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)

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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.

Warnings Against Eating Beef 戒食牛肉

During the Zhiyuan era (1264-94), a Director-General Sun was assigned to Shaozhou. On reaching the river he climbed into a boat, but was blown around by a great gale, finally arriving at a place with a huge mountain. He did not recognise the place, but a navigable path led across the peak. Sun strolled off up the mountain, and saw that there was a large gate. Examining this in the distance, behind the gate were corridors, wings and chambers like those of a government office. The gate guards stopped him, saying: “This is where the sin and merit of the human world is investigated and compared; what business brings you here?” Sun reported to them how he been appointed to Shaozhou and how his boat had encountered the gale, and wished to enter the hall and have a look; the guards led him inside. Stepping in the door he saw a large hall, with superiors sitting in large numbers and extremely strict guards in the lower hall. To the side of the hall was a door, with different guards, all of whom had the fanged faces of spirits, and they would not let him enter. The guards said: “That is the jail. All those who kill cattle and eat their flesh are imprisoned there.” Sun’s uncle had, in life, enjoyed eating beef, so he gave them his family and personal name and asked about him. The guards said: “He’s there. It was once said that your uncle had eaten seven hundred jin (one jin is about 500g) of beef, an unpardonable crime.” Sun earnestly begged the guard to lead him to the chief clerk so he could plead for his uncle. The clerk said: “Your uncle ate seven hundred jin of cow flesh, so his karmic sins are extremely heavy. Moreover, you too have taken pleasure in eating beef; the authorities of the nether world are limiting your lifespan, too; you will only accrue one term of office at Shaozhou.” Sun pleaded once again, now in order to save himself, and after a long time the clerk said: “If, when you take up your post at Shaozhou, you can command a halt to the slaughter of cattle, leading five hundred households to stop eating beef, your uncle will be allowed life in human heaven, and your lifespan will be extended.” Gentleman Sun accepted this command and left, descending the mountain and, on launching his boat, looked back, but the mountain could not be seen. On arriving at his post, his first action was to prohibit the slaughter of cattle; he also travelled widely urging people not to eat beef. More than half a year later, one night his uncle reported to him in a dream: “The governor says that you have prevented the slaughter of cattle, extending many lives, and have also urged seven hundred households to stop eating beef. Your merit is extremely great and the deities praise you. I have achieved life in human heaven, and your lifespan will also be extended.”

 

Sheng Zhao of Qinglongzhen had held a hundred banquets in all, having always to kill and butcher a cow; cooking with skill he ate without restraint. One day, someone knocked on his door; when Sheng Zhao opened it himself and went out to look, he saw a servant bringing him a bamboo slip. He opened it to look, finding writing in large characters: “The Six Domestic Animals are all the work of previous lives (in the reincarnatory process); the ox alone faces bitter toil. If one looks at those meeting a violent end, [98] they are all eaters of beef.” He read it three times, by which time the person who gave it to him had vanished. Sheng Zhao was shocked and alarmed, and from then on abstained from eating beef.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.97-98 (tale 166):

戒食牛肉

至元年間,有孫總管韶州任,江次登舟,為大風飄揚至一所,有巨山,莫知何地,有山徑可行。孫信步登山,見有大門,望之,門內廊廡廳舍如官府狀。守門者止之,曰:「考較人間罪福去處,爾何事至此?」孫以赴韶州任舟行遇風告之,並欲入廳舍遊觀,守者引進。入門見一大殿,有主者廣坐,殿下侍衛甚嚴。殿旁有一門,另有守者,皆狼牙鬼面,不許進。守者曰:「此獄也。陽世殺牛食肉者,皆囚於此。」孫之舅在世亦好食牛肉,並以姓名問之。守者曰:「有之。曾聞汝舅食牛肉七百斤,罪不可宥。」孫力禱守者,託之引見主吏禱之,吏曰:「爾舅食牛肉七百斤,罪業至重,況爾亦喜食牛肉,陰司亦減爾壽算,隻滿韶州一任矣。」孫再禱以求救之由,吏良久曰:「汝到任若能禁殺牛命,善誘五百家不食牛肉,爾舅得生人天,亦延爾壽。」孫公領命而離,下山即登舟,回視亦失山矣。及到任,首以宰牛為禁,並廣行勸人不食牛肉。踰半年,夜夢舅報曰:「主者云爾禁殺牛,延命亦多,曾勸到七百家不食牛肉,功德浩大,神明交讚。我得生天,汝亦延壽矣。」

秀州青龍鎮盛肇,凡百筵會,必殺牛取肉,巧作庖饌,恣啖為樂。一日,有扣門者,盛肇自啟門出視,見一蒼頭授以青簡,展而視之,乃大字書云:「六畜皆前業,惟牛最苦辛。但看橫死者, [98] 盡是食牛人。」讀之三過,人與簡俱亡。盛肇驚駭,自是戒食牛肉。

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).