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).

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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)

Government Troops Harm The Populace 官軍殘民

During the Tang, Li You served as General of Huaixi, and in the twelfth year Yuanhe (817 CE) he returned to the country carrying funds. When Duke Pei defeated Wu Yuanji, some among the Han army stripped the clothes of women leaving their bodies entirely naked [9]. You had a new wife, née Jiang, who had reached her fifth month of pregnancy, but was seized by the rampaging troops, who sliced her belly with a blade, and Jiang stopped breathing and fell to the ground. You returned and saw this; her belly gaped more than a chi (c.30 cm), so he removed his jacket and wrapped her. His wife came to soon after, receiving some divine medicine and recovering. After a full ten months she gave birth to a son. The court returned You to serve the realm with honour, and awarded a post to his son. The son was named Xingxiu (‘Cultivating Conduct’), and served as military governor for Nanhai at an age a little over thirty; resigning and returning, he died on the road.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.8-9 (Tale 62):

官軍殘民

唐李祐為淮西將,元和十二年送款歸國。裴公破吴元濟,入其城,漢軍有剝婦人衣至裸體 [9] 者。祐有新婦姜氏,懷姙五月矣,為亂卒所刼,以刀劃其腹,姜氏氣絕踣地。祐歸見之,腹開尺餘,因脱衣襦裹之。婦一夕復蘇,傳以神藥而平。滿十月而產一男。朝廷以祐歸國功,授一子官。子曰行修,年三十餘,為南海節度,罷歸,卒於道。

This story is also found in Taiping Guangji at juan 29, entitled ‘Li You’s Wife’.

此條又見《廣記》卷二一九,題為《李祐婦》。

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)

Yuan Ke’s Wife 園客妻

Yuan Ke’s wife was a goddess. Yuan Ke was from Jiyin; graceful in appearance and virtuous, many people in his district wished to give their daughters to him in marriage, but he would never wed. He often planted multi-coloured fragrant herbs, storing them for several decades and then taking their seeds. Suddenly, there were multi-coloured moths gathered on his plants. Ke gathered them and laid them on a sheet, where they bore silkworms. When the silkworms emerged, there was a woman who came and helped Ke to raise them, also feeding them with the fragrant herbs. When the silkworms were fully grown, they obtained 130 cocoons. Each cocoon was the size of an urn, and each cocoon took six or seven days to spin. When the spinning was complete, the woman and Yuan Ke departed together. Jiyin has a silkworm shrine to this day.

Taken from Nüxianzhuan.

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), ii, 59.363

園客妻

園客妻,神女也。園客者,濟陰人也,美姿貌而良,邑人多欲以女妻之,客終不娶。常種五色香草,積數十年,服食其實。忽有五色蛾集香草上。客收而薦之以布。生華蠶焉。至蠶出時,有一女自來助客養蠶,亦以香草飼之。蠶壯,得繭百三十枚。繭大如甕,每一繭,繰六七日乃盡。繰訖,此女與園客俱去,濟陰今有華蠶祠焉。出女仙傳

Husbands And Wives Eating One Another 夫婦相食

During the reign of Emperor Ling of the Eastern Han (168-89 CE), there was a husband in Henei who ate his wife, and a wife in Henan who ate her husband.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.7 (Tale 51):

夫婦相食

東漢靈帝時,有河內人婦食夫,河南人夫食婦。

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)

The Birth Of Dongfang Shuo 東方朔出生

The wife of Zhang Shaoping, née Tian, lived alone as a widow for several years after Shaoping’s death, but suddenly one night dreamed that a person came down from heaven and pressed on her belly, due to which she became pregnant. She therefore said: “Pregnant without a husband; if people hear of this they will abandon me.” She migrated to find a new place to the east. At the new moon of the fifth month, she gave birth to a son. Because she was living in the east, she called him Dongfang Shuo[1] (‘New Moon of the East’). Some say that he was the spirit of Jupiter, multi-talented and boundlessly erudite.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.6 (Tale 44):

東方朔出生

張少平妻田氏,少平卒後,累年寡居,忽夢一人自天而下,壓其腹,因而懷孕。乃曰:「無夫而孕,人聞棄我也。」徙於代,依東方。五月朔旦,生一子。以其居代東方,名之東方朔。或言歲星精,多能,無不該博。

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 the Han-era scholar Dongfang Shuo 東方朔 (c. 160 – c. 93 BCE), see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dongfang_Shuo. He is also credited with the compilation of the Shenyijing 神異經 – see https://huhaixinwen.wordpress.com/2018/10/18/li-ziangs-strange-encounter-%E6%9D%8E%E5%AD%90%E6%98%82%E5%A5%87%E9%81%87/

Heng’e Flees To The Moon 姮娥奔月

Yi[1] was baking magic medicine, and, when it was finished, his wife Heng’e[2] stole and ate it, then fled into the moon.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.4 (Tale 29):

姮娥奔月

羿燒仙藥,藥成。其妻姮娥竊而食之,遂奔入月中。

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] Also known as Hou Yi 后羿, this is a mythical archer, who performed the feat of shooting down multiple suns threatening to scorch the earth. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hou_Yi. For the story of Erkhii Mergen, a Mongolian parallel to this tale, see https://h2g2.com/entry/A580079.

[2] On Heng’e, or Chang’e, the Moon Goddess, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chang%27e.