When Chiang Chi was General of the Garrison,1 his wife saw their dead son in a dream. In tears he said to her, “Life and death are different roads! When I was alive, I was the descendant of ministers. Now, beneath the ground, I am a petty sergeant in Mount T’ai’s2 realm of the dead. Because of the lowliness of this position and the hardships it entails, I am indescribably haggard. The singer Sun A who lives west of the Imperial Temple has today received the command to become magistrate of Mount T’ai. I would like you to have the marquis, my father, enjoin Sun A on my behalf that I might obtain a happier position.” When he finished speaking, his mother suddenly awoke. The following day she told Chiang Chi what had occurred. Chiang Chi said, “Dreams are like that. You needn’t think it strange.”
The following night the mother again dreamt of her son who told her, saying, “I have come to greet the new magistrate, and have been stationed temporarily beneath the temple. I am able to return to see you for a while just before he departs. The new magistrate is to start on his journey by noon tomorrow, but before his departure there will be much to do, so that I won’t be able to come back again. I will make my eternal farewell here and now. The marquis has a stubborn nature and is not easily prevailed upon. That is why I have voiced my plaint to you, Mother. I would like you to beseech the marquis once more. What would be the harm in putting this to a test!” Thereupon he related Sun A’s physical appearance in great detail.
After the sun had risen, the mother spoke to the marquis once more, saying, “Last night I had another dream of our son’s plea. Even though it is said that dreams are nothing to believe in, this is just too coincidental. What would be the harm in trying an experiment?” Chiang-chi thereupon dispatched someone to the Imperial Temple to inquire about Sun A, who, sure enough, was there. His physical appearance proved to be in every way as Chiang Chi’s son had described him. Chiang Chi wept and said, “I had almost turned my back on my son!”
He then sent for Sun A and told him the whole affair. Sun did not fear his imminent death, but was instead pleased that he was to become magistrate of Mount T’ai. He feared only that Chiang Chi’s words might not be reliable. Thus he said, “If it is as you say, General, it is as I wish. Yet what position does your worthy son wish to receive?” Chiang Chi answered, “Give him whatever is desirable in the underground.” Sun responded, “Then it shall be done as you instruct!” The general then rewarded him amply, and having finished speaking, he sent him home.
Chiang Chi was anxious to know the outcome of his test. He had a man posted every ten paces from the gate of his garrison headquarters to the foot of the Imperial Temple, in order to pass on news of Sun A. Early the next morning the news arrived that Sun had developed a pain in his chest. By mid-morning it was reported that Sun’s condition had worsened, and at noon Sun’s death was announced. Chiang Chi said in tears, “Even though I am in sorrow over my son’s misfortune, I am nonetheless pleased to learn that the dead retain their sentience.”
A month later, Chiang Chi’s son reappeared and told his mother, “I have been made Recorder of Events!”
(Lu, pp. 139-40; TPKC, 276.11)
Tr. Pedro Acosta
Note: Based on the proposition that “the dead retain their sentience,” this story features dreams as a special “zone” for the cross-boundary communication between the dead and the living. Notice that there is a shift of interest in the story’s event-line--a shift from the original topic of the son’s pleas for a different position to that of the manner of Sun A’s death. This also to betray the real purpose of the story, which is to show that spirits do exist.
The father’s “conversion” at the end is similar to what happens in “The Daughter of the King of Wu” (21), discussed in Introduction, Sec. IV.
1 Chiang Chi was a native of the state of Ch’u who came to be Grand Commandant in the state of Wei. His biography is in San-kuo chih 14, pp. 450ff.
2 Mt. T’ai is T’ai-shan, one of the five sacred mountains in China. This is the site on which the Han emperors performed major sacrifices to Heaven and Earth. With the introduction of Buddhism into China, it became confused with the T’ai-shan of the Ten Buddhist Hells and was identified as a branch of Yama’s court. T’ai-shan Wang, the God of T’ai-shan, thus, became the lord of departed souls and judge of the dead (see Ku Yen-wu, Jih chih lu, 30, 28b-19a [SPPY edition]; cf. Po-wu chih, 1/20 [Peking: Chung-hua shu-chü, 1980], p. 10).--Ed.
Ts’ai Chih of Lin-tzu [in Shantung] was a county clerk. Once he was summoned to the district seat to see the prefect, and lost his way. He arrived at the foot of Mount T’ai,1 where he saw what seemed to be a city wall. He entered and presented his card of introduction. He saw an official whose solemn insignia suggested the rank of prefect. After he had been refreshed with wine and food, the official gave him a letter, saying, “May I entrust you to take this letter to my daughter’s son?” Ts’ai asked, “Who is Your Excellency’s grandson?” His host replied, “I am the God of Mount T’ai. My grandson is the Lord of Heaven.” The clerk was startled and only then realized that he was not in the realm of men.
He set out from the gate and let the horse take him where he was to go. After a while, he suddenly came upon the Τ’ai-wei Palace2 where the Lord of Heaven was enthroned. He was flanked by ministers in attendance who looked exactly like those in the court of the Son of Heaven, the emperor in the human world. When Ts’ai had handed over the letter, the Lord commanded him to sit. He gave him wine and food, and inquired, “How many persons are there in your family?” T’ai answered, “My parents and my wife have all passed away. I have not as yet remarried.” The Lord said, “How many years ago did your wife die?” Ts’ai said, “Three years ago.” The Lord said, “Do you wish to see her?” Ts’ai said, “I praise the benevolence of the Lord of Heaven!”
The Lord thereupon directed the Secretary of the Board of Revenue and Population to issue an order to the Divinity of the Destinies to register Ts’ai Chih’s wife again in the Book of the Living. He then commanded her to join Ts’ai Chih and leave with him.
When he awoke, Ts’ai returned home. He opened his wife’s grave and saw her form, which, sure enough, had come to life. After a while she sat up and began to speak to him as she had done in the past.
(Lu, p. 145; TPKC, 375.13)
Tr. Pedro Acosta
Note: Ts’ai’s role as a “messenger” is reminiscent of that of the shaman as a spiritual medium. The story of a human getting involved in the business of gods (and receiving a reward for the favor done to them) is elaborated in the more celebrated case of Liu Yi of the T’ang tale “The Legendary Marriage at Tung-t’ing” (Ma and Lau, pp. 346-54). There the human messenger-agent also gains a wife for his service to the dragons. Cf. “Hu-mu Pan” (8) and also “The Story of Ling-ying” (68).
1 See n.2 of “Chang Chi’s Dead Son” (1).
2 Τ’ai-wei is one of the three groups of stars known as the “celestial parapets” (san-yüan). Included in the T’ai-wei formation is a “palace” constellation which was believed to correspond to the palace of the emperor, who was titled the Son of Heaven.
When Sung Ting-po1 of Nan-yang [a commandery in southwestern Honan] was young, he once traveled by night and ran into a ghost.
Sung asked who he was, and the ghost said, “I am a ghost.” The ghost then asked Sung, “And who are you?”
“I, too, am a ghost,” Ting-po deceived him.
“Where are you going?”
“I am going to Yüan market.”2
“I am going there, too.”
They traveled together for several miles. Then the ghost said, “We are walking too slowly. How about taking turns carrying each other?”
“Very well,” replied Ting-po.
The ghost first carried Ting-po for several miles, then said, “You are too heavy. You must not be a ghost.”
“I am a new ghost,” said Ting-po, “That’s why my body is heavy.” Ting-po then carried the ghost, and the ghost was almost weightless. Thus they alternated carrying each other.
Ting-po then said, “I am a new ghost, so I do not know what ghosts should fear most.”
The ghost replied, “The only thing we do not like is human spittle.”
They continued on their journey. The road led up to a river, and Ting-po had the ghost go across first. He listened to the ghost as he crossed but heard no splashing sounds at all. Ting-po then went across himself, but he could not help making splashing noises.
“Why was there a noise?” asked the ghost.
“It is because I have only recently died,” said Ting-po, “so I am not used to crossing rivers. Don’t think it strange of me!”
They continued on their way and were about to reach Yüan market when Ting-po lifted the ghost to his shoulders, holding him in a firm grip. The ghost let out a loud cry of surprise and begged to be put down. Ting-po no longer heeded him, but went straight to Yüan market, where he set the ghost on the ground. The ghost turned into a lamb, so Ting-po put him up for sale. Fearing that the ghost would transform himself yet again, Ting-po spat on him. He received 1500 copper coins for the lamb, and then went on his way.
From that time the story went about that Ting-po sold a ghost for 1500 copper coins.
(Lu, pp. 141-42; TPKC, 321.14; FYCL, 10.107a; cf. SSC 16/393)
Tr. Pedro Acosta
Note: The dramatic mode employed here suggests a certain degree of consciousness of presentation. That the ways of the ghost can be learned and that there is always a way of dealing with the unknown make the world of the ghost and the unknown less terrifying than it otherwise would be. To be versed in the lore of ghosts thus also serves a practical purpose.
1 The versions in TPKC and FYCL identify the hero as Tsung Ting-po.
2 In Nan-yang.
In P’eng-ch’eng [modern Hsü-chou, Kiangsu] there was a man who took a wife but did not like her, so he spent the nights outside his home. After several months the wife asked, “Why don’t you come back in at night?” The man said, “You’ve been coming out to visit me every night. What’s the need for me to come back in?” The woman said, “I’ve never done that!” Her husband was surprised. The woman said, “You have a mind to carry on an affair, and must have been bewitched by something. If anyone comes again, grab and detain her until you can get a torch to shine on her and see what she really is.”
Later on, the person he had expected returned in the guise of his wife. She approached the house but hesitated before going inside when someone pushed her from behind. Having gotten her on the bed, the husband seized her and said, “Why do you come out every night?” The woman said, “You have been having an affair with the girl in the house to the east. In dismay I invented the story of the goblin, hoping the wedding oath would keep you from having an affair.” The husband released her and slept with her.
In the middle of the night it dawned on him, and he reckoned: “Goblins deceive humans. This isn’t my wife!” He took hold of her and in a frenzy shouted for a torch. Meanwhile she began to shrink bit by bit, and when she was visible he beheld her. It was a carp, about two feet in length.
(Lu, pp. 146-47; TPKC, 469.7)
Tr. Pedro Acosta
Note: A psychological origin for the “goblin” (the supernatural) is hinted at here, but it is overridden at the end.
The matter of “confused identity” presented in the story has the potential for a tragic (or comic) development. But the possibility is forestalled because the story is interested primarily in recording the kuai | the notion of “mistaken identity” will be fully explored as a literary motif only later in Ming and Ch’ing drama.
Of old there was a Director of Retainers from Shang-tang [modern Ch’ang-chih county, Shansi] by the name of Pao Hsüan, styled Tzu-tu. While still young he had been appointed as the Official Who Presents Accounts. Once during a journey in this capacity, he met a student traveling alone on the road. The student suddenly developed a pain in his chest, whereupon Pao Hsüan dismounted his horse and massaged him, yet the student died without warning. Pao Hsuan did not know his name, but he found on his person a scroll of the Su-shu text1 and ten ingots of silver. He sold one of the ingots to arrange for a burial and secreted the rest inside the coffin. The text he placed upon the student’s abdomen. Pao wept for him, saying, “If your soul has cognition, it should let your family know that you are here. As I am on an official mission, I cannot tarry long.” He thus bade farewell and departed.
Upon his arrival at the capital, a fine steed began to follow him about. No one could approach the animal; only Pao Hsüan could come near it.
Once, after he returned home, he went on a journey and lost his way. He happened to pass by the house of a marquis in the region west of Han-ku Pass. As the sun had set, Pao sought shelter, asking a servant of the household to present his card to the master. When the servant saw the fine steed, he went back inside and reported to the marquis, “The guest outside is the thief who stole the fine steed you once lost!” The master said, “Pao Tzu-tu of Shang-tang is a reputed scholar.2 He will surely have something to say about this.”
The marquis then asked Pao Hsüan, “How did you get this horse? It is one we lost some years ago.” Pao Hsüan replied, “Years ago, I was going to present the accounts when I met a student who died suddenly on the road.” He then recounted the whole affair.
Upon hearing this, the marquis, was awestruck and said, “That was my son!” He then traveled to the burial site and opened the coffin in which he saw the silver and the book as Pao had said.
Taking his family with him, the marquis later went to the capital to see the emperor and recommended Pao for his laudable deeds. Thereupon, Pao Hsüan’s reputation spread.
His son Yung and his grandson Yü were also made Director of the Retainers after him. When they became dukes, they all rode piebald horses. That is why there was a song from the capital which went:
The piebald horses of the Pao clan!
Thrice were they Director of Retainers;
They were then made dukes.
Jaded though their horses were,
Their gallop was superb.
(Lu, pp. 137-38; IWLC, 83.4b; TPYL, 250.1181b)
Tr. Pedro Acosta
Note: In this story uncanny animal intelligence is treated as a kuai phenomenon of the fantastic sub-genre. A dog’s intelligent behavior, particularly its loyalty to its master, is also a common theme in CK.
1 Su-shu, or Book of Simplicity, is a moral tract attributed to Huang Shih-kung, the old man who reputedly gave Chang Liang (d. 189 B.C.) a book on military strategy. The phrase in this context may also mean “a silk scroll of writings.”--Ed.
2 For Pao’s official biography, see Han shu 72, pp. 3086ff. --Ed.