Releasing Quail, Extending Longevity 放鶉延壽

When Cai Yuanchang (i.e., Cai Jing 蔡京, 1047-1126 CE)[1] held power, he ate quail at every celebration. One evening, he dreamt that a yellow-robed old person said: “In the coming days you are to suffer murder; hopefully the gentleman may be spared this fate.” Cai asked: “What kind of person are you?” They then recited verses:

Several grains of millet could feed the gentleman;

Only meat in the congee can fill the gentleman.

For one congee several lives are cut short;

Putting down his chopsticks these are still not enough.

On the moments between mouth and stomach;

Fate and fortune are together dependent.

Wishing to warn the gentleman not to kill;

Life and death spin as if on a wheel.

He awoke and marvelled at this, making enquiries to those who prepared meals, acquiring several dozen yellow quails and releasing them. During the night he again dreamt of the yellow-robed old person, who said: “I am aware that the gentleman fulfilled the prayer, and has already saved lives. The Heavenly Emperor has now granted an extension to the gentleman’s lifespan.” Cai indeed subsequently enjoyed a long life before he passed away.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.114 (Tale 199):

放鶉延壽

蔡元長當國,每喜食鶉。一夕,夢黃衣老人曰:「來日當自被害,願公貸命。」蔡問:「汝何人?」乃誦詩云:「食君數粒粟,充君羹中肉。一羹斷數命,下筯猶未足。口腹須臾間,福禍相倚伏。願公戒勿殺,死生如轉轂。」覺而異之,詢於掌饍,得黃鶉數十,放之。經宿復夢黃衣老人曰:「感公從禱,已獲復生。今上帝已延公壽命矣。」後蔡果享高壽而卒。

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)

[1] On Cai Jing 蔡京, courtesy name Yuanchang 元長 (who died after banishment at a relatively advanced age) see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cai_Jing and the brilliant article by Charles Hartman, ‘A Textual History of Cai Jing’s Biography in the “Songshi”’, in  Emperor Huizong and Late Northern Song China: The Politics of Culture and the Culture of Politics (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006), pp. 517-64.

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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)

Tie Guai Appears In A Dream 鐵拐託夢

Zhang Jushi was a clerk in the Song capital, and his taboo name was Daochun. His wife, née Ma, left the household (for religion), and founded an Academy Assisting The True Way in Huzhou City. Firmly dedicated to the Way, she lived on Fangzi Alley, off Xiuwen Lane, and opened the Pharmacy to Academy Assisting The True Way, in the gengchen year of the Zhiyuan era (1280), and often provided meals to Buddhist and Daoist monks. One day, having first distributed 100 tickets for vegetarian meals, when the day came these were taken as evidence for those attending the food provision. As the time approached, however, the tickets collected amounted only to ninety-nine, so they were missing one. Jushi paid without asking, and therefore provided ninety-nine percent of the meals, but this left him feeling less than entirely satisfied. The next night, he dreamed that a Daoist came to report to him: “The ticket is with me, Guai.”[1] On awaking and reflecting on this, he realised that there hadn’t been a ticket made out to Master Guai, so went urgently and found a boat to the Daoist temple from the pavilion over the well. Knocking at the temple gate and looking, he indeed daw that (the statue of) Guai bore a meal slip, and inscribed upon it were four sentences:

Going especially to receive a meal

I saw that I was not dealt with.

Returning empty-bellied,

My meal-ticket tied to my staff.

He thus understood that immortals also attend worldly alms feasts.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.131 (Tale 229):

鐵拐託夢

張居士,宋朝都吏也,諱道純。妻馬氏,俱出家,創輔真道院於湖州市。好道甚堅,住修文坊扇子巷,開輔真道院藥局,至元庚辰,常齋僧道。一日,先散俵子一百個,至日憑此赴齋。臨期,收俵子只九十九個,不見一個。居士付之不問,徑支齋九十九分,此心終不滿。次夜,夢一道人來告,曰:「俵子在我拐上。」覺而細思,其日並無策拐者,想是道院鐵拐先生,亟於井亭下覓舟往道院。扣門觀之,果見拐上有俵子,題得四句云:「特來赴齋,見我不采。空腹且歸,俵縛我拐。」因知仙亦赴凡齋矣。

[1] This is Li Tieguai 鐵拐李 (“Iron Crutch Li”), a daoist immortal. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Li_Tieguai.

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).

 

Repentance for Killing Eels 殺鱔悔悟

Long ago a person named Wang something had an eating house and was a very skilled cook, specialising in killing eels. A Buddhist priest arrived at the restaurant and bought a bowl of eel for ten copper cash. When it arrived, he pressed his hands together and prostrated himself in greeting, and did not eat but left instead. This happened for several days. Shopkeeper Wang thought this strange and questioned him, at which the priest said: “You have mastered the preparation of eel but not yet attained the way, and therefore I do not eat. I will come again tomorrow; if you can sell a bowl of perfectly straight eel, I will repay double your money without hesitation.” Wang so-and-so said: “How can one make it straight?” The priest said: “You need to hold the eel with your hands, [99] right up until the stock boils, and then you can make them straight.” Wang laughed and said: “Won’t that hurt my hands?” The priest said: “Your two hands will know pain; what of the tens of thousands of eels’ lives?” Wang so-and-so then achieved a sudden enlightenment, abandoning his livelihood and never again opening his shop. Restricting himself to a vegetarian diet and chanting the name of the Buddha, he lived little more than a month before passing away.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.98-99 (tale 168):

殺鱔悔悟

昔有食店王某,善於庖饌,專殺鱔魚。有一道人至店,以銅錢十文買鱔一碗。及至,則合掌頂禮,不食而去。如是數日。王店怪而問之,道人曰:「你修事鱔魚尚未得法,所以不食。我明日再來,你賣一碗條直鱔魚,倍還你錢不妨。」王某曰:「何策得其條直?」道人曰:「你須以手握鱔, [99] 致之沸湯,即能條直。」王笑曰:「如手痛何?」道人曰:「爾雙手知痛,況鱔魚數萬命乎?」王某即頓悟,捨業不復開店,持素念佛,不逾月而亡。

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).