Li Yun 李雲

The former county official of Nanzheng Li Yun wished to take in a concubine in Chang’an, but her mother would not allow it. Yun said: “I give my oath that I shall not marry.” She therefore permitted it, and he named the concubine Chu Bin. After several years the concubine died. A number of years having passed after her death, he married the lady Chen, daughter of the former Governor of Nanzheng. On the day of the wedding, Yun was washing in the bathroom when he saw Chu Bin approaching bearing a dose of medicine. She came right up and addressed Yun: “You promised me you would not marry, but now you make yourself son-in-law to the Chen household. I have nothing to present as a gift, but grant a bundle of fragrance to add to your hot bath.” She poured all of the medicine into the bathtub, stirred it with a hairpin, and then left. Yun was greatly unsettled by this, but, becoming very tired, was unable to climb out of the tub. His limbs and torso dissolved like cotton, his bones and muscles dispersed.

From Wenqilu.

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, 352.2786:

李雲

前南鄭縣尉李雲。於長安求納一姬。其母未許。雲曰。予誓不婚。乃許之。號姬曰楚賓。數年後。姬卒。卒後經歲。遂婚前南鄭令沈氏女。及婚日。雲及浴於淨室。見楚賓執一藥來。徑前。謂雲曰。誓余不婚。今又與沈家作女壻。無物奉。贈君香一帖。以資浴湯。瀉藥末入浴斛中。釵子攪水訖而去。雲甚覺不安。困羸不能出浴。遂卒。肢體如棉。筋骨並散。出聞奇錄

Li Zhong 李重

In the fifth year Dazhong (851),[1] the Investigating Secretary-General in charge of the Heyin Iron and Salt Production Li Zhong was dismissed from office, and went to live in Hedong Prefecture. He fell ill, and over a ten-day period this illness became ever more serious, as he sank deeply into his bed. One evening, he told his servant: “I am ill and unable to rise.” He then ordered that the door be locked, but suddenly heard a rustling sound within the room. Zhong looked towards it, and saw a man in a deep red robe. It was Cai Xingji, Governor of Hexi. There was also another person, dressed in a folded white robe, standing behind him. Zhong was on good terms with Xingji, but was surprised, and said: “Censor Cai has arrived!” He ordered that they be invited up, and both, including the person in white, sat down. Before long, he saw that Xingji’s body was gradually growing, hands, feet, mouth and nose all increasing in size along with it. Looking hard, he realised that it was not actually Xingji. Zhong was astounded, and so called out to the Censor. Zhong then noticed that his own body [2778] had recovered somewhat and that he was able to rise. He leaned his back against the wall and sat, asking: “Your servant’s illness has gone on for ten months. Now I feel much better; how can it not have been down to this?” The other replied: “The gentleman’s illness has reached the exact point.” He then indicated the white-robed person; “This is my youngest brother. He is skilled at divination, so I had him calculate for Zhong.” The white-robed man reached into his sleeve and withdrew a small wooden ape, placing it on the divan. After a little while the ape jumped and leaped from side to side several times before standing still. The white-robed man then told him: “The divination is complete. The Secretary-General’s illness is not something to worry about. He will reach sixty-two, but there will also be calamity.” Zhong asked: “Will the Censor drink some wine?” He replied: “How could one dare not take a drink?” Zhong thus ordered wine be brought. When the cup was placed before the red-robed man, he said: “I have my own drinking vessel.” He then brought out a cup from his clothing. At first it seemed to be silver, but once filled his cup flipped and turned without cease. Looked at closely it turned out to be made of paper. The two men each emptied two full cups, then the guest returned the vessel into his robe and left. He again warned Zhong: “After the gentleman has recovered, be careful not to drink wine, or disaster will indeed find you.” Zhong thanked him and made a promise. After some time of this the pair departed. When they reached the courtyard the pair were suddenly nowhere to be seen. The outer gate was checked but it remained as firmly bolted as before. When they looked before the divan, the wine lay on the floor – it had clearly been drunk by two spirits. Zhong’s health improved from then on, but before long he went back to drinking like he had before. The following year, he was demoted to serve as Minister of War for Hangzhou.

From Xuanshizhi.

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, 351.2777-78:

李重

太中五年。檢校郎中知鹽鐵河陰院事李重罷職。居河東郡。被疾。旬日益甚。沈然在榻。一夕。告其僕曰。我病不能起矣。即令扃鍵其門。忽聞庭中窣然有聲。重視之。見一人衣緋。乃河西令蔡行己也。又有一人。衣白疊衣。在其後。重與行己善。即驚曰。蔡侍御來。因命延上。與白衣者俱坐。頃之。見行己身漸長。手足口鼻。亦隨而大焉。細視之。乃非行己也。重心異也。然因以侍御呼焉。重遂覺身 [2778] 稍可舉。即負壁而坐。問曰。某病旬月矣。今愈甚。得不中於此乎。其人曰。君之疾當間矣。即指白衣者。吾之季弟。善卜。乃命卜重。白衣者於袖中出一小木猿。置榻上。既而其猿左右跳躑。數四而定。白衣者曰。卦成矣。郎中之病。固無足憂。當至六十二。然亦有災。重曰。侍御飲酒乎。曰。安敢不飲。重遂命酒。以杯置於前。朱衣者曰。吾自有飲器。乃於衣中出一杯。初似銀。及既酌。而其杯翻翻不定。細視。乃紙為者。二人各盡二杯。已而收其杯於衣中。將去。又誡重曰。君愈之後。慎無飲酒。禍且及矣。重謝而諾之。良久遂去。至庭中。乃無所見。視其外門。扃鍵如舊。又見其榻前。酒在地。蓋二鬼所飲也。重自是病癒。既而飲酒如初。其年。謫為杭州司馬。出宣室志

[1] The Zhonghua Shuju edition has Taizhong 太中here.

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)

The ‘Horse-Headed Maiden’ 馬頭娘子

Long ago in Shu lived the Can Cong Emperor. Also, in the time of the Gao Xin Emperor, there lived a Lady Can; her family name is not known. When her father was robbed by some people, leaving only the horse on which she rode, she felt for her father and his inability to find food. Her mother therefore made an oath before the multitude: “If someone returns her father, they will be married to this girl.” The horse, hearing this speech, leapt up in alarm and shook itself with great haste, snapping its hobble and setting off. After several days the father was then able to ride back on the horse. From then on the horse neighed and neighed and would not accept the bit. The girl’s mother told her father about her oath, and he said: “Oaths to people are not promises to horses. How can a person be married to a different species? Having been able to solve our difficulties, its merit is indeed great, but the words of this oath cannot be put into practice.” The horse then bolted. The father grew angry and wanted to kill it, and when it ran further away, he shot it dead, drying its skin in the courtyard. The skin then kicked itself upright, wrapping up the girl and flying away. For ten nights the skin perched up a mulberry tree, and the girl transformed into a silkworm, eating mulberry leaves, making silk cocoons for human clothes and bedding. One day, the silkworm girl climbed the clouds and rose the horse, addressing her parents: “The Most High, because I did not neglect righteousness in either body or soul, has appointed me immortal attendant to the Nine Palaces. There is no return, but I will always cherish your memory.” It is customary in Shu that all Daoist temples sculpt a female figure draped in a horse skin, calling it the ‘Horse-head Maiden’, as a way of making offerings for silk production.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.76 (Tale 133):

馬頭娘子

蜀之先有蠶叢帝。又高辛時蜀有蠶女,不知姓氏,父為人所掠,惟所乘馬在。女念父不食。其母因誓於衆曰:「有得父還者,以此女嫁之。」馬聞其言,驚躍振迅,絕其物絆而去,數日父乃乘馬而歸。自此馬嘶鳴不肯齕。母以誓衆之言告父,父曰:「誓於人不誓於馬,安有人而偶非類乎?能脫我之難,功亦大矣!【所誓之言,不可行也。】(上八字據元刻本補。)」馬跑,父怒欲殺之,馬愈跑,父射殺之,曝其皮於庭。皮蹶然而起,卷女飛去。旬日皮寢棲於桑上,女化為蠶,食桑葉,吐絲成繭,以衣被於人間。一日,蠶女乘雲駕此馬,謂父母曰:「太上以我身心不忘義,授以九宮(「宮」原作「公」,據元刻本改。)仙嬪矣,無復憶念也。」蜀之風俗,宮觀諸處塑女像披馬皮,謂之「馬頭娘」,以祈蠶焉。

 

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).

This tale again involves the line between human and animal natures. The somewhat incoherent state of the Huhai telling, especially when compared to the Soushenji version, is notable. So is the Huhai version’s shift of responsibility and sympathy between parents (including the addition of the mother) and daughter. The more coherent, much earlier version in the Soushenji (abbreviated slightly- the last section of cross-references to horses and silk is omitted):

Gan Bao, Kenneth J. DeWoskin and J.L. Crump, Jr. (trans), In Search of the Supernatural: The Written Record (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1996), pp. 165-66:

Horse into Silkworm (14,350)

There is an old story which tells that in ancient times a man went on a long journey leaving no one at home save his daughter and a stallion which she had reared herself. Living in straitened circumstances and in a secluded place, she missed her father so much that she said to the stallion in jest: “If you find my father and bring him back for me, I’ll marry you!”

Immediately on hearing these words, that horse broke its tether and galloped off to where her father was. When the latter saw the horse, he was surprised and pleased and took him by the halter to mount him. The horse kept gazing back in the direction from whence he had come, whinnying in distress.

“Nothing has happened to this horse to make him behave so strangely. I wonder if things are not well at home?”

With that he mounted in haste and rode back. He began to take special care of the horse, which had shown such intelligence; he offered it extra fodder, which the horse refused to eat. However, every time the stallion saw the man’s daughter moving about, it would become excited and animated and rear and paw the earth. This happened many times and made the man so curious that he questioned his daughter in secret. She told him what she had said to the horse, adding, “This must be the reason.”

“Never speak of it again,” cried he, “for it will bring shame upon our family!” And you had best not go on and out as you were wont to do.” So saying, he secretly took his crossbow, slew the beast, skinned it, and hung the hide in his courtyard.

When he went a-journeying again, his daughter and a neighbor girl were playing with the hide. The daughter kicked it, crying, “You were nothing but a beast of burden, yet you thought to wed a human! You brought this death upon yourself, so you should feel no resentment!”

As she spoke, the hide rose up, wrapped itself around the daughter and galloped off. The neighbor girl was so frightened she could not lift a hand to help her friend, but fled and told the girl’s father. He returned to seek traces of the pair, but they had already disappeared.

[166]

After several days the girl and the horsehide were found bound together among the limbs of a tree where they had become a silkworm spinning itself a cocoon. This cocoon was large in diameter and length– very different from the ordinary kind. The women of the neighborhood gathered this kind of chrysalis and reared the worms to gain many times the profit they turned before.

Because of this story, people named the tree on which the girl and the horsehide were found, the sang tree [mulberry] because sang means lost. Everyone now cultivates this kind of tree, and the silkworm of today is descended from that first ancient cocoon.

Gan Bao 干寶, Soushenji 搜神記 (In Search of the Supernatural: The Written Record) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1979), 14.172-73 (350):

舊說,太古之時,有大人遠征,家無餘人,唯有一女。牡馬一匹,女親養之。窮居幽處,思念其父,乃戲馬曰:「爾能為我迎得父還,吾將嫁汝。」馬既承此言,乃絕韁而去,徑至父所。父見馬驚喜,因取而乘之。馬望所自來,悲鳴不已。父曰:「此馬無事如此,我家得無有姑乎?」亟乘以歸。為畜生有非常之情,故厚加芻養。馬不肯食。每見女出入,輒喜怒奮擊。如此非一。父怪之,密以問女。女具以告父,必為是姑。父曰:「勿言,恐辱家門。且莫出入。」於是伏弩射殺之,暴皮于庭。父行,女與鄰女於皮所戲,以足蹙之曰:「汝是畜 [173] 生,而欲取人為婦耶?招此屠剥,如何自苦?」言未及竟,馬皮蹷然而起,卷女以行。隣女忙怕,不敢救之。走告其父。父還,求索,已出失之。後經數日,得於大樹枝間,女及馬皮,盡化為蠶,而績於樹上。其蠒綸理厚大,異於常蠶。鄰婦取而養之,其收數倍。因名其樹曰「桑」。桑者,喪也。由斯百姓競種之,今世所養是也。言桑蠶者,是古蠶之餘類也。

Another version of the story can also be found here: https://widowcranky.com/2017/11/19/chinese-unicorn-artist-unknown/, described as ‘the silkworm girl’. The tale is analysed in detail in Miller, Alan L., ‘The Woman Who Married a Horse: Five Ways of Looking at a Chinese Folktale’, Asian Folklore Studies, 54 (1995): 275-305 (available via JSTOR here: https://www.jstor.org/stable/1178945).