A Pig’s Earring 猪耳鐶

The gentleman Jiang Songwei travelled from Shu via Xia, and on reaching the Yun’an Pass killed a pig as a temple sacrifice. When it came to washing the offering, he saw a single ring below one ear, inky coloured, clear and glistening; it must have formerly been a person and a thieving criminal.[1]

Hong Mai, Yi Jian Zhi, ii, 丙18.514

猪耳鐶

將仕郎宋衞自蜀道出峽,至雲安關,殺猪賽廟。洗牲時,見耳下一方鐶,墨色猶明潤,蓋必前身為人而犯盜者也。

Hong Mai 洪邁, He Zhuo 何卓 (ed.), Yi Jian Zhi 夷堅志 (Record of Yi Jian) 4 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1981)

[1] This refers to the practice of tattooing a ring behind the ear as punishment for convicted thieves or bandits. On this practice, see Songshi 宋史 201.5018; Carrie E. Reed, ‘Tattoo in Early China’, Journal of the American Oriental Society 120 (2000), 360-76: 365. (the article is available online here)

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Fair Prices, High Honour 平糶榮顯

Chen Tianfu, of Dongshan in Chalingzhou, was known as a venerable elder. Every year, when he had grain he would sell it at fair prices; if he lacked grain he would borrow money, buy grain at high prices and sell it cheaply; the villagers found this extremely virtuous. One day, a cleric offered one hundred and twenty copper cash to buy a dou of rice, but Chen said: “If a cleric needs alms or provisions one should hand over a dou; what need is there for money?” The cleric accepted the rice and went out through his gate, then inscribed four lines on the wall:

All, near and far, call him venerable elder;

Borrowing, he buys rice to give as alms.

The future brings fragrant (cassia) children and fragrant (orchid) grandchildren;

Entering the jade hall with ease and ascending the golden horse. (i.e., entering palace service)

Chen subsequently became very wealthy, further increasing his grain warehousing, selling grain fairly and aiding the populace. He had three sons: the eldest Jisi, the second Jiyun and the third Jifang, who was named Lansun; father and sons all requested water transport for their locality. Lansun subsequently entered the national academy and was highly ranked in the examinations, ascending the official hierarchy to be Magistrate of Taiyuan.

People say: “The rewards for fair selling are extremely generous, and the cleric was certainly an immortal!”

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.110 (Tale 190):

平糶榮顯

茶陵州東山陳天福,素稱長者。每年有米肯平糶,無米與人借,又無米借錢,貴糴賤糶,鄉里甚德之。一日,有道人以銅錢一百二十為糴米一斗,陳云: 「道人要齋糧,當納上一斗,何必用錢!」道人受米出門,遂題四句於壁間云:「遠近皆稱陳長者,典錢糴米來施捨。他時桂子與蘭孫,平步玉堂上金馬。」陳後富有,起經濟倉,平糶濟人。生三子:長季思,次季雲,三季芳,名蘭孫,父子皆請鄉漕。蘭孫後補入國學登第,官至太原常丞。人云:「平糶之報甚豐,而道人其仙乎!」

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).

An Unscrupulous Officer of the Way 法官不戒

Zhang Shengyuan, known as the ‘Sender of Thunder’, diligently followed the Way of Thunder, possessing exceptional power and efficacy; the populace all treated him as a transcendent. He resided in Lingdao Hall. One evening, when he was walking in the mountains, he defiled a village woman. When he returned at dusk, he lit a lamp, but there came the sound of a mouth eating and chewing, and suddenly dead fell to the ground. When the thunder spirits are like this, how can those scholars who follow the Way be disrespectful?

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.166 (Tale 289):

法官不戒

張聲遠,名雷發,奉行雷法,甚有靈驗,衆皆神之。寓廬陵道堂。一晚山行,污一村婦。暮歸,堂中焚炷,但口中作吃吃之聲,忽仆地竟死。雷將之靈如此,行法之士忽慢可乎?

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 Yangzhou Thunder Spirit 揚州雷鬼

The senior official Gentleman Yan Heng resided with his household in Yangzhou. His wife, the Lady Yang, was sitting together, in broad daylight, with their sons and daughters in the hall when thunder and rain suddenly burst forth, and a strange apparition fell from the empty air onto the floor. A little over three chi in height (i.e., about a metre), its face and flesh were both black, and it wore a turban on its head, like the head-cloths of the present day, but as if it were made of flesh, this was joined to its forehead. Turning to look at the people, it covered its face as if in laughter. Before long the crowd grew more and more numerous, but its laughter continued without pause. After a moment, a great thunderbolt erupted outside, thick clouds bringing sombre darkness so people could not be distinguished from one another, and it quickly climbed the empty air and departed.

Hong Mai, Yi Jian Zhi, ii, 7.421:

揚州雷鬼

上官彥衡侍郎,家居揚州。夫人楊氏白晝在堂中與兒女聚坐,忽雷雨大作,奇鬼從空隕於地,長僅三尺許,面及肉色皆青,首上加幘,如世間幞頭,乃肉為之,與額相連。顧見人,掩面如笑。既而觀者漸衆,笑亦不止。頃之,大霆激於屋表,雲霾晦冥,不辨人物,倏爾乘空而去。

Hong Mai 洪邁, He Zhuo 何卓 (ed.), Yi Jian Zhi 夷堅志 (Record of Yi Jian) 4 vols (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1981)

An Honest Heart Moves Heaven 平心感天

Chen Renfu, of Tiaolu Village, Gao’an County, resided in some wealth in a farmhouse in the village, specializing in the study of Buddhism and Daoism. Each year, in the spring, he would reserve two thousand dan of millet, and, in the fifth or sixth month of the following year, when grain was expensive, he would sell his grain at a reduced price. When the money was handed over, he’d have the buyers enter the granary themselves and would not let them take anything until the scales were perfectly level. The village all called him ‘Chen Weigh-It-Yourself’. At that time there was a terrible drought; the prefectural chief prayed for relief, but without result. One night he dreamed that the town god said: “Chen Weigh-It-Yourself has the rain.” When he awoke from the dream, he sent servants to seek a meeting at the prefecture offices. On seeing him, he was delighted, preparing candles and incense, having monks chant sutras and ordering them to pray for his longevity. Chen said: “Your servant is just a villager, lacking any skill with which to pray for rain.” The prefectural chief told him about the dream, and urged him strongly. Chen had no choice but to light incense and turn his face to heaven, praying earnestly and begging for three days of continuous heavy rain to relieve somewhat the worry and pain of the populace. When evening fell there was indeed a great rainfall, which only stopped after three days, and the people of the prefecture were all delighted. This benevolent elder’s daily reduction of grain prices was enough to move the heavens.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.108 (Tale 189):

平心感天

高安縣調露鄉陳仁父,居村田宅稍富,專事釋老之學。每年春留穀二千石,至次年五六月米貴之時,減價發糶,既交錢,令糴者自入倉內量出,不許多取,務要兩平。一村稱之曰「陳自量」。時大旱,太守祈求不應,夜夢城隍曰:「調露鄉陳自量有雨。」夢覺,差人尋訪赴郡。太守見之,喜具香燭,僧道誦經,就令祈禱。陳曰:「某村夫,無術可以祈雨。」太守以所夢事告,強之。陳不免炷香,對空而禱,乞降霖雨三日,以濟焦沽(「沽」,疑當作「枯」。)少甦民望。至晚果大雨,三日方止,一郡之人皆悅。蓋仁父平日減米價,足以感天也。

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).

Secret Virtue Makes A Number One Scholar 陰騭狀元

Ping Jing, courtesy name Dangshi, was from Xianning in Ezhou. His father was a merchant, and, when he was in the prime of life but lacking children, he was about to depart for the capital when his wife gave him several silver tablets and said: “The gentleman does not yet have a son; take these as the means to buy a concubine.” When he reached the capital, he bought a concubine, drew up a contract and paid over the money. When he asked the concubine where she came from, she shed tears but refused to speak. When he asked her more firmly, she then said her father held office, but, having suffered shortfalls in his transported goods, had sold her into concubinage as a plan to repay the losses. Grieved by this, he could not bear to touch her, and sent her back to her father, without insisting on the return of his money. When he returned, his wife asked: “Where is the concubine you bought?” He told her the whole story. His wife said: “If the gentleman uses his heart like this, why worry about lacking a son?” Several months later, his wife became pregnant. When the due date drew near, the villagers dreamt that the air was filled with drumming and trumpeting, greeting the number one scholar arriving at the Ping household. The next morning, Jing was born. Taking delight in reading, he came first (yuan) in the provincial examinations, came first (yuan) in the metropolitan examination, and achieved first place (yuan) in the overall ranking; his contemporaries called him ‘Ping Three-Yuan’.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前 2.108 (Tale 187):

陰騭狀元

馮京,字當世,鄂州咸寧人。其父商也,壯歲無子,將如京師,其妻授以白金數笏,曰:「君未有子,可以此為買妾之資。」及至京師,買一妾,立券償錢矣。問妾所自來,涕泣不肯言。固問之,乃言其父有官,因綱運欠折,鬻妾以為賠償之計。遂惻然不忍犯,遣還其父,不索其錢。及歸,妻問:「買妾安在?」具告以故。妻曰:「君用心如此,何患無子!」居數月,妻有娠。將誕,里人皆夢鼓吹喧闐迎狀元至馮家。次早,生京。喜讀書,領舉為解元,省試為省元,登第為狀元,世號為馮三元。

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).

Pei Zhang’s Unhappy Wife 裴章薄妻

Pei Zhang was from Hedong; his father Zhou had once garrisoned Jingzhou. Their private monk, Tan Zhao, had made great achievements in the Way, and able to comprehend good and bad fortune. As a youth Zhang had profound respect for Tan Zhao, who said that his career and prestige would surpass that of his father. When Zhang reached the ‘capping age’ (i.e., adulthood, at around 20), his father married him to a daughter of the Li family. On passing the age of thirty, Zhang followed a posting to Taiyuan, leaving his wife in Luozhong, ‘passing the door but never entering’ (i.e., being too busy to visit), never taking her along with him. Lady Li felt herself to have been born under an unlucky star, often wearing coarse clothes and a mourning hairstyle, reading Buddhist texts and eating simple food. After a further decade, when his father transferred from Jingzhou to garrison Taiyuan, Tan Zhao followed him. Zhang therefore saw Zhao to renew their acquaintance, but Zhao was shocked and sighed for a long time, addressing him: “Fifty years ago this poor cleric often said Your Excellency would scale the heights; now you are quite weakened and exhausted. How has this happened?” Zhang told him of his unhappy wife. Zhao said: “The lady has complained to the Lord on High, and he punishes Your Excellency.” Ten days later, he cut his stomach open with a knife in the bathtub; his five organs fell to the ground, and he subsequently died.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.13 (Tale 73):

裴章薄妻

河東裴章者,其父胄,曾鎮荊州。門僧曇照,道行甚高,能知休咎。章幼時為曇照所重,言其官班位望過於其父。章弱冠,父為娶李氏女。乃三十年餘,章從職太原,棄其妻於洛中,過門不入,別有所挈。李氏自感其薄命,常褐衣髽髺,讀佛書,蔬食。又十年,嚴經自荊州移鎮太原,曇照隨之。章因見照敍舊,照驚噫久之,謂之曰:「貧道五十年前常謂郎君必貴,今削盡,何也?」章自以薄妻之事啟之。照曰:「夫人生魂訴上帝,以罪處君。」後旬日,為其下以刀劃腹於浴斛,五臟墮地,遂死。

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)