Heavenly Wrath On Corrupt Officials 天譴墨吏

At the beginning of the Tang Zhenguan era (627-49 CE), the Director of Danyang, Wang Qiong, was summoned and dismissed in his third year. Qiong was extremely resentful, and took a great deal of money, visiting the Maoshan Daoist Ye Lingzhong, and seeking a memorial to the throne that would predict the future. Lingzhong was ninety years old, and, when forced to produce the petition, the paper floated up on incense smoke and disappeared into the mists. Soon after it fell back to the ground, with a note in red ink added to the end: “Accepting a hundred liang of gold, taking three years’ salary, murdering two people; these will be resolved after death.” One year later, Qiong died suddenly without illness.

上1.16 (Tale 85):

天譴墨吏

唐貞觀初,丹陽令王瓊,三年調集,遭黜。瓊甚憤惋,乃齎百千,詣茅山道士葉靈中,求章奏以問吉凶。靈中年九十,強為奏之,其章隨香烟飛上,縹渺不見。食頃復墮地,有朱書批其末,云:「受金百兩,折祿三年;枉殺二人,死後處斷。」一歲,瓊無疾暴卒。

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)

A version of the same tale, showing several variations, is found in the Taiping Guangji:

Ye Xuzhong 葉虛中

At the beginning of the Tang Zhenguan era (627-49 CE), the Director of Danyang, Wang Qiong, was summoned and dismissed in his third year. He was extremely resentful, and visited the Maoshan Daoist Ye Xuzhong, seeking a memorial to the throne that would predict the future. Xuzhong was over ninety years old, and, when forced to produce the petition, the paper floated up on incense smoke and disappeared into the mists. Soon after it fell back to the ground, with a note in red ink added to the end: “Accepting a hundred liang of gold, taking three years’ salary, murdering two people; these will be resolved after death.” One year later, Qiong did indeed meet a sudden end. From Duyizhi.

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), ii, 73.456-57:

葉虛中

唐貞觀初。丹陽令王瓊。三年調集。皆黜落。甚憤惋。乃齋宿于茅山道士葉虛中。求奏章以問吉凶。虛中年九十餘。彊為奏之。其章隨香煙飛上。縹渺不見。食頃復墮地。有朱書批其末云。受金百兩。折 [457] 祿三年。枉殺二人。死後處分。後一歲。瓊果得暴疾終。出獨異志

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Taking A Pill And Catching Fire 服丹自焚

Zhu, known as Dingguan, served as Palace Superintendent at the end of the Zhenghe era (1111-18). He was twenty-eight at the time, and entertained himself with food and wine. One day, received a sudden summons to the inner palace, and the emperor (Huizong, 1100-25) addressed him: “We have recently gained an extraordinary person, able to produce cinnabar pills, which if taken increase longevity. We have observed the long smelting process, and a year having passed they are finished, coloured like the finest gold; my minister will try them.” Dingguan leapt for joy as he humbly accepted [104] the decree, then took the medicine. Immediately after swallowing, he felt a great agitation within his chest. Soon after, smoke began to pour from his mouth. Urgently carried out, he was already beyond help. After he had been laid out, a knocking sound was heard from the coffin, and nobody could work out what caused it. Before long, flames emerged from within, and within the blink of an eye it was completely ablaze, and the chamber was gutted. The Kaifeng authorities rushed to the scene, but the fire spread to burn more than a hundred households, leaving only skeletons among the ashes. This is truly something to marvel at.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.103-4 (Tale 179):

服丹自焚

主稱定觀者,政和末為殿中監,時年二十八,酒食自娛。一日,忽宣召入禁中,上云:「朕近得一異人,能製丹砂,服之可以長生。久視煉冶,經歲而成,色如紫金,卿為試之。」定觀欣躍拜 [104] 命,即取服之。才下咽,覺胸中煩躁之甚。俄頃,煙從〔口〕(據元刻本補。)中出。急扶歸,已不救。既殮之後,但聞棺中剝啄之聲,莫測所以。已而,火出其內,頃刻之間,遂成烈焰,室廬盡焚。開封府急救之,延燒數百餘家,但得枯骨於餘燼,深可怪也。

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).