Releasing Quail, Extending Longevity 放鶉延壽

When Cai Yuanchang (i.e., Cai Jing 蔡京, 1047-1126 CE)[1] held power, he ate quail at every celebration. One evening, he dreamt that a yellow-robed old person said: “In the coming days you are to suffer murder; hopefully the gentleman may be spared this fate.” Cai asked: “What kind of person are you?” They then recited verses:

Several grains of millet could feed the gentleman;

Only meat in the congee can fill the gentleman.

For one congee several lives are cut short;

Putting down his chopsticks these are still not enough.

On the moments between mouth and stomach;

Fate and fortune are together dependent.

Wishing to warn the gentleman not to kill;

Life and death spin as if on a wheel.

He awoke and marvelled at this, making enquiries to those who prepared meals, acquiring several dozen yellow quails and releasing them. During the night he again dreamt of the yellow-robed old person, who said: “I am aware that the gentleman fulfilled the prayer, and has already saved lives. The Heavenly Emperor has now granted an extension to the gentleman’s lifespan.” Cai indeed subsequently enjoyed a long life before he passed away.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.114 (Tale 199):

放鶉延壽

蔡元長當國,每喜食鶉。一夕,夢黃衣老人曰:「來日當自被害,願公貸命。」蔡問:「汝何人?」乃誦詩云:「食君數粒粟,充君羹中肉。一羹斷數命,下筯猶未足。口腹須臾間,福禍相倚伏。願公戒勿殺,死生如轉轂。」覺而異之,詢於掌饍,得黃鶉數十,放之。經宿復夢黃衣老人曰:「感公從禱,已獲復生。今上帝已延公壽命矣。」後蔡果享高壽而卒。

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)

[1] On Cai Jing 蔡京, courtesy name Yuanchang 元長 (who died after banishment at a relatively advanced age) see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cai_Jing and the brilliant article by Charles Hartman, ‘A Textual History of Cai Jing’s Biography in the “Songshi”’, in  Emperor Huizong and Late Northern Song China: The Politics of Culture and the Culture of Politics (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006), pp. 517-64.

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Taking A Pill And Catching Fire 服丹自焚

Zhu, known as Dingguan, served as Palace Superintendent at the end of the Zhenghe era (1111-18). He was twenty-eight at the time, and entertained himself with food and wine. One day, received a sudden summons to the inner palace, and the emperor (Huizong, 1100-25) addressed him: “We have recently gained an extraordinary person, able to produce cinnabar pills, which if taken increase longevity. We have observed the long smelting process, and a year having passed they are finished, coloured like the finest gold; my minister will try them.” Dingguan leapt for joy as he humbly accepted [104] the decree, then took the medicine. Immediately after swallowing, he felt a great agitation within his chest. Soon after, smoke began to pour from his mouth. Urgently carried out, he was already beyond help. After he had been laid out, a knocking sound was heard from the coffin, and nobody could work out what caused it. Before long, flames emerged from within, and within the blink of an eye it was completely ablaze, and the chamber was gutted. The Kaifeng authorities rushed to the scene, but the fire spread to burn more than a hundred households, leaving only skeletons among the ashes. This is truly something to marvel at.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.103-4 (Tale 179):

服丹自焚

主稱定觀者,政和末為殿中監,時年二十八,酒食自娛。一日,忽宣召入禁中,上云:「朕近得一異人,能製丹砂,服之可以長生。久視煉冶,經歲而成,色如紫金,卿為試之。」定觀欣躍拜 [104] 命,即取服之。才下咽,覺胸中煩躁之甚。俄頃,煙從〔口〕(據元刻本補。)中出。急扶歸,已不救。既殮之後,但聞棺中剝啄之聲,莫測所以。已而,火出其內,頃刻之間,遂成烈焰,室廬盡焚。開封府急救之,延燒數百餘家,但得枯骨於餘燼,深可怪也。

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 Painted Child is Able to Cry 繪兒能啼

Mao Hui (Artist Mao) came from Suichang, and was skilled at making the most fascinating paintings. He often went to the Guangren Temple on Ceng Peak, where the disciples did not follow the appropriate rites. He entered the Buddha chamber, painted a woman breastfeeding an infant at the base of the wall, and then left. Suddenly at night there came the sound of a child crying, and people marveled at it. One day when Hui arrived, the monks told him of this, and Hui laughed: “If you want it to stop, that is very easy!” He therefore increased the breast, so it was inside the baby’s mouth, and from then on the sound of crying stopped.

Moreover, in a pavilion of the Nanzhou Monastery in Songyang hangs a silk scroll presented in the Jiayou era (1056-63), on which the Compiler Gong Yuan 龔原 (1078-1101) inscribed this poem: “Gentleman Mao of our city, Paintings exquisite and enthralling.” The assistant minister Zhou Wan also composed a poem for presentation to him; his skill was indeed outstanding.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.81 (Tale 140):

繪兒能啼

毛繪,遂昌人,善畫入神。常至曾山廣仁院,其徒不之禮。入佛殿畫一婦人乳一小兒於壁角而出。遇夜有兒啼聲,怪之。一日繪至,僧語及,繪笑曰:「若欲絕之甚易!」乃添(「添」原作「啼」,據元刻本改。)乳入口,自此啼聲遂止。又在松陽南洲寺閣畫帛道猷相,嘉祐中,待制龔原題詩其上云:「吾邑毛生者,畫格妙入神。」侍郎周綰亦作詩贈之,其術亦不俗矣。

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).

Rain Hat and Rice Husk 青笠米皮

Ying Long, the talented scholar from Zou, once said:

In Yu Borough there is Ruiguang Crag, a little over ten li from the county seat, and in it there is the platform where the prime minister Li Gang (1083-1140) used to read. Long ago on the crag there was a monk called Danxia [56], who was able to predict the future. One day he went to visit the monk, knocked on his door, and received a note that read: “The rain hat, removing the rice husk, in this season, will be truly radiant.” Later the gentleman served as prime minister, during the Jingkang 靖康 era (1126-27). These words can therefore be understood and verified: the ‘rain hat’ (qingliruo 青笠箬) is Jing 靖; ‘removing the rice husk’ 米去皮 makes kang 康.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前1.55-56 (Tale 98):

青笠米皮

鄒狀元應龍嘗謂:予里中有瑞光巖,去縣十餘里,中有丞相李綱讀書臺。昔巖中有僧丹霞 [56] 者,能前知。一日訪僧,扣之,乃書云:「青箬笠,米去(「米去」原作「去米」,據元刻本改。)皮,此時節,正光輝。」後公於靖康年作相。因知此言之驗,青笠箬靖也,米去皮康也。

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).

Fostered Swallows Show Gratitude 飼燕知恩

During the Yuanyou era (1086-1094), a daughter of the Wang family, named Yasan, lived in Qingxi, in Yanzhou. She saw a mother swallow, whose three chicks were not yet able to leave the nest, being eaten by a cat, and daily took food to feed them, until they grew up and flew away. That winter, Yasan fell ill and died. The next spring, the three swallows returned, flying around and around her room without stopping. Her mother said: “You are flying in search of Yasan, aren’t you? Yasan is dead; she is buried in the back garden. Follow me if you want to find her.” Her mother walked, the swallows flying behind her, until they reached the garden, where she pointed to the tomb. The three swallows flew to the grave, crying out, and then, using their beaks, all dug themselves into the earth and died.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.120 (Tale 209):

飼燕知恩

元祐間,嚴州青溪王氏女,名亞三。見燕母為貓所食,有未出巢燕子三,每日將飯飼之,後長大飛去。其冬,亞三病死。次春,三燕復來,飛繞其屋不已。母曰:「你飛尋亞三否?亞三已死,葬在後園中,欲尋則隨我去。」母行,燕飛隨後,至園,母指墓,三小燕飛鳴於墓,以嘴鑽入墓土中皆死。

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).