Zhong Yao 鍾繇

Zhong Yao (151-230 CE) suddenly stopped attending the morning court, and his mood and character were quite different to what people had become used to. When a fellow official asked him why this was, he responded: “A woman often comes to me; she has a beauty that is not of the mortal world.” His colleague replied: “This must be a ghost. You should kill it; afterwards it will stay away from your home.” He asked: “How could I intend to slaughter something possessing such a form?” Yuanchang replied: “There is no such problem.” In the end he eagerly called her to him, but could not bear to carry out the plan, so only lightly wounded her. She left immediately, staunching the blood with fresh silk floss, which was scattered along her route. The following day, he sent people to follow these traces. They came to a great tomb. In a coffin lay a woman, her body appearing still to be alive. Wearing a white silk gown and a cinnabar-embroidered waistcoat, there was a wound on one of her thighs, and the waistcoat showed signs of her having wiped away blood. From then the visits ceased.

From Youminglu.

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, 317.2509:

鍾繇

鍾繇忽不復朝會。意性有異於常。寮友問其故。云。常有婦人來。美麗非凡間者。曰。必是鬼物。可殺之。後來止戶外。曰。何以有相殺意。元常曰。無此。慇懃呼入。意亦有不忍。乃微傷之。便出去。以新綿拭血。竟路。明日。使人尋跡。至一大冢。棺中一婦人。形體如生。白練衫。丹繡裲襠。傷一髀。以裲襠中綿拭血。自此便絕。出幽明錄

Jia Mi 賈謐

Jia Mi’s courtesy name was Changyuan. One night, in the sixth month of the ninth year Yuankang (299 CE), there was a violent thunderstorm. A pillar of Mi’s room collapsed, pinning him to his bedcovering. A violent gust of wind then caught his clothing, and lifted him several hundred zhang into the air (a zhang is about 3.3m). After some time had elapsed he came back down.

From Yiyuan.

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, 359.2846:

賈謐

賈謐字長淵。元康九年六月。夜暴雷電。謐齋柱陷。壓毀牀帳。飄風吹其服。上天數百丈。久乃下。出異苑

 

Liu Jiao 劉嶠

At the end of the Yongjia era (307-13 CE), there was a Liu Jiao who lived in Jinling. His elder brother had died young, and his sister-in-law lived as a widow. One night, his sister-in-law and a servant-girl were asleep in the hall when the servant suddenly cried out and hurried to his room. She told him: “On the wall where your sister-in-law sleeps there is a very strange and unwholesome sight.” Liu Jiao quickly picked up a knife and lit the fire. Just as he reached the woman, he saw that there were shapes like human faces on all four walls, their eyes opened wide and their tongues protruding. Some were tigers, some dragons, changing to take on every conceivable shape, and growing as he watched to over a zhang (3.3m) in length. His sister-in-law then died.

From Guanggujin wuxingji.

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, 359.2846:

劉嶠

永嘉末。有劉嶠居晉陵。其兄蚤亡。嫂寡居。夜。嫂與婢在堂中眠。二更中。婢〈婢原作嫂。據明鈔本改。〉忽大哭。走往其房。云。嫂屋中及壁上。奇怪不可看。劉嶠便持刀然火。將婦至。見四壁上如人面。張目吐舌。或虎或龍。千變萬形。視其面長丈餘。嫂即亡。出廣古今五行記

Master Ren Of Wu 吳任生

Master Ren, from Wu Prefecture, was skilled at spotting spirits, and his cottage was on Dongtingshan. He often looked like a young boy, and, according to the custom of Wu and Chu, none knew his birthdate. During the Baoli era (825-26 CE), there was a youth, surnamed Yang, the son of a Qiankunshan military officer, who was living apart in Wu Prefecture. He would often, of a daytime, meet a few people of a similar age and go boating together.

When they went to the Huqiu Temple, Master Ren was in the boat with them. Their talk touched on spirits and deities, and Master Yang said: “People and spirits leave different traces. Because spirits have died they cannot be seen.” Master Ren laughed: “Spirits are extremely numerous. People are just unable to recognise them. Only I can pick them out.” They turned to look at a woman, dressed in dark robes, holding a small boy and walking along the bank. The Master pointed and said: “This is a spirit. The thing she is embracing is nothing more than the ethereal soul of an infant.” Yang said: “But then how can you tell that she is a spirit?” The Master replied: “So the gentleman thinks I’m all talk?” He then called out in a stern voice: “You are a spirit. Have you stolen the child of a living person?” When the woman heard this she was terrified, and started to hurry back the way she had come. Before she had taken more than a few dozen steps, she vanished. Master Yang was both impressed and astonished.

When evening came, they returned. Several dozen li from the city walls there was a house on the riverbank, with mats laid out for a feast. There was a sorceress, who encouraged them to take seats at her left, and libations were made to the deities. Master Yang and Master Ren both asked her about this, and the sorceress told them: “Today a villager’s baby died of a sudden illness, but now it has revived so we are holding a banquet in gratitude.” They then ordered that the child be brought out for them to see, and it was indeed the infant that the woman had been carrying. The guests were all amazed and alarmed at this, and thanked Master Ren, saying: “The gentleman is truly an adept of the Way; we had no idea!”

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), vii, 347.2746:

吳任生

吳郡任生者。善視鬼。廬於洞庭山。貌常若童兒。吳楚之俗。莫能究其甲子。寶曆中。有前崑山尉楊氏子。僑居吳郡。常一日。里中三數輩。相與泛舟。俱遊虎丘寺。時任生在舟中。且語及鬼神事。楊生曰。人鬼殊迹。故鬼卒不可見矣。任生笑曰。鬼甚多。人不能識耳。我獨識之。然顧一婦人。衣青衣。擁豎兒。步於岸。生指語曰。此鬼也。其擁者乃嬰兒之〈之原作也。據明鈔本改。〉生魂耳。楊曰。然則何以辨其鬼耶。生曰。君第觀我與語。即厲聲呼曰。爾鬼也。竊生人之子乎。其婦人聞而驚懾。遂疾廻去。步未十數。遽亡見矣。楊生且歎且異。及晚還。去郭數里。岸傍一家。陳筵席。有女巫。鼓舞於其左。乃醮神也。楊生與任生俱問之。巫曰。今日里中人有嬰兒暴卒。今則寤矣。故設筵以謝。遂命出嬰兒以視。則真婦人所擁者。諸客驚歎之。謝任生曰。先生真道術者。吾不得而知也。出宣室志

Zhang Yi 張遺

The Prefectural Chief of Guiyang Zhang Yi[1] was from Jiangxia. His courtesy name was Shugao, and he resided in Yanling. Amid his fields there was a great tree, more than ten spans around, that shaded six mu (around 40 acres). Its branches and leaves were luxuriant, and no millet would grow beneath them. He sent a passing traveller to fell it, but after several swings of the axe the tree began to bleed profusely. The traveller was terrified, and returned to tell Shugao. Shugao told him, furiously: “Old trees sweat; what’s so strange about that?” He therefore went in person and hacked at it. A large amount of blood poured out. Shugao hacked at it again, and again, and opened up a hollow space within. A white-haired old man, four or five chi tall (1.3-1.6m), emerged suddenly and stepped towards Shugao. Shugao greeted him with a swing of his blade, and killed him. Four or five old men emerged in the same way, falling to the ground in fear and shock. Shugao carried on as before, quite unruffled. The various people looked on at these beings. Like people but not human, like beasts but not animals, could they be what is known as wood or stone devils, or Kui sprites? In the year he felled the tree, Shu- [2841] -gao was appointed Censor to the Ministry of Works and Governor of Yanzhou.

From Fayuanzhulin. [2]

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, 359.2840-41:

張遺〈搜神記遺作遼。〉

桂陽太守江夏張遺。字叔高。居𨻳〈居上原有隱字。據明鈔本刪。𨻳字原闕。據法苑珠林三一補。〉陵。田中有大樹。十圍餘。蓋六畝。枝葉扶疏。蟠地不生谷草。遣客斫之。斧數下。樹大血出。客驚怖。歸白叔高。叔高怒曰。老樹汗出。此等何怪。因自斫之。血大流出。叔高更斫之。又有一空處。白頭老翁長四五尺。突出趁〈趁原作稱。據法苑珠林三一改。〉叔高。叔高以刀迎斫。殺之。四五老翁並出。左右皆驚怖伏地。叔高神慮恬然如舊。諸人徐視之。似人非人。似獸非獸。此所謂木石之怪。夔魍魎者乎。其伐樹年中。叔 [2841] 高辟司空御史兗州刺史。出法苑珠林。法苑珠林四二作出搜神記

[1] An editor’s note here states that the story is titled (and the character likewise named) Zhang Liao 張遼 in the Soushenji 搜神記.

[2] An editor’s note here states that the Fayuanzhulin reports that the story is taken from the Soushenji 搜神記.

A Wudu Woman 武都女

In Wudu there was a man who transformed into a woman, beautiful and elegant. This woman was an elemental.[1] The prince of Shu accepted her as a concubine, but she was not accustomed to the climate, so wished to leave. Her host, wishing to keep her, played songs from Dongping to cheer her up. Before long, however, she had passed away. The prince mourned her, and sent five strong fellows to Wudu, picking up earth to make a grave mound for his concubine. The earth mound covered several mu (a mu equals 6.67 acres), and rose seven zhang in height (about 25m), and upon it there was a stone mirror. Today this is Wudan, at the north edge of Chengdu.

From Huayangguozhi.

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, 359.2839:

武都女

武都有一丈夫。化為女子。美而豔。蓋女〈明鈔本女作山〉精也。蜀王納為妃。不習水土。欲去。主留之。乃為東平之歌以樂之。無幾物故。王哀之。乃遣五丁之武都。擔土為妃作塚。蓋地數畝。高七丈。上有石鏡。今成都北角〈角原作商。據明鈔本改。〉武擔是也。出華陽國志

[1] The character used here is jing 精, which carries a wide range of meanings, including ‘spirit’, ‘goblin’ and ‘demon’. Possibly overstating a distinction between gui 鬼 and jing, I had originally opted for ’demon’ here, but reconsidered this after the ever-helpful Ofer Waldman suggested that ‘spirit’ was less likely to be confused with the yao 妖 ‘demon’ of the chapter heading. After consulting Schafer’s translation of the Taiping guangji table of contents, I have decided (with reservations) to follow his ‘elemental’ reading for jing 精, in order to avoid involving a connotation of evil to the character. See Edward Schafer, ‘The Table of Contents of the “T’ai p’ing kuang chi”,’ CLEAR 2 (1980), 258-63 (262).

Fei Ji 費季

Fei Ji, from Wu, spent several years as a travelling merchant. At that time there were many bandits on the roads, and his wife often worried about this. When Ji and his fellows were staying at a travellers’ hostel below Lushan, each asked the others how long they had been on the road. Ji said: “Several years have already passed since I left my home. Just before departing I said farewell to my wife, and asked for her gold hairpin to take with me. I wanted to check whether or not she was devoted to me. I received the hairpin, and left it on the door lintel. Setting off I lost my way, and that hairpin is still on the lintel.” That night, his wife dreamed that Ji told her: “On my journey I encountered bandits, and have been dead for two years. If you don’t believe these words of mine, I took your hairpin but did not carry it with me. I left it [2504] on the door lintel, so you can go and get it.” When his wife awoke, she sought and found the hairpin. The household then announced his death, but, a year later, Ji arrived back from his travels.

From Soushenji.

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, 316.2503-4:

費季

吳人費季。客賈數年。時道多劫。妻常憂之。季與同輩旅宿廬山下。各相問去家幾時。季曰。吾去家已數年。臨來。與妻別。就求金釵以行。欲觀其志。當與吾否耳。得釵。仍以著戶楣上。臨發忘道。此釵故當在戶上也。爾夕。妻夢季曰。吾行遇盜。死已二年。若不信吾言。吾取汝釵。遂不以行。留 [2504] 在戶楣上。可往取之。妻覺。揣釵得之。家遂發喪。後一年餘。季行來歸還。出搜神記

Tan Sheng 談生

At the age of forty Tan Sheng was without a wife. He often became aroused through study and reading. Suddenly one midnight a young woman appeared to him, aged fifteen or sixteen and peerless under heaven in her appearance, dress and posture. She came to Sheng so they could be husband and wife, but told him: “I am not like other people. Never let firelight shine upon me. Only after three years have passed may I be illuminated.” They then lived as man and wife. She’d bore a son, who was already two years old, when, unable to bear it any longer, Sheng waited until she was asleep then stealthily illuminated and examined her. Above her waist was living flesh, just like any human being, but below her waist were just dry bones. His wife awoke, and told him: “The gentleman has betrayed me. I had almost returned to life – why could you not bear to wait just one more year before examining me?” Sheng parted from her with thanks, weeping, as they could no longer be together.

She said: “Although my parting from the gentleman is entirely correct, I am still concerned for our child. You are poor and unable to support yourselves, so follow me a moment and I will leave you something of value. Sheng followed her as she entered a splendid hall, its rooms and furnishings all quite extraordinary. Indicating a pearl-stitched gown, she handed it to him and said: “You can support yourself with this.” She then tore away the front of the gown, left it with him and departed. Sheng subsequently took the robe to the market, where it was purchased by the household of the Suiyang Prince, earning him a thousand ten-thousand strings of cash.

The prince recognised the robe, however, and said: “This is my daughter’s gown. It must have been taken from her tomb.” He thus seized and beat Sheng, who told him the full truth, but the prince still did not believe him. They therefore went to view the tomb, and found the grave undisturbed, just like [2502] before. When they opened it, beneath the coffin lid they found the same gown. They called his child, and indeed he resembled the princess. The prince then believed the story, and summoned Tan Sheng, granting him the gown and installing him as princely consort. Their son was appointed Chancellor.[1]

From Lieyizhuan

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, 316.2501-2:

談生

談生者。年四十。無婦。常感激讀書。忽〈書忽原作詩經。據明鈔本改。〉夜半有女子。可年十五六。姿顏服飾。天下無雙。來就生為夫婦。乃〈乃原作之。據明鈔本改。〉言。我與人不同。勿以火照我也。三年之後。方可照。為夫妻。生一兒。已二歲。不能忍。夜伺其寢後。盜照視之。其腰上已生肉如人。腰下但有枯骨。婦覺。遂言曰。君負我。我垂生矣。何不能忍一歲而竟相照也。生辭謝。涕泣不可復止。云。與君雖大義永離。然顧念我兒。若貧不能自偕活者。暫隨我去。方遺君物。生隨之去。入華堂。室宇器物不凡。以一珠袍與之曰。可以自給。裂取生衣裾。留之而去。後生持袍詣市。睢陽王家買之。得錢千萬。王識之曰。是我女袍。此必發墓。乃取拷之。生具以實對。王猶不信。乃視女冢。冢完如 [2502] 故。發視之。果棺蓋下得衣裾。呼其兒。正類王女。王乃信之。即召談生。復賜遺衣。以為主壻。表其兒以為侍中。出列異傳

[1] With thanks to Ofer Waldman for greatly improving this translation!

Gongsun Da 公孫達

During the Ganlu era,[1] Gongsun Da of Renchen died in office at Chen Prefecture. When they were about to prepare him for burial, his sons, together with the prefectural clerks, numbering several dozen people, were approaching the funeral scene when his five-year-old son began to speak in tongues, sounding just like his father. He scolded the people gathered for only weeping, and then called out to all his sons as a further warning. His sons and the rest were unable to control their grief, so he comforted and encouraged them:

The fortune of the four seasons,

Still has beginning and end.

Human life may be cut short,

Who can avoid this fate?

If the tongue makes a thousand words,

All should accord with the hidden meaning.

His sons questioned him again: “Nothing is known of any who have died. The intelligence of Your Excellency is a unique exception. Are there deities and spirits?” He replied: “The matter of spirits and deities is beyond your knowledge.” He then requested paper and brush, and he wrote. Having filled the page with meaningful poetry, he tossed it to the ground and died.

From Lieyizhuan.

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, 316.2499:

公孫達

任城公孫達。甘露中。陳郡卒官。將斂。兒及郡吏數十人臨喪。達五歲兒。忽作靈語。音聲如父。呵衆人哭止。因呼諸子。以次教誡。兒等悲哀不能自勝。及慰勉之曰。四時之運。猶有始終。人修短殊。誰不致此。語千餘言。皆合文章。兒又問曰。人亡皆無所知。唯大人聰明殊特。有神靈耶。答曰。鬼神之事。非爾所知也。因索紙筆作書。辭義滿紙。投地遂絕。出列異傳

[1] The Ganlu 甘露 era could refer to either 53-50 BCE, 254-59 CE, 265-66 CE, or 359-64 CE.

A Guangling Clerk 廣陵吏人

A clerk from Guangling, surnamed Zhao, was sleeping alone in a chamber through the summer heat. Around midnight, he suddenly saw a tall person in a yellow robe enter via the door, followed by seven much smaller people, also wearing yellow. The stranger muttered to himself: “Looked everywhere without result, and now here, eh?” He shouted at him to get up, and said: “This can now be carried out.” One of the yellow-robed people stepped forwards and said: “This life is not yet finished, and we cannot just take it away. It would be better to make a record of this.” The taller person then reached inside his robe and brought out a seal. They made a seal impression on his left arm and departed. When dawn came he inspected it. The seal stuck closely to his skin, and its characters were like the ancient seal script. The lower character was shi 識 ‘knowledge’, the right looked like xian 仙 ‘immortal’, the left like ji 記 ‘record’, but the one above that could not be read. It is not known how Zhao ended up.

From Jishenlu.

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, 353.2800:

廣陵吏人

廣陵吏姓趙。當暑。獨寢一室。中夜。忽見大黃衣人自門而入。從小黃衣七人。謂己曰。處處尋不得。乃在此耶。叱起之。曰。可以行矣。一黃衣前曰。天年未盡。未可遽行。宜有以記之可也。大人即探懷。出一印。印其左臂而去。及明視之。印文著肉。字若古篆。識其下。右若仙字。左若記字。其上不可識。趙後不知所終。出稽神錄