A Spirit Steals Mantou 鬼偷饅頭

The Xiang household of Yongjia was occupied by a spirit; sometimes this thing, shaped like a person with disheveled hair, appeared and disappeared across their home, and called itself ‘Grand Duke’. The Xiangs thought this normal, and did not recognise its anomalous nature. Whatever they wanted, they had only to call to the Grand Duke in the kitchen, and that thing would then appear. When Xiang’s wife became pregnant, she wished to eat a plain meal of mantou steamed buns, and so called to the Grand Duke, and he appeared after the second watch (9-12pm) bearing a steamer layer of piping hot mantou, spreading warm vapour. Several days later, news spread that people at the Qichi ferry crossing were missing a steamer layer of mantou from a festival of offerings to earth and water. Later, Xiang’s wife gave birth to a child; it lacked eyebrows and eyes, but had a mouth and could suckle; first she wanted to drown it, but suddenly heard the Grand Duke speak out of thin air: “The child must not be drowned; feed it for the time being, and soon there will be reason for gratitude.” After more than two months had passed, Mrs Xiang was cuddling the baby on her bed, when the Grand Duke suddenly placed two silver tablets on the bed, seized the child and left; afterwards this strangeness stopped.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.236 (Tale 425):

鬼偷饅頭

永嘉項家為邪神所據,時有一物,人形而蓬首,出沒其家,自呼曰「大公」。項以為常,不為怪異。凡有所求,只於廚間呼大公,物則隨至。項妻有孕,想齋饅頭食,遂叫大公一聲,至二更餘,捧一層蒸饅頭而來,蒸氣尚暖。越數日,人傳七尺渡頭人家設水陸齋,失了饅頭一層。後項婦生一子如冬瓜狀,無眉目,但有口能乳,方欲溺之,忽聞大公空中作聲曰:「子不可溺,權以乳哺,當有以謝。」踰兩月,項婦方抱子在牀,忽大公置白金二笏於牀,奪抱此子而去,後其怪亦息。

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).

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Sprites and Goblins of Rongzhou 融州魍魎

On the first day of the first moon in the yiwei year of the Chunxi era (25 January, 1175), sprites and goblins were seen in the county seat of Rongshui County in Rongzhou; they cast the shadows of people, but were not human in form, being quite naked and with dishevelled hair, and they numbered in uncountable tens of thousands. [232] A servitor brought some spirit money and burnt it; the shadows eventually approached the flames. Then they scattered again in disorder, but after a little while they all disappeared. That day, at a shrine outside the city walls, fireworks suddenly rocketed from the earth straight into the sky, exploding all day and then being extinguished, leaving the whole prefecture in shock and alarm.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.231-32 (Tale 416):

融州魍魎

淳熙乙未正月旦日,魍魎見於融州融水縣治,有人之影,無人之形,裸死而披髮者無萬數。 [232] 有一手力持紙錢焚之,影竟赴火。又復散亂,有頃乃沒。是日,城外有神廟,忽煙火自地中直出衝天,經日而滅,一郡大驚。

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).

Fox Spirits Present Cases 妖狐陳狀

Zhou Ju’an of Ancheng passed the civil examinations when very young, and was first employed as registrar and constable of Songzi in Jiangling. One night within a few months of taking up the post, his father Zhou Hongbo dreamt that the sage protector Zhenwu addressed him, saying: “Your son began his official career very young, but in recent days fox spirits have transformed into seven women bringing complaints in order to turn his head; you should deal with the matter.” As soon as he awoke, he told his son about the dream. Ju’an waited until dawn to see to the matter, first, having already summoned military officers to the government office, he waited for them to arrive. Suddenly, when he had started to judge cases, seven women came to make speeches presenting their complaints, and the constable-registrar judged the cases with composure. Before long the hubbub and noise became extreme, at which he shouted to the soldiers, who shackled and jailed them, although two had already slipped away. The five people all changed into foxes, but said: “You should not kill us, killing us would not be auspicious.” The registrar-constable did not answer, but eventually had them flogged to death, reporting the matter to the government office.

At that time the Vice Grand Councilor Bie was a prominent judge in Jiangling, and was especially pleased to receive his report, soon writing a proclamation that he would come and commend Constable-Registrar Zhou at his office. The Zhous, father and son, on receiving this proclamation, were more than a little surprised, and wondered whether there might be some other reason behind it. On his arrival, Vice Grand Councilor Bie, seeing them, said: “Your Honour passed the civil examination very young, at a similar age to your servant. Your servant too, on first taking office, had fox spirits come having transformed themselves into women, and immediately had them executed. Your killing them, sir, was entirely fitting.” He then proclaimed that [Zhou] serve as a judge among his subordinates. When the time came for the constable to set out and take up this post, he prepared his cap and clothing and said farewell to his ancestral temple. Suddenly he saw, in front of him as he walked, an elderly fox sitting upright with some dignity in the hall. It spoke: “The gentleman has killed five of our people, and ought to be killed for this; as the gentleman is moving away, the rich and powerful of near and far must order the taking of five people from the gentleman’s family.” The constable was angry, and struck out at the old fox with the tablet he was holding, at which it died.

Within two years, his two younger brothers died, his two younger sisters died, his father died, and people said this was the fox spirit’s vengeance. Why? One’s life and death is a matter of fate; how could a fox spirit [252] wrest this away? This was merely chance. Ju’an later rose to the seventh grade in Nanxiong, and eventually died.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.251-52 (Tale 453):

妖狐陳狀

安成周居安,少年登科,初任江陵松滋簿尉。之任未數月,乃父周洪伯夜夢所事佑聖真武告之曰:「汝子初仕少年,來日有妖狐化作七婦人告狀,以惑汝子,可治之。」翌早,洪伯以所夢告其子。居安待旦視事,先已約束兵使在衙,待其來矣。方判事間,忽有婦女七人來陳狀詞,簿尉判事自若。未幾喧嘩之甚,遂喝兵使縛之,枷鎖入獄,已失其二。五人盡變為狐,卻云:「不可殺我,殺我不祥。」簿尉不答,竟杖死之,以其事申府。時別參政之傑判江陵,得申狀極喜,尋檄周簿尉過本府稟儀。周之父子當被檄之時,不無驚訝,疑有異故。及至,別參政見之,乃云:「足下少年登科,與某登科年相若也。某之初任亦有妖狐化婦而來者,當即殺之。君殺之甚宜。」遂檄為椽屬。尉捧檄啟行之時,具冠裳辭家廟,忽見前所走之老狐踞坐公廳云:「公殺我五人,本合殺公以去,富貴方遠,必公家取五人之命。」尉怒,以所執手版擊之,老狐隨斃。二年之內,二弟死,二妹死,其父死,或曰「曰」原作「者」,據明刻本改。妖狐之報也。吁!夫人死生有命,豈妖狐所 [252] 能奪也,第偶然爾。居安後得七秩南雄而終。

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 Fox Spirit Marries Off His Daughters 狐精嫁女

In Hengli Village, Pucheng County, a white-robed priest appeared and approached one of the households, stating that the pursuit of lawsuits had compounded his suffering, that he wished to take his family away from these troubles, and came specifically to sell them off to his host, asking also how many were in his family. The host said that he had a wife and three sons. When asked whether or not these were married, he said, “Not yet.” The priest stated that he had three daughters, and wished to wed them to his host’s sons, an offer his host gladly accepted. The priest immediately arrived together with his wife, three daughters and several attendants carrying wheat on shoulder poles. They then agreed that night would be a convenient time to divine the couples’ astrological suitability. The host said that they should set dates. After they had stayed for four nights, all the hens and fish had been cooked, and neighbouring households had given all their wine as offerings. One day the host invited a yin-yang master to select safe places to sleep; he wished to see the five (the brides’ family) together on their beds. That person came with a dog on a lead, and when he entered the host ordered that the priest be invited with his wife and three daughters to come and be seen together, but when their door was opened, however, there was nobody in the chamber, only five shoulder poles. When his wife reported this to her husband he would not believe her. On going to look in person, it was indeed as she had said. When the yin-yang master examined the shoulder poles, they were all just twisted strips of yellow bamboo tied around branches and foliage; the umbrellas too were just lotus leaves. They suddenly realized that foxes had been invited into the house. The neighbours gathered hounds to give chase, and saw an old fox deep in sleep; the dogs killed it. Before long the head of the household passed away, and the family’s fortunes went into decline.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.248 (Tale 448):

狐精嫁女

浦城縣橫歷村,忽有一白服道人到一人家,稱為官司追併所苦,欲挈家逃避,特來販投主人,且問有幾家眷。主人謂夫妻三子。〔問其〕(據明刻本補。)曾娶否,曰:「未娶。」道人謂有三女,願妻之令似,主喜而納之。須臾,道人偕妻與三女俱來,兼有從者數人麥擔,且約(「約」原作「納」,據明刻本改。)是夜便合婚。主謂必擇日。留四宵,雞魚烹盡,鄰人亦具酒禮。主人一日約陰陽師來擇選安牀,尚見五人共坐於牀。其人帶一犬來,方入門,主人令請道人夫妻並三女出來相見,方開門,寂無一人,惟有五擔。妻以告夫,夫不之信。夫往觀之,果如所言。陰陽師看其擔皆是抝黃竹篾縛槎葉,雨傘則是荷葉,方知為狐入屋。鄰人聚犬逐之,見一老狐正睡,為犬所斃。未幾家長卒,家道替矣。

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 Person Transformed into a Tiger 人變虎

Wang Yong, of Black Fish Gorge, in Wangcheng County, Guo Prefecture, was a charcoal-burner by trade. He often walked in the valley by the stream and saw two black fish, a little over a chi (c. 33cm) in length, swimming on top of the water. Yong, tired and hungry from cutting wood, then gutted and ate one of them. His younger brother was shocked and said: “This fish is a spirit being belonging to the valley; how could my elder brother kill it?” Soon after this, his wife brought food to them, but Yong kept on wielding his axe, and when he did eventually turn around, his wife realised that his appearance had changed, and called his brother over to look at him; Yong suddenly shed his clothes, calling and leaping, and, changed into a tiger, headed straight for the mountains. He would sometimes kill roe deer and stags, throwing them into the house at night; he was like this for two years.

One day at dusk he knocked on the door and announced himself, saying: “I am Wang Yong.” His younger brother replied: “My elder brother has been transformed into a tiger for three years now; what ghost is taking my brother’s [230] name?” He spoke again: “I previously killed a black fish; the officials of the underworld banished me as a tiger, and, because of harming people, they gave me a hundred lashes; now I have obtained return to my body; you have a look, there is no doubt.” His younger brother was delighted, hastily opening the door. He saw a person with a head just like a tiger’s and died of fright. The whole family screamed and yelled, and fled, and in the end the villagers beat him to death. His wife’s family confirmed that his body bore a distinctive black mark, and that it was truly Wang Yong; his head never changed back.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.229-30 (Tale 412):

人變虎

虢州王城縣黑魚谷王用,業燒炭。於谷中有水方數步,常見二黑魚,長尺餘,遊於水上。用伐木饑困,遂宰一食之。其弟驚曰:「此魚乃谷中靈物,兄奈何殺之?」有頃其妻餉之,用運斤不已,久乃轉面,妻覺狀貌有異,呼其弟視之,忽脫衣號躍,變為虎焉。徑入山,時殺麞鹿,夜擲於家,如此二年。一日昏暮,叩門自鳴曰:「我王用也。」弟應曰:「我兄變為虎三年矣,何鬼假吾兄 [230] 姓名?」又曰:「我往年殺黑魚,冥官謫為虎,因傷人,又笞予一百,得復人身,汝視予,無疑也。」弟喜,遽開門,見一人,頭猶是虎,因怖死。舉家叫呼奔避,竟為村人格殺之。其妻屬驗其身有黑志,信王用也,但首未變爾。

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 Woman Transformed into a Tanuki and a Donkey 婦變貍驢

Old Woman Zhang, resident under Feicheng County in Jiningfu, her husband having died young, lived together with her son Zhang Lü’er. By day she watched over baskets of spun hemp, by night she transformed into a raccoon dog, going everywhere to steal and eat small children from people’s homes.[1] Those lost numbered eighteen or nineteen. One day she also turned into a white donkey, eating someone’s wheat seedlings, but was caught by the owner of the wheat, chained by the neck and dragged to a millstone, where she was given a severe thrashing. Finally released she was able to return, moaning and groaning, and lie down, at which her son questioned her, and she related all and was beaten to death by the people; this is truly something to marvel at.

[1] This character is presently used to refer to the tanuki, a prominent trickster animal in Japanese folk culture, but seems more likely to refer to a cat of some sort. On the tanuki, see Adrian Burton, “The Transformations of Tanuki-San” Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 10 (2012): 224. Present-day populations seem expected to be broadly omnivorous, their living prey limited to smaller animals. Research on the mandibles of extinct raccoon dog subspecies suggests that their diet may have varied greatly in the past (but the researchers don’t mention human babies). See Masakazu Asahara and Masanaru Takai, “Estimation of Diet in Extinct Raccoon Dog Species by the Molar Ratio Method”, Acta Zoologica (Stockholm) 98 (2017): 292-99. As noted by by Barend Ter Haar, the story is also related to the child-eating elderly female cannibal or were-animal ‘Auntie Old Tiger’ story, a tale comparable to Hansel and Gretel. See Barend J. ter Haar, Telling Stories: Witchcraft and Scapegoating in Chinese History, Sinica Leidensia, LXXI (Leiden: Brill, 2006), pp. 54-91.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.230 (Tale 413):

婦變貍驢

濟寧府肥城縣管下張婆兒,夫早歿,與子張驢兒同活。此人日則守筐緝麻,夜則變作貍,徧去偷喫人家小孩兒。所失者十有八九。一日又變作白驢,食人麥苗,被麥主捉獲,鎖項拽磨,極其鞭打。既放得歸,呻吟而卧,其子問之,具以狀告,被人打死,甚可怪也。

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).