Stopping the Releasing Life Festival 罷放生會

The Yanxiang Temple in Tanzhou had celebrated the Releasing Life Festival for many years in the third, fourth, sixth and eighth months. On the third day of the third month in the first year Kangding (16 April 1040), the birthday of Zhenwu (the Lord of Profound Heaven), birds and animals of the water were bought in advance, taken in ceremonial order past the prefectural pavilion and approaching the Yangtze, led by bells and cymbals, they were set free with chants and praise. Among these living things some were hurled towards the void and took flight, some were scattered into the water and swam. Of those that flew, some sank back down, some lay on the river’s surface. Some of the birds had their feet or wings trapped by glue, and others were hunted and shot with bows and arrows or catapults and pellets; when they are injured and killed in this way, the sound of their lamentations and cries cannot be borne. When the aquatic creatures are lured into the broad net and seized, or hunted with the bamboo basket and taken, scales, shells, heads and tails all torn and damaged, leaping and jumping with mouth wide but cries unheard; this sight cannot be borne. People from the four distant quarters having just heard of this release of life, vied with one another to stretch their nets and sell in the market, this having the contrary result of causing harm to living creatures. When the monk Sun Yuan’an was presiding over the hall, a mendicant priest approached the foot of the pulpit, intending to speak on the cause of the gathering, opposing Yuan’an’s offerings to the release. The priest said: “It should not be called ‘releasing life’, as it is premeditated murder.” None among the whole group opposed this, and afterwards the ceremony was abandoned. In the main this thing called release of life is actually the sale and purchase of animals and fish, bringing great wealth to hunters. Fulfilling this sees nets stretched wide for later release; how can this be right?

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.72 (Tale 126):

罷放生會

潭州延祥宮,遞年三月、四月、六月、八月有放生社會。康定元年三月三日真武生辰,預買飛禽水族,例往州亭,臨大江,用磬鈸引導,讚詠放生。諸般物命或向空而飛,或漾水而遊,其飛沉之物,或向空復墮,或水面仰浮,飛禽者翅與足或被膠黏,或弓彈射獵,如有傷折,哀鳴愁噪之聲不忍聞也。如水族者罾釣張取、籮籃采捕,鱗甲頭尾皆有破損,跳躍張口之狀但叫嗸不出,不忍目之。四遠之人纔聞放生,爭競張捕以賣於市,反至損害物命。道士損元宴升堂,有雲遊道士至講下,願講此會之因,元宴遂以放生祝壽為對,道人曰:「非曰放生,即是故殺。」周無以對。後此會遂廢。大抵放生之說,遇有禽魚之類出賣者,買而放之則獲福無量,發章張羅網捕之而後縱之,豈可乎!

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).

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Fox Spirits Present Cases 妖狐陳狀

Zhou Ju’an of Ancheng passed the civil examinations when very young, and was first employed as registrar and constable of Songzi in Jiangling. One night within a few months of taking up the post, his father Zhou Hongbo dreamt that the sage protector Zhenwu addressed him, saying: “Your son began his official career very young, but in recent days fox spirits have transformed into seven women bringing complaints in order to turn his head; you should deal with the matter.” As soon as he awoke, he told his son about the dream. Ju’an waited until dawn to see to the matter, first, having already summoned military officers to the government office, he waited for them to arrive. Suddenly, when he had started to judge cases, seven women came to make speeches presenting their complaints, and the constable-registrar judged the cases with composure. Before long the hubbub and noise became extreme, at which he shouted to the soldiers, who shackled and jailed them, although two had already slipped away. The five people all changed into foxes, but said: “You should not kill us, killing us would not be auspicious.” The registrar-constable did not answer, but eventually had them flogged to death, reporting the matter to the government office.

At that time the Vice Grand Councilor Bie was a prominent judge in Jiangling, and was especially pleased to receive his report, soon writing a proclamation that he would come and commend Constable-Registrar Zhou at his office. The Zhous, father and son, on receiving this proclamation, were more than a little surprised, and wondered whether there might be some other reason behind it. On his arrival, Vice Grand Councilor Bie, seeing them, said: “Your Honour passed the civil examination very young, at a similar age to your servant. Your servant too, on first taking office, had fox spirits come having transformed themselves into women, and immediately had them executed. Your killing them, sir, was entirely fitting.” He then proclaimed that [Zhou] serve as a judge among his subordinates. When the time came for the constable to set out and take up this post, he prepared his cap and clothing and said farewell to his ancestral temple. Suddenly he saw, in front of him as he walked, an elderly fox sitting upright with some dignity in the hall. It spoke: “The gentleman has killed five of our people, and ought to be killed for this; as the gentleman is moving away, the rich and powerful of near and far must order the taking of five people from the gentleman’s family.” The constable was angry, and struck out at the old fox with the tablet he was holding, at which it died.

Within two years, his two younger brothers died, his two younger sisters died, his father died, and people said this was the fox spirit’s vengeance. Why? One’s life and death is a matter of fate; how could a fox spirit [252] wrest this away? This was merely chance. Ju’an later rose to the seventh grade in Nanxiong, and eventually died.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.251-52 (Tale 453):

妖狐陳狀

安成周居安,少年登科,初任江陵松滋簿尉。之任未數月,乃父周洪伯夜夢所事佑聖真武告之曰:「汝子初仕少年,來日有妖狐化作七婦人告狀,以惑汝子,可治之。」翌早,洪伯以所夢告其子。居安待旦視事,先已約束兵使在衙,待其來矣。方判事間,忽有婦女七人來陳狀詞,簿尉判事自若。未幾喧嘩之甚,遂喝兵使縛之,枷鎖入獄,已失其二。五人盡變為狐,卻云:「不可殺我,殺我不祥。」簿尉不答,竟杖死之,以其事申府。時別參政之傑判江陵,得申狀極喜,尋檄周簿尉過本府稟儀。周之父子當被檄之時,不無驚訝,疑有異故。及至,別參政見之,乃云:「足下少年登科,與某登科年相若也。某之初任亦有妖狐化婦而來者,當即殺之。君殺之甚宜。」遂檄為椽屬。尉捧檄啟行之時,具冠裳辭家廟,忽見前所走之老狐踞坐公廳云:「公殺我五人,本合殺公以去,富貴方遠,必公家取五人之命。」尉怒,以所執手版擊之,老狐隨斃。二年之內,二弟死,二妹死,其父死,或曰「曰」原作「者」,據明刻本改。妖狐之報也。吁!夫人死生有命,豈妖狐所 [252] 能奪也,第偶然爾。居安後得七秩南雄而終。

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).