An Elm Demon 榆木為怪

Lü Yijian, Duke Shen, served several times as a magistrate in Shu, but the name of his prefecture has been forgotten. The government office had long experienced a ghostly manifestation, named Great Aunt Yu, who was an elm spirit. In form she looked like an ancient and ugly woman, and she frequently emerged in the kitchen, encountered among a crowd of maids, who often saw her. The household, having seen her over a long period, did not think her strange. The Duke called out a question to her, at which she bowed low and said: “Your servant has long been resident in this hall, and though not human, I dare not cause misfortune.” The Duke then laid the matter aside and asked no more questions. She often predicted that he must later become very influential. One day she suddenly announced that she was pregnant, and the maids mocked her. She herself said that she would soon give birth, and then disappeared for over a month. Then, all of a sudden, her voice was heard, saying: “I have given birth; [264] please come and look. In the back garden, to the southwest of the elm tree, there’s another, and that’s my child.” They looked, and it was true.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.263-64 (Tale 477):

榆木為怪

呂申公夷簡常通判蜀中,忘其郡名。廨宇中素有鬼物,號俞老姑,乃榆木精,其狀一老醜婦,常出廚間與羣婢為偶,或時見之。家人見之久,亦不為怪。公呼問之,即下階拜(「階拜」原作「拜階」,據抄配本改。)云:「妾在於(抄配本無「於」字。)堂府日久,雖非人,然不敢為禍。」公亦置而不問。常謂公他日必大貴。一日忽懷妊,羣婢戲之。自言非久當產,遂月餘不見。忽出云:「已產矣, [264] 請視之,後園榆木西南生大贅乃是。」視之,果然。

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).

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A Camphor Spirit Bewitches People 樟精惑人

In winter, the jiaxu year of the Xianchun era (1274), two men offered paper money at the third bridge in Hangzhou, inviting travelling entertainers to wait upon them, saying that it was for a Governor Zhang’s wedding, and also stipulating in advance that they must not play melodies in the Golden Goblet Palace mode. The entertainers asked: “In what place?” They said: “On the border of Wuxi County in Jiangyin.” The entertainers asked: “When does the even take place?” They said: “Tonight.” The entertainers said: “That is more than five hundred li away; it is already evening. How can we get there?” The reply came: “You all lie in the boat; we will push it along.” The group all followed this instruction, and the boat sped along as if it were flying. They passed through Chang’an, Chongde, Suxiu and Wujiang, and around the second watch (9-11pm), they went ashore at a large mansion. The entertainers struck up their music as arranged, and saw that the seated guests were all small and short, the lamps burning with green flames, and soon it became dim and dark. On reaching the fourth watch (1-3am), there was no food or drink; people became hungry and annoyed, so they played in the Golden Goblet Palace mode. The seated guests and wine servers became very alarmed, and some tried to stop them, but the musicians would not listen. Suddenly there was a gust of black wind, people and room all vanished, and instead they saw a great tree filling the starry heavens. Following the barking of a dog the musicians took refuge in a nearby house and asked the people about it. They replied: “There is a camphor tree spirit here that can delude people. You have been bewitched!” The next morning there was indeed a huge camphor there. The two men were therefore the two messengers of the temple close to the tree, and the rest were temple spirits.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.262 (Tale 475):

樟精惑人

咸淳甲戌冬,有二男子齎官會於杭州三橋,請路歧人祗應,云是張府姻事,先議定不許用黃鍾宮曲調。路歧人曰:「在何處?」曰:「在江陰無錫縣界。」 路歧人曰:「事在幾時?」曰:「在今夜。」路歧人曰:「此間相去五百餘里,又日暮,如何可到?」應曰:「汝等皆卧舟中,我自撐去。」衆從之,舟行如飛。經長安、崇德、蘇秀、吳江,約二更,上岸至一大府第,路歧人如約奏樂,見坐客行酒人皆短小,燈燭焰青,既而幽暗。至四更無飲饌,人飢且怒,因奏黃鍾宮。坐客與行酒人皆驚,亦有止之者。樂人不顧。須臾黑風一陣,人與屋俱亡,但見一大樹滿天星宿。因犬吠,投人家問之,人曰:「此間有樟樹精,能惑人,汝被惑矣!」 天明,果一大樟樹也。二男子乃樹近廟中二使,其餘皆其廟神也。

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).