Li Yuangong 李元恭

*Translation revised with the generous help of Ofer Waldman – thanks Ofer!*

The Tang-era Vice-President of the Ministry of Personnel Li Yuangong[1] had a granddaughter, a Miss Cui, peaceful of countenance and extremely beautiful, fifteen or sixteen years old, who was suddenly afflicted by a demonic illness. When this had lasted for a long time, the fox manifested itself as a young man, calling himself ‘Gentleman Hu’; they repeatedly sought scholars of magic, but were unable to make it go away. Yuangong’s son possessed a broad education and great wisdom, and often asked: “Does Gentleman Hu also possess learning or not?” And so the fox engaged in discussions, missing not a single topic. He employed many questions to probe the fox, who tended to be closely acquainted with music. After a long time of this, he addressed Miss Cui, saying: “Nobody should remain without education.” He therefore brought an elderly man to teach Miss Cui Classics and History, and over three years she acquired a degree of expertise [204] in the cardinal principles of the various schools. He also brought a person to teach her calligraphy, and, after a single year, she came to be considered an expert calligrapher. He also said: “How can a married woman not have studied music? The konghou and pipa, though present in all music, are not so suitable as study of the qin.” He further summoned another person, saying that he was skilled at playing the qin, and stating that his surname was Hu, and that he was a scholar of Yangdi County in the Sui era. He taught her all the various tunes, preparing her fully in their subtleties, and she was quite unsurpassed on other famous songs. As to himself he claimed: “I am skilled at Guanglingsan,[2] which many encounters with Ji Zhong San[3] did not get him to teach it to other men.” He was also especially good at transmitting the wonders of Wuyeti.[4] Li later asked: “Why does Gentleman Hu not marry and return home?” The fox was extremely pleased, bowing again in thanks and saying: “I have long cherished this, too, but have not dared, purely due to being a pleb” That day, he bowed over and over to the family, leaping about in the utmost joy. Li asked: “Mr Hu wishes to return home with his wife; where is his residence?” The fox said: “Before the residence there are two large bamboos.” At that time the Li residence had a bamboo garden, and Li, going to search around there, found a small hole between two of the great trees; it turned out to be a fox’s lair, drawing water to fill it. At first they captured a badger, a raccoon dog, and several dozen small foxes. Eventually an elderly fox, wearing an unlined green robe, followed them out of the hole; it was the same robe he was always wearing. The family spoke joyfully: “Now Mr Hu has emerged!” They killed him, and the strange events stopped.
From Guangyiji 廣異記 (Extensive Records of the Strange)

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Era of Great Harmony), ix, 449.3671-72:

唐吏部侍郎李元恭。其外孫女崔氏。容色殊麗。年十五六。忽得魅疾。久之。狐遂見形為少年。自稱 [3672] 胡郎。累求術士不能去。元恭子博學多智。常問胡郎亦學否。狐乃談論。無所不至。多質疑于狐。頗狎樂。久之。謂崔氏曰。人生不可不學。乃引一老人授崔經史。前後三載。頗通諸家大義。又引一人。教之書。涉一載。又以工書著稱。又云。婦人何不會音聲。箜篌琵琶。此故凡樂。不如學琴。復引一人至。云善彈琴。言姓胡。是隋時陽翟縣博士。悉教諸曲。備盡其妙。及他名曲。不可勝紀。自云亦善廣陵散。比屢見嵇中散。不使授人。其于烏夜啼。尤善傳其妙。李後問。胡郎何以不迎婦歸家。狐甚喜。便拜謝云。亦久懷之。所不敢者。以人微故爾。是日遍拜家人。歡躍備至。李問胡郎欲迎女子。宅在何所。狐云。某舍門前有二大竹。時李氏家有竹園。李因尋行所。見二大竹間有一小孔。竟是狐窟。引水灌之。初得猯狢及他狐數十枚。最後有一老狐。衣綠衫。從孔中出。是其素所著衫也。家人喜云。胡郎出矣。殺之。其怪遂絕。出《廣異記》

The version found in Guangyiji is essentially identical; here is the Chinese text, from the combined volume Tang Lin 唐臨; Dai Fu 戴孚, Mingbaoji; Guangyiji 冥報記 / 廣異記 (Records of Netherworld Vengeance / Extensive Records of The Strange) (Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju, 1992), pp. 203-4:


唐吏部侍郎李元恭,其外孫女崔氏,容色殊麗,年十五六,忽得魅疾。久之,狐遂見形為少年,自稱胡郎,累求術士不能去。元恭子博學多智,常問:「胡郎亦學否?」狐乃談論,無所不至,多質疑于狐,頗狎樂。久之,謂崔氏曰:「人生不可不學。」乃引一老人授崔經史,前後三載,頗通 [204] 諸家大義。又引一人教之書,涉一載,又以工書著稱。又云:「婦人何不會音聲,箜篌琵琶,此故凡樂,不如學琴。」復引一人至,云善彈琴,言姓胡,是隋時陽翟縣博士。悉教諸曲,備盡其妙,及他名曲,不可勝紀。自云:「亦善《廣陵散》,比屢見嵇中散,不使授人。」其于《烏夜啼》尤善,傳其妙。李後問:「胡郎何以不迎婦歸家?」狐甚喜,便拜謝云:「亦久懷之,所不敢者,以人微故爾。」是日,遍拜家人,歡躍備至。李問:「胡郎欲迎女子,宅在何所?」狐云:「某舍門前有二大竹。」時李氏家有竹園,李因尋行所,見二大竹間有一小孔,竟是狐窟,引水灌之。初得猯狢及他狐數十枚,最後有一老狐,衣綠衫,從孔中出,是其素所著衫也。家人喜云:「胡郎出矣!」殺之,其怪遂絕。

[1] On Li Yuangong 李元恭 (d. c. 702 CE), see CBDB Person ID 0195948.

[2] On this piece of music, see

[3] This refers to Ji Kang嵆康 courtesy name Shuye 叔夜 (223-62 CE), an acclaimed scholar and qin player. See

[4] On this piece of music, see

A Parrot Is Awakened To The Dharma 鸚鵡悟佛

When Wei Nankang (i.e., Wei Gao, 745-805CE) was garrisoning Shu, he constantly cared for a parrot, which was extremely intelligent. The person who had tamed it had also told it of Buddhist philosophy, saying: “If you wish to worship the Buddha, you must use thought to attain freedom from thought.” The parrot would then raise its head and spread its wings, as if it were listening, as if it were accepting. When receiving teaching on Buddhist thought, it would remain silent without answering, and then chant: “Amitabha” once, as if to indicate that it had been awakened, achieving insight into causality through thought, and into the truth through no-thought. One day it did not shake and did not fall forward, but knocked its wings, curled its feet, covered itself and died. Duke Wei ordered it be cremated, which left ten relics, for the burial of which the duke erected a pagoda, naming it the Parrot Pagoda.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.267 (Tale 486):



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 Cishan Deity Manifests 祠山神顯

Zhang Dadi, of Cishan in Guangde, when he first manifested his nature, once turned into a pig in order to regulate the waterways, and for this reason many people of the prefecture do not eat pigs, treating them as a taboo. The people of the prefecture obeyed this very sincerely, and warned people to avoid pork. The Tang subject Lou Yin (833-909), whose name is famous across All Under Heaven, ridiculed the deities and spirits in every place he visited. He once passed this temple, and inscribed a poem on the wall:

Traversing roads in the world’s farthest corners

Never once in life misled by fallacy.

He was about to write another pair of lines, when his hand was suddenly grasped and dragged upwards, as if by a person. He heard someone speak: “If the second couplet isn’t good, your hand could be snapped off.” Luo, terrified, said: “How about it isn’t written at all, to accord with the deity’s order?” His hand was then restored as before. He continued to write:

Zhang Dadi of Cishan,

Is Lord of Spirits in All Under Heaven.


During the Song Jingding era (1260-64), there was a palace, lying four li north of Taipingzhou city, which had extremely powerful spirits. A wealthy family made a great refurbishment of the temple there, using curved tiles numbering in the [216] tens of thousands. When the time came to open the several kilns, their simple clay tiles had all been transformed and showed a glossy blue-green glaze. As the artisans came to complete the project, they found themselves three hundred tiles short, so continued to heat the kilns, the artisans placing several tens of thousands of tiles in the kiln, intending that they should all be transformed and glazed, to sell on and make a small profit. When removed from the kiln, three hundred had received the glaze, but the rest were all simple clay.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.215-16 (Tale 382):


廣德軍祠山張大帝,初發靈時,嘗化為豬以治水,故郡人多不食豬,自為諱物。郡人事之甚謹,戒不食豬肉。唐人羅隱,名彰天下,所至之處,鬼神無不為之譏諷。嘗過其廟,題詩於壁曰:「踏遍天涯路,平生不信邪。」方欲題後二句,(此處原多一「於」字,據明刻本刪。)俄手如人拽起狀,聞人語曰:「若後二句不佳,能折爾手。」羅悚懼曰:「如不佳,甘照神語。」手遂如故。續題曰:「祠山張大帝,天下鬼神爺。」宋景定年間,太平州城北四里外有行宮極靈,富家巨室重新廟宇,計用筒瓦數 [216] 萬口,臨時起窰三五所燒造,其土瓦盡皆變成青色琉璃。結蓋將畢工,尚少三百口,續行燒造,匠者復以數萬入竈,意其變琉璃,庶可轉鬻以圖小利。及出窰,則三百口為琉璃,餘者皆土瓦也。

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).

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):


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).

An Earthen Statue Sprouts Boils 泥像生癰

On Baoshan, in Jianyang County, Jianning Prefecture, stands the Nanyue Zhongjing Wangxing Temple, extremely rich in fragrant incense and worshippers. Scholar officials entreating the spirits, begging for dreams, were rarely absent for a single day. To the rear of the temple was a clothed figurine of a temple maid, on whom the craftsmen had not yet carved the face. Presently a rich woman from Shao Prefecture arrived to offer incense, and a craftsman modelled the face on her, without her knowledge. The lady later came to suffer from sores on the head, and the various medicines had no effect. It happened that a physician said: “At Baoshan there is a temple maid; in appearance she is just like this patient, and now, due to rain and damp she is afflicted by moistness around the head, and has never been put right.” The rich family marveled at these words, and urgently sent people to go and look; it was indeed so. They then ordered artisans to repair it, and her sores then healed.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.81 (Tale 141):



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).