Entering Water, Saving Mother 赴水救母

When Su Song (1020-1101)[1] was Governor of Wuzhou, his mother, Lady of the Wei Realm, boarded a boat to visit him at his place of work, and the gentleman had set out to meet her. While going upstream on the Xiang River, they encountered a rapid torrent, and the boat turned side-on to the flow and threatened to capsize. The gentleman cried out, and without fear of the water swam out to save her. Before long, the boat suddenly recovered its alignment, allowing the lady to climb onto the bank. It then capsized. It is certain that, moved by his earnest filial piety, the spirits acted to shield and support her; this is the only explanation of this occurrence.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前1.18 (Tale 29):

赴水救母

蘇頌知婺州日,其母魏國夫人方乘舟而來任所,公往迎迓。偶泝湘江,水暴迅,舟橫欲覆,公哀號,不懼水漲,赴水救之。未及,舟忽自正,及夫人甫出抵岸,舟乃覆。信知孝誠所感,神物護持,方能至此。

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 the polymath Su Song 蘇頌, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Su_Song.

 

Crocodiles 骨雷

Crocodiles come from the realm of Funan, being two or three zhang in length (i.e. 10 to 13 metres), with four feet, like a gecko in shape. They frequently swallow people whole, and the princes of Funan order people to catch these fish and place them in their moats, so that criminals can be thrown to them. If they are worthy of death, the crocodiles will eat them; if they are without guilt, this will be scented and they will not be eaten. Crocodiles are also called hulei; bears are able to control them, grasping their snouts and dragging them to the bank, then pulling them apart and eating them. Also known as gulei, they transform into tigers in autumn, having three talons, and issue forth from the two prefectures Si and Lei in Nanhai; Yingpan Village in Linhai has many of them.

From Zhiwenji.

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), x, 464.3822:

骨雷

扶南國出鱷魚。大者二三丈。四足。似守宮狀。常生吞人。扶南王令人捕此魚。置於塹中。以罪人投之。若合死。鱷魚乃食之。無罪者。嗅而不食。鱷魚別號忽雷。熊能制之。握其觜至岸。裂擘食之。一名骨雷。秋化為虎。三爪。出南海思雷二州。臨海英潘村多有之。

出洽聞記

Repairing Ships, Increasing Longevity 修船增壽

In the bingyin year of the Song Xianchun era (1266), the Administrative Inspector for Linchuan, Nuan Weidao, a scholar of Shu, reported that his region had two stony paths separated by a river whose waters ran fast and wild through all four seasons. Further down there was a deep abyss, and only at that place was it possible to cross, although year in and year out those who drowned there were very numerous, as their small boats struck rocks and sank. A person called Xu Zongren decided to build a large vessel, bound with iron plates at both ends, personally hiring punt-hands who were dedicated to serving passing travellers and committed to performing virtuous works in order to accrue merit. It happened that a Person of the Way called at his gate and praised this order, addressing Xu: “The gentleman’s lifespan is restricted to [112] thirty-two, and ends this year.” On the evening of his birthday, he dreamed that he arrived at a government office, seeing a prince seated high in the hall, with three or four hundred spirits before the gates in wet robes, who presented a scroll to the prince: “Xu Zongren has saved many lives from death, with the utmost merit; we beg that husband and wife should enjoy long life, their descendants receive glory and high rank. The multitude wait only for the Zhongyuan festival; they will then cross the worldly bounds.” The prince gestured to his retinue, and with the following words instructed Zongren: “Special Extension by three ages.” He awoke and marvelled at this. From then on he found wholehearted joy in doing good works. Two of his sons and three of his grandsons served as officials. When Zongren died, people erected a hall for offerings by the side of the crossing, and it stands to this day.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.111-12 (Tale 194):

修船增壽

宋咸淳丙寅,臨川錄參暖昧道,蜀士也,嘗言其鄉有兩石嶠夾出一江,四時皆湍急,下則深淵,惟此處可以立渡,常年溺死者甚衆,蓋船小觸石即碎。有徐宗仁發心造一巨舟,兩頭裹以鐵葉,自僱篙手,專一撐過客人,且建善緣以薦亡者。忽有道人登門稱善命,謂徐曰:「公壽止得三 [112] 十二,止在今年。」生日之夕,夢至官府,見王者坐於堂上,而門首溼衣之鬼約三四百人,執一卷投於王前:「徐宗仁濟生拔死,功德莫大,乞與夫妻壽考,子孫榮貴,衆等只俟中元,即超淨界。」 王者指左右,以此詞示宗仁,云:「特延三紀。」覺而異之。自此一心好善樂施。二子、三孫,後有為官者。宗仁死,人為立祠於渡側,至今尚存。

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)

Release A Dragon, Receive A Reward 放龍獲報

On the bank of the Lu River Li Yuan saw a small scarlet snake. Less than a chi in length, it was being harassed by a shepherd boy. Yuan bought it with a hundred cash, and released it among the thick vegetation. The following year, he was crossing the Long Bridge[1] again, and saw the Jinshi scholar Zhu Jun coming to call on him, saying: “Jun lives just a few hundred paces from the end of the bridge; their Excellency sends an invitation, if you will pardon me and sit.” Leading him to sit together in a boat, they travelled to a mountain, with richly decorated buildings and halls, all very tightly guarded. Presently, a person wearing a tall hat and ceremonial robes summoned Yuan, saying: “Our young son suffered misfortune and almost died at the hands of a mischievous boy; his humble life depended on the gentleman’s help.” Turning to Jun he ordered that he bow again, and then ordered a banquet be laid out, mixing products of land and sea, saying: “I am a fish of the southern seas; having achieved merit in life, the Heavenly Emperor decreed that I reside here, styling me Anliu Wang. I have a young servant, with the childhood name Yunjie, and I now present her to you; if you accept her, she will be of help.” Yuan therefore did not depart. He subsequently went to sit the civil examinations; when the test was due on the following day, Yunjie stealthily obtained the exam questions; Yuan then prepared his composition in advance, and, on entering the examination hall, felt great satisfaction, achieved great success and a recommendation as an imperial scholar. Yunjie said goodbye to him, saying: “I have obeyed the prince’s order and dare not stay long.” A poem of parting read:

Six years here to repay deep benevolence,

Saying farewell to the aquatic realm and the region of fish.

None say that newly-weds should be parted again,

All wish to share ancient love with new people.

Li Yuan was thus newly married at that time.

**uncertain translation**

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.118 (Tale 205):

放龍獲報

李元於吳江岸見小朱蛇,長不滿尺,為牧童所困。元以百錢買之,放於茂草中。明年,再經長橋,有進士朱浚來謁見,曰:「浚居橋尾數百步耳,大人遣奉召,幸恕坐。」邀同舟,至一山,樓殿寶飾,侍衛甚嚴。俄一人高冠道服,引元坐:曰:「小兒不幸,幾死頑童之手,賴君子活此微命。」顧浚令再拜,乃命置酒,水陸交錯,曰:「吾乃南海之鱗,有功於世,天帝詔居此,封安流王。吾有小奴,小字雲姐,今於贈子,子納之,當得其助。」元乃別去。後赴禮闈,明日當試,雲姐私入竊所試題目出,元乃檢閱宿構,入試,大得意,高捷薦名登科。雲姐告辭曰:「奉王命不敢久留。」作詩別曰:「六年於此報深恩,水國魚鄉是去程。莫謂初婚又相別,都將舊愛與新人。」時李元新娶故也。

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)

[1] An ancient structure in Jiangsu Province.

The Xiao of Geshan 閣山𤡔

In the xinmao year of the Gandao era (1171 CE), no rain fell in Raozhou for a very long time, and the rivers’ flow was blocked. Three fishermen of Geshan Route went empty-handed to the Fan River to catch fish. Two went ahead, but one of them felt his two thighs suddenly turn cold as ice, feeling a slight trace of saliva, and, terrified lest there be the lair of a xiao beneath him, scrambled out urgently.[1] One person alone did not see this and, having told his family he would provide for them, stayed to return at dusk. Two days later, his corpse floated some five li distant, with a fist-sized hole below the left thigh, the whole body entirely white, that being due to a xiao having curled around it and sucked his blood. In shape the xiao is just like an eel, eight or nine chi in length (c.2.7m), and is a kind of flood dragon. Among the Geshan populace, one Li Shi once caught one of these.

Hong Mai, Yi Jian Zhi, ii, 丙17.509

閣山𤡔

亁道辛卯歲,饒州久不雨,江流皆澁。閣山道漁者三人,空手入番江捕魚。二人先出,其一覺兩股忽冷如冰,微有涎沫,懼𤡔穴其下,故急出。獨一人不見,告其家守之,至暮而還。後二日,尸浮於五里外,左股下一穴如拳大,舉體皆白,蓋為𤡔所繞而吮其血也。𤡔狀全與鰻鱺魚同,長至八九尺,亦蛟類也。閣山民李十嘗捕得之。

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] The character xiao 𤡔 is treated by the MOE dictionary of character variants as a variation on xiao 梟 ‘owl’, but this story clearly indicates a rather interesting and different aquatic nature for the creature in question. See http://dict2.variants.moe.edu.tw/yitia/fra/fra01951.htm.

Han Huang’s Clear Judgement 韓滉明察

Han Huang, Duke Jin (727-87 CE) was garrisoning Zhexi, his orders followed far and wide. At that time, Chen Shaoyou was military governor for Huainan, and when, in governing the populace, he had a case he was unable to straighten out, he went to call on Duke Jin, who would always resolve it. The revenue from Zheyou was sent across the river in a boat, but this was sunk by raging waves. When the boatman recruited people to dredge it up, they couldn’t find two strings of coins, so the populace had to make up the numbers. Jin went in person to the crossing, led an inspection, and then made a demand of the river spirits, indicating the money and saying: “This is dry money; it is not for those in the water to take.” He asked the clerk, and the clerk replied in confirmation. He again spoke to the shame of the matter. Suddenly the two strings of coins bobbed up on the wavetops, so he then plucked them out.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.9 (Tale 63):

韓滉明察

韓晉公滉鎮浙西,威令大行。時陳少游為淮南節度,理民有寃不得伸者,往詣晉公,必據而平之。浙右進錢,船渡江,為驚濤所溺。篙工募人漉出,二緡不得,衆以錢填其數。滉自至津,部視之,乃責江神,因指其錢曰:「此錢乾,非水中得之者。」問吏,吏具實對。復挩詞詬。俄然二緡浮出波上,遂以取之。

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)

Riding A Raft, Reaching The Heavenly Crossing 乘槎至天津

Hai Ruo[1] lived on an island in the sea, and every year on the eighth month a raft floated past on the currents. This continued for years without fail. Someone provisioned a raft and set off, arriving at a place where they saw a person watering cattle in a river. There was also a weaving woman,[2] and when they asked her what place it was, her cattle-watering father spoke: “You should go back and ask Yan Junping of Shu;[3] he ought to know.” The person returned and called on Junping. Junping said: “On such-and-such a day, month and year, a comet crossed into the Big Dipper and Altair. Having calculated the dates, it must have been you.” The person then realized that, floating with the current, their raft had reached the Heavenly Crossing.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.1 (Tale 2):

乘槎至天津

海若居海島,每至八月即有流槎過。如是,累年不失期。其人齎糧槎而往,及至一處,見有人飲牛於河,又見織女,問其處,飲牛之父曰:「可歸問蜀嚴君平,當知之。」其人歸,詣君平。君平曰:「某年月日,有客星犯斗牛,計時,即汝也。」其人乃知隨流槎至天津。

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] Hai Ruo 海若 is a spirit of the sea. See https://baike.baidu.com/item/%E6%B5%B7%E8%8B%A5/9723235.

[2] This ‘weaving woman’ signifies Vega, brightest star in the Lyra constellation.

[3] Yan Junping 嚴君平 (86 BCE -10CE) was a famous Daoist scholar from Sichuan. See https://baike.baidu.com/item/%E4%B8%A5%E5%90%9B%E5%B9%B3.