Zhong Yao 鍾繇

Zhong Yao (151-230 CE) suddenly stopped attending the morning court, and his mood and character were quite different to what people had become used to. When a fellow official asked him why this was, he responded: “A woman often comes to me; she has a beauty that is not of the mortal world.” His colleague replied: “This must be a ghost. You should kill it; afterwards it will stay away from your home.” He asked: “How could I intend to slaughter something possessing such a form?” Yuanchang replied: “There is no such problem.” In the end he eagerly called her to him, but could not bear to carry out the plan, so only lightly wounded her. She left immediately, staunching the blood with fresh silk floss, which was scattered along her route. The following day, he sent people to follow these traces. They came to a great tomb. In a coffin lay a woman, her body appearing still to be alive. Wearing a white silk gown and a cinnabar-embroidered waistcoat, there was a wound on one of her thighs, and the waistcoat showed signs of her having wiped away blood. From then the visits ceased.

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, 317.2509:

鍾繇

鍾繇忽不復朝會。意性有異於常。寮友問其故。云。常有婦人來。美麗非凡間者。曰。必是鬼物。可殺之。後來止戶外。曰。何以有相殺意。元常曰。無此。慇懃呼入。意亦有不忍。乃微傷之。便出去。以新綿拭血。竟路。明日。使人尋跡。至一大冢。棺中一婦人。形體如生。白練衫。丹繡裲襠。傷一髀。以裲襠中綿拭血。自此便絕。出幽明錄

Zong Dai 宗岱

*uncertain translation*

When Zong Dai served as Governor of Qingzhou, he banned offerings to unorthodox deities. Adhering with great energy to the no-spirit theory, he was quite unable to compromise. From Xianhua, Linzhou, there came a scholar in a hemp headdress, who prepared his visiting card and called on Dai, talking with him for a very long time. Dai refused to change his position, either falling into denial or failing to be reasonable. The scholar repeatedly explained his principles, and eventually reached the no-spirit theory, making things difficult for Dai, but Dai did not desire to compromise. The scholar thus shook out his robes and rose, saying: “The gentleman has cut off my type from their offerings for over twenty years. The gentleman has a black ox and a bearded servant; they have not yet encumbered one another, but now the servant has rebelled and the ox is dead. On an auspicious day they will neutralise one another.” After speaking, the scholar disappeared. The following day Dai passed away.

From Zayu.

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, 317.2508:

宗岱

宗岱為青州刺史。禁淫祀。著無鬼論。甚精。無能屈者。鄰州咸化之。後有一書生。葛巾。修刺詣岱。與之談甚久。岱理未屈。辭或未暢。書生輒為申之。次及無鬼論。便苦難岱。岱理欲屈。書生乃振衣而起曰。君絕我輩血食二十餘年。君有青牛髯奴。未得相困耳。今奴已叛。牛已死。令日得相制矣。言絕。遂失書生。明日而岱亡。出雜語

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.

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

Zhang Yi 張遺

The Prefectural Chief of Guiyang Zhang Yi[1] was from Jiangxia. His courtesy name was Shugao, and he resided in Yanling. Amid his fields there was a great tree, more than ten spans around, that shaded six mu (around 40 acres). Its branches and leaves were luxuriant, and no millet would grow beneath them. He sent a passing traveller to fell it, but after several swings of the axe the tree began to bleed profusely. The traveller was terrified, and returned to tell Shugao. Shugao told him, furiously: “Old trees sweat; what’s so strange about that?” He therefore went in person and hacked at it. A large amount of blood poured out. Shugao hacked at it again, and again, and opened up a hollow space within. A white-haired old man, four or five chi tall (1.3-1.6m), emerged suddenly and stepped towards Shugao. Shugao greeted him with a swing of his blade, and killed him. Four or five old men emerged in the same way, falling to the ground in fear and shock. Shugao carried on as before, quite unruffled. The various people looked on at these beings. Like people but not human, like beasts but not animals, could they be what is known as wood or stone devils, or Kui sprites? In the year he felled the tree, Shu- [2841] -gao was appointed Censor to the Ministry of Works and Governor of Yanzhou.

From Fayuanzhulin. [2]

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, 359.2840-41:

張遺〈搜神記遺作遼。〉

桂陽太守江夏張遺。字叔高。居𨻳〈居上原有隱字。據明鈔本刪。𨻳字原闕。據法苑珠林三一補。〉陵。田中有大樹。十圍餘。蓋六畝。枝葉扶疏。蟠地不生谷草。遣客斫之。斧數下。樹大血出。客驚怖。歸白叔高。叔高怒曰。老樹汗出。此等何怪。因自斫之。血大流出。叔高更斫之。又有一空處。白頭老翁長四五尺。突出趁〈趁原作稱。據法苑珠林三一改。〉叔高。叔高以刀迎斫。殺之。四五老翁並出。左右皆驚怖伏地。叔高神慮恬然如舊。諸人徐視之。似人非人。似獸非獸。此所謂木石之怪。夔魍魎者乎。其伐樹年中。叔 [2841] 高辟司空御史兗州刺史。出法苑珠林。法苑珠林四二作出搜神記

[1] An editor’s note here states that the story is titled (and the character likewise named) Zhang Liao 張遼 in the Soushenji 搜神記.

[2] An editor’s note here states that the Fayuanzhulin reports that the story is taken from the Soushenji 搜神記.

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).

Fei Ji 費季

Fei Ji, from Wu, spent several years as a travelling merchant. At that time there were many bandits on the roads, and his wife often worried about this. When Ji and his fellows were staying at a travellers’ hostel below Lushan, each asked the others how long they had been on the road. Ji said: “Several years have already passed since I left my home. Just before departing I said farewell to my wife, and asked for her gold hairpin to take with me. I wanted to check whether or not she was devoted to me. I received the hairpin, and left it on the door lintel. Setting off I lost my way, and that hairpin is still on the lintel.” That night, his wife dreamed that Ji told her: “On my journey I encountered bandits, and have been dead for two years. If you don’t believe these words of mine, I took your hairpin but did not carry it with me. I left it [2504] on the door lintel, so you can go and get it.” When his wife awoke, she sought and found the hairpin. The household then announced his death, but, a year later, Ji arrived back from his travels.

From Soushenji.

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, 316.2503-4:

費季

吳人費季。客賈數年。時道多劫。妻常憂之。季與同輩旅宿廬山下。各相問去家幾時。季曰。吾去家已數年。臨來。與妻別。就求金釵以行。欲觀其志。當與吾否耳。得釵。仍以著戶楣上。臨發忘道。此釵故當在戶上也。爾夕。妻夢季曰。吾行遇盜。死已二年。若不信吾言。吾取汝釵。遂不以行。留 [2504] 在戶楣上。可往取之。妻覺。揣釵得之。家遂發喪。後一年餘。季行來歸還。出搜神記

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 Guangling Clerk 廣陵吏人

A clerk from Guangling, surnamed Zhao, was sleeping alone in a chamber through the summer heat. Around midnight, he suddenly saw a tall person in a yellow robe enter via the door, followed by seven much smaller people, also wearing yellow. The stranger muttered to himself: “Looked everywhere without result, and now here, eh?” He shouted at him to get up, and said: “This can now be carried out.” One of the yellow-robed people stepped forwards and said: “This life is not yet finished, and we cannot just take it away. It would be better to make a record of this.” The taller person then reached inside his robe and brought out a seal. They made a seal impression on his left arm and departed. When dawn came he inspected it. The seal stuck closely to his skin, and its characters were like the ancient seal script. The lower character was shi 識 ‘knowledge’, the right looked like xian 仙 ‘immortal’, the left like ji 記 ‘record’, but the one above that could not be read. It is not known how Zhao ended up.

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, 353.2800:

廣陵吏人

廣陵吏姓趙。當暑。獨寢一室。中夜。忽見大黃衣人自門而入。從小黃衣七人。謂己曰。處處尋不得。乃在此耶。叱起之。曰。可以行矣。一黃衣前曰。天年未盡。未可遽行。宜有以記之可也。大人即探懷。出一印。印其左臂而去。及明視之。印文著肉。字若古篆。識其下。右若仙字。左若記字。其上不可識。趙後不知所終。出稽神錄

Chen Deyu 陳德遇

In a xinhai year, the collaborator official to the Jiangnan Treasury Chen Jurang, courtesy name Deyu, spent nights in the treasury. His wife remained at home. At the beginning of the fifth watch (around 3am), she suddenly dreamed that two clerks, carrying documents in their hands, emerged from their gate and entered, asking whether that was the household of Chen Deyu. She said: “Indeed.” “Where is Deyu?” “At the treasury.” The clerks were about to depart, but his wife followed and called to them: “My husband’s courtesy name is Deyu, that’s all. There is an official of the Treasury of Court Vestments named Chen Deyu, and his house is nearby at Dongqu.” The two clerks looked at one another and exclaimed: “There have been some errors!” They then left. Soon after, Deyu arose one morning and went to the toilet. He remarked to himself that he had become ill, and went back to bed. Some time after that he died. The two men both lived to the west of the administrative centre.

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, 353.2800:

陳德遇

辛亥歲。江南偽右藏庫官陳居讓字德遇。直宿庫中。其妻在家。五更初。忽夢二吏。手把文書。自門而入。問此陳德遇家耶。曰。然。德遇何在。曰。在庫中。吏將去。妻追呼之曰。家夫〈夫原作父。據明鈔本、許本改。〉字德遇耳。有主衣庫官陳德遇者。家近在東曲。二吏相視而嘻曰。幾誤矣。遂去。邇日。德遇晨起如廁。自云有疾。還臥。良久遂卒。二人並居治城之西。出稽神錄