Cui Maobo 崔茂伯

The daughter of Cui Maobo married one Pei Zu’er. Her husband’s home was more than five hundred li distant, and after several years had passed she had still not arrived there. During the eighth month, she died suddenly. Pei was not yet aware of this when, as darkness was about to fall, the woman appeared at Pei’s gate, clapping her hands and requesting entry. Carrying a gold jar a little over two sheng (2 litres) in size, she came to his bed and stood before it. Pei told her to sit, and asked where she had come from. The woman told him: “I am the daughter of Cui, Magistrate of Qinghe. While still young I learned of the gentleman’s betrothal to me. Unfortunately I passed away, so our happy union was not to be. Although our wedding feast will never take place, we are already united in purpose, and I therefore came to inform the gentleman.” She then presented Pei with the gold vessel as a parting gift.

After she had departed, Pei informed his father of the matter. His father wanted to send a message to confirm this, but Pei said: “Betrothed to the Cuis as a child, we should not now react like this. I should go there in person.” His father permitted this. When Pei arrived, the woman had indeed been buried, so they exchanged condolences, and Pei described the whole affair, bringing out the jar to show Maobo. This had been placed with the woman in her grave, so they all went to visit the tomb. More than ten li before they arrived, Pei saw the woman again, and she spoke to him. Those around him all heard her voice, but were unable to see her form. Pei yearned to be united with her, and soon fell ill and died. They were buried together.

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, 324.2574:



Wang Hu 王胡

Wang Hu lived under [Liu] Song rule (420-79 CE), and was from Chang’an. His paternal uncle had been dead some years when, in the twenty-third year of the Yuanjia era (446 CE), he suddenly reappeared and returned to the family home. He demanded Hu improve his conduct, in which there were defects, family affairs having been neglected. He punished Hu with five strokes of the cane. Passersby people in the neighbourhood heard both their conversation and the noise of the beating. They could also see the welts left by the cane, but could not see the manifestation, which appeared only to Hu himself. His uncle told Hu: “I did not deserve death. The tomb passage waits for my number to appear on the register of spirits. Today there will be a great gathering of officials and troops, and I fear that the village may come to harm, so I do not set out.” Hu could also make out a crowd of spirits in noise and disorder beyond the village boundary.

Presently his uncle said goodbye and departed, telling him: “I will come on the seventh day of the seventh month. This will be short visit, and I wish to take you along the roads of the nether world, to make you understand the consequences of virtue and of evil. There is no need to be extravagant in laying out offerings; tea and cakes will suffice.”

When the day came, he did indeed return. He told Hu’s family: “I’m now taking Hu to see the sights. When the trip is complete he will return. There is no reason for alarm.” Hu then felt tired and laid on his bed, then became quite still, as if he were quite dead. His uncle then took Hu deep into the mountain ranges, where they observed the various spirits and demons. Finally, they reached the highest peaks, and the various spirits spoke to Hu, and also laid out food. The produce and flavours were not so different from those in the world of the living, but the ginger was especially fresh and delicious. Hu yearned for this, and was about to return when those around him laughed and told him: “You should stay and eat this. You won’t get far anyway.”

Hu saw a further place, a vast and beautiful building, with gorgeous canopies and elegant bamboo mats. There were [2565] two young monks living in it, and when Hu arrived they laid out a great spread of fruit, betel nuts and other produce. Hu spent a long time travelling, and saw all the conequences of virtue and vice, both sweet and bitter. He then said his farewells to return, and his uncle told him: “You now understand the need to cultivate virtue. When you return home seek the white-foot āranya temple; these people are ascetics of the highest order, and you should afford them respect as your teachers.” These priests of Chang’an had white feet, and so were known to people at that time as the white-foot āranya.[1] They were shown great respect by Wei Lu, with Prince Lu revering them as his teachers.[2]

Hu followed these instructions, travelling to study at Gaoshan with a young monk. Amid the crowds, however, he suddenly caught sight of those two monks. Hu was greatly shocked, and went to speak to them, asking when they had arrived. The two monks replied: “We poor clerics belong to this very temple. We are not aware of any prior acquaintance with the gentleman.” Hu again described their meeting in the high mountains, but the assembled monks told him: “The gentleman is simply mistaken. How could that have taken place?” When the next day dawned, however, the two monks had departed without saying farewell. Hu thus informed the gathered Buddhist monks about the whole matter, and his meeting with the two monks on Gaoshan. The crowd were all astonished, and sent people to seek the pair of monks, but their location remains unknown.

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, 323.2564-65:


宋王胡者。長安人也。叔死數載。元嘉二十三年。忽形見還家。責胡以修謹有缺。家事不理。罰胡五杖。傍人及鄰里。並聞其語及杖聲。又見杖瘢。而不見其形。唯胡獨得親接。叔謂胡曰。吾不應死。神道須吾筭諸鬼錄。今大從吏兵。恐驚損鄉里。故不將進耳。胡亦大見衆鬼紛鬧于村外。俄而辭去曰。吾來年七月七日。當復暫還。欲將汝行。遊歷幽途。使知罪福之報也。不須費設。若意不已。止可茶食耳。至期果還。語胡家人云。吾今將胡遊觀。觀畢當還。不足憂也。胡即頓臥牀上。泯然如盡。叔於是將胡遍觀群山。備觀鬼怪。末至嵩高山。諸鬼道胡。並有饌設。其品味不異世中。唯姜甚脆美。胡懷之將還。左右人笑云。止可此食。不得將遠也。胡又見一處。屋宇華曠。帳筵精美。有 [2565] 二少僧居焉。胡造之。二僧為設雜果梹榔等。胡遊歷久之。備見罪福苦樂之報。及辭歸。叔謂曰。汝即已知善之當修。返家尋白足阿練。此人戒行精高。可師事也。長安道人足白。故時人謂為白足阿練也。甚為魏虜所敬。虜王事為師。胡即奉此訓。遂與嵩山上年少僧者遊學。衆中忽見二僧。胡大驚。與敘乖闊。問何時來此。二僧云。貧道本住此寺。往日不意與君相識。胡復說嵩高之遇。衆僧云。君謬耳。豈有此耶。至明日。二僧不辭而去。胡乃具告諸沙門。敘說往日嵩山所見。衆咸驚怪。即追求二僧。不知所在。

[1] Sanskrit Āranya (hermitage, monastery) is transliterated in Chinese here as Alian 阿練, and elsewhere as Lanre/lanruo 蘭若 or Elianre/Alianruo 阿練若.

[2] This Wei Lu 魏虜 is not yet identified. Needs more work!

A New Ghost 新鬼

There was a newly deceased ghost, manifesting in weak, emaciated and fatigued state, that suddenly saw a friend from its living days, who had died some twenty years before, and was plump and strong. They asked after one another: “My friend, we’ve come to this?” and then he said: “I’m starving! My friend must know how everything works, so should favour me with some advice.” His friend the spirit said: “This is extremely simple, but requires the scaring of mortal folk. They must be very scared. Then they will grant my friend sustenance.” The new ghost set off and entered at the east end of a large village. There a family was making vīrya zeal offerings to the Buddha. In the western wing was a millstone, so the ghost shoved at the stone like a human grinding. The head of the household told his juniors: “The Buddha pities our family in its poverty, so ordered a spirit to turn the grindstone.” They thus brought a cartload of grain to give to him. That evening, he ground several hu, wore himself out and left.

He then scolded his ghost friend: “How could a friend be so deceitful? Nonetheless, I’ll go back; it must work now.” He followed a family into the western end of the hall. The family was venerating the Dao. Beside the door was a rice-hulling pestle. The ghost climbed onto it and started operating it like a person would. The people said: “Yesterday a spirit helped some people. Today it has returned to assist us. We should bring some unhusked rice to give to it, and send a servant girl with a winnowing fan.” By the evening, the spirit was exhausted, and hadn’t gained any sustenance. The spirit returned at sunset, and said, indignant: “We’re related by marriage; can anything be more important? How could you be so deceitful? I’ve helped two people, and haven’t got even a bowlful to eat!” His friend the spirit replied: “You’ve suffered bad luck, that’s all. These two households were worshiping the Buddha and serving the Dao; their emotions would be hard to stir. You should now seek a family of commoners and do some mischief. That can’t fail.”

The spirit set off again, finding a house with a bamboo pole in the doorway. He entered and found a group of women eating together before the window. In the courtyard was a white dog, so he picked it up and made it travel through thin air. The family were greatly shocked at seeing this, saying that such strangeness had never happened there before. A diviner told them: “A visiting spirit is seeking sustenance. You should kill the dog and lay out fruit and wine with food. Make offerings to it in the courtyard and you will be rid of it.” The family followed this advice, and the spirit thus received a lot of food. The ghost then continued to make mischief, just as his friend had taught.

From Youminglu.

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, 321.2544:



Liu Daoxi 劉道錫

In their youth, Liu Daoxi and his younger cousin Kang Zu did not believe in spirits. Their older cousin Xing Bo had seen spirits from a young age, but they were unable to accept his accounts when he spoke of it. Once, at a residence east of the Changguang Bridge in Jingkou, he told them: “There’s the ghost of a murder victim, over on the eastern fence.” Daoxi laughed, but then asked for the location and led Xing Bo over there, waving a large knife wishing to hack at it. Xing Bo called out from behind him: “The spirit’s hitting you!” Daoxi had not even reached the ghost’s place when he heard a sound like a great club swinging. Daoxi then dropped to the ground and only awoke after the night had passed. A month and a day later, Xing Bo again spoke up: “There’s a spirit up the tree at the eastern end of the government hall. In shape it is like a child, but it is so tall that it must be dangerous.” Kang Zu did not believe this, and asked how high up it was in the tree. He pointed to a clearly distinct spot. More than ten days passed, and then, on an evening with a waning moon, Daoxi stabbed with a halberd at the place where the spirit had been, then returned, nobody being any the following day, Xing Bo came around early, then suddenly said, quite shocked, “This spirit was stabbed by someone last night! It’s half-dead and quite unable to move.” Kang laughed out loud.

From Youminglu.

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, 320.2540:

劉道錫 劉道錫與從弟康祖。少不信有鬼。從兄興伯。少來見鬼。但辭論。不能相屈。嘗於京口長廣橋宅東。云。有殺鬼。在東籬上。道錫笑。便問其處。牽興伯俱去。捉大刀欲斫之。興伯在後喚云。鬼擊汝。道錫未及鬼處。便聞如有大杖聲。道錫因倒地。經宿乃醒。一月日都差。興伯復云。廳事東頭桑樹上有鬼。形尚孺。長必害人。康祖不信。問在樹高下。指處分明。經十餘日。是月晦夕。道錫逃闇中。以戟刺鬼所住。便還。人無知者。明日。興伯早來。忽驚曰。此鬼昨夜那得人刺之。殆死。都不能復動。死亦當不久。康大笑。出幽明錄

Chen Su 陳素

In the first year of the Jin Shengping era (357 CE), the family of Chen Su, of Shan County, were wealthy. After a decade of marriage to his wife, he still lacked a son, so wished to take a concubine. His wife prayed to the ancestral hall’s deities and suddenly became pregnant. The same happened to the wife of their neighbour, a commoner. She therefore bribed the neighbour’s wife, saying: “If I give birth to a boy, that would be the will of heaven. If it is a girl, and yours is a boy, we should swap.” This was quickly agreed between them. The neighbour’s wife had a boy, and three days later Su’s wife bore a daughter. The exchange was quickly made. Su was absolutely delighted with his son. They had raised the child for thirteen years when, during prayers, an elderly housemaid who often saw spirits spoke up and said: “I see the gentleman’s ancestors; they’re coming to the gate and then stopping. But I also see a crowd of commoners who have come and seated themselves to eat our offerings.” The father was extremely alarmed and amazed, and then welcomed the spirits as they arrived. He prayed that they might become temporarily visible, and they told him they were all relatives. Su then went inside and questioned his wife. Terrified, she told him about the swap. The boy was returned to his original family, and their daughter taken back.

From Youminglu.

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, 319.2527:



Hu Maohui 胡茂廻

Hu Maohui, who lived in Huainan under the Jin, was able to see spirits. Although he didn’t like to see them, he was unable to stop it. He later travelled to Yangzhou, and returned to Liyang. To the east of the city wall was a shrine, and just then the people were about to make offerings there with a shaman officiating [2526]. As he arrived, a host of spirits were calling out to one another: “Senior officials are coming.” They burst forth one by one from the shrine and set off. Maohui turned to look, and watched two Śramaṇa Buddhist monks approach and enter the temple. The various spirits came in twos and threes and embraced one another in the field next to the temple; staring at the monks, they were all terrified. After a little while the monks departed, and the spirits then returned to the shrine. From then on Maohui made offerings to the Buddha with great sincerity and dedication.

From Fayuan Zhulin.

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, 319.2525-26:


晉淮南胡茂廻。能見鬼。雖不喜見。而不可止。後行至揚州。還歷陽。城東有神祠。正值民將巫祝祀 [2526] 之。至須臾。有羣鬼相叱曰。上官來。各迸出祠去。茂回顧。見二沙門來。入祠中。諸鬼兩兩三三相抱持。在祠邊草中。望見沙門。皆有怖懼。須臾沙門去後。諸鬼皆還祠中。茂廻於是精誠奉佛。出法苑珠林

Ma Daoyou 馬道猷

Under the Southern Qi (479-502 CE) Ma Daoyou served as Director of the Department of State Affairs. In the first year Yongming (483), seated in the palace he suddenly saw spirits filling the space before him; the people around him saw nothing. Soon after, two spirits entered his ears, pulling out his ethereal soul, which fell onto his shoes. He pointed at it to show people, saying, “Gentlemen, do you see this?” None of those around him could see anything, so they asked him what his ethereal soul looked like. Daoyou said: “The ethereal soul looks exactly like a toad.” He said: “There can be no way to survive. The spirits are now in the ears. Look at how they swell up.” The following day he died. Taken from Shuyiji.

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, 327.2992