Li Yuangong 李元恭

*Translation revised with the generous help of Ofer Waldman – thanks Ofer!*

The Tang-era Vice-President of the Ministry of Personnel Li Yuangong[1] had a granddaughter, a Miss Cui, peaceful of countenance and extremely beautiful, fifteen or sixteen years old, who was suddenly afflicted by a demonic illness. When this had lasted for a long time, the fox manifested itself as a young man, calling himself ‘Gentleman Hu’; they repeatedly sought scholars of magic, but were unable to make it go away. Yuangong’s son possessed a broad education and great wisdom, and often asked: “Does Gentleman Hu also possess learning or not?” And so the fox engaged in discussions, missing not a single topic. He employed many questions to probe the fox, who tended to be closely acquainted with music. After a long time of this, he addressed Miss Cui, saying: “Nobody should remain without education.” He therefore brought an elderly man to teach Miss Cui Classics and History, and over three years she acquired a degree of expertise [204] in the cardinal principles of the various schools. He also brought a person to teach her calligraphy, and, after a single year, she came to be considered an expert calligrapher. He also said: “How can a married woman not have studied music? The konghou and pipa, though present in all music, are not so suitable as study of the qin.” He further summoned another person, saying that he was skilled at playing the qin, and stating that his surname was Hu, and that he was a scholar of Yangdi County in the Sui era. He taught her all the various tunes, preparing her fully in their subtleties, and she was quite unsurpassed on other famous songs. As to himself he claimed: “I am skilled at Guanglingsan,[2] which many encounters with Ji Zhong San[3] did not get him to teach it to other men.” He was also especially good at transmitting the wonders of Wuyeti.[4] Li later asked: “Why does Gentleman Hu not marry and return home?” The fox was extremely pleased, bowing again in thanks and saying: “I have long cherished this, too, but have not dared, purely due to being a pleb” That day, he bowed over and over to the family, leaping about in the utmost joy. Li asked: “Mr Hu wishes to return home with his wife; where is his residence?” The fox said: “Before the residence there are two large bamboos.” At that time the Li residence had a bamboo garden, and Li, going to search around there, found a small hole between two of the great trees; it turned out to be a fox’s lair, drawing water to fill it. At first they captured a badger, a raccoon dog, and several dozen small foxes. Eventually an elderly fox, wearing an unlined green robe, followed them out of the hole; it was the same robe he was always wearing. The family spoke joyfully: “Now Mr Hu has emerged!” They killed him, and the strange events stopped.
From Guangyiji 廣異記 (Extensive Records of the Strange)

Li Fang 李昉, et al., Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings from the Era of Great Harmony), ix, 449.3671-72:

李元恭
唐吏部侍郎李元恭。其外孫女崔氏。容色殊麗。年十五六。忽得魅疾。久之。狐遂見形為少年。自稱 [3672] 胡郎。累求術士不能去。元恭子博學多智。常問胡郎亦學否。狐乃談論。無所不至。多質疑于狐。頗狎樂。久之。謂崔氏曰。人生不可不學。乃引一老人授崔經史。前後三載。頗通諸家大義。又引一人。教之書。涉一載。又以工書著稱。又云。婦人何不會音聲。箜篌琵琶。此故凡樂。不如學琴。復引一人至。云善彈琴。言姓胡。是隋時陽翟縣博士。悉教諸曲。備盡其妙。及他名曲。不可勝紀。自云亦善廣陵散。比屢見嵇中散。不使授人。其于烏夜啼。尤善傳其妙。李後問。胡郎何以不迎婦歸家。狐甚喜。便拜謝云。亦久懷之。所不敢者。以人微故爾。是日遍拜家人。歡躍備至。李問胡郎欲迎女子。宅在何所。狐云。某舍門前有二大竹。時李氏家有竹園。李因尋行所。見二大竹間有一小孔。竟是狐窟。引水灌之。初得猯狢及他狐數十枚。最後有一老狐。衣綠衫。從孔中出。是其素所著衫也。家人喜云。胡郎出矣。殺之。其怪遂絕。出《廣異記》

The version found in Guangyiji is essentially identical; here is the Chinese text, from the combined volume Tang Lin 唐臨; Dai Fu 戴孚, Mingbaoji; Guangyiji 冥報記 / 廣異記 (Records of Netherworld Vengeance / Extensive Records of The Strange) (Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju, 1992), pp. 203-4:

李元恭

唐吏部侍郎李元恭,其外孫女崔氏,容色殊麗,年十五六,忽得魅疾。久之,狐遂見形為少年,自稱胡郎,累求術士不能去。元恭子博學多智,常問:「胡郎亦學否?」狐乃談論,無所不至,多質疑于狐,頗狎樂。久之,謂崔氏曰:「人生不可不學。」乃引一老人授崔經史,前後三載,頗通 [204] 諸家大義。又引一人教之書,涉一載,又以工書著稱。又云:「婦人何不會音聲,箜篌琵琶,此故凡樂,不如學琴。」復引一人至,云善彈琴,言姓胡,是隋時陽翟縣博士。悉教諸曲,備盡其妙,及他名曲,不可勝紀。自云:「亦善《廣陵散》,比屢見嵇中散,不使授人。」其于《烏夜啼》尤善,傳其妙。李後問:「胡郎何以不迎婦歸家?」狐甚喜,便拜謝云:「亦久懷之,所不敢者,以人微故爾。」是日,遍拜家人,歡躍備至。李問:「胡郎欲迎女子,宅在何所?」狐云:「某舍門前有二大竹。」時李氏家有竹園,李因尋行所,見二大竹間有一小孔,竟是狐窟,引水灌之。初得猯狢及他狐數十枚,最後有一老狐,衣綠衫,從孔中出,是其素所著衫也。家人喜云:「胡郎出矣!」殺之,其怪遂絕。

[1] On Li Yuangong 李元恭 (d. c. 702 CE), see CBDB Person ID 0195948.

[2] On this piece of music, see https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%B9%BF%E9%99%B5%E6%95%A3.

[3] This refers to Ji Kang嵆康 courtesy name Shuye 叔夜 (223-62 CE), an acclaimed scholar and qin player. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ji_Kang.

[4] On this piece of music, see https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E4%B9%8C%E5%A4%9C%E5%95%BC.

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The Celestial Master Executes A Serpent 天師誅蛇

In Dongyang County, in Wuzhou, there was a Guo Langzhong, whose family depended on and lived among the mountains. The crags and rocks were steep and dangerous, the trees and forests deep and thick, and there were often great serpents that became demons that people were unable to deal with. Guo had a daughter, sixteen sui in age and of great beauty, who suddenly vanished and could not be found. Her parents suspected she had been deluded by a ghost, and thought about her endlessly, morning and night, sending people to offer incense and a letter to Longhushan, to call on and request help from the Guanmiao Celestial Master. The master intended to set off the next day, and that night dreamed that the school’s founder spoke to him: “You should not go; I will sort this out myself.” Suddenly, one day, there was a person of religion who arrived at the Guo household, and calling on him asked: “What matter disturbs your family?” Guo replied with the matter of his missing daughter. The person of religion said: “I have the power of the Way; you should send people after me to seek her.” They then sent people following after him, and on reaching the hills behind the house [163] he ordered the people to close their eyes, listen for his cry, and then open their eyes. When the cry came, they opened their eyes to see flames erupt from the hillside, with a great serpent burning among them, and the girl standing before it. On questioning, it emerged that the serpent had become a bewitching spirit. The demon then died. The religious then gave the girl an amulet to wear, and she regained her former peace.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.162-63 (Tale 282):

天師誅蛇

婺州東陽縣有郭郎中,家依山而居,山石險峻,樹林深密,常有大蛇為妖,人所不能治。郭有一女年十六歲,容貌甚麗,忽尋不見。父母疑為祟所惑,朝夕思慕不已,遣人齎香信詣龍虎山,迎請觀妙天師救治。師欲翌日起(「起」,明刻本、明抄本作「啟」。)行,是夜(「夜」作「以」,據明刻本、明抄本改。)夢祖師云:「汝毋往,吾將自治之。」忽一日,有〔道〕(據明刻本、明抄本補。)人到郭家,謁問之曰:「爾家中有何憂事?」郭以失女事對。道人曰:「我有道法,爾當遣人隨我尋之。」遂遣人隨去,至屋後 [163] 山中,令其人閉目,謂聞喝聲即開。及喝一聲,開目見山中火發,焚一大蛇於中,女立于前。詢之,乃此蛇為魅。其怪遂絕。道人乃給符與女服,獲安如故。

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 Demon 蚯蚓為妖

Qian Zizhao of Pengze County in Jiangzhou had a daughter who was still unmarried when she reached ‘the hairpin’ (i.e., the age of fifteen). Her parents came to realise that she was pregnant, and questioned her about it. She said: “Every night a beautiful youth comes out of the Heavenly Well and sleeps with me; this has been going on for half a year.” Her father and mother suspected that she might have been seduced by a demon, so gave her a length of fine thread on a needle, and instructed her to wait until she went out, and then to secretly attach it to her robe, so they could track where she had gone. The next morning they walked around and made an inspection, finding a two-cun length of thread trapped against one of the bricks in the well (a cun is about 2.5cm). Digging out a stone slab, below it they found a white earthworm, more than two chi in length (a chi is about 33 cm). When they killed it, it made a chirruping sound.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.260 (Tale 472):

為妖

江州彭澤縣潛子昭,有女及笄未婚,父母覺而有娠,詰之。乃曰:「每夜有美少年從天井中出,與同寢,今已半年矣。」父母疑為祟所惑,乃以[*糸末*]線穿針授女,令俟其去,則密縫其衣,視之何去。次早巡視,天井中磚縫外尚留線二寸許,掘開石板,下得白蚯蚓一條,長二尺許,殺之,作聲唧唧。

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 Demon Mud-Baby 泥孩兒怪

In Lin’an it was customary that people enjoy themselves on the lake, and many buy one another Pingjiang mud-babies, often giving them to neighbouring households and calling them Local Specialty Statues. A woman from a Yuanxi household, because she had received one of these yabei children, set it up a bed and hung a screen of coloured silk from a cross-beam, playing with and treasuring it tirelessly. One day, while having an afternoon nap, she suddenly heard a person chanting poetry: “Embroidered bedding gives long years of service, passed from hand to hand; fragrant bed-curtains may be handed on in quick succession.” When she awoke, she couldn’t see anyone. That night, waking a little in the small hours, she again heard someone chant the same couplet. Woken with a start, in the dim moonlight she saw a teenager stepping through the screen from the west, and leapt up in alarm. It advanced and comforted her: “Don’t be frightened; I live not far from here, you have yearned for a child for such a long time, your soul and spirit have brought you to this. Do not wait, open the gates and enter.” She rose and saw that the door was closed just as before. The woman realised that he was a spirit, but could not resist combining with him. At times when the night was dark and the moon bright, that youth would sometimes come and go, having left her a gold ring. The woman had secretly placed it in a box, and after several days realised that it was actually just dirt; she was greatly shocked. Suddenly she saw that the gold ring was missing from the yabei child’s left upper arm, and knew that it was a demon, so she smashed it and threw the fragments in the river; the demon then vanished.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.232 (Tale 419):

泥孩兒怪

臨安風俗,嬉遊湖上者,相尚多買平江泥孩兒,仍與鄰家,謂之土宜像。院西有一民家女,因得壓被孩兒,歸置於牀屏綵橋之上,玩弄愛惜無厭。一日午睡,忽聞有人歌詩云:「繡被長年勞轉展,香幃還許暫偎隨。」及覺,不見有人。是夕,中夜睡微醒,復聞有歌前詩句。驚覺,月影朦朧,見一少年侵步帳西,女子驚起。進而撫之曰:「毋恐,我所居去此不遠,慕子之久,神魂到此,不待啟關而入。」起視扃鑰如故。女知其神,不得已與之合焉。正當風清月白之時,此子時復而來,因遺金環。女密投箱篋中,數日見金環實土為之,女心大驚。忽見壓被孩兒左臂上金環不存,知此為怪,遂碎而投諸河,其怪遂絕。

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 closely comparable tale is found in Tian Rucheng 田汝成, Xihu Youlan Zhi Yu 西湖遊覽志餘 (A Continued Record of Sightseeing at West Lake), (Shanghai: Shanghai Guji Chubanshe, 1980), 26.477-78:

宋時,臨安風俗,嬉遊湖上者,競買泥孩、鸎歌花、湖船回家,分送鄰里,名曰湖上土宜。象院西一民家女,買得一壓被孩兒,歸置屛橋之上,玩弄不厭。一日午睡,忽聞有歌詩者云:『繡被 [478] 長年勞展轉,香幃還許暫偎隨。』及覺,不見有人。是夜將半,復聞歌聲,時月影朦朧,見一少年,漸近帳前,女子驚起,少年進撫之曰:『毋恐,我所居,去此不遠,慕子姿色,神魂到此,人無知者。』女亦愛其丰采,遂與合焉。因遺女金環,女密置箱篋。明日,啓篋視環,乃土造者。女大驚,忽見壓被孩兒左臂失去金環,遂碎之,其怪乃絶。