A Pig’s Earring 猪耳鐶

The gentleman Jiang Songwei travelled from Shu via Xia, and on reaching the Yun’an Pass killed a pig as a temple sacrifice. When it came to washing the offering, he saw a single ring below one ear, inky coloured, clear and glistening; it must have formerly been a person and a thieving criminal.[1]

Hong Mai, Yi Jian Zhi, ii, 丙18.514

猪耳鐶

將仕郎宋衞自蜀道出峽,至雲安關,殺猪賽廟。洗牲時,見耳下一方鐶,墨色猶明潤,蓋必前身為人而犯盜者也。

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)

[1] This refers to the practice of tattooing a ring behind the ear as punishment for convicted thieves or bandits. On this practice, see Songshi 宋史 201.5018; Carrie E. Reed, ‘Tattoo in Early China’, Journal of the American Oriental Society 120 (2000), 360-76: 365. (the article is available online here)

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A River God’s Retribution 江神報事

Yu Dujian, known as Shan, was from Xinshang. In the xinyou year of the Song Jingding era (1261), he was governor to Linjiang Commandery, and, due to a flood, people suffered from having to wade through the river. He received word that, at a crossing on the boundary with Jiangdong, a boat had foundered killing eighteen people, including the boatman. The governor was keen to uphold the law, so sent a soldier bearing Daoist paper figures and an official document to seek the river spirit for questioning. The soldier feared punishment, so made earnest entreaties [217] at the riverbank. An elderly white-robed person suddenly emerged, saying: “You go now; I’ll come to the offices tomorrow.” The soldier returned and made his report. When the day came, the governor sat in the hall and waited. It was already late when a wisp of cold wind was felt touching people, and he saw a person with bushy brows and white hair, dressed in white, who said: “The eighteen people who died had in a previous life formed a gang of powerful bandits who killed people, and were therefore taken together in death one day on the water.” The governor said: “The boatman among them; what then was his crime?” The elderly figure said: “That person was the bandit chief. The governor understands the affairs of human life in this world. He does not understand the affairs of the nether world’s authority, all of which are destined and certain, without slip or error.”

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.216-17 (Tale 384):

江神報事

俞杜澗名掞,信上人。宋景定辛酉知臨江軍,因大水,人病涉。言江東界有一渡,水漲舟覆,溺死十八人,梢子亦沉死。知府善行法,差一卒持神符及官牒追江神來問。卒畏譴責,力懇 [217] 於水濱。忽一白衣老人出云:「你且去,我明日自到官。」卒歸報。至日,知府坐廳等候。近晚,但覺冷風一陣拂人,見一人龐眉皓首,身著白,云:「十八人死者,前世曾結黨為強盗殺人,以一日聚死於水。」知府曰:「梢子又何辜?」老人曰:「此人正是賊首也。知府但知陽間世事,不知陰府事皆注定,並無差錯。」

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).

Coveting Wealth and Killing A Monk 圖財殺僧

Ji Wugong was returning from Hangzhou by boat, and when he reached the riverbank there was a monk with many valuable possessions, which they lifted together into the boat. On boarding, the monk said he had forgotten something and stepped back off again. Ji coveted his wealth, and gave the order to push off. When the monk arrived, the boat was already midstream and beyond his reach; he tried to swim for it but drowned. Ji, claiming falsely that the monk had been his private chaplain, took all his property and returned with great riches. The following year, his wife became pregnant and was about to give birth, and that evening he dreamed that the monk came to meet him, and therefore named the child. When the child was fully grown, he spent and squandered up to half of the household resources. This son then had his own child, and one night dreamed of a boat descending from the ceiling panel and so named his son ‘Boatman’, and this son subsequently entirely disposed of the household’s wealth.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前集2.122 (Tale 213):

圖財殺僧

季五公自杭州回船,次江畔,有一僧厚有財物,亦同搭此船。及入,謂有所忘,再出船去。季貪其財,先令發舟。僧來,船已中流,不可及,由是赴水而死。季冒認僧為門僧,席捲所遺,歸致大富。踰年,妻懷孕將產,初夜,夢此僧來相見,遂以為名之。及長,家計為之破蕩及半。子又生一孫,夜夢一船自天井中而下,命名船者,後盡鬻其家產無遺。

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).

Instigating Lawsuits 教唆詞訟

The father of Wen Guangzan, from youth to old age, was tangled in successive lawsuits every single year. When he asked Master Tan Xiangshan about karmic causes, he replied: “Your father was a writer of suits and complaints in a previous life; this is the retribution ordered for him.” Guangzan implored him for salvation with a prayer session. The Master instructed him to make shackles by sticking paper to lengths of bamboo and ordered him to first imprison himself, and after three days express his repentance. Should those among the present generation who instigate lawsuits be forgiven so simply? This should be taken as a warning, and they should wake up to this truth.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.103 (Tale 177):

教唆詞訟

文光讚父,自少至老,每歲獄訟連緜。以宿因問曇相禪師,曰:「汝父前生本寫詞狀人,故令反受其報。」光讚懇求禳度。師教以紙黏竹簟為桎梏,令先自囚,三日後為懺悔。今之世有教唆興訟者,寧免乎此?姑錄為戒,宜猛省焉。

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).

Repay Injustice, Settle A Dispute 冤報解和

[127] There was once a merchant who went to Shu (Sichuan), sharing a boat with a rich trader. One day, the boat was moored on the riverbank and all the servants went ashore, leaving the merchant alone. He wanted to steal the other’s property and seeing that the rich trader was washing his hands to one side of the deck, he went and shoved him into the river. The wealthy trader leaped back up out of the water, grasping the rail in his hands, so the other took up a knife and chopped away all five fingers; the trader sank into the river and drowned. Snatching up all of his goods, the merchant returned with great wealth.

One day, he dreamed that the wealthy trader came to his neighbour’s house, and he awoke with a start. When he sent people to check this, a baby boy had indeed been born, and he ordered that it be nurtured and raised, providing money for the child’s support. When the child was five or six, he adopted it into his own family, nurturing it personally; every day he indulged all the boy’s wishes. On reaching the age of capping (20 sui), the boy suddenly became addicted to drink and gambling, stopping at nothing in pursuit of pleasure and desire, losing uncountable piles of tens of thousands every day, and continuing like this for several years.

One day he had lost a great deal, but in the evening wanted still more money. The head of the household told him: “You have already lost a lot; keep some for the future.” His son became very angry, taking a knife and hacking at him. The older man raised his hand to ward off the blade, and his five fingers fell to the ground. His retinue managed to seize the young man, and he pleaded for his life to be spared. The older man addressed him: “In a former life you were a wealthy trader. I travelled with you on the same boat but plotted to steal your property and killed you. Having discovered in a dream that you had been reincarnated, I nurtured and raised you from childhood until you became fully grown, paying for whatever you wanted; calculated altogether, this has now returned your property to you. Now that my five fingers have also been taken, this is enough to repay the debt, minus the one human life. If I used my wealth and handed you over to the authorities, having you executed would be easy. I fear that this process of retribution for unpunished wrongs might then go on endlessly, so I now release you, sending you off with whatever property you need to establish fields and household in some other faraway prefecture, resolving once and for all this need for revenge.” The young man thanked him and departed.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前1.126-27 (Tale 221):

冤報解和

[127] 有一商人入蜀,與富商同舟。一日,艤舟江滸,從僕皆上岸,惟此商,欲圖其財,見富商在船旁盥手,遂推之於江,富商又躍起,手拏船舷,又為持刀斷其五指,遂墜江而死。席卷財物,歸成大富。一日,夢富商來其鄰家,驚覺。遣人視之,果生一男子,遂命育之,給以乳哺之資。年五六歲,收歸其家,撫之猶手,每日恣其所欲。及年冠,忽嗜飲賭博,無所不至,一從其意,日輸累萬亦不較,如是者數年。一日多敗,及晚猶欲索錢。主家語之曰:「今日已輸多了,尚有來日。」 其子忿怒,拔刃斫之,主家舉手捍禦,五指俱落,得左右人擒住,倖免不死。主語之曰:「汝前生為富商,我與同舟,圖汝財,害汝命,續夢汝託生,我撫育自少至長,恣汝所欲,總而計之,亦可以還汝財物矣。今又傷我五指,亦足以還,但所欠一命耳。以我財力置汝於官,殺之不難。又恐冤冤相報無已,今放汝去,更隨汝意財物,可遠去他郡,別置田宅,解釋冤讐。」其人感謝而去。

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 Living Avenge Unjust Death 生報死冤

In Jianyang County there was a woman of the Liu family who because of an illicit relationship with a passing traveller, one Yu Er. Yu therefore, when she later buried her husband, exhausted all his property, giving it to the woman for her expenses. When she took up with someone else, Yu felt deeply hurt and whipped the woman, after which she hung herself. Her son covered up the matter and buried her. The woman was then reincarnated in the family of Wang Qianliu in Jiankang, remaining as his daughter. Her birth took place on the same year, month and day as the woman’s suicide.

Yu returned to seeking books and literature, and travelled to Jiankang, happening to visit Wang Qianliu’s house. Wang and Yu were aware that the girl’s birth tallied with the death of the adultress, so raised her as an adopted child. On reaching thirteen or fourteen, the girl formed an illicit attachment with the youthful son of a neighbour, but Yu prohibited this and declared it unacceptable. One day, Yu Zhai, who was serving as Grand Military Commissioner, was travelling by sedan chair and followed Yu to the second entrance, when he came across the girl weeping and crying in an upper storey, saying that her father and Yu had forced her into adultery. Yu was terrified at being questioned by the military commission about these strange events, and, falling into a panic, hung himself and died. The next year, the girl married the neighbour’s young son.

The adulterer died in Min (Fujian), but the retribution of this matter took place several thousand li away. It can clearly be seen that injustice inevitably faces retribution, like an echo following a sound. Matters of uneasy conscience can never be endured.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前1.126 (Tale 220):

生報死冤

In 建陽縣有劉家一婦,因與衢客余二者私通,余因此婦喪夫,遂罄其財本,以給此婦用度。此婦復通他人,余痛箠之,婦自縊而死。其子匿其事葬之。此婦乃託生於建康王千六家,仍為女子。所生之日,乃此婦之自縊年月日時也。余復營求文籍,往建康販賣,遇於王千六家。王與余心知女生年與姦婦死日符合,遂就王螟蛉為女看養。年及十三四歲,此女遂私與鄰之少年子通,余禁之不可。一日,裕齋為制置使,行轎從余二門首,遇此女在樓上狂叫,謂其父余二強逼之姦私。余恐制司怪問,被此一嚇,自經而死。後年,其女嫁鄰之少年子為妻。姦婦死於閩,乃責報於數千里外,信知冤必有報,如響隨聲,虧心之事,斷斷乎不可為已。

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).

Reincarnating to Avenge Injustice 託生報冤

In Chuzhou there were three brothers surnamed You, the eldest called Zhidao, the second Shidao and the youngest Wendao. Zhidao and his brothers were classicists by profession, but Wendao suffered from a manic illness, and at bad times became crazed and violent, impossible to restrain. Their mother, née Weng, adored her youngest son, and so locked him in a hidden room, opening the window a small chink to pass him food; this continued up to the gengwu year of the Xianchun era (1270), when he was 22 sui in age. On the eighteenth day of the sixth month (7 July 1270), Wendao’s birthday, his two elder brothers left the county. His mother, pitying him, said that although he was usually locked away, that day being his birthday, she would therefore release him. Wendao, having achieved his release, went straight to the chamber of his elder brother Zhidao and forced himself on his brother’s favoured maidservant, wielding a knife. His mother hurried to save [125] her, but was then killed by Wendao, who tore her remains into three parts and then went out before the gate, shouting: “I have slaughtered a sow today.” He was lured out by their neighbours, tied up and delivered to the authorities. The officials, horrified by this offence against custom and morality, sent him to a dungeon and imposed the death penalty. Among the neighbours was one Hua Jian, who by plotting to deceive Zhidao and his brother, gained their silverware and 20,000 strings of guanhui notes. Afterwards, this Hua Jian fell ill for over a month and, spending the days confined to his bed and suffering increasingly serious debilitation, ordered the officials to send him a chaste virgin for his treatment. The lady Weng entered her body to take her revenge, and said: “Three lives ago I was a general in the Wuwei army and Wendao was my subordinate. Killed unjustly he therefore reincarnated in my family, to repay a debt of injustice from three lives before. How could you take my family silver through deceit? I have seen it hidden in the tree; you should return it all to my sons, and then you will be forgiven and spared death.” Hua Jian was completely convinced and, calling out for Zhidao and his brother, returned their property. He then made a complete recovery.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前1.125-25 (Tale 218):

託生報冤

處州有游其姓者,兄弟三人,長曰志道,次曰適道,季曰聞道。志道兄弟業儒,惟聞道自生來有心瘋疾,非時顛狂,不能制。其母翁氏酷愛季子,乃扃鑰於密室,開窗隙以給食,至咸淳庚午,年已二十有二歲矣。六月十八日乃聞道生日,二兄出縣,其母憐之,謂尋常拘繫,今日乃其生辰,姑縱之出外。聞道既得出,直造乃兄志道寢室,驅迫兄之寵婢,取刃在手。其母急往救 [125] 之,遂為聞道所殺,折其屍為三,往門前疾呼:「我今日屠一母豬矣。」遂為居鄰以計誘之,縛送於官。官以大傷風教為恐,押赴土牢,處以極刑。鄰有譁健,因謀騙志道兄弟,得其銀器及官會二萬緡。後譁健者被病月餘,日伏枕沉重,因命法官附童體救治。翁氏入體報應,且言:「我三生前在無為軍為將,聞道為我部下卒,不合誤殺,故託生我家,以報復三生冤債。你何得騙去我家銀?見藏在樹內,可悉以還吾兒,免汝殘喘也。」譁健者大服,呼志道兄弟還之,其病即愈。

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).