Accepting Bribes to Kill 受賂殺人

The Song examination scholar and local official Lu Yi served in the Investigation Office to the Left Tribunal. There was a prisoner who had been sentenced to be flogged very hard, but, accepting bribes from a powerful family, Lu unlawfully had him sliced to death. Yi was dismissed due to this crime, his household impoverished and dressed in rags. Moreover, when Yi found employment as an assistant scribe to the prince, the dead prisoner followed him as a wronged soul. When Lu was in the office copying, and whenever he encountered darkness or rain, he often saw [123] him stood before him, addressing him and saying: “You will go soon, and I will return.” Due to this he became dazed and confused, and after several years starved and died.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前1.22-23 (Tale 214):


宋秀才胥吏陸儀,充左院推司。有一辟囚當杖死,被勢家用錢賂之,法外陵遲至死。儀被罪廢,家貧,鶉衣百結,又充王儀案貼書,已死之囚,冤魂隨之。陸在司中寫發,每遇陰雨,常見 [123] 立於前,對語之曰:「汝且去,我自會來。」自此精神恍惚,至數年,飢餓而死。

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).


Game Pieces and Needles in the Flesh 肉有棋針

Long ago the reclusive scholar Kuai Liang said: “An acquaintance was suffering from a tumour on the forehead; the physician, having cut it open, found a qi (a chess-like game) piece of black stone; even when struck with a heavy axe it could not be damaged. Again, there was one whose shin grew into a tumour; because, having been bitten by a ferocious dog on arriving at a relative’s place, it gnawed directly at the growth, inside it they found more than a hundred acupuncture needles, all suitable for use; the illness cleared up too.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.228 (Tale 409):



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 Ghostly Hand Through the Window 鬼手入窗

As a youth, Liang, Duke Ma, the Junior Guardian[1] was once reading a book beneath a lamp and close to a window, when suddenly a great hand like a door leaf pushed through the lattice into the window. The next night it came again, but the gentleman moistened his writing brush in orpiment water, and wrote his signature in large script. From outside the window came a loud call: “Wash it off for me quickly, then you won’t come to harm.” The gentleman paid no attention but went to bed. Before long it had become very angry, seeking with ever more urgency to wash it away, but the gentleman paid no attention. Just before dawn, it made plaintive wails and was quite unable to withdraw its hand, saying: “The gentleman will be a great noble, I was just testing the gentleman; how can the gentleman bear my extremity? Can the gentleman alone be unaware of the affair of Wen Jiao and the rhino horn?”[2] The gentleman then came to a sudden realisation, washing away his signature with water, and the hand then shrank and withdrew; he looked but there was nothing to see.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.237 (Tale 427):



[1] The biography of Ma Liang 馬亮, courtesy name Shuming 叔明, is found at Songshi 298.9915-17. The Huhai account is considerably abbreviated compared to a previous (Song-era) telling. Compare Zhang Shizheng 張師正, Kuoyizhi 括異志 (Inclusive Reports on Strange Matters) (Project Gutenberg version):

Junior Guardian Ma 馬少保

The Junior Guardian of the Heir Apparent Duke Ma Liang himself related that in his youth he studied at a Buddhist monastery outside the walls of Luzhou. One night, when reading beneath a lamp close to a window, there was a huge hand like a door leaf that extended before him, as if on a great rope. The gentleman did not look at it, but continued to peruse his books as before. The same happened night after night. The gentleman thus told people, and a Daoist priest said: “I have often heard that spirirs fear red orpiment; you should try to get rid of it with that.” He thus ground red orpiment and soaked it in water, then secretly placed it close by on a table. That evening, when the huge hand arrived again, the gentleman used a brush moistened in red orpiment and wrote on it the single large character cao (‘grass’). When he had finished writing, a great yell came from outside the window: “Wash it off quickly, if not, misfortune will reach you!” The gentleman carried on as before, not listening, and then, leaving the lamp, went to bed. Before long it became extremely angry, and demanded all the more urgently that it be washed off; the gentleman did not respond. As dawn arrived, its cries became ever more plaintive, but it could not withdraw, so spoke again: “The gentleman will be greatly distinguished; I won’t scare other people; I only wanted to joke, but offended the gentleman; how can you stand to see me so extremely terrified? I have certainly caused offence, but, if the conditions of the nether world are revealed to the world through the gentleman’s action that will not be to the gentleman’s profit. Is the gentleman alone unaware of Wen Jiao’s burning the rhino horn to light cow island?” The gentleman, coming to a sudden realisation, then washed off the ‘grass’ character with water, and warned the creature not to return and bother people in future; the monster yielded gratefully and departed. The Jinshi scholar Wei Tai reported that Duke Ma had often spoken of this to his grandfather.


太子少保馬公亮自言:少肄業於廬州城外佛寺,一夕,臨窗燭下閱書,有大手如扇自窗伸於公前,若有所索。公不為視,閱書如故,如是比夜而至。公因語人,有道士云:「素聞鬼畏雄黃,可試以辟之。」公乃研雄黃漬水,密置案上。是夕大手又至,公遽以筆濡雄黃,大書一「草」字。書畢,聞窗外大呼曰:「速為我滌去。不然,禍及與汝!」公雅不為聽,停燭而寢。有頃,怒甚,而索滌愈急,公不應。逮曉,更哀鳴而不能縮,且曰:「公將大貴,我且不為他怪,徒以相?而犯公,何忍遽致我於極地耶?我固得罪,而幽冥之狀由公以彰暴於世,亦非公之利也。公獨不見溫嶠犀照牛渚之事乎?」公大悟,即以水滌去「草」字,且戒他日勿復擾人,怪遜謝而去。進士魏泰言馬公嘗說於其祖云。 (accessed 21/01/18)

[2] This refers to the account in the Jinshu 晉書 biography for Wen Jiao 溫嶠 (288-329 CE, courtesy name Taizhen 泰真), which relates his death to his exposure of water spirits by illuminating them with a burning rhino horn, and a subsequent warning about such behaviour in a dream. The biography is found at Jinshu 67.1785-96, and the incident at 67.1795.

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 Spirit Knocks at Physicians’ Doors 鬼扣醫門

Long ago in the capital several friends among the scholars of a government school were strolling beneath the moon when they saw a page boy bearing a red gauze lamp and leading, with a woman walking very slowly behind. The scholarly friends, having suspicions about the strange sight of a woman walking alone so late at night, so they followed and observed her. Reaching the left side of Zhong’an Bridge, she knocked on the gate of the physician Zhang Fangyu and called on him for medicine. Zhang opened the door and saw her, then shut [237] it without admitting her. Next she knocked on Superintendant Li’s shop; Li came out and looked, then invited her in and went to feel her pulse. The scholar friends waited for a long time but she did not emerge, so they memorized the positions of the two physicians’ gates and went home. The next morning they called on Zhang Fangyu, who said: “Walking alone late at night, she couldn’t be the daughter of an honourable household, so she was turned away.” They then visited Li’s shop, and heard the sound of weeping and wailing coming from his household; asking them, they were told: “Last night a woman knocked on the door for a medical consultation, and after she left he had a stroke and died.” They then knew that it had been a ghost taking the shape of a woman, knocking on doors and seeking medicine. It can only be that Li saw her beauty and then ended up like this.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.236 (Tale 426):


昔京庠有士友數人步月夜行,見有(「有」,明刻本作「一」。)小廝持紅紗籠前導,一婦人冉冉後隨,士友疑其暮夜獨行之異,跡而視之。至衆安橋左側,扣內醫張防禦門謁藥。張啟戶視之,即掩 [237] 門不納。次扣李提點鋪,李出視,延入,遂為診脈。士友俟久不出,默識兩醫之門而歸。次早訪張防禦,曰:「暮夜獨行,必非良家子女,所以卻之。」次過李鋪,聞其家有哀哭聲,問之,則曰:「昨夜一婦女扣門謁藥,去後中風而卒。」方知鬼化為婦,扣門求藥。豈非李見其美麗,動興而致然爾。

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).

Fox Spirits Present Cases 妖狐陳狀

Zhou Ju’an of Ancheng passed the civil examinations when very young, and was first employed as registrar and constable of Songzi in Jiangling. One night within a few months of taking up the post, his father Zhou Hongbo dreamt that the sage protector Zhenwu addressed him, saying: “Your son began his official career very young, but in recent days fox spirits have transformed into seven women bringing complaints in order to turn his head; you should deal with the matter.” As soon as he awoke, he told his son about the dream. Ju’an waited until dawn to see to the matter, first, having already summoned military officers to the government office, he waited for them to arrive. Suddenly, when he had started to judge cases, seven women came to make speeches presenting their complaints, and the constable-registrar judged the cases with composure. Before long the hubbub and noise became extreme, at which he shouted to the soldiers, who shackled and jailed them, although two had already slipped away. The five people all changed into foxes, but said: “You should not kill us, killing us would not be auspicious.” The registrar-constable did not answer, but eventually had them flogged to death, reporting the matter to the government office.

At that time the Vice Grand Councilor Bie was a prominent judge in Jiangling, and was especially pleased to receive his report, soon writing a proclamation that he would come and commend Constable-Registrar Zhou at his office. The Zhous, father and son, on receiving this proclamation, were more than a little surprised, and wondered whether there might be some other reason behind it. On his arrival, Vice Grand Councilor Bie, seeing them, said: “Your Honour passed the civil examination very young, at a similar age to your servant. Your servant too, on first taking office, had fox spirits come having transformed themselves into women, and immediately had them executed. Your killing them, sir, was entirely fitting.” He then proclaimed that [Zhou] serve as a judge among his subordinates. When the time came for the constable to set out and take up this post, he prepared his cap and clothing and said farewell to his ancestral temple. Suddenly he saw, in front of him as he walked, an elderly fox sitting upright with some dignity in the hall. It spoke: “The gentleman has killed five of our people, and ought to be killed for this; as the gentleman is moving away, the rich and powerful of near and far must order the taking of five people from the gentleman’s family.” The constable was angry, and struck out at the old fox with the tablet he was holding, at which it died.

Within two years, his two younger brothers died, his two younger sisters died, his father died, and people said this was the fox spirit’s vengeance. Why? One’s life and death is a matter of fate; how could a fox spirit [252] wrest this away? This was merely chance. Ju’an later rose to the seventh grade in Nanxiong, and eventually died.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.251-52 (Tale 453):


安成周居安,少年登科,初任江陵松滋簿尉。之任未數月,乃父周洪伯夜夢所事佑聖真武告之曰:「汝子初仕少年,來日有妖狐化作七婦人告狀,以惑汝子,可治之。」翌早,洪伯以所夢告其子。居安待旦視事,先已約束兵使在衙,待其來矣。方判事間,忽有婦女七人來陳狀詞,簿尉判事自若。未幾喧嘩之甚,遂喝兵使縛之,枷鎖入獄,已失其二。五人盡變為狐,卻云:「不可殺我,殺我不祥。」簿尉不答,竟杖死之,以其事申府。時別參政之傑判江陵,得申狀極喜,尋檄周簿尉過本府稟儀。周之父子當被檄之時,不無驚訝,疑有異故。及至,別參政見之,乃云:「足下少年登科,與某登科年相若也。某之初任亦有妖狐化婦而來者,當即殺之。君殺之甚宜。」遂檄為椽屬。尉捧檄啟行之時,具冠裳辭家廟,忽見前所走之老狐踞坐公廳云:「公殺我五人,本合殺公以去,富貴方遠,必公家取五人之命。」尉怒,以所執手版擊之,老狐隨斃。二年之內,二弟死,二妹死,其父死,或曰「曰」原作「者」,據明刻本改。妖狐之報也。吁!夫人死生有命,豈妖狐所 [252] 能奪也,第偶然爾。居安後得七秩南雄而終。

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).