Pei Zhang’s Unhappy Wife 裴章薄妻

Pei Zhang was from Hedong; his father Zhou had once garrisoned Jingzhou. Their private monk, Tan Zhao, had made great achievements in the Way, and able to comprehend good and bad fortune. As a youth Zhang had profound respect for Tan Zhao, who said that his career and prestige would surpass that of his father. When Zhang reached the ‘capping age’ (i.e., adulthood, at around 20), his father married him to a daughter of the Li family. On passing the age of thirty, Zhang followed a posting to Taiyuan, leaving his wife in Luozhong, ‘passing the door but never entering’ (i.e., being too busy to visit), never taking her along with him. Lady Li felt herself to have been born under an unlucky star, often wearing coarse clothes and a mourning hairstyle, reading Buddhist texts and eating simple food. After a further decade, when his father transferred from Jingzhou to garrison Taiyuan, Tan Zhao followed him. Zhang therefore saw Zhao to renew their acquaintance, but Zhao was shocked and sighed for a long time, addressing him: “Fifty years ago this poor cleric often said Your Excellency would scale the heights; now you are quite weakened and exhausted. How has this happened?” Zhang told him of his unhappy wife. Zhao said: “The lady has complained to the Lord on High, and he punishes Your Excellency.” Ten days later, he cut his stomach open with a knife in the bathtub; his five organs fell to the ground, and he subsequently died.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.13 (Tale 73):

裴章薄妻

河東裴章者,其父胄,曾鎮荊州。門僧曇照,道行甚高,能知休咎。章幼時為曇照所重,言其官班位望過於其父。章弱冠,父為娶李氏女。乃三十年餘,章從職太原,棄其妻於洛中,過門不入,別有所挈。李氏自感其薄命,常褐衣髽髺,讀佛書,蔬食。又十年,嚴經自荊州移鎮太原,曇照隨之。章因見照敍舊,照驚噫久之,謂之曰:「貧道五十年前常謂郎君必貴,今削盡,何也?」章自以薄妻之事啟之。照曰:「夫人生魂訴上帝,以罪處君。」後旬日,為其下以刀劃腹於浴斛,五臟墮地,遂死。

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)

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The Living Avenge Unjust Death 生報死冤

In Jianyang County there was a woman of the Liu family who because of an illicit relationship with a passing traveller, one Yu Er. Yu therefore, when she later buried her husband, exhausted all his property, giving it to the woman for her expenses. When she took up with someone else, Yu felt deeply hurt and whipped the woman, after which she hung herself. Her son covered up the matter and buried her. The woman was then reincarnated in the family of Wang Qianliu in Jiankang, remaining as his daughter. Her birth took place on the same year, month and day as the woman’s suicide.

Yu returned to seeking books and literature, and travelled to Jiankang, happening to visit Wang Qianliu’s house. Wang and Yu were aware that the girl’s birth tallied with the death of the adultress, so raised her as an adopted child. On reaching thirteen or fourteen, the girl formed an illicit attachment with the youthful son of a neighbour, but Yu prohibited this and declared it unacceptable. One day, Yu Zhai, who was serving as Grand Military Commissioner, was travelling by sedan chair and followed Yu to the second entrance, when he came across the girl weeping and crying in an upper storey, saying that her father and Yu had forced her into adultery. Yu was terrified at being questioned by the military commission about these strange events, and, falling into a panic, hung himself and died. The next year, the girl married the neighbour’s young son.

The adulterer died in Min (Fujian), but the retribution of this matter took place several thousand li away. It can clearly be seen that injustice inevitably faces retribution, like an echo following a sound. Matters of uneasy conscience can never be endured.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前1.126 (Tale 220):

生報死冤

In 建陽縣有劉家一婦,因與衢客余二者私通,余因此婦喪夫,遂罄其財本,以給此婦用度。此婦復通他人,余痛箠之,婦自縊而死。其子匿其事葬之。此婦乃託生於建康王千六家,仍為女子。所生之日,乃此婦之自縊年月日時也。余復營求文籍,往建康販賣,遇於王千六家。王與余心知女生年與姦婦死日符合,遂就王螟蛉為女看養。年及十三四歲,此女遂私與鄰之少年子通,余禁之不可。一日,裕齋為制置使,行轎從余二門首,遇此女在樓上狂叫,謂其父余二強逼之姦私。余恐制司怪問,被此一嚇,自經而死。後年,其女嫁鄰之少年子為妻。姦婦死於閩,乃責報於數千里外,信知冤必有報,如響隨聲,虧心之事,斷斷乎不可為已。

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).

Aggrieved Spirits Become Visible 冤鬼現形

In the guiyou year of the Song Chunyou era (1253), in Duanyang there was a person surnamed Chen, who plotted to kill a seller of medicinal herbs, and to carry away a boatload of medicine. He plotted this together with the merchant’s servant. On returning he went himself to open up a druggist’s shop, and when the time came to make sales, he unwrapped the bundled medicines, but inside he saw the head of the murdered tradesman. Unwrapping every bundle they were all the same. He became completely terrified, leaped up once, and died.

Moreover, in a bingyin year, in Yuanzhou there was a monk whose surname had formerly been Wang, who followed the official Liu Cui in Changwu, seizing the abbot of a Chan monastery. Before this, the monks of that monastery had all exhausted their funds and borrowed money so they claimed it; the abbot had not been there long, and was frightened that he might seize the monastery. The monk thought that the repayments already made had been heavy enough, and refused to pay more, offering only 300,000 as payment. Monk Wang wished to seize it all with main strength, and although it was strongly fortified and resisted, the abbot cut his own throat in angry despair. Monk Wang took all the monastery’s treasure and returned, but whenever crossing a watery place, he always saw the dead abbot following behind him. On reaching his home compound, whenever he glanced in a mirror, he would always see the dead monk behind his left or right shoulder, and due to this never dared to use a mirror. After the extensive burning of incense and spirit money, he found peace for a time. After [122] several years had passed, the monk Wang suddenly developed a sore on his left cheek, its pus and blood never drying, and eventually he died.

It is thus clear that the burden of taking human life cannot be borne, and that rancour endures in the darkest places.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.121-22 (Tale 211):

冤鬼現形

宋淳祐癸丑年間,端陽有陳其姓者,謀殺一販生藥商人,席卷一船生藥。蓋與商僕共圖之。歸則自以開張藥局,遇發賣之時,解開藥裹,則見被殺商人之頭在內,裹裹皆有。其人驚駭,一躍而亡。

又丙寅年間,袁州有僧俗姓王者,隨劉倅官於常武,於倅奪一禪寺住持。先是,此寺之僧皆竭資舉債而圖之,住持未久,而遽遭其奪寺。僧思前費已重,後顧無償,只得又經營三百千貼之。王僧志在強奪,堅然不允,而寺僧憤鬱自刎。王僧席卷寺財而歸,沿途凡渡水處,即見死僧隨後。到鄉所歸院,每覽鏡,又嘗見死僧在肩之左右,於是不敢用鏡,廣燒香紙,以期平善。越 [122] 數年,王僧忽左腮患瘡如碗,膿血不幹,竟斃。信知人命不可負,其冤對在冥冥間也。

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).

Fostered Swallows Show Gratitude 飼燕知恩

During the Yuanyou era (1086-1094), a daughter of the Wang family, named Yasan, lived in Qingxi, in Yanzhou. She saw a mother swallow, whose three chicks were not yet able to leave the nest, being eaten by a cat, and daily took food to feed them, until they grew up and flew away. That winter, Yasan fell ill and died. The next spring, the three swallows returned, flying around and around her room without stopping. Her mother said: “You are flying in search of Yasan, aren’t you? Yasan is dead; she is buried in the back garden. Follow me if you want to find her.” Her mother walked, the swallows flying behind her, until they reached the garden, where she pointed to the tomb. The three swallows flew to the grave, crying out, and then, using their beaks, all dug themselves into the earth and died.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.120 (Tale 209):

飼燕知恩

元祐間,嚴州青溪王氏女,名亞三。見燕母為貓所食,有未出巢燕子三,每日將飯飼之,後長大飛去。其冬,亞三病死。次春,三燕復來,飛繞其屋不已。母曰:「你飛尋亞三否?亞三已死,葬在後園中,欲尋則隨我去。」母行,燕飛隨後,至園,母指墓,三小燕飛鳴於墓,以嘴鑽入墓土中皆死。

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).