Four Immortals Play Chess 四仙弈棋

There was once somebody called Ba, from Qiong, his surname has not been recorded. He had a tangerine tree, and after the frost came all of the tangerines had been gathered, save for two big ones, each as large as a wide-bellied pot. Ba then ordered that they twist off the tangerines and weigh them, just like the usual ones. When cut open, each contained two elderly men, beard and eyebrows hoary white, flesh and bodies bright red, and both sets were playing chess, their bodies a little over a chi (33cm) in height, talking and laughing as if nothing had happened. When their games were finished, one old man said: “The gentleman has beaten me.” Another old man said: “The gentleman has beaten me; it will come back to me later, at the thatched hall at Qingcheng.” (This is a celebrated Daoist mountain site in Sichuan) Yet another old man spoke up: “Master Wang is always like this; waiting and getting nothing. Playing in the tangerine is no worse than on Shangshan, but you can’t have more than one stem for each tangerine.” One of the old men said: “Your servant is hungry and empty; he needs a dragon root fruit to eat.” Then from his sleeve he removed a grass root, about an inch across, its shape curving sinuously like a dragon, and, millimetre by millimetre and with great care, pared it away fully. When he had finished eating, he spat it out in a gush of water, and it transformed into a dragon. The four old men mounted it together, and wings flapping beneath their feet ascended into the clouds. Briefly and suddenly came wind, rain, darkness and light, and none knew where they had gone.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.132 (Tale 230):

四仙弈棋

有巴邛人,不記姓。有橘,霜後諸橘盡收,餘二大橘如三四斗盎,巴人即令拳橘輕重,亦如常橘。割開,每橘有二老叟,鬚眉皤然,肌體紅明,皆相對象戲,身尺餘,談笑自若。但與決賭訖,一叟曰:「君輸我。」一叟曰:「君輸我,後日於青城草堂還我耳。」又一叟曰:「王先生許來,竟待不得,橘中之樂不減商山,但不得二根同蒂(上四字,明抄本作「深根固蒂」。)於橘中耳。」一叟曰:「僕飢虛矣,須龍根脯食之。」即於袖中抽出一草根,方圓徑寸,形狀宛轉如龍,毫釐周悉,因削復滿。食訖,以水噀之,化為一龍,四叟共乘之,足下泄泄雲起。須臾,風雨晦明,不知所在。

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 Snake Steals Wine And Drinks 蛇竊酒飲

Zhou Bixian was supervisor of the Panfeng wine store in Wuxi County, Changzhou. He used fragrant medicinal material to produce his yeast, bringing forth a dense fragrant cloud. The flavour of his wine was pure and clear, and it was produced in top, middle and lower qualities. When distilling the wine, he made offerings to deities, slaughtering a sheep and a pig, carrying out the rite of the three offerings in his official robes, and when this was complete sending the wine out to all levels of officials at the court. One day, at the autumn offering, the storehouse clerk came reporting that there were holes in the clay of the highest grade wine flasks. When he was taken to see, several hundred flasks were indeed quite empty. The clerks thought it strange that those chosen and cleaned as offerings to the spirits had not been affected, and nobody knew the cause of it all. A month later, laughing voices were suddenly heard in the wine store, and when they peeped in they saw a crowd of children sucking from the mouths of the wine jars; when the doors were opened they all vanished into the earth. He hastily ordered that the floor be excavated, and at a depth of three chi (about 1m), they found a huge serpent lying drunk, with several dozen smaller snakes wound around beside it, and they realized that those spoiling the wine were snakes. His heart weighed down with doubt and bewilderment, gloomy and without joy, [lacuna] within two months he had resigned and returned to his home region.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.258 (Tale 469):

蛇竊酒飲

周必先監無常州錫縣潘封酒庫,用香藥料造麯,香氣氤氳,酒味清洌,有上中下三等。酒熟祭神,刺羊刺豕,庫官展裹行三獻之禮,事畢分送朝官監司太守以下。一日秋祭,庫吏走報,謂上等酒瓶泥皆有孔,取而視之,則數百瓶皆空空如也。官吏以為怪,擇其潔者供祀神,不之顧,亦莫知所自也。越一月,忽聞酒庫有笑語聲,潛視之,則有羣小兒口吸瓶上,開門則失入地矣。急命掘地,深三尺,有巨蛇醉卧,數十小蛇旋繞其旁,始知壞酒者此蛇也。其心疑怪,鬱鬱不樂, [ ] 踰兩月以事罷歸。

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 Rat Turns A Spinning Wheel 鼠運緯車

The family of Constable Wu Guinian of Jintian often saw a person wearing a kerchief and a Huai robe, sometimes sitting beneath the moon, sometimes seated before the flowers, sometimes reclining by the pond, sometimes sitting on the building, changing and never looking quite the same. One day it was leaning against the gate with its hand, and Constable Wu said: “This is a household spirit; please return to the ancestral hall.” It then vanished. They also had a spinning wheel, which when night came could spin of its own accord, and this continued for several nights running. One evening, Wu covered his lamp with a pail and sat down next to it. He heard something descend the stairs, uncovering the matter step by step. Before long the spinning wheel began to spin once more, so he quickly removed the pail, leaving the lamp shining brightly, and the strange thing without time to change its shape. He saw a large rat, the size of a small pig, turning the wheel with its tail. He later treated it according to the Buddhist law, at which the demon vanished.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.257 (Tale 467):

鼠運緯車

金田吳尉龜年,其家常見有一人淮巾袍帶,或坐月下,或坐花前,或坐池畔,或坐樓上,變見不一。一日以手柱門上,吳尉曰:「此家神也,請歸祠堂。」遂不見。又有一緯車,遇夜自能運轉,如此已數夕矣。一夕,吳以燈覆桶下,坐其旁,聞一物自樓梯下,步步分曉。須臾其緯車復運轉,急去桶,燈明,其怪物不及變形。乃見一大鼠如小豬兒狀,以尾拽其車。後以(此處原多一「其」字,據明刻本刪。)法治之,其怪乃絕。

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 Ghost Seeks Acupuncture 鬼求針灸

When Xu Xi (886-975 CE) was governor of Sheyang, there were few people skilled in medicine, and his fame spread across the land. Once at night he heard a ghost moaning and groaning, its voice extremely mournful and bitter. Xu said: “You are a ghost; what can you need?” Then he heard the reply: “My family name is Dou, my own name Si, my household is in Dongyang, I suffered from back pain and died, and despite becoming a ghost the aches and pains are unbearable. I heard that the gentleman is skilled at acupuncture, and would like to be relieved of my suffering.” Xu said: “You are a ghost and without physical form; how should treatment be placed?” The ghost said: “The gentleman must only bind straw together as a person, seeking the vital points and inserting the needles there.” Xu followed these instructions and inserted needles at four points in the lower back and three points in the shoulder, set out offerings, and then buried it. The next day somebody came with thanks, saying: “Having received the gentleman’s treatment, and also the feast laid out, my illness is gone and my hunger sated; my gratitude for this kindness is extremely profound.” [238] He suddenly vanished.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.237-38 (Tale 428):

鬼求針灸

徐熙為射陽令,少善醫方,名聞海內。嘗夜聞有鬼呻吟,聲甚淒苦。徐曰:「汝是鬼,何所需?」俄聞答曰:「姓斛名斯,家在東陽,患腰痛死,雖為鬼而疼痛不可忍。聞君善針,願相救濟。」徐曰:「汝是鬼而無形,何厝治?」鬼曰:「君但縛芻為人,索孔穴針之。」徐如其言為針腰四處,又針肩三處,設祭而埋之。明日一人來謝曰:「蒙君醫療,復為設齋,病除饑解,感惠甚深。」 [238] 忽然不見。

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 Deity Treats Serpent Birth 神救產蛇

The daughter in law of old man Xu Qing of Jianning Prefecture became pregnant, but went seventeen months without giving birth, so the whole family grew worried and apprehensive. It happened that a woman came to their gate, identifying herself under the surname Chen, a specialist in treating difficult birth. Xu was delighted, asking her to stay and telling Chen about the matter. She said: “This is a simple matter.” She ordered Xu to set up a chamber in a separate building of several stories, cutting an aperture in the central storey, sealing up the lower storey with boards and nails, and installing the pregnant woman in the building, where the woman Chen would also reside. Chen ordered several servants to take up staves and gather below the building, waiting to beat to death anything that fell to the ground. Chen breathed on and massaged the pregnant woman, and at dawn she gave birth to a small serpent, just over a chi (33cm) in length; as it fell from the aperture in the wall, the group of servants beat it to death. The pregnant woman was safe and sound, and the whole family raised their hands and celebrated together, offering generous gifts in thanks, but none were accepted. She did require, however, a handkerchief, on which she had them apply the characters ‘Xu so-and-so rewards the lady Chen, saviour of the pregnant.’

Chen said: “Your servant resides in such-and-such a place within Gutian County, in Fuzhou, those neighbours around are such-and-such people, and in former times they looked on me with favour, as if deceived, it is very fortunate.” She said farewell, left through the gate, and suddenly vanished; doubt and wonder persisted in their hearts about this. Later, Xu governed Fuzhou, and, remembering the incident, sent people to seek and question her neighbours, who said: “Here there is only the temple to Lady Chen; she often manifests in the world to help manage difficult pregnancies.” When examined carefully, the handkerchief inscribed by Xu could be seen hanging on the front of her statue. When they returned to report, Xu went to the temple, upgrading the lady’s titulature and ornamenting the temple [223] eaves.

All who pray in earnest for male descendants or to rescue women from dangerous pregnancies find their prayers answered, and to this day her incense and candles are especially abundant.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.222-23 (Tale 395):

神救產蛇

建寧府徐清叟子婦懷孕,十有七月不產,舉家憂懼。忽一婦人踵門,自言姓陳,專醫難產。(「難產」,明刻本作「產難」,下同。〕徐喜,留之,以事告陳婦。曰:「此易耳。」令徐別治有樓之室,樓中心鑿一竅,樓下周圍用板釘壁,置產婦於樓,陳婦同居焉。陳令備數僕持杖樓下,候有物墮地即箠死之。陳婦以產婦吹呵按摩,但見產一小蛇,長尺餘,自竅而下,羣僕箠殺之。產婦平安,全家舉手相慶,重以禮物謝之,俱不受。但需手帕一事,令其親書「徐某贈救產陳氏」數字。陳曰:「某居福州古田縣某處,左右鄰某人,異日若蒙青目,萬幸。」辭別出門,忽已不見,心常疑異之。後徐知福州,憶(「憶」原作「議」,據明刻本改。)其事,遣人尋訪所居鄰舍,云:「此間止有陳夫人廟,常化身於世救治難產。」細視之,則徐所題之手帕縣於像前。人歸以報,徐為諸於朝,增加封號,宏其廟 [223] 宇。凡有祈求男嗣及婦人難產,禱之立應,至今香火尤盛。

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 Well Spirit Shows Itself 井神現身

Wu Zhan lived near Jingxi, where there was a particularly clear and limpid spring on which the population relied. Zhan protected it with a bamboo fence, to keep out the dirt. One day, Wu was by the side of the spring when he caught a white snail and put it in an earthen jar. Whenever he came in from outside, he found food and drink already prepared in his kitchen, and he was shocked and astonished. One day he managed to peep in, and saw a woman emerge from the shell and take up a cooking knife. Wu hurried in towards her. She was unable to return to her shell, and told him truthfully: “I am a spring spirit. Because the gentleman respected and protected my source, and because it is known that the gentleman is a widower, I was commanded to prepare food for the gentleman. If the gentleman eats my food, he will attain the Way.” When her speech was finished she vanished.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.219 (Tale 388):

井神現身

吳湛居臨荊溪,有一泉極清澈,衆人賴之,湛為竹籬遮護,不令穢入。一日,吳於泉側得一白螺,歸置之甕中,每自外歸,則廚中飲食已辦,心大驚異。一日竊窺,乃一女子自螺中而出,手自操刀。吳急趨之,女子大窘,不容歸殼,實告吳曰:「吾乃泉神,以君敬護泉源,且知君鰥居,命〔吾〕(據明刻本補。)為君操饌。君食吾饌,當得道矣。」言訖不見。

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).

The Two Sages of Yuelu Monastery 岳麓寺二聖

In Hengyue there was the Yuelu Monastery, rebuilt and refurbished in brilliant gold and jade, its lustre dazzling everyone. A wandering Hu (northwestern) monk visited the temple, and addressed its abbot: “If, at the northeastern corner [214] a Tusita Bridge could be built over a small stream, once completed it would resemble the Western Heaven.” The following day the abbot brought together a multitude to discuss this transformation, and after some years it was complete.

The two sages of the temple gate then appeared to the abbot in a dream, saying: “This temple resembles the Western Heaven above, but now it falls short and the spirit of Mars is coming to burn and seize it. You should urgently take your multitude south to meet him by the ten li bridge.” On awaking, the abbot was terrified, and gathered his monks to go out front and wait. From dawn to evening, nobody came. When the sky darkened, they suddenly saw a priest, hair loose and unkempt around his temples, his clothes old and shabby, approaching them very slowly. The crowd of monks bowed as they saw him, leading him to the temple, making a great gathering with food and chanting, treating him with great honour, and begging him sorrowfully: “This temple has been built and repaired through the begging of alms; it is newly completed after more than a decade of hard work. If it should one day be reduced to a field of ashes, how could that not be regretted? We beg that the star lord would have a special mercy on us, and extend a brief pardon.” The priest was astonished, and said: “How could a poor cleric have such power?” The crowd of monks begged and supplicated over and over, so he asked: “Who was it that told you I was the spirit of Mars? If I could understand, perhaps this can be sorted out.” The abbot had no choice but to speak directly: “The two sages of the temple gate manifested in a dream.” The priest said: “You should make up several dozen widths of sticky paper and build them together to resemble the halls and chambers of this temple. Then burn it with lots of spirit money, so as to dispel this issue.”

The assembled monks did as he instructed, and burned it all. Just after the fifth watch (about dawn), the multitude escorted the priest out through the mountain gate, where he scolded the two sages: “Who taught you to shoot your mouths off like this? Who taught you to see the bone and not the flesh, the flesh and not the bone?” When they escorted him to the bridge of the previous day, cloud and mist arose on all sides, and the priest suddenly vanished. When the multitude returned to the mountain gate, the two sages collapsed into earth and dust, leaving only their wooden frames. When the abbot had them re-sculpted, within ten days they had fallen apart once more. To this day the temple’s mountain gate lacks its two guardian sages.

後2.213-14 (Tale 379):

岳麓寺二聖

衡岳有岳麓寺,重新修建,金碧輝煌,光彩爍人。有胡僧雲遊詣寺,與寺主言:「若於東北角 [214] 上小溪中造一座兜率橋,成則類西天矣。」寺主翌日集大衆題化,積年橋成。山門下二聖忽現夢於寺主云:「本寺類西天上界,今差火德星君來焚取,可急聚大衆南去十里溪橋邊迎之。」夢覺,寺主驚,遂集僧衆前去往候。自朝至晚,無往來者。天將昏,忽有一道人,鬢髮鬅鬙,身衣藍縷,徐徐然來。僧衆見之下拜,迎至寺,大作齋會,待之甚至,哀懇之曰:「此寺緣化修造,以十數年之辛勤方能圓就,若一旦為煨燼之場,寧不可惜!慾望星君特發慈悲,姑與原宥。」道人驚曰:「貧道安有此!」僧衆再三哀告不已,乃問曰:「誰與汝說我是火德星君,言若明白,當與料理。」寺主不得已,直云:「山門下二聖現夢。」道人云:「可打黏紙數十幅,一一綵繪本寺殿宇房廊樣式,多將紙錢前來燒化,庶可消禳。」僧衆如其教焚訖。五更初,衆送道人出山門下,乃指駡二聖云:「誰教汝饒舌,教汝骨不見肉,肉不見骨。」及送至昨日橋邊,雲霧四起,道人倏然不見。衆回山門,則二聖泥土皆落,隻有木胎。寺主再裝塑之,越旬日又落。至今本寺山門下無金剛二聖也。

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).