Not Taking Other’s Property 不取他物

Yang Zhongfeng Cun was from Bantang, in Jishui. In the eighth year of the Song Yuanfeng era (1085 CE), he was going to the provincial capital Kaifeng, and stayed in a traveller’s hostel in Xizhou. When he lay down, he became aware of something between mat and bed and which stuck into his [109] back; when he uncovered and looked at it this turned out to be salt production certificates to 20,000 yin in value. The following day, he asked the host: “Who stayed here the previous evening?” The host replied: “A great Huaidian merchant, surnamed such-and-such, was the guest.” The gentleman said: “He is an old acquaintance; if he returns, tell him I’m staying on such-and-such a road, with such-and-such a family.” He also wrote large characters on the wall, reading: “On such-and-such a year, month and day, Yang Cun of Luling stayed here.” He then went on his way. Before many days had passed, the merchant did indeed follow his former route, searching everywhere for it. When he reached the village to rest, the landlord told him about the gentleman, taking him to see the words he had written on the wall, after which he set off to the capital to visit the gentleman. The gentleman said: “So it turns out to be yours then! We should inform the authorities so they can return it to you.” The merchant said: “As you instruct.” The gentleman asked the officials to give all of it to the merchant, but the officials divided it in two halves. The gentleman said: “Had your servant wanted it, he could already have possessed it all merely by staying quiet.” The merchant had no option, so relinquished several hundred strings of coins to fund meals at the Xiangguo Monastery in the capital, in order to pray for the gentleman’s good fortune. That year, the gentleman was included on the list of imperial examination graduates. He rose through the government ranks up to Grand Master of Palace Service, and his sons and grandsons achieved great eminence.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.108-9 (Tale 188):

不取他物

楊中奉存,吉水湴塘人。宋元豐八年,赴省開封,宿息州旅舍。既卧,覺牀席間有物礙其 [109] 背,揭視之,乃鹽鈔二萬引。明日,詢主人曰:「前夕何人宿此?」主人曰:「淮甸一巨商某姓客也。」公曰:「此吾故人,設其人回,可與之言,吾在某坊某人家安歇。」又大書於所宿之房曰:「某年月日,廬陵楊存寓此。」遂行。不數日,商人果從故道,處處物色之。至息邨,主人以公言告,且使自觀壁間所書,乃徑去京師訪公。公曰:「果汝物耶!當聞之官以歸汝。」商曰:「如教。」公請府悉以授商,府使中分之。公曰:「使某欲之,前日奄為已有,泯默不言矣。」商不能強,乃捐數百緡,就京師相國寺設齋,為公祈福。是年,公中焦蹈榜下。歷官至中奉大夫,子孫貴顯。

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).

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Secret Virtue Makes A Number One Scholar 陰騭狀元

Ping Jing, courtesy name Dangshi, was from Xianning in Ezhou. His father was a merchant, and, when he was in the prime of life but lacking children, he was about to depart for the capital when his wife gave him several silver tablets and said: “The gentleman does not yet have a son; take these as the means to buy a concubine.” When he reached the capital, he bought a concubine, drew up a contract and paid over the money. When he asked the concubine where she came from, she shed tears but refused to speak. When he asked her more firmly, she then said her father held office, but, having suffered shortfalls in his transported goods, had sold her into concubinage as a plan to repay the losses. Grieved by this, he could not bear to touch her, and sent her back to her father, without insisting on the return of his money. When he returned, his wife asked: “Where is the concubine you bought?” He told her the whole story. His wife said: “If the gentleman uses his heart like this, why worry about lacking a son?” Several months later, his wife became pregnant. When the due date drew near, the villagers dreamt that the air was filled with drumming and trumpeting, greeting the number one scholar arriving at the Ping household. The next morning, Jing was born. Taking delight in reading, he came first (yuan) in the provincial examinations, came first (yuan) in the metropolitan examination, and achieved first place (yuan) in the overall ranking; his contemporaries called him ‘Ping Three-Yuan’.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前 2.108 (Tale 187):

陰騭狀元

馮京,字當世,鄂州咸寧人。其父商也,壯歲無子,將如京師,其妻授以白金數笏,曰:「君未有子,可以此為買妾之資。」及至京師,買一妾,立券償錢矣。問妾所自來,涕泣不肯言。固問之,乃言其父有官,因綱運欠折,鬻妾以為賠償之計。遂惻然不忍犯,遣還其父,不索其錢。及歸,妻問:「買妾安在?」具告以故。妻曰:「君用心如此,何患無子!」居數月,妻有娠。將誕,里人皆夢鼓吹喧闐迎狀元至馮家。次早,生京。喜讀書,領舉為解元,省試為省元,登第為狀元,世號為馮三元。

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).

Han Gan Paints Horses 韓幹畫馬

Han Gan[1] of the Tang was skilled at painting horses. While he was leading a quiet life at home, a person suddenly appeared, arriving wearing a black hat and red robe. Gan asked him: “What brings you here?” He replied: “I am an agent of the nether world. I heard that the gentleman is skilled at painting horses, and hoped to be granted one.” Gan erected a painting and burned it. Several days later he went out, and somebody bowed to him in thanks, saying: “Having benefited from the gentleman’s kindness, I have been spared the pain of trudging through hill and water, and you will also receive a reward for this service.” The following day, somebody brought a hundred bolts of white silk, not knowing where it had come from; Gan accepted and used it.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.19 (Tale 98):

韓幹畫馬

唐韓幹善畫馬,閑居之際,忽有一人,玄冠朱衣而至。幹問曰:「何緣及此?」對曰:「我鬼使也。聞君善畫良馬,願賜一匹。」幹立畫焚之。數日因出,有人揖而謝曰:「蒙君惠駿足,免為山水跋涉之苦,亦有以酬效。」明日,有人送素縑百匹,不知其來,幹收而用之。

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] On Han Gan韓幹 (c. 706-783), see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Han_Gan.

Zhang Baocang Achieves Eminence Through Medicine 張寶藏因醫致貴

During the Tang Zhenguan era (627-49 CE), Zhang Baocang was returning to Yueyang after ending his duty as Chief Secretary to the Imperial Guard, when he encountered a youth hunting and eating fresh meat in the wilds. Leaning against a tree he let out a long sigh and said: “Zhang Baocang is aged seventy and has never once had meat and wine like this; what a shame!” By his side there was a monk, who pointed and said: “Within sixty days, you will ascend to the third official grade; how is this something to sigh over?” When he finished speaking, he vanished. Baocang marvelled at this, and immediately returned to the capital. At that time Taizong (r. 626-49 CE) was suffering terribly with dysentery, and a crowd of physicians had no effect, so a decree was promulgated asking whether anyone in the court or retinue had the ability to treat the illness, promising them a rich reward. Baocang had once suffered from the same disease, so prepared a memorial to the throne in answer to the decree, prescribing beans simmered in milk. The emperor took it, and recovered instantly. A decree was passed down to the minister of state appointing him to the fifth official grade. Wei Wei obstructed this, so for more than a month he did not advance any plans. The emperor’s illness recurred, and he asked his retinue: “I previously took beans simmered in milk and this was effective.” He again ordered them to bring him forward, and after a single sip was cured once more. The emperor asked: “I had ordered to award him advancement to grade five, but have not seen him accept the post; why is this?” Wei was afraid, and said: “At the time the decree was issued, it was not clear whether this would be a military or civil branch of the clerks.” The emperor grew angry: “For governing we require a chancellor; we might as well appoint him to the third grade. I am the Son of Heaven; how can this not be up to me?” He therefore said in a loud voice: “Granted civil office in the third grade!” He stood and was appointed Minister for Protocol, and that was exactly sixty days later.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.13 (Tale 74):

張寶藏因醫致貴

唐貞觀中,張寶藏為金吾長史嘗因下直歸櫟陽,路逢少年畋獵,割鮮野食。倚樹長歎曰:「張寶藏身年七十,未嘗得一食酒肉如此者,可悲哉!」傍有一僧,指曰:「六十日內,官登三品,何足歎也。」言訖不見。寶藏異之,即時還京。時太宗苦病痢疾,衆醫不效,即下詔問殿廷左右,有能治此疾者,當重賞之。寶藏曾困此疾,即具疏答詔,以乳煎蓽方進。上服之,立瘥。宣下宰臣:與五品官。魏微難之,逾月不進擬。上疾復作,問左右曰:「吾前服乳煎蓽茇有效。」復令進之,一啜又平復。上問曰:「嘗令與進方人五品官,不見除授,何也?」徵懼曰:「奉詔之際,未知文武二吏。」上怒曰:「治得宰相,不妨授三品;我天子也,豈不及汝邪?」乃厲聲曰:「與三品文官!」立授鴻臚卿,時正六十日矣。

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)

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)

Li Ji’s Daughter 李勣女

In the first year Zhenguan (627 CE), Li Ji’s (594-669 CE)[1] beloved daughter died, and she was buried at Bei Mang, with a servant’s cottage built next to the tomb. One day, the daughter suddenly appeared to the servant and said: “I did not die in the first place, but was rather stolen away by the spirit of a great tree. Now, the spirit having left on a pilgrimage to Xiyue, I have therefore managed to run away. I knew that you were here, so I came. I have already been parted from my parents, and returning from this would be humiliating, so I cannot go back. If you hide me, I can reward you with great wealth.” The servant was flabbergasted, but eventually agreed, and built another room for her. The girl sometimes left at dawn to return at dusk, sometimes left at nightfall to return at dawn, her every step like the wind. A month later, she suddenly brought ten jin of gold (about 5 kg) as a gift, and the servant accepted it. When he went to sell it, however, the family who had lost it seized the servant to report the matter. The governor of Luoyang was determined to get to the bottom of the matter, so the servant told the full story. When they followed him to seize her, the girl had already gone, and the remaining gold had all turned into yellow rock. (Taken from the Sunxianglu).

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, 327.2601:

李勣女

貞觀元年,李勣愛女卒,葬北邙,使家僮廬於墓側。一日,女子忽詣家僮曰:「我本不死,被大樹之神竊我。今值其神出朝西嶽,故得便奔出。知爾在此,是以來。我已離父母,復有此辱恥,不可歸。幸爾匿我,我能以致富報爾。」家僮駭愕,良久乃許,遂別置一室。其女或朝出暮至,或夜出曉來,行步如風。一月後,忽携黃金十斤以賜,家僮受之。出賣數兩,乃民家所失,主者執家僮以告。洛陽令推窮其由,家僮具述此事,及追取,此女已失,其餘金盡化為黃石焉。(出《孫相錄》,陳校本作出《瀟湘錄》)

[1] This seems likely to be Li Shiji 李世勣 (594-669), courtesy name Maogong 懋功, posthumously known as Duke Zhenwu of Ying 英貞武公. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Li_Shiji.

The Celestial Master Executes A Turtle 天師斬黿

In the wuxu year of the Dade era (1298), there was an ancient dyke at the southern fringe of the various prefectures’ salt production offices. The dyke was thirty li from the sea, but the ground extending from it was very alkaline and the swell of the tide eroded the dyke every year, flooding the salt-works. The power of the sea encroached upon the prefectural capital, and when news of this reached the government office, they built up the dyke across more than two hundred zhang (660m), but within three days it had collapsed again. Everyone said that water demons had caused the damage, and that this was not something people could repair. The provincial council informed the Department of State Affairs, who respectfully received the letter and courteously invited the thirty-eighth Celestial Master to hurry and visit Hangzhou. At that time the provincial officials combined to make five days of offerings, day and night, beginning from the first day of the fifth month (10 June, 1298). When these offerings were finished, the Celestial Master sent a Master of the Law on board a boat, to throw an iron tally into the river. Initially the iron tally bounced and leapt among the waves, but after a moment it sank, wind, thunder, lightning and fog circling and winding around it. The following day they looked at the river and saw the sand rising through the day, and the dyke returned to its previous form, rising out of the river’s centre. In a depression on the sand there was a strange thing, killed by a lightning strike upon it, and more than two zhang (6.6m) across, shaped like a soft-shelled turtle, but bearing a shell. The provincial office sent a memorial to the court upon hearing of it, and they received lofty and generous commendation and reward.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.163 (Tale 283):

天師斬黿

大德戊戌年,鹽官州州南瀕古塘,塘距海三十里,地橫亙皆斥鹵,比年潮汐衝齧,鹽場陷焉。海勢侵逼州治,州以事聞於省府,復加修築塘岸二百餘丈,不三日復圮,皆謂水怪為害,非人力能復。省咨都省聞奏,欽奉玉音,禮請卅八代天師馳驛詣杭州。時合省官僚,以五月朔就佑聖觀建醮五晝夜。醮畢,天師遣法師乘船,投鐵符于江。初則鐵符跳躍浪中,食頃方沉,風雷電霧旋繚(「繚」,明刻本作「遶」。)于中。明日視之,沙漲日增,堤岸復舊,江心突起。沙湫中有異物,為雷殛死于上,廣二丈長許,狀如黿,有殼。省府聞奏于朝,崇(「崇」,明刻本作「榮」。)錫旌賞。

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).