A Demon Wizard Takes Heads 妖巫斷首

When Yuan Wenyu of Taihe was transferred to take charge of the Hunan Censorate, he first waited in his home to take up the post. A scholar came to visit him with a request, and informed him: “The Censorate has a doubtful case that has gone three years without judgement, [87] and hearing that the gentleman will soon attend the censorial offices, I reverently offer humble loyalty. In Heng there is a diabolical wizard surnamed Li, who is able to decapitate people by magic. In the village there was a daughter of the Liu family who was married into the Zhangs. On the day of her marriage they encountered the demon magician and the woman ended up losing her head without the Liu family realizing. When they reached the Zhangs, her close relatives and clan gathered to lift the bride from her carriage, but they suddenly found a headless girl. They bound and dragged the matchmaker and footmen and asked to make reports to the government office. The Lius sued the Zhangs saying that the Zhangs had killed their daughter. The Zhangs sued stating that the Lius had attempted to deceive them by means of a headless woman. Those imprisoned were numerous, and those who had since died in prison numbered more than ten; neither prefecture nor province have been able to make sense of this. If the gentleman can redress this injustice, it would indeed be an act of hidden virtue.” Yuan was very pleased to hear this. When his appointment began, this case indeed still required resolution, so he secretly briefed the judicial commissioner Liu Xiren, and Xiren entrusted it to the county constable Wang Jun. The constable declared himself on sick leave, not emerging for over a month, but took his servant along to the place to make a divination. The constable was proficient in Five Element theory, and had a divine view over fortune and misfortune. The villagers all respected him, and spoke to him: “In this village is Wizard Li, who has great skill in magic; how could anyone be more expert than him?” The constable was pleased and deputed his people to make overtures to Li. Li was very pleased, and he promised him rich reward if he restrained himself. First he tested Li on his servant; Li said: “Turn your head once.” Suddenly his servant was decapitated. The constable was terrified, but Li said: “Don’t be scared, just drink.” He then spoke to the constable: “Look again,” and the servant was restored to wholeness. This continued for three days, after which the decapitated person could no longer be fixed. The constable eventually left, with an agreement to bring paper money and having exhausted the sorcerer’s magic. When the time came he returned with the troops under his command. The constable visited his house first, and got him roaring drunk. At midnight he ordered a group of his subordinates to surround the room and bind him, and then they searched and confiscated the property. There turned out to be 150 baskets of skulls, together with those of his wife and child, which were turned over to the government, and later released. The Censorate took the sorcerer and his household and executed them in the marketplace.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.86-87 (Tale 150):

妖巫斷首

太和袁文焴,調湖南憲幹,待次於家。有謁士來訪,告之曰:「憲司有一疑獄不能決者三年, [87] 聞君將赴憲幕,願獻小忠。衡有妖巫李生,能以術斷人之頭。里有劉氏嫁女於張,去之日,中途而遇妖巫,女竟失首,劉氏不知也。至張,親戚族黨及環聚扶新人下車,忽見無首之女子,大駭,紐拽媒妁僕從,求白於官。劉訴張則云:張殺其女。張訴則云:劉以無首之人欺騙。繫獄者數人,前後囚死者十餘人,州郡皆不得其情。君能平反,亦是陰德。」袁聞之喜。及任,果有是獄未斷,乃以是言密告之提刑劉希仁,希仁委之縣尉王君。尉告病假,月餘不出,攜僕至其地算卜。尉精於五行,禍福如神,里人皆敬之,與之言曰:「吾里李巫,有術甚奇,何若更學之為佳!」尉欣然託其人求之於李,許以厚資,李喜,與之斂。先以其僕試之,李曰:「請回頭一覷。」則其僕無首矣。尉恐,李曰:「無恐,且飲。」又與尉言:「更一覷。」則其僕復存。蓋其法過三日,斷者不可復全矣。尉遲去,約以某日攜錢楮來盡其術。及期領卒同行,尉先過其家,飲酒極歡。中夜令羣卒圍屋就縛,搜籍其家,有髑髏百五十箇,並其妻子,悉以付官,獄遂解。憲司將妖巫一家棄刑於市。

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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Skull Spirits 髑髏神怪

During the Jiaxi era (1237-41), the ten-year-old grandson of a villager suddenly vanished without trace, and could not be traced despite prayer, divination and the distribution of notices. During his search it started to rain, and when he sought temporary shelter in a doorway he suddenly heard his grandson call out the names of his ancestors, leaving him shocked and astonished. Being very familiar with his grandson’s voice, he hurried to report the matter to the local officials. When official messengers made a search they indeed found him in a cupboard. By that time he was already emaciated and haggard, having lost the appearance of life, breathing feebly and close to his end, he went to the officials and was still able to relate the whole story of his case. When he was first taken, he was treated with the greatest kindness, each of his meals always filling him right up. Day by day from then on his food was reduced, even his rice dumplings shrinking, and he was eventually left without even a pickle. Each day he was washed only with vinegar, from head to toe, and his joints and blood vessels stopped up with nails. He experienced the greatest cruelty, and at the end of his report, he finally passed away. The kidnappers confessed, and their household, with the exception of the elderly and underage, all received the death sentence.

It is widely said by people in the present generation that those concerned with fortune steal away young boys in this way, waiting for them to die and then taking their bones. Grasping their immortal and mortal souls, it is said that when placed by the ear they gain reports on affairs; these are called ‘Skull Spirits’. When Wu Yuyan was a censor in Jiangdong, he too discovered such a matter, and on investigation heard an account much like this.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.69 (Tale 120):

髑髏神怪

嘉熙年間,村民有孫年十歲,忽失不見,祈卜散榜不獲。尋討偶值雨,暫宿於門首,忽聞孫喚祖之名姓,為之駭然。認其孫之聲甚稔,急告於官,差人搜捕,果得於其家櫃中。時已枯朽,略無人形,奄奄餘息,到官猶能道其事之本末。初被竊,溫存備至,一飯必飽,自是日減一日,繼用糭子亦減,久則咸無焉。每日惟灌法醋自頂至踵,關節脈絡悉被錮釘,備極慘酷,言畢氣絕。盗者伏罪,家無老幼盡獲,置之極刑。今世言人之吉凶者,皆盗人家童男如此法,待其死後收其枯骨,掬其魂魄,謂能於耳邊報事,名「髑髏神」也。吳雨巖憲江東,亦斷一事相類,推勘其由,乃如此云。

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).

Reincarnating to Avenge Injustice 託生報冤

In Chuzhou there were three brothers surnamed You, the eldest called Zhidao, the second Shidao and the youngest Wendao. Zhidao and his brothers were classicists by profession, but Wendao suffered from a manic illness, and at bad times became crazed and violent, impossible to restrain. Their mother, née Weng, adored her youngest son, and so locked him in a hidden room, opening the window a small chink to pass him food; this continued up to the gengwu year of the Xianchun era (1270), when he was 22 sui in age. On the eighteenth day of the sixth month (7 July 1270), Wendao’s birthday, his two elder brothers left the county. His mother, pitying him, said that although he was usually locked away, that day being his birthday, she would therefore release him. Wendao, having achieved his release, went straight to the chamber of his elder brother Zhidao and forced himself on his brother’s favoured maidservant, wielding a knife. His mother hurried to save [125] her, but was then killed by Wendao, who tore her remains into three parts and then went out before the gate, shouting: “I have slaughtered a sow today.” He was lured out by their neighbours, tied up and delivered to the authorities. The officials, horrified by this offence against custom and morality, sent him to a dungeon and imposed the death penalty. Among the neighbours was one Hua Jian, who by plotting to deceive Zhidao and his brother, gained their silverware and 20,000 strings of guanhui notes. Afterwards, this Hua Jian fell ill for over a month and, spending the days confined to his bed and suffering increasingly serious debilitation, ordered the officials to send him a chaste virgin for his treatment. The lady Weng entered her body to take her revenge, and said: “Three lives ago I was a general in the Wuwei army and Wendao was my subordinate. Killed unjustly he therefore reincarnated in my family, to repay a debt of injustice from three lives before. How could you take my family silver through deceit? I have seen it hidden in the tree; you should return it all to my sons, and then you will be forgiven and spared death.” Hua Jian was completely convinced and, calling out for Zhidao and his brother, returned their property. He then made a complete recovery.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前1.125-25 (Tale 218):

託生報冤

處州有游其姓者,兄弟三人,長曰志道,次曰適道,季曰聞道。志道兄弟業儒,惟聞道自生來有心瘋疾,非時顛狂,不能制。其母翁氏酷愛季子,乃扃鑰於密室,開窗隙以給食,至咸淳庚午,年已二十有二歲矣。六月十八日乃聞道生日,二兄出縣,其母憐之,謂尋常拘繫,今日乃其生辰,姑縱之出外。聞道既得出,直造乃兄志道寢室,驅迫兄之寵婢,取刃在手。其母急往救 [125] 之,遂為聞道所殺,折其屍為三,往門前疾呼:「我今日屠一母豬矣。」遂為居鄰以計誘之,縛送於官。官以大傷風教為恐,押赴土牢,處以極刑。鄰有譁健,因謀騙志道兄弟,得其銀器及官會二萬緡。後譁健者被病月餘,日伏枕沉重,因命法官附童體救治。翁氏入體報應,且言:「我三生前在無為軍為將,聞道為我部下卒,不合誤殺,故託生我家,以報復三生冤債。你何得騙去我家銀?見藏在樹內,可悉以還吾兒,免汝殘喘也。」譁健者大服,呼志道兄弟還之,其病即愈。

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).

Reincarnated for Revenge Against A Foe 託生報讐

In the west of Luling City lived Peng Tu, who often set off at the fifth watch (just before dawn) to buy pigs below the Ten Li Temple. In the darkness he suddenly caught sight of the gatekeeper from the Zhao residence of Zhengbing Ridge, walking along with a sharp knife. A dozen or so steps further, he suddenly heard a shout from among the fields, and on approaching for a closer look, found a dead body. Looking around he spied the light of a house in the distance; Tu thought to himself: “Tomorrow that house with the firelight must surely be implicated.” The next day, those in authority made in investigation, and indeed implicated the house where the lamp shone. That person was imprisoned, faced unbearable hardship, and confessed falsely; the officials recommended execution and public exposure. Peng Tu saw them just before the sentence was carried out, and said to himself: “This person is dying unjustly.” That night he dreamed that the person said: “This matter is known only to you: I will be reincarnated in your household, to repay this enmity.” After a year had passed, Peng Tu had a child, who was exceptionally clever and cunning. When he was twelve, he was wielding the butcher’s knife himself and making sales, when the gatekeeper from the Zhao residence came unexpectedly to buy meat. Due to a petty argument, the son took up his knife and killed him. Peng Tu thought about this, and concluded that it proved his dream to be true. When he took his son to the government office to confess, this coincided with the enthronement of Duzong (in 1264), and, under the general amnesty for the change of regnal era, his life was spared. After another year, he fell ill and died. Peng Tu wept for him for a long time, but dreamed that his son spoke to him: “I was originally born in your house to take revenge on an enemy. Having taken revenge on my foe, it was best to pass away; do not mourn further.”

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi,  前2.124 (Tale 217):

託生報讐

廬陵城西有彭屠,常以五更初往十里廟下買豬,暗中忽望見正丙岡趙宅門子攜尖刀以行,更十數步,忽聞田中叫聲,近前視之,則已殺死一人矣。遠望見有一家燈光,屠心思曰:「明日必累火光人家。」次日,官司檢驗,果然累及燈光之家。其人入獄,不勝苦楚,遂誣服,官議棄市。彭屠見其臨刑,私謂心曰:「此人枉死。」夜夢其人云:「此事隻有君知,吾當託生汝家,以報此讐。」越一年,彭屠生一子,慧黠異常,年十二,自操刀賣肉,忽趙宅門子來買肉,因小爭,揮刀殺之。彭屠心思,向者之夢驗矣。當其子出官招承,會度宗登極,大赦改元,免死。又一年病死。彭屠哭之哀,夢其子謝云:「吾生汝家,本為報讐。讐既報矣,吾可死矣,毋痛哀也。」

 

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).

A Fake Woman Takes Wealth 假女取財

In the Baoqing era, the jiwei year (1259?),[1] Zhao Zhigan employed a female cook, and by this woman had a son, Wang Qianyi. Throughout his youth, the father dressed this son in the clothing of a daughter, piercing his earlobes and binding his feet; made up just like a woman, he studied female work in serving food and drink. Bribing an intermediary with gifts, they deceived a wealthy family and had him accepted as a kitchen maid. The rich household’s favoured concubine never [doubted] him and, having no idea that this was a boy, shared a bed with him, acting most lasciviously. When the matter became known, she was blamed and returned to her parents.

Later, he transferred to the employment of the East Gate Zhao family; Zhao noticed that [he] was somewhat attractive, and also repeatedly [50] wanted to violate him; the kitchen maid pleaded many times and did not consent. One day, when [Zhao] was drinking together with colleagues, one among their number said: “I heard recently that a boy has been got up as a kitchen maid, fooling rich households many times and defrauding them of their wealth; now I hear he has been hired again by a fellow official as a kitchen maid, and that none are aware of it.” When they stopped drinking, Zhao returned to his hall and called the kitchen maid out. Making an exploratory grope, his true form could not be hidden. Dismissed for the crime, he was sentenced to beheading and exposure in the marketplace; his parents and the intermediary were all banished and their property confiscated.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前1.149-50 (Tale 89):

假女取財

寶慶己未,趙制幹雇一廚娘,乃男子王千一也。蓋幼時父將男子形軀假妝女子,與之穿耳纏足,搽畫一如女子,習學女工飲食。買賂牙保,脫騙富戶,充為廚娘。富家寵妾莫[疑衍。]不知是男子,與之共寢,俱為所淫。事彰,責還父母。後轉雇與東門趙家,趙見稍有姿色,亦屢 [50] 欲犯之,而廚娘累託不從。又一日,同僚會飲,坐間有云:「聞近日有一男子粧假廚娘,累次脫騙富家財物,今聞又僱在同幕為廚娘,莫得而知之。」飲罷,趙回廳喚出廚娘,試一捫摸,形不能掩。解之制幹,斷罪斬首棄市,父母、牙保俱配籍焉。

[1] The Baoqing 寶慶 regnal era, in the rule of the Song emperor Lizong 理宗 (r. 1224-64 CE), represents 1225-28. Jiwei 己未 denotes the 56th place in the sexagenary cycle, and as such could only refer to either 1199 or 1259, neither of which falls within this period.

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).