Releasing Quail, Extending Longevity 放鶉延壽

When Cai Yuanchang (i.e., Cai Jing 蔡京, 1047-1126 CE)[1] held power, he ate quail at every celebration. One evening, he dreamt that a yellow-robed old person said: “In the coming days you are to suffer murder; hopefully the gentleman may be spared this fate.” Cai asked: “What kind of person are you?” They then recited verses:

Several grains of millet could feed the gentleman;

Only meat in the congee can fill the gentleman.

For one congee several lives are cut short;

Putting down his chopsticks these are still not enough.

On the moments between mouth and stomach;

Fate and fortune are together dependent.

Wishing to warn the gentleman not to kill;

Life and death spin as if on a wheel.

He awoke and marvelled at this, making enquiries to those who prepared meals, acquiring several dozen yellow quails and releasing them. During the night he again dreamt of the yellow-robed old person, who said: “I am aware that the gentleman fulfilled the prayer, and has already saved lives. The Heavenly Emperor has now granted an extension to the gentleman’s lifespan.” Cai indeed subsequently enjoyed a long life before he passed away.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.114 (Tale 199):

放鶉延壽

蔡元長當國,每喜食鶉。一夕,夢黃衣老人曰:「來日當自被害,願公貸命。」蔡問:「汝何人?」乃誦詩云:「食君數粒粟,充君羹中肉。一羹斷數命,下筯猶未足。口腹須臾間,福禍相倚伏。願公戒勿殺,死生如轉轂。」覺而異之,詢於掌饍,得黃鶉數十,放之。經宿復夢黃衣老人曰:「感公從禱,已獲復生。今上帝已延公壽命矣。」後蔡果享高壽而卒。

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)

[1] On Cai Jing 蔡京, courtesy name Yuanchang 元長 (who died after banishment at a relatively advanced age) see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cai_Jing and the brilliant article by Charles Hartman, ‘A Textual History of Cai Jing’s Biography in the “Songshi”’, in  Emperor Huizong and Late Northern Song China: The Politics of Culture and the Culture of Politics (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006), pp. 517-64.

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A Woman Eats Fuling Fungus 女食茯苓

In Changqiushan, in Pujiang County, Qiongzhou, there was a woman surnamed Yang, who lived by the riverside. Her father went to the market, bought two carp and returned, ordering his daughter to boil and wash them. The woman did not [140] kill them, but released them in the water as a joke, doing this lightheartedly and then wandering off.

Her mother and father wanting to whip her, the girl then fled into Changqiushan’s Daoist temple, depending on a lay Daoist, obediently providing him with fuel and water. Whenever the Daoist sent her to carry water, she would stay away a long time and not return, and one of the other female servants feared she might have a lover outside, and therefore pressured and questioned her, until she said: “When I lower the well-bucket, an infant grabs the rope and rises; we play a while, and then it drops back into the well; there is nothing other than that.” The Daoist said: “You should take a cloth sack and bag it.” The girl did as he said, and when she took the bag to the temple and opened it to look, they found a lump of fuling fungus, placing it in the rice steamer and cooking it. The Daoist had crossed the river in response to an invitation, but the water had risen and he had not yet returned. The girl having noticed that the steamer smelled extremely delicious, then took and ate some, and as the day drew on eventually ate it all.

It happened that the Heavenly Emperor’s envoy summoned her, and in broad daylight she became an immortal and departed. When her home village informed the county, the county registrar Wei Wang went into the mountains to make a detailed investigation. A small piece of fungus was left over, so he also took and ate this, subsequently also departing as an immortal. The registrar was then placed among twenty-four heavenly masters who provide governance.

As I see it the immortals are extremely numerous, and, as they cannot all be laid out here, I record this to show to people in the future.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.139-40 (Tale 246):

女食茯苓

邛州蒲江縣長秋山,有女子姓楊,濱江而住。其父入市,買二鯉歸,令女子烹洗。其女不 [140] 殺,放水中戲,悠然而逝。父母欲箠之,此女遂奔入長秋山一道觀,依火居道士,供柴水之奉。道士每日使之擔水,忽去久不歸,道婆恐其有外慕,因苦問之,乃云:「於弔水時,有一嬰孩扶繩而上,同嬉一時,又投井中,非有他也。」道士云:「可將布袋袋之。」其女子如其言,袋至宮中開看,乃是一塊茯苓,置之飯甑蒸熟。道士適渡江赴請,水漲未歸,其女子聞其蒸熟甚香,遂取食之,日久食盡,忽天帝差使者召之,白日仙去。其鄉村申縣,縣委王主簿入山體究,止餘茯苓一小塊,簿亦取而食之,竟仙去。主簿,乃天師排定二十四治之一者。吾觀神仙者甚多,皆不載此,因錄之,以示來者。

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 Fox Called Duke of the Spirits 狐稱鬼公

In Xixiang, Pucheng County, there was a powerful spirit, proved effective in many affairs, that called itself Duke of the Spirits; after several decades, near and far all strove to approach it. It happened that one Wan Tu, who tended pigs for a living, stretched a small net across a mountain path and a fox fell into this. It suddenly spoke with a human voice, saying: “I am the Spirit Duke of Xixiang; I hope [you] will spare my life, for which there will be a generous reward.” Tu then released and turned it free. The next night, at lamp-lighting time, two hens and a great many guanhui notes were tossed into his compound. Before many days had passed, he again fell into the hands of a human forester, and once more spoke in supplication: “I was once caught by Wan Tu, and he, having released me, has been thanked most generously. If I am returned alive your reward will be rich.” The man having no trust in this, he ‘placed him on the field of death’. Several days later, a troupe of foxes surrounded [the forester’s] house seeking and searching, soon after, a single fox torched the dwelling and departed.

Anon., Jin Xin 金心 (ed.), Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi 湖海新聞夷堅續志, 2.249:

狐稱鬼公

浦城縣西鄉有神通靈,事多驗,自稱鬼公,至數十年,遠近爭趨之。忽有萬屠以敦豬為業,肩持小網過一山抝,有狐墮其中。俄為人言曰:「我乃西鄉鬼公,冀全性命,當厚為報。」屠遂放逸。次夜燈時,以兩雞及官會五百千拋入其家。不踰數日,又入虞人之手,復哀告曰:「我昔為萬屠所得,彼既放我,已有厚謝。我若復活,當重報汝。」人不之信,置之死地。後數日,羣狐繞屋尋索,曾不移時,有一狐火焚其屋而去。

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).

Hua Yue Serves As King Yama 華岳為閻王

In Luling lived an Ouyang Sheng, who enjoyed joking and teasing his entire life. On seeing that rice sold by a family was coarse and damp, he composed a poem:

‘If in the world one sold the Thunder-God,

The buyer of a Thunder-God would strike them down.’

Falling ill one day, he was escorted to the nether world, and saw the list of those released; it named Huang Niushi, Ouyang Deyu, Yi Li and Ouyang Sanying. When he had finished watching, he was taken to a hall, and asked those around him: “Who is prince of the gate?” They said: “It is now Xi, the worldly son of Hua Yue.”[1] He presently saw a person, robed in purple and belted in gold, seated over the hall, who asked: “You spoke extravagantly in life, once saying the sentence ‘The buyer of a Thunder-God would strike them down’; the Thunderer thus raised a lawsuit in heaven; how can you buy thunder?” Ou[yang] answered: “The Great Prince’s own ‘Record of a Southern Expedition to the Blue-Green Mountains’ also has the sentence ‘Lightning does not smite the emperor-deceiving traitor’, and this was exactly my meaning.” Hua laughed and said: “Free to return! Free to return!” Ou then revived, writing in secret to one called Two Ou, and told the villagers: “Our district will definitely have good news this autumn.” He entrusted the sealed slip of paper to the multitude until the examination results were announced. Afterwards, both men were indeed examination champions.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.211 (Tale 375):

華岳為閻王

廬陵有歐陽生者,平生喜作謔詞,見糶米之家米粗且溼,作詩云:「世間若有雷公賣,買個雷公打殺他。」一日病,被追至冥府,見陰司放解榜,有黃牛石、歐陽德遇、義歷、歐陽三英名字。看畢,至一殿宇,問左右曰:「閭王為誰?」曰:「即世間華岳子西也。」忽見一人紫袍金帶坐殿上,問云:「汝在生有口過,嘗有『買箇雷公打殺他』之句,雷乃奉行天之威令,豈汝能買乎?」歐答云:「大王《翠微南征集》亦有『雷霆不劈欺君賊』之句,即此意也。」華笑曰:「放還!放還!」歐遂蘇,密書二歐名字告之鄉人云:「吾鄉今秋定有好事。」對衆封記片紙,俟揭榜日開。後二人果領薦。

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).

[1] This is Hua Yue 華岳, courtesy name Zixi 子西 (13th century, dates unknown), also known as Cuiwei 翠微. His biography is found at Songshi 455.113375-78.

Stopping the Releasing Life Festival 罷放生會

The Yanxiang Temple in Tanzhou had celebrated the Releasing Life Festival for many years in the third, fourth, sixth and eighth months. On the third day of the third month in the first year Kangding (16 April 1040), the birthday of Zhenwu (the Lord of Profound Heaven), birds and animals of the water were bought in advance, taken in ceremonial order past the prefectural pavilion and approaching the Yangtze, led by bells and cymbals, they were set free with chants and praise. Among these living things some were hurled towards the void and took flight, some were scattered into the water and swam. Of those that flew, some sank back down, some lay on the river’s surface. Some of the birds had their feet or wings trapped by glue, and others were hunted and shot with bows and arrows or catapults and pellets; when they are injured and killed in this way, the sound of their lamentations and cries cannot be borne. When the aquatic creatures are lured into the broad net and seized, or hunted with the bamboo basket and taken, scales, shells, heads and tails all torn and damaged, leaping and jumping with mouth wide but cries unheard; this sight cannot be borne. People from the four distant quarters having just heard of this release of life, vied with one another to stretch their nets and sell in the market, this having the contrary result of causing harm to living creatures. When the monk Sun Yuan’an was presiding over the hall, a mendicant priest approached the foot of the pulpit, intending to speak on the cause of the gathering, opposing Yuan’an’s offerings to the release. The priest said: “It should not be called ‘releasing life’, as it is premeditated murder.” None among the whole group opposed this, and afterwards the ceremony was abandoned. In the main this thing called release of life is actually the sale and purchase of animals and fish, bringing great wealth to hunters. Fulfilling this sees nets stretched wide for later release; how can this be right?

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.72 (Tale 126):

罷放生會

潭州延祥宮,遞年三月、四月、六月、八月有放生社會。康定元年三月三日真武生辰,預買飛禽水族,例往州亭,臨大江,用磬鈸引導,讚詠放生。諸般物命或向空而飛,或漾水而遊,其飛沉之物,或向空復墮,或水面仰浮,飛禽者翅與足或被膠黏,或弓彈射獵,如有傷折,哀鳴愁噪之聲不忍聞也。如水族者罾釣張取、籮籃采捕,鱗甲頭尾皆有破損,跳躍張口之狀但叫嗸不出,不忍目之。四遠之人纔聞放生,爭競張捕以賣於市,反至損害物命。道士損元宴升堂,有雲遊道士至講下,願講此會之因,元宴遂以放生祝壽為對,道人曰:「非曰放生,即是故殺。」周無以對。後此會遂廢。大抵放生之說,遇有禽魚之類出賣者,買而放之則獲福無量,發章張羅網捕之而後縱之,豈可乎!

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).

Freed Turtles Repay Benevolence 放鼈報恩

Ye Sanda was a first-placed examination candidate from Huaixiang. Someone presented him with a large soft-shelled turtle, and he dropped it into the river. Several days later it came back; he inspected it carefully and it was indeed the turtle he had released those few days before, so he pricked the character ‘Buddha’ on its belly and released it below the Jichuan Bridge. In the renzi year, it was decreed that father and son present themselves together for the prefectural examinations. Suddenly a flood overtook them, and their boat passed the Jinshui Beach and spun round and round. Soon after it stopped, as if the boat was held steady by something. On reaching a calmer flow, the soft-shelled turtle showed its ‘Buddha’ character, and he then realized that this was the turtle he had released. That night, he dreamed that a black-robed old woman addressed him: “Your son Xuan will triumph in the prefectural examinations this autumn.” That same year it did come to pass.

Cheng Yuanzhang came from Youting in Wuyuan. Together with his wife he had a great liking for soft-shelled turtle, and ordered their servant girl Mei Xiang to cook the delicacy. None of it tasted quite right, however, so he whipped her. She once obtained a large one, over a chi (33cm) long, and had just grasped the knife to slaughter it, when she saw it stretch and contract, shivering in terror. Unable to bear it, she pointed to it and said: “I normally cook turtles, and must still suffer beatings. I am about to release you alive, despite facing one more battering.” She then untied it, placing it in the pond behind their residence. This pool was broad and its water had never once dried up. Cheng and his wife, because the turtle had been so large and promised such satisfaction and fullness, grew extremely angry at its loss, and gave the serving girl several dozen lashes. After two years had passed, the serving girl fell developed a fever and then a mania, rushing about recklessly, confused and dazed. The family realised that she could not be cured, and so carried her into [120] the pavilion on the pond, to await her death. The next day, as dawn broke, someone knocked at the back door of the residence; thinking it must be a spirit, they shouted at it to go away. She then said: “I am Mei Xiang; I beg to be allowed to go home.” They opened the gate and it was indeed her. Asked what had happened, she said: “At midnight I seemed to see a strange thing, which netted my body in damp mud and straw, spinning around thirty or forty times, awakening my mind and heart and leaving it open and clear, cooling and refreshing my four limbs and removing all pain. The next thing I knew, I was alone in the pavilion.” The Chengs did not believe this. They waited until dusk, then sent her back to lie down like the previous day and spied on her in secret. They watched as a huge soft-shelled turtle emerged e pond, its body covered in algae and duckweed. The Chengs could not understand the matter, so the maid recounted her release of the turtle from beginning to end, telling of how it had grown so much larger from its beginnings until that point, and looked at how the hole left behind by its tail had persisted. At that, the pond dried up and they caught it and carried it to a deeper pool. The entire Cheng family abstained and never ate it again. A famous physician once said: “In a case of extreme fever, where death seems impossible to avert, draw fresh water and soak the upper and lower clothes together as a fine treatment.” This is not to say that the smaller types of aquatic creatures could do this, too; this was provoked by a secret moral act.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.119-20 (Tale 208):

放鼈報恩

葉三大解元,槐巷人。有饋大鼈者,投之水。數日又再進,熟視之,即前日所放之鼈,遂於腹下刺一「佛」字,放生濟川橋下。壬子,詔父子同應鄉舉,洪水驟漲,舟過金水灘幾覆。須臾復止,若有物扶其舟。及至安流,鼈現「佛」字,始知即所放鼈也。是夜,夢一皁衣嫗曰:「爾子璿今秋領鄉舉。」是年果然。

 

程元章,婺源遊汀人。與妻皆嗜食團魚,令婢梅香主庖饌,每滋味不適口即撻之。嘗得一大者,長尺餘,方操刀欲屠,睹其伸縮顫悸,為之不忍,指而與言:「我尋常烹煮,必遭杖責。今放汝不殺,亦不過痛打一頓。」遂解縛置於舍後污池中。池廣水亦未嘗竭。程夫婦以鼈肥大,可滿意飫饜之。既失之,怒甚,杖婢數十。經二年,婢發熱疾發狂,奔躁昏憒,家人知其不可療,舁入 [120] 池上茅亭以待終。明日,天明曉,有扣宅後門扉者,謂為鬼物,叱去之。乃言:「我是梅香,病已無事,乞令歸家。」啟閽信然。問其故,對曰:「半夜髣髴見一異物,將溼泥草遍罨我身上,環繞三四十匝,便覺心下開豁,四肢清涼,全無所苦,始知獨在亭上。」程氏未以為然。迨暮復使往,如昨日偃臥,而密伺察之。見巨鼈自池御水藻浮萍遮覆其體。程氏不省此事,婢詳述放鼈之首末,云今比昔日,其大倍加,視尾後穿竅猶存。於是涸池取得之,因送諸深潭。程舉家戒不復食。嘗有名醫云:「熱證之極,卒未可解者,汲新水浸衣裳互熨之為妙。」不謂水族細類亦能如此,蓋陰德所招故也。

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).