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!

The Jiankang Musician 建康樂人

In Jiankang there was a musician. One evening he went to the market, and saw two drivers, who told him: “Assistant Judge Lu summons you.” He departed following them, and came to a large residence, furnished with great magnificence. There were more than ten guests in all, generously provided with wine. They were only served drinks, however, without any food. Moreover, the wine did not reach the musician. When dawn came all dispersed. The musician was extremely tired, so lay down on a bed outside the gates. When he awoke, he was out in the countryside, next to a large tomb. He asked the villagers about it, and was told: “Legend has it that this is the tomb of Assistant Judge Lu. It is not clear what era he lived in.”

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, 353.2798:

建康樂人

建康有樂人。日晚如市。見二僕夫云。陸判官召。隨之而去。至大宅。陳設甚嚴。賓客十餘人。皆善酒。惟飲酒而不設食。酒亦不及樂人。向曙而散。樂人困甚。因臥門外牀上。既寤。乃在草間。旁有大塚。問其里人。云。相傳陸判官之塚。不知何時人也。出稽神錄

Mou Ying 牟穎

When Mou Ying, from Luoyang, was still young, he accidentally, due to drunkenness, left the city and reached open country. He only came to at midnight, resting at the roadside, where he saw an exposed skeleton. Ying was extremely distressed by this, and when dawn broke he stooped over and buried it. That night, he dreamed of a youth, of perhaps just over twenty, robed in white silk and bearing a sword. He bowed to Ying, and said: “I am a stubborn bandit. My whole life I have wilfully injured and slaughtered and indulged in injustice. Recently I clashed with my peers, and was killed, buried by the roadside. Over a long time, rain and wind caused my bones to become exposed. Your servant was reburied by the gentleman, so I have come to thank you. In life I was a fierce and brutal man. In death I am a fierce and brutal ghost. You could allow me shelter and rest, but the gentleman would have to pour a small libation to me every night. I will ever respond to the gentleman’s requirements, and I am already obliged to the gentlemen. Neither hunger or thirst will reach you, and you will always receive the objects of your requests and desires.” In his dream Ying promised this.

When he awoke, he thus had a try at laying out offerings and secretly spoke prayers. That night he again dreamed of the ghost, who said: “I have already entrusted myself to the gentleman. Whenever the gentleman wishes to direct me, he should just call out ‘Chi ding zi’. Speak softly of your affairs and I will always respond to the sound and arrive.” Ying then would always call for him in secret, ordering him to steal, to take other people’s property. His voice never went unanswered or wishes unfulfilled, so he became rich on gold and jewels. One day, Ting noticed that a woman in a neighbouring household was very beautiful, and fell in love with her. He therefore called ‘chi ding zi’ and ordered him to steal her away. The neighbour’s wife arrived at midnight, leaping over the outside wall as she came. Ying jumped up in shock, but treated her with courtesy, asking why she had come. The woman replied: “I had not intended to come, but was suddenly seized by someone who brought me to your chamber. It was suddenly as if I had woken from a dream. [2785] I don’t know what kind of demon it could have been, or what it intended, but whenever I try to return home, I weep without cease.” Ying felt great sympathy for her, and she stayed in secret for several days. Her family made urgent attempts to see her, however, and eventually reported the matter to the authorities.

When Ying became aware of this, he and the woman came up with a ruse. He had her return but then, setting out to a different house, state that she had no idea which evil spirit had spirited her away, and refuse to return to her former home. After she had returned to her family, every third or fifth night she was then picked up by a person and removed to Ying’s house, but, not staying until dawn, she would always be returned home. A year passed, and her family knew nothing about this. She found it deeply strange that Ying possessed such powers of sorcery, so urgently approached Ying and asked: “If you do not explain this to me, I will have to expose the whole affair.” Ying therefore related the truth about the whole matter. The neighbour’s wife then reported it to her family, and together they made a plan to deal with the matter. Her family then secretly requested a Daoist to come and clean away these illicit arts. They then waited. Chidingzi arrived at their gate as soon as night had fallen, but, seeing the great array of magic figures, he was driven back and returned. He explained to Ying: “They repelled me with orthodox magic, but their power is only fragile. If the gentleman fights alongside me we should be able to steal away that woman, and this time you must not allow her to return.” After this speech he set off again, and in a moment a great tempest of wind and rain arose around the neighbour’s house. The entire residence turned black, and the various talismans and prohibitions seemed to be swept away all of a sudden. The woman vanished once more, so once dawn had broken her husband went to the government officials. They accompanied him to Ying’s house bent on arresting him, so Ying fled with the woman. It is not known where they went.

From Xiaoxianglu.

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, 352.2784-85:

牟穎

洛陽人牟穎。少年時。因醉。誤出郊野。夜半方醒。息於路旁。見一發露骸骨。穎甚傷念之。達曙。躬身掩埋。其夕。夢一少年。可二十已來。衣白練衣。仗一劍。拜穎曰。我彊寇耳。平生恣意殺害。作不平事。近與同輩爭。遂為所害。埋於路旁。久經風雨。所以發露。蒙君復藏。我故來謝君。我生為凶勇人。死亦為兇勇鬼。若能容我棲託。但君每夜微奠祭我。我常應君指使。我既得託於君。不至飢渴。足得令君所求狥意也。穎夢中許之。及覺。乃試設祭饗。暗以祀禱祈。夜又夢鬼曰。我已託君矣。君每欲使我。即呼赤丁子一聲。輕言其事。我必應聲而至也。穎遂每潛告。令竊盜。盜人之財物。無不應聲遂意。後致富有金寶。一日。穎見鄰家婦有美色。愛之。乃呼赤丁子令竊焉。鄰婦至夜半。忽至外踰垣而至。穎驚起款曲。問其所由來。婦曰。我本無心。忽夜被一人擒我至君室。忽如夢 [2785] 覺。我亦不知何怪也。不知何計。却得還家。悲泣不已。穎甚閔之。潛留數日。而其婦家人求訪極切。至於告官。穎知之。乃與婦人詐謀。令婦人出別墅。却自歸。言不知被何妖精取去。今却得廻。婦人至家後。再每三夜或五夜。依前被一人取至穎家。不至曉。即却送歸。經一年。家人皆不覺。婦人深怪穎有此妖術。後因至切。問於穎曰。若不白我。我必自發此事。穎遂具述其實。鄰婦遂告於家人。共圖此患。家人乃密請一道流。潔淨作禁法以伺之。赤丁子方夜至其門。見符籙甚多。却反。白於穎曰。彼以正法拒我。但力微耳。與君力爭。當惡取此婦人。此來必須不放回也。言訖復去。須臾。鄰家飄驟風起。一宅俱黑色。但是符籙禁法之物。一時如掃。復失婦人。至曙。其夫遂去官。同來穎宅擒捉。穎乃携此婦人逃。不知所之。出瀟湘錄

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 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).

Not Taking Other’s Property 不取他物

Yang Zhongfeng Cun was from Bantang, in Jishui. In the eighth year of the Song Yuanfeng era (1085 CE), he was going to the provincial capital Kaifeng, and stayed in a traveller’s hostel in Xizhou. When he lay down, he became aware of something between mat and bed and which stuck into his [109] back; when he uncovered and looked at it this turned out to be salt production certificates to 20,000 yin in value. The following day, he asked the host: “Who stayed here the previous evening?” The host replied: “A great Huaidian merchant, surnamed such-and-such, was the guest.” The gentleman said: “He is an old acquaintance; if he returns, tell him I’m staying on such-and-such a road, with such-and-such a family.” He also wrote large characters on the wall, reading: “On such-and-such a year, month and day, Yang Cun of Luling stayed here.” He then went on his way. Before many days had passed, the merchant did indeed follow his former route, searching everywhere for it. When he reached the village to rest, the landlord told him about the gentleman, taking him to see the words he had written on the wall, after which he set off to the capital to visit the gentleman. The gentleman said: “So it turns out to be yours then! We should inform the authorities so they can return it to you.” The merchant said: “As you instruct.” The gentleman asked the officials to give all of it to the merchant, but the officials divided it in two halves. The gentleman said: “Had your servant wanted it, he could already have possessed it all merely by staying quiet.” The merchant had no option, so relinquished several hundred strings of coins to fund meals at the Xiangguo Monastery in the capital, in order to pray for the gentleman’s good fortune. That year, the gentleman was included on the list of imperial examination graduates. He rose through the government ranks up to Grand Master of Palace Service, and his sons and grandsons achieved great eminence.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.108-9 (Tale 188):

不取他物

楊中奉存,吉水湴塘人。宋元豐八年,赴省開封,宿息州旅舍。既卧,覺牀席間有物礙其 [109] 背,揭視之,乃鹽鈔二萬引。明日,詢主人曰:「前夕何人宿此?」主人曰:「淮甸一巨商某姓客也。」公曰:「此吾故人,設其人回,可與之言,吾在某坊某人家安歇。」又大書於所宿之房曰:「某年月日,廬陵楊存寓此。」遂行。不數日,商人果從故道,處處物色之。至息邨,主人以公言告,且使自觀壁間所書,乃徑去京師訪公。公曰:「果汝物耶!當聞之官以歸汝。」商曰:「如教。」公請府悉以授商,府使中分之。公曰:「使某欲之,前日奄為已有,泯默不言矣。」商不能強,乃捐數百緡,就京師相國寺設齋,為公祈福。是年,公中焦蹈榜下。歷官至中奉大夫,子孫貴顯。

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).

Wu Yinzhi’s Integrity 吴隱之廉潔

Wu Yinzhi[1] served as Governor of Guangzhou. In ancient times there was a spring, and people who drank from it became corrupt and wanton; Yinzhi poured it, drank it, paid out double his land tax, and composed a poem:

The ancients said of this water,

That one sip addicted to riches.

If Yi and Qi[2] were to try it,

Their loyalties would never have changed

Moreover, he dwelt in mourning for his mother, showed exceptional etiquette and suffered poverty in his household, and having no choice but to wait until midnight, often hearing a pair of cranes calling in shock at midnight, Yinzhi would always rise and weep, never missing a single time.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.18 (Tale 91):

吴隱之廉潔

吴隱之為廣州刺史。舊有貪泉,人飲之則貪黷,隱之酌而飲之,兼賦詩曰:「古人云此水,一歃懐千金。試使夷齊飲,終當不易心。」又居母喪,過禮,家貧,無以候宵分,常有雙鶴至夜半驚唳,隱之起哭,不失其時。

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)

[1] On Wu Yinzhi 吴隱之, courtesy name Chumo 處默 (d.c. 413 CE), see https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%90%B4%E9%9A%90%E4%B9%8B.

[2] This refers to Bo Yi 伯夷 and Shu Qi 叔齊, famed for their selfless morality. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boyi_and_Shuqi; http://chinaheritage.net/reader/reading/loyalty/sima-qian-%E5%8F%B8%E9%A6%AC%E9%81%B7-a-biography-of-boyi-and-shuqi-%E4%BC%AF%E5%A4%B7%E5%88%97%E5%82%B3/