Hsieh Yün of Li Yang [in modern Anhwei Province], styled Tao-t’ung, was fifteen years old, when he was taken captive by Wang Mien, cohort of Su Chün,1 the renegade, and became a servant in the household of Chiang Feng, in Tung Yang [a commandery in modern Chekiang]. One day, while walking on the mountain as he was wont to do, he saw a dog inside a tiger trap. Feeling sorry that it suffered from hunger, he decided to give it some food. As he entered the trap, he suddenly saw a tiger perched on a wooden beam, looking upwards. Hsieh Yün said to the tiger, “This trap was originally set for you, yet I have almost died in its clutches. If you do not kill me, I will release you.” He then opened the trap and let the tiger out.
After the rebel uprising had been pacified, Hsieh Yün traveled to the district capital, Wu Ch’eng [in Chekiang], to clear himself. The prefect Chang Ch’iu, who was in the process of determining who had been in collusion with the renegades, paid no heed to Hsieh Yün’s avowal of innocence in this matter, but had him tortured most harshly.
Then Hsieh Yün saw a person in a dream who said to him, “It is easy to come in here, but difficult to get out. You have a compassionate heart. I shall deliver you.” When he awoke he saw a young man dressed entirely in yellow standing at a distance beyond the bars. Even so, he could occasionally enter the cell to speak with Hsieh Yün. The turnkey realized that the visitor was no ordinary human being, and thereby Yün’s unjust sentence was eventually revoked.
Once Hsieh Yün had obtained his release, he decided to go to Wu-tang Mountain.2 The Lord Yü Liang,3 heard of his story and, out of sympathy, provided him with money and grain. Hsieh Yün was then able to reach Hsiang-yang, where he saw a Taoist adept who said to him, “My teacher Tsai, the master Meng-sheng, is indeed no ordinary mortal. He instructed me earlier, ‘If someone comes from the east seeking me, you may bring him over.’ You must be the person he spoke of.”
Hsieh Yün thereupon followed him. As they entered the mountain, he fasted for three days before he saw the master. Upon seeing him, he realized this was the man who had appeared in his dream. The Master asked Hsieh Yün, “Did you not wish to see the yellow-clad man?” He then gave him three pellets of magic herbs. Taking them, Hsün never felt hungry or thirsty again, and he was rid of other desires as well. The Master had no fixed dwelling place, but wherever he went, propitious clouds and purple mist would gather above him, and a far-reaching fragrance would pervade the mountain and valley.
(Lu, p. 156; TPYL, 43.206a-b; TPKC, 426.11)
Tr. Pedro Acosta
Note: This is basically a story about “a favor (to a supernatural being) returned.” The motif is here combined with that of “an adventure in the world beyond.” As described in the story, “the master” has about him much of a Taoist immortal.
Ch’in Shu, a native of Ρ’ei Commandery [modern-day Hsiao County in Kiangsu], had his home in Hsiao-hsin Village, Ch’u O [Tan-yang County, Kiangsu]. Once, during the I-hsi reign period [405-418, Eastern Chin], he was returning home after a visit to the capital. After he had traveled a little more than twenty li, the sky darkened and he lost his way. Noticing in the distance the glow of a fire, he went to seek an overnight lodging. A young woman came out and said, “I am but a feeble female living all alone. I am in no position to let a guest spend the night.” Ch’in Shu implored, “I had meant to make my way along the road, but the dark night has made it impossible for me to proceed. I beg you to let me stay in the outer quarter.” The girl consented.
Once Ch’in Shu had gone inside and sat down, he dared not take his ease in sleeping, for the woman was alone in the house, and he was fretful lest her husband arrive. The woman said, “Why are you so restless? Be reassured that nothing harmful will happen.” She then laid out food before him, though all the edibles were rather old.
Realizing that she lived alone, Ch’in Shu made a proposal to her, “Considering that you are not betrothed, and since I am not yet married, I wish to join with you in wedlock. Will you consent?” The woman smiled, saying, “I regard myself as unworthy. I am not fit to be your mate.” Even so, they slept together.
As dawn approached, Ch’in Shu was about to leave. They rose and bade farewell to each other while holding hands. The woman said in tears, “Meeting you this time, I shall have no hope of ever seeing you again.” She gave him a pair of rings, which he tied to his waistcord, and escorted him out.
Ch’in Shu hastened to leave, his head lowered. After he had walked several dozen steps, he turned about to see where he had spent the night. It was a grave mound. Some days later the rings were gone, but the tie remained as it had been before.
(Lu, p. 158; TPKC, 324.1)
Tr. Pedro Acosta
Note: Such a remark as “the edibles were rather old” is an “index” to the otherworldliness of the woman’s existence. Signalling of the presence of the supernatural by this kind of indexing motif is not uncommon in CK. The ending here probably is influenced by the Cheng Chiao-fu story (see “Cheng Te-lin” , n. 3), where gifts from the goddesses disappeared as soon as the human returns to the normal world or passes out of the “other state.”
1 Su Chün was Inner Officer (Nei-shih) under emperor Ch’eng (r. 325-342) of the Chin. He turned against his sovereign and attempted to seize power, at which time his troops were said to have slaughtered thousands of people. His rebellion was quelled through the combined efforts of Yü Liang, Wen Ch’iao, and T’ao K’uan.
2 In Hupeh, to the north of Hsiang-yang, renowned as an abode of Taoists.
3 President of the Secretariat (Chung-shu ling) underemperor Ch’eng; see also n. 1.