In the fifth year of the Yung-p’ing reign period [58-75] under Emperor Ming of the Han dynasty, Liu Ch’en and Juan Chao of Yen-hsien [in southwestern Sheng County, Chekiang Province] went together to the T’ien-t’ai Mountains [in Chekiang Province]1 to gather mulberry bark. There they got lost and could not find their way back. After thirteen days their provisions were completely used up, and they were about to starve to death. At this point they happened to see a peach tree laden with fruit at the top of the mountain. The cliffs were steep, the streams deep, and there was no path leading up to the top. But by grabbing vines, they were able to climb to the top, where they each ate several peaches. Their hunger was then abated, and they regained their strength.
On their way down they scooped some water into their cups and were about to wash their hands and rinse their mouths when they saw some rape turnip leaves being swept downstream from the mountain. The leaves were quite fresh. A cup also drifted by--it contained sesame seeds mixed with cooked rice.
“There must be someone not far from here,” the two men remarked to each other. They dove into the water, swam upstream two or three li, crossed the mountain, and emerged in a large stream.
By the stream were two extremely beautiful girls. When they saw the two men coming ashore with the cup, they smiled and said, “Master Liu and Master Juan, that’s the cup we lost. Bring it over here.”
Liu Ch’en and Juan Chao did not know them, yet the two girls called them by their family names as if they were old friends. Moreover, the girls seemed delighted to see them.
“Why did it take so long for you to come?” the girls asked before inviting the two men into their home.
Their house was roofed with bamboo. There were two wooden beds, one by the north wall and the other by the south wall. Both beds were draped with scarlet satin curtains on which were hung gold and silver bells. At the head of each bed there were ten maids. The two girls issued the following orders, “Master Liu and Master Juan have traversed mountains and valleys. Although they just have had the carnelian fruit, they are still hungry and tired. Hurry and make us something to eat.”
The meal, consisting of rice with sesame seeds, dried mountain goat, and beef, was exquisite. When they had finished eating, wine was passed around. And then another group of girls entered, each earring three or four peaches in their hands. They smiled as they spoke to the two girls, “We present these to celebrate the arrival of your grooms.” After the wine, music was introduced. Amid the festivities, Liu and Juan were in high spirits, but still felt somewhat apprehensive.
At sundown each was told to sleep on one of the beds. The two girls went to them for the night, speaking so soothingly and tenderly that they forgot their cares.
Ten days later the two men asked to return home. “You are fortunate that fate led you here,” the girls replied. “How can you wish to go back?” So Liu and Juan stayed for another half year.
When they saw the signs of spring and heard birds singing, they became even more homesick and pleaded for permission to go home. The girls said, “If you are still bound by worldly desires, what can we do?” They summoned the maidens who had come before, and all thirty or forty of them gathered to entertain their guests with music. They all accompanied Liu and Juan and showed them the way back.
Upon returning home, they found that their old friends and relatives had all died, and the town had completely changed, so that they no longer recognized anything. By inquiry they finally located their seventh-generation grandchildren, who said they had heard that their ancestors had gone to the mountains and had been unable to find their way back.
In the eighth year of the T’ai-yüan reign period [376-396] Liu and Juan suddenly left. No one knows where they went.
(Lu, pp. 247-48; TPYL, 441.194b-195a)
Tr. Cordell D. K. Yee
Note: Of all the Six Dynasties CK, this is probably the piece most frequently alluded to. Generations of later poets, dramatists, and fiction writers have been fascinated by the story probably because of its presentation of the archetypal theme of “encounter with the fairies.” The refined style of the narrative and description no doubt contribute to the appeal of the piece.
See also Introduction, Sec. IV, for a brief discussion of the story.
1 The T’ien-t’ai range, consisting of a series of famous mountains, has been known for its association with religious Taoism ever since the Han dynasty. In the sixth century, Chih-k’ai founded the T’ien-t’ai School of Buddhism here. The mountains have been the site of many renowned Taoist and Buddhist temples.--Ed.
Early one morning Huang Yüan, a native of T’ai-shan [in Ch’ien-an County, Shantung Province] who lived during the Han dynasty, opened his gate and, to his surprise, found a black dog crouched outside, guarding the house as if it had been raised there. Yüan put a leash on the dog and went hunting with his neighbors. Toward sunset he saw a deer and let the dog loose. The dog ran so slowly that Yüan himself had to give chase. But in spite of all his efforts, he could not catch up with the deer.
After they had run several li, they came to a cave. Yüan went a hundred paces inside, and suddenly came upon a broad thoroughfare. Locust trees and willows were planted in rows, surrounded by a wall. Yüan followed the dog through a gate and saw a row of perhaps several dozen houses. All of the residents were girls--every one attractive in appearance and attired in an elegant robe. Some strummed lutes and zithers, while others played chess.
When Yüan reached the northern pavilion, he saw that it had three rooms. Two girls stood guard, looking as if they were expecting someone. When they saw Yüan, they looked at each other and smiled.
“The black dog has brought Miao-yin’s groom,” they said.
One of them stayed outside, while the other entered the pavilion. Moments later four maids came out, saying that the Lady of Supreme Purity1 had given them this message for Master Huang: “I have a young daughter who has just pinned up her hair.2 According to a preordained decree, she should become your wife.”
Since it was already dusk, they led Huang Yüan inside, where there was a hall which faced south. In front of the hall was a pool in which there was a platform with a hole one foot in diameter in each of the four corners. From each of the holes light shone on a curtain and a mat. There he saw Miao-yin, who was endowed with a delicate charm and was attended by beautiful maids. Having gone through the wedding rituals, she and Yüan went to bed as if they had known each other for years.
A few days later Yüan wanted to go home for a time to tell his family what had happened. Miao-yin said, “Men and spirits follow different paths. We were not meant to stay together for long.”
The next day she gave him the pendant that hung at her waist, and bade him farewell. Looking down at the steps where they were to part, she wept.
“We will probably never meet again, and that makes my love even stronger,” she said. “If you have any feelings for me, at dawn on the first day of the third month, please fast and purify yourself and make a sacrificial offering.”
Four maids escorted Huang Yüan out the gate. In half a day he was home, but his memory was somewhat hazy. But each year on the appointed day he saw a curtained carriage that seemed to fly through the air.
(Lu, pp. 250-51; TPKC, 292.5)
Tr. Cordell D. K. Yee
Note: The motif of “necromantic union” is here fused with that of “marriage with a fairy.” The story is also given a Taoist touch by the introduction of a bride with a Taoist genealogy. Cf. “Lu Ch’ung” (22).
1 Name of the daughter of Hsi Wang Mu (Queen Mother of the West). “Supreme Purity,” or T’ai-chen, is t he pneuma (ch’i) of the Great Ultimate (T’ai-chi).
2 At the age of fi fifteen a girl pinned up her hair to signify her coming of age.
Chen Ch’ung, a native of Chung-shan [present day Ting County in Hopeh Province] whose courtesy name was Shu-jang, was appointed magistrate of Yün-she [located northwest of modern day Mien-yang County in Hupeh Province]. He had arrived at the vicinity of [nearby] Hui-huai when a man suddenly came to see him and said that the son of the earth-god would like to pay Chen a visit. Moments later he arrived--a handsome youth. After they sat down and exchanged greetings, the youth said, “My father has sent me here. He desires the honor of becoming a relative of yours and would like to give my younger sister in marriage. I have come to inform you of this.”
Chen was astonished. “I have passed the prime of my age, and besides, I already have a family,” he said. “What reason is there for this proposal?”
“My sister is young and has few rivals in beauty,” the earth-god’s son said. “She would certainly be a good match. How can you refuse?”
“I am an old man,” Chen said. “Since I now have a wife, how could I tolerate such a violation of propriety?”
They argued back and forth several times, but Chen did not change his decision in the least. The earth-god’s son grew angry.
“My father will come here himself,” he said. “I’m afraid you won’t be able to defy him.”
After the son left, Chen saw men wearing turbans and wielding horsewhips on both banks of the river. They marched in formation, and their ranks were quite deep. Finally the god himself arrived, with shields and insignia before and behind him as if he were a feudal lord. He rode in a carriage with green banners and red trim. There were also several covered carriages. The girl rode in an open carriage with several dozen brocaded wind screens and eighteen maids lined up in front. Their clothes were more elegant and colorful than any Chen had ever seen.
On the bank, next to Chen, a tent was pitched and a straw mat set out. The god descended from his carriage and, leaning against a low bench, sat on a white felt cushion. He had a jade cuspidor and a tortoise-shell holder for his handkerchiefs, and in his hand was a white whisk. The girl, however, remained on the east bank, her carriage flanked by eunuchs holding white whisks. Her maids stood in front.
The god directed a steward to order Chen to sit down before him, and Chen found himself facing sixty musicians. Music was ordered. The instruments all looked like porcelain.
The god addressed Chen, “My daughter is lowly, but I love her dearly. Because of your moral character and good reputation, I wish to join her with you in marriage. I thus sent my son to inform you of my intentions.”
“I am old and haggard,” Chen said. “I already have a family. Moreover, my son is already grown. Even if I wanted a large dowry, I wouldn’t dare accept.”
“My daughter has just turned twenty,” the god said. “She is a true beauty and was brought up properly; in her the four virtues1 are complete. She is now on the opposite bank. Don’t cause any trouble--just go through with the ceremony.”
Chen resisted strenously. Thinking that the god might be, in fact, a demon, he drew his sword and laid it, drew his sword and laid it across his lap, intending to fight to the death. He said nothing more to the god. The god was incensed and called for three leopards and two tigers. They opened their mouths, revealing a deep red; they roared, the sound splitting the ground; and they leaped straight up. All this was repeated several dozen times. They persisted in their menacing behavior throughout the night without being able to move Chen. Finally they had no alternative but to leave.
One pullcart remained, along with several dozen people who still wished to receive Chen. Chen traveled on to Hui-huai and stopped at the official lodging in the county seat. When the carriage and welcoming party reached the gate, a man wearing a turban and unlined robe bowed to Chen and said: “Stop here. You must not go any further.”
Chen remained there for more than ten days before venturing to go on. He saw a man wearing a turban and holding a horsewhip. The man followed him until he arrived at his home. A few days later he fell ill and died.2
(Lu, pp. 297-98; TPKC, 318.22)
Tr. Cordell D. K. Yee
Note: On the motif of interception by a local deity, cf. “Ts’ai Chih’s Wife” (2); and on a marriage imposed by a god, cf. “Huang Yuan” (41). Ch’ung’s resistance against the threats of the wild beasts seems to resemble one of the trials that Chao Sheng undergoes in “Chang Tao-ling” (29).
1 Proper behavior, proper speech, proper demeanor, proper employment (or deeds).
2 The TPKC text is followed for the translation of this sentence. Lu’s text reads: “A few days later his wife fell ill and subsequently died.” The latter text seems to contain a corruption: kuei (arriving at home) is mistaken for fu (wife).--Ed.
There was once an extremely wealthy family that had only one son. The parents pampered their son and allowed him to do as he pleased. Once when he was strolling around the marketplace, he saw a beautiful girl selling ceruse. He fell in love with her but could not express his feelings except by buying the powder from her. He went to the marketplace every day, but as soon as he bought the powder, he left without a word.
Eventually the girl grew deeply suspicious. The next time the young man came, she asked, “What do you do with all the powder you buy?”
“I am in love with you,” he replied, “But I haven’t dared to say so. I constantly long to see you, and I buy powder just so I can admire your beauty.”
The girl was touched and promised to meet him the next evening.
On the appointed evening the young man lay calmly in his room and waited for the girl to come. Toward dark she arrived. He was overwhelmed with joy and, grabbing her arm, he said, “I’ve waited so long for this!” He leapt up transported and suddenly died. The girl was frightened and at a loss as to what to do, so she simply slipped out, and waited until dawn to return to the powder shop.
At breakfast that morning the young man’s parents wondered why he had not risen. They went to his room and found that he had died.
While making arrangements for their sons’s funeral, they opened his chest and discovered the ceruse--one hundred pouches, large and small, all in a pile.
“This powder must have something to do with my son’s death,” said his mother.
The youth’s parents roamed through the marketplace, buying ceruse. Finally they came to the girl and found that her palmprints matched those on their son’s pouches.
“Why did you kill our son?” they asked.
The girl began to sob and gave a full account of what had happened. The parents, however, were skeptical and took her to court, where she said, “I am by no means unwilling to die. I only ask to see the body once more so that I may mourn for him.”
The prefect granted her request. She went immediately to the body and embraced it, weeping bitterly as she spoke, “It’s really unfortunate that this happened. If your spirit is aware of my grief, I’ll have no regrets.”
At once the young man revived. After he explained what had happened, he and the girl were married. They had many descendants.
(Lu, p. 296; TPKC, 274.1)
Tr. Cordell D. K. Yee
Note: Cf. “Wang Tao-p’ing” (16). The resurrection theme here is embedded in a background of socio-economical reality. Hua-реп stories later will often have similar occurences of the supernatual amidst the realistically depicted social setting.
In the prefecture of Chü-lu [modern Ning-chin County, Hopeh] there was a man by the name of Ρ’ang A who was handsome and carried himself well. The Shih family of that same prefecture had a daughter who took a liking to him after she chanced to see him from the inner quarters of her house. Not long thereafter, Ρ’ang A saw this girl coming to pay a call on him. Ρ’ang A’s wife was a very jealous woman, and when she heard of this, she ordered her maidservant to tie up the girl and send her back to the Shih family. However when they were halfway there, the girl transformed herself into a wisp of smoke and disappeared. Thereupon the maidservant went straight to see the Shih family and told them the story. The father of the Shih family was shocked and said, “My daughter has never even stepped outside this house. How can you spread such slander as this?”
From then on Ρ’ang A’s wife took even more care to keep an eye on him. A few nights later she came across this girl in the study, whereupon she herself tied her up and took her back to the Shih family.1 When the father saw her he stared dumbfoundedly and said, “I just came from inside and saw the girl working with her mother. How could she be here?” He then ordered a maidservant to call the girl to come out. As soon as the girl came out, the one who had been tied up vanished like smoke. The father suspected that there must be a reason for this, so he sent for the mother to ask the girl about it. The girl said, “Last year I once stole a glance at Ρ’ang A when he came to our house and ever since then I have felt confused. Once I dreamt that I went to visit Ρ’ang A, and when I reached the entrance to his house, I was tied up by his wife.”
Mr. Shih said, “How extraordinary that there are such strange matters as this in the world! Indeed, when one’s feelings are deeply affected, the spirit will manifest itself in mysterious ways. Thus the one who disappeared must have been her spirit.”
After this the girl made a vow that she would never marry. Some years later, Ρ’ang A’s wife suddenly contracted a terrible illness, and neither doctors nor medicines were able to save her life. After her death Ρ’ang A sent betrothal gifts to the Shih girl and took her to wife.
(Lu, p. 303; TPKC, 358.1)
Tr. Madeline Spring
Note: This is one of the earliest CK stories that relate the detachment of the soul from the body to assume an independent existence of its own. The most celebrated of the stories treating this subject is the T’ang tale “The Disembodied Soul” (Li hun chi) (61), which became the source for many Yüan and Ming stories and plays. The story’s appeal to later writers seems to lie in the theme stated in the story itself: “when one’s feelings are deeply affected, the spirit will manifest itself in mysterious ways.”
The “detached soul” as a metaphor for unsuppressible passions is to appear later as the central theme of T’ang Hsien-tsu’s (1550-1617) intriguing play, The Peony Pavilion.
1 The other TPKC version has “p’ang A’s father” instead of his wife who kept watch and tied up the girl.--Ed.
Once, toward the end of the Sheng-p’ing reign period [357-361] there was an old man from Ku-chang [modern An-chi County, Chekiang] who had a daughter. They lived together deep in the mountains. One day a certain Kuang of Yü-hang [east of Hang-chou, modern Chekiang] came to ask for the daughter’s hand in marriage, but her father refused. When the old man later died of an illness, the daughter went into town to buy a coffin. Along the way she happened upon Kuang and told him what had happened.
“I’m very strained at the moment,” said the girl. “If you would go back to my house and watch over my father’s corpse, then when I return I’ll be your wife.” Kuang agreed to this. The girl then said, “There are pigs in our pen. Go ahead and kill one for sacrificial meat.”
Kuang went on to the girl’s home, but when he got there he heard sounds of joyous clapping and gleeful dancing from within the house. At first puzzled, he looked in from outside the fence, only to see a number of ghosts in the main hall, playing with the old man’s corpse. Kuang picked up a big stick and ran into the room, yelling wildly. The ghosts scattered. Kuang watched over the corpse, and meanwhile also killed the pig.
That night he looked up to see an old ghost near the corpse, begging for a piece of the meat. Kuang grabbed the ghost’s arm, and the ghost could not get away as Kuang held on ever more tightly. At that moment, from beyond the door to the house, he heard several ghosts calling out to him, “That old ghost is really just too greedy for food!”
“Then it was you who killed the old man!” said Kuang to the old ghost. “If you quickly return his spirit, I’ll let you go. Otherwise you will never get away!” “My son and the others killed the old man,” said the old ghost. He then cried out to his son, “You may return him.”
Gradually, the old man returned to life, and so the old ghost was released. When the daughter returned with the casket, she was surprised and cried to see her father alive.
And so it was that Kuang came to take the daughter as his wife.
(Lu, pp. 265-66; TPKC, 383.5)
Tr. Michael Broschat
Note: Cf. “Sung Ting-po” (3) and “Ch’in Chü-po” (20). The ghosts in this particular story have much in common with humans in their voracity, gullibility, cunning, and cowardice.
In the prefecture of Pa-ch’iu [modern Hsia-chiang County, Kiangsi] there lived a shaman by the name of Shu Li, who died of an illness in the first year of the Yung-ch’ang reign [322-323]. As was the custom, the Earth God prepared to escort him to T’ai-shan Mountain,1 the first stop in the soul’s journey after death. On the way they passed an attendant of the underworld who was in a Buddhist temple. The Earth God asked him, “What kind of place is this?” and the attendant answered, “A house of The Enlightened.” Now, the common people called shamans “enlightened people,” so the Earth God said, “This man is also an enlightened man.” Thus, he turned Shu over to the attendant. When Shu entered the gate he saw several thousand tiled rooms, all hung with bamboo curtains and furnished with beds and couches, men and women having separate areas. There were people reciting the sutras, some singing hymns and some leisurely eating. It seemed everyone was happy beyond expression.
Now, Shu’s documents and name had already reached the gates of T’ai-shan but he had not. The Earth God was sent for and questioned. He replied, “On the way we saw several thousand tiled rooms. When I inquired of the attendant he said that they were for The Enlightened, so I handed him over.” A spirit was dispatched to bring him back.
Meanwhile, Shu, who was still exploring the tiled rooms, saw a person with eight hands and four eyes carrying a gold pestle come towards him to crush him. Terrified, he ran back out of the gates. The spirit was already at the gates to meet him, so he escorted Shu to T’ai-shan.
The magistrate of T’ai-shan asked Shu, “When you were in the world of mortals, what did you do?” Shu said, “I served thirty-six thousand spirits, performed exorcisms for people, and presided over temple sacrifices, sometimes killing cows, calves, pigs, sheep, chickens, and ducks.” The magistrate said, “You flattered spirits and killed living creatures, so to repay your guilt you shall be subjected to a hot grill.”
The magistrate had an official lead Shu to the place of burning. There the shaman saw a creature with the head of an ox and the body of a man who held an iron prong. He skewered Shu on it and tossed him onto an iron grill upon which he was turned until his body was thoroughly scorched. The shaman pleaded in vain for death. He was subjected to this torture for two days and one night, experiencing the most intolerable sufferings.
The magistrate then asked of the controller of rewards and punishments: “Did Shu Li complete his allotted life span? or are we depriving him of his due?” Checking the records, it was found he still had eight years to live, so the magistrate said, “Bring him here.” Using the iron prong the ox-headed man again skewered Shu, moving him to the edge of the place of burning. The magistrate said, “We’re going to send you back to live out the rest of your allotted life. Never again kill living creatures or engage in licentious sacrifices.”
Shu was suddenly returned to life and subsequently gave up his occupation as shaman.
(Lu, p. 262; TYCL, 78.931a; TPKC 283.1)
Tr. Michael Broschat
Note: An example in which elements of native shamanism and legends related to the lord of T’ai-shan are used to propagate Buddhist doctrines, particularly the injunction against killings of any kind for any purpose.
1 See “Chiang Chi’s Dead Son” (1), n. 2.
For more than thirty years the curate of the temple at Lake Chiao [in Anhwei Province]1 had a pillow made of cypress. In it there was a small crack.
A local merchant, T’ang Lin,2 once came to the temple to pray for good fortune. The curate said to him, “You’re not married yet? Then you may sleep beside this crack.”
The curate bade Lin enter the crack. Lin saw vermilion gates, jade palaces, gemmed terraces, all of which surpassed anything in the ordinary world. He met Grand Marshal Chao, who arranged a marriage for him. Lin raised six children, four boys and two girls. He was also appointed Assistant Director of the Imperial Library and soon promoted to Attendant Within the Yellow Gates. All the time he was in the pillow, Lin never thought of going home, but he eventually ran into trouble and adversity in his career.
It was then that the curate told him to come back out, and there was the pillow in front of him. Lin felt as if he had spent several years inside it, but in reality he had been there only an instant.
(Lu, p. 314; TPKC, 283.3; TPHYC, 126.183a-b)
Tr. Cordell D. K. Yee
Note: This is another of the CK themes which exerts a far-reaching influence on later literature. The story’s treatment of dream represents the standard allegorical treatment in the Chinese tradition, both Buddhist and Taoist. Note that the shift in the experience of time which occurs inside the pillow is shown to be directly opposite to that experienced in a fairyland (see, e.g., “Liu Ch’en and Juan Chao” ); here “several years” in the dream world is but an instant in reality.
The best known T’ang tale based on this story is “Chen-chung chi” (The World inside a Pillow) by Shen Chi-chi (750?-800) (Ma and Lau, pp. 435-38); the best known of the Yüan and Ming plays based on it are “Huang-liang meng” (The Yellow Millet Dream) by Ma Chih-yüan (1250?-1323) (in collobration with three other playwrights) and “Han-tan chi” (On the Way to Han-tan) by T’ang Hsien-tsu (1550-1617).
See Han-liang Chang, “The Yang Lin Story Series: A Structural Analysis,” in China and the West: Comparative Literature Studies, ed. William Tay, Ying-hsiung Chou, and Heh-hsiang Yuan (Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 1980), pp. 195-216, for a detailed discussion of this story and other related works.
1 Also known as Lake Ch’ao.--Ed.
2 The TPHYC version gives the character’s name as Yang Lin.--Ed.