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.

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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.

A Dog-Headed Bride 狗頭新婦

When Jia Dan[1] was serving as commander of Huazhou, in Suanzao County there was a common woman who served a lady but showed her no respect. Because the lady was extremely old, and could see through neither of her eyes, when it came to her breakfast, the woman placed dog dung among the food and gave it to the lady. The lady having eaten this, her qi became abnormal. Her son having returned from travelling to distant parts, the lady asked her son: “What is this stuff? That woman gave it to me to eat.” Her son raised his face to heaven and gave a great howl. After a little while, [5] a lightning bolt came down, and it was as if someone had severed her head and replaced it with that of a dog. Jia ordered she be led into the county, and reported as one lacking filial respect. People at the time called her the ‘dog-headed bride’.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.4-5 (Tale 31):

狗頭新婦

賈耽為滑州節度,酸棗縣有俚婦事姑不敬,故年甚老,無雙目,旦食,婦以食裏納犬糞授姑。故食之,覺有異氣。其子出遠還,故問其子:「此何物?向者婦與吾食。」其子仰天大哭。有頃, [5] 雷電發,若有人截婦首,以犬續之。耽令牽行於境內,以告不孝者。時人謂之「狗頭新婦」。

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] Jia Dan 賈耽, courtesy name Dunshi 敦詩, 730-805 CE, a geographer and prime minister under the Tang. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jia_Dan.

Gan Bao’s Jealous Mother 干寶母妬

Gan Bao’s[1] mother was jealous, and when the time came to bury his father, she secretly pushed a slave-girl into the tomb. More than ten years later, his mother died, and was to be buried alongside his father. When they opened the grave, the slave-girl was lying on top of the coffin, and she eventually revived. They questioned her, but she was just like she had been before, and would serve as directed without any discernible change.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.3 (Tale 19):

干寶母妬

干寶母妬,當葬父時,潛推一婢於墓中。十餘年後,母亡,與父合葬,開墓,婢伏於棺上,久而乃生。問之,如平昔之時,指使無異。

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] Gan Bao 干寶 (d. 336 CE) was the compiler of the Soushenji. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gan_Bao.

An Elm Demon 榆木為怪

Lü Yijian, Duke Shen, served several times as a magistrate in Shu, but the name of his prefecture has been forgotten. The government office had long experienced a ghostly manifestation, named Great Aunt Yu, who was an elm spirit. In form she looked like an ancient and ugly woman, and she frequently emerged in the kitchen, encountered among a crowd of maids, who often saw her. The household, having seen her over a long period, did not think her strange. The Duke called out a question to her, at which she bowed low and said: “Your servant has long been resident in this hall, and though not human, I dare not cause misfortune.” The Duke then laid the matter aside and asked no more questions. She often predicted that he must later become very influential. One day she suddenly announced that she was pregnant, and the maids mocked her. She herself said that she would soon give birth, and then disappeared for over a month. Then, all of a sudden, her voice was heard, saying: “I have given birth; [264] please come and look. In the back garden, to the southwest of the elm tree, there’s another, and that’s my child.” They looked, and it was true.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.263-64 (Tale 477):

榆木為怪

呂申公夷簡常通判蜀中,忘其郡名。廨宇中素有鬼物,號俞老姑,乃榆木精,其狀一老醜婦,常出廚間與羣婢為偶,或時見之。家人見之久,亦不為怪。公呼問之,即下階拜(「階拜」原作「拜階」,據抄配本改。)云:「妾在於(抄配本無「於」字。)堂府日久,雖非人,然不敢為禍。」公亦置而不問。常謂公他日必大貴。一日忽懷妊,羣婢戲之。自言非久當產,遂月餘不見。忽出云:「已產矣, [264] 請視之,後園榆木西南生大贅乃是。」視之,果然。

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).

Envy Drowns Sons and Grandsons 妒溺子孫

Li Zhengzou had a daughter-in-law from the Zhao family, who was extremely fierce. She had a son, but on reaching the age of seven he lacked intelligence and Li was extremely disappointed. His son had four concubines, all of whom became pregnant, and the old man said: “Even if I have ten grandchildren, educate them, do not drown them.” When Zhao heard this she became extremely resentful. Waiting until the old man and her husband left, Zhao called for the concubines and rebuked them, asking who had made them pregnant. The concubines said: “The old master.” Zhao said: “If you say that the master got you pregnant, you will be given a heavy flogging and married out to live among the distant wastes, going without money or clothing. If you say that it was a servant, you will then be spared a beating, you will be married out in a good place, and receive generous gifts.” The concubines were afraid and falsely identified this and that person among the servants. When the old man returned with her husbands, Zhao went straight up and reported this. The old man was unable to investigate, so took them at their word and dismissed them. The four servants were all reprimanded, and he urged the concubines to marry and give birth after, and then not to rear those children. The concubines followed these words, and drowned them. Not many years later, Li died early, and his grandsons also died young. When the lady Zhao died she went without inner and outer coffins, and was almost exposed in the grave. The Li household was affected by the lady Zhao’s jealousy to the point of childlessness, alas! An intelligent woman would never act in such a manner.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.101 (Tale 173):

妒溺子孫

李正奏子婦趙氏,極悍。得一子,至七歲不慧,李甚不滿。子有四妾皆孕,翁曰:「若有十孫,育之不溺。(「溺」原作「潛」據元刻本改。)」趙聞之憤甚。伺翁與夫俱出,趙呼妾責之,問其所孕。妾曰:「主人翁也。」趙曰:「爾謂主孕,必痛撻汝,遠嫁荒惡,行無資裝。若指為僕所有,仍免痛撻,汝(「汝」,元刻本作「且」。)適好處,厚有所贈。」妾懼而妄指為僕某人、某人所有。及翁與夫歸,趙直以告。翁不能察,遂信其說,屏之。四僕俱斥,且囑其妾,嫁後有子,毋育此子。妾從其言,溺之。不數年,李先亡,孫亦早喪,趙氏死無棺槨,幾至暴露。李氏一門,為趙氏妒孕而致絕嗣,哀哉!有識之婦,幸毋倣此可也。

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).

A Fake Woman Takes Wealth 假女取財

In the Baoqing era, the jiwei year (1259?),[1] Zhao Zhigan employed a female cook, and by this woman had a son, Wang Qianyi. Throughout his youth, the father dressed this son in the clothing of a daughter, piercing his earlobes and binding his feet; made up just like a woman, he studied female work in serving food and drink. Bribing an intermediary with gifts, they deceived a wealthy family and had him accepted as a kitchen maid. The rich household’s favoured concubine never [doubted] him and, having no idea that this was a boy, shared a bed with him, acting most lasciviously. When the matter became known, she was blamed and returned to her parents.

Later, he transferred to the employment of the East Gate Zhao family; Zhao noticed that [he] was somewhat attractive, and also repeatedly [50] wanted to violate him; the kitchen maid pleaded many times and did not consent. One day, when [Zhao] was drinking together with colleagues, one among their number said: “I heard recently that a boy has been got up as a kitchen maid, fooling rich households many times and defrauding them of their wealth; now I hear he has been hired again by a fellow official as a kitchen maid, and that none are aware of it.” When they stopped drinking, Zhao returned to his hall and called the kitchen maid out. Making an exploratory grope, his true form could not be hidden. Dismissed for the crime, he was sentenced to beheading and exposure in the marketplace; his parents and the intermediary were all banished and their property confiscated.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前1.149-50 (Tale 89):

假女取財

寶慶己未,趙制幹雇一廚娘,乃男子王千一也。蓋幼時父將男子形軀假妝女子,與之穿耳纏足,搽畫一如女子,習學女工飲食。買賂牙保,脫騙富戶,充為廚娘。富家寵妾莫[疑衍。]不知是男子,與之共寢,俱為所淫。事彰,責還父母。後轉雇與東門趙家,趙見稍有姿色,亦屢 [50] 欲犯之,而廚娘累託不從。又一日,同僚會飲,坐間有云:「聞近日有一男子粧假廚娘,累次脫騙富家財物,今聞又僱在同幕為廚娘,莫得而知之。」飲罷,趙回廳喚出廚娘,試一捫摸,形不能掩。解之制幹,斷罪斬首棄市,父母、牙保俱配籍焉。

[1] The Baoqing 寶慶 regnal era, in the rule of the Song emperor Lizong 理宗 (r. 1224-64 CE), represents 1225-28. Jiwei 己未 denotes the 56th place in the sexagenary cycle, and as such could only refer to either 1199 or 1259, neither of which falls within this period.

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).