Wu Tao 鄔濤

Wu Tao was from Runan. He had skill and knowledge of ancient writings and was committed to the arts of the Way. While travelling he stopped temporarily at the Yiwu County guesthouse in Wuzhou. After more than a month, there suddenly appeared a girl, who came at night to serve the two maids. One of the maids came forward and told him: “This young lady is surnamed Wang.” That evening she turned and looked at the gentleman. Tao looked at her, and she was extremely beautiful. He thought, ‘this is the daughter of a great noble’, but did not dare speak. The lady Wang smiled, and said: “The esteemed scholar does not value wine or beauty; how can a mere concubine gain his trust?” Tao then rose and bowed to her, saying: “Such lowly scholars would not dare direct their gaze thus.” The lady Wang ordered a maid to bring her clothing and utensils to Tao’s bedchamber, lighting bright candles and laying out wine and food. They drank several rounds, and then lady Wang rose and addressed Tao: “Your servant is a young orphan without anyone to turn to, and would like to serve the gentleman at his pillow and mat. Would that be acceptable?” Tao initially refused in his humility, but then relented and permitted it in his sincerity. The lady Wang departed at dawn and arrived at dusk, and this continued for several months.

 

Yang Jingxiao, a Daoist of Tao’s acquaintance, visited and stayed at the residence. On seeing that Tao’s countenance had altered, he advised: “The gentleman has been deluded by spirits and demons. This must be broken off, or death will follow.” Tao questioned him about this in alarm, and then related the whole story. Jingxiao told him: “This is a spirit.” He then provided two amulets, one to attach to clothing, and the other to be fixed above the gate. He said: “When this spirit arrives, she will become very angry. Be careful not to speak to her.” Tao accepted these instructions. When the young woman arrived that night, she saw the token above the gate, let fly a string of curses, and departed, saying: “Remove that tomorrow, or suffer great misfortune.” Tao called on Jingxiao the next day and told him all about it. Jingxiao told him: “When she returns tonight, you should sprinkle her with this water on which I have cast a spell. That will surely bring things to an end.” Tao returned carrying the water. That night, when the woman returned, she was extremely sad and angry. Tao then sprinkled her with the water Jingxiao had treated. Her visits then ceased.

From Jiyiji.

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, 347.2747:

鄔濤

鄔濤者。汝南人。精習墳典。好道術。旅泊婺州義烏縣館。月餘。忽有一女子。侍二婢夜至。一婢進曰。此王氏小娘子也。今夕顧降於君。濤視之。乃絕色也。謂是豪貴之女。不敢答。王氏笑曰。秀才不以酒色於懷。妾何以奉託。濤乃起拜曰。凡陋之士。非敢是望。王氏令侍婢施服翫於濤寢室。炳以銀燭。又備酒食。飲數巡。王氏起謂濤曰。妾少孤無託。今願事君子枕席。將為可乎。濤遜辭而許。恩意欵洽。而王氏曉去夕至。如此數月。濤所知道士楊景霄至舘訪之。見濤色有異。曰。公為鬼魅所惑。宜斷之。不然死矣。濤聞之驚。以其事具告。景霄曰。此乃鬼也。乃與符二道。一施衣帶。一置門上。曰。此鬼來。當有怨恨。慎勿與語。濤依法受之。女子是夕至。見符門上。大罵而去。曰。來日速除之。不然生禍。濤明日訪景霄。具言之。景霄曰。今夜再來。可以吾呪水洒之。此必絕矣。濤持水歸。至夜。女子復至。悲恚之甚。濤乃以景霄呪水洒之。於是遂絕。出集異記

Chen Fan 陳蕃

During Chen Fan’s humble years, he once lodged at the household of a Huang Shen.[1] Shen’s wife gave birth during the night, but Fan was not aware of this. During the third watch (11pm to 1am), there was a knock on the door. After a long time, this was answered, and he heard the person enter and say: “There is someone within the gates; I must not step forward.” They were then told: “You can go by the back gate.” Presently he heard the stranger return, and that person, having entered, being questioned by them: “Is there a son? What is his name? What age will he reach?” The one who had come and returned said: “It is a son, named Anu. He will live to fifteen.” They questioned him again: “After that point how will he be killed?” He replied: “He will fall to the ground and die during the construction of a house.” Fan heard this but did not believe it. Fifteen years later he was serving as prefectural chief for Yuzhang, and sent a messenger to ask at the house after the child Anu. He reported: “He was helping the master to build a house when the ridgepole fell. He subsequently died.” 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, 316.2502:

陳蕃

陳蕃微時。嘗行宿主人黃申家。申婦夜產。蕃不知。夜三更。有扣門者。久許。聞裏有人應云。門裏有人。不可前。相告云。從後門往。俄聞往者還。門內者問之。見何兒。名何。當幾歲。還者云。是男。名阿奴。當十五歲。又問曰。後當若為死。答曰。為人作屋。落地死。蕃聞而不信。後十五年。為豫章太守。遣吏征問。昔兒阿奴所在。家云。助東家作屋。墮楝亡沒。出幽明錄

This tale is also transmitted in the anonymous early to mid-fourteenth-century collection 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), with substantial variations in detail:

Life And Death Predestined 生死前定

When Chen Zhongju was poor and humble, he stayed in the household of a Huang Shen in Jiujiang. One night, when Shen’s wife gave birth, someone knocked at the door, and, when questioned, they replied: “Within the gates is a person of eminence; I must not step forward, but should follow the back gate in going.” Presently he heard the stranger return, and the people inside asked: “Did she have a boy or a girl?” The stranger replied: “She had a boy, named Anu, who on reaching fifteen sui will fall to the ground and die during the construction of a house.” Zhongju made a mental note of this. Fifteen years later he was serving as prefectural chief for Yuzhang, and sent a messenger to ask at the house after the child Anu. He reported: “He was helping the master to build a house when the ridgepole fell and he was killed.” Zhongju did indeed subsequently achieve great eminence.

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), 前1.41 (Tale 74):

生死前定

陳仲舉微時,宿九江黃申家。申婦夜產,有扣門者,聞應云:「門裏有貴人,不可前,宜從後門往。」俄聞往者還,門內者問云:「生男或女?」答曰:「生男,名阿奴,當十五歲為人作屋落地死。」仲舉默記之。後十五年為豫章太守,遣吏問昔兒阿奴所在家,云:「助東家作屋墮棟而死。」仲舉後果大貴。

[1] This refers to the Eastern Han official Chen Fan 陳蕃 (d. 168 CE), courtesy name Zhongju 仲舉, who rose to serve as Grand Mentor (taifu 太傅), but died in prison during factional struggles at the court. See his lengthy biography at Houhanshu 66.2159-71.

Master Ren Of Wu 吳任生

Master Ren, from Wu Prefecture, was skilled at spotting spirits, and his cottage was on Dongtingshan. He often looked like a young boy, and, according to the custom of Wu and Chu, none knew his birthdate. During the Baoli era (825-26 CE), there was a youth, surnamed Yang, the son of a Qiankunshan military officer, who was living apart in Wu Prefecture. He would often, of a daytime, meet a few people of a similar age and go boating together.

When they went to the Huqiu Temple, Master Ren was in the boat with them. Their talk touched on spirits and deities, and Master Yang said: “People and spirits leave different traces. Because spirits have died they cannot be seen.” Master Ren laughed: “Spirits are extremely numerous. People are just unable to recognise them. Only I can pick them out.” They turned to look at a woman, dressed in dark robes, holding a small boy and walking along the bank. The Master pointed and said: “This is a spirit. The thing she is embracing is nothing more than the ethereal soul of an infant.” Yang said: “But then how can you tell that she is a spirit?” The Master replied: “So the gentleman thinks I’m all talk?” He then called out in a stern voice: “You are a spirit. Have you stolen the child of a living person?” When the woman heard this she was terrified, and started to hurry back the way she had come. Before she had taken more than a few dozen steps, she vanished. Master Yang was both impressed and astonished.

When evening came, they returned. Several dozen li from the city walls there was a house on the riverbank, with mats laid out for a feast. There was a sorceress, who encouraged them to take seats at her left, and libations were made to the deities. Master Yang and Master Ren both asked her about this, and the sorceress told them: “Today a villager’s baby died of a sudden illness, but now it has revived so we are holding a banquet in gratitude.” They then ordered that the child be brought out for them to see, and it was indeed the infant that the woman had been carrying. The guests were all amazed and alarmed at this, and thanked Master Ren, saying: “The gentleman is truly an adept of the Way; we had no idea!”

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), vii, 347.2746:

吳任生

吳郡任生者。善視鬼。廬於洞庭山。貌常若童兒。吳楚之俗。莫能究其甲子。寶曆中。有前崑山尉楊氏子。僑居吳郡。常一日。里中三數輩。相與泛舟。俱遊虎丘寺。時任生在舟中。且語及鬼神事。楊生曰。人鬼殊迹。故鬼卒不可見矣。任生笑曰。鬼甚多。人不能識耳。我獨識之。然顧一婦人。衣青衣。擁豎兒。步於岸。生指語曰。此鬼也。其擁者乃嬰兒之〈之原作也。據明鈔本改。〉生魂耳。楊曰。然則何以辨其鬼耶。生曰。君第觀我與語。即厲聲呼曰。爾鬼也。竊生人之子乎。其婦人聞而驚懾。遂疾廻去。步未十數。遽亡見矣。楊生且歎且異。及晚還。去郭數里。岸傍一家。陳筵席。有女巫。鼓舞於其左。乃醮神也。楊生與任生俱問之。巫曰。今日里中人有嬰兒暴卒。今則寤矣。故設筵以謝。遂命出嬰兒以視。則真婦人所擁者。諸客驚歎之。謝任生曰。先生真道術者。吾不得而知也。出宣室志

Wei Guan 衛瓘

The family of Wei Guan[1] were cooking when the rice fell to the floor, each grain transforming into a snail, extending a foot and departing. Before long they were executed by Empress Jia.[2]

From 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), viii, 359.2846:

衛瓘

衛瓘家人炊。飯墮地。悉化為螺。出足而行。尋為賈后所誅。出五行記

[1] Wei Guan 衛瓘 (220-91 CE), courtesy name Boyu 伯玉, from Anyi 安邑, in Hedong 河東, was a prominent official under the Jin, serving prominently as Grand Protector 太保 but was killed with much of his household after falling foul of the Dowager Empress Jia and a powerful court faction. For his biography, see Fang Xuanling 房玄齡, et al., Jinshu 晉書 (The Book of Jin), (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1974), 36.1055-61.

[2] On Empress Jia (i.e., Jia Nanfeng 賈南風, 256-300 CE), widely blamed for interference in Jin-era politics, see Fang Xuanling 房玄齡, et al., Jinshu 晉書 (The Book of Jin), (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1974), 31.963-66.

Pei Jie 裴楷

Pei Jie of Jin was cooking in his home, heating millet in his steamer, when some of it turned into a fist, some transformed into blood, and some into turnip-seed. Before long he was dead.

From 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), viii, 359.2846:

裴楷

晉裴楷家中炊。黍在甑。或變為拳。或化為血。或作蕪菁子。未幾而卒。出五行記

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!