Unfilial Service To In-Laws 事姑不孝

The mother of Li Sheng, of Xingzhou, was old and somewhat blind, and Li Sheng served her with great filial piety. Whenever he went out, he worried that his wife, née Jin, might fail to serve her properly, so always repeated his instructions to her several times, only setting off after he had done so. The lady Jin did not heed her husband’s advice, and did not observe the proper manners. His mother complained and grumbled about her a great deal, and Jin resented this. When she was preparing to bake shaobing biscuits to give to her mother-in-law, she noticed that dung from their baby son lay next to her. Jin took this and added it to the flour of the biscuit filling. Li’s mother had eaten half of the biscuit when she became aware if a horrible smell and could eat no more, leaving the rest and waiting for her son to return. When Li arrived, he saw that his mother had been fed with filth, so took up a cane and beat Jin until she fled, vanishing into the distance. Suddenly, a disembodied voice reported: “Yesterday the fugitive entered the King Guan Temple.” When Li Sheng went to the temple, he saw a dog lying beneath the offerings table, glowering so fiercely he did not dare approach. He then called for Jin’s mother and father to come and see, at which the hound wept streams of tears and explained: “I ought not to have served up filth to my mother-in-law in such an unfilial manner. When I entered the temple I suddenly turned into a dog!” Several days later she died.

Long ago there was a woman called A Li, whose son travelled for trade, sometimes not returning for years at a time. Her daughter-in-law, Qisao, stayed in the home. Whenever this woman cooked she prepared two dishes; coarse grains for her mother-in-law, but white rice for herself. Li was troubled by the woman’s disobedience, but had to endure her insults. Even accepting the inedible meals presented to her, as Li did not dare speak up. One day the wife went to a neighbouring house, leaving her mother-in-law at home. A monk came holding his alms bowl and begging for rice, but Li said: “I can’t fill my own belly! How can I give alms?” When the monk pointed to the white rice in the kitchen, Li said: “That is what my daughter-in-law Qisao eats. I daren’t give that away. I worry that she would certainly humiliate and insult me when she comes back. I had coarse rice for my breakfast, and have a little left over to prepare for lunch; you could take that.” Before the monk could answer, they heard Qisao arrive outside. When the woman saw the monk eating, she said, quite furiously: “If you want my white rice, you should take off your kasaya robe[1] and hand it over in exchange.” The monk then removed his robe. As the younger woman picked it up, the monk suddenly [21] vanished. The kasaya wrapped around her body and turned into cowhide. Imprisoned within, she could not take it off. A growth of cow hairs grew across the chest opening, and, gradually, body, head, face, all transformed. Her parents were hastily summoned, but when they arrived she had entirely transformed into an ox!

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前1.20-21 (Tale 35)

事姑不孝

邢州李生母,年老目盲,李生事之至孝。每出外,慮其妻金氏侍奉有闕,必再三囑付之而後往。金氏不聽夫語,不盡禮,母甚埋怨,金氏憤之。恰值燒餅欲進母,傍有小兒阿糞,金氏乃以麵裹糞為餅餡以進,母食既半,覺臭穢不可食,遂留以待兒歸。李生歸,見其以穢物食母,持杖擊之,金氏奔走,尋邏不見。忽有人報云:「昨日奔入關王廟中。」李生入廟,見一狗伏於案下,睜目不敢親近。遂呼金氏父母來看,此狗流涕自稱曰:「我不合以穢物奉姑不孝,忽入廟中化為狗矣!」數日而卒。

昔有婦人阿李,有子出外經商,累年不歸,止有兒婦七嫂在家。婦每飯則兩炊,姑飯以麥,婦自白飯。李稍與婦忤,必受辱罵,至於麥飯亦不進食,李忍辱而不敢言。一日婦往鄰家,留姑守舍,有僧持缽至門乞飯,李曰:「我自不能飽,安有捨施!」僧指廚中白飯,李曰:「此我兒婦七嫂自吃底,我不敢以施人,恐歸必辱罵我。我但有早食麥飯,尚有一合留備午餉,如用即取去。」僧未答,聞七嫂外歸。婦見僧乞飯,大怒曰:「汝要我白飯,可脫袈裟換。」僧即脫下。婦纔披之,僧忽 [21] 不見,袈裟著身變為牛皮,牢不可脫,胸閭先生牛毛一片,漸變身體頭面。急執其父母至,則全身化為牛矣!

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)

[1] On this robe, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kasaya_(clothing).

Lightning Strikes The Unfilial 雷擊不孝

In Wugongkou, in Wen, there were two criminal youths intending to make trouble. As each still had a mother, they plotted together that each would kill the other’s parent, and they could then stage an uprising. The chief plotter [20] was one Chen Wusi, who was then apprenticed in a restaurant as a cook, but not yet being allowed to prepare food, was stationed at the rear of the kitchen. A shepherd boy, called Wang Zheng, suddenly saw a person, a full zhang (3.3m) in height, enter the gate bearing a brocade-wrapped document. Everything went hazy for a while. It then came back out grasping the youth. There was the sound of a thunderclap. Wusi’s kerchief was pierced through, a hole visible deep into the crown of his head. He leaned against the wall and died.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前1.19-20 (Tale 34):

雷擊不孝

溫之吳公口有二惡少,謀欲生事,尚各有母,欲假手於同謀者互殺其母,而後舉事。其主謀 [20] 者陳五四者,正在練店內烹飪,尚未得食,立於竈後。有牧童王正,忽見有丈身之人攜錦皮簿書入門,恍惚間,先攜小童出門外,霹靂一聲,五四頭巾穿破,頭頂上一竅穿透,靠壁而死。

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)

An Earthworm Kills 蚯蚓殺人

At the start of the Baoli era (825 CE), in Changsha there lived a Wang Sou, whose family was poor, and who made his living by tilling the soil. One day, while out in the country, he was stung by an earthworm on the upper arm. The pain he suffered from this was extreme, so he hurried back. His agony grew and became unbearable, nights spent groaning until dawn, days spent moaning to evening, and this continued for a full month. A physician stated: “This is a case of extreme poisoning. At the start of the malady, numerous medicines would have had effect. The effects having deepened, I now have no way of knowing what to do.” Several days later, the illness had grown much worse, and he suddenly heard a noise emerging from his upper arm, quiet and [3] subtle, like the crying of an earthworm. After several more days, the noise grew ever louder, like the sound of thousands crying together. His pain grew and multiplied accordingly, and that evening he finally passed away.

Zhang Du 張讀, Xuanshi Zhi 宣室志 (Stories from the Chamber of Dissemination), 1.2-3 (Tale 3):

蚯蚓殺人

寶曆初,長沙有民王叟者,家貧,營田為業。一日於野,為蚯蚓螫其臂,痛楚甚,遂馳以歸。其痛益不可忍,夜呻而曉,晝吟而夕,如是者凡旬月。有醫者云:「此受毒之甚者也。病之始,庶藥有及。狀且深矣,則吾不得而知也。」後數日,病益甚,忽聞臂中有聲,幽然而 [3] 微,若蚯蚓吟者。又數日,其聲益響,如合千萬音。其痛亦隨而多焉。是夕果卒。

Zhang Du 張讀, Xuanshi Zhi 宣室志 (Stories from the Chamber of Dissemination)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)

The version transmitted in the Taiping Guangji varies slightly from this:

Wang Sou

At the start of the Baoli era (825 CE), in Changsha there lived a Wang Sou, whose family was poor, and who made his living by diligent farming. One day, while out in the country, he was stung by an earthworm on the upper arm. The pain he suffered from this was extreme, so he hurried back. His agony [3918] grew and became unbearable, nights spent groaning until dawn, days spent moaning to evening, and this continued for more than ten days. A physician stated: “This is extreme poisoning. At the start of the malady, numerous medicines would have had effect. The effects having deepened, I now have no way of knowing what to do.” Several days later, the illness had grown much worse, and he suddenly heard a noise emerging from his upper arm, quiet and subtle, like an earthworm. After several more days, the noise grew ever greater, like the sound of thousands crying together. His pain grew and multiplied accordingly, and that evening he finally passed away.

From Xuanshizhi.

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Period of Great Harmony), 10 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), x, 476.3917-18:

王叟

寶曆初。長沙有民王叟者。家貧。力田為業。一日耕於野。為蚯蚓螫其臂。痛楚甚。遂馳以歸。其痛 [3918] 益不可忍。夜呻而曉。晝吟而夕。如是者凡旬餘。有醫者云。此毒之甚者也。病之始。庶藥有及。狀且深矣。則吾不得而知也。後數日。病益甚。忽聞臂中有聲。幽然而微。若蚯蚓者。又數日。其聲益大。如合千萬音。其痛亦隨而多焉。是夕果卒。出宣室志

Repairing Ships, Increasing Longevity 修船增壽

In the bingyin year of the Song Xianchun era (1266), the Administrative Inspector for Linchuan, Nuan Weidao, a scholar of Shu, reported that his region had two stony paths separated by a river whose waters ran fast and wild through all four seasons. Further down there was a deep abyss, and only at that place was it possible to cross, although year in and year out those who drowned there were very numerous, as their small boats struck rocks and sank. A person called Xu Zongren decided to build a large vessel, bound with iron plates at both ends, personally hiring punt-hands who were dedicated to serving passing travellers and committed to performing virtuous works in order to accrue merit. It happened that a Person of the Way called at his gate and praised this order, addressing Xu: “The gentleman’s lifespan is restricted to [112] thirty-two, and ends this year.” On the evening of his birthday, he dreamed that he arrived at a government office, seeing a prince seated high in the hall, with three or four hundred spirits before the gates in wet robes, who presented a scroll to the prince: “Xu Zongren has saved many lives from death, with the utmost merit; we beg that husband and wife should enjoy long life, their descendants receive glory and high rank. The multitude wait only for the Zhongyuan festival; they will then cross the worldly bounds.” The prince gestured to his retinue, and with the following words instructed Zongren: “Special Extension by three ages.” He awoke and marvelled at this. From then on he found wholehearted joy in doing good works. Two of his sons and three of his grandsons served as officials. When Zongren died, people erected a hall for offerings by the side of the crossing, and it stands to this day.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.111-12 (Tale 194):

修船增壽

宋咸淳丙寅,臨川錄參暖昧道,蜀士也,嘗言其鄉有兩石嶠夾出一江,四時皆湍急,下則深淵,惟此處可以立渡,常年溺死者甚衆,蓋船小觸石即碎。有徐宗仁發心造一巨舟,兩頭裹以鐵葉,自僱篙手,專一撐過客人,且建善緣以薦亡者。忽有道人登門稱善命,謂徐曰:「公壽止得三 [112] 十二,止在今年。」生日之夕,夢至官府,見王者坐於堂上,而門首溼衣之鬼約三四百人,執一卷投於王前:「徐宗仁濟生拔死,功德莫大,乞與夫妻壽考,子孫榮貴,衆等只俟中元,即超淨界。」 王者指左右,以此詞示宗仁,云:「特延三紀。」覺而異之。自此一心好善樂施。二子、三孫,後有為官者。宗仁死,人為立祠於渡側,至今尚存。

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)

Releasing Quail, Extending Longevity 放鶉延壽

When Cai Yuanchang (i.e., Cai Jing 蔡京, 1047-1126 CE)[1] held power, he ate quail at every celebration. One evening, he dreamt that a yellow-robed old person said: “In the coming days you are to suffer murder; hopefully the gentleman may be spared this fate.” Cai asked: “What kind of person are you?” They then recited verses:

Several grains of millet could feed the gentleman;

Only meat in the congee can fill the gentleman.

For one congee several lives are cut short;

Putting down his chopsticks these are still not enough.

On the moments between mouth and stomach;

Fate and fortune are together dependent.

Wishing to warn the gentleman not to kill;

Life and death spin as if on a wheel.

He awoke and marvelled at this, making enquiries to those who prepared meals, acquiring several dozen yellow quails and releasing them. During the night he again dreamt of the yellow-robed old person, who said: “I am aware that the gentleman fulfilled the prayer, and has already saved lives. The Heavenly Emperor has now granted an extension to the gentleman’s lifespan.” Cai indeed subsequently enjoyed a long life before he passed away.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.114 (Tale 199):

放鶉延壽

蔡元長當國,每喜食鶉。一夕,夢黃衣老人曰:「來日當自被害,願公貸命。」蔡問:「汝何人?」乃誦詩云:「食君數粒粟,充君羹中肉。一羹斷數命,下筯猶未足。口腹須臾間,福禍相倚伏。願公戒勿殺,死生如轉轂。」覺而異之,詢於掌饍,得黃鶉數十,放之。經宿復夢黃衣老人曰:「感公從禱,已獲復生。今上帝已延公壽命矣。」後蔡果享高壽而卒。

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] On Cai Jing 蔡京, courtesy name Yuanchang 元長 (who died after banishment at a relatively advanced age) see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cai_Jing and the brilliant article by Charles Hartman, ‘A Textual History of Cai Jing’s Biography in the “Songshi”’, in  Emperor Huizong and Late Northern Song China: The Politics of Culture and the Culture of Politics (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006), pp. 517-64.

The Xiao of Geshan 閣山𤡔

In the xinmao year of the Gandao era (1171 CE), no rain fell in Raozhou for a very long time, and the rivers’ flow was blocked. Three fishermen of Geshan Route went empty-handed to the Fan River to catch fish. Two went ahead, but one of them felt his two thighs suddenly turn cold as ice, feeling a slight trace of saliva, and, terrified lest there be the lair of a xiao beneath him, scrambled out urgently.[1] One person alone did not see this and, having told his family he would provide for them, stayed to return at dusk. Two days later, his corpse floated some five li distant, with a fist-sized hole below the left thigh, the whole body entirely white, that being due to a xiao having curled around it and sucked his blood. In shape the xiao is just like an eel, eight or nine chi in length (c.2.7m), and is a kind of flood dragon. Among the Geshan populace, one Li Shi once caught one of these.

Hong Mai, Yi Jian Zhi, ii, 丙17.509

閣山𤡔

亁道辛卯歲,饒州久不雨,江流皆澁。閣山道漁者三人,空手入番江捕魚。二人先出,其一覺兩股忽冷如冰,微有涎沫,懼𤡔穴其下,故急出。獨一人不見,告其家守之,至暮而還。後二日,尸浮於五里外,左股下一穴如拳大,舉體皆白,蓋為𤡔所繞而吮其血也。𤡔狀全與鰻鱺魚同,長至八九尺,亦蛟類也。閣山民李十嘗捕得之。

Hong Mai 洪邁, He Zhuo 何卓 (ed.), Yi Jian Zhi 夷堅志 (Record of Yi Jian) 4 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1981)

[1] The character xiao 𤡔 is treated by the MOE dictionary of character variants as a variation on xiao 梟 ‘owl’, but this story clearly indicates a rather interesting and different aquatic nature for the creature in question. See http://dict2.variants.moe.edu.tw/yitia/fra/fra01951.htm.

An Unscrupulous Officer of the Way 法官不戒

Zhang Shengyuan, known as the ‘Sender of Thunder’, diligently followed the Way of Thunder, possessing exceptional power and efficacy; the populace all treated him as a transcendent. He resided in Lingdao Hall. One evening, when he was walking in the mountains, he defiled a village woman. When he returned at dusk, he lit a lamp, but there came the sound of a mouth eating and chewing, and suddenly dead fell to the ground. When the thunder spirits are like this, how can those scholars who follow the Way be disrespectful?

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.166 (Tale 289):

法官不戒

張聲遠,名雷發,奉行雷法,甚有靈驗,衆皆神之。寓廬陵道堂。一晚山行,污一村婦。暮歸,堂中焚炷,但口中作吃吃之聲,忽仆地竟死。雷將之靈如此,行法之士忽慢可乎?

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).