曰。然。德遇何在。曰。在庫中。吏將去。妻追呼之曰。家夫〈夫原作父。據明鈔本、許本改。〉字德遇耳。有主衣庫官陳德遇者。家近在東曲。二吏相視而嘻曰。幾誤矣。遂去。邇日。德遇晨起如廁。自云有疾。還臥。良久遂卒。二人並居治城之西。出稽神錄

A Wuyuan Soldier’s Wife 婺源軍人妻

In a dingyou year, the wife of a soldier from Jianwei in Wuyuan died, so he remarried. His second wife terribly mistreated his children by the first wife, and the husband was quite unable to stop this. One day, he suddenly saw his dead wife pass through the gate and enter. Furious at the second wife, she said: “Who among the people will not die? How could anyone lack all motherly feelings? Yet you abuse our children like this? I have recently made a complaint to the authorities of the nether world, and they granted me a break of ten days in which I am to teach you. If you then fail to change, I would surely be able to kill the gentleman.” Husband and wife were both terrified and bowed over and over, then provided her with food and drink. They once invited trusted friends from among their neighbours, greeting them and chatting as normal, but these other people could hear her voice, despite only the husband being able to see her. When night fell, she set up a bed in another room. The husband wished to spend the night with her, but was not allowed. When the ten days were up, she was about to depart, but again reprimanded the second wife and urged her to improve. Her words were very [2800] earnest and thoughtful. She escorted the family members together to her tomb, and when they were a little over a hundred paces from the grave, said: “You should all stop here.” She then said her goodbyes in a polite and courteous manner, then departed. Just as she reached a cypress grove all of the family could see her, in clothes and appearance seeming just they had in life. When she reached the tomb, she disappeared.

The officer of the Jianwei Army Wang Yanchang reported that it occurred like this.

From Jishenlu.

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), viii, 353.2799-800:

婺源軍人妻

丁酉歲。婺源建威軍人妻死更娶。其後妻虐遇前妻之子過甚。夫不能制。一日。忽見亡妻自門而入。大怒後妻曰。人誰無死。孰無母子之情。乃虐我兒女如是耶。吾比訴與地下所司。今與我假十日。使我誨汝。汝遂不改。必能殺君。夫妻皆恐懼再拜。即為具酒食。徧召親黨鄰里。問訊敘話如常。他人但聞其聲。唯夫見之。及夜。為設榻別室。夫欲從之宿。不可。滿十日。將去。復責勵其後妻。言甚 [2800] 切至。舉家親族共送至墓。去墓百餘步。曰。諸人可止矣。復殷勤辭訣而去。將及柏林中。諸人皆見之。衣服容色如平生。及墓乃沒。建威軍使汪延昌言如是。出稽神錄

Zhu Yanshou 朱延壽

In his latter years, the governor of Shouzhou Zhu Yanshou was once bathing in his chamber when he saw two people outside his window. Both had dark faces, vermillion hair and black robes, and grasped books in their hands. One of them said: “I have accepted an order [2797] to come and fetch him.” Another said: “I too have accepted an order to come and fetch him.” One said: “I received the order first.” Yanshou then called out to those attending him. The pair immediately vanished. When his attendants arrived, they all said there had not been anyone there at all. Before long, he was dead.

From Jishenlu.

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), viii, 353.2796-97:

朱延壽

壽州刺史朱延壽。末年。浴於室中。窺見窗外有二人。皆青面朱髮青衣。手執文書。一人曰。我受命 [2797] 來取。一人曰。我亦受命來取。一人又曰。我受命在前。延壽因呼侍者。二人即滅。侍者至。問外有何人。皆云無人。俄而被殺。出稽神錄

Zhou Yuanshu 周元樞

Zhou Yuanshu was from Suiyang, and served as Secretary-General to Pinglu, residing in the official dwelling at Linzi. One night, when he was about to go to bed, he suddenly heard the sounds of a great many horses and heavy baggage carts. Knocking on his door he sent someone out, who reported: “Li Sikong waits to call on you.” Yuanshu thought through the people he knew, but this was not among them. He therefore concluded: ‘He must be somebody from my home region I do not yet know.’ He then went out to see the guest, invited him to be seated, and asked politely where he had come from. The reply came: “I come to make my home at this very place, and have not yet anywhere to stop, so seek to dwell in this residence.” Yuanshu was shocked, and asked: “Why come here?” He replied: “This is our former home.” Yuanshu said to him: “I came here on an official post, and the house has long been passed down as a government residence. When did the gentleman live here?” The other replied: “I lived here once in the Kaihuang era under the Sui.” (i.e., 581-601 CE) Yuanshu said: “In that case, must not the gentleman surely be a spirit?” He said: “Yes, indeed. The regional officials have permitted me to establish a shrine here, and therefore ask the gentleman simply to move on.” Yuanshu could not agree, and said: “People ought not to mix with spirits. Can it really be that I am about to die, and the gentleman can therefore bully me? Even if that is so, there are no grounds for handing over this residence to the gentleman. Even were I to die, I should still make my case against the gentleman.” He therefore summoned his wife and children, and told them: “I am going to die. Place plenty of paper and brushes in my coffin, as I am going to engage in a disputation with the gentleman Li.” They provided wine to drink, and the pair made several hundred toasts, their speech growing ever more stern. The visitor seemed about to depart, but stayed back, and, after a long time had passed, a servant came and spoke: “A message for the lady from Sikong. Secretary Zhou is emotionless. How can one dispute with such a person? He invites catastrophe.” At this the visitor then said farewell and departed. They showed him to the door, and he then suddenly vanished. Yuanshu remained in good health.

From Jishenlu.

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), viii, 353.2796:

周元樞

周元樞者。睢陽人。為平盧掌書記。寄居臨淄官舍。一夕將寢。忽有車馬輜重甚衆。扣門使報曰。李司空候謁。元樞念親知輩皆無此人。因自思。必鄉曲之舊。吾不及知矣。即出見之。延坐。請問其所從來。曰。吾亦新家至此。未有所止。求居此宅矣。元樞驚曰。何至是。對曰。此吾之舊宅也。元樞曰。吾從官至此。相傳云。書寄之公署也。君何時居此。曰。隋開皇中嘗居之。元樞曰。若爾。君定是鬼耶。曰。然。地府許我立廟於此。故請君移去爾。元樞不可。曰。人不當與鬼相接。豈吾將死。故君得凌我耶。雖然。理不當以此宅授君。吾雖死。必與君訟。因召妻子曰。我死。必多置紙筆於棺中。將與李君對訟。即具酒與之飲。相酬數百盃。詞色愈厲。客將去。復留之。良久。一蒼頭來云。夫人傳語司空。周書記木石人也。安可與之論難。自取困哉。客於是辭謝而去。送之出門。倏忽不見。元樞竟無恙。出稽神錄

Traitorous And Unfilial 悖逆不孝

In the village of Cunluo, in Yangzhou, within Shu, there was a man surnamed Wang who had once turned against his father and mother. People mocked him, the officials punished him, but he would not repent. One day he became seriously ill. Nearby was a temple devoted to a powerful spirit, and this addressed him in a dream: “If you approach my hall, burn incense and promise offerings, you will recover.” The betrayer dragged his exhausted body out of bed and departed. When he fell to his knees in prostration, a great snake suddenly emerged from beneath the altar. With a red crown and a black body, it was over a zhang (3.3m) in length, and wound itself around his body, keeping its head stationary before his face and licking it all the while. He cried out to the spirit for help, swearing on his life that he would never again dare to be insolent. The snake drew back, unwound itself and departed. From then on he changed resolutely into a filial son.

The unfilial are punished by the spirits, and the nether world is indeed to be feared!

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前1.21 (Tale 36):

悖逆不孝

蜀洋州村落間有姓汪者,嘗悖逆其父母,人諷之,官罪之,皆不悛。一日病甚,近有威靈廟神,夢之云:「汝可來吾祠下,燒香許祭即愈。」悖逆之人扶憊而去。方跪拜間,神坐下忽有一大蛇出,紅冠黑質,長一丈餘,絞其身,仍以頭對其面而舐之。其人遂拜告於神,誓死不敢無狀,蛇方逡巡脫去。自後痛改為孝子。不孝為神所譴,冥冥間可畏也。

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)

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

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)

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).