Yao Niu 姚牛

The villager Yao Niu, from Xu County, was a little over ten years old when his father was killed by a fellow villager. Niu sold his clothes and bought weapons, planning to take revenge. He subsequently encountered the villager before the county gate, and stabbed him amidst the crowd. When he was captured by the clerks, the chief official felt a deep sympathy for his filial piety, allowing the case to be delayed. At the next amnesty he received a pardon. The prefectural authorities had submitted requests to the emperor on his behalf, so his treatment was unique.

Some time later, the magistrate went hunting, pursuing a deer into a wild place where there were many deep and ancient wells. His horse was about to advance into one of these when he suddenly saw an old man, who raised his staff and struck the horse. The magistrate’s mount drew up, alarmed, losing the chance to reach the deer, [2539] but a servant drew a bow to shoot it. The old man told them: “There is a well here; I was afraid the gentleman would fall in.” The magistrate asked him: “Who are you?” The old man knelt straight-backed, and told him: “I am the father of Min Yao Niu. I am grateful for the gentleman saving Niu, and came to offer my thanks.” He then vanished from sight.

From Youminglu.

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, 320.2538-39:


須縣民姚牛。年十餘。父為鄉人所殺。牛嘗賣〈賣原作殺。據明鈔本改。〉衣服。市刀戟。圖欲報讎。後在縣門前相遇。手刃之於衆中。吏擒得。官長深矜孝節。為推遷其事。會赦得免。又為州郡論救。遂得無他。令後出獵。逐鹿入草中。有古深井數處。馬將趣之。忽見一翁。舉杖擊馬。馬驚避。不得及鹿。 [2539] 令奴引弓將射之。翁曰。此中有井。悲君墮耳。令曰。汝為何人。翁長跽曰。民姚牛父也。感君活牛。故來謝。因滅不見。出幽明錄

Ruan Zhan 阮瞻

Ruan Zhan had always maintained the no-spirit-theory, but there was a spirit which identified itself to him, and called upon him, staying over as his guest. After a brief chat, they talked about famous philosophies, and his guest turned out to be extremely talented. Finally, they turned to matters of spirits and deities. He became extremely bitter, so his guest at first submitted to him, but then went on, quite worked up: “Accounts of spirits and deities have been transmitted by sages and the virtuous from ancient times. How can the gentleman alone declare that they don’t exist?” He then transformed and took on an astonishing shape, then after a moment quite disappeared. Ruan was dumbfounded, his expression terrible to behold. Within the year he had fallen ill and died from the after-effects.

From Youminglu.

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, 319.2526:



Hu Maohui 胡茂廻

Hu Maohui, who lived in Huainan under the Jin, was able to see spirits. Although he didn’t like to see them, he was unable to stop it. He later travelled to Yangzhou, and returned to Liyang. To the east of the city wall was a shrine, and just then the people were about to make offerings there with a shaman officiating [2526]. As he arrived, a host of spirits were calling out to one another: “Senior officials are coming.” They burst forth one by one from the shrine and set off. Maohui turned to look, and watched two Śramaṇa Buddhist monks approach and enter the temple. The various spirits came in twos and threes and embraced one another in the field next to the temple; staring at the monks, they were all terrified. After a little while the monks departed, and the spirits then returned to the shrine. From then on Maohui made offerings to the Buddha with great sincerity and dedication.

From Fayuan Zhulin.

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, 319.2525-26:


晉淮南胡茂廻。能見鬼。雖不喜見。而不可止。後行至揚州。還歷陽。城東有神祠。正值民將巫祝祀 [2526] 之。至須臾。有羣鬼相叱曰。上官來。各迸出祠去。茂回顧。見二沙門來。入祠中。諸鬼兩兩三三相抱持。在祠邊草中。望見沙門。皆有怖懼。須臾沙門去後。諸鬼皆還祠中。茂廻於是精誠奉佛。出法苑珠林

Zhou Of Linhe 周臨賀

During the Jin era there was a man from Yixing with the surname Zhou. During the Yonghe era (345-57 CE), he set off from Guo on horseback, travelling with two followers. Dusk fell before they had reached the next settlement, but beside the road there stood a small, newly built thatched hut. They saw a woman emerge from the doorway to watch them, aged perhaps sixteen or seventeen, handsome in appearance and wearing fresh and clean clothes. Seeing Zhou pass, she said: “It is already dusk, and the next village is still distant; how could you have reached Linhe?” Zhou then asked if he could lodge there. The woman kindled a fire and cooked him a meal. Around the first watch (7-9pm), the voice of a small child was heard from outside, calling out to Axiang.[1] The woman replied: “Yes?” Soon after, the child said: “The officials call on you to push the thunder chariot!” The woman then departed, saying: “I have some business to attend to, and must go.” The night then filled with thunder and rain, and the woman returned around daybreak. When Zhou had mounted his horse, he looked back at the place where he had spent the night. He saw only a new tomb, with horse urine and straw scattered around the tomb entrance. Zhou sighed to himself in shock and amazement. Five years later, he was indeed serving as Prefectural Chief of Linhe.

From Fayuan Zhulin.

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, 319.2525:



[1] Axiang 阿香 is the name of the deity who drove the thunder chariot 雷車 across the skies.

Zhang Zichang 張子長

During the Jin era (265-420 CE), Li Zhongwen, prefectural chief of Wudu, was in the prefecture when he lost his daughter, aged eighteen, and buried her temporarily north of the prefectural walls. There was a man named Zhang Shi who temporarily took over from him as prefectural chief, and Shi’s son, courtesy name Zichang, was twenty years old, and served in his retinue at the government office. He dreamed of a girl, aged seventeen or eighteen, of unusual beauty, who told him she was the daughter of the former prefectural chief. She had died tragically young, but now there was an opportunity to be resurrected, and as their hearts had found love, she had come and manifested to him. This continued over five or six evenings.

Suddenly, she appeared in the daytime, her clothing and fragrance rare and distinguished, and they became man and wife. When they lay down her clothing was all marked, as if she were a virgin. Later, Zhongwen sent a maid to inspect his daughter’s tomb, and she therefore stopped to call on Shizhi’s wife. On entering the government office, she caught sight of one of the girl’s shoes beneath Zichang’s bed. Grasping it she wept and called out that the tomb had been opened, taking the shoe back with her. When she showed Zhongwen, he was stunned, and sent people to ask Shizhi: “How can the gentleman’s son have obtained a dead girl’s shoe?” When Shizhi summoned and questioned him, his son explained the whole matter. Li and Zhang both said this must be a supernatural occurrence. When they opened the coffin and looked, her body already looked like fresh meat, but her countenance was just as it had been. She only had a shoe in her right foot. Zichang saw the girl in a dream, and she told him: “I had recently attained life, but now my place of rest has been disturbed, and from now on my dead flesh will decay and I will not achieve life. My heart contains ten thousand regrets; I can no longer speak.” Sobbing, she departed.

From Fayuan zhulin.

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, 319.2524:



Chen Qingsun 陳慶孫

Behind the house belonging to Chen Qingsun of Yingchuan there was a mystical tree, and many people went to seek blessings, so he erected a shrine and named it the Tianshen Temple. Qingsun had a black ox. A spirit spoke from the empty air, and said: “I am the Tianshen; this ox belongs to my master of ceremonies; if you do not give it to me then on the twentieth day of the next month your son will be killed.” Qingsun said: “Human life has an allotted span, and fate does not work through you.” When the day arrived, his son did indeed die. It spoke again: “If you don’t give it to me, when the fifth month arrives I will kill your wife.” He again failed to hand it over. When the time came, his wife did indeed die.

It came again and told him: “If you do not give it to me, in autumn I will kill you.” He again failed to hand it over. When autumn arrived, he did not die. The spirit then came and thanked him: “The gentleman has an upright character, and will now receive great fortune. I would prefer that  this matter is not spoken of; if heaven and earth hear of it, my crimes would not be minor. In truth, as a lesser spirit who had managed to gain access to human destiny, seeing the death dates for the gentleman’s wife and son, I used them to deceive the gentleman while simply seeking something to eat. I implore the gentleman’s forgiveness. The gentleman is in the record as living to eighty-three years, and his household will now find satisfaction, with aid from spirits and deities, and I will aid you as a servant.” He then heard a sound as if it were kowtowing.

From Youminglu.

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, 318.2522:



Ruan Deru 阮德如

Ruan Deru once saw a spirit in the toilet. More than a zhang (3.3m) in length, it was black in colour, its eyes were large and it was wearing an unlined white garment and a military flat-top headdress. As it departed it passed very close, but Deru’s heart was calm and his qi settled. He laughed and said: “People say spirits are abominable. It is indeed so.” The spirit blushed and withdrew.

From Youminglu.

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, 318.2521:



Xie Miaozhi 謝邈之

When Xie Miaozhi was commanding Wuxing Prefecture, the secretary to his headquarters, Zou Lan, boarded a firewood boat, following behind a unit of troops. When it arrived at the Pingwang Pavilion, night fell with wind and rain, and the troops stopped suddenly and moored. Lan was exposed in the boat, with nowhere to shelter. He turned and saw firelight from a home tucked beneath the dyke, so set off to stay with them. On arriving, he found a thatched cottage. Inside was a man of around fifty, spending the night weaving flimsy cloth, and on the other bed a small boy of ten sui. Lan asked whether he could stay there, and the man joyfully assented. The small boy wept and sobbed, and the man told him to stop, but the weeping continued without pause until dawn. When Lan asked why, he was told: “He’s the servant’s son. His mother is due to marry, and he is grieving about being parted from her, that’s all.” When dawn approached Lan departed. When he turned back, however, he couldn’t see the house, but only two tombs, buried deeply in rank grass. On his way he met a woman boarding a boat. She told Lan: “Nobody travels through here; why would the gentleman be coming out of this place?” Lan told her all about the events of the previous night, to which she said: “That was my son. I really did wish to remarry, [2521] and had therefore to leave his grave. He then wept and cried whenever I approached the tomb. I will not remarry.”

From Luyichuan.

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, 318.2520-21:


謝邈之為吳興郡。帳下給使鄒覽。乘樵船在部伍後。至平望亭。夜風雨。前部任頓住。覽露船。無所庇宿。顧見塘下有人家燈火。便往投之。至有一茅屋。中有一男子。年可五十。夜織薄。別牀有小兒。年十歲。覽求寄宿。此人欣然相許。小兒啼泣歔欷。此人喻止之不住。啼遂至曉。覽問何意。曰。是僕兒。其母當嫁。悲戀故啼耳。將曉覽去。顧視不見向屋。唯有兩塚。草莽湛深。行逢一女子乘船。謂覽曰。此中非人所行。君何故從中出。覽具以昨夜所見事告之。女子曰。此是我兒。實欲改 [2521] 適。故來辭墓。因哽咽。至塚號咷。不復嫁。出錄異傳

Zhou Ziwen 周子文

Towards the end of the Yuan Emperor’s reign,[1] Zhou Ziwen, of Qiao Prefecture, childhood name Ashu, whose family lived in Yanling County, Jinling, hunted with a bow as a youth. He had often entered the mountains to hunt, but this time became separated from his companions, and suddenly saw a figure among the peaks and caverns. Perhaps five chi tall (about 1.5m), it carried a bow and arrows, each arrowhead perhaps over two chi wide. White as frost or snow, this person suddenly emerged and called out: “Ashu!” Ziwen was unable to answer. The person stretched his bow fully, aiming at Ziwen, who wanted to duck down, but found himself unable to move. He then couldn’t see the person at all. When Ziwen’s hunting companions rushed to find him, he was quite unable to speak. They took him home in a carriage, and several days later he died.

From Guanggujin Wuxingji.

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, 318.2519:



[1] There are several Yuandi 元帝 Emperors to choose from across a number of dynastic periods.

Wu Shiji 吳士季

The Governor of Jiaxing Wu Shiji once suffered a feverish ague. Boarding a boat he passed the Wuchang Temple, and sent people to make apologetic offerings and beg that it repel the ague-spirit.[1] He then travelled more than twenty li from the temple. Within his cabin, he suddenly dreamed that a rider was pursuing him along an embankment, seeming to move with extreme speed. On seeing Shiji it dismounted and boarded the boat along with a clerk. It then tied up a small boy and took him away. At that the feverish ague was cured.

From Luyichuan.

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, 318.2519:



[1] This is the nüegui 瘧鬼, or Apasmāra, a demon blamed for malarial illness.