Yüan Hsiang and Ken Shih, of Yen County, K’uai-chi Commandery [modern Sheng County, Chekiang Province], went hunting. After passing over ridge after ridge they came upon a herd of mountain goats six or seven head strong deep in the mountains, and gave chase. They passed over a narrow and precarious stone bridge. The goats went on, with Ken and his companion in pursuit. They passed over a steep, sheer, rose-colored cliff. It was named “The Roseate Rampart.” Water poured down from above, the width of a bolt of cloth. The people of Yen called this a “cascading cloth.”1 Along the path was a gate-like cave, through which they could pass with ease. Upon entering they found an open plain, where all plants and trees smelled sweet.
There was a small house there in which two maidens lived. They were fifteen or sixteen years of age, lovely to behold, and were dressed in blue robes. One was called Lustrous Pearl, and the other ----.2 Seeing the two men approach, they cried out happily, “We’ve waited so long for you to come,” and thereupon they became husband and wife.
One day the ladies went out, saying that there was another who had found a husband, and they were going off to celebrate. They walked together above the precipice, the sound of their sandals crisply resounding. The two men thought of returning home and in secret went in search of the way. The women caught them in time and brought them back. But learning of their longing for home, the ladies said, “You may go as you please.” They gave a wrist sachet to Ken and his companion with the warning, “Take care not to open this.” The two men then returned home.
Later, when they were out again, Ken’s family opened the sachet to take a look. The sachet resembled a lotus blossom. Removing one layer revealed yet another, with five layers in all. At the center was a small azure bird, which flew away. When Ken returned and learned of this, he was despondent for a short while.
Some time later, when Ken had gone to plow in the fields, his family came with his meal as was their custom, and they observed him motionless in the field. Approaching him for a closer look, they found but an empty husk of skin, like a cicada’s molt.
(SSHC, 1/3; TPYL, 41.195a-b)
Tr. Chris Connery
Note: A typical piece about a “sojourn in fairyland.” The description of the fairies hastening to celebrate another wedding is a nice touch. The enigmatic image of the sachet must contain an allusion yet to be identified. The blue bird is usually associated with the Queen Mother of the West, by now a prominent figure in the Taoist pantheon.
1 This is one of the first occurrences of the term p’u-pu, now the common term for waterfall.
2 Two characters are missing in the original.
Feng Hsiao-chiang of Tung-p’ing [in Shantung] was the magistrate of Kuang-chou [P’an-yü County in Canton] during the Chin dynasty [265-420]. His son was named Pony, and was a little over twenty years old. One night he slept alone in the stable, and dreamed of a maiden of eighteen or nineteen who said to him, “I am the daughter of Hsü Hsüan-fang of Pei-hai [I-tu County in Shantung], the previous magistrate here. It was my ill fortune to die in my youth; I have been dead now for four years. I was unjustly killed by a demon. According to the Book of Life, I was to live into my eighties. Now it is agreed that I may live again, but I must rely on someone named Pony in order to return to life. We are also destined to be man and wife. Can you do your part to bring me back to life?” Pony answered, “Yes.” She then gave Pony the time of her next appearance.
When the appointed day came, hair covered the floor before Pony’s bed. He ordered it to be swept out, yet it only grew more distinct. Pony began to realize that this was the woman of his dream. He ordered everyone out, and gradually a forehead appeared, followed by a face, then by a neck and shoulders, and all at once the entire body.
Pony asked her to sit on the bed in front of him. She talked to him and her words were quite delightful. She then lay with Pony, but warned him, “Be careful. I’m still ethereal.” He asked at what time she could finally appear, and she answered, “I must return to life by repossessing my original body; the day has not yet come.”1
She then stayed in the stable.2 Everyone heard the sound of their voices. As the day of her revival approached, the maiden taught Pony the way to resurrect her. When she finished speaking, she departed.
Pony obeyed her instructions. When the day came he took a scarlet cock, a plate of millet, and a quart of clear wine, and spread them over her grave. When he had finished performing the rites, he dug up her coffin ten paces from the stable. As he opened it and looked at her, he found her appearance to be the same as before. He delicately lifted her out, wrapped her in felt, and placed her in a curtained bed. There was a faint warmth near her heart and breath came from her mouth. Pony ordered four servant girls to care for and nurture her. They kept her eyes moist with the milk of a white goat; eventually she was able to open them. Soon she could take porridge, and shortly afterward she could talk. Within two hundred days she could walk with a cane. After a year her color, skin, and strength were all back to normal.
A message was sent to Mr. Hsü, and everyone in the clan came. An auspicious day was selected, bridal gifts were presented, and they became man and wife. They gave birth to two sons and a daughter. The oldest boy, Yüan-ch’ing, served as Palace Library Clerk in the early years of the Yung-chia reign [307-313] of the Chin Emperor Huai. The second son, Ching-tu, served as Grand Tutor. The daughter was married to Liu Tzu-yen of Chi-nan, who had been offered a position at court, but declined it; he was the grandson of Liu Yen-shih.
Tr. Chris Connery
Note: The descriptions of the girl’s materialization from the floor of the bed chamber and of her slow return to a normal state of existence are both details rarely found in CK stories of resurrection. The piece’s origin in the south (Canton) may explain the distinctiveness of the imagination we see here.
1 The text here may also read, “I must wait until the original day of birth; it has not yet come.”--Ed.
2 The text is corrupted: wang (went to) probably should read chu (stayed in)--Ed.
During the Chin Dynasty in the reign of the Emperor An-ti [r. 397-418], there lived in Hou-kuan County [now Min-hou County in Fukien Province] a certain Hsieh Tuan. He lost both father and mother at an early age, and being without family or relations, was raised by a neighbor. As a young man of seventeen or eighteen years, he was respectful, diligent, unassuming, and never strayed into wrongdoing. When he first went to live on his own, he still had no wife, and his neighbors were all concerned for him. They planned to get him married, but as yet had not succeeded.
Tuan retired at nightfall and rose early. He farmed with all his strength, never stopping day or night. One day in the fields he found a great snail as big as a three gallon jug. He thought it a wondrous creature, took it home, stored it in a water jar, and raised it for about a fortnight..
Tuan would go to the fields each morning, and when he returned, he would find in his house food, drink, and boiled water, as if someone had prepared them for him. Tuan thought that this must be his neighbors’ charity. After many days of this he went to thank them, but they said, “We certainly have done nothing of the sort; what cause is there for thanks?” Tuan assumed that they had misunderstood him. But after this occured several times, he went again to his neighbors for a more straightforward inquiry. They just laughed and said, “You’ve already taken a wife on your own, and you keep her hidden in your house where she tends your hearth. Yet you say it is we who cook for you!” Tuan became pensive and puzzled, not knowing what the explanation could be.
On the following day he set out at cock crow, but returned home in secret at dawn. From beyond the hedge he spied into his house, and saw a young girl appear from out of the jar. She went to the hearth and lit the fire. Tuan then went into his house, and made directly for the jar to look for the snail. He saw only the girl.1 Going over to the hearth, he asked her, “Where are you from, my young lady, you who have come to cook for me?”
The girl was terrified and sought to return to the jar but could not. “I am the Pure Maiden of the White Waters, from the Milky Way. The Lord of Heaven took pity on you, orphaned so young, and yet so respectful, diligent, and unassuming. Thus he gave me the mission of keeping your hearth and cooking for you. In ten years you would have been rich and married, and I would then have returned home. But now for no reason you’ve spied on me and caught me unaware. My true form has been revealed, and thus I can remain here no longer. Now I must go and leave you. Still, in the future you should be moderately well off. Apply yourself well to farming and fishing. I’ll leave you this shell. Use it for storing rice and grain, and you’ll never be wanting.”
Tuan begged her to stay, but she steadfastly refused. Suddenly the sky turned to wind and rain, and in an instant she was gone.
Tuan set up a shrine for her and performed sacrifices on the seasonal festival days. He lived comfortably for the rest of his life, but he never became rich. Eventually one of his neighbors married his daughter to him, and he later reached the rank of local magistrate.
Today by the roadside can be found the Shrine to the Pure Maiden.
(SSHC 5/49; TPKC, 62.5)
Tr. Chris Connery
Note: Again we have here the theme of the good and the industrious receiving help from heaven (cf. “Tung Yung” ). This story is the source of the T’ang tale “Wu К’an” in the Yüan-hua chi (see Chang, pp. 193-94).
1 The TPKC version has “shell” for “girl.”--Ed.