Unfilial Service To In-Laws 事姑不孝

The mother of Li Sheng, of Xingzhou, was old and somewhat blind, and Li Sheng served her with great filial piety. Whenever he went out, he worried that his wife, née Jin, might fail to serve her properly, so always repeated his instructions to her several times, only setting off after he had done so. The lady Jin did not heed her husband’s advice, and did not observe the proper manners. His mother complained and grumbled about her a great deal, and Jin resented this. When she was preparing to bake shaobing biscuits to give to her mother-in-law, she noticed that dung from their baby son lay next to her. Jin took this and added it to the flour of the biscuit filling. Li’s mother had eaten half of the biscuit when she became aware if a horrible smell and could eat no more, leaving the rest and waiting for her son to return. When Li arrived, he saw that his mother had been fed with filth, so took up a cane and beat Jin until she fled, vanishing into the distance. Suddenly, a disembodied voice reported: “Yesterday the fugitive entered the King Guan Temple.” When Li Sheng went to the temple, he saw a dog lying beneath the offerings table, glowering so fiercely he did not dare approach. He then called for Jin’s mother and father to come and see, at which the hound wept streams of tears and explained: “I ought not to have served up filth to my mother-in-law in such an unfilial manner. When I entered the temple I suddenly turned into a dog!” Several days later she died.

Long ago there was a woman called A Li, whose son travelled for trade, sometimes not returning for years at a time. Her daughter-in-law, Qisao, stayed in the home. Whenever this woman cooked she prepared two dishes; coarse grains for her mother-in-law, but white rice for herself. Li was troubled by the woman’s disobedience, but had to endure her insults. Even accepting the inedible meals presented to her, as Li did not dare speak up. One day the wife went to a neighbouring house, leaving her mother-in-law at home. A monk came holding his alms bowl and begging for rice, but Li said: “I can’t fill my own belly! How can I give alms?” When the monk pointed to the white rice in the kitchen, Li said: “That is what my daughter-in-law Qisao eats. I daren’t give that away. I worry that she would certainly humiliate and insult me when she comes back. I had coarse rice for my breakfast, and have a little left over to prepare for lunch; you could take that.” Before the monk could answer, they heard Qisao arrive outside. When the woman saw the monk eating, she said, quite furiously: “If you want my white rice, you should take off your kasaya robe[1] and hand it over in exchange.” The monk then removed his robe. As the younger woman picked it up, the monk suddenly [21] vanished. The kasaya wrapped around her body and turned into cowhide. Imprisoned within, she could not take it off. A growth of cow hairs grew across the chest opening, and, gradually, body, head, face, all transformed. Her parents were hastily summoned, but when they arrived she had entirely transformed into an ox!

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前1.20-21 (Tale 35)

事姑不孝

邢州李生母,年老目盲,李生事之至孝。每出外,慮其妻金氏侍奉有闕,必再三囑付之而後往。金氏不聽夫語,不盡禮,母甚埋怨,金氏憤之。恰值燒餅欲進母,傍有小兒阿糞,金氏乃以麵裹糞為餅餡以進,母食既半,覺臭穢不可食,遂留以待兒歸。李生歸,見其以穢物食母,持杖擊之,金氏奔走,尋邏不見。忽有人報云:「昨日奔入關王廟中。」李生入廟,見一狗伏於案下,睜目不敢親近。遂呼金氏父母來看,此狗流涕自稱曰:「我不合以穢物奉姑不孝,忽入廟中化為狗矣!」數日而卒。

昔有婦人阿李,有子出外經商,累年不歸,止有兒婦七嫂在家。婦每飯則兩炊,姑飯以麥,婦自白飯。李稍與婦忤,必受辱罵,至於麥飯亦不進食,李忍辱而不敢言。一日婦往鄰家,留姑守舍,有僧持缽至門乞飯,李曰:「我自不能飽,安有捨施!」僧指廚中白飯,李曰:「此我兒婦七嫂自吃底,我不敢以施人,恐歸必辱罵我。我但有早食麥飯,尚有一合留備午餉,如用即取去。」僧未答,聞七嫂外歸。婦見僧乞飯,大怒曰:「汝要我白飯,可脫袈裟換。」僧即脫下。婦纔披之,僧忽 [21] 不見,袈裟著身變為牛皮,牢不可脫,胸閭先生牛毛一片,漸變身體頭面。急執其父母至,則全身化為牛矣!

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 this robe, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kasaya_(clothing).

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A Spirit Uproots A Tree 鬼拔樹

Towards the end of the Xingding 興定 era (1217-1220 CE), a peasant from Caozhou 曹州 was walking along the road one day, when he was caught in a sudden shower. From the empty air a voice spoke: “Brave enough?” He then heard a loud laughing sound. The person went on a further half-li, and saw a large willow tree torn up by its roots and thrown several dozen paces. In the mud there was the print of a great thigh and buttocks, about as big as a grain container. That spirit must have pulled up a tree and then just fallen on its back and laughed!

Yuan Haowen 元好問, Xu Yijian zhi 續夷堅志 (Continued Records of the Listener), 2.26:

鬼拔樹

興定末,曹州一農民,一日行道中,忽驟雨。聞空中人語云:「敢否」?俄又聞大笑聲。此人行半里,見道左大柳樹拔根出,擲之十步外,泥中印大臀髀痕,如麥籠許,蓋神拔樹偃坐泥中破笑耳。

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 Commander of Huaixi 淮西軍將

At the end of the Yuanhe period (806-20 CE), there was a commander of Huaixi, who was sent to Bianzhou, and stopped at a courier station on the way. Late at night, when he was reaching deep sleep, he suddenly awoke to find something pressing heavily onto him. The general, well-trained and strong, leapt up in alarm and began to wrestle with it, after which the unidentified thing withdrew, and the general succeeded in wresting a leather bag from its hand. The ghost begged and implored with great bitterness from the darkness, so the commander addressed it: “If you tell me what it is, I will give it back.” The spirit said, after a long time, “This is a bag of surplus qi.” The commander then picked up a brick and struck out with it, at which the voice was silenced. The bag held several sheng (these are about a litre each), its contents were deep red in colour, and looked like lotus-root fibres; when carried in daylight it cast no shadow.

Taken from Youyang zazu.

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, 345.2733:

淮西軍將

元和末,有淮西軍將,使於汴州,止驛中。夜久,眠將熟,忽覺一物壓己,軍將素健,驚起,與之角力,其物遂退,因奪得手中革囊。鬼闇中哀祈甚苦,軍將謂曰:「汝語我物名,我當相還。」鬼良久曰:「此蓄氣袋耳。」軍將乃舉甓擊之,語遂絕。其囊可盛數升,絳色,如藕絲,攜於日中無影。出《酉陽雜俎》

 

An Elm Demon 榆木為怪

Lü Yijian, Duke Shen, served several times as a magistrate in Shu, but the name of his prefecture has been forgotten. The government office had long experienced a ghostly manifestation, named Great Aunt Yu, who was an elm spirit. In form she looked like an ancient and ugly woman, and she frequently emerged in the kitchen, encountered among a crowd of maids, who often saw her. The household, having seen her over a long period, did not think her strange. The Duke called out a question to her, at which she bowed low and said: “Your servant has long been resident in this hall, and though not human, I dare not cause misfortune.” The Duke then laid the matter aside and asked no more questions. She often predicted that he must later become very influential. One day she suddenly announced that she was pregnant, and the maids mocked her. She herself said that she would soon give birth, and then disappeared for over a month. Then, all of a sudden, her voice was heard, saying: “I have given birth; [264] please come and look. In the back garden, to the southwest of the elm tree, there’s another, and that’s my child.” They looked, and it was true.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.263-64 (Tale 477):

榆木為怪

呂申公夷簡常通判蜀中,忘其郡名。廨宇中素有鬼物,號俞老姑,乃榆木精,其狀一老醜婦,常出廚間與羣婢為偶,或時見之。家人見之久,亦不為怪。公呼問之,即下階拜(「階拜」原作「拜階」,據抄配本改。)云:「妾在於(抄配本無「於」字。)堂府日久,雖非人,然不敢為禍。」公亦置而不問。常謂公他日必大貴。一日忽懷妊,羣婢戲之。自言非久當產,遂月餘不見。忽出云:「已產矣, [264] 請視之,後園榆木西南生大贅乃是。」視之,果然。

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 Frog Becomes A Spirit 蝦蟆為精

Wei Heshan was receiving guests, and was with a Mr Shi in the official hostel. After three rounds of toasts, Heshan went in. Then two servant girls emerged, each holding a candle, and said: “The Grand Councillor invites Professor [261] Shi.” Mr Shi went in after them, and the other guests all marvelled at this. Shortly after, Heshan emerged and asked: “Where did Mr Shi go?” The crowd said: “He followed two maids sent to invite him in.” Heshan was alarmed, and asked: “Where are they?” He then ordered his retinue to go and search everywhere. They suddenly heard a human voice coming from the pond, and hurriedly kindled a fire to illuminate it. They found Mr Shi, jumping into the water and already half submerged. The gathered people helped him up and used the cooking fire to warm and revive him. When they asked him why, he said: “Following the two maids’ invitation I arrived below a great building, and entering the central hall found a person dressed in green robes seated in the middle, who indicated a young woman and said: ‘It is ordered that you take her to wife; the rites will be completed this night.’ The gathering then swarmed around us as we entered the bedchamber. Your servant said: ‘My elderly mother still lives; she has not been consulted. Not right! Not right!’ I had no idea that we were in the water.” The next day, Heshan ordered people to drain the pond and inside it they found a frog as big as a grain scoop, with only four or five small frogs. Some suspected that this was a frog spirit.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.260-61 (Tale 473):

蝦蟆為精

魏鶴山會客,館中史先生與焉。酒三行,鶴山入內,忽有兩丫鬟秉二燭出,云:「參政請史教 [261] 授。」史君相隨而入,諸客怪之。少頃,鶴山出問:「史先生安往?」衆曰:「適先生令二婢請入內矣。」鶴山驚曰:「安有此?」於是令左右遍去搜尋,忽聞塘中人聲,急舉火照之,則史先生已半身投水矣。衆扶掖上,用火炙蘇,問其故,則曰:「適二丫鬟請到一大屋下,入中堂,有一人身綠衣坐於中,指一小女云: 『令與汝為妻,今夕成禮。』衆遂簇擁入房。某曰:『有老母在,未曾報覆,不可!不可!』不知身在水中。」次日,鶴山令人幹塘,內有蝦蟆一隻,大如斗,小蝦蟆四五而已。或者疑其為蝦蟆精也。

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).

 

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 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).