You Shizi 游氏子

In the northern corner of Xudu’s western district there stood the residence of General Zhao. After the patriarch’s passing, his descendants had scattered. The place then became inauspicious, and nobody dared live there. A close friend of theirs then posted a notice on the village gates, reading: ‘If someone dares reside there, they may consider it a gift.’ At the beginning of the Qianfu era (874-80 CE), there came along one You Shizi, fierce and stubborn by nature, braver and quicker than most. On seeing the notice, he said: “Your humble servant is a brave warrior. Even if there are strange demons and weird spirits, I’ll certainly control them.” It was then the height of summer, and, when night fell, he took up his sword and entered. The house was deep and silent, and the entrance hall long and broad. You Shizi laid out his mat in the courtyard, arranged his summer robe and sat. When the end of the first watch had been sounded, all was silent, and there had been no alarms. You Shizi grew weary, so he used his sword as a pillow and lay down facing the hall.

Just as the half watch was about to sound, he suddenly heard a ga-ya sound as the rear gate opened. Candles were lit in even lines, and several dozen servants sprinkled water and swept the hall, opening the high windows, stretching out the scarlet curtains and embroidered drapes, laying out seating mats and precious objects. Strange and rare fragrances wafted among the eaves and pillars. You’s heart told him that these were only minor spirits, and he did not yet feel moved to use force against them. He waited to watch them through to the finish. After a short while, they took up musical instruments, and several dozen people dressed in red and purple ascended the stairs from the eastern wing. Several dozen singers and dancers emerged from behind the hall and entered through the front. Those in the purple robes remained [2786] in front, and people in red, green and white clothing formed a second layer. A further twenty or more people talked and laughed together happily, bowing to one another and sitting down. At this strings and pipes struck up together, glasses were raised and toasts shared as the dancers moved in unison.

You Shizi wanted to charge forward and seize their ringleader. He was about to get up when he felt something pressing down between his thighs. It was cold and it was heavy, and he simply could not rise. He wanted to shout out, but his mouth trembled, unable to make a sound, so he watched the happy celebrations continue on until a loud, loud drum sounded. At this the sitting mats dispersed, the lights and fires were all doused, and all was as still as it had first been. You Shizi was bathed in sweat, his heart racing, as he crawled prostrate to the exit. Only long after reaching the gate could he speak once more. In the end nobody dared to live in the house.

From Sanshui xiaodu.

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), viii, 352.2785-86

游氏子

許都城西之北陬。有趙將軍宅。主父既沒。子孫流移。其處遂凶。莫敢居者。親近乃牓於里門曰。有居得者。便相奉。乾符初。許有游氏子者。性剛悍。拳捷過人。見牓曰。僕猛士也。縱奇妖異鬼。必有以制之。時盛夏。既夕。携劍而入。室宇深邃。前庭廣袤。游氏子設簟庭中。絺綌而坐。一鼓盡。聞寂無驚。游氏子倦。乃枕劍面堂而臥。再鼓將半。忽聞軋然開後門聲。蠟炬齊列。有役夫數十。於堂中洒掃。闢前軒。張朱簾繡幕。陳筵席寶器。異香馥於簷楹。游子心謂此小魅耳。未欲迫之。將觀其終。少頃。執樂器。紆朱紫者數十輩。自東廂升階。歌舞妓數十輩自後堂出。入於前堂。紫衣者居 [2786] 前。朱綠衣白衣者次之。亦二十許人。言笑自若。揖讓而坐。於是絲竹合奏。飛觴舉白。歌舞間作。游氏子欲前突。擒其渠魁。將起。乃覺髀間為物所壓。冷且重。不能興。欲大叫。口哆而不能聲。但觀堂上歡洽。直至嚴鼓。席方散。燈火既滅。寂爾如初。游氏子駭汗心悸。匍伏而出。至里門。良久方能語。其宅後卒無敢居者。出三水小牘

Mou Ying 牟穎

When Mou Ying, from Luoyang, was still young, he accidentally, due to drunkenness, left the city and reached open country. He only came to at midnight, resting at the roadside, where he saw an exposed skeleton. Ying was extremely distressed by this, and when dawn broke he stooped over and buried it. That night, he dreamed of a youth, of perhaps just over twenty, robed in white silk and bearing a sword. He bowed to Ying, and said: “I am a stubborn bandit. My whole life I have wilfully injured and slaughtered and indulged in injustice. Recently I clashed with my peers, and was killed, buried by the roadside. Over a long time, rain and wind caused my bones to become exposed. Your servant was reburied by the gentleman, so I have come to thank you. In life I was a fierce and brutal man. In death I am a fierce and brutal ghost. You could allow me shelter and rest, but the gentleman would have to pour a small libation to me every night. I will ever respond to the gentleman’s requirements, and I am already obliged to the gentlemen. Neither hunger or thirst will reach you, and you will always receive the objects of your requests and desires.” In his dream Ying promised this.

When he awoke, he thus had a try at laying out offerings and secretly spoke prayers. That night he again dreamed of the ghost, who said: “I have already entrusted myself to the gentleman. Whenever the gentleman wishes to direct me, he should just call out ‘Chi ding zi’. Speak softly of your affairs and I will always respond to the sound and arrive.” Ying then would always call for him in secret, ordering him to steal, to take other people’s property. His voice never went unanswered or wishes unfulfilled, so he became rich on gold and jewels. One day, Ting noticed that a woman in a neighbouring household was very beautiful, and fell in love with her. He therefore called ‘chi ding zi’ and ordered him to steal her away. The neighbour’s wife arrived at midnight, leaping over the outside wall as she came. Ying jumped up in shock, but treated her with courtesy, asking why she had come. The woman replied: “I had not intended to come, but was suddenly seized by someone who brought me to your chamber. It was suddenly as if I had woken from a dream. [2785] I don’t know what kind of demon it could have been, or what it intended, but whenever I try to return home, I weep without cease.” Ying felt great sympathy for her, and she stayed in secret for several days. Her family made urgent attempts to see her, however, and eventually reported the matter to the authorities.

When Ying became aware of this, he and the woman came up with a ruse. He had her return but then, setting out to a different house, state that she had no idea which evil spirit had spirited her away, and refuse to return to her former home. After she had returned to her family, every third or fifth night she was then picked up by a person and removed to Ying’s house, but, not staying until dawn, she would always be returned home. A year passed, and her family knew nothing about this. She found it deeply strange that Ying possessed such powers of sorcery, so urgently approached Ying and asked: “If you do not explain this to me, I will have to expose the whole affair.” Ying therefore related the truth about the whole matter. The neighbour’s wife then reported it to her family, and together they made a plan to deal with the matter. Her family then secretly requested a Daoist to come and clean away these illicit arts. They then waited. Chidingzi arrived at their gate as soon as night had fallen, but, seeing the great array of magic figures, he was driven back and returned. He explained to Ying: “They repelled me with orthodox magic, but their power is only fragile. If the gentleman fights alongside me we should be able to steal away that woman, and this time you must not allow her to return.” After this speech he set off again, and in a moment a great tempest of wind and rain arose around the neighbour’s house. The entire residence turned black, and the various talismans and prohibitions seemed to be swept away all of a sudden. The woman vanished once more, so once dawn had broken her husband went to the government officials. They accompanied him to Ying’s house bent on arresting him, so Ying fled with the woman. It is not known where they went.

From Xiaoxianglu.

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), viii, 352.2784-85:

牟穎

洛陽人牟穎。少年時。因醉。誤出郊野。夜半方醒。息於路旁。見一發露骸骨。穎甚傷念之。達曙。躬身掩埋。其夕。夢一少年。可二十已來。衣白練衣。仗一劍。拜穎曰。我彊寇耳。平生恣意殺害。作不平事。近與同輩爭。遂為所害。埋於路旁。久經風雨。所以發露。蒙君復藏。我故來謝君。我生為凶勇人。死亦為兇勇鬼。若能容我棲託。但君每夜微奠祭我。我常應君指使。我既得託於君。不至飢渴。足得令君所求狥意也。穎夢中許之。及覺。乃試設祭饗。暗以祀禱祈。夜又夢鬼曰。我已託君矣。君每欲使我。即呼赤丁子一聲。輕言其事。我必應聲而至也。穎遂每潛告。令竊盜。盜人之財物。無不應聲遂意。後致富有金寶。一日。穎見鄰家婦有美色。愛之。乃呼赤丁子令竊焉。鄰婦至夜半。忽至外踰垣而至。穎驚起款曲。問其所由來。婦曰。我本無心。忽夜被一人擒我至君室。忽如夢 [2785] 覺。我亦不知何怪也。不知何計。却得還家。悲泣不已。穎甚閔之。潛留數日。而其婦家人求訪極切。至於告官。穎知之。乃與婦人詐謀。令婦人出別墅。却自歸。言不知被何妖精取去。今却得廻。婦人至家後。再每三夜或五夜。依前被一人取至穎家。不至曉。即却送歸。經一年。家人皆不覺。婦人深怪穎有此妖術。後因至切。問於穎曰。若不白我。我必自發此事。穎遂具述其實。鄰婦遂告於家人。共圖此患。家人乃密請一道流。潔淨作禁法以伺之。赤丁子方夜至其門。見符籙甚多。却反。白於穎曰。彼以正法拒我。但力微耳。與君力爭。當惡取此婦人。此來必須不放回也。言訖復去。須臾。鄰家飄驟風起。一宅俱黑色。但是符籙禁法之物。一時如掃。復失婦人。至曙。其夫遂去官。同來穎宅擒捉。穎乃携此婦人逃。不知所之。出瀟湘錄

Wang Kun 王坤

In the spring of the fourth year Dazhong (850 CE), Wang Kun of Taiyuan was serving as Doctor to the National University. His maidservant, Qing Yun, had died several years before this, but one night he suddenly dreamed that Qing Yun arrived before his bed. Kun was extremely afraid, but rose and questioned her. Qing Yun said: “Your servant has not been a human for several years now, and found myself missing my mortal life, as if I was bound but had not forgotten my release. This evening I received the opportunity to serve by your side, and am very pleased to see you.” Kun was muddled, as if he was drunk, and did not realize that she was a spirit. Qing Yun then led Kun out through the doorway. The gate had already been locked, but she guided Kun through a crevice and he passed through without harm. They reached the centre of the road, and paced back and forth under the moon.

After some time had passed, Kun suddenly felt hungry, and told Qing Yun. Qing Yun replied: “Is there a friend in the village who would give to my darling? Point them out and we’ll ask them for food.” Kun had long been friends with the Scholar to the Imperial College Shi Guan, and he too resided in the village, so Kun went there with her. When they reached Guan’s gate, it was already closed and bolted. Qing Yun knocked upon it, and after a little while the gatekeeper opened a leaf of the door and looked out, but said: “I just heard a knock on the gate, but now I look all is quiet, with nothing to see. How can that be?” He closed the leaf again, but Qing Yun knocked on it once more, and then again, for a third time. The gatekeeper asked, in angry tones: “How come these evil spirits always come to knock on our door?” He then spat and cursed them. Qing Yun explained to Kun: “Mr Shi has already gone to sleep. We certainly can’t call on him now. I hope the gentleman can suggest somewhere else.” At that time there was a junior clerk of the Imperial College who was also from the same village. When he went out he often passed the other’s gate, and the clerk would often pass on his superior’s monthly salary and slips of paper reporting new [2779] appointments. Kun trusted him implicitly.

When they arrived together at his house, they saw one leaf of the door open, and someone carrying a jar of water to scatter onto the street. Qing Yun said: “We should enter with him.” When they had stepped inside, they saw that the junior clerk was dining with several other people. Initially, Kun stood in the courtyard, thinking that the clerk would descend the steps and bow to him, but after some time the clerk still hadn’t given any sign of such courtesy. Presently they saw a maid carrying noodle soup up the steps. Qing Yun struck the servant on the back, at which she fell on the steps, and the soup was all spilled. The clerk, his wife and servants all leapt up, saying fearfully: “This is a malign attack!” They then hurriedly summoned a spirit-medium. The medium told them: “There’s someone there, with a red official’s knee-cover and a silver seal, standing before us in the courtyard.” They therefore made offerings to him, so Kun and Qing Yun sat down together. When the food was finished, they set out together, and the female medium accompanied them to the gate, burning spirit-money beside the entrance. At this Qing Yun addressed Kun: “The gentleman should accompany your servant and depart.” Kun therefore followed her into the village. He looked around and saw that it was the start of summer.

When they reached open countryside in the outskirts after several dozen li, they came to a tomb. Qing Yun said: “This is where your servant dwells. The gentleman should follow and enter.” The mouth of the grave was pitch black and he could not make anything out. Suddenly he awoke in palpitations of pure terror, his back sweating and his body shaking all over. By then the dawn had already broken, but his heart was full of revulsion towards the dream, and he dared not tell anyone about it. That day, he therefore decided to invite Shi Guan. When they had sat down together, Guan told him: “Last night there was a spirit that knocked at my gate three times; we sent people to look but all was quiet and nobody was there. When dawn broke I crossed to see the junior clerk, and found the remains of spirit money. I stood and summoned the clerk to ask about it, and the clerk told me: ‘Your servant had a dinner party last night, and there was a sudden malign attack on our maid. The spirit-medium told us we were haunted by a spirit, so we made offerings in the courtyard. This is the burnt paper.'” All of this was exactly the same as Kun’s dream. Kun grew ever more afraid, so informed his wife and children. In the winter of that year, he did indeed die.

From Xuanshizhi.

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), viii, 351.2778-79

王坤

太原王坤。大中四年春為國子博士。有婢輕雲。卒數年矣。一夕。忽夢輕雲至榻前。坤甚懼。起而訊之。輕雲曰。某自不為人數年矣。嘗念平生時。若縶而不忘解也。今夕得奉左右。亦幸會耳。坤懵然若醉。不寤為鬼也。輕雲即引坤出門。門已扃鐍。隙中導坤而過。曾無礙。行至衢中。步月徘徊。久之。坤忽飢。語於輕雲。輕雲曰。里中人有與郎善者乎。可以詣而求食也。坤素與太學博士石貫善。又同里居。坤因與偕行。至貫門。而門已鍵閉。輕雲叩之。有頃。閽者啟扉曰。向聞叩門。今寂無覩。何也。因闔扉。輕雲又扣之。如是者三。閽者怒曰。厲鬼安得輒扣吾門。且唾且罵之。輕白坤云。石生已寢。固不可詣矣。願郎更詣他所。時有國子監小吏。亦同里。每出。常經其門。吏與主月俸及條報除 [2779] 授。坤甚委信之。因與俱至其家。方見啟扉。有一人持水缶。注入衢中。輕雲曰。可偕入。既入。見小吏與數人會食。初。坤立於庭。以為小吏必降階迎拜。既而小吏不禮。俄見一婢捧湯餅登階。輕雲即毆婢背。遽仆於階。湯餅盡覆。小吏與妻奴俱起。驚曰。中惡。即急召巫者。巫曰。有一人。朱紱銀印。立於庭前。因祭之。坤與輕雲俱就坐。食已而偕去。女巫送到門。焚紙錢於門側。輕雲謂坤曰。郎可偕某而行。坤即隨出里中。望啟夏而去。至郊野數十里。見一墓。輕雲曰。此妾所居。郎可隨而入焉。坤即俛首曲躬而入。墓口曛黑不可辨。忽悸然驚寤。背汗股慄。時天已曉。心惡其夢。不敢語於人。是日。因召〈(明鈔本「召」作「訪」。)〉石貫。既坐。貫曰。昨夕有鬼扣吾門者三。遣視之。寂無所覩。至曉。過小吏。則有焚紙錢跡。即立召小吏。訊其事。小吏曰。某昨夕方會食。忽有婢中惡。巫云。鬼為祟。由是設祭於庭。焚紙於此。盡與坤夢同。坤益懼。因告妻孥。是歲冬。果卒。出宣室志

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.

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.