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).

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A Spirit Uses Human Speech 神作人言

In the Song era, in a county belonging to Tanzhou there was a pawnbroker called Zhang Yong, who cut down a vertical post from the shrine to a spirit to reinforce the framework of a residence. The beam was finished but not yet painted. When Zhang and his dependents entered the house to look, they would often hear somebody answering them; if they asked for tea, it would say “Tea is coming.” If they asked for wine, it would say “Wine is coming.” There was nobody to be seen, but a voice could be heard. The population said this must be the spirit of the temple who had come to take the wood and secretly occupied the house, and if they could have an official of good fortune to calm and control it, they could later gradually move in successfully.

At that time a registrar called Zhao was travelling to his post, and, before entering the government hostel, stayed there for several days, and the voice temporarily stopped. Zhang then moved into the residence, but suddenly heard someone speaking again: “You had an official intimidate me, and will undergo imprisonment and come to meet me.” After that it fell silent. More than a year had passed when Zhang was summoned by a messenger from his superior and placed in charge of a prison, where he died one day, his body turning blue-black all over. When an official was appointed to investigate this, Zhang’s servant reported: “In the early morning I brought his meal, so I cooked an eel carp and sent it to him. He had only just finished eating when he tried to lie down and he died. [221] My sister-in-law once said that eel carp heads could treat illness, so the head has been preserved.” It was demanded that the head be examined, and the fish turned out to have four eyes. From this Zhang’s family understood that this must be a haunting by the spirit of the temple, and that this had cost him his life, so they decided to drop further legal proceedings.

It is well-known that four-eyed fish can kill people.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.220-21 (Tale 391):

神作人言

宋朝潭之屬縣有典押張永者,伐神廟木豎一居稍壯,構架已畢,但未粉飾。張與其眷屬入內觀看,常有人應答,如喚茶,則曰「茶來」,如索酒,則曰「酒來」,不見有人,但聞有聲。衆謂此必廟神來取木而陰據此屋,若先得官員福氣鎮壓,然後徐徐遷入為好。適有趙主簿赴任,未入官舍,先寓數日,則其聲頓失。張遂遷入屋,忽又聞有云:「你令官員嚇我,候過獄中來與你相會。」自爾寂然。越一年餘,張為上司專人追呼,置司存(上三字原作「存置司」,據明刻本改。)於獄,一日死,而遍身青黑,委官究問,則其僕供云:「早晨送飯,乃煮一鰻鯉來與押,才喫未久,求卧而死。 [221] 其嫂曾云,鰻鯉魚頭可以醫瘵,今此頭尚存。」索至看驗,魚乃四目。其眷屬自知此必廟神為祟,以戕其性命,甘願息訟。信知四目魚能殺人者也。

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 Strangeness of the Jiuzhen Temple Spring 九真廟泉異

Behind the Jiuzhen Temple, within Sanwu Village, in Xiangxiang, in Tanzhou, there was a large well, its spring extremely deep and clear. It had long been a marvel, and people who looked at the spring had to bring paper money and throw it in the well; when the notes reached the spring they would sink. In the Yuanzhen era (1295-97), the autumn of the jiwei year,[1] there were seven travelling traders who, passing, went to look and joked: “It is said this spring is most magical; when people throw in spirit money it sinks straight to the bottom; nobody has ever seen paper notes float back up again.” The crowd thereupon saw a Zhiyuan paper note and some yellow and white spirit money notes rise to the surface and before long sink once more. The merchants became very alarmed, buying paper money and throwing it in, kowtowing and then departing. This spring is like that because it has spirit administrators. Nonetheless, despite being strange, this spring can truly be called greedy!

[1] This should be 56th year of the cycle, and therefore either 1259 or 1329. This may be an error or deliberate fudging.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.212 (Tale 377):

九真廟泉異

潭之湘鄉三五里間九真廟,背有一巨井,其泉極浚洌。素異者,人有觀泉,必須具楮財投井,楮財到泉即沉。元貞己未秋,有行商七人徑往一觀,戲曰:「聞此泉最靈異,人皆以紙錢投之,直沉於底,未嘗見泉中有紙錢浮將出來。」衆因而(「因而」,明刻本作「目」。)看見有至元鈔一踏、黃白紙錢數片,浮出水面,須臾復沒。衆商遂駭,亦置楮財投之,叩首而去。蓋泉有神司之故爾。雖然,此泉雖異,亦可謂之貪泉也夫!

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).

Ghosts Play Music 鬼動絲竹

Zhao [?]Efu was Deputy Magistrate in Tanzhou, and had been in the post for two months. One evening, returning from a drinking engagement with colleagues, at midnight he heard the sound of strings and woodwind coming from the next wall; Zhao wondered at this, and questioned his retinue, who answered: “Next door is an old residence with courtyard and garden; whenever it is rainy and overcast music and drums start up together, but it is not music of this world.” Once, not long after, Chong, one of Zhao’s deputies, had died suddenly, and when they were about to collect his coffin Chong’s corpse suddenly leapt up and sat, [?]stiffening its feet[?], and sticking out its tongue three or four cun (roughly inches), it then bit down, and blood flowing freely, suddenly fell on its back and [?]expired[?]. Outside the hall the music sounded even more clear and resonant than before. It was then they realised that these were ghosts of those dying suddenly.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.238 (Tale 429):

鬼動絲竹

趙通判[王+葛]夫倅潭州,在任兩月。一夕,同僚會飲歸,夜半聞隔牆有管絃絲竹之聲,趙怪之,問左右,乃曰:「隔牆乃是舊宅院花園,凡遇陰雨,鼓樂交作,非陽世之音樂也。」曾不踰時,趙倅一寵暴亡,臨斂棺時,寵屍忽躍起而坐,札腳,吐舌長三四寸,咬血淋漓,須臾偃逝,庭外絲竹之音響亮非常比。時乃知皆此暴亡之鬼也。

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).

Stopping the Releasing Life Festival 罷放生會

The Yanxiang Temple in Tanzhou had celebrated the Releasing Life Festival for many years in the third, fourth, sixth and eighth months. On the third day of the third month in the first year Kangding (16 April 1040), the birthday of Zhenwu (the Lord of Profound Heaven), birds and animals of the water were bought in advance, taken in ceremonial order past the prefectural pavilion and approaching the Yangtze, led by bells and cymbals, they were set free with chants and praise. Among these living things some were hurled towards the void and took flight, some were scattered into the water and swam. Of those that flew, some sank back down, some lay on the river’s surface. Some of the birds had their feet or wings trapped by glue, and others were hunted and shot with bows and arrows or catapults and pellets; when they are injured and killed in this way, the sound of their lamentations and cries cannot be borne. When the aquatic creatures are lured into the broad net and seized, or hunted with the bamboo basket and taken, scales, shells, heads and tails all torn and damaged, leaping and jumping with mouth wide but cries unheard; this sight cannot be borne. People from the four distant quarters having just heard of this release of life, vied with one another to stretch their nets and sell in the market, this having the contrary result of causing harm to living creatures. When the monk Sun Yuan’an was presiding over the hall, a mendicant priest approached the foot of the pulpit, intending to speak on the cause of the gathering, opposing Yuan’an’s offerings to the release. The priest said: “It should not be called ‘releasing life’, as it is premeditated murder.” None among the whole group opposed this, and afterwards the ceremony was abandoned. In the main this thing called release of life is actually the sale and purchase of animals and fish, bringing great wealth to hunters. Fulfilling this sees nets stretched wide for later release; how can this be right?

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.72 (Tale 126):

罷放生會

潭州延祥宮,遞年三月、四月、六月、八月有放生社會。康定元年三月三日真武生辰,預買飛禽水族,例往州亭,臨大江,用磬鈸引導,讚詠放生。諸般物命或向空而飛,或漾水而遊,其飛沉之物,或向空復墮,或水面仰浮,飛禽者翅與足或被膠黏,或弓彈射獵,如有傷折,哀鳴愁噪之聲不忍聞也。如水族者罾釣張取、籮籃采捕,鱗甲頭尾皆有破損,跳躍張口之狀但叫嗸不出,不忍目之。四遠之人纔聞放生,爭競張捕以賣於市,反至損害物命。道士損元宴升堂,有雲遊道士至講下,願講此會之因,元宴遂以放生祝壽為對,道人曰:「非曰放生,即是故殺。」周無以對。後此會遂廢。大抵放生之說,遇有禽魚之類出賣者,買而放之則獲福無量,發章張羅網捕之而後縱之,豈可乎!

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).