A Toad Emissary From Heaven 蝦蟇天使

Li Kui served as Vice-President of the Board of Rites during the Qianyuan era (758-59 CE). Once, seated during the daytime in the porch of his hall, he suddenly heard a great shaking from within the hall, as if a wall had collapsed. Kui was alarmed, and went in to investigate. He saw a toad prostrate on the floor, several chi in height, uniquely tall and quite alone. Kui was gripped by both fear and wonder, and none dared approach it. Eventually he ordered a houseboy to take a large pot and cover it. A guest said: “This toad is a thing from the moon, and is an emissary from the heavens. If a heavenly emissary comes to the gentleman’s hall, how can this not indicate the heavenly emperor’s award of a post to the gentleman?” When the next dawn broke, he removed the cover to look, but it had already vanished. Several days later, he was indeed appointed Vice-President Administrator of the Central Secretariat.

Zhang Du 張讀, Xuanshi Zhi 宣室志 (Stories from the Chamber of Dissemination), 1.1 (Tale 1):

蝦蟇天使

李揆於乾元中為禮部侍郎,嘗一日晝坐於堂之前軒,忽聞堂中有聱極震,若牆圮。揆驚,入視之。見一蝦蟇俯於地,高數尺,魁然殊狀。揆且驚且異,莫窮其來。卽命家童以巨缶蓋之。客曰:「夫蝦蟇者,月中之物,亦天使也。今天使來公堂,豈非上帝以榮命付公乎?」黎明,啟視之,已亡見矣。後數日,果拜中書侍郎平章事。

又見《廣記》卷四七四,題為《李揆》;《紺珠集》卷五,題為《蝦䗫天使》;《類說》卷二三,題為《見蝦䗫》。後二書所引均為節文。

Zhang Du 張讀, Xuanshi Zhi 宣室志 (Stories from the Chamber of Dissemination) 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)

The version transmitted in the Taiping Guangji varies slightly from this:

Li Kui 李揆

Li Kui of the Tang served as Vice-President of the Board of Rites during the Qiantian era. Once, seated during the daytime in the porch of his hall, he suddenly heard a great shaking from within the hall, as if a wall had collapsed. Kui was alarmed, and went in to investigate. He saw a toad prostrate on the floor, several chi in height, uniquely tall and quite alone. Kui was gripped by both fear and wonder, and none dared approach it. Eventually he ordered a houseboy to take a large pot and cover it. Someone named Jie said: “This toad is a lifeform from the moon, and is an emissary from the heavens. If a heavenly emissary comes to the gentleman’s hall, how can this not indicate the heavenly emperor’s secret order for the gentleman?” When the next dawn broke, he removed the cover to look, but it had already vanished. Several days later, he was indeed appointed Vice-President Administrator of the Central Secretariat. Taken from the Xuanshizhi

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Period of Great Harmony), 10 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), x, 474.3907:

李揆

唐李揆。乾天中。為禮部侍郎。嘗一日。晝坐於堂之前軒。忽聞堂中有聱極震。若牆圮。揆驚入視之。見一蝦蟇。俯於地。高數尺。魁然殊狀。揆且驚且異。莫窮其來。卽命家童。以巨缶蓋焉。有解曰。夫蝦蟇月中之蟲。亦天使也。今天使來公堂。豈非上帝以密命付公乎。其明啟視之。已亡見矣。後數日。果拜中書侍郎平章事。出宣室志

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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 Beauty 玉兒(當是其名)

In the Taiyuan temple college there used to be a ghostly woman, who had been the concubine of Judicial Commissioner Song Danyi, but had, due to the envy of his wife, been beaten to death and buried where she fell next to the school; a mulberry tree sprouted on the spot. The spirit would sometimes enter the temple hostel, and make jokes with people; it was quite unlike a haunting. During the Dading era (1161-89 CE), there were several people staying overnight and studying in the room, and, after the third watch (i.e., at about 1am), they suddenly heard the sound of footsteps outside the window. Before long she had entered the room, going about and touching all those who slept there, saying ‘this one will pass’, ‘this one won’t pass’. Soon after, she said “Don’t be alarmed, don’t be alarmed.” When the time came, all came out as she had said.

Education Intendant Ma Chizheng reported that those sleepers were Zhao Wenqing, Duan Guohua and Guo Jizhi.

Yuan Haowen 元好問, Xu Yijian zhi 續夷堅志 (Continued Records of the Listener), 1.12:

玉兒(當是其名)

太原廟學,舊有鬼婦人,是宋旦一提刑妾,為正室妒,捶而死,倒埋學旁,其處有桑生焉。此鬼時入齋舍,與人戲語,然不為祟也。大定中,有數人夜宿時習齋,三更後,忽聞窗外履聲,須臾,入齋,以手遍拊睡者,云此人及第,此人不及第。既而曰:「休驚休驚也。」及至後,皆如其言。

學正馬持正說,睡者趙文卿、段國華、郭及之。

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)

Giving Birth To A Dragon 產龍

In Weibo Village, Pingding, in the summer of the yisi year,[1] there was a woman named Ma who was a sorcerer, aged over fifty, and who was pregnant for more than six years, finally this year giving birth to a dragon. When the officials asked after the cause of this, the woman told them that, after remaining pregnant for three or four years without giving birth, her husband, Registrar Cao, feared that the baby had changed into a demon, so drove her away. When the birth approached, she saw people descend from a haze and array themselves before her, as if they were within a government office. One person spoke to her personally, saying, “What has been entrusted to you over several years will today depart; next year the mother will be happy indeed.” When he had finished speaking, a white-robed person took her by the arm and departed; on reaching the gate, she grew confused and lost consciousness, only reviving after a long time had passed. The people around her said that three thunderclaps had emerged from dark clouds, and a dragon had flown from the woman’s body, leaving its mother behind.

Yuan Haowen 元好問, Xu Yijian zhi 續夷堅志 (Continued Records of the Listener), 1.6

產龍

平定葦泊村,乙巳夏,一婦名馬師婆,年五十許,懷孕六年有餘,今年方產一龍。官司問所由,此婦說,懷孕至三四年不產,其夫曹主簿懼為變怪,即遣逐之。及臨產,怳忽中見人從羅列其前,如在官府中,一人前自陳云:「寄託數年,今當舍去,明年阿母快活矣。」言訖,一白衣人掖之而去,至門,昏不知人,久之乃甦。旁人為說晦冥中雷震者三,龍從婦身飛去,遂失身孕所在。

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] This would be the forty-second year of the 60-year cycle, so in this case perhaps either 1185 or 1245 CE.

Release A Dragon, Receive A Reward 放龍獲報

On the bank of the Lu River Li Yuan saw a small scarlet snake. Less than a chi in length, it was being harassed by a shepherd boy. Yuan bought it with a hundred cash, and released it among the thick vegetation. The following year, he was crossing the Long Bridge[1] again, and saw the Jinshi scholar Zhu Jun coming to call on him, saying: “Jun lives just a few hundred paces from the end of the bridge; their Excellency sends an invitation, if you will pardon me and sit.” Leading him to sit together in a boat, they travelled to a mountain, with richly decorated buildings and halls, all very tightly guarded. Presently, a person wearing a tall hat and ceremonial robes summoned Yuan, saying: “Our young son suffered misfortune and almost died at the hands of a mischievous boy; his humble life depended on the gentleman’s help.” Turning to Jun he ordered that he bow again, and then ordered a banquet be laid out, mixing products of land and sea, saying: “I am a fish of the southern seas; having achieved merit in life, the Heavenly Emperor decreed that I reside here, styling me Anliu Wang. I have a young servant, with the childhood name Yunjie, and I now present her to you; if you accept her, she will be of help.” Yuan therefore did not depart. He subsequently went to sit the civil examinations; when the test was due on the following day, Yunjie stealthily obtained the exam questions; Yuan then prepared his composition in advance, and, on entering the examination hall, felt great satisfaction, achieved great success and a recommendation as an imperial scholar. Yunjie said goodbye to him, saying: “I have obeyed the prince’s order and dare not stay long.” A poem of parting read:

Six years here to repay deep benevolence,

Saying farewell to the aquatic realm and the region of fish.

None say that newly-weds should be parted again,

All wish to share ancient love with new people.

Li Yuan was thus newly married at that time.

**uncertain translation**

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.118 (Tale 205):

放龍獲報

李元於吳江岸見小朱蛇,長不滿尺,為牧童所困。元以百錢買之,放於茂草中。明年,再經長橋,有進士朱浚來謁見,曰:「浚居橋尾數百步耳,大人遣奉召,幸恕坐。」邀同舟,至一山,樓殿寶飾,侍衛甚嚴。俄一人高冠道服,引元坐:曰:「小兒不幸,幾死頑童之手,賴君子活此微命。」顧浚令再拜,乃命置酒,水陸交錯,曰:「吾乃南海之鱗,有功於世,天帝詔居此,封安流王。吾有小奴,小字雲姐,今於贈子,子納之,當得其助。」元乃別去。後赴禮闈,明日當試,雲姐私入竊所試題目出,元乃檢閱宿構,入試,大得意,高捷薦名登科。雲姐告辭曰:「奉王命不敢久留。」作詩別曰:「六年於此報深恩,水國魚鄉是去程。莫謂初婚又相別,都將舊愛與新人。」時李元新娶故也。

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)

[1] An ancient structure in Jiangsu Province.

Fair Prices, High Honour 平糶榮顯

Chen Tianfu, of Dongshan in Chalingzhou, was known as a venerable elder. Every year, when he had grain he would sell it at fair prices; if he lacked grain he would borrow money, buy grain at high prices and sell it cheaply; the villagers found this extremely virtuous. One day, a cleric offered one hundred and twenty copper cash to buy a dou of rice, but Chen said: “If a cleric needs alms or provisions one should hand over a dou; what need is there for money?” The cleric accepted the rice and went out through his gate, then inscribed four lines on the wall:

All, near and far, call him venerable elder;

Borrowing, he buys rice to give as alms.

The future brings fragrant (cassia) children and fragrant (orchid) grandchildren;

Entering the jade hall with ease and ascending the golden horse. (i.e., entering palace service)

Chen subsequently became very wealthy, further increasing his grain warehousing, selling grain fairly and aiding the populace. He had three sons: the eldest Jisi, the second Jiyun and the third Jifang, who was named Lansun; father and sons all requested water transport for their locality. Lansun subsequently entered the national academy and was highly ranked in the examinations, ascending the official hierarchy to be Magistrate of Taiyuan.

People say: “The rewards for fair selling are extremely generous, and the cleric was certainly an immortal!”

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.110 (Tale 190):

平糶榮顯

茶陵州東山陳天福,素稱長者。每年有米肯平糶,無米與人借,又無米借錢,貴糴賤糶,鄉里甚德之。一日,有道人以銅錢一百二十為糴米一斗,陳云: 「道人要齋糧,當納上一斗,何必用錢!」道人受米出門,遂題四句於壁間云:「遠近皆稱陳長者,典錢糴米來施捨。他時桂子與蘭孫,平步玉堂上金馬。」陳後富有,起經濟倉,平糶濟人。生三子:長季思,次季雲,三季芳,名蘭孫,父子皆請鄉漕。蘭孫後補入國學登第,官至太原常丞。人云:「平糶之報甚豐,而道人其仙乎!」

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 Yangzhou Thunder Spirit 揚州雷鬼

The senior official Gentleman Yan Heng resided with his household in Yangzhou. His wife, the Lady Yang, was sitting together, in broad daylight, with their sons and daughters in the hall when thunder and rain suddenly burst forth, and a strange apparition fell from the empty air onto the floor. A little over three chi in height (i.e., about a metre), its face and flesh were both black, and it wore a turban on its head, like the head-cloths of the present day, but as if it were made of flesh, this was joined to its forehead. Turning to look at the people, it covered its face as if in laughter. Before long the crowd grew more and more numerous, but its laughter continued without pause. After a moment, a great thunderbolt erupted outside, thick clouds bringing sombre darkness so people could not be distinguished from one another, and it quickly climbed the empty air and departed.

Hong Mai, Yi Jian Zhi, ii, 7.421:

揚州雷鬼

上官彥衡侍郎,家居揚州。夫人楊氏白晝在堂中與兒女聚坐,忽雷雨大作,奇鬼從空隕於地,長僅三尺許,面及肉色皆青,首上加幘,如世間幞頭,乃肉為之,與額相連。顧見人,掩面如笑。既而觀者漸衆,笑亦不止。頃之,大霆激於屋表,雲霾晦冥,不辨人物,倏爾乘空而去。

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)