A Bird Is Able To Recite Sutras 禽能誦經

Wang Rixiu (d.1173), the retired scholar of Longshu, records that long ago a Buddhist monastery raised a myna bird, now called a Baba’er. When the monks recited sutras every day at dawn, it would ?eat almonds? and then chant along with them. When it died, the monks buried it under its pet name, and before long a white lotus flower sprouted on top of the grave. Somebody composed a poem to record this:

There was a Baba’er bird,

Able to follow monks and chant [269] ‘Amitabha’.

A white lotus opened to shed aromatic fragrance,

Like the Lake of Seven Treasures in the Western Pure Land.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.268-69 (Tale 489):

誦經

龍舒居士王日休載,昔有佛寺,養一鴝鵒,今名八八兒是也。僧每旦念佛,仁兒隨之而念。後死,僧以小名殯之,未久墓上生一朵白蓮花,人以詩紀之曰:「有一飛禽八八兒,能隨僧去念阿 [269] 彌。蓮花出口香芬馥,想在西方七寶池。」

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 Woman Dies and Becomes A Snake 女死變蛇

A family in Linchuan had a daughter, very shrewd and clever, who died at age thirteen, and was buried next to the White Pagoda at Liutai. After several days, a white lotus flower grew up on the grave, shaped like a big fungus, about a foot in size at its base; due to this praise by the assembled immortals it was called the Buddha-girl Tomb. A scholar passed it and remarked to the crowd: “There must be a monstrous thing beneath; we should excavate and examine it urgently.” When the crowd dug her up, they tore open the coffin to see a huge python atop the jacket; there was no longer a girl at all, and they released it in their confusion. The girl’s mother said: “While pregnant with this girl, in dreams I repeatedly saw a huge python come and touch the bed curtains; crying out and looking with the lamp, all was quiet and there was nothing to see. Now I realise that this was an uncanny thing.”

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.243 (Tale 439):

女死變蛇

臨川民家生一女,甚慧黠,年十三死,瘞於流臺白塔之側。數日,有白蓮花生於墳上,似大菌,蒂長尺許,衆神之稱,(「之稱」原作「稱之」,據明刻本改。)曰佛女墳。有一士人過之,言於衆曰:「下必有怪物,急宜掘視。」衆掘之,剖棺見一巨蟒在衣衿上,不復有女子矣,惑遂解。其母云:「孕此女時,寢夢間屢見巨蟒來觸幃帳,呼燈視之,寂無所有,今方知是怪物也。」

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 Household God Brings Property 家神送物

The family of Zhang Shuiyuan, of Yongfeng Stone Well in Xinzhou, served their household god with great reverence. The [lacuna] household god was an ancestor. The [lacuna] household had very little property, and later, due to the exhaustion of their property, the family prayed from dawn to dusk, hoping for assistance from the nether world. One day, when dusk was approaching, an old woman was seen walking straight in, carrying a bamboo box which she placed on a table in the ancestral hall. The family rushed out to meet her, but she was nowhere to be seen. When they looked at the portrait of a female ancestor in the ancestral hall, however, there was a close resemblance; the family were astonished and confused, and hesitated to look at the box. After a night had passed they finally opened and examined it, and all the contents were items of silver and gold. The Zhangs sold this and managed their property, and from this initial wealth became an important lineage. The old woman was their ancestress.

Among these ancestral spirits there are none who do not watch over their descendants from the nether world, cherishing people who live in ignorance, instead revering and praying to lascivious demons from dawn to dusk, calling them deities and divinities. When other people pray for their ancestors, this can be called auspicious and prosperous. If one pays no heed to one’s ancestors, failing to observe the seasonal offerings, not revering the tombs, even when there are descendants, how does this differ to the extinction of a lineage? If people can shift their reverence from lascivious demons to respectful service of their ancestors, it would not only be the Zhangs who receive protection and reward, and the deities of heaven and earth too would extend their generosity and protection.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.219 (Tale 389):

家神送物

信州永豐石井張稅院者,家事家神甚謹。[ ]家神者,祖先也。[ ]薄有貲產,後因破蕩,家人朝夕禱之,以冀陰相。一日將暮,忽見一嫗攜一小竹合子直入,置家堂中几案上,急出迎之,亦不見矣。但瞻家堂中所畫先世祖婆者如之,家人疑異,留不啟視。經宿啟視,皆黃白之物。張鬻之治產,(「產」,明刻本作 「生」。)因此貲產甲於〔一〕(據明刻本補。)族。蓋嫗者,祖婆也。夫祖宗英靈毋有不陰相子孫,惜人未之知,但朝夕奉祀淫鬼,指為神明。為他人祀祖宗,謂可徼福,反以本生祖宗置之度外,歲時不祭,墳墓不登,雖有子孫,絕嗣何異?儻能移祀淫鬼之心敬事祖宗,非惟如張氏之獲報,而天地神明亦加垂佑焉。

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 Warning Against Selling Ancestral Graves 戒賣祖墳

From the dingchou year of the Zhiyuan era (1278), for more than ten years, rich families found themselves impoverished, with almost nothing left, their ancestral tombs overgrown and dirty, unreachable for ancestral offerings; they could not bear to admit this even to themselves. Who would have thought that such a disaster could have been seen [105] outside the Sitingji? In the vicinity there was a scholar who, seeing a prominent family sell their ancestral graveyard, could not bear his indignation, and at night inscribed a poem on their wall. The next day, when the wall was seen, both buyer and seller were full of shame, and retreated to the central chamber to discuss the matter. I read the poem. Its language was direct and ardent, with benefit to customs and morality, so I set it down here, to serve as a warning to public ways. The poem reads:

A family selects by wind and water

For descendants in countless generations

Who could know that latecomers

Would sell off their ancestors’ land?

Bargaining over digging in the dead of night

Celebrating the drunken signing of contracts

The seller is certainly inhuman

The buyer is also an evil type

If the land is well-chosen

The house will stand in wealth and honour

Those who come to sell

Their land will bring no good

Those future descendants emerging

They break from the pattern of precedent

Pretending that new families have strength

How can the creator have such selfish intent?

Those with coffins are laid bare

Those without abandoned bones

When new generations slide to poverty

When may they ever find burial?

Can you know those ‘below the springs’ (i.e., in the nether world)

Make no plaint for justice to the throne?

Say not that heaven is vast and obscure,

But stand before it in fear of calamity.

Ah! Those with human hearts, they should look at this and change their plans.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.104-5 (Tale 181):

戒賣祖墳

至元丁丑以來,十數年間,富家零落殆盡,祖墳蕪穢,弔祭不至,自不忍言。誰謂其禍又有 [105] 出於《思亭記》之外者!近有一士人,見一名家出賣祖墳,不勝其憤,夜題詩於牆壁。次日,觀望如堵,買者、賣者皆有愧色,議中寢。吾讀其詩,語直而切,以其有益於風教,故錄於此,庶可為世俗之戒也。詩曰:「人家擇風水,子孫百世計。誰知後來者,反賣祖宗地。商量寅夜掘,醉後樂書契。賣者固非人,買者亦惡類。其地若果佳,其家長富貴。其人賣至此,其地必不利。他時出子孫,斷是傚此例。借曰異姓強,造物豈私意?棺存且暴露,無者骸骨棄。後代轉日貧,何時可薶瘞。安知泉下人,含冤不訴帝?勿謂天茫茫,禍患恐立至。」吁!有人心者,宜於此焉變計矣。

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).

Seizing A Graveyard 占人陰地

In the yimao year of the Song Baoyou era (1255), in Ezhou there was a powerful family that seized someone else’s graveyard for their burial. When the day dawned to carry the coffin, they first ordered an agent to take a group of people ahead to the destination and sort out the lunch. They had just arrived when the agent was struck by lightning, and they buried his body before the new grave, with only his two feet exposed. The powerful family’s coffin was also split apart by a lightning strike when halfway there, and the body could not but be exposed. Some said that the agent must have made the suggestion, and therefore was punished first.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.102 (Tale 176):

占人陰地

宋寶祐乙卯,鄂州有勢家,強占他人陰地為墳。及舉柩之旦,先令牙人帶一行人,先往地頭營辦午食,才到,其牙人忽為雷所擊,仍倒埋其尸於新墳之前,止露兩足。勢家之柩,中途亦為雷劈開,未免暴露。或者謂此牙郎建其議,故先受其禍耳。

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).

Duke Yi Lays Foundations 益公屋基

When Duke Yi of Zhou resigned as minister and returned home, he wandered field and village at leisure. One day, bringing along a diviner to look at the land more than ten li beyond Wunikeng, seeing a large area owned by a peasant family, he said: “This place is ringed by peaks and water; wouldn’t it be perfect as a pleasure garden?” Soon after this speech an elderly man and woman emerged to meet them, saying: “Last night we dreamed that a constellation achieving Buddha merit came seeking land; today the noble minister arrives; we wish to present the land as an offering.” [85] The Duke compensated them generously to build a house elsewhere. Suddenly he saw that there were three unclaimed tombs of two or three zhang in length. Those around him wished to remove them, but he said: “In life we have neighbours, and in death too. Every year we will honour them, preparing wine three times, a jar of food, and ten bundles of paper as offerings.” This was later inscribed on a wooden tablet before the hall, ensuring that his descendants continued in honour and respect; this can surely be called greatness in faith and magnanimity.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.84-85 (Tale 146):

益公屋基

周益公辭相歸,徜徉田里。日攜術者過十里外烏泥坑相地,見一農家住場曰:「此處山水環抱,將可為樂丘乎?」言未幾,翁媼出迎曰:「夜來夢見婁至德佛來尋地,今日相公來,願以地獻。」 [85] 公厚資別為造屋。忽見二、三丈許有三所無主墓,左右者欲去之,公曰:「生有鄰,死亦如之。每年拜掃,當備酒三行、飯一盂、紙十束同祭。」仍鏤榜堂前,使子孫遵守,可謂忠厚之至矣。

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 Heart Contains Mountains and Rivers 心有山水

In a wild place outside Shanyang County in Chuzhou there was an ancient tomb, of which family or era it is not clear. Suddenly a Persian person came to pay visit a neighbour to the tomb, and said: “I wish to buy this land.” The neighbour said: [65] “This is the tomb of our ancestors; how could I dare to sell them so lightly?” The Persian said: “Don’t pretend that you know those people; no offerings have been made here for five or six centuries!” The other thought about it again through the night, deciding: it is not my tomb, and if there is to be payment, why cherish something without benefit? The following morning, when the Persian came, he accepted the request, asking for 2,000 strings of cash, and this was duly paid to him. After discussion they decided to excavate, and, finding a woman looking like the earth within a wooden coffin, cut open her belly and took out her heart. Displaying it they said: “Through her whole life this woman never achieved her ambitions, but viewing and appreciating the mountains and rivers, their purity and clarity entered her heart.” Separating it into two slices, they emitted bright lustre like jade. Each piece contained the real hills and real waters which a woman had once admired as she leant on her balustrade. Believing it rare and precious, he then took it back to his home country. It was a truly priceless treasure.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.64-65 (Tale 112):

心有山水

楚州山陽縣荒郊有古墳,不詳姓氏年代。忽有波斯人來謁墳鄰曰:「吾欲買此地。」鄰曰: [65] 「墳乃吾祖,安敢輕售!」波斯曰:「汝毋妄認,廢祀已六百年矣!」其人中夜思之,既非我墳,若有所償,何惜不與!詰旦,波斯人來,從其請,索二千緡,隨即償之。議定即掘,見棺木中一婦人如土,剖腹取心,指示曰: 「此婦平生不得志,觀玩山水,清氣盡入其心。」解開兩片,光瑩如玉,每片皆有真山真水,一婦人倚欄凝望。以為奇寶,遂帶歸本國,真無價珍。

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).