Chao Wen-shao of K’uai-chi [modern Shen County, Chekiang] served as Eastern Palace Attendant. He lived by the middle bridge of the Clear Stream [a stream in northeast Nanking], one lane away from the home of Imperial Secretary Wang Shu-ch’ing. Their homes were about two hundred paces apart.
One autumn night under a fine moon, Chao grew wistful and homesick. He leaned against his gate and sang the song “Western Crows in Night Flight.” His singing was sad and plaintive. Suddenly a girl of fifteen or sixteen years, wearing the blue clothes of a maidservant, came up to him and said, “The Lady of the Wang house sends me to convey a message to the Attendant: she heard your song, and it delighted her very much. We are having a fête observing the moon, and I was sent to convey her greetings.”1 The evening was young and Chao suspected nothing. He gave a courteous reply and extended an eager invitation to the lady.
In an instant the woman arrived. She was seventeen or eighteen; her gait and countenance were lovely. She had two servant girls in attendance. When Chao asked her where her home was, she raised her hand and pointed toward the house of Imperial Secretary Wang, saying, “There. I heard your singing and have come to visit you. Could you do another song, please?”
Chao then sang for her “Grass Grows on Mesa Rock.” His singing was rich and pure, and the song deeply touched the maiden’s heart. She said, “If there is a vase, why worry that we can get no water.”2 She turned to her servants and said, “Go get the k’ung-hou lute that we may play for the Attendant.” In a moment they returned. The maiden plucked a few notes: the rippling beauty of her music touched Chao. She then ordered one of the maids to sing the song “Hoarfrost.” She herself loosened the belt of her robe, which was then tied to the body of the lute, and beat in time to the song. The words of the song went:
Wind blows at sunset,
Falling leaves cling
To the branches.
This thread of desire in a scarlet heart,
Alas, you feel it not.
A song of hoar frost,
It pervades the foredawn curtain;
What sense in keeping an empty bed?
I sit and await the hoarfrost fall.
The refrain sounded, and the hour was late. He invited her to stay overnight, and they slept together. At the fourth watch bell, they parted. She took a golden hairpin and gave it to Chao; he gave her in return a silver bowl and a porcelain spoon.
In the morning Chao went out and happened to come to the Clear Stream Temple. As he rested on the spirit dais, he noticed a bowl and became suspicious. When he checked behind a screen, he found the porcelain spoon. The belt was tied to the lute as before. In the temple was an image of the lady spirit, with two servant girls in blue robes standing in front of her. Chao looked closely and saw that they were his companions of the previous night. He left, never to return again. This was in the fifth year of the Yüan-chia reign period [424-454] of the Liu Sung Dynasty.
(HCHC, 8b9-b; cf. the version cited in Yüeh-fu shih-chi, 47, pp. 684-85)
Tr. Chris Connery
Note: According to Kuo Mao-ch’ien’s preface to the “Song of the Spirit of Clear Stream Temple,” the goddess was the third younger sister of Chiang Tzu-wen, the god of the shrine at Mount Chiang (see entry ). Notice how the notion of a romantic liaison between a human and a goddess is treated with opposing attitudes in this piece and in story (10). The young men in the latter, one remembers, were made to pay with their life for their blasphemous remarks.
The goddess in the present story was a favorite subject for many T’ang poets as well.
1 The “message” portion of the speech is rendered accordingbto the version in the Yüeh-fu shíh chi, ed. Kuon Mao-ch’ien (Peking: Chung-hua shu-chü, 1979), 47, p. 684.
2 The lyrics of Chao’s song are lost; they may have contained the image of the vase as a metaphor for a romantic sentiment.--Ed.
Hsü Yen was a native of Yang-hsien [modern I-hsing County, Kiangsu] and lived during the Eastern Chin Dynasty [317-420]. While traveling in the mountains of Sui-an [to the south of I-hsing], he came upon a scholar of about seventeen or eighteen years lying by the roadside. The young scholar said that his feet hurt, and begged to be carried in Hsü’s goose basket. Hsü took this for a joke, but the scholar proceeded to enter the basket. The basket grew no wider and the scholar grew no smaller. He curled up next to the two geese, who showed not the slightest surprise. Hsü carried the basket on, finding it not a bit heavier.
As Hsü prepared to rest beneath a tree, the scholar came out of the basket and said, “I would like, sir, to prepare for you a simple repast.”
“Most fine,” said Hsü. The scholar then spat from his mouth a bronze chest. In the chest were comestibles of various kinds, a cornucopia of delicacies from land and sea. The tableware was all of bronze, and the aromas and flavors were of a delicious fragrance rarely found in the world. After many rounds of wine, the scholar said to Hsü, “I have a woman accompanying me, and I desire now to invite her out for a while.”
“Most fine,” said Hsü. The scholar then spat from his mouth a girl of about fifteen or sixteen years. Her clothing was beautiful and delicate, her looks without equal. She joined the feast.
Soon the scholar was in a drunken slumber, and the girl said to Hsü, “Although I am married to this scholar, my heart is elsewhere. I have secretly brought a man with me. As the scholar is asleep, I’d like to call him out for a while. Please, sir, say nothing.”
“Most fine,” said Hsü. The girl then spat out a man of about twenty-two or twenty-three years. He, too, was clever and handsome. As he exchanged greetings with Hsü, the scholar began to stir from his sleep. The girl then spat out an embroidered screen. The scholar wished her to lie with him.
The man said to Hsü, “Although there is love in this woman for me, her heart is not wholly mine. I too have a secret traveling companion, and I’d like to see her for a while. I beg you, sir, not to divulge a word.”
“Fine,” said Hsü. The man then spat out a woman of about twenty years. Together they tippled and teased for some time. Hearing the scholar stirring, the young man said, “They’ve awakened,” and took the woman he had spat out and returned her to his mouth.
In an instant, the scholar’s wife appeared, and saying to Hsü, “The scholar will wake,” she swallowed the young man and sat alone facing Hsü.
After awakening, the scholar said to Hsü, “This brief nap has stretched so long. How bored you must have been, all alone. But the day is late, sir, and I must part with you.” He then swallowed the woman and put all the bronze tableware back in his mouth, leaving out a bronze platter about two feet wide. “I have nothing to present to you, sir,” he said, “but will give you this in remembrance.”
Later during the T’ai-yüan reign period [376-397] Hsü was serving as a Documentation Director. He used the platter in entertaining the Palace Attendant Chang San. Chang read the inscription on the platter, which said that it was made during the Han Dynasty in the third year of the Yung-ping reign period [58-75].
Tr. Chris Connery
Note: Apparently an adaptation of “A Foreign Master” (31), this version “naturalizes” the magician and gives a greater sense of unity to the story by concentrating on just one magic feat and developing to a greater extent the notion of “the container as the contained.” The replacement of the original ending with the souvenir motif (cf. “The Daughter of the King of Wu” ) also conforms with a native Chinese pattern.