Painting Connecting To Spirits 繪畫通神

Zhang Sengyou of the Liang was skilled at drawing, and served as prefectural chief of Wuxing. Whenever Emperor Wu (464-549 CE) thought of one of his vassal princes, he would order Sengyou to go and draw their portrait, which was like a double of the subject’s face. Once, while in the Tianhuang Monastery in Jiangling, he painted the Buddha, Confucius and the Ten Sages, and the emperor asked: “Why draw these in a Buddhist temple?” He replied: “Some day this will benefit them.” Later, when Zhou burned out the Buddhists, in order to construct a Confucian hall, this alone was saved from the flames. Moreover, when he painted four dragons at the Jiangling Anle Monastery, he did not dot their eyes. People questioned this, and he replied: “If dotted they will fly off.” The crowd thought he was joking, and insisted he dot them. In an instant they heard a thunderclap, and two dragons climbed the clouds and soared upwards; only the two without the eye-dots remained behind. This is painting that connects to spirits.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.14 (Tale 76):

繪畫通神

梁張僧繇善畫,為吴興太守。武帝每思諸王在外藩者,即令僧繇乘傳往寫其貌,如對其面。嘗於江陵天皇寺畫佛并仲尼及十哲,帝曰:「釋門之內畫此,何也?」對曰:「異日賴之。」至後周焚滅佛教,以此殿有儒聖,獨不焚之。又於金陵安樂寺畫四龍,不點睛。人問之,答曰:「點則飛去。」衆人以為虛誕,固請點之。頃刻雷霆,二龍乘雲騰上;其二不點者猶在。畫之通神若此。

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)

 

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A Household God Brings Property 家神送物

The family of Zhang Shuiyuan, of Yongfeng Stone Well in Xinzhou, served their household god with great reverence. The [lacuna] household god was an ancestor. The [lacuna] household had very little property, and later, due to the exhaustion of their property, the family prayed from dawn to dusk, hoping for assistance from the nether world. One day, when dusk was approaching, an old woman was seen walking straight in, carrying a bamboo box which she placed on a table in the ancestral hall. The family rushed out to meet her, but she was nowhere to be seen. When they looked at the portrait of a female ancestor in the ancestral hall, however, there was a close resemblance; the family were astonished and confused, and hesitated to look at the box. After a night had passed they finally opened and examined it, and all the contents were items of silver and gold. The Zhangs sold this and managed their property, and from this initial wealth became an important lineage. The old woman was their ancestress.

Among these ancestral spirits there are none who do not watch over their descendants from the nether world, cherishing people who live in ignorance, instead revering and praying to lascivious demons from dawn to dusk, calling them deities and divinities. When other people pray for their ancestors, this can be called auspicious and prosperous. If one pays no heed to one’s ancestors, failing to observe the seasonal offerings, not revering the tombs, even when there are descendants, how does this differ to the extinction of a lineage? If people can shift their reverence from lascivious demons to respectful service of their ancestors, it would not only be the Zhangs who receive protection and reward, and the deities of heaven and earth too would extend their generosity and protection.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.219 (Tale 389):

家神送物

信州永豐石井張稅院者,家事家神甚謹。[ ]家神者,祖先也。[ ]薄有貲產,後因破蕩,家人朝夕禱之,以冀陰相。一日將暮,忽見一嫗攜一小竹合子直入,置家堂中几案上,急出迎之,亦不見矣。但瞻家堂中所畫先世祖婆者如之,家人疑異,留不啟視。經宿啟視,皆黃白之物。張鬻之治產,(「產」,明刻本作 「生」。)因此貲產甲於〔一〕(據明刻本補。)族。蓋嫗者,祖婆也。夫祖宗英靈毋有不陰相子孫,惜人未之知,但朝夕奉祀淫鬼,指為神明。為他人祀祖宗,謂可徼福,反以本生祖宗置之度外,歲時不祭,墳墓不登,雖有子孫,絕嗣何異?儻能移祀淫鬼之心敬事祖宗,非惟如張氏之獲報,而天地神明亦加垂佑焉。

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).