Unfilial Service To In-Laws 事姑不孝

The mother of Li Sheng, of Xingzhou, was old and somewhat blind, and Li Sheng served her with great filial piety. Whenever he went out, he worried that his wife, née Jin, might fail to serve her properly, so always repeated his instructions to her several times, only setting off after he had done so. The lady Jin did not heed her husband’s advice, and did not observe the proper manners. His mother complained and grumbled about her a great deal, and Jin resented this. When she was preparing to bake shaobing biscuits to give to her mother-in-law, she noticed that dung from their baby son lay next to her. Jin took this and added it to the flour of the biscuit filling. Li’s mother had eaten half of the biscuit when she became aware if a horrible smell and could eat no more, leaving the rest and waiting for her son to return. When Li arrived, he saw that his mother had been fed with filth, so took up a cane and beat Jin until she fled, vanishing into the distance. Suddenly, a disembodied voice reported: “Yesterday the fugitive entered the King Guan Temple.” When Li Sheng went to the temple, he saw a dog lying beneath the offerings table, glowering so fiercely he did not dare approach. He then called for Jin’s mother and father to come and see, at which the hound wept streams of tears and explained: “I ought not to have served up filth to my mother-in-law in such an unfilial manner. When I entered the temple I suddenly turned into a dog!” Several days later she died.

Long ago there was a woman called A Li, whose son travelled for trade, sometimes not returning for years at a time. Her daughter-in-law, Qisao, stayed in the home. Whenever this woman cooked she prepared two dishes; coarse grains for her mother-in-law, but white rice for herself. Li was troubled by the woman’s disobedience, but had to endure her insults. Even accepting the inedible meals presented to her, as Li did not dare speak up. One day the wife went to a neighbouring house, leaving her mother-in-law at home. A monk came holding his alms bowl and begging for rice, but Li said: “I can’t fill my own belly! How can I give alms?” When the monk pointed to the white rice in the kitchen, Li said: “That is what my daughter-in-law Qisao eats. I daren’t give that away. I worry that she would certainly humiliate and insult me when she comes back. I had coarse rice for my breakfast, and have a little left over to prepare for lunch; you could take that.” Before the monk could answer, they heard Qisao arrive outside. When the woman saw the monk eating, she said, quite furiously: “If you want my white rice, you should take off your kasaya robe[1] and hand it over in exchange.” The monk then removed his robe. As the younger woman picked it up, the monk suddenly [21] vanished. The kasaya wrapped around her body and turned into cowhide. Imprisoned within, she could not take it off. A growth of cow hairs grew across the chest opening, and, gradually, body, head, face, all transformed. Her parents were hastily summoned, but when they arrived she had entirely transformed into an ox!

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前1.20-21 (Tale 35)

事姑不孝

邢州李生母,年老目盲,李生事之至孝。每出外,慮其妻金氏侍奉有闕,必再三囑付之而後往。金氏不聽夫語,不盡禮,母甚埋怨,金氏憤之。恰值燒餅欲進母,傍有小兒阿糞,金氏乃以麵裹糞為餅餡以進,母食既半,覺臭穢不可食,遂留以待兒歸。李生歸,見其以穢物食母,持杖擊之,金氏奔走,尋邏不見。忽有人報云:「昨日奔入關王廟中。」李生入廟,見一狗伏於案下,睜目不敢親近。遂呼金氏父母來看,此狗流涕自稱曰:「我不合以穢物奉姑不孝,忽入廟中化為狗矣!」數日而卒。

昔有婦人阿李,有子出外經商,累年不歸,止有兒婦七嫂在家。婦每飯則兩炊,姑飯以麥,婦自白飯。李稍與婦忤,必受辱罵,至於麥飯亦不進食,李忍辱而不敢言。一日婦往鄰家,留姑守舍,有僧持缽至門乞飯,李曰:「我自不能飽,安有捨施!」僧指廚中白飯,李曰:「此我兒婦七嫂自吃底,我不敢以施人,恐歸必辱罵我。我但有早食麥飯,尚有一合留備午餉,如用即取去。」僧未答,聞七嫂外歸。婦見僧乞飯,大怒曰:「汝要我白飯,可脫袈裟換。」僧即脫下。婦纔披之,僧忽 [21] 不見,袈裟著身變為牛皮,牢不可脫,胸閭先生牛毛一片,漸變身體頭面。急執其父母至,則全身化為牛矣!

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)

[1] On this robe, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kasaya_(clothing).

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A Dog-Headed Bride 狗頭新婦

When Jia Dan[1] was serving as commander of Huazhou, in Suanzao County there was a common woman who served a lady but showed her no respect. Because the lady was extremely old, and could see through neither of her eyes, when it came to her breakfast, the woman placed dog dung among the food and gave it to the lady. The lady having eaten this, her qi became abnormal. Her son having returned from travelling to distant parts, the lady asked her son: “What is this stuff? That woman gave it to me to eat.” Her son raised his face to heaven and gave a great howl. After a little while, [5] a lightning bolt came down, and it was as if someone had severed her head and replaced it with that of a dog. Jia ordered she be led into the county, and reported as one lacking filial respect. People at the time called her the ‘dog-headed bride’.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.4-5 (Tale 31):

狗頭新婦

賈耽為滑州節度,酸棗縣有俚婦事姑不敬,故年甚老,無雙目,旦食,婦以食裏納犬糞授姑。故食之,覺有異氣。其子出遠還,故問其子:「此何物?向者婦與吾食。」其子仰天大哭。有頃, [5] 雷電發,若有人截婦首,以犬續之。耽令牽行於境內,以告不孝者。時人謂之「狗頭新婦」。

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)

[1] Jia Dan 賈耽, courtesy name Dunshi 敦詩, 730-805 CE, a geographer and prime minister under the Tang. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jia_Dan.

The Shaoyang Cowherd 韶陽牧牛人

In Shaoyang there was a cowherd, and one morning a cow licked his arm, leaving it brilliant white in colour. This delighted him, so he stripped off and told the cow to lick him everywhere, becoming white all over. Within several days the cowherd died of a sudden illness. His family felt hate over the matter, killing the cow, and summoning the entire village to eat it together. Those who ate numbered several dozen in all, and they all died in a single evening.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.4 (Tale 28):

韶陽牧牛人

韶陽有一人牧牛,一旦,牛舐其臂,而色皎白。此人樂之,即袒其體,令牛遍舐,皆白。其人數日間暴卒。其家恨,殺此牛,召村社同食之。凡食者數十人,一夕同卒。

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)

Envy Drowns Sons and Grandsons 妒溺子孫

Li Zhengzou had a daughter-in-law from the Zhao family, who was extremely fierce. She had a son, but on reaching the age of seven he lacked intelligence and Li was extremely disappointed. His son had four concubines, all of whom became pregnant, and the old man said: “Even if I have ten grandchildren, educate them, do not drown them.” When Zhao heard this she became extremely resentful. Waiting until the old man and her husband left, Zhao called for the concubines and rebuked them, asking who had made them pregnant. The concubines said: “The old master.” Zhao said: “If you say that the master got you pregnant, you will be given a heavy flogging and married out to live among the distant wastes, going without money or clothing. If you say that it was a servant, you will then be spared a beating, you will be married out in a good place, and receive generous gifts.” The concubines were afraid and falsely identified this and that person among the servants. When the old man returned with her husbands, Zhao went straight up and reported this. The old man was unable to investigate, so took them at their word and dismissed them. The four servants were all reprimanded, and he urged the concubines to marry and give birth after, and then not to rear those children. The concubines followed these words, and drowned them. Not many years later, Li died early, and his grandsons also died young. When the lady Zhao died she went without inner and outer coffins, and was almost exposed in the grave. The Li household was affected by the lady Zhao’s jealousy to the point of childlessness, alas! An intelligent woman would never act in such a manner.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.101 (Tale 173):

妒溺子孫

李正奏子婦趙氏,極悍。得一子,至七歲不慧,李甚不滿。子有四妾皆孕,翁曰:「若有十孫,育之不溺。(「溺」原作「潛」據元刻本改。)」趙聞之憤甚。伺翁與夫俱出,趙呼妾責之,問其所孕。妾曰:「主人翁也。」趙曰:「爾謂主孕,必痛撻汝,遠嫁荒惡,行無資裝。若指為僕所有,仍免痛撻,汝(「汝」,元刻本作「且」。)適好處,厚有所贈。」妾懼而妄指為僕某人、某人所有。及翁與夫歸,趙直以告。翁不能察,遂信其說,屏之。四僕俱斥,且囑其妾,嫁後有子,毋育此子。妾從其言,溺之。不數年,李先亡,孫亦早喪,趙氏死無棺槨,幾至暴露。李氏一門,為趙氏妒孕而致絕嗣,哀哉!有識之婦,幸毋倣此可也。

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).