STRANGE STORIES FROM A CHINESE STUDIO
by P’u Sung-ling
CIV. THEFT OF THE PEACH
WHEN I was a little boy I went one day to the prefectural city.1 It was the time of the Spring festival,2 and the custom, was that on the day before, all the merchants of the place should proceed with banners and drums to the judge’s yamên: this was called “bringing in the Spring.” I went with a friend to see the fun; the crowd was immense, and there sat the officials in crimson robes arranged right and left in the hall; but I was small and didn’t know who they were, my attention being attracted chiefly by the hum of voices and the noise of the drums.
In the middle of it all, a man leading a boy with his hair unplaited and hanging down his back walked up to the dais. He carried a pole on his shoulder, and appeared to be saying something which I couldn’t hear for the noise; I only saw the officials smile, and immediately afterwards an attendant came down, and in a loud voice ordered the man to give a performance. “What shall it be?” asked the man in reply; whereupon, after some consultation between the officials on the dais, the attendant inquired what he could do best. The man said he could invert the order of nature; and then, after another pause, he was instructed to produce some peaches; to this he assented; and taking off his coat, laid it on his box, at the same time observing that they had set him a hard task, the winter frost not having broken up, and adding that he was afraid the gentlemen would be angry with him, &c., &c. His son here reminded him that he had agreed to the task and couldn’t well get out of it; so, after fretting and grumbling awhile, he cried out, “I have it! with snow on the ground we shall never get peaches here; but I guess there are some up in heaven in the Royal Mother’s garden and there we must try.” [p. 375]
“How are we to get up, father?” asked the boy; whereupon the man said, “I have the means,” and immediately proceeded to take from his box a cord some tens of feet in length. This he carefully arranged, and then threw one end of it high up into the air, where it remained as if caught by something. He now paid out the rope, which kept going up higher and higher until the end he had thrown up disappeared in the clouds and only a short piece was left in his hands. Calling his son, he then explained that he himself was too heavy, and, handing him the end of the rope, bade him go up at once: The boy, however, made some difficulty, objecting that the rope was too thin to bear his weight up to such a height, and that he would surely fall down and be killed; upon which his father said that his promise had been given and that repentance was now too late, adding that if the peaches were obtained they would surely be rewarded with a hundred ounces of silver, which should be set aside to get the boy a pretty wife. So his son seized the rope and swarmed up, like a spider running up a thread of its web; and in a few moments he was out of sight in the clouds. By-and-by down fell a peach as large as a basin, which the delighted father handed up to his patrons on the dais, who were some time coming to a conclusion whether it was real or imitation.
But just then down came the rope with a run, and the affrighted father shrieked out, “Alas! alas! some one has cut the rope: what will my boy do now?” and in another minute down fell something else, which was found on examination to be his son’s head. “Ah me “said he, weeping bitterly and showing the head; “the gardener has caught him, and my boy is no more.” After that, his arms, and legs, and body, all came down in like manner; and the father, gathering them up, put them in the box and said, “This was my only son, who accompanied me everywhere; and now what a cruel fate is his. I must away and bury him.”
He then approached the dais and said, “Your peach, gentlemen, was obtained at the cost of my boy’s life; help me now to pay his funeral expenses, [p. 376] and I will be ever grateful to you.” The officials, who had been watching the scene in horror and amazement, forthwith collected a good purse for him; and when he had received the money, he rapped on his box and said, “Pa-pa’rh! why don’t you come out and thank the gentlemen?” Thereupon, there was a thump on the box from the inside, and up came the boy himself, who jumped out and bowed to the assembled company. I have never forgotten this strange trick, which I subsequently heard could be done by the White Lily sect,4 who probably got it from this source.5
1 It is worth noting that the author professes actually to have witnessed the following extraordinary scene.
2 The vernal equinox, which would fall on or about the 20th of March.
3 A fabulous lady said to reside at the summit of the K’un-lun mountain, where, on the border of the Gem Lake, grows the peach-tree of the Gods, the fruit of which confers immortality on him who eats it. For her identification with Juno, see Adversaria Sinica, No. I, 1905.
4 One of the most celebrated of the numerous secret societies of China, the origin of which dates back to about A.D. 1350. Its members have always been credited with a knowledge of the black art.
5 Of Chinese jugglers, Ibn Batuta writes as follows:—“They produced a chain fifty cubits in length, and in my presence threw one end of it towards the sky, where it remained, as if fastened to something in the air. A dog was then brought forward, and, being placed at the lower end of the chain, immediately ran up, and reaching the other end immediately disappeared in the air. In the same manner a hog, a panther, a lion, and a tiger were alternately sent up the chain, and all equally disappeared at the upper end of it. At last they took down the chain, and put it into a bag, no one ever discerning in what way the different animals were made to vanish into the air in the mysterious manner above described. This, I may venture to affirm, was beyond measure strange and surprising.”
À propos of which passage, Mr. Maskelyne, the prince of all black-artists, ancient or modern, says:—“These apparent effects were, doubtless, due to the aid of concave mirrors, the use of which was known to the ancients, especially in the East, but they could not have been produced in the open air.”
CV. KILLING A SERPENT
AT Ku-chi island in the eastern sea, there were camellias of all colours which bloomed throughout the year. No one, however, lived there, and very few people ever visited the spot. One day, a young man of Têng-chou, named Chang, who was fond of hunting and adventure, hearing of the beauties of the place, put together some wine and food, and rowed himself across in a small open boat. The flowers were just then even finer than usual, and their perfume was diffused for a mile or so around; while many of the [p. 377] trees he saw were several armfuls in circumference. So he roamed about and gave himself up to enjoyment of the scene; and by-and-by he opened a flask of wine, regretting very much that he had no companion to share it with him, when all of a sudden a most beautiful young girl, with extremely bright eyes, and dressed in red, stepped down from one of the camellias before him. “Dear me!” said she, on seeing Mr. Chang; “I expected to be alone here, and was not aware that the place was already occupied.” Chang was somewhat alarmed by this apparition, and asked the young lady whence she came; to which she replied that her name was Chiao-ch’ang, and that she had accompanied thither a Mr. Hai, who had gone off for a stroll and had left her to await his return. Thereupon Chang begged her to join him in a cup of wine, which she very willingly did, and they were just beginning to enjoy themselves when a sound of rushing wind was heard, and the trees and plants bent beneath it. “Here’s Mr. Hai!” cried the young lady; and jumping quickly up, disappeared in a moment.
The horrified Chang now beheld a huge serpent coming out of the bushes near by, and immediately ran behind a large tree for shelter, hoping the reptile would not see him. But the serpent advanced and enveloped both Chang and the tree in its great folds, binding Chang’s arms down to his sides so as to prevent him from moving them; and then raising its head, darted out its tongue and bit the poor man’s nose, causing the blood to flow freely out. This blood it was quietly sucking up, when Chang, who thought that his last hour had come, remembered that he had in his pocket some fox poison and managing to insert a couple of fingers, he drew out the packet, broke the paper, and let the powder lie in the palm of his hand. He next leaned his hand over the serpent’s coils in such a way that the blood from his nose dripped into his hand, and when it was nearly full the serpent actually did begin to drink it. And in a few moments the grip was relaxed; the serpent struck the ground heavily with its tail, and dashed away up against another tree, which was broken in half, and then stretched itself out and died. Chang was a long time unable to rise, but at length he got up and carried the serpent off [p. 378] with him. He was very ill for more than a month afterwards, and even suspected the young lady of being a serpent, too, in disguise.
1 See No. LXXI., note 6.
CVI. THE RESUSCITATED CORPSE
A CERTAIN old man lived at Ts’ai-tien, in the Yang-hsin district. The village was some miles from the district city, and he and his son kept a roadside inn where travellers could pass the night. One day, as it was getting dusk, four strangers presented themselves and asked for a night’s lodging; to which the landlord replied that every bed was already occupied. The four men declared it was impossible for them to go back, and urged him to take them in somehow; and at length the landlord said he could give them a place to sleep in if they were not too particular,—which the strangers immediately assured him they were not. The fact was that the old man’s daughter-in-law had just died, and that her body was lying in the women’s quarters, waiting for the coffin, which his son had gone away to buy. So the landlord led them round thither, and walking in, placed a lamp on the table. At the further end of the room lay the corpse, decked out with paper robes, &c., in the usual way; and in the foremost section were sleeping couches for four people. The travellers were tired, and throwing themselves on the beds, were soon snoring loudly, with the exception of one of them, who was not quite off when suddenly he heard a creaking of the trestles on which the dead body was laid out, and opening his eyes, he saw by the light of the lamp in front of the corpse that the girl was raising the coverings from her and preparing to get down. In another moment she was on the floor and advancing towards the sleepers. Her face was of a light yellow hue, and she had a silk kerchief round her head; and when she reached the beds, she blew on the other three travellers, whereupon the fourth, in a great fright, stealthily drew up the bed-clothes over his face, and held his breath to listen. He heard her breathe on him as she had done on the others, and then heard her go back again and get under the paper robes, which rustled distinctly as she did so.
He [p. 379] now put out his head to take a peep, and saw that she was lying down as before; whereupon, not daring to make any noise, he stretched forth his foot and kicked his companions, who, however, showed no signs of moving. He now determined to put on his clothes and make a bolt for it; but he had hardly begun to do so before he heard the creaking sound again, which sent him back under the bed-clothes as fast as he could go. Again the girl came to him, and, breathing several times on him, went away to lie down as before, as he could tell by the noise of the trestles.
He then put his hand very gently out of bed, and, seizing his trousers, got quickly into them, jumped up with a bound, and rushed out of the place as fast as his legs would carry him. The corpse, too, jumped up; but by this time the traveller had already drawn the bolt, and was outside the door, running along and shrieking at the top of his voice, with the corpse following close behind. No one seemed to hear him, and he was afraid to knock at the door of the inn for fear they should not let him in in time; so he made for the highway to the city, and after awhile he saw a monastery by the roadside, and, hearing the “wooden fish,” he ran up and thumped with all his might at the gate. The priest, however, did not know what to make of it, and would not open to him; and as the corpse was only a few yards off, he could do nothing but run behind a tree which stood close by, and there shelter himself, dodging to the right as the corpse dodged to the left, and so on. This infuriated the dead girl to madness; and at length, as tired and panting they stood watching each other on opposite sides of the tree, the corpse made a rush forward with one arm on each side in the hope of thus grabbing its victim. The traveller, however, fell backwards and escaped, while the corpse remained rigidly embracing the tree.
By-and-by the priest, who had been listening from the inside, hearing no sounds for some time, came out and found the traveller lying senseless on the ground; whereupon he had him carried into the monastery, and by morning they had got him round [p. 380] again. After giving him a little broth to drink, he related the whole story; and then in the early dawn they went out to examine the tree, to which they found the girl tightly fixed.
The news being sent to the magistrate, that functionary attended at once in person,2 and gave orders to remove the body; but this they were at first unable to do, the girl’s fingers having penetrated into the bark so far that her nails were not to be seen. At length they got her away, and then a messenger was despatched to the inn, already in a state of great commotion over the three travellers, who had been found dead in their beds. The old man accordingly sent to fetch his daughter-in-law; and the surviving traveller petitioned the magistrate, saying, “Four of us left home, but only one will go back. Give me something that I may show to my fellow-townsmen.” So the magistrate gave him a certificate and sent him home again.3
1 This instrument, used by Buddhist priests in the musical accompaniment to their liturgies, is said to be so called because a fish never closes its eyes, and is therefore a fit model of vigilance to him who would walk in the paths of holiness and virtue.
2 The duties of Coroner belong to the office of a District Magistrate in China.
3 Without such certificate he would be liable to be involved in trouble and annoyance at the will of any unfriendly neighbour.
CVII. THE FISHERMAN AND HIS FRIEND
IN the northern parts of Tzŭ-chou there lived a man named Hsü, a fisherman by trade. Every night when he went to fish, he would carry some wine with him, and drink and fish by turns, always taking care to pour out a libation on the ground, accompanied by the following invocation —“Drink too, ye drowned spirits of the river!” Such was his regular custom; and it was also noticeable that, even on occasions when the other fishermen caught nothing, he always got a full basket.
One night, as he was sitting drinking by himself, a young man suddenly appeared and began walking up and down near him. Hsü offered him a cup of wine, which was readily accepted, and they remained chatting together throughout the night, Hsü meanwhile not catching a single fish. However, just as he was giving up all hope of doing anything, the young man rose and said he would go a little way down the stream and beat them up towards list, which he accordingly did, returning in a few minutes and warning him to be on the [p. 381] look-out. Hsü now heard a noise like that of a shoal coming up the stream, and, casting his net, made a splendid haul,—all that he caught being over a foot in length. Greatly delighted, he now prepared to go home, first offering his companion a share of the fish, which the latter declined, saying that he had often received kindnesses from Mr. Hsü, and that he would be only too happy to help him regularly in the same manner if Mr. Hsü would accept his assistance. The latter replied that he did not recollect ever meeting him before, and that he should be much obliged for any aid the young man might choose to afford him, regretting, at the same time, his inability to make him any adequate return. He then asked the young man his name and surname; and the young man said his surname was Wang, adding that Hsü might address him when they met as Wang Liu-Lang, he having no other name.
Thereupon they parted, and the next day Hsü sold his fish and bought some more wine, with which he repaired as usual to the river-bank. There he found his companion already awaiting him, and they spent the night together in precisely the same way as the preceding one, the young man beating up the fish for him as before.
This went on for some months, until at length one evening the young man, with many expressions of his thanks and his regrets, told Hsü that they were about to part for ever. Much alarmed by the melancholy tone in which his friend had communicated this news, Hsü was on the point of asking for an explanation, when the young man stopped him, and himself proceeded as follows:—“The friendship that has grown up between us is truly surprising, and, now that we shall meet no more, there is no harm in telling you the whole truth. I am a disembodied spirit—the soul of one who was drowned in this river when tipsy. I have been here many years, and your former success in fishing was due to the fact that I used secretly to beat up the fish towards you, in return for the libations you were accustomed to pour out. Tomorrow my time is up: my substitute will arrive, and I shall be born again in the world of mortals.1 We have but this one evening left, and I therefore take advantage of it to express my feelings to you.” On hearing these words, Hsü was at [p. 382] first very much alarmed; however, he had grown so accustomed to his friend’s society, that his fears soon passed away; and, filling up a goblet, he said, with a sigh, “Liu-lang, old fellow, drink this up, and away with melancholy. It’s hard to lose you; but I’m glad enough for your sake, and won’t think of my own sorrow.” He then inquired of Liu-lang who was to be his substitute; to which the latter replied, “Come to the river-bank to-morrow afternoon and you’ll see a woman drowned: she is the one.” Just then the village cocks began to crow, and, with tears in their eyes, the two friends bade each other farewell.
Next day Hsü waited on the river-bank to see if anything would happen, and lo! a woman carrying a child in her arms came along. When close to the edge of the river, she stumbled and fell into the water, managing, however, to throw the child safely on to the bank, where it lay kicking and sprawling and crying at the top of its voice. The woman herself sank and rose several times, until at last she succeeded in clutching hold of the bank and pulled herself, dripping, out; and then, after resting awhile, she picked up the child and went on her way. All this time Hsü had been in a great state of excitement, and was on the point of running to help the woman out of the water; but he remembered that she was to be the substitute of his friend, and accordingly restrained himself from doing so.2 Then when he saw the woman get out by herself, [p. 383] he began to suspect that Liu-lang’s words had not been fulfilled.
That night he went to fish as usual, and before long the young man arrived and said, “We meet once again: there is no need now to speak of separation.” Hsü asked him how it was so; to which he replied, “The woman you saw had already taken my place, but I could not bear to hear the child cry, and I saw that my one life would be purchased at the expense of their two lives, wherefore I let her go, and now I cannot say when I shall have another chance.3 The union of our destinies may not yet be worked out.” “Alas!” sighed Hsü, “this noble conduct of yours is enough to move God Almighty.”
After this the two friends went on much as they had done before, until one day Liu-lang again said he had come to bid Hsü farewell. Hsü thought he had found another substitute, but Liu-lang told him that his former behaviour had so pleased Almighty Heaven, that he had been appointed guardian angel of Wu-chen, in the Chao-yüan district, and that on the following morning he would start for his new post. “And if you do not forget the days of our friendship,” added he, “I pray you come and see me, in spite of the long journey.” “Truly,” replied Hsü, “you well deserved to be made a God; but the paths of Gods and men lie in different directions, and even if the distance were nothing, how should I manage to meet you again?” “Don’t be afraid on that score,” said Liu-lang, “but come;” and then he went away, and Hsü returned home.
The latter immediately began to prepare for the journey, which caused his wife to laugh at him and say, “Supposing you do find such a place at the end of that long journey, you won’t be able to hold a conversation with a clay image.” Hsü, however, paid no attention to her remarks, and [p. 384] travelled straight to Chao-yuan, where he learned from the inhabitants that there really was a village called Wu-chên, whither he forthwith proceeded and took up his abode at an inn.
He then inquired of the landlord where the village temple was; to which the latter replied by asking him somewhat hurriedly if he was speaking to Mr. Hsü. Hsü informed him that his name was Hsü, asking in reply how he came to know it; whereupon the landlord further inquired if his native place was not Tzu-chou. Hsü told him it it was, and again asked him how he knew all this; to which the landlord made no answer, but rushed out of the room; and in a few moments the place was crowded with old and young, men, women, and children, all come to visit Hsü. They then told him that a few nights before they had seen their guardian deity in a vision, and he had informed them that Mr. Hsü would shortly arrive, and had bidden them to provide him with travelling expenses, &c. Hsü was very much astonished at this, and went off at once to the shrine, where he invoked his friend as follows:—“Ever since we parted I have had you daily and nightly in my thoughts; and now that I have fulfilled my promise of coming to see you, I have to thank you for the orders you have issued to the people of the place. As for me, I have nothing to offer you but a cup of wine, which I pray you accept as though we were drinking together on the river-bank.” He then burnt a quantity of paper money,4 when lo! a wind suddenly arose, which, after whirling round and round behind the shrine, soon dropped, and all was still. That night Hsü dreamed that his friend came to him, dressed in his official cap and robes, and very different in appearance from what he used to be, and thanked him, saying, “It is truly kind of you to visit me thus: I only regret that my position makes me unable to meet you face to face, and that though near we are still so far. The people here will give you a trifle, which pray accept for my sake; and when you go away, I will see you a short way on your journey.”
A few days afterwards Hsü prepared to start, in spite of the numerous invitations to stay which poured in upon him from all sides; and then the inhabitants loaded him with presents of all kinds, and escorted him out of the pillage. There a whirlwind arose and accompanied him several miles, when he turned round [p. 385] and invoked his friend thus:—“Liu-lang, take care of your valued person. Do not trouble yourself to come any farther.5 Your noble heart will ensure happiness to this district, and there is no occasion for me to give a word of advice to my old friend.” By-and-by the whirlwind ceased, and the villagers, who were much astonished, returned to their own homes.
Hsü, too, travelled homewards, and being now a man of some means, ceased to work any more as a fisherman. And whenever he met a Chao-yuan man he would ask him about that guardian angel, being always informed in reply that he was a most beneficent God. Some say the place was Shih-k’êng-chuang, in Chang-ch’in: I can’t say which it was myself.
1 See No. XLV., note 8.
2 We have in this story the keynote to the notorious and much-to-be-deprecated dislike of the Chinese people to assist in saving the lives of drowning strangers. Some of our readers may, perhaps, not be aware that the Government of Hong-Kong has found it necessary to insert a clause on the junk-clearances issued in that colony, by which the junkmen are bound to assist to the utmost in saving life. The apparent apathy of the Chinese in this respect comes before us, however, in quite a different light when coupled with the superstition that disembodied spirits of persons who have met a violent death may return to the world of mortals if only fortunate enough to secure a substitute. For among the crowd of shades, anxious all to revisit their “sweet sons,” may perchance be some dear relative or friend of the man who stands calmly by while another is drowning and it may be that to assist the drowning stranger would be to take the longed-for chance away from one’s own kith and kin. Therefore, the superstition-ridden Chinaman turns away, often perhaps, as in the story before us, with feelings of pity and remorse. And yet this belief has not prevented the establishment, especially on the river Yang-tsze, of institutions provided with lifeboats, for the express purpose of saving life in those dangerous waters; so true is it that when the Chinese people wish to move en masse in any given direction, the fragile barrier of superstition is trampled down and scattered to the winds.
3 As there are good and bad foxes, so may devils be beneficent or malicious according to circumstances and Chinese apologists for the discourtesy of the term “foreign devils,” as applied to Europeans and Americans alike, have gone so far as to declare that in this particular instance the allusion is to the more virtuous among the denizens of the Infernal Regions.
4 See No. XCVII, note 7.
5 A phrase constantly repeated, in other terms, by a guest to a host who is politely escorting him to the door.
CVIII. THE PRIEST’S WARNING
A MAN named Chang died suddenly, and was escorted at once by devil-lictors into the presence of the King of Purgatory. His Majesty turned to Chang’s record of good and evil, and then, in great anger, told the lictors they had brought the wrong man, and bade them take him back again. As they left the judgment-hall, Chang persuaded his escort to let him have a look at Purgatory; and, accordingly, the devils conducted him through the nine sections,2 pointing out to him the Knife Hill,3 the Sword Tree, and other objects of interest.
By-and-by, they reached a place where there was a Buddhist priest, hanging suspended in the air head downwards, by a rope through a hole in his leg. He was shrieking with pain, and longing for death; and when Chang approached, lo! he saw that it was his own brother. In great distress, he asked his guides the reason of this punishment; and they informed him that the priest was suffering thus for collecting subscriptions on behalf of his order, and then [p. 386] privately squandering the proceeds in gambling and debauchery.4 “Nor,” added they, “will he escape this torment unless he repents him of his misdeeds.” When Chang came round,5 he thought his brother was already dead, and hurried off to the Hsing-fu monastery, to which the latter belonged. As he went in at the door, he heard a loud shrieking; and, on proceeding to his brother’s room, he found him laid up with a very bad abscess in his leg, the leg itself being tied up above him to the wall, this being, as his brother informed him, the only bearable position in which he could lie. Chang now told him what he had seen in Purgatory, at which the priest was so terrified, that he at once gave up taking wine and meat,6 and devoted himself entirely to religious exercises. In a fortnight he was well, and was known ever afterwards as a most exemplary priest.
1 The spiritual lictors who are supposed to arrest the souls of dying persons are also believed to be armed with warrants signed and sealed in due form as in the world above.
2 Literally, the “nine dark places,” which will remind readers of Dante of the nine “bolgie” of the Inferno.
3 This is a cliff over which sinners are hurled, to alight upon the upright points of knives below. The branches of the Sword Tree are sharp blades which cut and hack all who pass within reach.
4 Crimes by no means unknown to the clergy of China.
5 That is, when the lictors had returned his soul to its tenement.
6 See No. VI., note 2.
MR. LIN, who took his master’s degree in the same year as the late Mr. Wên Pi,1 could remember what had happened to him in his previous state of existence, and once told the whole story, as follows:—I was originally of a good family, but, after leading a very dissolute life, I died at the age of sixty-two. On being conducted into the presence of the King of Purgatory, he received me civilly, bade me be seated, and offered me a cup of tea. I noticed, however, that the tea in His Majesty’s cup was clear and limpid, while that in my own was muddy, like the lees of wine. It then flashed across me that this was the potion which was given to all disembodied spirits to render them oblivious of the past:2 and, accordingly, when the King was looking [p. 387] the other way, I seized the opportunity of pouring it under the table, pretending afterwards that I had drunk it all up.
My record of good and evil was now presented for inspection, and when the King saw what it was, he flew into a great passion, and ordered the attendant devils to drag me away, and send me back to earth as a horse. I was immediately seized and bound, and the devils carried me off to a house, the door-sill of which was so high I could not step over it. While I was trying to do so, the devils behind lashed me with all their might, causing me such pain that I made a great spring, and—lo and behold! I was a horse in a stable. “The mare has got a nice colt,” I then heard a man call out; but, although I was perfectly aware of all that was passing, I could say nothing myself. Hunger now came upon me, and I was glad to be suckled by the mare; and by the end of four or five years I had grown into a fine strong horse, dreadfully afraid of the whip, and running away at the very sight of it. When my master rode me, it was always with a saddle cloth, and at a leisurely pace, which was bearable enough; but when the servants mounted me barebacked, and dug their heels into me, the pain struck into my vitals; and at length I refused all food, and in three days I died.
Reappearing before the King of Purgatory, His Majesty was enraged to find that I had thus tried to shirk working out my time; and, flaying me forthwith, condemned me to go back again as a dog. And when I did not move, the devils came behind me and lashed me until I ran away from them into the open country, where, thinking I had better die right off, I jumped over a cliff, and lay at the bottom unable to move. I then saw that I was among a litter of puppies, and that an old bitch was licking and suckling me by turns; whereby I knew that I was once more among mortals. In this hateful form I continued for some time, longing to kill myself, and yet fearing to incur the penalty of shirking.
At length, I purposely bit my master in the leg, and tore him badly; whereupon he had me destroyed, and I was taken again into the presence of the King, who was so displeased with my vicious behaviour that he condemned me to become a snake, and shut me up in a dark room, where I could see nothing. After a while I managed to climb up the wall, bore a hole [p. 388] in the roof, and escape; and immediately I found myself lying in the grass, a veritable snake. Then I registered a vow that I would harm no living thing, and I lived for some years, feeding upon berries and suchlike, ever remembering neither to take my own life, nor by injuring any one to incite them to take it, but longing all the while for the happy release, which did not come to me. One day, as I was sleeping in the grass, I heard the noise of a passing cart, and, on trying to get across the road out of its way, I was caught by the wheel, and cut in two. The King was astonished to see me back so soon, but I humbly told my story, and, in pity for the innocent creature that loses its life, he pardoned me, and permitted me to be born again at my appointed time as a human being.
Such was Mr. Lin’s story. He could speak as soon as he came into the world; and could repeat anything he had once read. In the year 1621 he took his master’s degree, and was never tired of telling people to put saddle-cloths on their horses, and recollect that the pain of being gripped by the knees is even worse than the lash itself.
1 In A.D. 1621.
2 According to the Yü li ch’ao (see Appendix, l0th Court), this potion is administered by an old beldame, named Mother Mêng, who sits upon the Terrace of Oblivion. “Whether they swallow much or little it matters not; but sometimes there are perverse devils who altogether refuse to drink. Then beneath their feet sharp blades start up, and a copper tube is forced down their throats, by which means they are compelled to swallow some.”
CX. THE FORTY STRINGS OF CASH
MR. JUSTICE WANG had a steward, who was possessed of considerable means. One night the latter dreamt that a man rushed in and said to him, “To-day you must repay me those forty strings of cash.” The steward asked who he was; to which the man made no answer, but hurried past him into the women’s apartments. When the steward awoke, he found that his wife had been delivered of a son; and, knowing at once that retribution was at hand, he set aside forty strings of cash to be spent solely in food, clothes, medicines, and so on, for the baby. By the time the child was between three and four years old, the steward found that of the forty strings only about seven hundred cash remained; and when the wet-nurse, who happened to be standing by, brought the child and dandled it in her arms before him, he looked at it and said, “The forty strings are all but repaid; it is time you were off again.” Thereupon the child changed colour; its head fell back, [p. 389] and its eyes stared fixedly, and, when they tried to revive it, lo! respiration had already ceased. The father then took the balance of the forty strings, and with it defrayed the child’s funeral expenses—truly a warning to people to be sure and pay their debts.
Formerly, an old childless man consulted a great many Buddhist priests on the subject. One of them said to him, “If you owe no one anything, and no one owes you anything, how can you expect to have children? A good son is the repayment of a former debt; a bad son is a dunning creditor, at whose birth there is no rejoicing, at whose death no lamentations.”
1 And such is actually the prevalent belief in China to this day.
CXI. SAVING LIFE
A CERTAIN gentleman of Shên-yu, who had taken the highest degree, could remember himself in a previous state of existence. He said he had formerly been a scholar, and had died in middle life; and that when he appeared before the judge of Purgatory, there stood the cauldrons, the boiling oil, and other apparatus of torture, exactly as we read about them on earth. In the eastern corner of the hall were a number of frames from which hung the skins of sheep, dogs, oxen, horses, &c.; and when anybody was condemned to reappear in life under any one of these forms, his skin was stripped off and a skin was taken from the proper frame and fixed on to his body. The gentleman of whom I am writing heard himself sentenced to become a sheep; and the attendant devils had already clothed him in a sheep’s skin in the manner above described, when the clerk of the record informed the Judge that the criminal before him had once saved another man’s life. The judge consulted his books, and forthwith cried out, “I pardon him; for although his sins have been many, this one act has redeemed them all.” The devils then tried to take off the sheep’s skin, but it was so tightly stuck on him [p. 390] that they couldn't move it. However, after great efforts, and causing the gentleman most excruciating agony, they managed to tear it off bit by bit, though not quite so cleanly as one might have wished. In fact, a piece as big as the palm of a man's hand was left near his shoulder; and when he was born again into the world, there was a great patch of hair on his back, which grew again as fast as it was cut off.
1 Note 2 to No. CVII, should be read here. To save life is indeed the bounden duty of every good Buddhist, for which he will be proportionately rewarded in the world to come.
CXII. THE SALT SMUGGLER
WANG SHIH, of Kao-wan, a petty salt huckster, was inordinately fond of gambling. One night he was arrested by two men, whom he took for lictors of the Salt Gabelle; and, flinging down what salt he had with him, he tried to make his escape.1 He found, however, that his legs would not move with him, and he was forthwith seized and bound. "We are not sent by the Salt Commissioner," cried his captors, in reply to an entreaty to set him free; "we are the devil-constables of Purgatory." Wang was horribly frightened at this, and begged the devils to let him bid farewell to his wife and children; but this they refused to do, saying, "You aren't going to die; you are only wanted for a little job there is down below." Wang asked what the job was; to which the devils replied, "A new Judge has come into office, and, finding the river and the eighteen hells choked up with the bodies of sinners, he [p. 391] has determined to employ three classes of mortals to clean them out. These are thieves, unlicensed founders,3 and unlicensed dealers in salt, and, for the dirtiest work of all, he is going to take musicians.”4
Wang accompanied the devils until at length they reached a city, where he was brought before the Judge, who was sitting in his judgment-hall. On turning up his record in the books, one of the devils explained that the prisoner had been arrested for unlicensed trading; whereupon the judge became very angry, and said, “Those who drive an illicit trade in salt, not only defraud the State of its proper revenue, but also prey upon the livelihood of the people. Those, however, whom the greedy officials and corrupt traders of today denounce as unlicensed traders, are among the most virtuous of mankind—needy unfortunates who struggle to save a few cash in the purchase of their pint of salt.5 Are they your unlicensed traders?” The Judge then bade the lictors buy four pecks of salt, and send it to Wang’s house for him, together with that which had been found upon him; and, at the same time, he gave Wang an iron scourge, and told him to superintend the works at the river.
So Wang followed the devils, and [p. 392] found the river swarming with people like ants in an ant-hill. The water was turbid and red, the stench from it being almost unbearable, while those who were employed in cleaning it out were working there naked. Sometimes they would sink down in the horrid mass of decaying bodies: sometimes they would get lazy, and then the iron scourge was applied to their backs. The assistant-superintendents had small scented balls, which they held in their mouths. Wang himself approached the bank, and saw the licensed salt-merchant of Kao-wan in the midst of it all, and thrashed him well with his scourge, until he was afraid he would never come up again. This went on for three days and three nights, by which time half the workmen were dead, and the work completed; whereupon the same two devils escorted him home again, and then he waked up.
As a matter of fact, Wang had gone out to sell some salt, and had not come back. Next morning, when his wife opened the house door, she found two bags of salt in the court-yard; and, as her husband did not return, she sent off some people to search for him, and they discovered him lying senseless by the wayside. He was immediately conveyed home, where, after a little time, he recovered consciousness and related what had taken place. Strange to say, the licensed salt-merchant had fallen down in a fit on the previous evening, and had only just recovered; and Wang, hearing that his body was covered with sores—the result of the beating with the iron scourge—went off to his house to see him; however, directly the wretched man set eyes on Wang, he hastily covered himself up with the bed-clothes, forgetting that they were no longer at the infernal river. He did not recover from his injuries for a year, after which he retired from trade.
1 Salt is a Government monopoly in China, and its sale is only permitted to licensed dealers. It is a contraband article of commerce, whether for impart or export, to foreign nations trading with China. In an account of a journey from Swatow to Canton in March-April, 1877, I wrote:— "À propos of salt, we came across a good-sized bunker of it when stowing away our things in the space below the deck. The boatmen could not resist the temptation of doing a little smuggling on the way up. . . . At a secluded point in a bamboo-shaded bend of the river, they ran the boat alongside the bank, and were instantly met by a number of suspicious-looking gentlemen with baskets, who soon relieved them of the smuggled salt and separated in different directions." Thus do the people of China seek to lighten the grievous pressure of this tax. A curious custom exists in Canton. Certain blind old men and women are allowed to hawk salt about the streets, and earn a scanty living from the profits they are able to make.
2 The Styx.
3 These words require some explanation. Ordinarily they would be taken in the sense of casting cash of a base description; but they might equally well signify the casting of iron articles of any kind, and thereby hang some curious details. Iron foundries in China may only be opened under license from the local officials, and the articles there made, consisting chiefly of cooking utensils, may only be sold within a given area, each district having its own particular foundries, from which alone the supplies of the neighbourhood may be derived. Free trade in iron is much feared by the authorities, as thereby pirates and rebels would be enabled to supply themselves with arms. At the framing of the Treaty of Tientsin, with its accompanying tariff and rules, iron was not specified among other prohibited articles of commerce. Consequently, British merchants would appear to have a full right to purchase iron in the interior and convey it to any of the open ports under Transit-pass. But the Chinese officials steadily refuse to acknowledge or permit the exercise of this right, putting forward their own time-honoured custom with regard to iron, and enumerating the disadvantages to China were such an innovation to be brought about.
4 The allusion is to women, of a not very respectable class.
5 No Chinese magistrate would pass sentence upon a man who stole food under stress of hunger, even if such a criminal were ever brought before him.
6 His own village.
7 The whole story is meant as a satire upon the iniquity of the Salt Gabelle. [p. 393]
CXIII. COLLECTING SUBSCRIPTIONS
THE FROG-GOD frequently employs a magician to deliver its oracles to those who have faith. Should the magician declare that the God is pleased, happiness is sure to follow; but if he says the God is angry, women and children sit sorrowfully about, and neglect even their meals. Such is the customary belief, and it is probably not altogether devoid of foundation.
There was a certain wealthy merchant, named Chou, who was a very stingy man. Once, when some repairs were necessary to the temple of the God of War,2 and rich and poor were subscribing as much as each could afford, he alone gave nothing.3 By-and-by the works were stopped for want of funds, and the committee of management were at a loss what to do next.
It happened that just then there was a festival in honour of the Frog-God, at which [p. 394] the magician suddenly cried out, “General Chou has given orders for a further subscription. Bring forth the books.” The people all shouting assent to this, the magician went on to say, “Those who have already subscribed will not be compelled to do so again; those who have not subscribed must give according to their means.” Thereupon various persons began to put down their names, and when this was finished, the magician examined the books. He then asked if Mr. Chou was present; and the latter, who was skulking behind, in dread lest he should be detected by the God, had no alternative but to come to the front. “Put yourself down for one hundred taels,” said the magician to him; and when Chou hesitated, he cried out to him in anger, “You could give two hundred for your own bad purposes: how much more should you do so in a good cause?” alluding to a scandalous intrigue of Chou’s, the consequences of which he had averted by payment of the sum mentioned. This put our friend to the blush, and he was obliged to enter his name for one hundred taels, at which his wife was very angry, and said the magician was a rogue, and whenever he came to collect the money he was put off with some excuse.
Shortly afterwards, Chou was one day going to sleep, when he heard a noise outside his house, like the blowing of an ox, and beheld a huge frog walking leisurely through the front door, which was just big enough to let it pass. Once inside, the creature laid itself down to sleep, with its head on the threshold, to the great horror of all the inmates; upon which Chou observed that it had probably come to collect his subscription, and, burning some incense, he vowed that he would pay down thirty taels on the spot, and send the balance later on. The frog, however, did not move, so Chou promised fifty, and then there was a slight decrease in the frog’s size. Another twenty brought it down to the size of a peck measure; and when Chou said the full amount should be paid on the spot, the frog became suddenly no larger than one’s fist, and disappeared through a hole in the wall. Chou immediately sent off fifty taels, [p. 395] at which all the other subscribers were much astonished, not knowing what had taken place.
A few days afterwards the magician said Chou still owed fifty taels, and that he had better send it in soon; so Chou forwarded ten more, hoping now to have done with the matter. However, as he and his wife were one day sitting down to dinner, the frog reappeared, and, glaring with anger, took up a position on the bed, which creaked under it, as though unable to bear the weight. Putting its head on the pillow, the frog went off to sleep, its body gradually swelling up until it was as big as a buffalo, and nearly filled the room, causing Chou to send off the balance of his subscription without a moment’s delay. There was now no diminution in the size of the frog’s body; and by-and-by crowds of small frogs came hopping in, boring through the walls, jumping on the bed, catching flies on the cooking-stove, and dying in the saucepans, until the place was quite unbearable.
Three days passed thus, and then Chou sought out the magician, and asked him what was to be done. The latter said he could manage it, and began by vowing on behalf of Chou twenty more taels’ subscription. At this the frog raised its head, and a further increase caused it to move one foot; and by the time a hundred taels was reached, the frog was walking out of the door. At the door, however, it stopped, and lay down once more, which the magician explained by saying, that immediate payment was required; so Chou handed over the amount at once, and the frog, shrinking down to its usual size, mingled with its companions, and departed with them.
The repairs to the temple were accordingly completed, but for “lighting the eyes,”5 and the attendant festivities, [p. 396] some further subscriptions were wanted. Suddenly, the magician, pointing at the managers, cried out, “There is money short; of fifteen men, two of you are defaulters.” At this, all declared they had given what they could afford; but the magician went on to say, “It is not a question of what you can afford; you have misappropriated the funds that should not have been touched, and misfortune would come upon you, but that, in return for your exertions, I shall endeavour to avert it from you. The magician himself is not without taint. Let him set you a good example.” Thereupon, the magician rushed into his house, and brought out all the money he had, saying, “I stole eight taels myself, which I will now refund.” He then weighed what silver he had, and finding that it only amounted to a little over six taels, he made one of the bystanders take a note of the difference. Then the others came forward and paid up, each what he had misappropriated from the public fund. All this time the magician had been in a divine ecstasy, not knowing what he was saying; and when he came round, and was told what had happened, his shame knew no bounds, so he pawned some of his clothes, and paid in the balance of his own debt. As to the two defaulters who did not pay, one of them was ill for a month and more; while the other had a bad attack of boils.
1 The chief supporters of superstition in China.
2 See No. I., note 4.
3 Such is one of the most common causes of hostile demonstration against Chinese Christians. The latter, acting under the orders of the missionaries, frequently refuse to subscribe to the various local celebrations and processions, the great annual festivities, and ceremonies of all kinds, on the grounds that these are idolatrous and forbidden by the Christian faith. Hence bad feeling, high words, blows, and sometimes bloodshed. I say “frequently,” because many cases have come to light in which converts have quietly subscribed like other people rather than risk an emeute.[A]
An amusing incident came under my own special notice not very long ago. A missionary appeared before me one day to complain that a certain convert of his had been posted in his own village, and cut off from his civic rights for two years, merely because he had agreed to let a room of his house to be used as a missionary dépôt. I took a copy of the placard which was handed to me in proof of this statement, and found it to run thus:—“In consequence of —— having entered into an agreement with a barbarian pastor, to lease to the said barbarian pastor a room in his house to be used as a missionary chapel, we, the elders of this village, do hereby debar —— from the privilege of worshipping in our ancestral hall for the space of two years.” It is needless, of course, to mention that Ancestral Worship is or was prohibited by all sects of missionaries in China alike; or that, when I pointed this out to the individual in question, who could not have understood the import of the Chinese placard, the charge was promptly withdrawn.
4 An historical character who was formerly among the ranks of the Yellow Turban rebels, but subsequently entered the service of Kuan Yü (see No. I., note 4), and was canonised by an Emperor of the last dynasty.
5 This curious ceremony is the final touch to a newly-built or newly-restored temple, and consists in giving expression to the eyes of the freshly-painted idols, which have been purposely left blank by the painter. Up to that time these blocks of clay or wood are not supposed to have been animated by the spiritual presence of the deity in question; but no sooner are the eyes lighted than the gratified God smiles down upon the handsome decorations thus provided by devout and trusting suppliants.
There is a cognate custom belonging to the ceremonies of ancestral worship, of great importance in the eyes of the Chinese. On a certain day after the death of a parent, the surviving head of the family proceeds with much solemnity to dab a spot of ink upon the memorial tablet of the deceased. This is believed to give to the departed spirit the power of remaining near to, and watching over the fortunes of, those left behind.
6 Such indeed is the fate of a percentage of all public subscriptions raised and handled by Chinese of no matter what class. An application was once made to me for a donation to a native foundling hospital at Swatow, on the ground that I was known as a “read (Chinese) book man,” and that consequently other persons, both Chinese and foreigners, might be induced to follow my example. On my declining to subscribe, the manager of the concern informed me that if I would only put down my name for fifty dollars, say £10, no call should be made upon me for the money. What a blessing it is to live in Christian England, where peculation and corruption are unknown!
7 The reader must recollect that these are the words of the God, speaking from the magician’s body.
[A] A seditious tumult; an outbreak. [p. 397]
CXIV. TAOIST MIRACLES
AT Chi-nan Fu there lived a certain priest: I cannot say whence he came, or what was his name. Winter and summer alike he wore but one unlined robe, and a yellow girdle about his waist, with neither shirt nor trousers. He combed his hair with a broken comb, holding the ends in his mouth, like the strings of a hat. By day he wandered about the market-place; at night he slept in the street, and to a distance of several feet round where he lay, the ice and snow would melt.
When he first arrived at Chi-nan he used to perform miracles, and the people vied with each other in making him presents. One day a disreputable young fellow gave him a quantity of wine, and begged him in return to divulge the secret of his power; and when the priest refused, the young man watched him get into the river to bathe, and then ran off with his clothes. The priest called out to him to bring them back, promising that he would do as the young man required; but the latter, distrusting the priest’s good faith, refused to do so; whereupon the priest’s girdle was forthwith changed into a snake, several spans in circumference, which coiled itself round its new master’s head, and glared and hissed terribly. The young man now fell on his knees, and humbly prayed the priest to save his life; at which the priest put his girdle on again, and a snake that had appeared to be his girdle, wriggled away and disappeared.
The priest’s fame was thus firmly established, and the gentry and officials of the place were constantly inviting him to join them in their festive parties. By-and-by the priest said he was going to invite his entertainers to a return feast; and at the appointed time each one of them found on his table a formal invitation to a banquet at the Water Pavilion, but no one knew who had brought the letters. However, they all went, and were met at the door by the priest, in his usual garb; and when they got inside, the place was all desolate and bare, with no banquet ready. “I’m afraid I shall be obliged to ask you gentlemen to let me use your attendants,” said the priest to [p. 398] his guests; “I am a poor man, and keep no servants myself.” To this all readily consented; whereupon the priest drew a double door upon the wall, and rapped upon it with his knuckles. Somebody answered from within, and immediately the door was thrown open, and a splendid array of handsome chairs, and tables loaded with exquisite viands and costly wines, burst upon the gaze of the astonished guests. The priest bade the attendants receive all these things from the door, and bring them outside, cautioning them on no account to speak with the people inside; and thus a most luxurious entertainment was provided, to the great amazement of all present.
Now this Pavilion stood upon the bank of a small lake, and every year, at the proper season, it was literally covered with lilies; but, at the time of this feast, the weather was cold, and the surface of the lake was of a smoky green colour. “It’s a pity,” said one of the guests, “that the lilies are not out”—a sentiment in which the others very cordially agreed, when suddenly a servant came running in to say that, at that moment, the lake was a perfect mass of lilies. Every one jumped up directly, and ran to look out of the window, and, lo! it was so; and in another minute the fragrant perfume of the flowers was borne towards them by the breeze. Hardly knowing what to make of this strange sight, they sent off some servants, in a boat, to gather a few of the lilies, but they soon returned empty-handed, saying, that the flowers seemed to shift their position as fast as they rowed towards them; at which the priest laughed, and said, “These are but the lilies of your imagination, and have no real existence.” And later on, when the wine was finished, the flowers began to droop and fade; and by-and-by a breeze from the north carried off every sign of them, leaving the lake as it had been before.
A certain Taot’ai,2 at Chi-non, was much taken with this priest, and gave him rooms at his yamên. One day he had some friends to dinner, and set before them some [p. 399] very choice old wine that he had, and of which he only brought out a small quantity at a time, not wishing to get through it too rapidly. The guests, however, liked it so much that they asked for more; upon which the Taot’ai said, “he was very sorry but it was all finished.” The priest smiled at this, and said, “I can give the gentlemen some, if they, will oblige me by accepting it;” and immediately inserted the wine-kettle in his sleeve, bringing it out again directly, and pouring out for the guests. This wine tasted exactly like the choice wine they had just been drinking, and the priest gave them all as much of it as they wanted, which made the Taot’ai suspect that something was wrong; so, after the dinner, he went into his cellar to look at his own stock, when he found the jars closely tied down, with unbroken seals, but one and all empty. In a great rage, he caused the priest to be arrested for sorcery, and proceeded to have him bambooed; but no sooner had the bamboo touched the priest than the Taot’ai himself felt a sting of pain, which increased at every blow; and, in a few moments, there was the priest writhing and shrieking under every cut, while the Taot’ai was sitting in a pool of blood.
Accordingly, the punishment was soon stopped, and the priest was commanded to leave Chi-non, which he did, and I know not whither he went. He was subsequently seen at Nan-king, dressed precisely as of old; but on being spoken to, he only smiled and made no reply.
1 It is considered a serious breach of Chinese etiquette to accept invitations without returning the compliment at an early date.
2 A high Chinese official, known to foreigners as Intendant of Circuit; the circuit being a circuit of Prefectures, over which he has full control, subject only to the approval of the highest provincial authorities. It is with this functionary that foreign Consuls rank.
3 See No. XCIII., note 3.
4 Of course only pretending to be hurt, the pain of the blows being transferred by his magical art to the back of the Taot’ai. [p. 400]
CXV. ARRIVAL OF BUDDHIST PRIESTS
Two Buddhist priests having arrived from the West one went to the Wu-t’ai hill, while the other hung up his staff at T’ai-shan. Their clothes, complexions, language, and features were very different from those of our country. They further said they had crossed the Fiery Mountains, from the peaks of which smoke was always issuing as from the chimney of a furnace; that they could only travel after rain, and that excessive caution was necessary to avoid displacing any stone and thus giving a vent to the flames. They also stated that they had passed through the River of Sand, in the middle of which was a crystal hill with perpendicular sides and perfectly transparent and that there was a defile just broad enough to admit a single cart, its entrance guarded by two dragons with crossed horns. Those who wished to pass prostrated themselves before these dragons, and on receiving permission to enter, the horns opened and let them through. The dragons were of a white colour, and their scales and bristles seemed to be of crystal. Eighteen winters and summers these priests had been on the road; and of twelve who started from the West together, only two reached China.3 These two said that in their country four of our mountains are held in great esteem, namely, T’ai, Hua, Wu-t’ai, and Lo-chia. The people there also think that China is paved with yellow gold, that Kuan-yin and Wên-shu are still alive, and that they have only come here to be sure of their Buddhahood and of immortal life. Hearing these words, it struck me that this was precisely what our own people say and think about the West; and that if travellers from each country could only meet half-way and tell each other the true state of affairs, there would be some hearty laughter on botd sides, and a saving of much unnecessary trouble.
1 That is, missionaries from India.
2 See No. LVI., note 10.
2 Much of the above recalls Fa Hsien’s narrative of his celebrated journey from China to India in the early years of the fifth century of our era, with which our author was evidently well acquainted. That courageous traveller complained that of those who had set out with him some had stopped on the way and others had died, leaving him only his own shadow as a companion.
4 This may almost be said to have been the belief of the Arabs at the date of the composition of The Arabian Nights.
5 For Kuan-yin, see No. XXXIII., note 7. Wên-shu, or Man-jusiri, is the God of Wisdom, and is generally represented as riding on a lion, in attendance, together with P’u-hsien, the God of Action, who rides an elephant, upon Shâkyamuni Buddha. [p. 401]
CXVI. THE STOLEN EYES
WHEN His Excellency Mr. T’ang, of our village, was quite a child, a relative of his took him to a temple to see the usual theatrical performances.l He was a clever little fellow, afraid of nothing and nobody; and when he saw one of the clay images in the vestibule staring at him with its great glass eyes, the temptation was irresistible; and, secretly gouging them out with his finger, he carried them off with him.
When they reached home, his relative was taken suddenly ill, and remained for a long time speechless; at length, jumping up, he cried out several times in a voice of thunder, “Why did you gouge out my eyes?” His family did not know what to make of this, until little T’ang told them what he had done; they then immediately began to pray to the possessed man, saying, “A mere child, unconscious of the wickedness of his act, took away in his fun thy sacred eyes. They shall be reverently replaced.” Thereupon the voice exclaimed, “In that case, I shall go away;” and he had hardly spoken before T’ang’s relative fell flat upon the ground and lay there in a state of insensibility for some time.
When he recovered, they asked him concerning what he had said; but he remembered nothing of it. The eyes were then forthwith restored to their original sockets.
1 See No. XLVIII., note 4.
2 The term here used stands for a vitreous composition that has long been prepared by the Chinese. [p. 402]
CXVII. THE INVISIBLE PRIEST
MR. HAN was a gentleman of good family, on very intimate terms with a skilful Taoist priest and magician named Tan, who, when sitting amongst other guests, would suddenly become invisible. Mr. Han was extremely anxious to learn this art, but Tan refused all his entreaties, “Not,” as he said, “because I want to keep the secret for myself, but simply as a matter of principle. To teach the superior man would be well enough; others, however, would avail themselves of such knowledge to plunder their neighbours. There is no fear that you would do this, though even you might be tempted in certain ways.” Mr. Han, finding all his efforts unavailing, flew into a great passion, and secretly arranged with his servants that they should give the magician a sound beating; and, in order to prevent his escape through the power of making himself invisible, he had his threshing-floor covered with a fine ash-dust, so that at any rate his foot-steps would be seen and the servants could strike just above them.3 He then inveigled Tan to the appointed spot, which he had no sooner reached than Han’s servants began to belabour him on all sides with leathern thongs. Tan immediately became invisible, but his footprints were clearly seen as he moved about hither and thither to avoid the blows, and the servants went on striking above them until finally he succeeded in getting away.
Mr. Han then went home, and subsequently Tan reappeared and told the servants that he could stay there no longer, adding that before he went he intended to give them all a feast in return for many things they had done for him. And diving into his sleeve he brought forth a quantity of delicious meats and wines, which he spread out upon [p. 403] the table, begging them to sit down and enjoy themselves. The servants did so, and one and all of them got drunk and insensible; upon which Tan picked each of them up and stowed them away in his sleeve.
When Mr. Han heard of this, he begged Tan to perform some other trick; so Tan drew upon the wall a city, and knocking at the gate with his hand it was instantly thrown open. He then put inside it his wallet and clothes, and stepping through the gateway himself, waved his hand and bade Mr. Han farewell. The city gates were now closed, and Tan vanished from their sight.
It was said that he appeared again in Ch’ing-chou, where he taught little boys to paint a circle on their hands, and, by dabbing this on to another person’s face or clothes, to imprint the circle on the place thus struck without a trace of it being left behind upon the hand.
1 The perfect man, according to the Confucian standard.
2 A large, smooth area of concrete, to be seen outside all country houses of any size, and used for preparing the various kinds of grain. Compare, “The not uncommon practice of strewing ashes to show the footprints of ghosts or demons takes for granted that they are substantial bodies.”—Tylor’s Primitive Culture, Vol. I., P. 455.
CXVIII. THE CENSOR IN PURGATORY
JUST beyond Fêng-tu there is a fathomless cave which is reputed to be the entrance to Purgatory. All the implements of torture employed therein are of human manufacture; old, worn-out gyves and fetters being occasionally found at the mouth of the cave, and as regularly replaced by new ones, which disappear the same night, and for which the magistrate of the district makes a formal charge in his accounts.
Under the Ming dynasty, there was a certain Censor [p. 404] named Hua, whose duties brought him to this place; and hearing the story of the cave, he said he did not believe it, but would penetrate into it and see for himself. People tried to dissuade him from such an enterprise; however, he paid no heed to their remonstrances, and entered the cave with a lighted candle in his hand, followed by two attendants. They had proceeded about half a mile, when suddenly the candle was violently extinguished, and Mr. Hua saw before him a broad flight of steps leading up to the Ten Courts, or judgment-halls, in each of which a judge was sitting with his robes and tablets all complete. On the eastern side there was one vacant place; and when the judges saw Mr. Hua, they hastened down the steps to meet him, and each one cried out, “So you have come at last, have you? I hope you have been quite well since last we met.” Mr. Hua asked what the place was; to which they replied that it was the Court of Purgatory, and then Mr. Hua in a great fright was about to take his leave, when the judges stopped him, saying, “No, no, Sir! that is your seat there; how can you imagine you are to go back again?” Thereupon Mr. Hua was overwhelmed with fear, and begged and implored the judges to forgive him; but the latter declared they could not interfere with the decrees of fate, and taking down the register of Life and Death they showed him that it had been ordained that on such a day of such a month his living body would pass into the realms of darkness. When Mr. Hua read these words he shivered and shook as if iced water was being poured down his back, and thinking of his old mother and his young children, his tears began to flow. At that juncture an angel in golden armour appeared, holding in his hand a document written on yellow silk,4 before which the judges all performed a respectful obeisance. They then unfolded and read the document, which was nothing more or less than a general pardon from the Almighty for the suffering sinners in Purgatory, by virtue of which Mr. Hua’s fate would be set aside, and he would be enabled to return once more to [p. 405] the light of day.
Thereupon the judges congratulated him upon his release, and started him on his way home; but he had not got more than a few steps of the way before he found himself plunged in total darkness. He was just beginning to despair, when forth from the gloom came a God with a red face and a long beard, rays of light shooting out from his body and illuminating the darkness around. Mr. Hua made up to him at once, and begged to know how he could get out of the cave; to which the God curtly replied, “Repeat the sutras of Buddha” and vanished instantly from his sight. Now Mr. Hua had forgotten almost all the sutras he had ever known; however, he remembered a little of the diamond sutra, and, clasping his hands in an attitude of prayer, he began to repeat it aloud. No sooner had he done this than a faint streak of light glimmered through the darkness, and revealed to him the direction of the path; but the next moment he was at a loss how to go on, and the light forthwith disappeared. He then set himself to think hard what the next verse was, and as fast as he recollected and could go on repeating, so fast did the light reappear to guide him on his way, until at length he emerged once more from the mouth of the cave.
As to the fate of the two servants who accompanied him it is needless to inquire.
1 Fêng-tu is a district city in the province of Szechuen, and near it are said to be fire-wells, otherwise known as the entrance to Purgatory, the capital city of which is also called Fêng-tu.
2 To the Imperial Treasury. From what I know of the barefacedness of similar official impostures, I should say that this statement is quite within the bounds of truth. For instance, at Amoy 1 per cent. is collected by the local mandarins on all imports, ostensibly for the purpose of providing the Imperial table with a delicious kind of bird’s nest said to be found in the neighbourhood Seven-tenths of the sum thus collected is pocketed by the various officials of the place, and with the remaining three-tenths a certain quantity of the ordinary article of commerce is imported from the Straits and forwarded to Peking.
3 See No. XXXII., note 4.
4 An imperial mandate is always written on yellow silk, and the ceremony of opening and perusing it is accompanied by prostiations and other acts of reverential submission.
CXIX. MR. WILLOW AND THE LOCUSTS
DURING the Ming dynasty a plague of locusts visited Ch‘ing-yen, and was advancing rapidly towards the I district, when the magistrate of that place, in great tribulation at the impending disaster, retired one day to sleep behind the screen in his office. There he dreamt that a young graduate, named Willow, wearing a tall hat and a green robe, and of very commanding stature, came to see him, and declared that he could tell the magistrate how to get rid of the locusts. “To-morrow,” said he, “on [p. 406] the south-west road, you will see a woman riding on a large jennet: she is the Spirit of the Locusts; ask her, and she will help you.”
The magistrate thought this strange advice; however, he got everything ready, and waited, as he had been told, at the roadside. By-and-by, along came a woman with her hair tied up in a knot, and a serge cape over her shoulders, riding slowly northwards on an old mule; whereupon the magistrate burned some sticks of incense, and, seizing the mule’s bridle, humbly presented a goblet of wine. The woman asked him what he wanted; to which he replied, “Lady, I implore you to save my small magistracy from the dreadful ravages of your locusts.” “Oho!” said the woman, “that scoundrel, Willow, has been letting the cat out of the bag, has he? He shall suffer for it: I won’t touch your crops.” She then drank three cups of wine, and vanished out of sight.
Subsequently, when the locusts did come, they flew high in the air, and did not settle on the crops; but they stripped the leaves off every willow-tree far and wide; and then the magistrate awaked to the fact that the graduate of his dream was the Spirit of the Willows. Some said that this happy result was owing to the magistrate’s care for the welfare of his people.
1 Innumerable pamphlets have been published in China on the best methods of getting rid of these destructive insects, but none to my knowledge contains much sound or practical advice.
2 See No. LII, note i. The mules of the North of China are marvels of beauty and strength; and the price of a fine animal often goes as high as £100.
CXX. MR. TUNG, OR VIRTUE REWARDED
AT Ch’ing-chou there lived a Mr. Tung, President of one of the Six Boards, whose domestic regulations were so strict that the men and women servants were not allowed to speak to each other.1 One day he caught a slave-girl laughing and talking with one of his attendants, and gave them both a sound rating. That night he retired to sleep, accompanied by his valet-de-chambre, in his library, the door of which, as it was very hot weather, was left wide open. When the night was far advanced, the valet was awakened by a noise at his master's bed: and, opening [p. 407] his eyes, he saw, by the light of the moon, the attendant above mentioned pass out of the door with something in his hand. Recognising the man as one of the family, he thought nothing of the occurrence, but turned round and went to sleep again.
Soon after, however, he was again aroused by the noise of footsteps tramping heavily across the room, and, looking up, he beheld a huge being with a red face and a long beard, very like the God of War,2 carrying a man’s head. Horribly frightened, he crawled under the bed, and then he heard sounds above him as of clothes being shaken out, and as if some one was being shampooed.3 In a few moments, the boots tramped once more across the room and went away; and then he gradually put out his head, and, seeing the dawn beginning to peep through the window, he stretched out his hand to reach his clothes. These he found to be soaked through and through, and, on applying his hand to his nose, he smelt the smell of blood. He now called out loudly to his master, who jumped up at once; and, by the light of a candle, they saw that the bed-clothes and pillows were alike steeped in blood.
Just then some constables knocked at the door, and when Mr. Tung went out to see who it was, the constables were all astonishment; “for,” said they, “a few minutes ago a man rushed wildly up to our yamên, and said he had killed his master; and, as he himself was covered with blood, he was arrested, and turned out to be a servant of yours. He also declared that he had buried your head alongside the temple of the God of War; and when we went to look, there, indeed, was a freshly-dug hole, but the head was gone.” Mr. Tung was amazed at all this story, and, on proceeding to the magistrate’s yamên, he discovered that the man in charge was the attendant whom he had scolded the day before. Thereupon, the criminal was severely bambooed and released; and then Mr. Tung, who was unwilling to make an enemy of a man of this stamp, gave him the girl to wife.
However, a few nights afterwards the people who lived next door to the newly-married couple heard a terrific crash in their house, and, rushing in to see what was the matter, found that husband and wife, and the bedstead [p. 408] as well, had been cut clean in two as if by a sword. The ways of the God are many, indeed, but few more extraordinary than this.4
1 See No. XL., note 2, and No. XCIV., note 3.
2 See No. I., note 4.
3 See No. LXIX., note 8.
4 It was the God of War who replaced Mr. Tung’s head after it had actually been cut off and buried.
CXXI. THE DEAD PRIEST
A CERTAIN Taoist priest, overtaken in his wanderings by the shades of evening, sought refuge in a small Buddhist monastery. The monk’s apartment was, however, locked so he threw his mat down in the vestibule of the shrine, and seated himself upon it. In the middle of the night, when all was still, he heard a sound of some one opening the door behind him; and looking round, he saw a Buddhist priest, covered with blood from head to foot, who did not seem to notice that anybody else was present. Accordingly, he himself pretended not to be aware of what was going on; and then he saw the other priest enter the shrine, mount the altar, and remain there some time, embracing Buddha’s head and laughing by turns.
When morning came, he found the monk’s room still locked; and, suspecting something was wrong, he walked to a neighbouring village, where he told the people what he had seen. Thereupon the villagers went back with him, and broke open the door, and there before them lay the priest weltering in his blood, having evidently been killed by robbers, who had stripped the place bare.
Anxious now to find out what had made the disembodied spirit of the priest laugh in the way it had been seen to do, they proceeded to inspect the head of the Buddha on the altar; and, at the back of it, they noticed a small mark, scraping through which they discovered a sum of over thirty ounces of silver. This sum was forthwith used for defraying the: funeral expenses of the murdered man. [p. 409]
CXXII. THE FLYING COW
A CERTAIN man, who had bought a fine cow, dreamt the same night that wings grew out of the animal’s back, and that it had flown away. Regarding this as an omen of some pending misfortune, he led the cow off to market again, and sold it at a ruinous loss.
Wrapping up in a cloth the silver he received, he slung it over his back, and was half-way home, when he saw a falcon eating part of a hare.l Approaching the bird, he found it was quite tame, and accordingly tied it by the leg to one of the corners of the cloth, in which his money was. The falcon fluttered about a good deal, trying to escape; and, by-and-by, the man’s hold being for a moment relaxed, away went the bird, cloth, money, and all. “It was destiny,” said the man every time he told the story; ignorant as he was, first, that no faith should be put in dreams;2 and, secondly, that people shouldn’t take things they see by the wayside.3 Quadrupeds don’t usually fly.
1 See No. VI., note 1.
2 The highly educated Confucianist rises above the superstition that darkens the lives of his less fortunate fellow countrymen. Had such a dream as the above received an inauspicious interpretation at the hands of some local soothsayer the owner of the animal would in nine cases out of ten have taken an early opportunity of getting rid of it.
3 The Chinese love to refer to the “good old time” of their fore-fathers, when a man who dropped anything on the highway would have no cause to hurry back for fear of its being carried off by a stranger.
CXXIII. THE “MIRROR AND LISTEN” TRICK
AT I-tu there lived a family of the name of Cheng. The two sons were both distinguished scholars, but the elder was early known to fame, and, consequently, the favourite with his parents, who also extended their preference to his wife. The younger brother was a trifle wild, which displeased his father and mother very much, and made them regard his wife, too, with anything but a friendly eye. [p. 410] The latter reproached her husband for being the cause of this, and asked him why he, being a man like his brother, could not vindicate the slights that were put upon her. This piqued him; and, setting to work in good earnest, he soon gained a fair reputation, though still not equal to his brother’s.
That year the two went up for the highest degree; and, on New Year’s Eve, the wife of the younger, very anxious for the success of her husband, secretly tried the “mirror and listen” trick.1 She saw two men pushing each other in jest, and heard them say, “You go and get cool,” which remark she was quite unable to interpret for good or for bad, so she thought no more about the matter.
After the examination, the two brothers returned home; and one day, when the weather was extremely hot, and their two wives were hard at work in the cook-house, preparing food for their field-labourers, a messenger rode up in hot haste to announce that the elder brother had passed. Thereupon his mother went into the cook-house, and, calling to her daughter-in-law, said, “Your husband has passed; you go and get cool.” Rage and grief now filled the breast of the second son’s wife, who, with tears in her eyes, continued her task of cooking, when suddenly another messenger rushed in to say, that the second son had passed too. At this, his wife flung down her frying-pan, and cried out, “Now I’ll go and get cool;” and as in the heat of her excitement she uttered these words, the recollection of her trial of the “mirror and listen” trick flashed upon her, and she knew that the words of that evening had been fulfilled.
1 One method is to wrap an old mirror (formerly a polished metal disc) in a handkerchief, and then, no one being present, to bow seven times towards the Spirit of the Hearth: after which the first words heard spoken by any one will give a clue to the issue under investigation. Another method is to close the eyes and take seven paces, opening them at the seventh and getting some hint from the objects first seen in a mirror held in the hand, coupled with the words first spoken within the experimenter’s hearing.
2 In former days, these messengers of good tidings to candidates whose homes were in distant parts used to earn handsome sums if first to announce the news; but now the telegraph has taken their occupation from them. [p. 411]
CXXIV. THE CATTLE PLAGUE
CH‘ÊN HUA-FÊNG, of Mêng-shan, overpowered by the great heat, went and lay down under a tree, when suddenly up came a man with a thick comforter round his neck, who also sat down on a stone in the shade, and began fanning himself as hard as he could, the perspiration all the time running off him like a waterfall. Ch‘ên rose and said to him with a smile, “If, Sir, you were to remove that comforter, you would be cool enough without the help of a fan.” “It would be easy enough,” replied the stranger, “to take off my comforter; but the difficulty would be in getting it on again.” He then went on to converse generally upon other matters, in a manner which betokened considerable refinement; and by-and-by he exclaimed, “What I should like now is just a draught of iced wine to cool the twelve joints of my oesophagus.”1 “Come along, then,” cried Ch‘ên, “my house is close by, and I shall be happy to give you what you want.”
So off they went together; and Ch‘ên set before them some capital wine, which he produced from a cave, cold enough to numb their teeth. The stranger was delighted, and remained there drinking until late in the evening, when, all at once, it began to rain. Ch‘ên lighted a lamp; and he and his guest, who now took off the comforter, sat talking together in déshabille. Every now and again the former thought he saw a light coming from the back of the stranger’s head; and when at length he had gone off into a tipsy sleep, Ch‘ên took the light to examine more closely. He found behind the ears a large cavity, partitioned by a number of membranes, and looking like a lattice, with a thin skin hanging down in front of each, the spaces being apparently empty. In great astonishment Ch‘ên took a hair-pin, and inserted it into one of these places, when pff! out flew something like a tiny cow, [p. 412] which broke through the window,2 and was gone.
This frightened Ch‘ên, and he determined to play no more tricks; just then, however, the stranger waked up. “Alas! “cried he, “you have been at my head, and have let out the Cattle Plague. What is to be done now?” Ch‘ên asked what he meant: upon which the stranger said, “There is no object in further concealment. I will tell you all. I am the Angel of Pestilence for the six kinds of domestic animals. That form which you have let out attacks oxen, and I fear that, for miles round, few will escape alive.” Now Ch‘ên himself was a cattle-farmer, and when, he heard this was dreadfully alarmed, and implored the stranger to tell him what to do. “What to do! “replied he; “why, I shall not escape punishment myself; how can I tell you what to do? However, you will find powdered K’u-ts’an an efficacious remedy—that is, if you don’t keep it a secret for your private use.”4 The stranger then departed, first of all piling up a quantity of earth in a niche in the wall, a handful of which, he told Ch‘ên, given to each animal, might prove of some avail.
Before long the plague did break out; and Ch‘ên, who was desirous of making a little money by it, told the remedy to no one, with the exception of his younger brother. The latter tried it on his own beasts with great success; while, on the other hand, those belonging to Ch‘ên himself died off, to the number of fifty head,5 leaving him only four or five old cows, which showed every sign of soon sharing the same fate. In his distress, Ch‘ên suddenly bethought himself of the earth in the niche; and, as a last resource, gave some to the sick animals. By the next morning they were quite well, and then he knew that his secrecy about the remedy had caused it to have no effect. From that moment his stock went on increasing, and in a few years he had as many as ever.
1 Accurate anatomical descriptions must not be looked for in Chinese literature. “Man has three hundred and sixty-five bones, corresponding to the number of days it takes the heavens to revolve.” From the Hsi yüan lu, or Instructions to Coroners, Book I., ch. 12. See No. XIV., note 8.
2 See No. X., note 7.
3 Sophora flavescens, Ait.
4 As the Chinese invariably do whenever they get hold of a useful prescription or remedy. Master workmen also invariably try to withhold something of their art from the apprentices they engage to teach.
5 The text has “of two hundred hoofs.” [p. 413]
CXXV. THE MARRIAGE OF THE VIRGIN GODDESS
AT Kuei-chi there is a shrine to the Plum Virgin, who was formerly a young lady named Ma, and lived at Tung-wan. Her betrothed husband dying before the wedding, she swore she would never marry, and at thirty years of age she died. Her kinsfolk built a shrine to her memory, and gave her the title of the Plum Virgin.
Some years afterwards, a Mr. Chin, on his way to the examination, happened to pass by the shrine; and entering in, he walked up and down thinking very much of the young lady in whose honour it had been erected. That night he dreamt that a servant came to summon him into the presence of the Goddess; and that, in obedience to her command, he went and found her waiting for him just outside the shrine. “I am deeply grateful to you, Sir,” said the Goddess, on his approach, “for giving me so large a share of your thoughts; and I intend to repay you by becoming your humble handmaid.” Mr. Chin bowed an assent; and then the Goddess escorted him back, saying, “When your place is ready, I will come and fetch you.”
On waking in the morning, Mr. Chin was not over-pleased with his dream; however, that very night every one of the villagers dreamt that the Goddess appeared and said she was going to marry Mr. Chin, bidding them at once prepare an image of him. This the village elders, out of respect for their Goddess, positively refused to do; until at length they all began to fall ill, and then they made a clay image of Mr. Chin and placed it on the left of the Goddess.
Mr. Chin now told his wife that the Plum Virgin had come for him; and, putting on his official cap and robes, he straight-way died. Thereupon his wife was very angry; and, going to the shrine, she first abused the Goddess, and then, getting on the altar, slapped her face well. The Goddess is now called Chin’s virgin wife. [p. 414]
CXXVI. THE WINE INSECT
A MR. LIN of Ch’ang-span was extremely fat, and so fond of wine that he would often finish a pitcher by himself. However, he owned about fifty acres of land, half of which was covered with millet, and being well off, he did not consider that his drinking would bring him into trouble. One day a foreign Buddhist priest saw him, and remarked that he appeared to be suffering from some extraordinary complaint. Mr. Lin said nothing was the matter with him; whereupon the priest asked him if he often got drunk. Lin acknowledged that he did; and the priest told him that he was afflicted by the wine insect. “Dear me!” cried Lin, in great alarm, “do you think you could cure me?” The priest declared there would be no difficulty in doing so; but when Lin asked him what drugs he intended to use, the priest said he should not use any at all.
He then made Lin lie down in the sun; and tying his hands and feet together, he placed a stoup of good wine about half a foot from his head. By-and-by, Lin felt a deadly thirst coming on; and the flavour of the wine passing through his nostrils seemed to set his vitals on fire. Just then he experienced a tickling sensation in his throat, and something ran out of his mouth and jumped into the wine. On being released from his bonds, he saw that it was an insect about three inches in length, which wriggled about in the wine like a tadpole, and had mouth and eyes all complete. Lin was overjoyed, and offered money to the priest, who refused to take it, saying all he wanted was the insect, which he explained to Lin was the essence of wine, and which, on being stirred up in water, would turn it into wine. Lin tried this, and found it was so; and ever afterwards he detested the sight of wine.
He subsequently became very thin, and so poor that he had hardly enough to eat and drink.2 [p. 415]
1 The ordinary “wine” of China is a spirit distilled from rice. See No. XCIII., note 3.
2 The commentator would have us believe that Mr. Lin’s fondness for wine was to him an element of health and happiness rather than a disease to be cured, and that the priest was wrong in meddling with the natural bent of his constitution.
CXXVII. THE FAITHFUL DOG
A CERTAIN man of Lu-ngan, whose father had been cast into prison, and was brought almost to death’s door, scraped together one hundred ounces of silver, and set out for the city to try and arrange for his parent’s release. Jumping on a mule, he saw that a black dog, belonging to the family, was following him. He tried in vain to make the dog remain at home; and when, after travelling for some miles, he got off his mule to rest awhile, he picked up a large stone and threw it at the dog, which then ran off.
However, he was no sooner on the road again, than up came the dog, and tried to stop the mule by holding on to its tail. His master beat it off with the whip; whereupon the dog ran barking loudly in front of the mule, and seemed to be using every means in its power to cause his master to stop. The latter thought this a very inauspicious omen, and turning upon the animal in a rage, drove it away out of sight.
He now went on to the city; but when, in the dusk of the evening, he arrived there, he found that about half his money was gone. In a terrible state of mind, he tossed about all night; then all of a sudden it flashed across him that the strange behaviour of the dog might possibly have some meaning; so getting up very early, he left the city as soon as the gates were open,2 and though, from the number of passers-by, he never expected to find his money again, he went on until he reached the spot where he had got off his mule the day before. There he saw his dog lying dead upon the ground, its hair having apparently been wetted through with [p. 416] perspiration;3 and, lifting up the body by one of its ears, he found his lost silver. Full of gratitude he bought a coffin and buried the dead animal; and the people now call the place the Grave of the Faithful Dog.
1 In an entry on torture (see No. LXXIII., note 2) which occurs in my Glossary of Reference I made the following statement:—“The real tortures of a Chinese prison are the filthy dens in which the unfortunate victims are confined, the stench in which they have to draw breath, the fetters and manacles by which they are secured, the absolute insufficiency even of the disgusting rations doled out to them, and above all the mental agony which must ensue in a country with no Habeas corpus to protect the lives and fortunes of its citizens.”
2 For a small bribe, the soldiers at the gates of a Chinese city will usually pass people in and out by means of a ladder placed against the wall at some convenient spot.
3 I believe it is with us only a recently determined fact that dogs perspire through the skin.
CXXVIII. AN EARTHQUAKE
IN 1668 there was a very severe earthquake. I myself was staying at Chi-hsia, and happened to be that night sitting over a kettle of wine with my cousin Li Tu. All of a sudden we heard a noise like thunder, travelling from the south-east in a north-westerly direction. We were much astonished at this, and quite unable to account for the noise; in another moment the table began to rock, and the wine-cups were upset; the beams and supports of the house snapped here and there with a crash, and we looked at each other in fear and trembling. By-and-by we knew that it was an earthquake; and, rushing out, we ,saw houses and other buildings, as it were, fall down and get up again; and, amidst the sounds of crashing walls, we heard the shrieks of women and children, the whole mass being like a great seething cauldron. Men were giddy and could not stand, but rolled about on the ground; the river overflowed its banks;. cocks crowed, and dogs barked from one end of the city to the other.
In a little while the quaking began to subside; and then might be seen men and women running half naked about the streets, all anxious to tell their own experiences, and forgetting that they had on little or no clothing. I subsequently heard that a well was closed up and rendered useless by this earthquake that a house was turned completely round, so as to face the opposite direction; that the Chi-hsia hill was riven open, and that the waters of the I river flowed in and made a lake of an acre and more. Truly such an earthquake as this is of rare occurrence.
1 The exact date is given—the 17th of the 6th moon, which would probably fall towards the end of June. [p. 417]
CXXIX. MAKING ANIMALS
THE tricks for bewitching people are many. Sometimes drugs are put in their food, and when they eat they become dazed, and follow the person who has bewitched them. This is commonly called ta hsü pa; in Kiang-nan it is known as ch’e hsü. Little children are most frequently bewitched in this way. There is also what is called “making animals,” which is better known on the south side of the River.1
One day a man arrived at an inn in Yang-chou, leading with him five donkeys. Tying them up near the stable, he told the landlord he would be back in a few minutes, and bade him give his donkeys no water. He had not been gone long before the donkeys, which were standing out in the glare of the sun, began to kick about, and make a noise; whereupon the landlord untied them, and was going to put them in the shade, when suddenly they espied water, and made a rush to get at it. So the landlord let them drink; and no sooner had the water touched their lips than they rolled on the ground, and changed into women. In great astonishment the landlord asked them whence they came; but their tongues were tied, and they could not answer, so he hid them in his private apartments, and at that moment their owner returned, bringing with him five sheep. The latter immediately asked the landlord where his donkeys were; to which the landlord replied by offering him some wine, saying, the donkeys would be brought to him directly. He then went out and gave the sheep some water, on drinking which they were all changed into boys. Accordingly, he communicated with the authorities, and the stranger was arrested and forthwith beheaded.
1 See No. XCVIII., note 1. [p. 418]
CXXX CRUELTY AVENGED
A CERTAIN magistrate caused a petty oil-vendor, who was brought before him for some trifling misdemeanour, and whose statements were very confused, to be bambooed to death. The former subsequently rose to high rank; and having amassed considerable wealth, set about building himself a fine house. On the day when the great beam was to be fixed in its place,1 among the friends and relatives who arrived to offer their congratulations, he was horrified to see the oilman walk in. At the same instant one of the servants came rushing up to announce to him the birth of a son whereupon, he mournfully remarked, “The house not yet finished, and its destroyer already here.” The bystanders thought he was joking, for they had not seen what he had seen.2 However, when that boy grew up, by his frivolity and extravagance he quite ruined his father. He was finally obliged himself to go into service; and spent all his earnings in oil, which he swallowed in large quantities.
1 This corresponds to our ceremony of laying the foundation stone, except that one commemorates the beginning, the other the completion, of a new building.
2 That is, the disembodied spirit of the oilman.
CXXXI. THE WEI-CH’I DEVIL
A CERTAIN general, who had resigned his command, and had retired to his own home, was very fond of roaming about and amusing himself with win and wei-ch‘i. One [p. 419] day—it was the 9th of the 9th moon, when everybody goes up high—as he was playing with some friends, a stranger walked up, and watched the game intently for some time without going away. He was a miserable-looking creature, with a very ragged coat, but nevertheless possessed of a refined and courteous air. The general begged him to be seated, an offer which he accepted, being all the time extremely deferential in his manner. “I suppose you are pretty good at this,” said the general, pointing to the board; “try a bout with one of my friends here.” The stranger made a great many apologies in reply, but finally accepted, and played a game in which, apparently to his great disappointment, he was beaten. He played another with the same result; and now, refusing all offers of wine, he seemed to think of nothing but how to get some one to play with him.
Thus he went on until the afternoon was well advanced; when suddenly, just as he was in the middle of a most exciting game, which depended on a single place, he rushed forward, and throwing himself at the feet of the general, loudly implored his protection. The general did not know what to make of this; however, he raised him up, and said, “It’s only a game: why get so excited?” To this the stranger replied by begging the general not to let his gardener seize him; and when the general asked what gardener he meant, he said the man’s name was Ma-ch‘êng. Now this Ma-ch‘êng was often employed as a lictor by the Ruler of Purgatory, and would sometimes remain away as much as ten days, serving the warrants of death; accordingly, the general sent off to inquire about him, and found that he had been in a trance for two days.3 His master cried out that he had better not behave rudely to his guest, but at that very moment the stranger sank down to the ground, and was gone.
The general was lost in astonishment; however, he now knew that the man was a disembodied spirit, and on the next day, when Ma-ch’êng came round, he asked him for full particulars. “The gentleman was a native of [p. 420] Hu-hsiang,” replied the gardener, “who was passionately addicted to wei-ch‘i, and had lost a great deal of money by it. His father, being much grieved at his behaviour, confined him to the house; but he was always getting out, and indulging the fatal passion, and at last his father died of a broken heart. In consequence of this, the Ruler of Purgatory curtailed his term of life, and condemned him to become a hungry devil,4 in which state he has already passed seven years. And now that the Phoenix Tower is completed, an order has been issued for the literati to present themselves, and compose an inscription to be cut on stone, as a memorial thereof, by which means they would secure their own salvation as a reward. Many of the shades failing to arrive at the appointed time, God was very angry with the Ruler of Purgatory, and the latter sent me off, and others who are employed in the same way, to hunt up the defaulters. But as you, Sir, bade me treat the gentleman with respect, I did not venture to bind him.” The general inquired what had become of the stranger; to which the gardener replied, “He is now a mere menial in Purgatory, and can never be born again.” “Alas!” cried his master, “thus it is that men are ruined by any inordinate passion.”6
1 A most abstruse and complicated game of skill for which the Chinese claim an antiquity of four thousand years, and which I was the first to introduce to a European public through an article in the Temple Bar Magazine for January 1877. A propos of which, an accomplished American lady, Miss A. M. Fielde, of Swatow, wrote as follows:—“The game seems to me the peer of chess. . . . It is a game for the slow, persistent, astute, multitudinous Chinese; while chess, by the picturesque appearance of the board, the variety and prominent individuality of the men, and the erratic combination of the attack,—is for the Anglo-Saxon.”
2 On this day, annually dedicated to kite-flying, picnics, and good cheer, everybody tries to get up to as great an elevation as possible, in the hope, as some say, of thereby prolonging life. It was this day—4th October, 1878—which was fixed for the total extermination of foreigners in Foochow.
3 See No. XXVI., note 3.
4 One of the prêtas, or the fourth of the six paths (gati) of existence, the other five being (1) angels, (2) men, (3) demons, (5) brute beasts, and (6) sinners in hell. The term is often used colloquially for a self-invited guest.
5 An imaginary building in the Infernal Regions.
6 Mencius reckoned “to play wei-ch‘i for money” among the five unfilial acts.
CXXXII. THE FORTUNE-HUNTER PUNISHED
A CERTAIN man’s uncle had no children and the nephew, with an eye to his uncle’s property, volunteered to become his adopted son.1 When the uncle died all the property passed accordingly to his nephew, who thereupon broke faith as to his part of the contract.2 He did the same with [p. 421] another uncle, and thus united three properties in his own person, whereby he became the richest man of the neighbourhood.
Suddenly he fell ill, and seemed to go out of his mind; for he cried out, “So you wish to live in wealth, do you?” and immediately seizing a sharp knife, he began hacking away at his own body until he had strewed the floor with pieces of flesh. He then exclaimed, “You cut off other people’s posterity and expect to have posterity yourself, do you?” and forthwith he ripped himself open and died. Shortly afterwards his son, too, died, and the property fell into the hands of strangers. Is not this a retribution to be dreaded?
1 See No. LV., note 9 and No. XCIV., note 6.
2 That is, in carrying out the obligations he had entered into, such as conducting the ceremonies of ancestral worship, repairing the family tombs, &c.
CXXXIII. LIFE PROLONGED
A CERTAIN cloth merchant of Ch‘ang-ch‘ing was stopping at T’ai-ngan, when he heard of a magician who was said to be very skilled in casting nativities. So he went off at once to consult him; but the magician would not undertake the task, saying, “Your destiny is bad: you had better hurry home.” At this the merchant was dreadfully frightened, and, packing up his wares, set off towards Ch‘ang-ch‘ing.
On the way he fell in with a man in short clothes,l like a constable; and the two soon struck up a friendly intimacy, taking their meals together. By-and-by the merchant asked the stranger what his business was; and the latter told him he was going to Ch‘ang-ch‘ing to serve summonses, producing at the same time a document and showing it to the merchant, who, on looking closely, saw a list of names, at the head of which was his own. In great astonishment he inquired what he had done that he should be arrested thus; to which his companion replied, “I am not a living being: I am a lictor in the employ of the infernal authorities, and I presume your term of life has expired.” The merchant burst into [p. 423] tears and implored the lictor to spare him, which the latter declared was impossible; “But,” added he, “there are a great many names down, and it will take me some time to get through them: you go off home and settle up your affairs, and, as a slight return for your friendship, I’ll call for you last.”
A few minutes afterwards they reached a stream where the bridge was in ruins, and people could only cross with great difficulty; at which the lictor remarked, “You are now on the road to death, and not a single cash can you carry away with you. Repair this bridge and benefit the public; and thus from a great outlay you may possibly yourself derive some small advantage.” The merchant said he would do so; and when he got home, he bade his wife and children prepare for his coming dissolution, and at the same time set men to work and made the bridge sound and strong again.
Some time elapsed, but no lictor arrived; and his suspicions began to be aroused, when one day the latter walked in and said, “I reported that affair of the bridge to the Municipal God,2 who communicated it to the Ruler of Purgatory; and for that good act your span of life has been lengthened, and your name struck out of the list. I have now come to announce this to you.” The merchant was profuse in his thanks; and the next time he went to T’ai-ngan, he burnt a quantity of paper ingots,3 and made offerings and libations to the lictor, out of gratitude for what he had done.
Suddenly the lictor himself appeared and cried out, “Do you wish to ruin me? Happily my new master has only just taken up his post, and he has not noticed this, or where should I be?”4 The lictor then escorted the merchant some distance; and, at parting, bade him never return by that road, but, if he had any business at T’ai-ngan, to go thither by a roundabout way.
1 The long flowing robe is a sign of respectability which all but the very poorest classes love to affect in public. At the port of Haiphong, shoes are the criterion of social standing; but, as a rule, the well-to-do native merchants prefer to go barefoot rather than give the authorities a chance of exacting heavier squeezes, on the strength of such a palpable acknowledgment of wealth.
2 See No. I., note 1.
3 See No. LVI., note 7 and No. XCVII., note 7.
4 The lictor had no right to divulge his errand when he first met the cloth merchant, or to remove the latter’s name from the top to the bottom of the list.
CXXXIV. THE CLAY IMAGE
ON the river I there lived a man named Ma, who married a wife from the Wang family, with whom he was very happy in his domestic life. Ma, however, died young; and his wife’s parents were unwilling that their daughter should remain a widow, but she resisted all their importunities, and declared firmly she would never marry again. “It is a noble resolve of yours, I allow,” argued her mother; “but you are still a mere girl, and you have no children. Besides, I notice that people who start with such rigid determinations always end by doing something discreditable, and therefore you had better get married as soon as you can, which is no more than is done every day.” The girl swore she would rather die than consent, and accordingly her mother had no alternative but to let her alone.
She then ordered a clay image to be made, exactly resembling her late husband; and whenever she took her own meals, she would set meat and wine before it, precisely as if her husband had been there. One night she was on the point of retiring to rest, when suddenly she saw the clay image stretch itself and step down from the table, increasing all the while in height, until it was as tall as a man, and neither more nor less than her own husband. In great alarm she called out to her mother, but the image stopped her, saying, “Don’t do that! I am but showing my gratitude for your affectionate care of me, and it is chill and uncomfortable in the realms below. Such devotion as yours casts its light back on generations gone by; and now I, who was cut off in my prime because my father did evil, and was condemned to be without an heir, have been permitted, in consequence of your virtuous conduct, to visit you once again, that our ancestral line may yet remain unbroken.”2 Every morning at cock-crow her husband resumed his [p. 424] usual form and size as the clay image; and after a time he told her that their hour of separation had come, upon which husband and wife bade each other an eternal farewell.
By-and-by the widow, to the great astonishment of her mother, bore a son, which caused no small amusement among the neighbours who heard the story; and, as the girl herself had no proof of what she stated to be the case, a certain beadle of the place, who had an old grudge against her husband, went off and informed the magistrate of what had occurred. After some investigation, the magistrate exclaimed, “I have heard that the children of disembodied spirits have no shadow; and that those who have shadows are not genuine.” Thereupon they took Ma’s child into the sunshine, and lo there was but a very faint shadow, like a thin vapour. The magistrate then drew blood from the child, and smeared it on the clay image; upon which the blood at once soaked in and left no stain. Another clay image being produced and the same experiment tried, the blood remained on the surface so that it could be wiped away.4
The girl’s story was thus acknowledged to be true; and when the child grew up, and in every feature was the counterpart of Ma, there was no longer any room for suspicion.
1 The clay image makers of Tientsin are wonderfully clever in taking likenesses by these means. Some of the most skilful will even manipulate the clay behind their backs, and then, adding the proper colours, will succeed in producing an exceedingly good resemblance. They find, however, more difficulty with foreign faces, to which they are less accustomed in the trade.
2 See No. LXI., note 3.
3 See No. LXIV., note 2.
4 Such is the officially authorised method of determining a doubtful relationship between a dead parent and a living child, substituting a bone for the clay image here mentioned.
CXXXV. DISHONESTY PUNISHED
AT Chiao-chou there lived a man named Liu Hsi-ch‘uan, who was steward to His Excellency Mr. Fa. When already over forty a son was born to him, whom he loved very dearly, and quite spoilt by always letting him have his own way. When the boy grew up he led a dissolute, extravagant life, and ran through all his father’s property. By-and-by he fell sick, and then he declared that nothing would cure him but a slice off a fat old favourite mule they had; upon which his father had another and more worthless animal killed; but his son found out he was being tricked, and, after abusing his father soundly, his symptoms became more and more alarming. The mule was [p. 425] accordingly killed, and some of it was served up to the sick man; however, he only just tasted it and sent the rest away. From that time he got gradually worse and worse, and finally died, to the great grief of his father, who would gladly have died too.
Three or four years afterwards, as some of the villagers were worshipping on Mount Tai, they saw a man riding on a mule, the very image of Mr. Liu’s dead son; and, on approaching more closely, they saw that it was actually he.1 Jumping from his mule,2 he made them a salutation, and then they began to chat with him on various subjects, always carefully avoiding that one of his own death. They asked him what he was doing there; to which he replied that he was only roaming about, and inquired of them in his turn at what inn they were staying; “For,” added he, “I have an engagement just now, but I will visit you to-morrow.” So they told him the name of the inn, and took their leave, not expecting to see him again.
However, the next day he came, and, tying his mule to a post outside, went in to see them. “Your father,” observed one of the villagers, “is always thinking about you. Why do you not go and pay him a visit?” The young man asked to whom he was alluding; and, at the mention of his father’s name, he changed colour and said, “If he is anxious to see me, kindly tell him that on the 7th of the 4th moon I will await him here.” He then went away, and the villagers returned and told Mr. Liu all that had taken place.
At the appointed time the latter was very desirous of going to see his son; but his master dissuaded him, saying that he thought from what he knew of his son that the interview might possibly not turn out as he would desire; “Although,” added he, “if you are bent upon going, I should be sorry to stand in your way. Let me, however, counsel you to conceal yourself in a cupboard, and thus, by observing what takes place, you will know better how to act, and avoid running into any danger.”
This he accordingly did, and, when his son came, Mr. [p. 426] Fa received him at the inn. “Where’s Mr. Liu?” cried the son, “Oh, he hasn’t come,” replied Mr. Fa. “The old beast! What does he mean by that?” exclaimed his son; whereupon Mr. Fa asked him what he meant by cursing his own father. “My father!” shrieked the son; “why, he’s nothing more to me than a former rascally partner in trade, who cheated me out of all my money, and for which I have since avenged myself on him.3 What sort of a father is that, I should like to know?” He then went out of the door; and his father crept out of the cupboard from which, with the perspiration streaming down him and hardly daring to breathe, he had heard all that had passed, and sorrowfully wended his way home again.
1 “In various savage superstitions the minute resemblance of soul to body is forcibly stated.”—Myths and Myth-makers, by John Fiske, p. 228.
2 An important point in Chinese etiquette. It is not considered polite for a person in a sitting position to address an equal who is standing.
3 By becoming his son and behaving badly to him. See No. CX., note 1, and the text to which it refers.
CXXXVI. THE MAD PRIEST
A CERTAIN mad priest, whose name I do not know, lived in a temple on the hills. He would sing and cry by turns, without any apparent reason; and once somebody saw him boiling a stone for his dinner. At the autumn festival of the 9th day of the 9th moon,[l] an official of the district went up in that direction for the usual picnic, taking with him his chair and his red umbrellas. After luncheon he was passing by the temple, and had hardly reached the door, when out rushed the priest, barefooted and ragged, and, himself opening a yellow umbrella, cried out as the attendants of a mandarin do when ordering the people to stand back. He then approached the official, and made as though he were jesting at him; at which the latter was extremely indignant, and bade his servants drive the priest away. The priest moved off with the servants after him, and in another moment had thrown down his yellow umbrella, which split into a number of pieces, each piece changing immediately into a falcon, and flying about in all directions. The umbrella handle became a huge serpent, with red scales and glaring eyes; and then the party would have turned and fled, but that one of them declared [p. 427] it was only an optical delusion, and that the creature couldn’t do any hurt. The speaker accordingly seized a knife and rushed at the serpent, which forthwith opened its mouth and swallowed its assailant whole. In a terrible fright the servants crowded round their master and hurried him away, not stopping to draw breath until they were fully a mile off.
By-and-by several of them stealthily returned to see what was going on; and, on entering the temple, they found that both priest and serpent had disappeared. But from an old ash-tree hard by they heard a sound proceeding,—a sound, as it were, of a donkey panting; and at first they were afraid to go near, though after a while they ventured to peep through a hole in the tree, which was an old hollow trunk; and there, jammed hard and fast with his head downwards, was the rash assailant of the serpent. It being quite impossible to drag him out, they began at once to cut the tree away but by the time they had set him free he was already perfectly unconscious. However, he ultimately came round and was carried home; but from this day the priest was never seen again.2
1 See No. CXXXI., note 2.
2 The story is intended as a satire on those puffed-up dignitaries who cannot even go to a picnic without all the retinue belonging to their particular rank. See No. LVI., note 5.
CXXXVII. FEASTING THE RULER OF PURGATORY
AT Ching-hai there lived a young man, named Shao, whose family was very poor. On the occasion of his mother completing her cycle,l he arranged a quantity of meat-offerings and wine on a table in the court-yard, and proceeded to invoke the Gods in the usual manner; but when he rose from his knees, lo and behold! all the meat and wine had disappeared. His mother thought this was a bad omen, and that she was not destined to enjoy a long life; however, she said nothing on the subject to her son, who was himself quite at a loss to account for what had happened.
A short time afterwards the Literary Chancellor arrived; and young Shao, scraping together [p. 428] what funds he could, went off to present himself as a candidate. On the road he met with a man who gave him such a cordial invitation to his house that he willingly accepted and the stranger led him to a stately mansion, with towers and terraces rising one above the other as far as the eye could reach. ln one of the apartments was a king, sitting upon a throne, who received Shao in a very friendly manner; and, after regaling him with an excellent banquet, said, “I have to thank you for the food and drink you gave my servants that day we passed your house.” Shao was greatly astonished at this remark, when the King proceeded, “I am the Ruler of Purgatory. Don’t you recollect sacrificing on your mother’s birthday?” The King then bestowed on Shao a packet of silver, saying, “Pray accept this in return for your kindness.” Shao thanked him and retired; and in another moment the palace and its occupants had one and all vanished from his sight, leaving him alone in the midst of some tall trees.
On opening his packet he found it to contain five ounces of pure gold; and, after defraying the expenses of his examination, half was still left, which he carried home and gave to his mother.
1 See No. XXIII., note 8.
2 The examiner for the bachelor’s, or lowest, degree.
CXXXVIII. THE PICTURE HORSE
A CERTAIN Mr. Ts‘ui, of Lin-ch‘ing, was too poor to keep his garden walls in repair, and used often to find a strange horse lying down on the grass inside. It was a black horse marked with white, and having a scrubby tail, which looked as if the end had been burnt off; and, though always driven away, would still return to the same spot. Now Mr. Ts‘ui had a friend, who was holding an appointment in Shansi; and though he had frequently felt desirous of paying him a visit, he had no means of travelling so far. Accordingly, he one day caught the strange horse, and, putting a saddle on its back, rode away, telling his servants that if the owner of the horse should appear, he was to inform him where the animal was to be found.
The horse [p. 429] started off at a very rapid pace, and, in a short time, they were thirty or forty miles from home; but at night it did not seem to care for its food, so the next day Mr. Ts‘ui, who thought perhaps illness might be the cause, held the horse in, and would not let it gallop so fast. However, the animal did not seem to approve of this, and kicked and foamed until at length Mr. Ts‘ui let it go at the same old pace; and by midday he had reached his destination.
As he rode into the town, the people were astonished to hear of the marvellous journey just accomplished, and the Prince sent to say he should like to buy the horse. Mr. Ts‘ui, fearing that the real owner might come forward, was compelled to refuse this offer; but when, after six months had elapsed, no inquiries had been made, he agreed to accept eight hundred ounces of silver, and handed over the horse to the Prince. He then bought himself a good mule, and returned home.
Subsequently, the Prince had occasion to use the horse for some important business at Lin-ch‘ing; and when there it took the opportunity to run away. The officer in charge pursued it right up to the house of a Mr. Tsêng, who lived next door to Mr. Ts‘ui, and saw it run in and disappear. Thereupon he called upon Mr. Tsêng to restore it to him; and, on the latter declaring he had never even seen the animal, the officer walked into his private apartments, where he found, hanging on the wall, a picture of a horse, by Ch’ên Tzŭ-ang,3 exactly like the one he was in search of, and with part of the tail burnt away by a joss-stick.
It was now clear that the Prince’s horse was a supernatural creature; but the officer, being afraid to go back without it, would have prosecuted Mr. Tsêng, had not Ts‘ui, whose eight hundred ounces of silver had since increased to something like ten thousand, stepped in and paid back the original purchase-money. Mr. Tsêng was exceedingly grateful to him for this act of kindness, ignorant, as he was, of the previous sale of the horse by Ts‘ui to the Prince.
1 The Chinese never cut the tails of their horses or mules.
2 One of the feudal Governors of bygone days.
3 A.D. 656-698. Better known as a poet. [p. 430]
CXXXIX. THE BUTTERFLY’S REVENGE
MR. WANG, of Ch‘ang-shan, was in the habit, when a District Magistrate, of commuting the fines and penalties of the Penal Code, inflicted on the various prisoners, for a corresponding number of butterflies. These he would let go all at once in the court, rejoicing to see them fluttering hither and thither, like so many tinsel snippings borne about by the breeze. One night he dreamt that a young lady, dressed in gay-coloured clothes, appeared to him and said, “Your cruel practice has brought many of my sisters to an untimely end, and now you shall pay the penalty of thus gratifying your tastes.” The young lady then changed into a butterfly and flew away.
Next day, the magistrate was sitting alone, over a cup of wine, when it was announced to him that the censor was at the door; and out he ran at once to receive His Excellency, with a white flower, that some of his women had put in his official hat, still sticking there. His Excellency was very angry at what he deemed a piece of disrespect to himself; and, after severely censuring Mr. Wang, turned round and went away. Thenceforward no more penalties were commuted for butterflies.
CXL. THE DOCTOR
A CERTAIN poor man, named Chang, who lived at I, fell in one day with a Taoist priest. The latter was highly skilled in the science of physiognomy; and, after looking at Chang’s features, said to him, “You would make your fortune as a doctor.” “Alas!” replied Chang, “I can barely read and write; how then could I follow such a calling as that?” “And where, you simple fellow,” asked the priest, “is the necessity for a doctor to be a scholar? You just try, that’s all.” Thereupon Chang returned home; and, being very poor, he simply collected a few of the commonest prescriptions, and set up a small stall with a handful of fishes’ teeth and some dry honey-comb [p. 431] from a wasp’s nest,2 hoping thus to earn, by his tongue, enough to keep body and soul together, to which, however, no one paid any particular attention.
Now it chanced that just then the Governor of Ch‘ing-chou was suffering from a bad cough, and had given orders to his subordinates to send to him the most skilful doctors in their respective districts; and the magistrate of I, which was an out-of-the-way mountainous district, being unable to lay his hands on any one whom he could send in, gave orders to the beadle to do the best he could under the circumstances. Accordingly, Chang was nominated by the people, and the magistrate put his name down to go in to the Governor. When Chang heard of his appointment, he happened to be suffering himself from a bad attack of bronchitis, which he was quite unable to cure, and he begged, therefore, to be excused; but the magistrate would not hear of this, and forwarded him at once in charge of some constables.
While crossing the hills, he became very thirsty, and went into a village to ask for a drink of water; but water there was worth its weight in jade, and no one would give him any. By-and-by he saw an old woman washing a quantity of vegetables in a scanty supply of water, which was consequently, very thick and muddy; and, being unable to bear his thirst any longer, he obtained this and drank it up. Shortly afterwards he found that his cough was quite cured, and then it occurred to him that he had hit upon a capital remedy.
When he reached the city, he learned that a great many doctors had already tried their hand upon the patient, but without success; so asking for a private room in which to prepare his medicines, he obtained from the town some bunches of bishop-wort, and proceeded to wash them as the old woman had done. He then took the dirty water, and gave a dose of it to the Governor, who was immediately and permanently relieved. The patient was overjoyed; and, besides making Chang a handsome present, gave him a certificate written in golden characters, in consequence of which his fame spread far and wide;4 and of the numerous cases he subsequently [p. 432] undertook, in not a single instance did he fail to effect a cure.
One day, however, a patient came to him, complaining of a violent chill; and Chang, who happened to be tipsy at the time, treated him by mistake for remittent fever. When he got sober, he became aware of what he had done but he said nothing to anybody about it, and three days afterwards the same patient waited upon him with all kinds of presents to thank him for a rapid recovery. Such cases as this were by no means rare with him; and soon he got so rich that he would not attend when summoned to visit a sick person, unless the summons was accompanied by a heavy fee and a comfortable chair to ride in.5
1 Advertisements of these professors of physiognomy are to be seen in every Chinese city.
2 In order to make some show for the public eye.
3 See No. LXIV., note 2,
4 A doctor of any repute generally has large numbers of such certificates, generally engraved on wood, hanging before and about his front door. When I was stationed at Swatow, the Chinese writer at Her Majesty’s Consulate presented one to Dr. E. J. Scott, the resident medical practitioner, who had cured him of opium-smoking. It bore two principal characters, “Miraculous Indeed!” accompanied by a few remarks, in a smaller-sized character, laudatory of Dr. Scott’s professional skill. Banners, with graceful inscriptions written upon them, are frequently presented by Chinese passengers to the captains of coasting steamers who may have brought them safely through bad weather.
5 The story is intended as a satire upon Chinese doctors generally, whose ranks are recruited from the swarms of half-educated candidates who have been rejected at the great competitive examinations, medical diplomas being quite unknown in China. Doctors’ fees are, by a pleasant fiction, called “horse-money;” and all prescriptions are made up by the local apothecary, never by the physician himself.
CXLI. SNOW IN SUMMER
ON the 6th day of the 7th moon of the year Ting-Hai (1647) there was a heavy fall of snow at Soochow. The people were in a great state of consternation at this, and went off to the temple of the Great Prince to pray. Then the spirit moved one of them to say, “You now address me as Your Honour. Make it Your Excellency, and, though I am but a lesser deity, it may be well worth your while to do so.” Thereupon the people began to use the latter term, and the snow stopped at once; from [p. 433] which I infer that flattery is just as pleasant to divine as to mortal ears.3
1 This would be exactly at the hottest season.
2 The Jupiter Pluvius of the neighbourhood,
3 A sneer at the superstitious custom of praying for good or bad weather, which obtains in China from the Son of Heaven himself down to the lowest agriculturist whose interests are involved. Droughts, floods, famines, and pestilences are alike set down to the anger of Heaven, to be appeased only by prayer and repentance.
AT Ch‘ang-shan there lived a man, named Wang Jui-t‘ing, who understood the art of planchette. He called himself [p. 434] a disciple of Lü Tung-ping and some one said he was probably that worthy’s crane. At his séances the subjects were always literary—essays, poetry, and so on. The well-known scholar, Li Chili, thought very highly of him, and availed himself of his aid on more than one occasion; so that by degrees the literati generally also patronised him. His responses to questions of doubt or difficulty were remarkable for their reasonableness; matters of mere good or bad fortune he did not care to enter into.
In 1631, just after the examination at Chi-nan, a number of the candidates requested Mr. Wang to tell them how they would stand on the list; and after having examined their essays, he proceeded to pass his opinion on their merits.3 Among the rest there happened to be one who was very intimate with another candidate, not present, whose name was Li Pien; and who, being an enthusiastic student and a deep thinker, was confidently expected to appear among the successful few. Accordingly, the friend submitted Mr. Li’s essay for inspection; and in a few minutes two characters appeared on the sand—namely, “Number one.” After a short interval this sentence followed:—“The decision given just now had reference to Mr. Li’s essay simply as an essay. Mr. Li’s destiny is darkly obscured, and he will suffer accordingly. It is strange, indeed, that a man’s literary powers and his destiny should thus be out of harmony.4 Surely the Examiner will judge of him by his essay;—but stay: I will go and see how matters stand.” Another pause ensued, and then these words were written down:—“I have been over to the Examiner’s yarnen, and have found a pretty state of things going on; instead of reading the candidates’ papers himself; he has handed them over to his clerks, some half-dozen illiterate fellows who purchased their own degrees, [p. 435] and who, in their previous existence, had no status what-ever,—‘hungry devils’ begging their bread in all directions; and who, after eight hundred years passed in the murky gloom of the infernal regions, have lost all discrimination, like men long buried in a cave and suddenly transferred to the light of day. Among them may be one or two who have risen above their former selves, but the odds are against an essay falling into the hands of one of these.” The young men then begged to know if there was any method by which such an evil might be counteracted; to which the planchette replied that there was, but, as it was universally understood, there was no occasion for asking the question.
Thereupon they went off and told Mr. Li, who was so much distressed at the prediction that he submitted his essay to His Excellency Sun Tzŭ-mei, one of the finest scholars of the day. This gentleman examined it, and was so pleased with its literary merit that he told Li he was quite sure to pass, and the latter thought no more about the planchette prophecy. However, when the list came out, there he was down in the fourth class; and this so much disconcerted His Excellency Mr. Sun, that he went carefully through the essay again for fear lest any blemishes might have escaped his attention. Then he cried out, “Well, I have always thought this Examiner to be a scholar; he can never have made such a mistake as this; it must be the fault of some of his drunken assistants, who don’t know the mere rudiments of composition.”
This fulfilment of the prophecy raised Mr. Wang very high in the estimation of the candidates, who forthwith went and burned incense and invoked the spirit of the planchette, which at once replied in the following terms:—“Let not Mr. Li be disheartened by temporary failure. Let him rather strive to improve himself still further, and next year he may be among the first on the list.” Li carried out these injunctions and after a time the story reached the ears of the Examiner, who gratified Li by making a public acknowledgment that there had been some miscarriage of justice at the examination; and the following year he was passed high up on the list.6
1 Planchette was in full swing in China at the date of the composition of these stories, more than 200 years ago, and remains so at the present day. The character chi, used here and elsewhere for Planchette, is defined in the Shuo Wên, a Chinese dictionary, published A.D. 100, “to inquire by divination on doubtful topics,” no mention being made of the particular manner in which responses are obtained. For the purpose of writing from personal experience, I once attended a séance at a temple in Amoy, and witnessed the whole performance. After much delay, I was requested to write on a slip of paper “any question I might have to put to the God;” and, accordingly, I took pencil and wrote down, “A humble suppliant ventures to inquire if he will win the Manila lottery.” This question was then placed upon the altar, at the feet of the God and shortly afterwards two respectable-looking Chinamen, not priests, approached a small table covered with sand, and each seized one arm of a forked piece of wood, at the fork of which was a stumpy end, at right angles to the plane of the arms. Immediately the attendants began burning quantities of joss-paper, while the two performers whirled the instrument round and round at a rapid rate, its vertical point being all the time pressed down upon the table of sand. All of a sudden the whirling movement stopped, and the point of the instrument rapidly traced a character in the sand which was at once identified by several of the bystanders, and forthwith copied down by a clerk in attendance. The whirling movement was then continued until a similar pause was made and another character appeared and so on, until I had four lines of correctly-rhymed Chinese verse, each line consisting of seven characters. The following is an almost word-for-word translation:
“The pulse of human nature throbs from England to Cathay,
And gambling mortals ever love to swell their gains by play;
For gold in this vile world of ours is everywhere a prize—
A thousand taels shall meet the prayer that on this altar lies.”
As the question is not concealed from view, all that is necessary for such a hollow deception is a quick-witted versifier who can put together a poetical response stans pede in uno. But in such matters the unlettered masses of China are easily outwitted, and are a profitable source of income to the more astute of their fellow-countrymen.
2 A recluse who flourished in the eighth century of our era, and who, for his devotion to the Taoist religion, was subsequently canonised as one of the Eight Immortals. He is generally represented as riding on a crane.
3 That is, by means of the planchette-table.
4 Our author was here evidently thinking of his own unlucky fate.
5 See No. CXXXI., note 4.
6 See No. LXXV., note I.
CXLIII. FRIENDSHIP WITH FOXES
A CERTAIN man had an enormous stack of straw, as big as a hill, in which his servants, taking what was daily required for use, had made quite a hole. In this hole a fox fixed his abode, and would often show himself to the master of the house under the form of an old man. One day the latter invited the master to walk into the cave, which he at first declined, but accepted on being pressed by the fox; and when he got inside, lo! he saw a long suite of handsome apartments. They then sat down, and exquisitely perfumed tea and wine were brought; but the place was so gloomy that there was no difference between night and day. By-and-by, the entertainment being over, the guest took his leave; and on looking back the beautiful rooms and their contents had all disappeared.
The old man himself was in the habit of going away in the evening and returning with the first streaks of morning; and as no one was able to follow him, the master of the house asked him one day whither he went. To this he replied that a friend invited him to take wine; and then the master begged to be allowed to accompany him, a proposal to which the old man very reluctantly consented. However, he seized the master by the arm, and away they went as though riding on the wings of the wind; and, in about the time it takes to cook a pot of millet, they reached a city, and walked into a restaurant, where there were a number of people drinking together and making a great noise. The old man led his companion to a gallery above, from which they could look down on the feasters below; and he himself went down and brought away from the tables all kinds of nice food and wine, without appearing to be seen or noticed by any of the company. After awhile a man dressed in red garments came forward and laid upon the table some dishes of cumquats; and the master at once requested the old man to go down and get him some of these. “Ah,” replied the latter, “that is an upright man: I cannot approach him.” Thereupon the master said to [p. 437] himself, “By thus seeking the companionship of a fox, I then am deflected from the true course. Henceforth I, too, will be an upright man.”
No sooner had he formed this resolution, than he suddenly lost all control over his body, and fell from the gallery down among the revellers below. These gentlemen were much astonished by his unexpected descent; and he himself, looking up, saw there was no gallery to the house, but only a large beam upon which he had been sitting. He now detailed the whole of the circumstances, and those present made up a purse for him to pay his travelling expenses; for he was at Yu-t‘ai—one thousand li from home.
1 Literally, “golden oranges.” These are skilfully preserved by the Cantonese, and form a delicious sweetmeat for dessert,
CXLIV. THE GREAT RAT
DURING the reign of the Emperor Wan Li, the palace was troubled by the presence of a huge rat, quite as big as a cat, which ate up all the cats that were set to catch it. Just then it chanced that among the tribute offerings sent by some foreign State was a lion-cat, as white as snow. This cat was accordingly put into the room where the rat usually appeared; and, the door being closely shut, a secret watch was kept. By-and-by the rat came out of its hole and rushed at the cat, which turned and fled, finally jumping up on the table. The rat followed, upon which the cat jumped down; and thus they went on up and down for some time. Those who were watching said the cat was afraid and of no use; however, in a little while the rat began to jump less briskly, and soon after squatted down out of breath. Then the cat rushed at it, and, seizing the rat by the back of the neck, shook and shook while its victim squeaked and squeaked, until life was extinct. Thus they knew that the cat was not afraid, but merely waited for its adversary to be fatigued, fleeing when pursued and itself pursuing the fleeing rat. Truly, many a bad swordsman may be compared with that rat!
1 A.D. 1573-1620 the epoch of the most celebrated “blue china.”
I.—A CERTAIN village butcher, who had bought some meat at market and was returning home in the evening, suddenly came across a wolf, which followed him closely, its mouth watering at the sight of what he was carrying. The butcher drew his knife and drove the animal off; and then reflecting that his meat was the attraction, he determined to hang it up in a tree and fetch it the next morning. This he accordingly did, and the wolf followed him no further; but when he went at daylight to recover his property, he saw something hanging up in the tree resembling a human corpse. It turned out to be the wolf, which, in its efforts to get at the meat, had been caught on the meat-hook like a fish; and as the skin of a wolf was just then worth ten ounces of silver, the butcher found himself possessed of quite a little capital. Here we have a laughable instance of the result of “climbing trees to catch fish.”1
II.—A butcher, while travelling alone at night, was sore pressed by a wolf, and took refuge in an old mat shed which had been put up for the watchman of the crops. There he lay, while the wolf sniffed at him from outside, and at length thrust in one of its paws from underneath. This the butcher seized hold of at once, and held it firmly, so that the wolf couldn’t stir; and then, having no other weapon at hand, he took a small knife he had with him and slit the skin underneath the wolf’s paw. He now proceeded to blow into it, as butchers blow into pork; 2 and after vigorously blowing for some time, he found that the wolf had ceased to struggle; upon which he went outside and saw the animal lying on the ground, swelled up to the size of a cow, and unable to bend its legs or close its open mouth. Thereupon he threw it across his shoulders and carried it off home. However, such a feat as this could only be accomplished by a butcher.
1 A satirical remark of Mencius (Book I.), used by the sage when combating the visionary projects of a monarch of antiquity.
2 This disgusting process is too frequently performed by native butchers at the present day, in order to give their meat a more tempting appearance. Water is also blown in through a tube, to make it heavier and inexperienced housekeepers are often astonished to find how light ducks and geese become after being cooked, not knowing that the fraudulent poulterer had previously stuffed their throats as full as possible of sand.
CXLVI. SINGULAR VERDICT
A SERVANT in the employ of a Mr. Sun was sleeping alone one night, when all of a sudden he was arrested and carried before the tribunal of the Ruler of Purgatory. “This is not the right man,” cried His Majesty, and immediately sent him back. However, after this the servant was afraid to sleep on that bed again, and took up his quarters elsewhere. But another servant, named Kuo Ngan, seeing the vacant place, went and occupied it. A third servant, named Li Lu, who had an old standing grudge against the first, stole up to the bed that same night with a knife in his hand, and killed Kuo Ngan in mistake for his enemy. Kuo’s father at once brought the case before the magistrate of the place, pleading that the murdered man was his only son on whom he depended for his living; and the magistrate decided that Kuo was to take Li Lu in the place of his dead son, much to the discomfiture of the old man. Truly the descent of the first servant into Purgatory was not so marvellous as the magistrate’s decision!
1 This was the man whose destiny it was really to die just then, and appear before the Ruler of Purgatory.
CXLVII. THE GRATEFUL DOG
A CERTAIN trader who had been doing business at Wu-hu and was returning home with the large profits he had made, saw on the river-bank a butcher tying up a dog.1 He bought the animal for much more than its value, and carried it along with him in his boat. Now the boatman had formerly been a bandit; and, tempted by his passenger’s [p. 440] wealth, ran the boat among the rushes, and, drawing a knife, prepared to slay him. The trader begged the man to leave him a whole skin;2 so the boatman wrapped him up in a carpet and threw him into the river. The dog, on seeing what was done, whined piteously, and, jumping into the river, seized the bundle with his teeth and did his best to keep the trader above water until at length a shallow spot was reached. The animal then succeeded by continuous barking in attracting the attention of some people on the bank, and they hauled the bundle out of the river, and released the trader, who was still alive.
The latter asked to be taken back to Wu-hu, where he might look out for the robber boatman; but just as he was about to start, lo the dog was missing. The trader was much distressed at this; and after spending some days at Wu-hu without being able to find, among the forest of masts collected there, the particular boat he wanted, he was on the point of returning home with a friend, when suddenly the dog reappeared, and seemed by its barking to invite its master to follow in a certain direction. This the trader did, until at length the dog jumped on a boat and seized one of the boatmen by the leg. No beating could make the animal let go; and on looking closely at the man, the trader saw he was the identical boatman who had robbed and tried to murder him. He had changed his clothes and also his boat, so that at first he was not recognisable; he was now, however, arrested, and the whole of the money was found in his boat.
To think that a dog could show gratitude like that! Truly there are not a few persons who would be put to shame by that faithful animal.3
1 The city of Canton boasts several “cat and dog” restaurants; but the consumption of this kind of food is much less universal than is generally supposed.
2 Not in our sense of the term. It was not death, but decapitation, or even mutilation, from which the trader begged to be spared. See No. LXXII., note 6.
3 The Chinese dog is usually an ill-fed, barking cur, without one redeeming trait in its character. Valued as a guardian of house and property, this animal does not hold the same social position as with us; its very name is a byword of reproach; and the people of Tongking explain their filthy custom of blackening the teeth on the ground that a dog’s teeth are white. [p. 441]
CXLVIII. THE GREAT TEST
BEFORE Mr. Yang Ta-hung was known to fame, he had already acquired some reputation as a scholar in his own part of the country, and felt convinced himself that his was to be no mean destiny. When the list of successful candidates at the examination was brought to where he lived, he was in the middle of dinner, and rushed out with his mouth full to ask if his name was there or not; and on hearing that it was not, he experienced such a revulsion of feeling that what he then swallowed stuck fast like a lump in his chest and made him very ill. His friends tried to appease him by advising him to try at the further examination of the rejected, and when he urged that he had no money, they subscribed ten ounces of silver and started him on his way.
That night he dreamt that a man appeared to him and said, “Ahead of you there is one who can cure your complaint: beseech him to aid you.” The man then added
A tune on the flute ‘neath the riverside willow
Oh, show no regret when ‘tis cast to the billow!
Next day, Mr. Yang actually met a Taoist priest sitting beneath a willow tree; and, making him a bow, asked him to prescribe for his malady. “You have come to the wrong person,” replied the priest, smiling; “I cannot cure diseases; but had you asked me for a tune on the flute, I could have possibly helped you.” Then Mr. Yang knew that his dream was being fulfilled; and going down on his knees offered the priest all the money he had. The priest took it, but immediately threw it into the river, at which Mr. Yang, thinking how hardly he had come by his money, was moved to express his regret. “Aha!” cried the priest at this; “so you are not indifferent, eh? You’ll find your money all safe on the bank.” There indeed Mr. Yang found it, at which he was so much astonished that he [p. 442] addressed the priest as though he had been an angel. “I am no angel,” said the priest, “but here comes one;” whereupon Mr. Yang looked behind him, and the priest seized the opportunity to give him a slap on the back, crying out at the same time, “You worldly-minded fellow!” This blow brought up the lump of food that had stuck in his chest, and he felt better at once; but when he looked round the priest had disappeared.2
1 A celebrated scholar and statesman, who flourished towards the close of the Ming dynasty, and distinguished himself by his impeachment of the powerful eunuch, Wei Chung-hsien,—a dangerous step to take in those eunuch-ridden times.
2 Mr. Yang was a man of tried virtue, and had he been able to tolerate the loss of his money, the priest would have given him, not merely a cure for the bodily ailment under which he was sufering, but a knowledge of those means by which he might have obtained the salvation of his soul, and have enrolled himself among the ranks of the Taoist Immortals. “To those, however,” remarks the author, “who lament that Mr. Yang was too worldly-minded to secure this great prize, I reply, ‘Better one more good man on earth, than an extra angel in heaven.’”
CXLIX. THE ALCHEMIST
AT Ch’ang-ngan there lived a scholar named Chia Tzŭ-lung, who one day noticed a very refined-looking stranger; and, on making inquiries about him, learnt that he was a Mr. Chên who had taken lodgings hard by. Accordingly, next day Chia called and sent in his card, but did not see Chên, who happened to be out at the time. The same thing occurred thrice, and at length Chia engaged some one to watch. and let him know when Mr. Chên was at home. However, even then the latter would not come forth to receive his guest, and Chia had to go in and rout him out.
The two now entered into conversation, and soon became mutually charmed with each other and by-and-by Chia sent off a servant to bring wine from a neighbouring wine-shop. Mr. Chên proved himself a pleasant boon companion, and when the wine was nearly finished, he went to a box and took from it some wine-cups and a large and beautiful jade tankard, into the latter of which he poured a single cup of wine, and lo! it was filled to the brim. They then proceeded to help themselves from the tankard; but how [p. 443] ever much they took out, the contents never seemed to diminish. Chia was astonished at this, and begged Mr. Chên to tell him how it was done. “Ah,” replied Mr. Chên, “I tried to avoid making your acquaintance solely because of your one bad quality—avarice. The art I practise is a secret known to the Immortals only: how can I divulge it to you?” “You do me wrong,” rejoined Chia, ‘in thus attributing avarice to me. The avaricious, indeed, are always poor.” Mr. Chên laughed, and they separated for that day; but from that time they were constantly together, and all ceremony was laid aside between them.
Whenever Chia wanted money, Mr. Chên would bring out a black stone, and, muttering a charm, would rub it on a tile or a brick, which was forthwith changed into a lump of silver. This silver he would give to Chia, and it was always just as much as he actually required, neither more nor less; and if ever the latter asked for more, Mr. Chên would rally him on the subject of avarice.
Finally, Chia determined to try and get possession of this stone; and one day, when Mr. Chên was sleeping off the fumes of a drinking-bout, he tried to extract it from his clothes. However, Chên detected him at once, and declared that they could be friends no more, and next day he left the place altogether. About a year afterwards Chia was one day wandering by the river-bank, when he saw a handsome-looking stone, marvellously like that in the possession of Mr. Chên; and he picked it up at once and carried it home with him.
A few days passed away, and suddenly Mr. Chên presented himself at Chia’s house, and explained that the stone in question possessed the property of changing anything into gold, and had been bestowed upon him long before by a certain Taoist priest, whom he had followed as a disciple. “Alas!” added he, “I got tipsy and lost it; but divination told me where it was, and if you will now restore it to me, I shall take care to repay your kindness.” “You have divined rightly,” replied Chia; “the stone is with me; but recollect, if you please, that the indigent Kuan Chung shared the wealth of his friend Pao Shu.” At this hint Mr. Chên said he would give Chia one hundred ounces of silver; to which the latter replied that one hundred ounces was a fair offer, but that he would far sooner have Mr. Chên teach him the [p. 444] formula to utter when rubbing the stone on anything, so as just to try the thing once himself. Mr. Chên was afraid to do this; whereupon Chia cried out, “You are an Immortal yourself; you must know well enough that I would never deceive a friend.” So Mr. Chên was prevailed upon to teach him the formula, and then Chia would have tried the art upon the immense stone washing-block which was lying near at hand had not Mr. Chên seized his arm and begged. him not to do anything so outrageous. Chia then picked up half a brick and laid it on the washing-block, saying to Mr. Chên, “This little piece is not too much, surely?” Accordingly, Mr. Chên relaxed his hold and let Chia proceed; which he did by promptly ignoring the half brick and quickly rubbing the stone on the washing-block. Mr. Chên turned pale when he saw him do this, and made a. dash. forward to get hold of the stone; but it was too late, the washing-block was already a solid mass of silver, and Chia quietly handed him back the stone, “Alas! alas!” cried Mr. Chên in despair, “what is to be done now? For having. thus irregularly conferred wealth upon a mortal,4 Heaven will surely punish me. Oh, if you would save me, give away one hundred coffins and one hundred suits of wadded clothes.” “My friend,” replied Chia, “my object in getting money was not to hoard it up like a miser.”
Mr. Chên was delighted at this and during the next three years Chia engaged in trade, taking care to be all the time fulfilling his promise to Mr. Chên. At the expiration of that time Mr. Chên himself reappeared, and, grasping Chia’s hand, said to him, “Trustworthy and noble friend, when we last parted the Spirit of Happiness impeached me before God,6 and my name was erased from the list of angels. But now that you have carried out my request, [p. 445] that sentence has accordingly been rescinded. Go on as you have begun, without ceasing.” Chia asked Mr. Chên what office he filled in heaven; to which the latter replied that he was only a fox, who, by a sinless life, had finally attained to that clear perception of the Truth which leads to immortality. Wine was then brought, and the two friends enjoyed themselves together as of old; and even when Chia had passed the age of ninety years, that fox still used to visit him from time to time.
1 Alchemy is first mentioned in Chinese history B.C. 133, and was widely cultivated in China during the Han dynasty by priests of the Taoist religion.
2 See No. XXII., note 1.
3 These are used, together with a heavy wooden bâton, by the Chinese washerman, the effect being most disastrous to a European’ wardrobe,
4 For thus interfering with the appointments of destiny.
5 To provide coffins for poor people has ever been regarded as an act of transcendent merit. The tornado at Canton in April 1878, in which several thousand lives were lost, afforded an admirable opportunity for the exercise of this form of charity—an opportunity which was very largely availed of by the benevolent.
6 For usurping its prerogative by allowing Chia to obtain unauthorised wealth.
CL. RAISING THE DEAD
MR. T‘ANG P‘ING, who took the highest degree in the year 1661, was suffering from a protracted illness, when suddenly he felt, as it were, a warm glow rising from his extremities upwards. By the time it had reached his knees, his feet were perfectly numb and without sensation; and before long his knees and the lower part of his body were similarly affected. Gradually this glow worked its way up until it attacked the heart,1 and then some painful moments ensued. Every single incident of Mr. T’ang’s life from his boyhood upwards, no matter how trivial, seemed to surge through his mind, borne along on the tide of his heart’s blood. At the revival of any virtuous act of his, he experienced a delicious feeling of peace and calm; but when any wicked deed passed before his mind, a painful disturbance took place within him, like oil boiling and fretting in a cauldron. He was quite unable to describe the pangs he suffered: however, he mentioned that he could recollect having stolen, when only seven or eight years old, some young birds from their nest, and having killed them; and for this alone, he said, boiling blood rushed through his heart during the space of an ordinary meal-time. Then when all the acts of his life had passed one after another in panorama before him, the warm glow proceeded up his throat, and, entering the brain, issued out at the top of his head like smoke from a chimney.
By-and-by Mr. T’ang’s soul escaped from his body by the same aperture, and wandered far away, forgetting all about the tenement it had [p. 446] left behind. Just at that moment a huge giant carne along, and, seizing the soul, thrust it into his sleeve, where it remained cramped and confined, huddled up with a crowd of others, until existence was almost unbearable. Suddenly Mr. T’ang reflected that Buddha alone could save him from this horrible state, and forthwith he began to call upon his holy name.2 At the third or fourth invocation he fell out of the giant’s sleeve, whereupon the latter picked him up and put him back; but this happened several times, and at length the giant, wearied of picking him up, let him lie where he was.
The soul lay there for some time, not knowing in which direction to proceed; however, it soon recollected that the land of Buddha was in the west, and westwards accordingly it began to shape its course. In a little while the soul came upon a Buddhist priest sitting by the roadside, and hastening forwards, respectfully inquired of him which was the right way. “The record of life and death for scholars,” replied the priest, “is in the hands of Wên-ch‘ang and Confucius; any application must receive the consent of both.”
The priest then directed Mr. T’ang on his way, and the latter journeyed along until he reached a Confucian temple, in which the Sage was sitting with his face to the south.4 On hearing his business, Confucius referred him on to Wên-ch‘ang; and, proceeding onwards in the direction indicated, Mr. T’ang by-and-by arrived at what seemed to be the palace of a king, within which sat Wên-ch‘ang precisely as we depict him on earth. “You are an upright man,” replied the God, in reply to Mr. T’ang’s prayer, “and are certainly entitled to a longer span of life; but by this time your mortal body has become decomposed, and unless you can secure the assistance of P‘u-sa,5 I can give you no aid.”
So Mr. T’ang set off once more, and hurried along until he came to a magnificent shrine standing in a thick grove of tall bamboos; and, entering in, he stood in the presence of the God, on whose head was the ushnisha,6 whose golden [p. 447] face was round like the full moon, and at whose side was a green willow-branch bending gracefully over the lip of a vase. Humbly Mr. Tang prostrated himself on the ground, and repeated what Wên-ch‘ang had, said to him; but P‘u-sa seemed to think it would be impossible to grant his request, until one of the Lohans who stood by cried out, “O God, Thou canst perform this miracle: take earth and make his flesh; take a sprig of willow and make his bones.” Thereupon P‘u-sa broke off a piece from the willow-branch in the vase beside him; and, pouring a little of the water upon the ground, he made clay, and, casting the whole over Mr. T’ang’s soul, bade an attendant lead the body back to the place where his coffin was.
At that instant Mr. T’ang’s family heard a groan proceeding from within his coffin, and, on rushing to it and helping out the lately-deceased man, they found he had quite recovered. He had then been dead seven days.
1 See No. XIV., note 5.
2 See No. LIV., note 3.
3 The God of Literature.
4 See No. LXXVIL, note 1.
5 See No. XXVI, note 5.
6 A fleshy protuberance on the head, which is the distinguishing mark of a Buddha.
7 The eighteen personal disciples of Shâkyamuni Buddha. Sixteen of these are Hindoos, which number was subsequently increased by the addition of two Chinese Buddhists.
AT I-chou there lived a high official named Sung, whose family were all ardent supporters of Fêng-Shui; so much so, that even the women-folk read books on the subject, and understood the principles of the science. When Mr. [p. 448] Sung died, his two sons set up separate establishments,3 and each invited to his own house geomancers from far and near, who had any reputation in their art, to select a spot for the dead man’s grave. By degrees, they had collected together as many as a hundred apiece, and every day they would scour the country round, each at the head of his own particular regiment. After about a month of this work, both sides had fixed upon a suitable position for the grave; and the geomancers engaged by one brother declared that if their spot was selected he would certainly some day be made a marquis, while the other brother was similarly informed, by his geomancers, that by adopting their choice, he would infallibly rise to the rank of Secretary of State. Thus, neither brother would give way to the other, but each set about making the grave in his own particular place,—pitching marquees, and arranging banners, and making all necessary preparations for the funeral.
Then when the coffin arrived at the point where roads branched off to the two graves, the two brothers, each leading on his own little army of geomancers, bore down upon it with a view to gaining possession of the corpse. From morn till dewy eve the battle raged; and as neither gained any advantage over the other, the mourners and friends, who had come to witness the ceremony of burial, stole away one by one and the coolies, who were carrying the coffin, after changing the poles from one shoulder to another until they were quite worn out, put the body down by the roadside, and went off home.
It then became necessary to make some protection for the coffin against the wind and rain; whereupon the elder brother immediately set about building a hut close by, in which he purposed leaving some of his attendants to keep guard; but he had no sooner begun than the younger brother followed his example; and when the elder built a second and third, the younger also built a second and third and as this went on for the space of three whole years, by the end of that time the place had become quite a little village.
By-and-by, both brothers died, one directly after the other; and then their two wives determined to cast to [p. 449] the winds the decision of each party of geomancers. Accordingly, they went together to the two spots in question; and after inspecting them carefully, declared that neither was suitable. The next step was to jointly engage another set of geomancers, who submitted for their approval several different spots, and ten days had hardly passed away before the two women had agreed upon the position for their father-in-law’s grave, which, as the wife of the younger brother prophesied, would surely give to the family a high military degree. So the body was buried, and within three years Mr. Sung’s eldest grandson, who had entered as a military cadet, actually took the corresponding degree to a literary master of arts.
[“Fêng-Shui,” adds the author, “may or may not be based upon sound principles; at any rate, to indulge a morbid belief in it is utter folly; and thus to join issue and fight while a coffin is relegated to the roadside, is hardly in accordance with the doctrines of filial piety or fraternal love. Can people believe that mere Position will improve the fortunes of their family? At any rate, that two women should have thus quietly settled the matter is certainly worthy of record.”]
1 Literally, “wind and water,” or that which cannot be seen and that which cannot be grasped. I have explained the term in my Chinese Sketches, p. 143, as “a system of geomancy, by the science of which it is possible to determine the desirability of sites,—whether of tombs, houses, or cities, from the configuration of such natural objects as rivers, trees, and hills, and to foretell with certainty the fortunes of any family, community, or individual according to the spot selected; by the art of which it is in the power of the geomancer to counteract evil influences by good ones, to transform straight and noxious outlines into undulating and propitious curves, and rescue whole districts from the devastation of flood or pestilence.”
2 As a rule, only the daughters of wealthy families receive any education to speak of.
3. A reprehensible proceeding in the eyes of all respectable Chinese, both from a moral and a practical point of view; “for when brothers fall out,” says the proverb, “strangers get an advantage over them.”
CLII. THE LINGERING DEATH
THERE was a man in our village who led an exceedingly disreputable life. One morning when he got up rather early, two men appeared, and led him away to the marketplace, where he saw a butcher hanging up half a pig. As they approached, the two men shoved him with all their might against the dead animal, and lo! his own flesh began to blend with the pork before him, while his conductors hurried off in an opposite direction. By-and-by the butcher wanted to sell a piece of his meat; and, seizing a knife, began to cut off the quantity required.. At every touch of the blade our disreputable friend experienced a severe pang, which penetrated into his very marrow; and when, at length, an old man came and haggled over the weight given him, crying out for a little bit more fat, or an extra portion [p. 450] of lean,1 then, as the butcher sliced away the pork ounce by ounce, the pain was unendurable in the extreme.
By about nine o’clock the pork was all sold, and our hero went home, whereupon his family asked him what he meant by staying in bed so late.2 He then narrated all that had taken place, and on making inquiries, they found that the pork butcher had only just come home; besides which our friend was able to tell him every pound of meat he had sold, and every slice. he had cut off. Fancy a man being put to the lingering death like this before breakfast!
1 Chinese tradesmen invariably begin by giving short weight in such transactions as these, partly in order to be in a position to gratify the customer by throwing in a trifle more and thus acquire a reputation for fair dealing.
2 It was only his soul that had left the house.
3 See No. LVI., note 12.
CLIII. DREAMING HONOURS
WANG Tzu-NGAN was a Tung-ch‘ang man, and a scholar of some repute, but unfortunate at the public examinations. On one occasion, after having been up for his master’s degree, his anxiety was very great; and when the time for the publication of the list drew near, he drank himself gloriously tipsy, and went and lay down on the bed. In a few moments a man rushed in, and cried out, “Sir! you have passed!” whereupon Wang jumped up, and. said, “Give him ten strings of cash.”1 Wang’s wife, seeing he was drunk, and wishing to keep him quiet, replied, “You go on sleeping: I’ve given him the money.”
So Wang lay down again, but before long in came another man who informed Wang that his name was among the successful candidates for the highest degree. “Why, I haven’t been up for it yet,” said Wang; “how can I have passed?” “What! you don’t mean to say you have forgotten the examination?” answered the man; and then Wang got up once more, and gave orders to present the informant with ten strings of cash. “All right,” replied his wife; [p. 451] “you go on sleeping: I’ve given him the money.”
Another short interval, and in burst a third messenger to say that Wang had been elected a member of the National Academy, and that two official servants had come to escort him thither. Sure enough there were the two servants bowing at the bedside, and accordingly Wang directed that they should be served with wine and meat, which his wife, smiling at his drunken nonsense, declared had been already done. Wang now bethought him that he should go out and receive the congratulations of the neighbours, and roared out several times to his official servants; but without receiving any answer. “Go to sleep,” said his wife, “and wait till I have fetched them;” and after awhile the servants actually came in; whereupon Wang stamped and swore at them for being such idiots as to go away.
“What! you wretched scoundrel,” cried the servants, “are you cursing us in earnest, when we are only joking with you!” At this Wang’s rage knew no bounds, and he set upon the men, and gave them a sound beating, knocking the hat of one off on to the ground. In the mêlée, he himself tumbled over, and his wife ran in to pick him up, saying, “Shame upon you, for getting so drunk as this!” “I was only punishing the servants as they deserved,,” replied Wang; “why do you call me drunk?” “Do you mean the old woman who cooks our rice and boils the water for your foot-bath,” asked his wife, smiling, “that you talk of servants to wait upon your poverty-stricken carcase?” At this sally all the women burst out in a roar of laughter; and Wang, who was just beginning to get sober, waked up as if from a dream, and knew that there was no reality in all that had taken place.
However, he recollected the spot where the servant’s hat had fallen off, and on going thither to look for it, lo! he beheld a tiny official hat, no larger than a wine-cup, lying there behind the door. They were all much astonished at this, and Wang himself cried out, “Formerly people were thus tricked by devils; and now foxes are playing the fool with me!”2
1 See No. CXXIII., note 2.
2 A common saying is, “Foxes in the north; devils in the south,” as illustrative of the folk-lore of these two great divisions of China. [p. 452]
CLIV. THE SHE-WOLF AND THE HERD-BOYS
TWO herd-boys went up among the hills and found a wolf’s lair with two little wolves in it. Seizing each of them one, they forthwith climbed two trees which stood there, at a distance of forty or fifty paces apart. Before long the old wolf came back, and, finding her cubs gone, was in a great state of distress. Just then, one of the herd-boys pinched his cub and made it squeak; whereupon the mother ran angrily towards the tree whence the sound proceeded, and tried to climb up it. At this juncture, the boy in the other tree pinched the other cub, and thereby diverted the wolf’s attention in that direction. But no sooner had she reached the foot of the second tree, than the boy who had first pinched his cub did so again, and away ran the old wolf back to the tree in which her other young one was. Thus they went on time after time, until the mother was dead tired, and lay down exhausted on the ground.
Then, when after some time she showed no signs of moving, the herd-boys crept stealthily down, and found that the wolf was already stiff and cold. And truly, it is better to meet a blustering foe with his hand upon his sword-hilt, by retiring within doors, and leaving him to fret his violence away unopposed; for such is but the behaviour of brute beasts, of which men thus take advantage.
CLV. ADULTERATION PUNISHED
AT Chin-ling there lived a seller of spirits, who was in the habit of adulterating his liquor with water and a certain drug, the effect of which was that even a few cups would make the strongest-headed man as drunk as a jelly-fish.2 Thus his shop acquired a reputation for having a good article on sale, and by degrees he became a rich man. One [p. 453] morning, on getting up, he found a fox lying drunk alongside of the spirit vat; and tying its legs together, he was about to fetch a knife, when suddenly the fox waked up, and began pleading for its life, promising in return to do anything the spirit-merchant might require. The latter then released the animal, which instantly changed into the form of a human being. Now, at that very time, the wife of a neighbour was suffering under fox influence, and this recently-transformed animal confessed to the spirit-merchant that it was he who had been troubling her. Thereupon the spirit-merchant, who knew the lady in question to be a celebrated beauty, begged his fox friend to secretly introduce him to her.
After raising some objections, the fox at length consented, and conducted the spirit-merchant to a cave, where he gave him a suit of serge clothes, which he said had belonged to his late brother, and in which he told him he could easily go. The merchant put them on, and returned home, when, to his great delight, he observed that no one could see him, but that if he changed into his ordinary clothes everybody could see him as before. Accordingly he set off with the fox for his neighbour’s house; and, when they arrived, the first thing they beheld was a charm on the wall, like a great wriggling dragon. At this the fox was greatly alarmed, and said, “That scoundrel of a priest! I can’t go any farther.” He then ran off home, leaving the spirit-merchant to proceed by himself. The latter walked quietly in, to find that the dragon on the wall was a real one, and preparing to fly at him, so he too turned, and ran away as fast as his legs could carry him. The fact was that the family had engaged a priest to drive away the fox influence; and he, not being able to go at the moment himself, gave them this charm to stick up on the wall.
The following day the priest himself came, and, arranging an altar, proceeded to exorcise the fox. All the villagers crowded round to see, and among others was the spirit-merchant, who, in the middle of the ceremony, suddenly changed colour, and hurried out of the front door, where he fell on the ground in the shape of a fox, having his clothes still hanging about his arms and legs. The bystanders would have killed him on the spot, but his wife begged them to spare him; and the priest let her take the fox home, where in a few days it died. [p. 454]
1 In no country in the world is adulteration more extensively practised than in China, the only formal check upon it being a religious one—the dread of punishment in the world below.
2 The text has here a word (literally, “mud “) explained to be the name of a boneless aquatic creature, which on being removed from the water lies motionless like a lump of mud. The common term for a jelly-fish is shui-mu, “water-mother.”
CLVI. A CHINESE SOLOMON
IN our district there lived two men, named Hu Ch‘êng and Fêng Ngan, between whom there existed an old feud. The former, however, was the stronger of the two; and accordingly Fêng disguised his feelings under a specious appearance of friendship, though Hu never placed much faith in his professions. One day they were drinking together, and being both of them rather the worse for liquor, they began to brag of the various exploits they had achieved. “What care I for poverty,” cried Hu, “when I can lay a hundred ounces of silver on the table at a moment’s notice?” Now Fêng was well aware of the state of Hu’s affairs, and did not hesitate to scout such pretensions, until Hu further informed him in perfect seriousness that the day before he had met a merchant travelling with a large sum of money and had tumbled him down a dry well by the wayside; in confirmation of which he produced several hundred ounces of silver, which really belonged to a brother-in-law on whose behalf he was managing some negotiations for the purchase of land.
When they separated, Fêng went off and gave information to the magistrate of the place, who summoned Hu to answer to the charge. Hu then told the actual facts of the case, and his brother-in-law and the owner of the land in question corroborated his statement. However, on examining the dry well by letting a man down with.a rope round him, lo! there was a headless corpse lying at the bottom. Hu was horrified at this, and called Heaven to witness that he was innocent; whereupon the magistrate ordered him twenty or thirty blows on the mouth for lying in the presence of such irrefragable proof, and cast him into the condemned cell, where he lay loaded with chains.
Orders were issued that the corpse was not to be removed, and a notification was made to the people, calling upon the relatives of the deceased to come forward and claim the body. Next day a woman appeared, and said deceased was her husband; that his name was Ho, and that he was proceeding on business with a large sum of money about him when he was killed by Hu. The magistrate observed that possibly the body in the well might not be that of her [p. 455] husband, to which the woman replied that she felt sure it was; and accordingly the corpse was brought up and examined, when the woman’s story was found to be correct. She herself did not go near the body, but stood at a little distance making the most doleful lamentations; until at length the magistrate said, “We have got the murderer, but the body is not complete; you go home and wait until the head has been discovered, when life shall be given for life.”
He then summoned Hu before him, and told him to produce the head by the next day under penalty of severe torture; but Hu only wandered about with the guard sent in charge of him, crying and lamenting his fate, but finding nothing. The instruments of torture were then produced, and preparations were made as if for torturing Hu; however, they were not applied,1 and finally the magistrate sent him back to prison, saying, “I suppose that in your hurry you didn’t notice where you dropped the head.” The woman was then brought before him again; and on learning that her relatives consisted only of one uncle, the magistrate remarked, “A young woman like you, left alone in the world, will hardly be able to earn a livelihood. [Here she burst into tears and implored the magistrate’s pity.] The punishment of the guilty man has been already decided upon, but until we get the head, the case cannot be closed. As soon as it is closed, the best thing you can do is to marry again. A young woman like yourself should not be in and out of a police court.” The woman thanked the magistrate and retired; and the latter issued a notice to the people, calling upon them to make a search for the head.
On the following day, a man named Wang, a fellow villager of the deceased, reported that he had found the missing head; and his report proving to be true, he was rewarded with 1000 cash. The magistrate now summoned the woman’s uncle above mentioned, and told him that the case was complete, but that as it involved such an important matter as the life of a human being, there would necessarily be some delay in closing it for good and all.2 [p. 456] “Meanwhile,” added the magistrate, “your niece is a young woman and has no children; persuade her to marry again and so keep herself out of these troubles, and never mind what people may say.”3 The uncle at first refused to do this; upon which the magistrate was obliged to threaten him, until he was ultimately forced to consent.
At this, the woman appeared before the magistrate to thank him for what he had done; whereupon the latter gave out that any person who was willing to take the woman to wife was to present himself at his yamên. Immediately afterwards an application was made—by the very man who had found the head. The magistrate then sent for the woman and asked her if she could say who was the real murderer; to which she replied that Hu Ch‘êng had done the deed. “No!” cried the magistrate; “it was not he. It was you and this man here. [Here both began loudly to protest their innocence.] I have long known this; but, fearing to leave the smallest loophole for escape, I have tarried thus long in elucidating the circumstances. How [to the woman], before the corpse was removed from the well, were you so certain that it was your husband’s body? Because you already knew he was dead. And does a trader who has several hundred ounces of silver about him dress as shabbily as your husband was dressed? And you [to the man], how did you manage to find the head so readily? Because you were in a hurry to marry the woman.”
The two culprits stood there as pale as death, unable to utter a word in their defence; and on the application of torture both confessed the crime. For this man, the woman’s paramour, had killed her husband, curiously enough, about the time of Hu Ch‘êng’s braggart joke. He was accordingly released, but Fêng suffered the penalty of a false accuser; he was severely bambooed, and banished for three years. The case was thus brought to a close without the wrongful punishment of a single person. [p. 457]
1 See No. LXXIII, note 2.
2 There is a widespread belief that human life in China is held at a cheap rate. This may be accounted for by the fact that death is the legal punishment for many crimes not considered capital in the West; and by the severe measures that are always taken in cases of rebellion, when the innocent and guilty are often indiscriminately massacred. In times of tranquillity, however, this is not the case; and the execution of a criminal is surrounded by a number of formalities which go far to prevent the shedding of innocent blood. The Hsi yüan lu (see No. XIV., note 8) opens with the words, “There is nothing more important than human life.”
3 See No. LXVII., note 1.
CLVII. THE RUKH
Two herons built their nest under one of the ornaments on the roof of a temple at Tientsin. The accumulated dust of years in the shrine below concealed a huge serpent, having the diameter of a washing-basin; and whenever the herons’ young were ready to fly, the reptile proceeded to the nest and swallowed every one of them, to the great distress of the bereaved parents. This took place three years consecutively, and people thought the birds would build there no more.
However, the following year they came again; and when the time was drawing nigh for their young ones to take wing, away they flew, and remained absent for nearly three days. On their return, they went straight to the nest, and began amidst much noisy chattering to feed their young ones as usual. Just then the serpent crawled up to reach his prey; and as he was nearing the nest the parent-birds flew out and screamed loudly in mid-air. Immediately, there was heard a mighty flapping of wings, and darkness came over the face of the earth, which the astonished spectators now perceived to be caused by a huge bird obscuring the light of the sun. Down it swooped with the speed of wind or falling rain, and, striking the serpent with its talons, tore its head off at a blow, bringing down at the same time several feet of the masonry of the temple.
Then it flew away, the herons accompanying it as though escorting a guest. The nest too had come down, and of the two young birds one was killed by the fall; the other was taken by the priests and put in the bell tower, whither the old birds returned to feed it until thoroughly fledged, when it spread its wings and was gone.1 [p. 458]
1 This story is inserted chiefly in illustration of the fact that all countries have a record of some enormous bird such as the rukh of The Arabian Nights.
CLVIII. THE FAITHFUL GANDER
A SPORTSMAN of Tientsin, having snared a wild goose, was followed to his home by the gander, which flew round and round him in great distress, and only went away at nightfall. Next day, when the sportsman went out, there was the bird again; and at length it alighted quite close to his feet. He was on the point of seizing it when suddenly it stretched out its neck and disgorged a piece of pure gold; whereupon, the sportsman, understanding what the bird meant, cried out, “I see! this is to ransom your mate, eh?” Accordingly, he at once released the goose, and the two birds flew away with many expressions of their mutual joy, leaving to the sportsman nearly three ounces of pure gold.
Can, then, mere birds have such feelings as these? Of all sorrows there is no sorrow like separation from those we love; and it seems that the same holds good even of dumb animals.
1 See No. XXXV., note 3.
CLIX. THE ELEPHANTS AND THE LION
A HUNTSMAN of Kuang-si, who was out on the hills with his bow and arrows, lay down to rest awhile, and unwittingly fell fast asleep. As he was slumbering, an elephant came up, and, coiling his trunk around the man, carried him off. The latter gave himself up for dead; but before long the elephant had deposited him at the foot of a tall tree, and had summoned up a whole herd of comrades, who crowded about the huntsman as though asking his assistance. The elephant who had brought him went and lay down under the tree, and first looked up into its branches and then looked down at the man, apparently requesting him to get up into the tree. So the latter jumped on the elephant’s back and then clambered up to the topmost branch, not knowing what he was expected to do next.
By-and-by a lion arrived, and from among the frightened herd [p. 459] chose out a fat elephant, which he seemed as though about to devour. The others remained there trembling, not daring to run away, but looking wistfully up into the tree. Thereupon the huntsman drew an arrow from his quiver and shot the lion dead, at which all the elephants below made him a grateful obeisance. He then descended, when the elephant lay down again and invited him to mount by pulling at his clothes with its trunk. This he did, and was carried to a place where the animal scratched the ground with its foot, and revealed to him a vast number of old tusks. He jumped down and collected them in a bundle, after which the elephant conveyed him to a spot whence he easily found his way home.2
1 The term here used refers to a creature which partakes rather of the fabulous than of the real. The Kuang yün says it is “a kind of lion;” but other authorities describe it as a horse. Its favourite food is tiger-flesh. Incense-burners are often made after the “lion” pattern and called by this name, the smoke of the incense issuing from the mouth of the animal, like our own gargoyles.
2 Compare the elephant story in the seventh voyage of Es-Sindibàd of the Sea (Lane’s Arabian Nights, vol. iii., p. 77).
CLX. THE HIDDEN TREASURE
LI YÜEH-SHÊNG was a second son of a rich old man who used to bury his money, and who was known to his fellow-townsmen as “Old Crocks.” One day the father fell sick, and summoned his sons to divide the property between them.1 He gave four-fifths to the elder and only one-fifth to the younger, saying to the latter, “It is not that I love your brother more than I love you: I have other money stored away, and when you are alone I will hand that over to you.”
A few days afterwards the old man grew worse, and Yüeh-shêng, afraid that his father might die at any moment, seized an opportunity of seeing him alone to ask about the money that he himself was to receive. “All,” replied the dying man, “the sum of our joys and of our sorrows is determined by fate. You are now happy in the possession of a virtuous wife, and have no right to an increase of wealth.” For, as a matter of fact, this second son was married to a lady from the Ch‘ê family whose virtue equalled that of any of the heroines of history: hence his father’s remark. Yüeh-shêng, however, was not satisfied, and implored to be [p. 460] allowed to have the money; and at length the old man got angry and said, “You are only just turned twenty; you have known none of the trials of life, and were I to give a thousand ounces of gold, it would soon be all spent. Go! and, until you have drunk the cup of bitterness to its dregs, expect no money from me.” Now Yüeh-shêng was a filial son, and when his father spoke thus he did not venture to say any more, and hoped for his speedy recovery, that he might have a chance of coaxing him to comply with his request.
But the old man got worse and worse, and at length died; whereupon the elder brother took no trouble about the funeral ceremonies, leaving it all to the younger, who, being an open-handed fellow, made no difficulties about the expense. The latter was also fond of seeing a great deal of company at his house, and his wife often had to get three or four meals a day ready for guests; and, as her husband did very little towards looking after his affairs, and was further sponged upon by all the needy ones of the neighbourhood, they were soon reduced to a state of poverty. The elder brother helped them to keep body and soul together, but he died shortly afterwards, and this resource was cut off from them.
Then, by dint of borrowing in the spring and repaying in the autumn,2 they still managed to exist, until at last it came to parting with their land, and they were left actually destitute. At that juncture their eldest son died, followed soon after by his mother; and Yüeh-shêng was left almost by himself in the world.
He now married the widow of a sheep-dealer, who had a little capital; and she was very strict with him, and wouldn’t let him waste time and money with his friends. One night his father appeared to him and said, “My son, you have drained your cup of bitterness to the dregs, You shall now have the money. I will bring it to you.” When Yüeh-shêng woke up, he thought it was merely a poor man’s dream; but the next day, while laying the foundations of a wall, he did come upon a quantity of gold. And then he knew what his father had meant by “when you are alone;” for of those about him at that time, more than half were gone.
1 All sons, whether by wife or concubine, share equally, and in preference to daughters, even though there should be a written will in favour of the latter, the power of bequeathing by will, except as regards trifling matters of detail, being practically non-existent.
2 This has reference to the “seed-time and harvest.” [p. 461]
CLXI. THE BOATMEN OF LAO-LUNG
WHEN His Excellency Chu was Viceroy of Kuang-tong, there were constant complaints from the traders of mysterious disappearances; sometimes as many as three or four of them disappearing at once and never being seen or heard of again. At length the number of such cases, filed of course against some person or persons unknown, multiplied to such an extent that they were simply put on record, and but little notice was further taken of them by the local officials. Thus, when His Excellency entered upon his duties, he found more than a hundred plaints of the kind, besides innumerable cases in which the missing man’s relatives lived at a distance and had not instituted proceedings.
The mystery so preyed upon the new Viceroy’s mind that he lost all appetite for food; and when, finally, all the inquiries he had set on foot resulted in no clue to an elucidation of these strange disappearances, then His Excellency proceeded to wash and purify himself, and, having notified the Municipal God,1 he took to fasting and sleeping in his study alone. While he was in ecstasy, lo! an official entered, holding a tablet in his hand, and said that he had come from the Municipal temple with the following instructions to the Viceroy:—
Snow on the whiskers descending:
Live clouds falling from heaven:
Wood in water buoyed up:
In the wall an opening effected.
The official then retired, and the Viceroy waked up; but it was only after a night of tossing and turning that he hit upon what seemed to him the solution of the enigma. “The first line,” argued he, “must signify old [lao in Chinese]; the second refers to the dragon [lung in Chinese]; the third is clearly a boat; and the fourth a door [here taken in its secondary sense—man].”
Now, to the east of the province, not far from the pass by which traders from the north connect their line of trade with the southern [p. 462] seas, there was actually a ferry known as the Old Dragon (Lao-lung); and thither the Viceroy immediately despatched a force to arrest those employed in carrying people backwards and forwards. More than fifty men were caught, and they all confessed at once without the application of torture. In fact, they were bandits under the guise of boatmen;3 and after beguiling passengers on board, they would either drug them or burn stupefying incense until they were senseless, finally cutting them open and putting a large stone inside to make the body sink.
Such was the horrible story, the discovery of which brought throngs to the Viceroy’s door to serenade him in terms of gratitude and praise.4
1 See No. I., note 1.
2 Clouds being naturally connected in every Chinaman’s mind with these fabulous creatures, the origin of which has been traced by some to waterspouts. See No. LXXXI., note 2.
3 “Boat-men” is the solution of the last two lines of the enigma.
4 The author actually supplies a list of the persons who signed a congratulatory petition to the Viceroy on the arrest and punishment of the criminals.
CLXII. THE PIOUS SURGEON
A CERTAIN veterinary surgeon, named Hou, was carrying food to his field labourers, when suddenly a whirlwind arose in his path. Hou seized a spoon and poured out a libation of gruel, whereupon the wind immediately dropped. On another occasion, he was wandering about the municipal temple when he noticed an image of Liu Ch‘üan presenting the melon,1 in whose eye was a great splotch of dirt. “Dear me, Sir Liu!” cried Hou, “who has been ill-using you like this?” He then scraped away the dirt with his finger-nail, and passed on.
Some years afterwards, as he was lying down very ill, two lictors walked in and carried him off to a yamên, where they insisted on his bribing them heavily. Hou was at his wit’s end what to do; but just [p. 463] at that moment a personage dressed in green robes came forth, who was greatly astonished at seeing him there, and asked what it all meant. Our hero at once explained; whereupon the man in green turned upon the lictors and abused them for not showing proper respect to Mr. Hou.
Meanwhile a drum sounded like the roll of thunder, and the man in green told Hou that it was for the morning session, and that he would have to attend. Leading Hou within, he put him in his proper place, and, promising to inquire into the charge against him, went forward and whispered a few words to one of the clerks. “Oh,” said the latter, advancing and making a bow to the veterinary surgeon, “yours is a trifling matter. We shall merely have to confront you with a horse, and then you can go home again.”
Shortly afterwards, Hou’s case was called; upon which he went forward and knelt down, as did also a horse which was prosecuting him. The judge now informed Hou that he was accused by the horse of having caused its death by medicines, and asked him if he pleaded guilty or not guilty. “My lord,” replied Hou, “the prosecutor was attacked by the cattle-plague, for which I treated him accordingly; and he actually recovered from the disease, though he died on the following day. Am I to be held responsible for that ?” The horse now proceeded to tell his story; and after the usual cross-examination and cries for justice, the judge gave orders to look up the horse’s term of life in the Book of Fate. Therein it appeared that the animal’s destiny had doomed it to death on the very day on which it had died; whereupon the judge cried out, “Your term of years had already expired; why bring this false charge? Away with you!” and turning to Hou, the judge added, “You are a worthy man, and may be permitted to live.”
The lictors were accordingly instructed to escort him back, and with them went out both the clerk and the man in green clothes, who bade the lictors take every possible care of Hou by the way. “You gentlemen are very kind,” said Hou, “but I haven’t the honour of your acquaintance, .and should be glad to know to whom I am so much indebted.” “Three years ago,” replied the man in green, “I was travelling in your neighbourhood, and was suffering very much from thirst, which you relieved for me by a few spoonfuls of gruel. I have not forgotten [p. 464] that act.” “And my name,” observed the other, “is Liu Ch‘üan. You once took a splotch of dirt out of my eye that was troubling me very much. I am only sorry that the wine and food we have down here is unsuitable to offer you. Farewell.” Hou now understood all that had happened, and went off home with the two lictors, where he would have regaled them with some refreshment, but they refused to take even a cup of tea. He then waked up and found that he had been dead for two days.
From this time forth he led a more virtuous life than ever, always pouring out libations to Liu Ch‘üan at all the festivals of the year. Thus he reached the age of eighty, a hale and hearty man, still able to sit in the saddle; until one day he met Liu Ch‘üan riding on horseback, as if about to make a long journey. After a little friendly conversation, the latter said to him, “Your time is up, and the warrant for your arrest is already issued; but I have ordered the constables to delay awhile, and you can now spend three days in preparing for death, at the expiration of which I will come and fetch you. I have purchased a small appointment for you in the realms below,2 by which you will be more comfortable.” So Hou went home and told his wife and children; and after collecting his friends and relatives, and making all necessary preparations, on the evening of the fourth day he cried out, “Liu Ch‘üan has come!” and, getting into his coffin,3 lay down and died.
1 When the soul of the Emperor T‘ai Tsung of the Tang dynasty was in the infernal regions, it promised to send Yen-lo (the Chinese Yama or Pluto) a melon; and when His Majesty recovered from the trance into which he had been plunged, he gave orders that his promise was to be fulfilled. Just then a man, named Liu Ch‘üan, observed a priest with a hairpin belonging to his wife, and misconstruing the manner in which possession of it had been obtained, abused his wife so severely that she committed suicide. Liu Ch‘üan himself then determined to follow her example, and convey the melon to Yen-lo; for which act he was subsequently deified. See the Hsi yu chi, Section XI.
2 As the Chinese believe that their disembodied spirits proceed to a world organised on much the same model as the one they know, so do they think that there will be social distinctions of rank and emolument proportioned to the merits of each.
3 A dying man is almost always moved into his coffin to die; and aged persons frequently take to sleeping regularly in the coffins provided against the inevitable hour by the pious thoughtfulness of a loving son. Even in middle life Chinese like to see their coffins ready for them, and store them sometimes on their own premises, sometimes in the outhouses of a neighbouring temple.
CLXIII. ANOTHER SOLOMON
AT T‘ai-yüan there lived a middle-aged woman with her widowed daughter-in-law. The former was on terms of too great intimacy with a notably bad character of the [p. 465] neighbourhood; and the latter, who objected very strongly to this, did her best to keep the man from the house. The elder woman accordingly tried to send the other back to her family, but she would not go; and at length things came to such a pass that the mother-in-law actually went to the mandarin of the place and charged her daughter-in-law with the offence she herself was committing. When the mandarin inquired the name of the man concerned, she said she had only seen him in the dark and didn’t know who he was, referring him for information to the accused. The latter, on being summoned, gave the man’s name, but retorted the charge on her mother-in-law; and when the man was confronted with them, he promptly declared both their stories to be false. The mandarin, however, said there was a primâ facie case against him, and ordered him to be severely beaten, whereupon he confessed that it was the daughter-in-law whom he went to visit. This the woman herself flatly denied, even under torture; and on being released, appealed to a higher court, with a very similar result.
Thus the case dragged on, until a Mr. Sun, who was well known for his judicial acumen, was appointed district magistrate at that place. Calling the parties before him, he bade his lictors prepare stones and knives, at which they were much exercised in their minds, the severest tortures allowed by law being merely gyves and fetters.1 However, everything was got ready, and the next day Mr. Sun proceeded with his investigation. After hearing all that each one of the three had to say, he delivered the following judgment:—“The case is a simple one; for although I cannot say which of you two women is the guilty one, there is no doubt about the man, who has evidently been the means of bringing discredit on a virtuous family. Take those stones and knives there and put him to death. I will be responsible.” Thereupon the two women began to stone the man, especially the younger one, who seized the biggest stones she could see and threw them at him with all the might of her pent-up anger; while the mother-in-law chose small stones and struck him on non-vital parts.2 So with the knives: the [p. 466] daughter-in-law would have killed him at the first blow, had not the mandarin stopped her, and said, “Hold! I now know who is the guilty woman.” The mother-in-law was then tortured until she confessed, and the case was thus terminated.
1 See No. LXXIII., note 2.
2 The Chinese distinguish sixteen vital spots on the front of the body and six on the back, with thirty-six and twenty non-vital spots in similar positions, respectively. They allow, however, that a severe blow on a non-vital spot might cause death, and vice versâ.
CLXIV. THE INCORRUPT OFFICIAL
MR. Wu, Sub-prefect of Chi-nan, was an upright man, and would have no share in the bribery and corruption which was extensively carried on, and at which the higher authorities connived, and in the proceeds of which they actually shared. The Prefect tried to bully him into adopting a similar plan, and went so far as to abuse him in violent language, upon which Mr. Wu fired up and exclaimed, “Though I am but a subordinate official, you should impeach me for anything you have against me in the regular way; you have not the right to abuse me thus. Die I may, but I will never consent to degrade my office and turn aside the course of justice for the sake of filthy lucre.” At this outbreak the Prefect changed his tone, and tried to soothe him. . . . [How dare people accuse the age of being corrupt, when it is themselves who will not walk in the straight path.]
One day after this a certain fox-medium came to the Prefect’s yamên just as a feast was in full swing, and was thus addressed by a guest:—“You who pretend to know everything, say how many officials there are in this Prefecture.” “One,” replied the medium; at which the company laughed heartily, until the medium continued, “There are really seventy-two holders of office, but Mr. Sub-prefect Wu is the only one who can justly be called an official.”
1 Certain classes of soothsayers are believed by the Chinese to be possessed by foxes, which animals have the power of looking into the future, &c., &c.
THE YÜ LI CH‘AO CHUAN
VISITORS to Chinese temples of the Taoist persuasion usually make at once for what is popularly known amongst foreigners as the “Chamber of Horrors.” These belong specially to Taoism, or the ethics of Right in the abstract, as opposed to abstract Wrong, and are not found in temples consecrated to the religion of Buddha. Modern Taoism, however, once a purely metaphysical system, is now so leavened with the superstitions of Buddhism, and has borrowed so much material from its younger rival, that an ordinary Chinaman can hardly tell one from the other, and generally regards them as to all intents and purposes the same. These rightly-named Chambers of Horrors—for Madame Tussaud has nothing more ghastly to show in the whole of her wonderful collection—represent the Ten Courts of Purgatory, through some or all of which erring souls must pass before they are suffered to be born again into the world under another form, or transferred to the eternal bliss reserved for the righteous alone. As a description of these Ten Courts may not be uninteresting to some of my readers, and as the subject has a direct bearing upon many of the stories in the previous collection, I hereto append my translation of a well-known Taoist work which is circulated gratuitously all over the Chinese Empire by people who are anxious to lay up a store of good works against the day of reckoning to come. Those who are acquainted with Dante’s Divine Comedy will recollect that the poet’s idea of a Christian Purgatory was a series of nine lessening circles arranged one above the other, so as to form a cone. The Taoist believes that his Purgatory consists of Ten Courts of justice situated in different positions at the bottom of a great ocean which lies down in the depths of the earth. These are subdivided into special wards, different forms of torture being inflicted in each. A perusal of this work will show what punishments the wicked Chinaman has to expect in the unseen world, and by what means he may hope to obtain a partial or complete remission of his sins.
The Divine Panorama,
published by the Mercy of Yü Ti,2
that Men and Women may repent them of their faults
and make Atonement for their Crimes.
On the birthday of the Saviour P‘u-sa,3 as the spirits of Purgatory were thronging round to offer their congratulations, the ruler of the Infernal Regions spake as follows:—“My wish is to release all souls, and every moon as this day comes round I would wholly
1 The Yü Li Ch‘ao Chuan; or Divine Panorama.
2 The Divine Ruler, immediately below God Himself.
3 See No. XXVI. note 5. [p. 468]
or partially remit the punishment of erring shades, and give them life once more in one of the Six Paths.4 But alas! the wicked are many and the virtuous few. Nevertheless, the punishments in the dark region are too severe, and require some modification. Any wicked soul that repents and induces one or two others to do likewise shall be allowed to set this off against the punishments which should be inflicted.”
The Judges of the Ten Courts of Purgatory then agreed that all who led virtuous lives from their youth upwards shall be escorted at their death to the land of the Immortals; that all whose balance of good and evil is exact shall escape the bitterness of the Three States,5 and be born again among men; that those who have repaid their debts of gratitude and friendship, and fulfilled their destiny, yet have a balance of evil against them, shall pass through the various Courts of Purgatory and then be born again amongst men, rich, poor, old, young, diseased or crippled, to be put a second time upon trial. Then, if they behave well they may enter into some happy state; but if badly, they will be dragged by horrid devils through all the Courts, suffering bitterly as they go, and will again be born, to endure in life the uttermost of poverty and wretchedness, in death the everlasting tortures of hell. Those who are disloyal, unfilial, who commit suicide, take life, or disbelieve the doctrine of Cause and Effect,6 saying to themselves that when a man dies there is an end of him, that when he has lost his skin he has already suffered the worst that can befall him, that living men can be tortured, but no one ever saw a man’s ghost in the pillory, that after death all is unknown, &c., &c.,—truly these men do not know that the body alone perishes but the soul lives for ever and ever; and that whatsoever evil they do in this life, the same will be done unto them in the life to come. All who commit such crimes are handed over to the everlasting tortures of hell; for alas! in spite of the teachings of the Three Systems some will persist in regarding these warnings as vain and empty talk. Lightly they speak of Divine mercy, and knowingly commit many crimes, not more than one in a hundred ever coming to repentance. Therefore the punishments of Purgatory were strictly carried out and the tortures dreadfully severe.
But now it has been mercifully ordained that any man or woman, young, old, weak or strong, who may have sinned in any way, shall be permitted to obtain remission of the same by keeping his or her thoughts constantly fixed on P‘u-sa and on the birthdays of the judges of the Ten Courts, by fasting and prayer, and by vows never to sin again. Or for every good work done in life they shall be allowed to escape one ward in the Courts below. From this rule to be excepted disloyal ministers, unfilial sons, suicides, those who plot in secret against good people, those who are struck by lightning (lit. thunder), those who perish by flood or fire, by wild animals or poisonous reptiles—these to pass through all the Courts and be punished according to their deserts. All other sinners to be allowed to claim their good works as a set-off against
4 See Author’s Own Record (in Introduction), note 28.
5 The three worst of the Six Paths.
6 That the state of one life is the result of behaviour in a previous existence.
7 Lit.—the skin purse (of his bones).
8 Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism.
9 Violent deaths are regarded with horror by the Chinese. They hold that a truly virtuous man always dies either of illness or old age. [p. 469]
evil, thus partly escaping the agonies of hell and receiving some reward for their virtuous deeds.
This account of man’s wickedness on the earth and the punishments in store for him was written in language intelligible to every man and woman, and was submitted for the approval of P‘u-sa, the intention being to wait the return of some virtuous soul among the sons of men, and by these means publish it all over the earth. When P‘u-sa saw what had been done, he said it was good; and on the 3rd of the 8th moon proceeded with the ten judges of Purgatory to lay this book before God.
Then God said, “Good indeed! Good indeed! Henceforth let all spirits take note of any mortal who vows to lead a virtuous life and, repenting, promises to sin no more. Two punishments shall be remitted him. And if, in addition to this, he succeeds in doing five virtuous acts, then he shall escape all punishment and be born again in some happy state—if a woman she shall be born as a man.[A] But more than five virtuous acts shall enable such a soul to obtain the salvation of others, and redeem wife and family from the tortures of hell. Let these regulations be published in the Divine Panorama and circulated on earth by the spirits of the City Guardians.12 In fear and trembling obey this decree and carry it reverently into effect.”
THE FIRST COURT
His Infernal Majesty Ch‘in Kuang is specially in charge of the register of life and death both for old and young, and presides at the judgment-seat in the lower regions. His court is situated in the great Ocean, away beyond the Wu-chiao rock,13 far to the west near the murky road which leads to the Yellow Springs.14 Every man and woman dying in old age whose fate it is to be born again into the world, if their tale of good and evil works is equally balanced, are sent to the First Court, and thence transferred back to Life, male becoming female, female male, rich poor, and poor rich, according to their several deserts. But those whose good deeds are outnumbered by their bad are sent to a terrace on the right of the Court, called the Terrace of the Mirror of Sin, ten feet in height. The mirror is about fifty feet in circumference and hangs towards the east. Above are seven characters written horizontally:—“Sin Mirror Terrace upon no good men.” There the wicked souls are able to see the naughtiness of their own hearts while they were among the living, and the danger of death and hell. Then do they realise the proverb,—
Ten thousand taels of yellow gold cannot be brought away:
But ev’ery crime will tell its tale upon the judgment day.
When the souls have been to the Terrace and seen their wickednesses, they are forwarded into the Second Court, where they are tortured and dismissed to the proper hell.
Should there be any one enjoying life without reflecting that Heaven and Earth produce mortals, that father and mother bring
10 Good people go to Purgatory in the flesh, and are at once passed up to Heaven without suffering any torture, or are sent back to earth again.
11 The Supreme Ruler.
12 See No. I., note 1.
13 Supposed to be the gate of the Infernal Regions.
15 Literally “ten armfuls.”
[A] No sexism here! I’m reminded of Chinese genealogists, who say that they find lines of ancestors extending back into deep antiquity—but only the names of the men are preserved. [p. 470]
the child to maturity—truly no easy matter; and, ignoring the four obligations,16 before receiving the summons, lightly sever the thread of their own existence by cutting their throats, hanging, poisoning, or drowning themselves:—then such suicides, if the deed was not done out of loyalty, filial piety, chastity, or friendship, for which they would go to Heaven, but in a trivial burst of rage, or fearing the consequences of a crime which would not amount to death, or in the hope of falsely injuring a fellow-creature—then such suicides, when the last breath has left their bodies, shall be escorted to this Court by the Spirits of the Threshold and of the Hearth. They shall be placed in the Hunger and Thirst Section, and every day from seven till eleven o’clock they will resume their mortal coil, and suffer again the pain and bitterness of death.
After seventy days, or one or two years, as the case may be, they will be conducted back to the scene of their suicide, but will not be permitted to taste the funeral meats, or avail themselves of the usual offerings to the dead. Bitterly will they repent, unable as they will be to render themselves visible and frighten people,17 vainly striving to procure a substitute.18 For when the substitute shall have been harmlessly entrapped, the Spirits of the Threshold and Hearth will reconduct the erring soul back to this Court, whence it will be sent on to the Second Court, where its balance of good and evil will be struck, and dreadful tortures applied, being finally passed on through the Various Courts to the utter misery of hell. Should any one have such intention of suicide and thus threaten a fellow creature, even though he does not commit the act but continues to live not without virtue, yet shall it not be permitted in any way to remit his punishment. Any soul which after suicide shall not remain invisible, but shall frighten people to death, will be seized by black-faced, long-tusked devils and tortured in the various hells, to be finally thrust into the great Gehenna, for ever to remain hung up in chains, and not permitted to be born again.
Every Buddhist or Taoist priest who receives money for prayers and liturgies, but skips over words and misses out sentences, on arriving at this, the First Court, will be sent to the section for the completion of Prayer, and there in a small dark room he shall pick out such passages as he has omitted, and make good the deficiency as best he can, by the uncertain light of an infinitesimal wick burning in a gallon of oil. Even good and virtuous priests must also repair any omissions they may have (accidentally) made, and so must every man or woman who in private devotion may have omitted or wrongly repeated any part of the sacred writings from over-earnestness, their attention not being properly fixed on the actual words they repeat. The same applies to female priests. A dispensation from Buddha to remit such punishment is put in force on the first day of each month when the names are entered in the register of the virtuous.
16 To Heaven, Earth, sovereign, and relatives.
17 Held to be a great relief to the spirits of the dead.
18 It is commonly believed that if the spirit of a murdered man can secure the violent death of some other person he returns to earth again as if nothing had happened, the spirit of his victim passing into the world below and suffering all the misery of a disembodied soul in his stead. See No. XLV., note 8. [p. 471]
O ye dwellers upon earth, on the 1st day of the 2nd moon, fasting turn to the north and make oath to abstain from evil and fix your thoughts on good, that ye may escape hell! The precepts of Buddha are circulated over the whole world to warn mankind to believe and repent, that when the last hour comes their spirits may be escorted by dark-robed boys to realms of bliss and happiness in the west.
THE SECOND COURT
His Infernal Majesty Ch‘u Chiang reigns at the bottom of the great Ocean. Away to the south, below the Wu-chiao rocks, he has a vast hell, many leagues in extent, and subdivided into sixteen wards, as follows:—
In the first, nothing but black clouds and constant sand-storms. In the second, mud and filth. In the third, chevaux de frise. In the fourth, gnawing hunger. In the fifth, burning thirst. In the sixth, blood and pus. In the seventh, the shades are plunged into a brazen cauldron (of boiling water). In the eighth, the same punishment is repeated many times. In the ninth, they are put into iron clothes. In the tenth, they are stretched on a rack to regulation length. In the eleventh, they are pecked by fowls. In the twelfth, they have only rivers of lime to drink. In the thirteenth they are hacked to pieces. In the fourteenth, the leaves of the trees are as sharp as sword-points. In the fifteenth they are pursued by foxes and wolves. In the sixteenth, all is ice and snow.
Those, who lead astray young boys and girls, and then escape punishment by cutting off their hair and entering the priesthood;19 those who filch letters, pictures, books, &c., entrusted to their care, and then pretend to have lost them; those who injure a fellow-creature’s ear, eye, hand, foot, fingers, or toes; those who practise as doctors without any knowledge of the medical art; those who will not ransom grown-up slave-girls;20 those who, contracting marriage for the sake of gain, falsely state their ages; or those who in cases of betrothal, before actual marriage, find out that one of the contracting parties is a bad character, and yet do not come forward to say so, but inflict an irreparable wrong on the innocent one;—such offenders, when their quota of crime has been cast up, their youth or age and the consequences of their acts taken into consideration, will be seized by horrid red-faced devils and thrust into the great Hell, and thence despatched to the particular ward in which they are to be tormented. When their time of suffering there has expired, they will be moved into the Third Court, there to be tortured and passed on to Gehenna.
O ye men and women of the world, take this book and warn all sinners, or copy it out and circulate it for general information! If
19 A very common trick in China. The drunken bully Lu Ta in the celebrated novel Shui-hu saved himself by these means, and I have heard that the Mandarin who in the war of 1842 spent a large sum in constructing a paddle-wheel steamer to be worked by men, hoping thereby to match the wheel-ships of the Outer Barbarians, is now expiating his failure at a monastery in Fukien. A propos of which, it may not be generally known at this moment (1880) there are small paddle-wheel boats for Chinese passengers, plying up and down the Canton River, the wheels of which are turned by gangs of coolies, who perform a movement precisely similar to that required on the treadmill.
20 In order that their marriage destiny may not be interfered with. It is considered disgraceful not to accept the ransom of a slave girl of fifteen or sixteen years of age. See No. XXVI., note 8. [p. 472]
you see people sick and ill, give medicine to heal them. If you see people poor and hungry, feed them. If you see people in difficulties, give money to save them. Repent your past errors, and you will be allowed to cancel that evil by future good, so that when the hour arrives you will pass at once into the Tenth Court, and thence return again to existence on earth.
Let such as love all creatures endowed with life, and do not recklessly cut and slay, but teach their children not to harm small animals and insects let these, on the 1st of the 3rd moon, register an oath not to take life, but to aid in preserving it. Thus they will avoid passing through Purgatory, and will also enter at once the Tenth Hall, to be born again in some happy state.
THE THIRD COURT
His Infernal Majesty Sung Ti reigns at the bottom of the great Ocean, away to the south-east, below the Wu-chiao rock, in the Gehenna of Black Ropes. This Hall is many leagues wide, and is subdivided into sixteen wards, as follows:—
In the first everything is Salt; above, below, and all round, the eye rests upon Salt alone. The shades feed upon it, and suffer horrid torments in consequence. When the fit has passed away they return to it once again, and suffer agonies more unutterable than before. In the second, the erring shades are bound with cords and carry heavily-weighted cangues. In the third, they are perpetually pierced through the ribs. In the fourth, their faces are scraped with iron and copper knives. In the fifth, their fat is scraped away from their bodies. In the sixth, their hearts and livers are squeezed with pincers. In the seventh, their eyes are gouged. In the eighth, they are flayed. In the ninth, their feet are cut off. In the tenth, their finger-nails and toe-nails are pulled out. In the eleventh, their blood is sucked. In the twelfth, they are hung up head downwards. In the thirteenth, their shoulder-bones are split. In the fourteenth, they are tormented by insects and reptiles. In the fifteenth, they are beaten on the thighs. In the sixteenth, their hearts are scratched.
Those who enjoy the light of day without reflecting on the Imperial bounty;21 officers of State who revel in large emoluments without reciprocating their sovereign’s goodness; private individuals who do not repay the debt of water and earth;22 wives and concubines who slight their marital lords; those who fail in their duties as acting sons,23 or such as reap what advantages there are and then go off to their own homes; slaves who disregard their masters; official underlings who are ungrateful to their superiors; working partners who behave badly to the moneyed partner; culprits who escape from prison or abscond from their place of banishment; those who break their bail and get others into trouble;
21 The soil of China belongs, every inch of it, to the Emperor. Consequently, the people owe him a debt of gratitude for permitting them to live upon it.
22 Do their duty as men and women.
23 A Chinaman may have three kinds of fathers: (1) his real father, (2) an adopted father, such as an uncle without children to whom he has been given as heir, and (3) the man his widowed mother may marry. The first two are to all intents and purposes equal; the third is entitled only to one year’s mourning instead of the usual three. [p. 473]
and those infatuated ones who have long omitted to pray and repent—all these, even though they have a set-off of good deeds, must pass through the misery of every ward. Those who interfere with another man’s Fêng-Shui; those who obstruct funeral obsequies or the completion of graves; those who in digging come on a coffin and do not immediately cover it up, but injure the bones; those who steal or avoid paying up their quota of grain;24 those who lose all record of the site of their family burying-place; those who incite others to commit crimes; those who promote litigation; those who write anonymous placards; those who repudiate a betrothal; those who forge deeds and other documents; those who receive payment of a debt without signing a receipt or giving up the IOU; those who counterfeit signatures and seals; those who alter bills; those who injure posterity in any way—all these, and similar offenders, shall be punished according to the gravity of each offence. Devils with big knives will seize the erring ones and thrust them into the great Gehenna; besides which they shall expiate their sins in the proper number of wards, and shall then he forwarded to the Fourth Court, where they shall be tortured and dismissed to the general Gehenna.
O ye sons of men, on the 8th day of the 2nd moon, register an oath that ye will do no evil. Thus you may escape the bitterness of these hells.
THE FOURTH COURT
The Lord of the Five Senses reigns at the bottom of the great Ocean, away to the east below the Wu-chiao rock. His Court is many leagues wide, and is subdivided into sixteen wards, as follows:—
In the first, the wicked shades are hung up and water is continually poured over them. In the second, they are made to kneel on chains and pieces of split bamboo. In the third, their hands are scalded with boiling water. In the fourth, their hands swell and stream with perspiration. In the fifth, their muscles are cut and their bones pulled out. In the sixth their shoulders are pricked with a trident and the skin rubbed with a hard brush. In the seventh, holes are bored into their flesh. In the eighth, they are made to sit on spikes. In the ninth, they wear iron clothes. In the tenth they are placed under heavy pieces of wood, stone, earth, or tiles. In the eleventh, their eyes are put out. In the twelfth, their mouths are choked with dust. In the thirteenth, they are perpetually dosed with nasty medicines. In the fourteenth, it is so slippery, they are always falling down. In the fifteenth, their mouths are painfully pricked. In the sixteenth, their bodies are buried under broken stones, &e., the head alone being left out.
Those who cheat the customs and evade taxes; those who repudiate their rent, use weighted scales, sell sham medicines, water their rice,25 utter base coin, get deeply in debt, sell doctored silks and satins, scrape or add size to linen cloth; those who do not
24 As taxes.
25 Visitors to Peking may often see the junkmen at T‘ung-chou pouring water by the bucketful on to newly arrived cargoes of Imperial rice in order to make up the right weight and conceal the amount they have filched on the way.
26 That is, with a false gloss on them.
27 In order to raise the nap and give an appearance of strength and goodness. [p. 474]
make way for the cripples, old and young; those who encroach upon petty trade rights of old or young; those who delay in delivering letters entrusted to them; steal bricks from walls as they pass by, or oil and candles from lamps;29 poor people who do not behave properly and rich people who are not compassionate to the poor; those who promise a loan and go back on their word; those who see people suffering from illness yet cannot bring themselves to part with certain useful drugs they may have in their possession; those who know good prescriptions but keep them secret; those who throw vessels which have contained medicine or broken cups and bottles into the street; those who allow their mules and ponies to be a nuisance to other people; those who destroy their neighbour’s crops or his walls and fences; those who try to bewitch their enemies,30 and those who try to frighten people in any way,—all these shall be punished according to the gravity of their offences, and shall be thrust by the devils into the great Gehenna until their time arrives for passing into the Fifth Court.
O ye children of this world, if on the 18th day of the 2nd moon you register an oath to sin no more, then you may escape the various wards of this Hall and if to this book you add examples of rewards and punishments following upon virtues and crimes, and hand them down to posterity for the good of the human race, so that all who read may repent them of their wickedness—then they will be without sin, and you not without merit!
THE FIFTH COURT
His Infernal Majesty Yen Lo said,—“Our proper place is in the First Court; but, pitying those who die by foul means, and should be sent back to earth to have their wrongs redressed, we have moved our judgment-seat to the great hell at the bottom of the Ocean, away to the north-east below the Wu-chiao rock, and have subdivided this hell into sixteen wards for the torment of souls. All those shades who come before us have already suffered long tortures in the previous four Courts, whence, if they are hardened sinners, they are passed on after seven days to this Court, where, if again found to be utterly hardened, corruption will overtake them by the fifth or seventh day. All shades cry out either that they have left some vow unfulfilled, or that they wish to build a temple or a bridge, make a road, clean out a river or well, publish some book teaching people to be virtuous, that they have not released their due number of lives, that they have filial duties or funeral obsequies to perform, some act of kindness to repay, &c.,
28 Costermongers and others acquire certain rights to doorsteps or snug corners in Chinese cities which are not usually infringed by competitors in the same line of business. Chair-coolies, carrying-coolies, ferrymen, &c., also claim whole districts as their particular field of operations, and are very jealous of any interference. I know of a case in which the right of “scavengering” a town had been in the same family for generations, and no one dreamt of trying to take it out of their hands.
29 Chiefly alluding to small temples where some pious spirit may have lighted a lamp or candle to the glory of his favourite P‘u-sa.
30 This is done either by making a figure of the person to be injured and burning it in a slow fire, like the old practice of the wax figure in English history; or by obtaining his nativity characters, writing them out on a piece of paper and burning them in a candle, muttering all the time whatsoever mischief it is hoped will befall him.
31 Popularly known as the Chinese Pluto. The Indian Yama. [p. 475]
&c. For these reasons they pray to be allowed to return once more to the light of day, and are always ready to make oath that henceforth they will lead most exemplary lives. We, hearing this, reply,—In days gone by ye openly worked evil, but now that your boat has reached the midstream, ye bethink yourselves, of caulking the leak. For although P‘u-sa in his great mercy decreed that there should be a modification of torture, and that good works might be set off against evil, the same being submitted to God and ratified by Divine Decree, to be further published in the realms below and in the Infernal City—yet we judges of the Ten Courts have not yet received one single virtuous man amongst us, who, coming in the flesh, might carry this Divine Panorama back with him to the light of day. Truly those who suffer in hell and on earth cannot complain, and virtuous men are rare! But now ye have come to my Court, having beheld your own wickedness in the mirror of sin. No more—bull-headed, horse-faced devils, away with them to the Terrace as that they may once more gaze upon their lost homes!”
This Terrace is curved in front like a bow; it looks east, west, and south. It is eighty-one li from one extreme to the other. The back part is like the string of the bow; it is enclosed by a wall of sharp swords. It is 490 feet high; its sides are knife-blades; and the whole is in sixty-three storeys. No good shade comes to this Terrace; neither do those whose balance of good and evil is exact. Wicked souls alone behold their homes close by and can see and hear what is going on. They hear old and young talking together; they see their last wishes disregarded and their instructions disobeyed. Everything seems to have undergone a change. The property they scraped together with so much trouble is dissipated and gone. The husband thinks of taking another wife; the widow meditates second nuptials.33 Strangers are in possession of the old estate; there is nothing to divide amongst the children. Debts long since paid are brought again for settlement, and the survivors are called upon to acknowledge claims upon the departed. Debts owed are lost for want of evidence, with endless recriminations, abuse, and general confusion, all of which falls upon the three families of the deceased. They in their anger speak ill of him that is gone. He sees his children become corrupt, and his friends fall away. Some, perhaps, for the sake of bygone times, may stroke the coffin and let fall a tear, departing quickly with a cold smile. Worse than that, the wife sees her husband tortured in the yamên; the husband sees his wife victim to some horrible disease, lands gone, houses destroyed by flood or fire, and everything in an unutterable confusion—the reward of former sins.35 All souls, after the misery of the Terrace, will be thrust into the great Gehenna, and, when the amount of wickedness of each has been ascertained, they will be passed through the sixteen wards for the punishment of evil
32 The celebrated “See-one’s-home Terrace.”
33 Regarded by the Chinese with intense disgust.
34 Father’s, mother’s, and wife’s families.
35 I know of few more pathetic passages throughout all the exquisite imagery of the “Divine Comedy” than this in which the guilty soul is supposed to look back to the home he has but lately left and gaze in bitter anguish on his desolate hearth and broken household gods. For once the gross tortures of Chinese Purgatory give place to as refined and as dreadful a punishment as human ingenuity could well devise. [p. 476]
hearts. In the Gehenna they will be buried under wooden pillars, bound with copper snakes, crushed by iron dogs, tied tightly hand and foot, be ripped open and have their hearts torn out, minced up and given to snakes, their entrails being thrown to dogs. Then, when their time is up, the pain will cease and their bodies become whole once more, preparatory to being passed through the sixteen wards.
In the first are non-worshippers and sceptics. In the second, those who have destroyed or hurt living creatures. In the third, those who do not fulfil their vows. In the fourth, believers in false doctrines, magicians, and sorcerers. In the fifth, those who tyrannise over the weak but cringe to the strong; also those who openly wish for another’s death. In the sixth, those who try to put their misfortunes on to other people’s shoulders. In the seventh, those who lead immoral lives. In the eighth, those who injure others to benefit themselves. In the ninth, those who are parsimonious and will not help people in trouble. In the tenth, those who steal and involve the innocent. In the eleventh, those who forget kindness or seek revenge. In the twelfth, those who by pernicious drugs stir up others to quarrel, keeping themselves out of harm’s way. In the thirteenth, those who deceive or spread false reports. In the fourteenth, those who love brawling and implicate others. In the fifteenth, those who envy the virtuous and wise. In the sixteenth, those who are lost in vice, evil speakers, slanderers, and suchlike.
All who disbelieve the doctrine of Cause and Effect, who obstruct good works, make a pretence of piety, talk of other people’s sins, burn or injure religious books, omit to fast when praying for the sick, interfere with the adoration of Buddha, slander the priesthood, or, if scholars, abstain from instructing women and children; those who dig up graves and obliterate all traces thereof, set light to woods and forests, allow their servants to be careless in handling fire and thus endanger their neighbours’ property; those who wantonly discharge arrows and bolts, who try their strength against the sick or weak, throw potsherds over a wall, poison fish, let off guns, catch birds either with net, sticky pole,36 or trap; those who throw down salt to kill plants, who do not bury dead cats and venomous snakes deep in the ground, who dig out corpses, who break the soil or alter their walls and stoves at wrong seasons,37 who encroach on the public road or take possession of other people’s land, who fill up wells and drains &c., &c.,—all these, when they return from the Terrace, shall first be tortured in the great Gehenna, and then such as are to have their hearts minced shall be passed into the sixteen wards, thence to be sent on to the Sixth Court for the punishment of other crimes. Those who in life have not been guilty of the above sins, or, having sinned, did on the 8th day of the 1st moon, fasting, register a vow to sin no more, shall not only escape the punishments of this Court, but shall also gain some further remission of torture in the Sixth Court. Those, however, who are guilty of taking life, of gross immorality, of stealing and implicating
36 A long pole tipped with a kind of birdlime is cautiously inserted between the branches of a tree, and then suddenly dabbed on to some unsuspecting sparrow.
37 If this is done in winter or spring the Spirits of the Hearth and Threshold are liable to catch cold. [p. 477]
the innocent, of ingratitude and revenge, of infatuated vice which no warnings can turn from its course,—these shall not escape one jot of their punishments.
THE SIXTH COURT
This Court is situated at the bottom of the great Ocean, due north of the Wu-chiao rock. It is a vast, noisy Gehenna, many leagues in extent, and around it are sixteen wards.
In the first, the souls are made to kneel for long periods on iron shot. In the second, they are placed up to their necks in filth. In the third, they are pounded till the blood runs out. In the fourth their mouths are opened with iron pincers and filled full of needles. In the fifth, they are bitten by rats. In the sixth, they are enclosed in a net of thorns and nipped by locusts. In the seventh, they are crushed to a jelly. In the eighth, their skin is lacerated and they are beaten on the raw. In the ninth, their mouths are filled with fire. In the tenth, they are licked by flames. In the eleventh, they are subjected to noisome smells. In the twelfth, they are butted by oxen and trampled on by horses. In the thirteenth, their hearts are scratched. In the fourteenth, their heads are rubbed till their skulls come off. In the fifteenth, they are chopped in two at the waist. In the sixteenth, their skin is taken off and rolled up into spills.
Those discontented ones who rail against Heaven and revile Earth, who are always finding fault either with the wind, thunder, heat, cold, fine weather or rain; those who let their tears fall towards the north,38 who steal the gold from the inside or scrape the gilding from the outside of images; those who take holy names in vain, who show no respect for written paper, who throw down dirt and rubbish near pagodas or temples, who use dirty cookhouses and stoves for preparing the sacrificial meats, who do not abstain from eating beef and dog flesh;40 those who have in their possession blasphemous or obscene books and do not destroy them, who obliterate or tear books which teach man to be good, who carve on common articles of household use the symbol of the origin of a things,41 the Sun and Moon and Seven Stars, the Royal Mother and the God of Longevity on the same article,42 or representations of any of the Immortals; those who embroider the Svastika on fancy work, or mark characters on silk, satin, or cloth, on banners, beds, chairs, tables, or any kind of utensil; those who secretly wear clothes adorned with the dragon and the phoenix only to be trampled under foot, who buy up grain and hold until the price is exorbitantly high—all these shall be thrust into the great and noisy
38 I presume because God sits with his face to the south.
39 Pious and wealthy people often give orders for an image of a certain P‘u-sa to be made with an ounce or so of gold inside.
40 Primarily, because no living thing should be killed for food. The ox and the dog are specified because of their kindly services to man in tilling the earth and guarding his home.
41 The symbol of the Yin and the Yang.
42 One being male and the other female. This calls to mind the extreme modesty of a celebrated French Lady, who would not put books by male and female authors on the same shelf.
43 The symbol on Buddha’s heart; more commonly known to the Western world as Thor’s Hammer.
44 Emblems of imperial dignity. [p. 478]
Gehenna, there to be examined as to their misdeeds and passed accordingly into one of the sixteen wards, whence, at the expiration of their time, they will be sent for further questioning on to the Seventh Court.
All dwellers upon earth who on the 8th day of the 3rd moon, fasting, register a vow from that date to sin no more, and, on the 14th and 15th of the 5th moon, the 3rd of the 8th moon, and the l0th of the 10th moon, to practise abstinence, vowing, moreover, to exert themselves to convert others,—these shall escape the bitterness of all the above-mentioned wards.
THE SEVENTH COURT
His Infernal Majesty T‘ai Shan reigns at the bottom of the great Ocean, away to the north-west, below the Wu-chiao rock. His is a vast, noisy Court, measuring many leagues in circumference and subdivided into sixteen wards, as follows:—
In the first, the wicked souls are made to swallow their own blood. In the second, their legs are pierced and thrust into a fiery pit. In the third, their chests are cut open. In the fourth, their hair is torn out with iron combs. In the fifth, they are gnawed by dogs. In the sixth, great stones are placed on their heads. In the seventh, their skulls are pierced. In the eighth, they wear fiery clothes. In the ninth, their skin is torn and pulled by pigs. In the tenth, they are pecked by huge birds. In the eleventh, they are hung up and beaten on the feet. In the twelfth, their tongues are pulled out and their jaws bored. In the thirteenth, they are disembowelled. In the fourteenth, they are trampled on by mules and bitten by badgers. In the fifteenth, their fingers are ironed with hot irons. In the sixteenth, they are boiled in oil.
All mortals who practise eating red lead and certain other nauseous articles, who spend more than they should upon wine, who kidnap human beings for sale, who steal clothes and ornaments from coffins, who break up dead men’s bones for medicine, who separate people from their relatives, who sell the girl brought up in the house to be their son’s wife, who allow their wives to drown female children, who stifle their illegitimate offspring, who unite to cheat another in gambling, who act as tutors without being properly strict, and thus wrong their pupils, who beat and injure their slaves without estimating the punishment by the fault, who regard districts entrusted to their charge in the light of so much spoil, who disobey their elders, who talk at random and go back on their word, who stir up others to quarrel and fight—all these shall, upon verification of their sins, be taken from the great Gehenna and passed through the proper wards, to be forwarded when their time has expired to the Eighth Court, again to be tortured according to their deserts.
All things may not be used as drugs. It is bad enough to slay birds, beasts, reptiles, and fishes, in order to prepare medicine for the sick; but to use red lead and many of the filthy messes in vogue is beyond all bounds of decency, and those who foul their mouths
45 Supposed to confer immortality.
46 Unfit for translation.
47 This is ingeniously expressed, as if mothers were the prime movers in such unnatural arts. [p. 479]
with these nasty mixtures, no matter how virtuous they may otherwise be, will not only derive no benefit from saying their prayers, but will be punished for so doing without mercy.
Ye who hear these words, make haste to repent! From today forbear to take life, buy many birds and animals in order to set them free,48 and every morning when you wash your teeth mutter a prayer to Buddha. Thus, when your last hour comes, a good angel will stand by your side and purify you of your former sins.
Some steal the bones of people who have been burnt to death or the bodies of illegitimate children, for the purpose of compounding medicines; others steal skulls and bones (from graves) with the same object. Worst of all are those who carry off bones by the basketful, using the hard ones for making various articles and grinding down the soft ones for the manufacture of pottery. These, no matter what may have been their good works on earth, will not obtain thereby any remission of punishment; but when they are brought down below, the Ruler of the Infernal Regions will first pass them from the great Gehenna into the proper wards, and will send instructions to the Tenth Court that when they are born again on earth it shall be either without ears, or eyes, hand, foot, mouth, lips, or nose, or maimed in some way or other.[A] Yet such as have thus sinned may still avoid this punishment, if only they are willing to pray and repent, vowing never to sin again. Or if they buy coffins for the poor and persuade others to do likewise, by these means giving a decent burial to many corpses—then, when the death-summons comes, the Spirits of the Home and Hearth will make a black mark upon the warrant, and punishment will be remitted.
Sometimes, when there is a famine, people have nothing to eat and die of hunger, and wicked men, almost before the breath is out of their bodies, cut them up and sell their flesh to others for food—a horrid crime indeed. Those who are guilty of such practices will, on arrival in the lower regions, be tortured in the various Courts for the space of forty-nine days, and then the judge of the Tenth Court will be instructed to notify the judge of the First Court to put them down in his register for a new birth,—if among men, as hungry, famished outcasts, and if among animals as loathing the food that falls to their lot, and by-and-by perishing of hunger. Such is their reward. Besides the above, those who have eaten what is unfit for food and willingly continue to do so, will be punished either among men or animals according to their deserts. Their throats will swell, and though devoured by hunger they will be unable to swallow, and thus die. Those who do not err a second time may be forgiven as they deserve; but those who in times of distress subscribe money for the sufferers, prepare gruel, give away rice to the needy, or distribute ginger tea and soup in the open street, and thus sustain life a little longer and do real good to their
48 On fête days at temples it is not uncommon to see cages full of birds hawked about among the holiday-makers, that those who feel twinges of conscience may purchase a sparrow or two and relieve themselves from anxiety by the simple means of setting them at liberty.
49 Bones are used in glazing porcelain, to give a higher finish.
50 The seven periods of seven days each which occur immediately after a death and at which the departed shade is appeased with food and offerings of various kinds.
51 To warm them.
[A] Not a particularly kind view of the disabled. [p. 480]
fellow creatures—all these shall not only obtain remission of their sins, but carry on a balance of good to their account which shall ensure them a happy old age in the life to come.52 Of the above three clauses, two were proposed by the officials attached to this Seventh Court, the third by the Chief Justice of the great Gehenna, and the whole submitted together for the approval of God, the following Rescript being obtained:—“Let it be as proposed; let the three clauses be copied into the Divine Panorama, and let the officials concerned be promoted or rewarded. Also, in case of crimes other than those already provided for, let such be punished according to the statutes of the Rulers of the Four Continents on earth, and let any evasion of punishment and implication of innocent people be at once reported by the proper officials for our consideration. This from the Throne! Obey!”
O ye sons and daughters of men, if on the 27th of the 3rd moon, fasting and turned towards the north, ye register a vow to pray and repent, and to publish the whole of the Divine Panorama for the enlightenment of mankind, then ye may escape the bitterness of this Seventh Court.
THE EIGHTH COURT
His Infernal Majesty Tu Shih reigns at the bottom of the great Ocean, due east below the Wu-chiao rock, in a vast noisy Court many leagues in extent, subdivided into sixteen wards as follows:—
In the first, the wicked souls are rolled down mountains in carts. In the second, they are shut up in huge saucepans. In the third, they are minced. In the fourth, their noses, eyes, mouths, &c., are stopped up. In the fifth, their uvulas are cut off. In the sixth they are exposed to all kinds of filth. In the seventh, their extremities are cut off. In the eighth, their viscera are fried. In the ninth, their marrow is cauterised. In the tenth, their bowels are scratched. In the eleventh, they are inwardly burned with fire. In the twelfth, they are disembowelled. In the thirteenth, their chests are torn open. In the fourteenth, their skulls are split and their teeth dragged out. In the fifteenth, they are hacked and gashed. In the sixteenth, they are pricked with steel prongs.
Those who are unfilial, who do not nourish their relatives while alive or bury them when dead, who subject their parents to fright, sorrow, or anxiety —if they do not quickly repent them of their former sins, the Spirit of the Hearth will report their misdoings and gradually deprive them of what prosperity they may be enjoying. Those who indulge in magic and sorcery will, after death, when they have been tortured in the other Courts, be brought here to this Court, and dragged backwards by bull-headed, horse-faced devils to be thrust into the great Gehenna. Then when they have been tortured in the various wards they will be passed on to the Tenth Court, whence at the expiration of a kalpa they will be sent back to earth with changed heads and faces for ever to find their place amongst the brute creation. But those who believe in the
52 When they are born again on earth.
53 Heart, lungs, spleen, liver, and kidneys.
54 Many millions of years. [p. 481]
Divine Panorama, and on the 1st of the 4th moon make a vow of repentance, repeating the same every night and morning to the Spirit of the Hearth, shall, by virtue of one of three characters, obedient, acquiescent, or repentant, to be traced on their foreheads at death by the Spirit of the Hearth, escape half the punishments from the First to the Seventh Court, inclusive, and escape this Eighth Court altogether, being passed on to the Ninth Court, where cases of arson and poisoning are investigated, and finally born again from the Tenth Court among mankind as before.
To this God added, “Whosoever may circulate the Divine Panorama for the information of the world at large shall escape all punishment from the First to the Eighth Court, inclusive. Passing through the Ninth and Tenth Courts, they shall be born again amongst men in some happy state.”
THE NINTH COURT
His Infernal Majesty P‘ing Têng reigns at the bottom of the great Ocean, away to the south-west, below the Wu-chiao rock. His is the vast, circular hell of A-pi, many leagues in breadth, jealously enclosed by an iron net, and subdivided into sixteen wards, as follows:—
In the first, the wicked souls have their bones beaten and their bodies scorched. In the second, their muscles are drawn out and their bones rapped. In the third, ducks eat their heart and liver. In the fourth, dogs eat their intestines and lungs. In the fifth, they are splashed with hot oil. In the sixth, their heads are crushed in a frame, and their tongues and teeth are drawn out. In the seventh, their brains are taken out and their skulls filled with hedgehogs. In the eighth, their heads are steamed and their brains scraped. In the ninth, they are dragged about by sheep till they drop to pieces. In the tenth, they are squeezed in a wooden press and pricked on the head. In the eleventh, their hearts are ground in a mill. In the twelfth, boiling water drips on to their bodies. In the thirteenth, they are stung by wasps. In the fourteenth, they are tortured by ants and maggots; they are then stewed, and finally wrung out (like clothes). In the fifteenth, they are stung by scorpions. In the sixteenth, they are tortured by venomous snakes, crimson and scarlet.
All who on earth have committed one of the ten great crimes, and have deserved either the lingering death, decapitation, strangulation, or other punishment, shall, after passing through the tortures of the previous Courts, be brought to this Court, together with those guilty of arson, of making ku poison,55 bad books, stupefying drugs, and many other disgraceful acts. Then, if it be found that, hearkening to the words of the Divine Panorama, they subsequently destroyed the blocks of these books, burnt their prescriptions, and ceased practising the magical art, they shall escape the punishments of
55 The following recipe for this deadly poison is given in the well-known Chinese work Instructions to Coroners:—“Take a quantity of insects of all kinds and throw them into a vessel of any kind; cover them up, and let a year pass away before you look at them again. The insects will have killed and eaten each other, until there is only one survivor, and this one is Ku.” [p. 482]
this Court and be passed on to the Tenth Court, thence to be born again amongst the sons of men. But if, having heard the warnings of the Divine Panorama, they still continue to sin, from the Second to the Eighth Court their tortures shall be increased. They shall be bound on to a hollow copper pillar, clasping it round with their hands and feet. Then the pillar shall be filled with fierce fire, so as to burn into their heart and liver; and afterwards their feet shall be plunged into the great Gehenna of A-pi, knives shall be thrust into their lungs, they shall bite their own hearts, and gradually sink to the uttermost depths of hell, there to endure excruciating torments until the victims of their wickedness have either recovered the property out of which they were cheated, or the life that was taken away from them, and until every trace of book, prescription, picture, &c., formerly used by these wicked souls has disappeared from the face of the earth. Then, and only then, may they pass into the Tenth Court to be born again in one of the Six States of existence.
O ye who have committed such crimes as these, on the 8th of the 4th moon, or the 1st or 15th (of any moon), fasting swear that you will buy up all bad books and magical pamphlets and utterly destroy them with fire; or that you will circulate copies of the Divine Panorama to be a warning to others! Then, when your last moment is at hand, the Spirit of the Hearth will write on your forehead the two words He obeyed, and from the Second up to the Ninth Court your good deeds will be rewarded by a diminution of such punishments as you have incurred. People in the higher ranks of life who secure incendiaries or murderers, who destroy the blocks of bad books, or publish notices warning others, and offer rewards for the production of such books, will be rewarded by the success of their sons and grandsons at the public examinations. Poor people who, by a great effort, manage to have the Divine Panorama circulated for the benefit of mankind, will be forwarded at once to the Tenth Court, and thence be born again in some happy state on earth.
THE TENTH COURT
His Infernal Majesty Chuan Lun reigns in the Dark Land, due east, away below the Wu-chiao rock, just opposite the Wu-cho of this world. There he has six bridges, of gold, silver, jade, stone, wood, and planks, over which all souls must pass. He examines the shades that are sent from the other courts, and, according to their deserts, sends them back to earth as men, women, old, young, high, low, rich, or poor, forwarding monthly a list of their names to the judge of the First Court for transmission to Fêng-tu.57
The regulations provide that all beasts, birds, fishes, and insects, whether biped, quadruped, or otherwise, shall after death become chien,58 to be born again for long and short lives alternately. But such as may possibly have taken life, and such as must necessarily have taken life, will pass through a revolution of the Wheel, and
56 He who “turns the wheel;” a chakravartti raja.
57 The capital city of the Infernal Regions.
58 The ghosts of dead people are believed to be liable to death. The ghost of a ghost is called chien. [p. 483]
then, when their sins have been examined, they will be sent up on earth to receive the proper retribution. At the end of every year a report will be forwarded to Fêng-tu.
Those scholars who study the Book of Changes, or priests who chant their liturgies, cannot be tortured in the Ten Courts for the sins they have committed. When they come to this Court their names and features are taken down in a book kept for the purpose, and they are forwarded to Mother Mêng, who drives them on to the Terrace of Oblivion and doses them with the draught of forgetfulness. Then they are born again in the world for a day, a week, or it may be a year, when they die once more; and now, having forgotten the holy words of the Three Religions,59 they are carried off by devils to the various Courts, and are properly punished for their former crimes.
All souls whose balance of good and evil is exact, whose period of punishment is completed, or whose crimes are many and good deeds few, as soon as their future state has been decided,—man, woman, beautiful, ugly, comfort, toil, wealth, or poverty, as the case may be,—must pass through the Terrace of Oblivion.
Amongst those shades, on their way to be born again in the world of human beings, there are often to be found women who cry out that they have some old and bitter wrong to avenge,60 and that rather than be born again amongst men they would prefer to enter the ranks of hungry devils.61 On examining them more closely it generally comes out that they are the virtuous victims of some wicked student, who may perhaps have an eye to their money, and accordingly dresses himself out to entrap them, or promises marriage when sometimes he has a wife already, or offers to take care of an aged mother or a late husband’s children. Thus the foolish women are beguiled, and put their property in the wicked man’s hands. By-and-by he turns round upon and reviles them, and, losing face in the eyes of their relatives and friends, with no one to redress their wrong, they are driven to commit suicide. Then, hearing that their seducer is likely to succeed at the examination, they beg and implore to be allowed to go back and compass his death. Now, although what they urge is true enough, yet that man’s destiny may not be worked out, or the transmitted effects of his ancestors’ virtue may not have passed away;63 therefore, as a compromise, these injured shades are allowed to send a spirit to the Examination Hall to hinder and confuse him in the preparation of his paper, or to change the names on the published list of successful candidates; and finally, when his hour arrives, to proceed with the spirit who carries the death-summons, seize him, and bring him to the First Court for judgment.
Ye who on the 17th of the 4th moon swear to carry out the precepts of the Divine Panorama, and frequently make these words the subject of your conversation, may in the life to come be born again
59 Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism.
60 Women are considered in China to be far more revengeful than men. Cf. “Sweet is revenge, especially to women.”
61 See Author’s Own Record (in Introduction), note 28.
62 While in Purgatory.
63 It was mentioned above that the rewards for virtue would he continued to a man’s sons and grandsons. [p. 484]
amongst men and escape official punishments, fire, flood, and all accidents to the body.
The place where the Wheel of Fate goes round is many leagues in extent, enclosed on all sides by an iron palisade. Within are eighty-one subdivisions, each of which has its proper officers and magisterial appointments. Beyond the palisade there is a labyrinth of 108,000 paths leading by direct and circuitous routes back to earth. Inside it is as dark as pitch, and through it pass the spirits of priest and layman alike. But to one who looks from the outside everything is seen as clear as crystal, and the attendants who guard the place all have the faces and features they had at their birth. These attendants are chosen from virtuous people who in life were noted for filial piety, friendship, or respect for life, and are sent here to look after the working of the Wheel and such duties. If for a space of five years they make no mistakes they are promoted to a higher office; but if found to be lazy or careless they are reported to the Throne for punishment.
Those who in life have been unfilial or have destroyed much life, when they have been tortured in the various Courts are brought here and beaten to death with peach twigs. They then become chien, and with changed heads and altered faces are turned out into the labyrinth to proceed by the path which ends in the brute creation.
Birds, beasts, fishes, and insects may after many myriads of kalpas again resume their original shapes; and if there are any that during three existences do not destroy life, they may be born amongst human beings as a reward, a record being made and their names forwarded to the First Court for approval. But all shades of men and women must proceed to the Terrace of Oblivion.
Mother Mêng was born in the Earlier Han Dynasty. In her childhood she studied books of the Confucian school; when she grew up she chanted the liturgies of Buddha. Of the past and the future she had no care, but occupied herself in exhorting mankind to desist from taking life and become vegetarians. At eighty-one years of age her hair was white and her complexion like a child’s She lived and died a virgin, calling herself simply Mêng; but men called her Mother Mêng. She retired to the hills and lived as a religieuse until the Later Han.
Then because certain evil-doers, relying on their knowledge of the past, used to beguile women by pretending to have been their husbands in a former life, God commissioned Mother Mêng to build the Terrace of Oblivion, and appointed her as guardian, with devils to wait upon her and execute her commands. It was arranged that all shades who had been sentenced in the Ten Courts to return in various conditions to earth should first be dosed by her with a decoction of herbs, sweet, bitter, acrid, sour, or salt. Thus they forget everything that has previously happened to them, and carry away with them to earth some slight weaknesses, such as the mouth watering at the thought (of something nice), laughter inducing perspiration, fear inducing tears, anger inducing sobs, or spitting from nervousness. Good spirits who go back into the world will have their senses of sight, hearing, smell, and taste very much increased in power, and their physical strength and constitution generally will be much bettered. But evil spirits [p. 485] will experience the exact contrary of this, as a reward for previous sins and as a warning to others to pray and repent.
The Terrace is situated in front of the Ten Courts, outside the six bridges. It is square, measuring ten (Chinese) feet every way, and surrounded by 108 small rooms. To the east there is a raised path, one foot four inches in breadth, and in the rooms abovementioned are prepared cups of forgetfulness ready for the arrival of the shades. Whether they swallow much or little it matters not; but sometimes there are perverse devils who altogether refuse to drink. Then beneath their feet ssharp blades start up, and a copper tube is forced down their throats, by which means they are compelled to swallow some. When they have drunk, they are raised by the attendants and escorted back by the same path. They are next pushed on to the Bitter Bamboo floating bridge, with torrents of rushing red water on either side. Half-way across they perceive written in large characters on a red cliff on the opposite side the following lines:—
To be a man is easy, but to act up to one’s responsibilities as such is hard.
Yet to be a man once again is perhaps harder still.
For those who would be born again in some happy state there is no great difficulty;
It is only necessary to keep mouth and heart in harmony,
When the shades have read these words they try to jump on shore, but are beaten back into the water by two huge devils. One has on a black official hat and embroidered clothes; in his hand he holds a paper pencil, and over his shoulder he carries a sharp sword. Instruments of torture hang at his waist, fiercely he glares out of his large round eyes and laughs a horrid laugh. His name is Short Life.
The other has a dirty face smeared with blood; he has on a white coat, an abacus in his hand and a rice sack over his shoulder. Round his neck hangs a string of paper money; his brow contracts hideously, and he utters long sighs. His name is They have their reward, and his duty is to push the shades into the red water. The wicked and foolish rejoice at the prospect of being born once more as human beings; but the better shades weep and mourn that in life they did not lay up a store of virtuous acts, and thus pass away from the state of mortals for ever.64 Yet they all rush on to birth like an infatuated or drunken crowd; and again, in their early childhood, hanker after the forbidden flavours.65 Then, regardless of consequences, they begin to destroy life, and thus forfeit all claims to the mercy and compassion of God. They take no thought as to the end that must overtake them; and finally, they bring themselves once more to the same horrid plight.
64 That is, go to heaven.
65 Of meat, wine, &c. [p. 486]
“The rudimentary form of all religion is the propitiation of dead ancestors, who are supposed to be still existing, and to be capable of working good or evil to their descendants.”—SPENCER’S ESSAYS. Vol. iii., p. 102. —The Origin of Animal Worship.
“As a general rule, people are apt to consider it impossible for a man to be in two places at once, and indeed a saying to that effect has become a popular saw. But the rule is so far from being universally accepted, that the word ‘bilocation’ has been invented to express the miraculous faculty possessed by certain saints of the Roman Church, of being in two places at once; like St. Alfonso di Liguori, who had the useful power of preaching his sermon in church, while he was confessing penitents at home.” —TYLOR’s Primitive Culture. Vol. i., p. 447.
“Hence the various burial rites—the placing of weapons and valuables along with the body, the daily bringing of food to it, &c. I hope hereafter to show that with such knowledge of facts as he has, this interpretation is the most reasonable the savage can arrive at.” —SPENCER’S ESSAYS. Vol. iii., p. 104, —The Origin of Animal Worship.
“The distinction so easily made by us between our life in dreams and our real life is one which the savage recognises in but a vague way; and he cannot express even that distinction which he perceives. When he awakes, and to those who have seen him lying quietly asleep, describes where he has been, and what he has done, his rude language fails to state the difference between seeing and dreaming that he saw, doing and dreaming that he did. From this inadequacy of his language it not only results that he cannot truly represent this difference to others, but also that he cannot truly represent it to himself.” —SPENCER’S ESSAYS. Vol. iii., pp. 103, 104. [p. 487]
SHADE OR SHADOW
“The ghost or phantasm seen by the dreamer or the visionary is an unsubstantial form, like a shadow, and thus the familiar term of the shade comes in to express the soul. Thus the Tasmanian word for the shadow is also that for the spirit; the Algonquin Indians describe a man’s soul as otahchuk, ‘his shadow;’ the Quiché language uses natub for ‘shadow, soul’; the Arawac ueja means ‘shadow, soul, image;’ the Abipones made the one word loákal serve for ‘shadow, soul, echo, image.’”— TYLOR’s Primitive Culture. Vol. i., p. 430.
“Thus the dead in Purgatory knew that Dante was alive when they saw that, unlike theirs, his figure cast a shadow on the ground.”—TYLOR’s Primitive Culture. Vol. i., p. 431.
“The savage, conceiving a corpse to be deserted by the active personality who dwelt in it, conceives this active personality to be still existing, and his feelings and ideas concerning it form the basis of his superstitions.”—SPENCER’S ESSAYS. Vol. iii., p. 103. —The Origin o f Animal Worship.
“Whether the Buddhists receive the full Hindu doctrine of the migration of the individual soul from birth to birth, or whether they refine away into metaphysical subtleties the notion of continued personality, they do consistently and systematically hold that a man’s life in former existences is the cause of his now being what he is, while at this moment he is accumulating merit or demerit whose result will determine his fate in future lives.”—TYLOR’S Primitive Culture. Vol. ii., p. 12.
“Memory, it is true, fails generally to recall these past births, but memory, as we know, stops short of the beginning even of this present life.”—TYLOR’s Primitive Culture. Vol. ii., p. 12.
“As for believers, savage or civilised, in the great doctrine of metempsychosis, these not only consider that an animal may have a soul, but that this soul may have inhabited a human being, and thus the creature may be in fact their own ancestor or once familiar friend.”—TYLOR’s Primitive Culture. Vol. i., p. 469. [p. 488]
“Orthodox Buddhism decided against the tree-souls, and consequently against the scruple to harm them, declaring trees to have no mind nor sentient principle, though admitting that certain dewas or spirits do reside in the body of trees, and speak from within them.”—TYLOR’s Primitive Culture.—Vol. i., p. 475.
 [T.C. Again, not too kind to the disabled.]