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).

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!

A Wuyuan Soldier’s Wife 婺源軍人妻

In a dingyou year, the wife of a soldier from Jianwei in Wuyuan died, so he remarried. His second wife terribly mistreated his children by the first wife, and the husband was quite unable to stop this. One day, he suddenly saw his dead wife pass through the gate and enter. Furious at the second wife, she said: “Who among the people will not die? How could anyone lack all motherly feelings? Yet you abuse our children like this? I have recently made a complaint to the authorities of the nether world, and they granted me a break of ten days in which I am to teach you. If you then fail to change, I would surely be able to kill the gentleman.” Husband and wife were both terrified and bowed over and over, then provided her with food and drink. They once invited trusted friends from among their neighbours, greeting them and chatting as normal, but these other people could hear her voice, despite only the husband being able to see her. When night fell, she set up a bed in another room. The husband wished to spend the night with her, but was not allowed. When the ten days were up, she was about to depart, but again reprimanded the second wife and urged her to improve. Her words were very [2800] earnest and thoughtful. She escorted the family members together to her tomb, and when they were a little over a hundred paces from the grave, said: “You should all stop here.” She then said her goodbyes in a polite and courteous manner, then departed. Just as she reached a cypress grove all of the family could see her, in clothes and appearance seeming just they had in life. When she reached the tomb, she disappeared.

The officer of the Jianwei Army Wang Yanchang reported that it occurred like this.

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, 353.2799-800:

婺源軍人妻

丁酉歲。婺源建威軍人妻死更娶。其後妻虐遇前妻之子過甚。夫不能制。一日。忽見亡妻自門而入。大怒後妻曰。人誰無死。孰無母子之情。乃虐我兒女如是耶。吾比訴與地下所司。今與我假十日。使我誨汝。汝遂不改。必能殺君。夫妻皆恐懼再拜。即為具酒食。徧召親黨鄰里。問訊敘話如常。他人但聞其聲。唯夫見之。及夜。為設榻別室。夫欲從之宿。不可。滿十日。將去。復責勵其後妻。言甚 [2800] 切至。舉家親族共送至墓。去墓百餘步。曰。諸人可止矣。復殷勤辭訣而去。將及柏林中。諸人皆見之。衣服容色如平生。及墓乃沒。建威軍使汪延昌言如是。出稽神錄

The Jiankang Musician 建康樂人

In Jiankang there was a musician. One evening he went to the market, and saw two drivers, who told him: “Assistant Judge Lu summons you.” He departed following them, and came to a large residence, furnished with great magnificence. There were more than ten guests in all, generously provided with wine. They were only served drinks, however, without any food. Moreover, the wine did not reach the musician. When dawn came all dispersed. The musician was extremely tired, so lay down on a bed outside the gates. When he awoke, he was out in the countryside, next to a large tomb. He asked the villagers about it, and was told: “Legend has it that this is the tomb of Assistant Judge Lu. It is not clear what era he lived in.”

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, 353.2798:

建康樂人

建康有樂人。日晚如市。見二僕夫云。陸判官召。隨之而去。至大宅。陳設甚嚴。賓客十餘人。皆善酒。惟飲酒而不設食。酒亦不及樂人。向曙而散。樂人困甚。因臥門外牀上。既寤。乃在草間。旁有大塚。問其里人。云。相傳陸判官之塚。不知何時人也。出稽神錄

Magistrate Li Of Wangjiang 望江李令

Magistrate Li of Wangjiang lived in Shuzhou after his dismissal from office. He had two sons, who were extremely intelligent. The magistrate once went to drink wine, returning at sunset. A hundred paces short of his house, he saw his two sons coming to greet him. On reaching him, they grabbed him between them and gave him a beating. The magistrate was alarmed and angry. He let out a great cry, but it was a place far from other people, so nobody knew of his plight. They kept hitting him as he went, but, just as he was about to reach his home his two sons left him and departed. When he arrived at the gate, however, his two sons were just arriving to meet him below the hall. When he questioned them they both said that they had never stepped outside the gate. A little over a month later, the magistrate again held a drinking party, but this time told his host the whole story, asking if he could stay the night as he did not dare return. His sons, however, fearing that he would return at dusk and be beaten again, set out together to meet him. Halfway there, however, they saw their father, who asked them, angrily: “Why would you go out at night?” He then had his attendants beat them, before letting them go. The next day, the magistrate returned, and was even more shocked at these events. Before several months had passed, father and sons were all dead.

People of the region say: ‘In Shu there are mountain spirits, and they excel in such cruelty, as they are followers of Liqiu.’[1]

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, 353.2797:

望江李令

望江李令者。罷秩居舒州。有二子。甚聰慧。令嘗飲酒暮歸。去家數百步。見二子來迎。即共禽而毆之。令驚大怒。大呼。而遠方人絕。竟無知者。且行且毆。將至家。二子皆却走而去。及入門。二子復迎于堂下。問之。皆云未嘗出門。後月餘。令復飲酒於所親家。因具白其事。請留宿。不敢歸。而其子恐其及暮歸。復為所毆。即俱往迎之。及中途。見其父。怒曰。何故暮出。即使從者擊之。困而獲免。明日令歸。益駭其事。不數月。父子皆卒。郡人云。舒有山鬼。善為此厲。蓋黎丘之徒也。出稽神錄

[1] Translation revised with generous help from Ofer Waldman. Thanks Ofer!

Wang Kun 王坤

In the spring of the fourth year Dazhong (850 CE), Wang Kun of Taiyuan was serving as Doctor to the National University. His maidservant, Qing Yun, had died several years before this, but one night he suddenly dreamed that Qing Yun arrived before his bed. Kun was extremely afraid, but rose and questioned her. Qing Yun said: “Your servant has not been a human for several years now, and found myself missing my mortal life, as if I was bound but had not forgotten my release. This evening I received the opportunity to serve by your side, and am very pleased to see you.” Kun was muddled, as if he was drunk, and did not realize that she was a spirit. Qing Yun then led Kun out through the doorway. The gate had already been locked, but she guided Kun through a crevice and he passed through without harm. They reached the centre of the road, and paced back and forth under the moon.

After some time had passed, Kun suddenly felt hungry, and told Qing Yun. Qing Yun replied: “Is there a friend in the village who would give to my darling? Point them out and we’ll ask them for food.” Kun had long been friends with the Scholar to the Imperial College Shi Guan, and he too resided in the village, so Kun went there with her. When they reached Guan’s gate, it was already closed and bolted. Qing Yun knocked upon it, and after a little while the gatekeeper opened a leaf of the door and looked out, but said: “I just heard a knock on the gate, but now I look all is quiet, with nothing to see. How can that be?” He closed the leaf again, but Qing Yun knocked on it once more, and then again, for a third time. The gatekeeper asked, in angry tones: “How come these evil spirits always come to knock on our door?” He then spat and cursed them. Qing Yun explained to Kun: “Mr Shi has already gone to sleep. We certainly can’t call on him now. I hope the gentleman can suggest somewhere else.” At that time there was a junior clerk of the Imperial College who was also from the same village. When he went out he often passed the other’s gate, and the clerk would often pass on his superior’s monthly salary and slips of paper reporting new [2779] appointments. Kun trusted him implicitly.

When they arrived together at his house, they saw one leaf of the door open, and someone carrying a jar of water to scatter onto the street. Qing Yun said: “We should enter with him.” When they had stepped inside, they saw that the junior clerk was dining with several other people. Initially, Kun stood in the courtyard, thinking that the clerk would descend the steps and bow to him, but after some time the clerk still hadn’t given any sign of such courtesy. Presently they saw a maid carrying noodle soup up the steps. Qing Yun struck the servant on the back, at which she fell on the steps, and the soup was all spilled. The clerk, his wife and servants all leapt up, saying fearfully: “This is a malign attack!” They then hurriedly summoned a spirit-medium. The medium told them: “There’s someone there, with a red official’s knee-cover and a silver seal, standing before us in the courtyard.” They therefore made offerings to him, so Kun and Qing Yun sat down together. When the food was finished, they set out together, and the female medium accompanied them to the gate, burning spirit-money beside the entrance. At this Qing Yun addressed Kun: “The gentleman should accompany your servant and depart.” Kun therefore followed her into the village. He looked around and saw that it was the start of summer.

When they reached open countryside in the outskirts after several dozen li, they came to a tomb. Qing Yun said: “This is where your servant dwells. The gentleman should follow and enter.” The mouth of the grave was pitch black and he could not make anything out. Suddenly he awoke in palpitations of pure terror, his back sweating and his body shaking all over. By then the dawn had already broken, but his heart was full of revulsion towards the dream, and he dared not tell anyone about it. That day, he therefore decided to invite Shi Guan. When they had sat down together, Guan told him: “Last night there was a spirit that knocked at my gate three times; we sent people to look but all was quiet and nobody was there. When dawn broke I crossed to see the junior clerk, and found the remains of spirit money. I stood and summoned the clerk to ask about it, and the clerk told me: ‘Your servant had a dinner party last night, and there was a sudden malign attack on our maid. The spirit-medium told us we were haunted by a spirit, so we made offerings in the courtyard. This is the burnt paper.'” All of this was exactly the same as Kun’s dream. Kun grew ever more afraid, so informed his wife and children. In the winter of that year, he did indeed die.

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), viii, 351.2778-79

王坤

太原王坤。大中四年春為國子博士。有婢輕雲。卒數年矣。一夕。忽夢輕雲至榻前。坤甚懼。起而訊之。輕雲曰。某自不為人數年矣。嘗念平生時。若縶而不忘解也。今夕得奉左右。亦幸會耳。坤懵然若醉。不寤為鬼也。輕雲即引坤出門。門已扃鐍。隙中導坤而過。曾無礙。行至衢中。步月徘徊。久之。坤忽飢。語於輕雲。輕雲曰。里中人有與郎善者乎。可以詣而求食也。坤素與太學博士石貫善。又同里居。坤因與偕行。至貫門。而門已鍵閉。輕雲叩之。有頃。閽者啟扉曰。向聞叩門。今寂無覩。何也。因闔扉。輕雲又扣之。如是者三。閽者怒曰。厲鬼安得輒扣吾門。且唾且罵之。輕白坤云。石生已寢。固不可詣矣。願郎更詣他所。時有國子監小吏。亦同里。每出。常經其門。吏與主月俸及條報除 [2779] 授。坤甚委信之。因與俱至其家。方見啟扉。有一人持水缶。注入衢中。輕雲曰。可偕入。既入。見小吏與數人會食。初。坤立於庭。以為小吏必降階迎拜。既而小吏不禮。俄見一婢捧湯餅登階。輕雲即毆婢背。遽仆於階。湯餅盡覆。小吏與妻奴俱起。驚曰。中惡。即急召巫者。巫曰。有一人。朱紱銀印。立於庭前。因祭之。坤與輕雲俱就坐。食已而偕去。女巫送到門。焚紙錢於門側。輕雲謂坤曰。郎可偕某而行。坤即隨出里中。望啟夏而去。至郊野數十里。見一墓。輕雲曰。此妾所居。郎可隨而入焉。坤即俛首曲躬而入。墓口曛黑不可辨。忽悸然驚寤。背汗股慄。時天已曉。心惡其夢。不敢語於人。是日。因召〈(明鈔本「召」作「訪」。)〉石貫。既坐。貫曰。昨夕有鬼扣吾門者三。遣視之。寂無所覩。至曉。過小吏。則有焚紙錢跡。即立召小吏。訊其事。小吏曰。某昨夕方會食。忽有婢中惡。巫云。鬼為祟。由是設祭於庭。焚紙於此。盡與坤夢同。坤益懼。因告妻孥。是歲冬。果卒。出宣室志

Guo Pu’s Multifaceted Wisdom 郭璞多智

The horse on which the Eastern Jin Marshal Zhao Gu was riding died suddenly, and the general let out a melancholy sigh. A guest arrived, and the clerks did not dare to inform him. Guo Pu[1] came to his gate, and announced: “I can save this horse.” The general thus summoned him for an audience. Pu ordered that thirty people should all hold long poles, and go east for thirty li, reaching a grave mound and a forest attached to an altar to the god of the land. They then dispersed and beat the area, at which they captured an ape-like beast, which they then carried back. When it came before the horse, the beast sniffed at it, and the horse arose as if to leap up. To this day macaques are placed in stables, for this very reason.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.18 (Tale 87):

郭璞多智

東晉大將軍趙固所乘馬暴卒,將軍悲惋。客至,吏不敢通。郭璞造門,語曰:「余能活此馬。」將軍遽召見。璞令三十人悉持長竿,東行三十里,遇丘陵社林,即散擊,俄頃擒一獸如猿。持歸。至馬前,獸以鼻吸馬,馬起躍如。至今以獮猴置馬厩,此其義也。

[1] On the polymath Guo Pu 郭璞 (276-324 CE), see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guo_Pu.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories) in Du yi zhi, Xuanshi Zhi 獨異志,宣室志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories, Stories from the Chamber of Dissemination), edited by Zhang Yongqin 张永钦 and Hou Zhiming 侯志明 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1983)