Ban Meng 班孟

Ban Meng’s background is unknown; some say they were a woman. Able to travel by flying for days at a time, they could also sit and talk to people from the empty air. They were also able to enter the earth, at first disappearing from feet to chest, then entering fully, only leaving a kerchief behind, which after a long time would disappear entirely, too. Slicing the ground by pointing, a well could be constructed ready to be draw from. Blowing the roof-tiles from houses, tiles would be sent flying among people’s houses and homes. Mulberry shoots numbering in the thousands, Meng could combine them all into one, piled like a mountain and remaining like that for more than ten days; by blowing on them they could be returned to growing as before in their former places. They could moreover swallow a mouthful of ink, stretch out paper before them, chew and spit it out, the whole forming characters across the paper, each bearing full meaning. They took wine and cinnabar, but over four hundred years less and less, eventually entering Dazhishan.

From Shenxianzhuan.

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, 61.382

班孟

班孟者。不知何許人也。或云女子也。能飛行經日。又能坐空虛中與人語。又能入地中。初去時沒足至胸。漸入。但餘冠幘。良久而盡沒不見。以指刺地。即成井可吸。吹人屋上瓦。瓦飛入人家間。桑果數千株。孟皆拔聚之成一。積如山。如此十餘日。吹之各還其故處如常。又能含墨一口中。舒紙着前。嚼墨噴之。皆成文字。竟紙。各有意義。服酒丹。年四百歲更少。入大治山中。出神仙傳

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Four Immortals Play Chess 四仙弈棋

There was once somebody called Ba, from Qiong, his surname has not been recorded. He had a tangerine tree, and after the frost came all of the tangerines had been gathered, save for two big ones, each as large as a wide-bellied pot. Ba then ordered that they twist off the tangerines and weigh them, just like the usual ones. When cut open, each contained two elderly men, beard and eyebrows hoary white, flesh and bodies bright red, and both sets were playing chess, their bodies a little over a chi (33cm) in height, talking and laughing as if nothing had happened. When their games were finished, one old man said: “The gentleman has beaten me.” Another old man said: “The gentleman has beaten me; it will come back to me later, at the thatched hall at Qingcheng.” (This is a celebrated Daoist mountain site in Sichuan) Yet another old man spoke up: “Master Wang is always like this; waiting and getting nothing. Playing in the tangerine is no worse than on Shangshan, but you can’t have more than one stem for each tangerine.” One of the old men said: “Your servant is hungry and empty; he needs a dragon root fruit to eat.” Then from his sleeve he removed a grass root, about an inch across, its shape curving sinuously like a dragon, and, millimetre by millimetre and with great care, pared it away fully. When he had finished eating, he spat it out in a gush of water, and it transformed into a dragon. The four old men mounted it together, and wings flapping beneath their feet ascended into the clouds. Briefly and suddenly came wind, rain, darkness and light, and none knew where they had gone.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.132 (Tale 230):

四仙弈棋

有巴邛人,不記姓。有橘,霜後諸橘盡收,餘二大橘如三四斗盎,巴人即令拳橘輕重,亦如常橘。割開,每橘有二老叟,鬚眉皤然,肌體紅明,皆相對象戲,身尺餘,談笑自若。但與決賭訖,一叟曰:「君輸我。」一叟曰:「君輸我,後日於青城草堂還我耳。」又一叟曰:「王先生許來,竟待不得,橘中之樂不減商山,但不得二根同蒂(上四字,明抄本作「深根固蒂」。)於橘中耳。」一叟曰:「僕飢虛矣,須龍根脯食之。」即於袖中抽出一草根,方圓徑寸,形狀宛轉如龍,毫釐周悉,因削復滿。食訖,以水噀之,化為一龍,四叟共乘之,足下泄泄雲起。須臾,風雨晦明,不知所在。

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 Dragon Spits A Precious Pearl 龍吐寶珠

Yangli Cliff was fifteen li from Nanxiong City, and there were two crags, the upper containing a dragon pool and the lower the Qilin Temple. When a harvest was affected by drought, the prefectural commander prayed for rain. One day clouds and mists arose together, and the eldest resident climbed the crag to look at them. A dragon spat out a pearl, as big as a hen’s egg, with a tiny dragon moving around within. The prefectural commander placed this in a box, wrapped in yellow cloth, and kept it in the area garrison post. Afterwards a prefectural commander stole it as he returned home, but as he arrived beneath the ridge there arose high wind, lightning and rain. The commander was terrified, and immediately sent people to return it to its original place. After the chaos of war during the bingzi year of the Zhiyuan era (1276), it was no longer in existence.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.265 (Tale 481):

龍吐寶珠

楊歷巖距南雄城十五里,有二巖,上有龍潭,下有祈林寺。歲旱,郡守禱而雨。一日雲霧雜襲,父宿登巖視之,龍吐一珠,大如雞子,中有小龍動躍,郡守以匣載,以黃袱裹之,留鎮此鄉。後有郡守私竊而歸者,至於嶺下,遂烈風雷雨。守驚,徑差人送還本處。至元丙子大兵,後不存矣。

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 Python Spirit Becomes A Demon 蟒精為妖

In Nanzhong there is the Xuanxian place for offerings, at the foot of a steep and rocky precipice, and at the top of that is a stony grotto cave. Tradition has it that this was the residence of supernatural beings, and at times it is shrouded and hidden by clouds and mist. Students of the Way often built houses beneath it, and would see an immortal manifest before them, saying: “Every year on the Zhongyuan day (the Ghost Festival; the fifteenth day of the seventh month), you should select a person of virtuous conduct at the altar, and they will then ascend as an immortal.” At this all of those who studied the way and admired immortals gathered together there. When the time came, people from near and far congregated beneath the altar, holding incense, gazing at the cave mouth and praying. Afterwards, a person of moral virtue was selected from among the crowd, dressed and capped spotlessly, and stood still on the dais for a long time, eventually ascending, at which the remainder were all left dejected, saying goodbye and leaving. Then a multi-coloured auspicious cloud gathered, extending from the cave over to the altar. The virtuous person, robe and hat quite still, rode the cloud and ascended to the grotto’s entrance, where a great scarlet lantern guided their way. The spectators without exception wept and snivelled in admiration and envy, gazing into the distance and making obeisance. This continued for several years, and none were chosen whose lack of virtue or destiny in the Way provoked resentment.

The next year, the crowd chose someone of great age, and just as he ascended, a person of the Way said that he had come from Wudangshan to take up residence at a monastery, and asked what was going on; everything was explained to him. The monk sighed in admiration of this, and said: “Ascension as an immortal, now, [260] who would have thought it could be so easy? In the void there must, however, be noble spirits among the strong celestial winds, and one must be able to intercept them. I have a token which can protect against this; please place it on your chest, and be careful not to lose it.” The virtuous one placed it on his chest, and was delighted. When the time came the multi-coloured cloud wound around his feet, and he gradually ascended.

The following day, the monk sent his people to the edge of the cliff, in order to look into the cave. There they saw the levitated person lying emaciated and haggard as if suffering from serious illness, breathing with difficulty and eventually just about able to speak. When questioned, he said: “Just as I reached the cave mouth, I caught sight of a huge python, spitting a haze that became clouds, with two eyes like fires. Just as it opened its jaws, intending to swallow me, there came a sudden quaking of wind and storm, striking it dead at the edge of the cavern.” When they looked, it was a python of several arm spans around, dozens of zhang (3.3m) in length. Moreover, there were skeletons piled up around the cave, which were the bones of the levitated people. The multi-coloured cloud was the python’s poisoned breath, and the scarlet lantern its glowing eyes.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.259-60 (Tale 471):

蟒精為妖

南中有選仙道場,在一峭崖石壁之下,其絕頂石洞穴,相傳以為神仙之窟宅,時有雲氣蒙藹。常有學道之人築室於下,見一仙人現前,曰:「每年中元日,宜推選有德行之人祭壇,當得上昇為仙。」於是學道慕仙之人咸萃於彼。至期,遠近之人齎香赴壇下,遙望洞門祝禱,而後衆推道德高者一人,嚴潔衣冠,佇立壇上,以候上昇,餘皆慘然訣別而退。於時有五色祥雲油然,自洞而至壇場。其道高者,衣冠不動,躡雲而昇至洞門,則有大紅紗燈籠引導。觀者靡不涕泗健羨,遙望作禮。如是者數年,人皆以為道緣德薄,未得應選為恨。至次年,衆又推舉一年高者,方上昇間,忽一道人云自武當山來掛搭,問其所以,具以實對。道人亦嗟羨之,曰:「上昇為仙, [260] 豈容易得?但虛空之中有剛風浩氣,必能遏截。吾有一符能禦之,請置於懷,慎勿遺失。」道德高者懷之,喜甚。至時果有五色祥雲捧足,冉冉而昇。踰日,道人遣其衆緣崖登視洞穴,見飛昇之人形容枯槁,橫卧於上,若重病者,奄奄氣息,久方能言。問之,則曰:「初至洞門,見一巨蟒,吐氣成雲,兩眼如火,方開口欲吞啗間,忽風雷大震,霹死於洞畔。」視之,蟒大數圍,長數十丈,又有骸骨積於巖穴之間,乃前後上昇者骨也。蓋五色雲者,乃蟒之毒氣也;紅紗燈籠者,蟒之眼光也。

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).

The Great Serpent Of Chengdu 成都長蛇

In the Xianchun era, on the sixth day of the fourth month in the yichou year (23 April, 1265), the clerk Xia Yingchen of the Tanzhou government office made a report in an imperial bulletin, and one section within it read:

In Shenwenjiang County, Chengdu Prefecture, there was a mottled yellow snake, more than a hundred zhang (a zhang is about 3.3m) in length, a spirit radiance extending more than three hundred paces around, its mouth spitting out a fragrance of pepper and plum flowers, its vapour scorching more than twenty li; those people and animals killed by it are innumerable. On the third day of the seventh month last year (27 July, 1264), this prefecture gathered more than two thousand five hundred soldiers to apprehend it, but the serpent used its tail to turn and sweep the troops away. More than five hundred were drowned, and the rest all fled in terror. The emperor decreed that the Daoist Masters of Shu use their powers to deal with the matter; they have just slain it, and its bones are like mountains.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.259 (Tale 470):

成都長蛇

咸淳乙丑四月六日,潭州書局夏應辰錄邸報從遞來,內一項云:「成都府申溫江縣有黃花斑蛇一條,長百餘丈,神光照三百餘步,口吐椒梅花香,薰灼二十餘里,殺人畜無數。去年七月三日,本府差甲士二千五百餘人收捕,蛇用尾掉卷軍士,溺死者五百餘人,餘皆驚遁。上旨命天師蜀中有法之士治之,方戮死,骨如山。」

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 Strange Serpent Spits Light 異蛇吐光

In Huizhou, among the peaks facing the river old serpent lived in secret; it was several zhang in length (a zhang is c.3.3m), and none knew its age. Whenever the year of the Song court’s civil examination arrived, it spat out a thing emitting a strange light. When this was a single glowing ball, one person would pass the examinations; if there were two then two would pass. The scholars of Hui would make a special trip and spend the night at a riverside building, to check the number of snake lights, to verify their exam success in the coming year.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.258 (Tale 468):

異蛇吐光

惠州對江山中,有老蛇隱於其間,其長數丈,莫知年數。宋朝科舉年則夜吐異光。若光一團,則主一人登科;若光二團,則二人登科。惠之士人專以夜宿於江樓,望蛇光之有無,以為次年科舉之驗也。

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).