Wu Xiang 吳祥

The Han-era clerk of Zhuji County, Wu Xiang, feared exhaustion in official service. He thus fled to hide in a remote mountain area. On his journey he came across a stream. It was getting close to dusk, but he saw a young girl, extremely beautiful and wearing multi-coloured garments. She said: “I live alone, without village or district, with only an old woman, only a dozen or so steps from here.” When Xiang heard this he was very pleased, so set off following her. They had travelled a li or more when they reached her home. Her family were extremely poor, but prepared food for Xiang. He finished by the first watch (7-9pm), at which he heard an old woman call out: “Sister Zhang?” The girl answered: “Yes?” Xiang asked who it had been, and she replied: “A lonely old woman back along the road.” The two slept together until dawn, and Xiang set off at the cock’s crow. The two had fallen in love, and the young woman gave him a purple scarf. Xiang bound it as a kerchief and set off back to the place of their meeting the previous day. When he came to cross the stream, however, the water was rushing violently, and too deep to wade. He thus returned to the girl’s home, but found nothing as it had been the previous night, with only a tomb remaining.

From Fayuanzhulin.

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), vii, 317.2505:

吳祥

漢諸暨縣吏吳祥者。憚役委頓。將投竄深山。行至一溪。日欲暮。見年少女子。彩衣甚美。云。我一身獨居。又無鄉里。唯有一孤嫗。相去十餘步耳。祥聞甚悅。便即隨去。行一里餘。即至女家。家甚貧陋。為祥設食。至一更竟。聞一嫗喚云。張姑子。女應曰。諾。祥問是誰。答云。向所道孤嫗也。二人共寢至曉。雞鳴祥去。二情相戀。女以紫巾贈祥。祥以布手巾報。行至昨夜所遇處。過溪。其夜水暴溢。深不可涉。乃回向女家。都不見昨處。但有一冢耳。出法苑珠林

Tan Sheng 談生

At the age of forty Tan Sheng was without a wife. He often became aroused through study and reading. Suddenly one midnight a young woman appeared to him, aged fifteen or sixteen and peerless under heaven in her appearance, dress and posture. She came to Sheng so they could be husband and wife, but told him: “I am not like other people. Never let firelight shine upon me. Only after three years have passed may I be illuminated.” They then lived as man and wife. She’d bore a son, who was already two years old, when, unable to bear it any longer, Sheng waited until she was asleep then stealthily illuminated and examined her. Above her waist was living flesh, just like any human being, but below her waist were just dry bones. His wife awoke, and told him: “The gentleman has betrayed me. I had almost returned to life – why could you not bear to wait just one more year before examining me?” Sheng parted from her with thanks, weeping, as they could no longer be together.

She said: “Although my parting from the gentleman is entirely correct, I am still concerned for our child. You are poor and unable to support yourselves, so follow me a moment and I will leave you something of value. Sheng followed her as she entered a splendid hall, its rooms and furnishings all quite extraordinary. Indicating a pearl-stitched gown, she handed it to him and said: “You can support yourself with this.” She then tore away the front of the gown, left it with him and departed. Sheng subsequently took the robe to the market, where it was purchased by the household of the Suiyang Prince, earning him a thousand ten-thousand strings of cash.

The prince recognised the robe, however, and said: “This is my daughter’s gown. It must have been taken from her tomb.” He thus seized and beat Sheng, who told him the full truth, but the prince still did not believe him. They therefore went to view the tomb, and found the grave undisturbed, just like [2502] before. When they opened it, beneath the coffin lid they found the same gown. They called his child, and indeed he resembled the princess. The prince then believed the story, and summoned Tan Sheng, granting him the gown and installing him as princely consort. Their son was appointed Chancellor.[1]

From Lieyizhuan

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), vii, 316.2501-2:

談生

談生者。年四十。無婦。常感激讀書。忽〈書忽原作詩經。據明鈔本改。〉夜半有女子。可年十五六。姿顏服飾。天下無雙。來就生為夫婦。乃〈乃原作之。據明鈔本改。〉言。我與人不同。勿以火照我也。三年之後。方可照。為夫妻。生一兒。已二歲。不能忍。夜伺其寢後。盜照視之。其腰上已生肉如人。腰下但有枯骨。婦覺。遂言曰。君負我。我垂生矣。何不能忍一歲而竟相照也。生辭謝。涕泣不可復止。云。與君雖大義永離。然顧念我兒。若貧不能自偕活者。暫隨我去。方遺君物。生隨之去。入華堂。室宇器物不凡。以一珠袍與之曰。可以自給。裂取生衣裾。留之而去。後生持袍詣市。睢陽王家買之。得錢千萬。王識之曰。是我女袍。此必發墓。乃取拷之。生具以實對。王猶不信。乃視女冢。冢完如 [2502] 故。發視之。果棺蓋下得衣裾。呼其兒。正類王女。王乃信之。即召談生。復賜遺衣。以為主壻。表其兒以為侍中。出列異傳

[1] With thanks to Ofer Waldman for greatly improving this translation!

An Earthworm Kills 蚯蚓殺人

At the start of the Baoli era (825 CE), in Changsha there lived a Wang Sou, whose family was poor, and who made his living by tilling the soil. One day, while out in the country, he was stung by an earthworm on the upper arm. The pain he suffered from this was extreme, so he hurried back. His agony grew and became unbearable, nights spent groaning until dawn, days spent moaning to evening, and this continued for a full month. A physician stated: “This is a case of extreme poisoning. At the start of the malady, numerous medicines would have had effect. The effects having deepened, I now have no way of knowing what to do.” Several days later, the illness had grown much worse, and he suddenly heard a noise emerging from his upper arm, quiet and [3] subtle, like the crying of an earthworm. After several more days, the noise grew ever louder, like the sound of thousands crying together. His pain grew and multiplied accordingly, and that evening he finally passed away.

Zhang Du 張讀, Xuanshi Zhi 宣室志 (Stories from the Chamber of Dissemination), 1.2-3 (Tale 3):

蚯蚓殺人

寶曆初,長沙有民王叟者,家貧,營田為業。一日於野,為蚯蚓螫其臂,痛楚甚,遂馳以歸。其痛益不可忍,夜呻而曉,晝吟而夕,如是者凡旬月。有醫者云:「此受毒之甚者也。病之始,庶藥有及。狀且深矣,則吾不得而知也。」後數日,病益甚,忽聞臂中有聲,幽然而 [3] 微,若蚯蚓吟者。又數日,其聲益響,如合千萬音。其痛亦隨而多焉。是夕果卒。

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:

Wang Sou

At the start of the Baoli era (825 CE), in Changsha there lived a Wang Sou, whose family was poor, and who made his living by diligent farming. One day, while out in the country, he was stung by an earthworm on the upper arm. The pain he suffered from this was extreme, so he hurried back. His agony [3918] grew and became unbearable, nights spent groaning until dawn, days spent moaning to evening, and this continued for more than ten days. A physician stated: “This is extreme poisoning. At the start of the malady, numerous medicines would have had effect. The effects having deepened, I now have no way of knowing what to do.” Several days later, the illness had grown much worse, and he suddenly heard a noise emerging from his upper arm, quiet and subtle, like an earthworm. After several more days, the noise grew ever greater, like the sound of thousands crying together. His pain grew and multiplied accordingly, and that evening he finally passed away.

From 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, 476.3917-18:

王叟

寶曆初。長沙有民王叟者。家貧。力田為業。一日耕於野。為蚯蚓螫其臂。痛楚甚。遂馳以歸。其痛 [3918] 益不可忍。夜呻而曉。晝吟而夕。如是者凡旬餘。有醫者云。此毒之甚者也。病之始。庶藥有及。狀且深矣。則吾不得而知也。後數日。病益甚。忽聞臂中有聲。幽然而微。若蚯蚓者。又數日。其聲益大。如合千萬音。其痛亦隨而多焉。是夕果卒。出宣室志

Providing Congee, Accruing Merit 施粥有功

Zhu Ran, of Sha County in Nanjianzhou, distributed congee as aid to the poor in years of bad harvests. He subsequently had a son who was extremely intelligent, and requested he be entered into the examinations. When the year’s results were about to be revealed, it happened that people on the street fancied they saw people running around celebrating examination success and carrying a banner bearing the four characters: “Reward for Giving Congee”. When the results were opened, his son had gained a particularly high first place.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.111 (Tale 192):

施粥有功

南劍州沙縣祝染者,遇歉歲,為粥以施貧。後生一子聰慧,請舉入學。年榜將開,忽街上人夢捷者奔馳而過,報狀元榜,手持一大旗,上書四字,曰「施粥之報」。及榜開,其子特科狀元。

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).

Chang Rong 昌容

Chang Rong was the daughter of the Prince of Shang, and practiced Daoism on Changshan, eating penglei[1] stems for more than two hundred years, but appearing little over twenty. Skilled in finding zicao,[2] she would sell it to dyers, obtaining money to give to the poor and unwell, coming and going to towns and cities, where she was seen by generation after generation. Among people near and far, those who served her numbered over a thousand, but it was never understood how she cultivated the Way. She often travelled in the day, but her shadow could not be seen. Some said: “Chang Rong is one who can exercise asceticism.” She suddenly ascended to the heavens and departed.

From the Nüxianzhuan.

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), ii, 59.362:

昌容

昌容者,商王女也,修道於常山,食蓬蔂根二百餘年,顏如二十許。能致紫草,鬻與染工,得錢以與貧病者,往來城市,世世見之。遠近之人,奉事者千餘家,竟不知其所修之道。常行日中,不見其影。或云:「昌容能煉形者也。」忽冲天而去。出女仙傳

[1] This penglei 蓬蔂 seems to be Rubus parvifolius, on which see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubus_parvifolius.

[2] This zicao 紫草 seems to be Lithospermum erythrorhizon (purple or red gromwell, etc.). See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithospermum_erythrorhizon.

An Immortal Treats Reversed Hands 仙醫反掌

In the market of Huofu, in Wanzai County, there was a beggar surnamed Guo, whose left hand and both feet were all twisted upwards. This only allowed him to scrape along the ground leaning on a staff held in his right hand, so people called him ‘Scrape Guo’. His mother was elderly and suffered from arthritis; his younger brother suffered in the same way. Scrape went out to beg on the first and fifteenth day of each month. The people of the market all felt sympathy for him and treated him generously, so he was able to support both mother and brother, gathering a month’s worth of provisions, and he went on like this for eighteen years without resentment. In the winter of the second year Yuanzhen (1296), he encountered a Daoist who, seeing his extreme poverty, and his voluntary support for mother and younger brother, he then took five balls of medicine and gave them to Scrape, saying: “If you take my medicine, your long-standing trouble will immediately be resolved.” Scrape took them as instructed, and his hand and feet were then as normal. Not having expected such healing of his illness, he no longer had a reason for his begging, and people were no longer generous to him. Just as he found himself in dire need, he again encountered the same Daoist. Scrape thanked him, and entreated him, saying: “When I received the kind grant of medicine, I happened to forget that my mother is ill; not having shared it with her, my mother now remains [146] ill.” The Daoist gave him five more medicine balls; his mother took two balls, and it was as if her illness had vanished. He still had three balls, and this came to the attention of a wealthy person living near the village who suffered from the same condition. The rich person spoke to Scrape: “It is said you have three pellets of a wonder drug; I will buy these from you for one ingot’s worth of paper money.” Scrape replied that he did not want to accept money, but did want to relieve his condition, and, if he could supply the needs of their three mouths for life, he would happily give him the medicine. Afterwards, when the effect had been demonstrated, the wealthy person kept his word and supported them.

It can only be that Scrape Guo’s single-minded filial piety led him to encounter this immortal and benefit from boundless good fortune. Why, if a beggar can devote himself in this way, others should certainly examine their own conduct.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.145-46 (Tale 255):

仙醫反掌

萬載縣獲賦市,有丐者姓郭,左手及兩足皆反掌於上,止得右手拄地擦行,人遂名以「郭擦」。母老病風,弟病亦然。擦每月朔望出丐,一市人皆憐而惠之,遂得養母及弟,僅得一月之食,如此者十八年無怨。元貞二年冬,遇一道人,見其貧苦,又甘心養母與弟,遂與藥五丸與擦,云:「汝服吾藥,宿疾頓可。」擦如教服之,手足隨即如常。不料疾愈,無可託辭以丐,而人亦無惠之者。方窘急間,又遇元道人。擦謝之,且祈之云:「向蒙惠藥,偶忘母疾,未曾分與,今母尚 [146] 病。」道人再以五丸與之,其母服兩丸,其疾如失。尚餘三丸,適為里近富人所知,其病亦同,富人與擦云:「聞汝有妙藥三丸,以鈔一錠與汝回贖。」擦應言不願受鈔,願病安,三口乞終身供給,遂以藥授之。後果效,富人守信供給之,得非郭擦一念孝悌,獲遇神仙以受無窮之福。吁!丐者而處心如此,人亦可以自反矣。

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 Immortal Treats A Hunchback 仙醫曲背

Monk Li of Xichuan had a disciple whose back was so bent that they could not look upwards, and because the medicine market had closed, saw a Daoist, who said: “If the scholar has money, I beg two or three hundred cash for wine.” The scholar said: “I am poor and lack money, but there is some weak wine in my residence; will you have a drink with me?” The Daoist accepted happily and accompanied him. When the wine was half finished, the Daoist said: “Why is your back curved?” The scholar said: “Unfortunately I happened to suffer this illness; there is nothing to be done about it.” The Daoist therefore took out thirty grains of medicine, saying: “In the coming days, at the fifth watch (3-5am) face east, take these with freshly drawn water, and do not become alarmed if you feel a slight pain.” The scholar did as instructed and, having taken the medicine, felt an extreme and unbearable dryness, turning and thrashing on his bed and regretting it bitterly. Nevertheless, every time he stretched himself he felt slightly more comfortable, and by the next day his back was quite straight.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.143 (Tale 251):

仙醫曲背

西川李和尚,有門人背傴不能仰視,因藥市罷,見一道士,云:「秀才有錢,丐一二百文為酒資。」書生謂:「貧無錢,所居有薄釀,同一醉可乎?」道士欣然便往。酒半,道士問:「何故背傴?」書生言:「不幸遇此疾,無如之何。」道士因出藥三十粒,云:「來日五更面東,新汲水下,覺微痛不足怪。」書生如教,既服藥,燥甚不可勝,展轉牀上,亦甚悔之。然每一伸縮,漸覺舒快,比明身已直矣。

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 Spirit Teaches Acupuncture 神授針法

Liaozhai, Chen Zhongsu, Duke Guan, was demoted to Hepu, impoverished and greatly fatigued. One day he was taking a nap when he dreamed that a spirit came to him and said: “How are you getting by?” Liaozhai said: “I worry from dawn to dusk.” The spirit said: “The Heavenly Emperor, because of your upright loyalty, sent me to come and appoint you as acupuncturist, to serve the people of Hepu, so you can support yourself.” Chen Liaozhai made a great bow to accept the instruction, and the spirit then pointed to various points on his body, saying: “For such-and-such an illness use the needle here, and for such-and-such an illness, use the needle here.” When he awoke, he had red patches all over his body, and got up hurriedly to record them. He stayed in Hepu for many years, relying on this skill for his food and clothing. Subsequently his family were all able to perform acupuncture, taking the spirit as their exemplar.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.226 (Tale 404):

神授針法

了齋陳忠肅公瓘,謫合浦,貧睏乏絕。一日晝寢,夢神人來問:「何以度日?」了齋曰:「正有朝夕之憂。」神人曰:「天帝以汝忠直,故遣來授汝針法,以救合浦之人,且可自給。」陳了齋甫拜受教,神就其身指示曰:「某病針此,某病針此。」既覺,紅斑滿體,急起錄之。在合浦累年,賴此以給衣食。後其家皆能用針,其效如神。

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 Female Divinity Rebukes In A Dream 女神報夢

The Noble Prime Minister Jiang Guxin (i.e. Jiang Wanli, 1198-1275), went roaming with two or three friends during his period of poverty. On reaching a temple, they saw the figure of a boy, and at the next temple, a female deity. Guxin and his friends joked together and so carried the male deity to the female divinity’s temple, saying that they were bearing the groom into his wedding. That night Guxin had a dream in which the female deity gathered the hem of her robe and started to speak: “The child is a chaste and pure spirit, following orders to receive offerings in that place. Please take the boy back to his temple, and do not sully my moral integrity. The gentleman will in future act as prime minister, so I come to report to a superior. The other three people following the gentleman will all receive some censure.” The next day he gathered his friends, and was about to tell them of this, each spoke of a dream in which the female spirit faced and rebuked them, so the gentleman held his tongue and kept his secret, carrying the boy spirit back to his temple. Subsequently the gentleman indeed ascended to the position of prime minister, but his friends all suffered serious illness, and were fortunate to avoid death.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.220 (Tale 390):

女神報夢

朱丞相江古心,微時與二三友閑行,至一廟,乃男子身,次至一廟,乃女神也。古心與諸友戲,以男子神舁至女神廟,云(「云」原作「去」,據明刻本改。)送來入贅。是夜古心夢女神斂袵而啟曰:「兒乃貞潔之神,奉命血食斯土,請舁男神歸廟,毋污我大節。公異日當揆,故來稟覆。其三人隨從公者,亦略加譴矣。」次日會諸友,方欲話及,各言夜夢女神面責,公遂隱而不言,舁男神歸廟。後公果登相位,而諸友皆患重病,幸而免死。

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 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).