Qu Jingzhi 區敬之

In the first year of the Liu Song Yuanjia era (424 CE), Qu Jingzhi, who was from a Nankang County barracks household, boarded a boat with his son to travel upstream from the county. Threading deep into small streams, they reached wild and difficult territory where humans had never before set foot. In the evening they climbed the bank and found a place to spend the night, but Jingzhi suffered a sudden illness and died. His son kindled a fire and guarded the body. Suddenly he heard the distant sound of a voice, calling out “Uncle!” The filial son was suspicious and alarmed, but in the blink of an eye the shouting person was [2571] right there. About as tall as a human, it was covered in hair, right down to its feet, and a great deal of hair covered its face, leaving the seven apertures[1] quite invisible. It then asked the filial son his family and given names, and gave its condolences. The filial son was terrified, and assembled his firewood into a blaze. The thing told him it had come to offer sympathy, and that there was no reason to be afraid. He was about to feed the fire higher, when the figure sat by the corpe’s head and began to wail. When the boy stole a glance at it in the firelight, he noticed that the thing’s face covered the dead man’s, and that the corpse’s was split open down to the very bone. The filial son was horrified, and wanted to strike it, but had no stave or weapon. Before long, his father’s corpse was reduced to a succession of white bones, the skin and flesh having entirely vanished. He never worked out what kind of deity or spirit it was.

From Shuyiji.

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, 324.2570-71:

區敬之

南康縣營民區敬之。宋元嘉元年。與息共乘舫。自縣泝流。深入小溪。幽荒險絕。人跡所未嘗至。夕登岸。停止舍中。敬之中惡猝死。其子燃火守尸。忽聞遠哭聲。呼阿舅。孝子驚疑。俛仰間。哭者已 [2571] 至。如人長大。被髮至足。髮多蔽面。不見七竅。因呼孝子姓名。慰唁之。孝子恐懼。遂聚〈遂聚二字原空缺。據明鈔本補。〉薪以燃火。此物言故來相慰。當何所畏。將須燃火。此物坐亡人頭邊哭。孝子於火光中竊窺之。見此物以面掩亡人面。亡人面須臾裂剝露骨。孝子懼。欲擊之。無兵杖。須臾。其父尸見白骨連續。而皮肉都盡。竟不測此物是何鬼神。出述異記


[1] The ‘seven apertures’ qiqiao 七竅 are the two eyes, two nostrils, two ears and a mouth.

A Fuyang Native 富陽人

At the beginning of the Song Yuanjia era (424-53 CE), a native of Fuyang surnamed Wang set up a crab-catching weir in an empty ditch. At dawn he went to look at it, and saw the end of a wooden casket, more than two chi (60cm) long, which had split the trap. The crabs had all escaped. He mended the weir, removing the casket and placing it on the bank. When he went to check on it the next day, he found the casket back in the weir, which was ruined in the same way. Wang mended the weir once more. When he went to look again, what he saw was the same as when he had started. Wang suspected that this piece of wood was a supernatural entity. He therefore put it in his crabbing basket, tied this to his carrying pole and returned. He said to himself: “When I get back I should chop this up and burn it.” Three li short of the house he heard a sudden movement, and turned his head to find that the wood had transformed into a thing with a human face, monkey body, one hand and one single foot. Addressing Wang, it said: “By nature I am very fond of crabs, so I entered the water and destroyed your crabbing weir. We have both already suffered greatly, and I hope the gentleman can forgive me, opening the basket and letting me out. I am a mountain spirit, and we should help one another; I could spread your weir wide and wait for your crabs.” Wang replied: “You bully and abuse people, but that changes now. Your crimes require a death sentence.” The thing turned and stamped, begging to be released, and asked over and over what Wang’s given and family names might be. Wang turned his head but refused to answer. As they came closer to the house, the thing said: “So you won’t release me, and you won’t tell me your name. There’s nothing for it but to await execution.” When Wang arrived at home, he kindled a fire and burned the thing. Afterwards all was still and there was no more strangeness.

Local customs call such things ‘mountain elves’,[1] and report that, if they know a person’s family and given names, they can cause harm to that person. They thus ask with great persistence, in order to cause injury and to free themselves.

From Shuyiji.

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, 323.2560:

富陽人

宋元嘉初。富陽人姓王。于窮瀆中作蟹籪。旦往視。見一材頭。長二尺許。在籪裂開。蟹出都盡。乃修治籪。出材岸上。明往看之。見材復在籪中。敗如前。王又治籪。再往視。所見如初。王疑此材妖異。乃取納蟹籠中。繫擔頭歸。云。至家當破燃之。未之家三里。聞中倅動。轉顧。見向材頭變成一物。人面猴身。一手一足。語王曰。我性嗜蟹。此寔入水破若蟹籪。相負已多。望君見恕。開籠出我。我是山神。當相佑助。使全籪大待蟹。王曰。汝犯暴人。前後非一。罪自應死。此物轉頓。請乞放。又頻問君姓名為何。王回顧不應答。去家轉近。物曰。既不放我。又不告我姓名。當復何計。但應就死耳。王至家。熾火焚之。後寂無復異。土俗謂之山魈。云。知人姓名。則能中傷人。所以勤問。正欲害人自免。出述異記


[1] This term is shanxiao 山魈.

Ren Huairen 任懷仁

In the first year of the Jin Shengping era (357-61 CE), Ren Huairen was thirteen years old, and serving as Administrative Clerk to the Censorate. In his hometown was one Wang Zu, who served as a clerk, and who had long favoured him. By the time Huairen reached fifteen or sixteen, however, they had a number of [2537] disagreements. Zu was resentful, and when he travelled to Jiaxing, he killed Huairen, burying him at the edge of a field by the home of one Xu Zu. Later, when Zu happened to be taking a rest by the field, he suddenly noticed the presence of this grave. At each of his three daily eating times, dawn, noon and evening, he would divided his meal and make an offering to it, and call out: “Spirit at the head of the field, come share my food.” When he closed his eyes to sleep, he would also say: “Come and share my rest.” This went on for some time.

Later, one night he suddenly saw a person manifest. It addressed him: “Tomorrow my family will make offerings to mark the end of the mourning period. These offerings will be especially generous, and the gentleman should go there along with me.” Zu said: “I’m a mortal; we should not appear to one another.” The spirit told him: “I will hide the gentleman.” Zu then set off following the spirit, and after a short period they reached his home. There were many guests at the house, and the spirit led Zu up to the spirit tablet. The great spread of food then vanished, and the gathered family all cried out and wept, unable to control themselves, saying that their son had returned. He then saw Wang Zu arrive, and said: “This is my killer. I still fear him.” He then departed, and Xu Zu suddenly became visible. The family were quite shocked, and questioned him, at which he related the whole affair. They then followed Zu to pay respects at the grave. Once they had departed, the spirit never returned.

From Youminglu.

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, 320.2536-37:

任懷仁

晉升平元年。任懷仁年十三。為台書佐。鄉里有王祖復為令史。恒寵之。懷仁已十五六矣。頗有異 [2537] 意。祖銜恨。至嘉興。殺懷仁。以棺殯埋於徐祚家田頭。祚後宿息田上。忽見有塚。至朝中暮三時食。輒分以祭之。呼云。田頭鬼。來就我食。至瞑眠時。亦云。來伴我宿。如此積時。後夜忽見形云。我家明當除服作祭。祭甚豐厚。君明隨去。祚云。我是生人。不當相見。鬼云。我自隱君形。祚便隨鬼去。計行食頃。便到其家。家大有客。鬼將祚上靈座。大食滅。合家號泣。不能自勝。謂其兒還。見王祖來。便曰。此是殺我人。猶畏之。便走出。祚即形露。家中大驚。具問祚。因敘本末。遂隨祚迎喪。既去。鬼便斷絕。出幽明錄

Cai Mo 蔡謨

Around the time Cai Mo[1] was appointed to serve as Grand Master for Splendid Happiness, he was at home and suddenly heard the sound of weeping and wailing coming from the southeast, as if someone had just died. Soon after, he saw a young girl, a dead person who also wailed at their separation. He did not understand what was going on, but feared that this was the result of a family conflict. Suddenly, he heard the cry of an immortal soul, and soon after witnessed the living girl ascend through thin air into the heavens above. The meaning of this could only be extremely inauspicious. Before long he fell ill, and then died.

From Lingyizhi.

Moreover 又

Someone reported that Mo was seated at the place of honour in the government hall when he suddenly heard a voice ‘calling back the mortal soul’[2] from the neighbours to the left. He thus left the hall and went to the front to look. Straight away he saw a newly bereaved family, and an elderly woman, wearing a yellow half-sleeved garment of silk gauze on top, and a pale green skirt below, floating in the air and ascending into the heavens. He heard a cry, and turned his head to look, then came three cries, and he turned his head each time. He paced up and down for a long time, and when the sounds finally stopped, there was nothing more to be seen. He questioned the family attending the burial, and they told him that the clothing worn by the deceased was just as he had described it.

From Youminglu


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, 320.2533:

蔡謨

蔡謨徵為光祿大夫。在家。忽聞東南啼哭聲。有若新死。便見一少年女。死〈明鈔本死作此。〉人並離〈明鈔本離作籬〉啼哭。不解所為。恐是人家忿爭耳。忽聞呼魂聲。便見生〈明鈔本生作此〉女。從空中去上天。意甚惡之。少時疾患。遂薨。出靈異志

一說。謨在廳事上坐。忽聞鄰左復魄聲。乃出庭前望。正見新死之家。有一老嫗。上著黃羅半袖。下著縹裙。飄然升天。聞一喚聲。輒廻顧。三喚三顧。徘徊良久。聲既絕。亦不復見。問喪家。云。亡者衣服如此。出幽明錄


[1] On Cai Mou 蔡謨, 281-356 CE, courtesy name Daoming 道明, see Jinshu 晉書 77.2033-41.

[2] A funeral ritual involving entreating the deceased to return to their body before burial.

Chen Su 陳素

In the first year of the Jin Shengping era (357 CE), the family of Chen Su, of Shan County, were wealthy. After a decade of marriage to his wife, he still lacked a son, so wished to take a concubine. His wife prayed to the ancestral hall’s deities and suddenly became pregnant. The same happened to the wife of their neighbour, a commoner. She therefore bribed the neighbour’s wife, saying: “If I give birth to a boy, that would be the will of heaven. If it is a girl, and yours is a boy, we should swap.” This was quickly agreed between them. The neighbour’s wife had a boy, and three days later Su’s wife bore a daughter. The exchange was quickly made. Su was absolutely delighted with his son. They had raised the child for thirteen years when, during prayers, an elderly housemaid who often saw spirits spoke up and said: “I see the gentleman’s ancestors; they’re coming to the gate and then stopping. But I also see a crowd of commoners who have come and seated themselves to eat our offerings.” The father was extremely alarmed and amazed, and then welcomed the spirits as they arrived. He prayed that they might become temporarily visible, and they told him they were all relatives. Su then went inside and questioned his wife. Terrified, she told him about the swap. The boy was returned to his original family, and their daughter taken back.

From Youminglu.

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, 319.2527:

陳素

晉昇平元年。剡縣陳素家富。娶婦十年無兒。夫欲娶妾。婦禱祠神明。突然有身。鄰家小人婦亦同有。因貨鄰婦云。我生若男。天願也。若是女。汝是男者。當交易之。便共將許。鄰人生男。此婦後三日生女。便交取之。素忻喜。養至十三。當祠祀。家有老婢。素見鬼。云。見府君家先人。來到門首便住。但見一羣小人。來座所食噉此祭。父甚疑怪。便迎見鬼人至。祠時轉令看。言語皆同。素便入問婦。婦懼。且說言此事。還男本家。喚女歸。出幽明錄

Wang Fan 王樊

The Dunhuang shilu reports: When Wang Fan died, a thief opened his tomb and saw Wang Fan playing chupu (a form of boardgame) with someone; he rewarded the robber with wine, and the thief drank it in terror, watching someone lead a bronze horse out of the tomb. That night a divinity arrived at the city gate, announcing that it was the envoy of Wang Fan, that someone had opened his tomb, marking his lips by swallowing dark wine, and that, at dawn, when that person returned, they could verify this and capture him. When the thief entered the city, those on the gate therefore bound and questioned him, and it was just as the divinity had said. From Duyizhi.

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, 317.2507:

王樊

敦煌實錄云。王樊卒。有盜開其冢。見樊與人樗蒲。以酒賜盜者。盜者惶怖。飲之。見有人牽銅馬出冢者。夜有神人至城門。自云。我王樊之使。今有發冢者。以酒墨其脣訖。旦至。可以驗而擒之。盜即入城。城門者乃縛詰之。如神所言。出獨異志

The Zhonghua shuju edition of Du yi zhi presents a very slightly different version of the story:

Wang Fan’s Tomb 王樊冢

The Dunhuang shilu reports: When Wang Fan died, a thief opened his tomb and saw Wang Fan playing chupu (a form of boardgame) with someone; he rewarded the robber with wine, and the thief drank it in terror, watching someone lead a bronze horse out of the tomb. That night a divinity arrived at the city gate, announcing that it was the envoy of Wang Fan, that someone had opened his tomb, marking his lips by swallowing dark wine, and that, at dawn, when that person returned, they could verify this and capture him. When the thief entered the city, those on the gate therefore bound and questioned him, and it was just as the divinity had said.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.8 (Tale 61):

王樊冢

《燉煌實錄》云:王樊卒,有盗開其冢,見王樊與人樗蒲,以酒賜盗者,盗者惶怖飲之,見有人牽銅馬出冢者。夜有神至城門,自言是王樊使,今有人發冢,以酒墨其唇,但至,可以驗而擒之。盗既入城,城門者乃縛詰之,如神言。

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)

Magistrate Li Of Wangjiang 望江李令

Magistrate Li of Wangjiang lived in Shuzhou after his dismissal from office. He had two sons, who were extremely intelligent. The magistrate once went to drink wine, returning at sunset. A hundred paces short of his house, he saw his two sons coming to greet him. On reaching him, they grabbed him between them and gave him a beating. The magistrate was alarmed and angry. He let out a great cry, but it was a place far from other people, so nobody knew of his plight. They kept hitting him as he went, but, just as he was about to reach his home his two sons left him and departed. When he arrived at the gate, however, his two sons were just arriving to meet him below the hall. When he questioned them they both said that they had never stepped outside the gate. A little over a month later, the magistrate again held a drinking party, but this time told his host the whole story, asking if he could stay the night as he did not dare return. His sons, however, fearing that he would return at dusk and be beaten again, set out together to meet him. Halfway there, however, they saw their father, who asked them, angrily: “Why would you go out at night?” He then had his attendants beat them, before letting them go. The next day, the magistrate returned, and was even more shocked at these events. Before several months had passed, father and sons were all dead.

People of the region say: ‘In Shu there are mountain spirits, and they excel in such cruelty, as they are followers of Liqiu.’[1]

From Jishenlu.

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), viii, 353.2797:

望江李令

望江李令者。罷秩居舒州。有二子。甚聰慧。令嘗飲酒暮歸。去家數百步。見二子來迎。即共禽而毆之。令驚大怒。大呼。而遠方人絕。竟無知者。且行且毆。將至家。二子皆却走而去。及入門。二子復迎于堂下。問之。皆云未嘗出門。後月餘。令復飲酒於所親家。因具白其事。請留宿。不敢歸。而其子恐其及暮歸。復為所毆。即俱往迎之。及中途。見其父。怒曰。何故暮出。即使從者擊之。困而獲免。明日令歸。益駭其事。不數月。父子皆卒。郡人云。舒有山鬼。善為此厲。蓋黎丘之徒也。出稽神錄

[1] Translation revised with generous help from Ofer Waldman. Thanks Ofer!

Ma Daoyou 馬道猷

Under the Southern Qi (479-502 CE) Ma Daoyou served as Director of the Department of State Affairs. In the first year Yongming (483), seated in the palace he suddenly saw spirits filling the space before him; the people around him saw nothing. Soon after, two spirits entered his ears, pulling out his ethereal soul, which fell onto his shoes. He pointed at it to show people, saying, “Gentlemen, do you see this?” None of those around him could see anything, so they asked him what his ethereal soul looked like. Daoyou said: “The ethereal soul looks exactly like a toad.” He said: “There can be no way to survive. The spirits are now in the ears. Look at how they swell up.” The following day he died. Taken from Shuyiji.

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, 327.2992

馬道猷

南齊馬道猷為尚書令史。永明元年。坐省中。忽見鬼滿前。而傍人不見。須臾兩鬼入其耳中。推出魂。魂落屐上。指以示人。諸君見否。傍人並不見。問魂形狀云何。道猷曰。魂正似蝦蟇。云。必無活理。鬼今猶在耳中。視其耳皆腫。明日便死。出述異記

Wang Fan’s Tomb 王樊冢

The Dunhuang shilu reports: When Wang Fan died, a thief opened his tomb and saw Wang Fan playing chupu (a form of boardgame) with someone; he rewarded the robber with wine, and the thief drank it in terror, watching someone lead a bronze horse out of the tomb. That night a divinity arrived at the city gate, announcing that it was the envoy of Wang Fan, that someone had opened his tomb, marking his lips by swallowing dark wine, and that when that person returned at dawn they could verify this and capture him. When the thief entered the city, those on the gate therefore bound and questioned him, and it was just as the divinity had said.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.8 (Tale 61):

王樊冢

《燉煌實錄》云:王樊卒,有盗開其冢,見王樊與人樗蒲,以酒賜盗者,盗者惶怖飲之,見有人牽銅馬出冢者。夜有神至城門,自言是王樊使,今有人發冢,以酒墨其唇,但至,可以驗而擒之。盗既入城,城門者乃縛詰之,如神言。

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)

An Elm Demon 榆木為怪

Lü Yijian, Duke Shen, served several times as a magistrate in Shu, but the name of his prefecture has been forgotten. The government office had long experienced a ghostly manifestation, named Great Aunt Yu, who was an elm spirit. In form she looked like an ancient and ugly woman, and she frequently emerged in the kitchen, encountered among a crowd of maids, who often saw her. The household, having seen her over a long period, did not think her strange. The Duke called out a question to her, at which she bowed low and said: “Your servant has long been resident in this hall, and though not human, I dare not cause misfortune.” The Duke then laid the matter aside and asked no more questions. She often predicted that he must later become very influential. One day she suddenly announced that she was pregnant, and the maids mocked her. She herself said that she would soon give birth, and then disappeared for over a month. Then, all of a sudden, her voice was heard, saying: “I have given birth; [264] please come and look. In the back garden, to the southwest of the elm tree, there’s another, and that’s my child.” They looked, and it was true.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.263-64 (Tale 477):

榆木為怪

呂申公夷簡常通判蜀中,忘其郡名。廨宇中素有鬼物,號俞老姑,乃榆木精,其狀一老醜婦,常出廚間與羣婢為偶,或時見之。家人見之久,亦不為怪。公呼問之,即下階拜(「階拜」原作「拜階」,據抄配本改。)云:「妾在於(抄配本無「於」字。)堂府日久,雖非人,然不敢為禍。」公亦置而不問。常謂公他日必大貴。一日忽懷妊,羣婢戲之。自言非久當產,遂月餘不見。忽出云:「已產矣, [264] 請視之,後園榆木西南生大贅乃是。」視之,果然。

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).