Wu Tao 鄔濤

Wu Tao was from Runan. He had skill and knowledge of ancient writings and was committed to the arts of the Way. While travelling he stopped temporarily at the Yiwu County guesthouse in Wuzhou. After more than a month, suddenly a girl appeared, with two serving maids arriving at night.[1] One of the maids came forward and told him: “This young lady is surnamed Wang.” That evening she turned and looked at the gentleman. Tao looked at her, and she was extremely beautiful. He thought, ‘this is the daughter of a great noble’, but did not dare speak. The lady Wang smiled, and said: “The esteemed scholar does not value wine or beauty; how can a mere concubine gain his trust?” Tao then rose and bowed to her, saying: “Such lowly scholars would not dare direct their gaze thus.” The lady Wang ordered a maid to bring her clothing and utensils to Tao’s bedchamber, lighting bright candles and laying out wine and food. They drank several rounds, and then lady Wang rose and addressed Tao: “Your servant is a young orphan without anyone to turn to, and would like to serve the gentleman at his pillow and mat. Would that be acceptable?” Tao initially refused in his humility, but then relented and permitted it in his sincerity. The lady Wang departed at dawn and arrived at dusk, and this continued for several months.

Yang Jingxiao, a Daoist of Tao’s acquaintance, visited and stayed at the residence. On seeing that Tao’s countenance had altered, he advised: “The gentleman has been deluded by spirits and demons. This must be broken off, or death will follow.” Tao questioned him about this in alarm, and then related the whole story. Jingxiao told him: “This is a spirit.” He then provided two amulets, one to attach to clothing, and the other to be fixed above the gate. He said: “When this spirit arrives, she will become very angry. Be careful not to speak to her.” Tao accepted these instructions. When the young woman arrived that night, she saw the token above the gate, let fly a string of curses, and departed, saying: “Remove that tomorrow, or suffer great misfortune.” Tao called on Jingxiao the next day and told him all about it. Jingxiao told him: “When she returns tonight, you should sprinkle her with this water on which I have cast a spell. That will surely bring things to an end.” Tao returned carrying the water. That night, when the woman returned, she was extremely sad and angry. Tao then sprinkled her with the water Jingxiao had treated. Her visits then ceased.

From Jiyiji.

[1] With thanks to Ofer Waldman for the improved translation here.

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, 347.2747:



Embalmed Corpses Accept Service 殯柩受役

In Jiangling Fu there was a Magistrate Shen, who, having been in office for a year, sighed out his last breath and died. His orphaned child, only just ten years old, was unable to bear the coffin to its burial place, so left it temporarily at the Water And Land Temple outside the city walls. Only after some ten years were his son and relatives able to take the coffin back to his homeland. That night in a dream he appeared to his son, saying: “While waiting for burial in this temple I have been put to use among its guardian spirits, and up to now have had no means of escape. Fortunately I can now return to my true home, my spirit and soul can begin to return to themselves, and I can find a chance of reincarnation.”

Also, in Lin’an Fu, during the Song era, a minister’s wife died in the official residence and before they were able to return for her burial, her coffin was stored in the Puji Temple outside the city walls. She suddenly appeared in a dream to her household, saying: “You who I call my family, day and night I suffer bitter service as a guardian spirit; if I gain a quick return for burial I can be spared this.” Her followers said: “You are a noble lady and forced into service? How can this be?” The lady [247] said: “In life I enjoyed titles bestowed by the realm and could only be noble, but in death I too am merely a spirit. Besides, because filth of my remains pollute this pure realm, how could I not be punished, and, serving for a while, be fortunate in this?” These two affairs, though separated by several thousand li, tally closely, and can only be seen as a warning.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.246-47 (Tale 445):



又臨安府有宋朝時相夫人,終於相府,未獲歸葬,權厝城外普濟寺。忽見夢於其門人云:「為我語家人,日夕苦於伽藍神之役,得速歸葬,則免此矣。」門人曰:「以夫人而見役,何也?」夫 [247] 人曰:「我生享國封,不為不貴,而死亦鬼耳。況以遺骸滓穢淨界,得不獲罪,而姑役使之,亦幸矣。」二事相去數千里,符合如一,不可不以為戒也。

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).