Ou Ching-chih, a “camp man”1 of Nan-k’ang Prefecture [modern Kan County, Kiangsi], took a boat trip with his son one day during the first year of the Yüan-chia reign period [424-53]. They started from the prefectural seat and proceeded far upstream to a secluded branch of the river. The place was remote and desolate, completely cut off from the outside world; no human being had ever set foot there before. They went ashore in the evening to camp for the night. There Ching-chih had a stroke and died unexpectedly.
His son built a fire to keep vigil over the body. Suddenly he heard someone wailing mournfully in the distance, calling out, “Uncle!” Ou’s son was mystified and frightened. Presently the mourner came into sight. It was a creature the size of a man, with long hair reaching down to its feet and completely covering the features of its face. As it came closer, it called Ou’s son by name and tried to console him. Seized with fear, the son threw all the wood in to kindle the fire, so that it might shine on the creature. The creature said, “I have come to offer my condolences and to comfort you. Why are you frightened and make the fire blaze up like that?”
It then sat down by the head of the corpse to mourn. Stealing a look at the creature, the son saw it bend over and cover the face of the corpse with its own. In an instant, the corpse’s face was clean of flesh, the skull exposed. The son was terrified, and sought to drive the creature away, but there was nothing at hand he could use as a weapon. By the time he turned to look again, only the bones of the body were left; and in another moment, even the skin and bones had been consumed.
It was never known what kind of monster or evil spirit that creature was.
(Lu, p. 176; TPKC, 324.6)
Tr. S. Y. Kao
Note: An example of the type of kuai featuring evil creatures that inhabit the wild terrain beyond the pale of human civilization. Here narrative purpose is subservient to that of description and portrayal.
1 In the Six Dynasties, commoners of a defeated state were sometimes kept as bond peasants to work the land of their captors. They were called ying-hu or ying-min (camp people), and were accorded a status lower than that of ordinary peasants.
Ts’ui Chi of Ch’ing-ho [in modern Hopeh Province, bordering on Shantung] once stayed in Ch’ing-chou [modern I-tu County, Shantung] while on a journey. A Chu family there had a daughter who was delicate and beautiful beyond comparison. With all the means at his disposal, Ts’ui courted her and proposed to make her his concubine.
One night around midnight, Ts’ui heard someone knocking at the door. Putting on his clothes, he came to answer it and saw the girl standing outside, her face covered with tears. In a choked voice she said, “I was seized by a sudden illness and have just lost my life. I am forever deprived of your love and unable to share the happiness of life with you. Such pain and grief is unbearable!”
She then took out of her bosom two measures of silk and gave them to Ts’ui, saying, “Lately I have been weaving this silk, and had intended to make a shirt and a pair of trousers for you. But I have not yet started cutting the cloth. I shall now present this to you as a gift.” Ts’ui in return gave her a piece of brocade eight feet long. Receiving it, the girl said, “We shall never see each other again!” When she finished speaking, she disappeared and was seen no more.
As soon as the sun came up, Ts’ui went to ask about her at her home. Her father said, “My daughter was suddenly taken ill last night, and passed away during the night.” Ts’ui asked, “Is any silk missing from your house?” Her father said, “My daughter had woven two measures of silk and left them in the chest. After her death, her mother took them out to make graveclothes for her, but they suddenly disappeared when her mother was not watching. Ts’ui then related what he had just experienced.
(Lu, pp. 190-91; TPYL, 817)
Tr. S. Y. Kao
Note: A variation on the “necromantic” theme; cf. “Ρ’ang A” (44).
In the Yüan-chia reign [424-454] of the Liu Sung, Huang Miao, a man from P’ing-ku in Nan-k’ang [in modern Kiangsi Province], was a provincial clerk. He was given leave, but did not return to his post on time. As he traveled north, back to the province, he happened to pass by Kung-է’ing Lake where he entered a temple and prayed that he be saved from punishment and, furthermore, that he be allowed to go home for a visit. If indeed those prayers were answered, he would offer pork and wine in a sacrifice. Huang went back to his province to find that all he wished for had been granted, and so he set off for home.
His allowance being rather low, he did not pass the temple on his way but took another road instead. When he reached the outskirts of the city, he moored his boat next to his friends’ for the night. In the middle of the night the boat suddenly began to move down the river on its own. It moved swiftly like the wind until, some time approaching the fourth watch [1-3 A.M.], it reached Kung-t’ing; only then did Huang Miao realize what was the matter.
He saw that there were three people on board, all wearing black clothing, who bound him with some rope they were carrying. Still in the dark of night, they approached the temple and stopped below the steps. There he saw a god clad in yellow and white brocade robes who looked like a forty-year-old man. From a beam was hung a pearl as large as a catapult ball, so brilliant it lit the room.
Someone from outside reported, “Here is Huang Miao of P’ing-ku, who vowed to offer pork and wine as sacrifices for the realization of his wishes, but has tried to evade his promises on his way home. We were ordered to arrest him and have brought him.” His sentence was “to be banished for three years,” during which time he was to “take thirty people.”
An official of the spirits was sent to accompany Miao to the deepest part of the mountain forests. He was chained to a tree, and fed daily with raw flesh. Overcome with frustration, his mind grew fuzzy. He began to feel hot flashes and cold chills. His body ulcerated, and everywhere he began to grow animal-like fur. After ten days fur covered his entire body and he grew claws and fangs. All he desired now was to pounce and kill like an animal.
At this point the spirit official removed his chains and released him, letting him go wherever he wanted. By the end of the three years he had managed to kill twenty-nine people. His next intended victim was a girl from Hsin-kan [modern Ch’ing-chiang County, Kiangsi], but she was of an aristocratic family and did not usualy leave her home. Finally it happened that she went out via the back gate, in the company of some female members of the family, to visit other relatives. Since she was last in the procession, he was able to grab her.
Because this young woman had been so difficult to get to, five years had passed before the full contingent of thirty people was realized. Then the spirit official escorted him back to the temple, where the god ordered him released. He was fed with salted rice, and his fur began to shed and his normal hair grew out. His claws and fangs dropped off, and the nails grew in their place. After fifteen days he resumed the human form, and his thinking and feelings returned to normal. He was then escorted onto the main road.
Later, the prefectural magistrate summoned Miao to make a report of what had happened to him. They checked out the persons “taken” by him by inquiring of the families involved. All turned out as he had said. A scar remained on his thigh from where a lance had wounded him while in his animal state.
Eight years after he had returned home, Miao died of an epidemic.
(Lu, pp. 175-76; TPKC, 296.2)
Tr. Michael Broschat
Note: A variation on the “man-into-tiger” theme. Here the metamorphosis is explained as a punishment for an unfulfilled vow (cf. “Hsüeh Tao-hsün” ).
This piece has the appearance of a “werewolf” story, but the basic orientation and the ambience are different from those in Western horror stories.