Yang Xinglian’s Wooden Puppet 楊行廉木偶

Yang Xinglian of Shu was meticulous and ingenious, and once carved wood into a monk, which extended its hand in the Yizhou market and begged for coins. When it its hands were filled with fifty coins, it would lean and pour them into a jar, saying the word “give alms”.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.7 (Tale 55):

楊行廉木偶

蜀人楊行廉精巧,嘗刻木為僧,於益州市引手乞錢。錢滿五十於手,則自傾寫下瓶,口言「布施」字。

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)

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An Immortal Teaches Medicine 神仙教醫

Wei Taicheng was from Pucheng. He had never possessed any medical ability. On the day of the Yuanxiao Festival (the fifteenth day of the first month) he went to the suburbs, and he encountered an elderly man carrying firewood, who went over and sat with him, remarking that the festival would be good to see that evening in Yangzhou. Wei said: “That place is thirty li away; how could one see it?” The old man said: “This is an especially simple matter.” He then unfolded a lined garment of black cloth and had Wei close his eyes and sit tight. After a little while, he told him to open his eyes, and they were indeed in the city of Yangzhou. The inhabitants thought them descended immortals. After the cock crowed, he again unfolded the black lined cloth, they sat in it, and then found themselves back at their original point of departure. One day, which happened to be the birthday of True Man Hua Yue, the old man went in to celebrate it, and instructed Wei at the gate: “We will meet a two-eyed person; that is my master. When you see him you should bow.” After some time, three people, each blind in one eye, arrived supporting an old man, and Wei then bowed to them. The elderly man entered and addressed the first old man: “That person outside the door has the character of an immortal but lacks the fate and fortune of an immortal; he should quickly receive instruction.” They therefore handed over a volume of prescriptions, instructing him how to use the medicines. There was a sufferer of illness whose case he treated and who returned, and then he left home for more than twenty years. None among the villagers knew that he had medical ability, but when he returned and reached their fields, a rue grower said: “Medical Officer Wei says he has medical ability; let’s test his skill a little.” Someone, as soon as their lunch hour arrived, came leaping and jumping together, entering one of his rooms, and pretending to be a patient, their friends making them ask him for medical treatment. Wei felt their pulse and said: “You will die at the shen hour.” (i.e., between 3 and 5pm) They replied: “I am actually not ill.” Returning to the fields they said: “The Medical Officer is mistaken.” Before a moment had passed, however, they developed unbearable abdominal pain, this being caused by the food of their meal having burst through their stomach and intestines during their jumping. From then on Taicheng’s medical practice flourished more and more each day; it is not known how he ended up.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.141 (Tale 248):

神仙教醫

衛太丞,浦城人也。素不能醫。元宵日郊行,遇一老子負薪而至,與之同坐,且謂今夕揚州上元好看。衛曰:「此去三千里,何可得觀。」老子曰:「特易事耳。」乃鋪青布複,俾衛閉目同坐。少頃,令其開目,則揚州城矣。州人以為仙降。至雞鳴後,復用青布複,坐其中,則已回原處矣。一日,值華岳真人誕日,老子入內慶賀,俾衛在門首:「遇二目人,此吾師也。見即拜之。」良久,有三人皆瞽一目,扶一老人到,衛則設拜。老人入謂老子曰:「門外之人,有仙骨而無仙分,宜速分付。」乃付藥方一本,指教用藥,有病者治之原而歸,則去家二十餘年矣。鄉人莫知其能醫,歸到田所,芸田人曰:「衛太丞謂其能醫,少試其術。」一人方午飯,自田中跳躑踴躍走入一室,佯為病者,俾請之用藥。衛診脈曰:「申時當死。」其人曰:「我本無病。」復于田曰:「太丞誤矣。」未踰時,腹痛不可救,蓋飯飽踴躍,斷其腸胃故也。自是醫道日盛,不知所終。

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 Clam Reveals Its Power 蛤蜊顯聖

When Chancellor Shi attained power, the governor of the capital selected a tray of clams as an offering. That night the gentleman saw a gleam of light emerging from one clam among the others in the tray. Picking up and examining it, he realized it was quite unlike the others, and when struck it would not crack open. The gentleman suspected that it was a marvel, so placed it on a table, burned incense and prayed to it. Presently the clam cracked open of its own accord, revealing two people, their faces and eyebrows dignified and handsome, bodies and physiques extremely beautiful, hair in buns, hair tasseled and ornamented, wearing lotus-flower shoes, just like those statues people in this world devote to the servants of the Buddha. The gentleman then had a temple grotto carved from various fragrant woods, and to calm their spirits added ornamentation of gold and jade, until the brightness dazzled the eye. He ordered the gathered monks to take them into the Buddhist monastery and attend to them. It is not known how all of this finished.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.267 (Tale 485):

蛤蜊顯聖

史丞相當國,京尹選大蛤蜊一盤以獻。是夜公見盤中一蛤蜊有光,取而視之,獨異其他,劈而不裂。公疑異之,取而致几上,焚香祝之。俄頃蛤自裂開,中有二人,形眉端秀,體格悉備,螺髻纓絡,足履蓮花,與人世所事佛像一般。公遂以諸香木刻成巖殿,以安其神,加以金玉為飾,光耀奪目,令衆僧送入佛寺安奉,後不知所終。

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 Temple Spirit Seizes A Fan 廟鬼奪人扇

Before Fan Zhi, Duke of Lu (911-964 CE), became influential, he was seated in a teahouse in Fengqiu, holding a fan on which was inscribed ‘The heat of summer drives out corrupt officials; a pure breeze brings back the departed.’ A strange and ugly figure suddenly appeared before him and bowed, saying: “How can the injustice of corrupt government end like the summer heat? Someday the gentleman will have to think deeply about this matter.” It then picked up the fan and departed. The gentleman was left sorrowful and unable to fathom the matter. Several days after, he passed a temple and saw a short spirit figure made of earth and wood – looking just like the strange and ugly person from the teahouse – holding his fan in its hands; the gentleman was astonished by this. Afterwards, on attaining a position of power, his first action was to consult on settling the [226] unified code of punishment.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.225-26 (Tale 402):

廟鬼奪人扇

范魯公質未顯時,坐封丘茶肆,手持扇,偶題「大暑去酷吏,清風來故人。」忽有一怪陋人前揖曰:「世之酷吏冤抑何止如大暑,公他日當深究此弊。」因攜其扇而去。公憫然莫測。後數日,過一廟,見一土木短鬼,狀貌酷類茶肆中者,扇亦在其手中,公心異焉。後致大用,首建議詳定 [226] 刑統。

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 Clay Mendicant Buys Chestnuts 泥行者買栗

The Sizhou Buddha of Longquan’s Wugou Hall was very powerful. Every day at dusk there was a mendicant who would take up the begging bowl and monk’s staff, walking and singing in the town, saying that the sects had become one text; nobody knew to which monastery he belonged. One night it happened that, at chestnut roasting store at the end of the Jichuan Bridge, a single lamp still burned, and the mendicant held up his bold and bought chestnuts. Following him on tiptoe, he was seen returning to the Buddhist temple, at which those people said: “The temple has only one monk; where did this mendicant come from?” The next day they went to look, and saw that there were several chestnuts in the alms bowl held by the carved wood mendicant, and then they understood. This secret being revealed, he never again went out.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.225 (Tale 401):

泥行者買栗

龍泉無垢院泗州佛甚靈,每黃昏時,有行者將鉢盂錫杖,行歌於市,曰家化一文,人莫知其為何寺之行者。忽一夜,濟川橋頭有炒栗鋪賣,孤燈猶存,行者持鉢買栗。躡其後追之,見歸無垢,其人曰:「院只一僧,安有此行者?」次早往觀,見木乂行者鉢盂中有栗數枚,方知之。此機一泄,不復出矣。

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).

A Spirit Uses Human Speech 神作人言

In the Song era, in a county belonging to Tanzhou there was a pawnbroker called Zhang Yong, who cut down a vertical post from the shrine to a spirit to reinforce the framework of a residence. The beam was finished but not yet painted. When Zhang and his dependents entered the house to look, they would often hear somebody answering them; if they asked for tea, it would say “Tea is coming.” If they asked for wine, it would say “Wine is coming.” There was nobody to be seen, but a voice could be heard. The population said this must be the spirit of the temple who had come to take the wood and secretly occupied the house, and if they could have an official of good fortune to calm and control it, they could later gradually move in successfully.

At that time a registrar called Zhao was travelling to his post, and, before entering the government hostel, stayed there for several days, and the voice temporarily stopped. Zhang then moved into the residence, but suddenly heard someone speaking again: “You had an official intimidate me, and will undergo imprisonment and come to meet me.” After that it fell silent. More than a year had passed when Zhang was summoned by a messenger from his superior and placed in charge of a prison, where he died one day, his body turning blue-black all over. When an official was appointed to investigate this, Zhang’s servant reported: “In the early morning I brought his meal, so I cooked an eel carp and sent it to him. He had only just finished eating when he tried to lie down and he died. [221] My sister-in-law once said that eel carp heads could treat illness, so the head has been preserved.” It was demanded that the head be examined, and the fish turned out to have four eyes. From this Zhang’s family understood that this must be a haunting by the spirit of the temple, and that this had cost him his life, so they decided to drop further legal proceedings.

It is well-known that four-eyed fish can kill people.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.220-21 (Tale 391):

神作人言

宋朝潭之屬縣有典押張永者,伐神廟木豎一居稍壯,構架已畢,但未粉飾。張與其眷屬入內觀看,常有人應答,如喚茶,則曰「茶來」,如索酒,則曰「酒來」,不見有人,但聞有聲。衆謂此必廟神來取木而陰據此屋,若先得官員福氣鎮壓,然後徐徐遷入為好。適有趙主簿赴任,未入官舍,先寓數日,則其聲頓失。張遂遷入屋,忽又聞有云:「你令官員嚇我,候過獄中來與你相會。」自爾寂然。越一年餘,張為上司專人追呼,置司存(上三字原作「存置司」,據明刻本改。)於獄,一日死,而遍身青黑,委官究問,則其僕供云:「早晨送飯,乃煮一鰻鯉來與押,才喫未久,求卧而死。 [221] 其嫂曾云,鰻鯉魚頭可以醫瘵,今此頭尚存。」索至看驗,魚乃四目。其眷屬自知此必廟神為祟,以戕其性命,甘願息訟。信知四目魚能殺人者也。

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 Ghost Helps Fell Trees 鬼助伐木

A carpenter, Li Jian, once went alone into the mountains to cut timber to build a house. One day at noon he saw a person, tall in stature and ugly in appearance, and seemingly engraved all over, suddenly appearing before him. Li was about to chop down a tree, and the other also took up and used an axe; when asked his name, he called himself “Dr Hua.” Li’s heart leapt with fear, believing him to be a mountain goblin, and staring round couldn’t see anyone else, so yelled out several times to the spirits about his plight. The other leapt up and, excited, said:  “You suspect me, which makes it hard to help you.” Uttering a long, loud cry, it climbed a tree and departed.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.238 (Tale 430):

鬼助伐木

木匠李監,嘗為人入山造木料架屋。一日午,見一人身長而貌醜,遍體雕質,(「質」,明刻本作「青」。)突如其前。李方伐木,彼亦用斤,問其姓名,則自稱曰「花博士」。李心驚悸,以為山之精怪,旁顧無人,即呼所事之神數聲。其人躍然而興曰:「爾既疑我,難以為助。」長嘯攀樹而去。

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).