Fox Deities 狐神

Since the early Tang, many among the common folk have served fox spirits, making offerings inside their homes to request benevolence. Their food and drink is the same as that of humans. Those who served them did not share a single master. At the time there was an adage that said: ‘No successful village lacks a fox demon.’

From Chaoye qianzai.

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), ix, 447.3658:

狐神

唐初已來,百姓多事狐神。房中祭祀以乞恩。食飲與人同之。事者非一主。當時有諺曰:「無狐魅,不成村。」出朝野僉載

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)

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)

A Pig’s Earring 猪耳鐶

The gentleman Jiang Songwei travelled from Shu via Xia, and on reaching the Yun’an Pass killed a pig as a temple sacrifice. When it came to washing the offering, he saw a single ring below one ear, inky coloured, clear and glistening; it must have formerly been a person and a thieving criminal.[1]

Hong Mai, Yi Jian Zhi, ii, 丙18.514

猪耳鐶

將仕郎宋衞自蜀道出峽,至雲安關,殺猪賽廟。洗牲時,見耳下一方鐶,墨色猶明潤,蓋必前身為人而犯盜者也。

Hong Mai 洪邁, He Zhuo 何卓 (ed.), Yi Jian Zhi 夷堅志 (Record of Yi Jian) 4 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1981)

[1] This refers to the practice of tattooing a ring behind the ear as punishment for convicted thieves or bandits. On this practice, see Songshi 宋史 201.5018; Carrie E. Reed, ‘Tattoo in Early China’, Journal of the American Oriental Society 120 (2000), 360-76: 365. (the article is available online here)

An Honest Heart Moves Heaven 平心感天

Chen Renfu, of Tiaolu Village, Gao’an County, resided in some wealth in a farmhouse in the village, specializing in the study of Buddhism and Daoism. Each year, in the spring, he would reserve two thousand dan of millet, and, in the fifth or sixth month of the following year, when grain was expensive, he would sell his grain at a reduced price. When the money was handed over, he’d have the buyers enter the granary themselves and would not let them take anything until the scales were perfectly level. The village all called him ‘Chen Weigh-It-Yourself’. At that time there was a terrible drought; the prefectural chief prayed for relief, but without result. One night he dreamed that the town god said: “Chen Weigh-It-Yourself has the rain.” When he awoke from the dream, he sent servants to seek a meeting at the prefecture offices. On seeing him, he was delighted, preparing candles and incense, having monks chant sutras and ordering them to pray for his longevity. Chen said: “Your servant is just a villager, lacking any skill with which to pray for rain.” The prefectural chief told him about the dream, and urged him strongly. Chen had no choice but to light incense and turn his face to heaven, praying earnestly and begging for three days of continuous heavy rain to relieve somewhat the worry and pain of the populace. When evening fell there was indeed a great rainfall, which only stopped after three days, and the people of the prefecture were all delighted. This benevolent elder’s daily reduction of grain prices was enough to move the heavens.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.108 (Tale 189):

平心感天

高安縣調露鄉陳仁父,居村田宅稍富,專事釋老之學。每年春留穀二千石,至次年五六月米貴之時,減價發糶,既交錢,令糴者自入倉內量出,不許多取,務要兩平。一村稱之曰「陳自量」。時大旱,太守祈求不應,夜夢城隍曰:「調露鄉陳自量有雨。」夢覺,差人尋訪赴郡。太守見之,喜具香燭,僧道誦經,就令祈禱。陳曰:「某村夫,無術可以祈雨。」太守以所夢事告,強之。陳不免炷香,對空而禱,乞降霖雨三日,以濟焦沽(「沽」,疑當作「枯」。)少甦民望。至晚果大雨,三日方止,一郡之人皆悅。蓋仁父平日減米價,足以感天也。

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).

Not Taking Other’s Property 不取他物

Yang Zhongfeng Cun was from Bantang, in Jishui. In the eighth year of the Song Yuanfeng era (1085 CE), he was going to the provincial capital Kaifeng, and stayed in a traveller’s hostel in Xizhou. When he lay down, he became aware of something between mat and bed and which stuck into his [109] back; when he uncovered and looked at it this turned out to be salt production certificates to 20,000 yin in value. The following day, he asked the host: “Who stayed here the previous evening?” The host replied: “A great Huaidian merchant, surnamed such-and-such, was the guest.” The gentleman said: “He is an old acquaintance; if he returns, tell him I’m staying on such-and-such a road, with such-and-such a family.” He also wrote large characters on the wall, reading: “On such-and-such a year, month and day, Yang Cun of Luling stayed here.” He then went on his way. Before many days had passed, the merchant did indeed follow his former route, searching everywhere for it. When he reached the village to rest, the landlord told him about the gentleman, taking him to see the words he had written on the wall, after which he set off to the capital to visit the gentleman. The gentleman said: “So it turns out to be yours then! We should inform the authorities so they can return it to you.” The merchant said: “As you instruct.” The gentleman asked the officials to give all of it to the merchant, but the officials divided it in two halves. The gentleman said: “Had your servant wanted it, he could already have possessed it all merely by staying quiet.” The merchant had no option, so relinquished several hundred strings of coins to fund meals at the Xiangguo Monastery in the capital, in order to pray for the gentleman’s good fortune. That year, the gentleman was included on the list of imperial examination graduates. He rose through the government ranks up to Grand Master of Palace Service, and his sons and grandsons achieved great eminence.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.108-9 (Tale 188):

不取他物

楊中奉存,吉水湴塘人。宋元豐八年,赴省開封,宿息州旅舍。既卧,覺牀席間有物礙其 [109] 背,揭視之,乃鹽鈔二萬引。明日,詢主人曰:「前夕何人宿此?」主人曰:「淮甸一巨商某姓客也。」公曰:「此吾故人,設其人回,可與之言,吾在某坊某人家安歇。」又大書於所宿之房曰:「某年月日,廬陵楊存寓此。」遂行。不數日,商人果從故道,處處物色之。至息邨,主人以公言告,且使自觀壁間所書,乃徑去京師訪公。公曰:「果汝物耶!當聞之官以歸汝。」商曰:「如教。」公請府悉以授商,府使中分之。公曰:「使某欲之,前日奄為已有,泯默不言矣。」商不能強,乃捐數百緡,就京師相國寺設齋,為公祈福。是年,公中焦蹈榜下。歷官至中奉大夫,子孫貴顯。

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).

Xie Lingyun’s Beard 謝靈運鬚

Xie Lingyun (385-433 CE), facing execution, cut off his beard and gave it to a Buddhist monastery in Guangzhou. The beard was three chi in length (c. 1m), and exists to this day.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.20 (Tale 99):

謝靈運鬚

謝靈運臨刑,剪其鬚施廣州佛寺。鬚長三尺,今存焉。

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories) 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)