April 30, 2018 | Author: Anonymous | Category: Arts & Humanities, Philosophy
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A Thesis Presented in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts



has been approved November 2008

Graduate Supervisory Committee: Stephen H. West, Chair Robert J. Cutter Yu Zou


ABSTRACT The aim of this thesis is to elucidate the social and historical meaning of selected stories found in Yuan Mei’s collection of ghost stories What the Master does not Speak of (Zi Buyu 子不 語). This is accomplished by placing the tales in the context of the mid-Qing intellectual milieu and the author’s education, life experiences and other works. By doing so, this thesis draws out certain recurrent themes in the author’s writing, and draws a parallel between them and his life experiences, and reveals the attitudes that Yuan Mei has towards the Confucian literati, popular religion and superstitions, and women. Furthermore, it attempts to lay bare the literary devices employed by Yuan Mei in his personal expression.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS First and foremost, I would like to thank Professor Stephen H. West for opening the doors of understanding to an endlessly fascinating world, and Professor John Zou for earnestly sharing his vast breadth of knowledge. Furthermore I would like to thank the members of the Arizona State University Chinese department, in particular Professors Timothy C. Wong and Professor Hoyt C. Tillman for sharing their enthusiasm, Professor Young Kyun Oh for his support and encouragement and Professor Robert J. Cutter for his close scrutiny. I would also like to thank my classmates, in particular Meghan Cai and Han Ye 韓燁, for lending their time and expertise to this project, Nikolaus Fogle and Raymond Lee for the use of their critical minds and sharp eyes, and Barbara Tibbets for her calm oversight. Finally, I would like to thank Patty Pang and the Barrett Honors College for getting me started in this field with a small grant and big opportunity that would change my life forever.


DEDICATION This thesis is dedicated to my parents Franz Thome and Judith Lewis-Thome, who early on opened many doors for their children, and always gave them the courage to see what lies behind them.


TABLE OF CONTENTS INTRODUCTION ............................................................................................................................. 8 CHAPTER 1: YUAN MEI’S LIFE AND PHILOSOPHY .......................................................10 CHAPTER 2: INTELLECTUAL MILIEU AND OTHER ZHIGUAI COLLECTIONS .22 CHAPTER 3: THEMES IN WHAT THE MASTER DOES NOT SPEAK OF...................27 CONCLUSION .................................................................................................................................56 BIBLIOGRAPHY .............................................................................................................................59 APPENDIX A: SELECTED TRANSLATIONS........................................................................64 The Soft-handed Scholar Wu - 吳生手軟 .................................................................................65 Scholar Cai - 蔡書生 .....................................................................................................................68 The Female Ghost Sues - 女鬼告狀 ..........................................................................................69 The Spirit of the Stone Tortoise - 贔屭精 ................................................................................77 Cultivated Talent Zhang - 張秀才.............................................................................................84 The Revenge of the Wronged Wife - 負妻之報 ......................................................................87 Mr. Song - 宋生 .............................................................................................................................88 Ghosts have three Skills, and then They are out of Luck - 鬼有三技過此鬼道乃窮.......91 Mr. Chen Qingke Blows the Ghost Away - 陳清恪公吹氣退鬼 .........................................94 Li Xiangjun Presents the Scrolls - 李香君薦卷 .......................................................................97 The Leader of Pingyang - 平陽令 ........................................................................................... 100 The Hunters Get Rid of the Foxes - 獵戶除狐 .................................................................... 103 vi

Mr. Xu - 徐先生 ......................................................................................................................... 107 An Artisan Paints a Zombie - 畫工畫僵屍 ........................................................................... 110 The Great, Hairy Man Snatches a Woman - 大毛人攫女 ................................................... 112 Crooked-Mouthed Scholar - 歪嘴先生 .................................................................................. 114


INTRODUCTION One cannot discuss the supernatural without mentioning the Confucian attitude towards the topic; namely that the Master (Confucius) does not talk about apparitions, feats of strength, disorder in nature and spirits.1 Instead, he advises those he is addressing to devote themselves earnestly to the duties due to men, and to pay respect to the ghosts while keeping their distance from them.2 This was easier said than done, and throughout history, apparitions, feats of strength, disorder in nature and spirits were present in all aspects of Chinese life, from literature to customs and even history. 3 No matter how widespread Confucian or Neo-Confucian thought was in China, the belief in and fear of the supernatural was a prevalent concern of the people, as is apparent from the accounts of the Jesuits who came to China in the seventeenth century, and who were able to exploit the superstitious beliefs of the Chinese to infiltrate even the most xenophobic of homes.4 Interest in the topic of the supernatural was present throughout history, and surged during certain periods, such as the Six Dynasties (220BCE–589CE) and the Tang Dynasty


The Analects of Confucius 7.21: “ 子不語怪力亂神.”


The Analects of Confucius 6.22: “務民之義敬鬼神而遠之.” The complete passage refers to a question posed

to Confucius by his student Fan Chi 樊遲 about the nature of knowledge. Confucius responded that devoting oneself earnestly to the duties of men, respecting ghosts and keeping a distance from them was knowledge. For a thorough discussion of ghost stories in China, including a comprehensive roster of important works, see Yu (1987). For a cross-cultural discussion of how custom and belief are created by death and disease, see Durham (1939). 3

During the late Ming, there was a great deal of superstition and belief in the supernatural, but many Chinese also felt that the native Buddhists and Daoists were inefficient. Western religion was seen, in some cases, as more efficient in exorcising ghosts, as it was quieter and less disruptive, which appealed to many people who did not want attention drawn to their situation. For a complete discussion of this topic including examples see Zhang (1999). 4


(618-907 CE). A particularly lively era for the discussion of the supernatural occurred in the late Ming and early Qing dynasties as a cult of exotica and interest in rarities, anomalies and the supernatural abounded.5 After a period of suppression of popular and vernacular literature at the beginning of the Qing dynasty, the mid-Qing saw another revival of this particular topic, which took the shape of a widespread literary discussion about whether the supernatural truly existed. Several volumes of ghost stories were published during this time,6 including those of Yuan Mei. Yuan Mei’s collection of ghost stories What the Master does not Speak of differed from those of his contemporaries, as it was completed for his own enjoyment and not as an argument for or against the belief in the supernatural, and does not quite fit with the criteria set forth by Judith Zeitlin. This is why, instead of analyzing his collection in the solely in light of the intellectual milieu of the time, this thesis explores some of the parallel themes in Yuan Mei’s life and his works, and in the process isolates certain areas of discontent, resentment, and also some expressions of sympathy. Furthermore, it explores how he expressed these through the use of humor, satire and revenge in some of the stories in What the Master does not Speak of. Initially, this thesis discusses Yuan’s experiences as a young child, noting especially how his family shaped his understanding of women’s roles in the family and in society, and how they drove him to become an advocate of women’s talents in real life and to provide


Zhang (1999) p. 9.

It should be noted here that part of the reason for this fascination with the supernatural and exotica was the censorship which literati were subjected to during the early Qing dynasty in order to suppress individualism and Ming loyalists. This will be discussed in greater detail in Chapter 2 of this thesis. 6


them justice in his ghost stories. The thesis then goes on to discuss Yuan’s experience as an official, the frustrations and failureswhich reemerge in his writings as satirical accounts of scholars and officials. Following that, this thesis talks about Yuan’s disdain for popular religion and superstition (including fortune telling and geomancy), and his efforts to counter them. The final part of this thesis deals with these particular themes as there are expressed in some of Yuan Mei’s ghost stories. CHAPTER 1: YUAN MEI’S LIFE AND PHILOSOPHY Yuan Mei (1716–97) was styled Zicai 子才 and his sobriquet name was Jianzhai 簡齋. He came from a humble background, and spent the greater part of his youth in the care of this mother, surnamed Zhang 章 (1685–1778), and his aunt Shen 沈, while his father Yuan Bin 袁濱 (1678–1752), who was known for his legal learning, took a series of secretarial jobs around the country in order to earn money for the family. During his youth, Yuan’s family was quite poor and were unable to buy him books and in some cases, food. From an early age he learned the pain that is born of hunger, and the strength that the women of his family showed in the face of it: [Father] was as far as ten thousand li away, and correspondence with him was frequently cut off. Mother supported our grandmother and fed our widowed aunt, in addition to hiring a master to teach me. Half of our living expenses were paid by her manual labor, and every time that she came close to a dead end with our loans, and when our foodstocks were exhausted, she would silently pace around the house with my sisters and me crying out for food,


hardly understanding how exhausted or sad at heart she was.7 This passage is taken from an honorary biography Yuan wrote for his mother, and should be considered more as a staged recollection rather than an actual memory, but nonetheless one can assume that his early childhood experiences of poverty, growing up as the only boy of six children in a house run by women, was a formative part of his youth. Throughout his career Yuan remained very close to some of his sisters, and was grieved by the injustices done to women. This would not only influence his sense of moral justice during his time as an official, but might also have contributed to Yuan’s sponsorship of female poets. In the same passage, Yuan also praises his mother’s dislike of popular religions and her love of poetry: She did not eat vegetarian food and did not worship the Buddha, nor did she believe in the Yin and the Yang or prayers. When she had time off from her sewing and embroidery, she held a volume of Tang-dynasty poems in one hand, entertaining herself by chanting them out loud.8 Whether this is actually true to the extent that Yuan describes it cannot be determined, given the nature of the text it was taken from. But regardless of that, the fact that Yuan notes these particular traits as cause for admiration tells us that they are qualities that Yuan himself admired. 7

This and the following passage are taken from the essay “A Brief Obituary of my Deceased Mother, Mother

of an Official, Mrs. Zhang (Xianbi Zhangtai Ruren Xingzhuang 先妣章太孺人行狀). Wenji 27.477. This translation is taken from Schmidt (2003) p. 5. Schmidt goes on to comment that this statement is contrary to Waley’s statement that Yuan’s mother was not mentioned in the writings about his youth. Note: All references taken from Wenji are taken from the 1993 edition of Xiao Cangshan Fang Wenji 小倉山房文集. 8

Wenji 27.478. This translation is taken from Schmidt (2003) p. 6.


Another important figure in Yuan’s life was his Aunt Shen, whose early care and tutelage were of great influence in his academic career. During his youth, she had collected a vast repertoire of stories to see a frightened Yuan though his haircuts, and while he was learning to read, Yuan recalls, she would also sit at his side, "like a sword at the hip," and lead him though the archaic terminology in his studies of the classics.9 Yuan began his official schooling at the age of six, and showed great aptitude in the study of history and poetry, and earned the rank of Cultivated Talent (xiucai 秀才) at the age of twelve,10 an average seven years earlier than most scholars. Shortly thereafter he was enrolled in the district academy (xianxue 縣學) and earned his first acclaim for a criticism he wrote of the “traditional paragon of filial piety of Guo Ju 郭巨 (fl. second c. CE), who tried to bury his son because the child consumed food that Guo wished to give to his own mother.” According to Schmidt, many twentieth century critics see this essay as the beginning of his love for overturning old conventions.11 At the age of twenty Yuan took the Erudite Literatus Examinations (boxue hongci 博 學鴻詞), which he failed in that year and then again three years later at the age of twentythree. 12 During this time Yuan eked out a meager living working as a tutor in Beijing, but


Waley (1956) p. 11.


All ages listed in this thesis are in sui 歲 years. The Western age is obtained by subtracting one year.


Schmidt (2003) p. 9.


Incidentally, another famous writer of ghost stories, Pu Songling 蒲松齡 (1640–1715), the author of Strange

Stories from a Chinese Studio Collection (Liaozhai Zhiyi 聊齋志異), was also haunted by his failure to pass the civil


found consolation in the friendship of several other young literati residing in the city at the time.13 Later that year, still at the age of twenty-three, Yuan took the Provincial Examinations (xiangshi 鄉試) and obtained the degree of Provincial Graduate (juren 舉人). The following year he obtained the rank of Metropolitan Graduate (jinshi 進士) and was admitted into the prestigious Hanlin Academy (Hanlin Yuan 翰林院). Following that he took up an official post and served for six years14 before asking for a sick leave and retiring in 1748.15 One of the reasons for his retirement was that he failed to learn the Manchu language,16 which caused this “brilliant, young scholar, who had displayed so much promise as a prose writer and poet… [to be] immediately demoted,”17 an insult that Yuan Mei could not bear.

service examinations. Both Yuan and Pu employ the theme of struggling scholars in their collections of ghost stories. 13

Schmidt (2003) p. 12.

Waley (1956) notes that during his career, Yuan enforced the law humanely without any excessive moralism (pp. 31–43), and Schmidt mentions that despite Yuan’s aversion to much of Confucian morals that he still believed that personal moral cultivation was required to all effective political action. p. 18. Edwards and Louie point out that “Yuan Mei scorned the prudery and moralism propagated by the court and orthodox Confucian scholars of his time.” (Yuan (1996) xxiix.) 14

Waley (1956) points out that asking for a sick leave was one way to retire from official service. Officials could take three months paid sick leave, and should they not return at the end of that period they lose their position. P. 46. 15


The higest ranking members of the Eight Banner Tribes, as well as the highest ranking participants in the

Civil Service Examinations (Shujishi 庶吉士) were forced to learn the Manchu language and script. Yuan Mei was among the highest scoring participants and was demoted after failing his Manchu exams. He was sent to work as a county magistrate. 17 Schmidt (2003) p. 16. Schmidt also notes on the following page that another reason for his demotion might have been his hot temper and unconventional ideas, in this particular case, an essay critiquing the notion of moral purity (qing 清), which China’s Manchu rulers considered the most important quality a leader could


The failures that he suffered during this period chipped away at Yuan’s ego, and fueled his disdain for the Imperial Examinations (keju 科举) and the Eight-Legged Essays (baguwen 八股文). Unlike his other contemporaries, who attacked these exams for intellectual and political reasons, he despised them for aesthetic reasons, in particular because he perceived them as rigid and inhibiting of literary creativity,18 much preferring ancient-style prose. He once said “ancient-style prose speaks your own words, while eight-legged essays speak the words of others.”19 He began to openly question the test’s efficiency at determining a man’s ability in 1744, while working as an examiner in Nanjing 南京. It was during this time that he was struck by the cold, rigid inflexibility that excluded many men of talent once the quota was full: One paper exceeds the crowd in literary learning; It’s crammed with the classics; the man’s a Classical Scholar.20 But the Examiner shakes his hand: “The quota is full!” (He blames me for promoting the man too warmly.)

possess, and which also happens to be the same character of the Qing dynasty’s name, meaning that his attack on the sacrosanct name of the Manchu dynasty would have been applauded by anti-Manchu scholars. 18

Schmidt (2003) p. 56. Schmidt goes on to point out that one of Yuan’s important critiques of the eight-

legged essay can be found in the preface for a young contemporary Huang Yunxiu 黃允修. Wenji 10.185. Schmidt (2003) also provides a translation of a poem wherein Yuan describes the testing hall as a battle ground, where “men swarm like armored ants at the pitch of battle” wielding “writing brushes, like iron ramrods” while the eyes of the examiners glow at the sight of red smudges on the paper “the blood from the candidate’s heart.” (p. 57.) 19

Schmidt (2003) p. 12.


The reference Yuan uses here is Jing Dan 井丹 (first half of the first century CE). He was a classical scholar

of the Eastern Han Dynasty. Another Ming Dynasty Scholar by the name of Lin Dachun 林大春 took Jing Dan as his sobriquet name.


I know the quota’s full, and the rules are hard to bend, But how many candidates within the quota are as good?21 At the end of his career it became clear that Yuan was not cut out for the life of an official: he was inaccurate in his duties, failed to master the Manchu language and was considered too compassionate and lenient in his judgments. Overall, he felt stifled and humiliated, another theme that emerges in his poetry time and time again. One poem on the topic expresses Yuan’s anger at having his superior talents go unnoticed, having been like a stork locked in a cage, and betrayed his knees by kneeling before superiors.22 It was shortly before his retirement that Yuan purchased Harmony Garden (suiyuan 隨園), a decrepit piece of property outside the city of Nanjing.23 Having left official life behind, Yuan felt liberated and spent his time engaging in the more pleasurable things in life: working on his literary career, restoring Harmony Garden, keeping company with actors, intellectuals and women alike, collecting rare and curious items, and listening to ghost stories. He fully immersed himself in the bon vivant lifestyle and intellectual career that he is famous for today.


Schmidt (2003) p. 57.


Schmidt (2003) p. 25.


Harmony Garden was rumored to have been in the possession of one of Cao Xueqin's 曹雪芹 (ca. 1715–65)

ancestors, before being passed to a man by the name of Sui 隋. Yuan changed the character for the name of the garden from 隋 to 隨. Later in his career Yuan would take the name of ‘Old Man of Harmony Garden’ 随 園老人 as one of his pen names.


From an early age it was clear to those around him that Yuan, while extremely intelligent, curious and well liked by most, was not one who lived by the rules, and after his retirement he made no effort to live on the straight and narrow. His lifestyle in Harmony Garden raised many eyebrows among his contemporaries, not only because of his affiliation with young male actors, but also because of his tutelage and publication of female poets, which sent traditional Confucians like Zhang Xuecheng 章學誠 (1738–1801), up in arms in defense of what was good and proper.24 Judging by legal statutes and moral instruction books of the time, the immediate period before Yuan’s birth (ranging from the Late Ming [1573–1644] and early Qing [1644– 1722]) was a dark age of tightening restrictions when it came to the role of women.25 Not only had the infamous Jiangnan 江南 courtesans fallen victim to the social changes that accompanied the Manchu conquest,26 but there was also a strong social current encouraging members of society to embrace Confucian values as a means of revitalizing society. At this


According to Widmer and Chang (1997), Yuan Mei asked Wang Gu 汪榖 (1754–1821), the publisher of his

anthology of women's poetry (titled 隨園女弟子詩選) to write a foreword defending the relationship between women's poetry writing and the ancient classics. Wang Gu based his promotion of woman poets entirely on Yuan Mei's interpretation of the Book of Changes (Yijing 易經). He reminded the reader (as Yuan Mei did elsewhere) that according to the commentary in the Book of Changes, the dui trigram (lake), which symbolizes "the third daughter" (shaonü), provides the principle by which the sage "joins with his friends for discussion and practice. And similarly, the li trigram (fire), which symbolizes "the second daughter (zhongnü), is the source from which the sage built civilization 'by perpetuating this brightness.' He also repeated the (by then) common argument that odes written by women (e.g., "Getan" and "Juaner") had been placed at the beginning of the canonical Book of Songs (Shijing 詩經), a view to which, as we know, Zhang Xuecheng strongly objected (see pp. 163-4). 25

Ko (1994) p. 9.


Idema (2004) p. 576.


time cults of domesticity and motherhood bloomed as educated women saw motherhood as an exalted calling through which they could improve the world.27 The women who were raised under this ideology were generally well educated, as it was believed that part of becoming a good Confucian woman was to engage in the study of certain Confucian texts. This was compounded by the fact that in the middle of the eighteenth century Chinese intellectual life had become increasingly dominated by evidential scholarship, which not only valued philology over philosophy, but also, because of its interest in collecting and editing texts of all kinds, contributed to a growing awareness of the richness and diversity of the Chinese past.28 At the same time the Manchu rulers became less suspicious of their subjects and more relaxed in their censorship, and Yuan Mei once again felt free "to stress the direct expression of authentic emotion as the hallmark of true poetry."29 It was during this time that he accepted female disciples and published their poetry, sparking a debate about the appropriate education for women. This was led by the historian Zhang Xuecheng, who, in light of this debate, wrote Women's Learning (fuxue 婦學), wherein he surveyed women's writings throughout history and advocated a return to the norms of antiquity.30


Ko (1994) p. 19.


Idema (2004) p. 571.



It should be clarified that Zhang was not only offended by the transgressions of having male-female contacts outside of the home, (Schmidt [2008] p.10) but rather that he was concerned with the implications of publishing their poetry. Zhang did not believe that women were less intelligent than men, according to Schmidt, as heaven had made no distinction when bequeathing intelligence to men and women, and that they might, in fact, be greater poets than men, which, if their material was published could uproot the fundamental 30


Yuan Mei was by no means the only man advocating women’s poetry. Other literati, such as Ren Zhaolin 任兆麟 (late eighteenth century) and Chen Wenshu 陳文述 (1771– 1843), both of whom lived in Suzhou 蘇州, also had female apprentices. Zhang Xuecheng, however, hailed from Zhejiang 浙江 province, where, according to Idema, women's writing was less valued than in Suzhou. His conservative views on women’s roles prompted him to describe Yuan's actions as follows: Nowadays there is a shameless fool who takes pride in his savoir vivre and uses it to mislead and poison [the minds of] young ladies of eminent families. He misleads them with [stories of] "talented poets and beautiful ladies" such as actors stage in their performances. In Jiangnan, many women of good families and noble houses have been seduced by him: he had collected their poems and printed them, and so has made their names known all over the place. He shows no respect for the [proper] segregation of the sexes and ignores the fact that they are [proper] women. These kinds of girls from eminent families cannot be said to be engaging in "women's learning": they are victims of a corrupt mind.31 Yuan and his contemporaries, however, were not worried by these attacks and continued to take female disciples (most of them were married women from good families, who were entrusted to them for their tutelage) under their wing. Comments made by Yuan’s pupils show how much they depended on their teacher for instruction in poetry and painting, designation of men’s works as a public implement (gongqi 公器) and women’s place in the inner chambers (Schmidt [2008]). 31 Idema (2004) p. 575.


for emotional support,32 and how heavily they relied on their libraries in order to study the works of previous artists.33 In 1796, Yuan published a collection of the works of his female students called the Poetry Anthology of the Female Disciples of Harmony Garden (Suiyuan nüdizi shixuan 隨園女弟子詩選). The women who became his apprentices were not the only figures that others saw as being inappropriate: Yuan also incurred criticism for his fondness of male company, in particular young actors. One of his fellow poets and friends Zhao Yi 趙翼 (1727–1814), penned a mock accusation in response to these attacks, wherein he claimed (as surely many of the actual attackers felt) that Yuan had “ransacked the neighborhood for whatever was soft and warm, not minding whether it was a boy or a girl.”34 While the women’s writings that Yuan published were not revolutionary in and of themselves, his publication of women’s writings was still considered by some (including Zhang) to be an affront to general sensibilities. Not only was he exposing the content of the inner chambers to the world, but it was also deemed inappropriate for married women to be in the company of a man other than their husbands (even if it was their husbands who had entrusted them to Yuan for the purpose of instruction). Ultimately, however, it was his collection of ghost stories that won him the most infamy as well as the title of “sinner


Widmer and Chang (1997) p. 377.


Hu (1985) pp. 939-40.

Waley (1956) p. 77. Incidentally, Zhao Yi was also known to have a fondness of anything ‘soft and warm’ and this letter might have carried jealous undertones alongside the sarcastic ones. 34


against the teachings of Confucius.”35 The first collection, published in 1781, was initially titled What the Master does not Speak of36 (Zi Buyu 子不語) but he retitled it The New Tales of Qixie (Xin Qixie 新齊諧)37 after discovering that another writer of the Yuan dynasty had written a collection of the same title. The latter title of the work never caught on, and the original name is still being used in publication up to this date. The second collection, titled Continuation of that the Master does not Speak of (Zi Buyu Xu 子不語續), was published in 1796. While some of his ghost stories are based on experiences in his own life,38 many were collected from relatives, friends, and even perfect strangers. One of his most prolific sources was a low-level Hangzhou scholar named Zhao Xuemin 趙學敏 (ca. 1719–1805), who Yuan would frequently invite for drinks and listen to in rapture as he invented tales out of his head.39 Yuan claimed that he did not believe in ghosts and obeyed, at least partially,


Waley (1956) p. 77.

This title is an allusion to a passage in the Analects of Confucius that states: 子不語怪力亂神 (論語 13.7.21) The Master does not talk about anomalies, feats of strength, disorder in nature or spirits. What the Master does not 36

Speak of is my own translation of the title 子不語. Other translations include ‘What the Master would not Discuss’ (Chan 1998) and ‘Censored by Confucius’ used by Edwards and Louie. I chose this translation because I felt that the essence of Yuan’s stories was never to discuss ghosts, but simply to use these tales as a medium to catch attention and covey other messages, and moreover, I felt that using the term ‘censored’ in the title was incendiary. I agree with Yuan Mei that Confucius focused on other things and did not want people spending their time discussing things that are not of this realm, but that he has mentioned them. Therefore, I deemed the word censorship seems to be an excessive use of verbal force, and instead used the word ‘talk.’ 37

This title refers to a collector of anomalous tales who is mentioned in Zhuangzi 莊子 1.1.3.

Some examples are a story of his grandmother’s meeting with a ghost, the tale of a beautiful woman married to a man with leathery skin, the story of how a young man met a ghost who predicted his failure in the exams, pockmarked skin, homosexuality and more. 38


Schmidt (2003) p. 104.


Confucius' rule on dealing with them: “devote yourself earnestly to the duties due to men, and respect spiritual beings but keep them at a distance.” Nonetheless, his interest in the supernatural earned him the scorn of many of his neo-Confucian contemporaries, which led Yuan to write the following preface to his work: However, the “Xici” [chapter of the Classic of Changes] speaks of “dragon’s blood” and “ghost chariots” and the “Odes” and the “Hymns” [of the Classic of Poetry] talk of a bird giving birth to the Shang and the cattle and sheep feeding Houji. Zuo Qiuming studied with the Sage, but his inner and outer chronicles [i.e. the Chronicles of Zuo and Guoyu] speak of these four matters in great detail.40 As this kind of introduction may give the false impression that Yuan is taking the name of the sage in vain, it should be pointed out that he explained in his preface the reader that his interest in collecting these stories was simply a way to occupy his free time, as he also explains in his preface: I have always had few leisure activities. I am not skilled in enjoying myself together with other people by such means as drinking wine, composing songs, or playing games of chance, and since I have no amusement other than literature and history, I collected many [stories about] affairs that divert the mind and startle the ears… recording them all for posterity.41 And he went on to say: 40





Talk of books – why they please or fail to pleaseOr of ghosts and marvels, no matter how far-fetched, These are excesses in which, should he feel inclined A man of seventy-odd may well indulge.42 CHAPTER 2: INTELLECTUAL MILIEU AND OTHER ZHIGUAI COLLECTIONS Yuan Mei was not the only person of his time who was collecting large volumes of ghost stories. In fact, the gentry of the mid-Qing period was fascinated with the supernatural,43 as is evident by their fondness for zhiguai 志怪, or anomalous tales, stories and the publication of several high profile ghost story collections.44 To understand this enthusiasm for strange tales, however, it is necessary to look back to the start of the Qing dynasty, when the new Manchurian government began its suppression of all heterodox writing, including vernacular fiction, which had been aimed at quelling the subversive spirit of the remnant subjects (yimin 遺民), the loyalists of the Ming dynasty who refused to serve in the new government, and at repressing the Ming penchant for individualism and political dissent. 45 The Kangxi Emperor 康熙 (personal name Aixin-Jueluo Xuanye 愛新覺羅玄燁 [in Manchu: Aisin-Gioro Hiowan Yei] 1661–1722), whose reign ended before Yuan was a boy of ten, continued with this policy, issuing a series of verdicts that continued the ban, while at


Birch (1972) p. 199.


Chan (2003) p. 29.

For a list of important collections of Qing zhiguai, see Chan (1998) p. 16, which gives a list of over thirty collections of the period. Chan also points out that it could be argued that the height of zhiguai collections should take place somewhere around the late seventeenth century. See Chan (1998) p. 12 n. 26. 44


For a complete discussion of this topic, see Chiang (2005) pp. 28-29.


the same time wooing the Confucian elite with honors and special examination degrees, and employing them to compose the official Ming history and to project, on his behalf, the image of a Sage Confucian ruler by appropriating Confucian ideology, rituals and texts.46 It was during this time that the failed scholar Pu Songling, who remembered how the Manchurians quelled uprisings in his native Shandong 山東, took up his position as the ‘Historian of the Strange,’ and used his zhiguai tales to convey his message of moral righteousness to the general public and to express his lonely indignation.47 Some say that the surge of zhiguai literature that was inspired by Pu’s writings, but the gradual relaxing of rules and censorship of the Qing government also helped to unleash the intellectual milieu of the time, and the literati, with renewed vigor, threw themselves into the study of the world around them. One popular topic of conversation was the existence of ghosts, which led literati to compile several collections of collections of zhiguai tales to use as evidence in support of their beliefs. 48 Indeed, as Chan observes, “the late eighteenth century saw some of the most vehement attacks on supernatural beliefs in traditional China.” This


Chiang (2005) p. 29.


In his preface, Pu Songling employs the term lonely indignation (gufen 孤憤) which was coined by the

philosopher Han Fei 韓非 (d. 233 BCE) and used again by Sima Qian’s 司馬遷 (ca. 145–86 BCE) who used it in his autobiographic preface to explain how literature can be an expression of suffering and indignation. See Zeitlin (HOS) p. 50 and p. 237 n. 21. 48

This belief could either be in the existence of the supernatural or against it. The skeptics largely employed the

Neo-Confucian philosopher Zhu Xi 朱熹 (1130–1200) as their mascot. According to Chang (2003), the archskeptic of the time was Ruan Zhuan 阮瞻 whose denial of ghosts made him a household name associated with the no-ghost theory (wuguilun 無鬼論).


has led some scholars to argue that the attack on popular superstition and the remarkable intellectual outlook of the time was a sign of a new zeitgeist.49 The two most prominent zhiguai collections of this era are Ji Yun’s 紀昀 (1724–1805) Random Jottings from the Cottage of Close Scrutiny (Yuewei Caotang Biji 閱微草堂筆記), and Yuan Mei’s What the Master does not Speak of. Their contemporaries knew these two authors by the popular epithet “in the South there is Yuan, in the North there is Ji” (nan Yuan bei Ji 南袁北 紀). From a social standpoint, Ji Yun’s collection of ghost stories is perhaps the most interesting. The numerous stories contained therein were collected from Ji Yun’s acquaintances, which, due to his being an editor of the Complete Library of the Four Treasuries (Siku Quanshu 四庫全書) included many men of high standing, such as his fellow editors and distinguished officials of the Qianlong 乾隆 period (1736–96).50 Ji Yun’s collection therefore gives the reader insight into the intellectual understanding of the supernatural during this era, as well as giving clues to Ji Yun’s personal thoughts on the topic.51 In his two collections, What the Master does not Speak of and the Continuation of What the Master does not Speak of Yuan took on the taboo topics of apparitions, feats of strength,


Chang (2003) p. 30.


For a list of the contributors whose stories are collected in Ji Yun’s work see Chan (1993) pp. 26-27.

Much like Gan Bao’s 干寶 (fl. 320) collection In Search of Spirits (Soushenji 搜神記), which had been written 1300 years prior, in order to prove that “the way of the spirits is no lie,” the stories in Ji Yun’s work sought “to provide empirical confirmation of their belief or to persuade disbelievers of the reality of the supernatural.” (Chan [2003] p. 28.) 51


disorder in nature and spirits and defended them against critics, citing examples from the Shiji and even passages from Confucius’ works to justify his actions. Unlike the collections of his contemporaries, his did not seem to serve the same purposes or even have the same apologetic and defensive overtones which, as Judith Zeitlin tells us, most zhiguai collections employ as a means to justify the value of their work to a sometimes implicit, sometimes explicit interlocutor.52 Judith Zeitlin points out that there are three ways in which authors justify the complication of zhiguai tales. The first is to legitimize the practice of recording the strange, the second is to use them as an allegorical vehicle for serious self-expression, and the third is that to claim them as a model of stylistic brilliance.53 Yuan did not engage in any of these, and even marked each page of his original manuscript with the words ‘a volume for entertainment of Suiyuan’ (suiyuan xibian 隨園戲編). Of course, zhiguai tales have to be related to the dynamics of the world in which they were written,54 so there is a chance that even without having explicitly stated it, he was employing these tales as an allegorical vehicle. However, he was not apologetic and instead justified the composition of the work in his preface.55


Zeitlin (1993) p. 16.


Ibid. pp. 16-17.

Chan (1993) p. 1. Chan also goes on to say that in these collections there was a tendency towards the didactic, as, in many cases, these stories were often used for religious reasons and to promote morality of a more secular nature, which falls in line with Pu Songling’s ambitions when writing his zhiguai stories. Many of them demonstrated a particular interest in the rectification of unethical behavior unacceptable to society (Chan p. 4) a theme that is also present, but not exclusively, in Yuan’s writings. 54


The themes that are found in his ghost stories are generally also found in his poetry and prose, and while many of his stories were not his own, he tended to write down only the things that he found interesting, and it was no secret that he would, at times, change details therein.56 Furthermore, many of his stories can be found in previous versions in other collections,57 and the changes in content, tone and style can be seen as an indicator of either the person who wrote them down (Yuan in this case) or the social milieu in which they were told to him. Wang Yingzhi points out that strange tidbits and playful words aside, there were a few pieces in What the Master does not Speak of that reflected real life situations and that exposed the ways of the world and the actions and feelings of people. These tales serve as the repository of Yuan’s serious contemplations and thoughts, and wherein is reflected the progressive elements of the authors mentality.58 He goes on to say that while Yuan wrote

Considering his skill at poetry and composition, the first thing that strikes the reader about Yuan’s zhiguai tales is the vernacular language, in which he composes them, which, according to Zeitlin (1993), indicates that they should be placed in the category of fiction. 55

One example of this is that his friend Yang Chaoguan wrote him a letter asking him to change details in “Li Xiangjun Presents a Scroll. ” 56

The scope of the present study did not allow for closer examination of these stories. Below are some examples of similar stories from previous collections. The Soft-handed Scholar Wu: The Temple Ghost (Miao Gui 廟鬼) from Pu Songling’s 聊斋志异. Scholar Cai: The Empty Words of Cao Zhu (Cao Zhu Xuyan 曹竹虚言) from Ji Yun’s 阅微草堂笔记. The Revenge of the Wronged Wife: Man Shaoqing (Man Shaoqing 满少卿) from Hong Mai’s 洪邁 (1123–1202) 夷堅志補. Mr. Song: Aunt Liyun (Li Yun Niang 李云娘) and Chen Shuwen (Chen Shuwen 陈叔文) from Li Fu 李斧 et. al.’s 清鎖高議. An Artisan Paints a Zombie: The Corpse Changes (Hu Bian 屍變) from Pu Songling’s 聊斋志异. 57

Wang Yingzhi (2002) p. 176. Wang Yingzhi also argues that Yuan Mei’s ghost stories contain categorical themes, namely, that if people have no fear of ghosts, they will be victorious over them; dislike of Buddhism, Daoism, and geomancy; satire of Confucian thought and the advocacy of natural emotion, attacking corrupt officials and lauding upright officials, and denouncing the eight-legged essay and criticizing the official 58


about apparitions, feats of strength, disorder in nature and spirits, he also used them as a means to vent his disdain of politically and socially sensitive topics, such as official life, Confucian ethics, popular religion and superstition, and the maltreatment of women. The analysis of ghost stories presented below agrees with Wang’s thesis and expands upon it, arguing that the themes in What the Master does not Speak of are a critique of social elements that Yuan disliked, but expands up it by pointing out that they bear traces of Yuan Mei’s personal grievances. In them, he shows his sympathy to those who had suffered transgressions and his disdain for the abuses of government and superstition. I will focus specifically on Yuan Mei’s disdain for the Confucian establishment (as fueled by his own experiences of failure therein), his dislike of geomancy and advocacy of self-reliance, and his concerns over the treatment of women and his preservation of their dignity. CHAPTER 3: THEMES IN WHAT THE MASTER DOES NOT SPEAK OF When looking at Yuan’s stories one can easily divide them into two categories: tales of the strange and ghost stories. The former includes lighthearted stories of anomalous happenings, but tend to lack any kind of plot. The ghost stories found in Yuan’s collection, on the other hand, while not as florid as Pu Songling’s stories, tend to have more plot and character development than the tales of the strange, and many of these can be said to have some kind of meaning beyond their surface.59 It was from these types of stories that the

examinations. Wang Yingzhi is also the editor of the Complete Collection of Yuan’s Writing (Yuan Mei Quanji 袁枚 全集). Louie and Edwards (1996) discuss the evolution of zhiguai 志怪, biji 笔记 and chuanqi 传奇 in the preface of their translation of Yuan Mei’s stories. According to their discussion Yuan’s works tend to fall into the genre of chuanqi but in most Chinese literature on the topic they are still referred to as zhiguai, which for the sake of simplicity has been adopted in this paper. 59


following have been selected and they are presented here to give a general picture of the types of stories Yuan collected and wrote, and of the way that he presents the three themes that this thesis discusses, namely his dislike of the mid-Qing interpretation of Confucianism and the official lifestyle, his skepticism of popular religion and superstition, and his sympathetic attitudes towards women. One of the themes that emerges in Yuan’s writing is his distaste for what he perceived to be a rigidly enforced and artificial enactment of Confucianism. Throughout his writings the image of the overly cerebral, ill prepared, stumbling and generally dense scholar emerges time and time again. As seen below, these scholars fall into two categories, those who are clumsy and have learned few things applicable in real life, and those who just do not seem to understand the role that moral education should play in life, and blindly execute it to the tee, failing to develop an intuitive understanding and empathetic understanding. It wasn’t just the restrictive form of the eight-legged essays and burdensome lifestyle of the time that Yuan loathed. He was also applied to textual scholarship, and with the way that modern scholars interpreted the words of the sages. J.D. Schmidt recounts several aspects of this that Yuan critiqued in writing, pointing out the willingness to attribute writings to Confucius and the unquestioning way in which they are accepted, the fact that many Confucian scholars contradicted one another, and their affinity for textual scholarship, which he thought to be both a waste of time, and so tedious that it would affect his poetic talents if he engaged in it even for a short period of time.60 Schmidt points out that “what really underlay Yuan Mei’s appeal to esthetic consideration in his attacks on neo-Confucian


Schmidt (2003) “Critique of Confucianism” pp. 62–70.


orthodoxy was a strong dissatisfaction with all forms of cultural conservatism and adulations of the past.”61 Perhaps the most humorous and pathetic example among the stories discussed here is that of “The Soft-handed Scholar Wu” (Wusheng Shou Ruan 吳生手軟). 62 In this story, the titular scholar is invited to work as an editor at a city gazette, and one day picks up his clothes and his caps, and informs his colleagues that he is about to die, and apologizes for leaving them with the burden of finishing his work. Upon further inquiry it is discovered that on his way to take this position, Scholar Wu encountered a female ghost, who has since that day been haunting him, trying to entice the scholar to commit suicide so that they might be able to become husband and wife in the afterlife. As it turns out, the Scholar’s learning has left him completely unprepared to deal with a ghost, and he is completely unable to shake her off or bribe her. Two men are assigned to keep watch over him, but even they cannot save him, especially since his ineptitude poses a greater danger to himself than the ghost ever could. One day, there is a loud yell from his room, and his colleagues rush in to find him torn to pieces, not by the ghost, but by himself, and as he fights for his life it turns out that even the simple act of killing himself is a skill that this scholar does not possess:

Schmidt (2003) p. 69. Following this he cites a translation of the poem “A Drunken Song” wherein Yuan satirizes the affinity for things old, and mocking the notion that “modern men don’t equal the ancients.” On the following page Schmidt goes on to say that while some of Yuan’s attacks on the establishment might seem mild to the modern reader, they were quite audacious for his time, and one of Yuan’s contemporaries, a scholar 61

by the name of 謝濟世 (1689–1756) was impeached for refuting earlier neo-Confucian interpretations of the Record of Rituals. 62

For a complete translation of this story see Appendix A page 67.


This morning, the woman came to force me to die, so that we could be husband and wife. I asked her: ‘Which method of death should I use?’ The woman pointed to the knife on the desk and said: ‘This is perfect!’ I took it and stabbed myself in the right side of the abdomen, and it was unbearably painful. The woman quickly used her hand to massage it and said ‘this isn’t helping.’ Whichever place she massaged, I no longer thought painful.’ I asked: ‘Well then, what shall I do?’ The woman rubbed her own neck, and made the gesture of slitting one’s throat: ‘This method will work.’ I again used the knife to sever the left side of my throat. The woman stamped her feet and yelled: “This also is of no use, you are uselessly creating pain for yourself!’ Once again she used her hand to massage it, and I also didn’t think it painful anymore. She pointed at the lower right side of my throat and said: ‘This place is excellent.’ I said: ‘My hands are already weak. I can’t do it. You come here and stab it.’ The woman came straightforward holding the knife, letting her hair become disheveled as she shook her head. But by then you had already run upstairs. When she heard people coming she cast the knife down and ran away. This particular story suggests that the knowledge that the scholar has acquired is only practical in a very specific framework, and that it is completely insufficient in anything that occurs outside of those boundaries, which is reminiscent of the attitudes that Yuan displayed towards many of the requirements of official life, such as studying Manchurian. Another aspect that is equally interesting is that the scholar’s inability to do anything actually evokes a


sort of sympathy or pity from the ghost, who, unable to bear his constant cries of pain, uses her powers to take away his pain. Another such scholar is “Cultivated Talent Zhang” (Zhang Xiucai 張秀才) ,63 who meets an equally terrifying, and slightly more embarrassing fate than Scholar Wu. One night, as he is out gazing at the autumn moon, the scholar is standing atop a hill when he notices that the garden gate had not been closed. Suddenly, a naked woman with white skin, glowing eyes and disheveled hair charges at him, her face and body covered in scars, and Zhang flees to his room where he hides under the covers. Before long, the door is broken open and a woman strides haughtily inside and sits down in his chair. She tears his books and pieces of calligraphy to shreds and bangs his ruler on the desk, sending Zhang into an unconscious stupor. While passed out, he felt someone rubbing his lower parts, cursing: “Stupid little inferior thing. You’re unwilling!” She went away with wavering steps. The next morning, when Zhang failed to report to duty, the household rushed to his apartment and gathered around him with great concern. After they revived him, he tells them about his experience, and learns the truth about the ghost he had encountered. It turns out that she was actually a female servant who had lost her mind after her husband had died, and who had since then been locked up on the property. Once again, there is the same theme of boundaries of efficacy; wherein the scholar’s knowledge and achievements are of use only in the confines of the compound (or symbolically: in their work), and that is only until they meet with outside elements. This kind of story can be likened to Yuan’s own experiences as an official, when he spent time in the city of Lishui 溧水 during a time of 63

For a complete translation of this story see Appendix A page 86.


draught and famine. What Yuan describes in his writings of that time bears resemblance to modern post-apocalyptic writings, and Yuan must have felt the same sense of powerlessness while in that situation. Fortunately, his ineptitude and consequential impotence had actually been an advantage in this case, as many a person before him had caught the woman’s interest, and were endlessly harassed by her. Some even had the misfortunate of having their penises painfully pinched or bitten so hard that they fell off. One can see why these stories might have appealed to the part of Yuan’s psyche that harbored animosities towards those serving in government. While there is an element of disbelief in the power and respect that these scholars receive, the issue that Yuan really picks up on is that of being unprepared and unintuitive, a product created by the stifling training these scholars receive on their path to becoming officials. In What the Master does not Speak of, Yuan punishes these kinds of scholars, as their thoughts and actions are completely counter to Yuan’s most fundamental beliefs, namely that expression should be free and natural. He directs his strongest criticism towards the mindless adherence to Confucian morals, and criticizes officials as being powerless and inefficient in the real world and when dealing with elements outside of the Confucian paradigm of existence, in particular the supernatural. The “Crooked-Mouthed Scholar” (Waizui Xiansheng 歪嘴先生)64 is one of the unfortunate scholars whose naive belief in the universal correctness of Confucianism and his stark adherence to the rules earns him the wrath of a ghost. The story begins when a man by the name of Pan dies before he can marry 64

For a complete translation of this story see Appendix A page 117.


his wife, and asks her father, Weng Li, to retain her on his behalf. However, after Pan dies, Weng forgets his promise and marries his daughter to another man. On the evening of their wedding, the woman is possessed by a ghost and starts causing trouble, and a learned one by the name of Zhang goes upstairs and explains to the ghost the technicalities of the case and why he has not right to haunt the married couple. The ghost was left speechless at his audacity, approached him, and exhaled into his mouth a breath of air, foul, and as cold as ice. The woman immediately improved, but the Scholar’s mouth was forever crooked, and that is how he became known as the Crooked-Mouthed Scholar. Again there is the notion that learned men are unable to deal with elements that do not fall within their scope of learning. Moreover, there is the sense that their powers work only within the confines of a particular space (even if it is a socially constructed one). The nosy Zhang’s learning and oratory skills helped him to get rid of the ghost with his stiff, unwavering incantation of Confucian rules. Unfortunately, his actions showed that he had both little sympathy for the recently departed ghost and even for the promise made between two families, and so it is that the ghost gets his revenge by twisting Zhang’s mouth so that he would forever be known for his ability to twist words. It was this kind of blind adherence that Yuan found particularly cruel and revolting, and Yuan’s circumstantial consideration and sympathy are both themes that emerge in some of the court cases that he illustrates in The Legal Cases of Harmony Garden, wherein he recounted some of the more interesting court cases he tried while working as an official.


Some of his portrayals of adherence to the rules are not as terrifying as the one mentioned above, and generally speaking, Yuan walks the line of treating men of learning65 with pitiful laughter and with cruel disdain. In other stories, he simply makes light-hearted mockeries of the tendency to imitate, one example of which is the story “An Artisan Paints a Zombie” (Huagong Hua Jiangshi 畫工畫僵屍),66 wherein an artist by the name of Liu Yixian is summoned to his neighbor’s house to complete a portrait of his neighbor’s recently deceased father. When he went upstairs, the following events unfurled: He approached the dead person’s bed, sat down and took out his pen. The corpse suddenly shot up. Yixian knew it was a walking corpse, and so he did not move. The corpse did not move. It just closed its eyes and opened its mouth with its eyebrows arched. His face was puckered and you could see the folds on his face. Yixian realized that if he moves the corpse would follow, and he would rather finish his painting, and then he took his pen and stretched the paper. He traced the form of the corpse. Every time his arm moved and finger moved exerted force, the corpse imitated him. Yixian cried out, but no one replied. Here Yuan expresses a certain irony in his portrayal of the zombie and the artisan, as even after death the po soul67 that remains in the body immediately starts imitating that which it

Again I would like to emphasize that it is not learning itself that Yuan criticizes, but the use of learning as the only measure of a man’s worth and ability, as well as the blind adherence to the rules. 65


For a complete translation of this story see Appendix A page 113.


sees in front of itself. The artisan’s inability to do anything, and calm acceptance of this strange phenomenon underscores this irony. Finally, it is a cool-headed sweep of the broom that knocks the zombie back into its dead state, another reflection of the simple, natural and quick-thinking reactions that Yuan so admired. There are quite a few comic episodes like the one above in Yuan’s collection. Then there are those that are truly frightening and give us an idea of the extent that Yuan believed that men could be corrupted by the strict adherence to rules and regulations. One of the most terrifying examples of these is “The Magistrate of Pingyang” (Pingyang Ling 平陽令),68 which recounts the measures taken by a man who believes himself to be the embodiment of righteous virtue, but lacks any kind of benevolence, reflection or even awareness of his own cruelty. The magistrate of Pingyang Zhu Shuo was merciless and excessive in his punishment of the bad. In all the counties that he governed, he would build giant cangues and huge clubs. In cases that involved women, he would turn these cases into cases of adultery and then extract confessions. When caning prostitutes he would have them disrobed and would push the canes into their private parts, causing them to puss and swell for months on end, saying: “Let’s see how she greets her customers now!” Then he would use the blood from their bottoms to smear the faces of the customers. With the beautiful

The hun 魂 and the po 魄 are the two parts of the soul. The hun is the intelligent part that correlates to one’s intellect and personality. The po is the force that drives the physical movements of the body. Yuan explains the two in the story “The Scholars of Nanchang” (Nanchang Shiren 南昌士人). 67


For a complete translation of this story see Appendix A page 102.


prostitutes, he became even more cruel: He would pull out their hair and use a knife to cut open their nostrils, saying “Only making the beautiful unattractive will cause this culture of whoredom come to an end!” When he met a colleague he would [be surprised by himself and] brag to other people: “How could we be unmoved by sexy women, if not for an iron face and icy heart, who could accomplish the same?” Zhu Shuo is probably one of the most terrifying characters, both because of his excessively violent nature, and also his inability to be moved things beautiful and things repulsive. Yuan’s personal style of governance was quite lenient and tended not to be overly moralistic, so this character would certainly have been particularly repulsive to him. The iron face that is referred to in this passage has been historically used to describe someone who unselfishly and unflinchingly enforces the law, which again is the opposite of Yuan’s own approach to law enforcement. Again there is the conflict between the rules that are set forth by moral and legal codes, and the reality that they are meant to govern. Often these two clash in their applied forms, creating the lack of humanity that is witnessed in this story, as well as the lack of sympathy towards moral injustice committed against a ghost witnessed in the “Crooked-Mouthed Scholar.” Another topic of disdain for Yuan was the Imperial Examinations, which, as mentioned before, he resented because he felt that they crushed the natural expression of the self and the fact that it disregarded so many talented scholars. The following tale makes for an interesting respite while reading Yuan’s stories, as it is one without violence, and instead has the simple appreciation for beauty. In “Li Xiangjun Recommends a Scroll” (Li Xiangjun


Jian Juan 李香君薦卷)69 the famous consort Li Xiangjun returns from the grave to draw attention to the examination scrolls of a deceased scholar, the grandson of her earthly lover. This particular story was told to Yuan by his friend Yang Chaoguan 楊潮觀 (1710–88), who later requested that Yuan restore several details in the plot to their original version, particularly those that preserved the image of Li Xiangjun as a virtuous woman. In the story, Yang had been made magistrate of Gushi in Henan Province, where he served as co-examiner on the provincial exam. After having graded all of the papers, Yang went back to make comments on the papers that had failed, and ended up falling asleep. In his dream, a woman with a bright and clear face approached his bed, lifted the mosquito net, and told of a scroll labeled “Osmanthus Fragrance” and asking him to be sure to recommend it when he found it. Yang awoke and told the story to his fellow examiners, all of whom couldn’t believe that a scroll would be recommended just as the plaque is being set out. Yang ended up coming across the scroll, which was of excellent quality although not of contemporary style, but vacillated as to whether or not to recommend it at such a late time. It was during this time that the Qian Dongli, Minor Overseer of Agriculture, and Nong Donglu, had come to see why the forwarded papers were of such poor quality. Yang was delighted and presented the Osmanthus Papers, which passed in the 83rd position. It turned out, when they broke the seal of the exam to find a name to put on the plaque, that it


For a complete translation of this story see Appendix A page 100.


belonged to Hou Yuanbiao, whose grandfather was Hou Chaozong. Only then did Yang suspect that the one who had come to recommend the papers was in fact Li Xiangjun. 70 Yuan might have liked this story not only because of the apparition of the infamous courtesan Li Xiangjun, but also because it bears similarity to the experience he had at when proctoring the examinations in Nanjing in 1744, where one of the scrolls was excluded because the quota was full. Yuan also felt that the format of these essays constrained the natural talents of the men who created them, and once even said when people employ the eight-legged essays they are not using their own talents, but speaking in other people’s words.71 The fact that the scroll recommended by Li Xiangjun was one that excelled in classical poetry was something that Yuan would have found very appealing. Yuan was opposed to the unquestioning obeying of the rules, and also challenged the practices of popular religions, another theme that frequently shows up in his stories as the blatant mockery of Buddhists and Daoists. Yuan draws attention to their exploitation of people and their inefficiency when it comes to exorcising fox fairies and ghosts. Moreover he questions people’s unsuspecting trust in them. This is not to say that Yuan was opposed to Buddhism as a whole, as J.P. Seaton points out in the preface to his translations of Yuan’s poetry, but the spirituality that Yuan did practice was one that took place between the individual and nature72 and not one that involved the worshiping of lifeless idols.


Li Xiangjun 李香君 was a famous courtesan who was the lover of Hou Fangyu 侯方域 (1618–54), who was

styled Chaozong 朝宗. 71

Schmidt (2003) p.12.


Seaton (1997) p. XVIII.


Yuan disliked many of the common practices that were associated with spirituality, such as geomancy and the belief in ghosts. He also thought that the common understanding of religious texts at the time was rather blasé, as seen in a letter sent a friend regarding another friend, Cheng Tingzuo 程廷祚 (1691–1767), who had presented him a copy of the Surangama Sutra,73 wherein he wrote: I followed his advice [and read it], but alas before I had finished a chapter I found myself yawning and stretching, and thinking of bed. What he found striking, I found commonplace; what to him seemed profound, to me seemed muddled. The explanation can only be that our natures are different. … I regard this theory of reincarnation as filling a gap in the teaching of our native sages. So you see I am quite open-minded.74 Arthur Waley comments that perhaps it was not the uninteresting nature of the materials that caused Yuan’s aversion, but the fact that the Buddhist doctrine regarded all earthly pleasures as immoral, an idea is quite contradictory to Yuan’s personal philosophy, which is to regard anything as immoral that interferes with man’s enjoyment of earthly pleasures. Yuan believed that feelings and desires were that which made physical beings

The translated title of the Surangama Sutra’s Chinese title is “The Summit of the Great Buddha, The Final Meaning of Verification though Cultivation of the Secret Cause of the Tathagatas, and [Foremost] Surangama of All Bodhisattvas' Ten Thousand Practices Sutra” (Da foding rulai miyin xiuzheng liaoyi zhupusa wanxing 73

shoulengyan jing 大佛頂如來密因修證了義諸菩薩萬行首楞嚴經), or in short, the One Who Surmounts All Obstacles Sutra (Lengyan jing 楞嚴經). Its theme was the worthlessness of the dharma when unaccompanied by meditation and the importance of moral precepts. 74

Waley (1956) pp. 80–81.


human, and that Buddhism’s negation thereof was an attempt to turn men and women into dead objects.75 It was not only the suppression of human desires that Yuan found unappealing, but also the fact that many people used religion as a way to escape from the basic realities of life and death. Moreover, he expressed skepticism in the powers that they claimed to have, going so far as to call people who worshipped the Buddha “boot-lickers” who rush to worship a statue of wood, without knowing that it has any powers.76 This is very similar to his belief mistrust of occult sciences such as geomancy (fengshui 風水). In The Random Jottings from Harmony Garden (Suiyuan Suibi 隨園隨筆) he enumerated countless instances of the unreliability of fortunetelling (suanming 算命), physiognomy (mianxiang 面相), geomancy, magical calculations (shushu 術數), dreams and astronomy.77 The primary critique of Daoism found in Yuan Mei’s stories is that it exploits people’s gullibility and takes advantage of their superstitions, while at the same time is mostly ineffective at dealing with supernatural beings.78

Schmidt (2003) p. 61. Seaton (1997) remarks that Yuan had a more favorable opinion of Chan 禪 Buddhism, which incorporated more natural elements and was less restrictive. 75


Schmidt (2003) p. 61.


Chan (2003) p. 44.

In Needles, Herbs God’s and Ghosts it is mentioned that the Catholic historian Juan González de Mendoza (ca. 1549–1617) and the Jesuit Matteo Ricci (1552–1610), who both wrote about Chinese customs in the late Ming period, wrote about the rampancy of fengshui and divination was rampant in China, causing Ricci to say that “the streets and taverns and all other public places abound in these astrologers and geologists, diviners and fortunetellers.” He even went so far as to group them all into the class of imposters. (p. 69). As they were missionaries who would be opposed to these practices no direct comparison can be made of theirs and Yuan Mei’s view, but the similar attitudes are interesting nonetheless. 78


In “Mr. Xu” (Xu Xiansheng 徐先生), 79 a wealthy family is seduced by a thief imitating a Daoist master who uses his powers to fool the family into giving him their entire fortune, which he claims he can increase tenfold through he use of alchemy. After being dazzled by the master’s initial show of magic, in which he turns several pieces of silver into ingots both big and small, the greedy family agrees to hand over their entire wealth to him and follow him into the wilderness, where the Venerable Master orders his men to rob them of their silver, leaving them with only enough silver to return home. This story expresses a two-fold concern, namely that the trust and blind reliance on religious figures (which mirrors the same kind of blind adherence to the rules that Yuan dislikes so much) makes the family vulnerable to chicanery. Furthermore, the more power that is given to Daoists the more corrupt they seem to become. Spiritual and authority figures were particularly susceptible to this kind of corruption, which can easily cause them to lose touch with reality, which is what happened to Zhu Shuo, the magistrate of Pingyang. It seems that Yuan not only does not trust human nature to be incorruptible, but that he also believed that the constant suppression of natural talent and expression hardened and desensitized men. He also expresses a dislike for groups that are defined by exclusion and the attainment of particular skills, such as the civil service or religious leadership. Again it becomes very clear that Yuan’s belief is not in the systems that society provides to people, but in their own natural abilities and talents, as he expressed in much of his writing. To Yuan, these organizations were not inclusive and designed to recruit from the pool of the general


For a complete translation of this story see Appendix A page 109.


population the most talented members, but instead exclusive, designed to isolate power within a certain population and thus deprive others thereof. Not all the monks portrayed in these stories are inherently bad. Some of them are simply inefficient at performing exorcisms, which calls into question their overall competence and ability. Two such masters are found in the story “The Hunters Get Rid of the Fox Fairies” (Liehu Chu Hu 獵戶除狐) 80 where the owners of a possessed house call on a Daoist monk to exorcise the rowdy fox fairies that have taken over their upstairs apartment. In the beginning, the foxes are rather tame, asking for food and wine so that they, the guests, might have a feast. After they are served with a four-table banquet, things calm down for a while. The family then decides to invite a Daoist priest to exorcise the ghosts, and as they are standing downstairs discussing the matter, loud singing erupts from the upstairs apartment: “Daoist Dog! Daoist Dog! Who dares come here?” The next day the priest arrived, and as he was setting up his cloth altar, it was as though he was struck in the head by a stick, and as he rushed outside, all of his paraphernalia came flying out after him. After this, there was no peace, and the family went to Jiangxi to entreat the Daoist Master Zhang, who sent one of his clerics. When he arrived, something seized him by his head and tossed him, so that his face was cut and his clothes torn and again, the cleric retreats and tells them that only the Reverend Xie can help them now. This time the ghosts did not sing, but still they exhausted Reverend Xie’s powers, and the family eventually gave up trying to exorcise them. 80

For a complete translation of this story see Appendix A page 105.


Finally, after six months, a group of hunters chance upon the house while looking for a place to stay. Having hunted foxes their whole lives, they assure the family that if they provide them a banquet of food and wine they will take care of the foxes, and sure enough, by dawn, the brave hunters have done what no Daoist had been able to accomplish and expelled the ghosts. Yuan was a fervent believer in natural talent and it seems, from these stories, that people could accomplish anything, and that social constructs such as ‘elite,’ ‘official’ or ‘religious’ served only to bind and disempower the people. This leads one to believe that there is a very strong connection between Yuan and Mr. Lü of the story “Ghosts have Three Tricks and then They are out of Luck” (Gui You Sanji Guoci Guoidao Nai Qiong 鬼有三技過 此鬼道乃窮). 81 Mr. Lü is on the road at night when he chances upon a ghost who, startled at having been discovered, drops her rope,82 which he picks up and stores away. The ghost, desperate to get her rope back, tries to use her three tricks to frighten Mr. Lü (she tries to enchant, frighten and chase him), but to no avail. Mr. Lü already knows that ghosts have only three skills, and shows not the slightest bit of fear, and so, the ghost makes a final, desperate plea with him to contact her family and ask them to hire a Daoist high priest so that she might be reincarnated. Mr. Lü responds by telling her the following: Actually, I am a seasoned Buddhist monk of great virtue, and I have the 81

For a complete translation of this story see Appendix A page 94.

Ghosts who died of unnatural causes, particularly those who were drowned or who hung themselves, stay in the form that they were in when they died. In these stories, several of the ghosts have committed suicide and are ineligible to go on to reincarnation lest they find a replacement to take their place. This replacement must also commit suicide. The only means the ghost has to assist them is the very rope that they hung themselves with. 82


‘reincarnation prayer,’ and I am going to recite it for you. Then, in a loud voice, he began singing: “Such a great world of time and space, and not a hindrance or a blockage. From death to life, how can you replace another? If you have to go, then go, why do you want to be so slow? With that, the ghost disappeared and the area was never haunted again. Again there is the theme of self-reliance, and the belief that humans inherently have all of the skills that they need to overcome a ghost. That the common man is more efficient at getting rid of fox fairies and exorcising ghosts than the mightiest of Daoist reverends comes as no surprise to those familiar with Yuan’s tales. Perhaps the most common theme, which Wang Yingzhi also mentions, is that people are completely capable of defeating ghosts, as long as they are not afraid of them. This theme comes up in several of his stories, and resonates with Yuan’s belief that when people believe in ghosts, they open themselves to being haunted by them. This belief is a direct reflection of Yuan’s belief in human ability and intuitive knowledge. His assertion is that human’s are responsible for their own lives and happiness, and that they should not depend on examinations and titles to bring them a sense of accomplishment, while at the same time they should not let themselves be victimized (by ghosts or situations) when they have the power to avoid it. One such story, “Scholar Cai” (Cai Shusheng 蔡書生),83 tells of a building in Hangzhou that has been haunted, and which no one dared to enter into, until the day that Scholar Cai arrives and buys the place against all warnings and pleas form his family: 83

For a complete translation of this story see Appendix A page 70.


Around midnight a woman slowly came inside, a red piece of silk trailing from her neck. She prostrated herself before him and bowed, tied a knot around the ceiling beam, stuck out her neck and placed it in the noose. The scholar had not the slightest bit of worry in his face. The woman hung another noose, and waved Cai over. Cai kicked up one foot and with it approached the noose. She said: “You’re all wrong!” Cai laughed and said: “It’s only because you’ve done wrong that we are here today. I have made no mistake!” The ghost wept, prostrated herself on the floor, and left, bowing. From this point on, the apparition disappeared. His bravery and cunning causes the ghost to flee and never to return, and the brave and cool-headed scholar is rewarded with the title ‘The Brilliant Marquis’ and becomes a provincial official. The same kind of bravery is seen in yet another one of Yuan’s ghost stories, “Mr. Chen Qingke Blows the Ghost Away” (Chen Qingke Gong Chuiqi Tui Gui 陳清恪公吹氣退 鬼)84 where the wife of the protagonist’s friend, after a domestic spat over money, is almost lured into death by a ghost who is trying to find a replacement for herself in the afterlife. Fortunately, Mr. Chen is able to steal the ghost’s rope, which he stores away in his boot and waits to see what happens: Before long the disheveled woman reappeared and pried under the hiding place, couldn’t find the rope, became angry and rushed right over to Chen and 84

For a complete translation of this story see Appendix A page 96.


yelled: “Give me back my thing!” Chen said: “What thing?” She did not answer, stood up tall, opened her mouth and blew on Mr. Chen. What she blew was a burst of air as cold as ice. His hair stood on end and he clenched his teeth, and flame in his lamp was reduced to a blue glow and started to go out. Chen thought to himself: “Even that ghost still has a breath. If she still has it, am I the one who doesn’t have a breath?” He then roused up his breath and also blew on the woman. In the place where he blew there appeared a hole in her person. First her stomach and finally, even her head disappeared. After a short while the body completely scattered like fine dust, and wasn’t seen again. After the wife of the friend is revived, she tells her husband and Mr. Chen what had happened: Our family is so poor, and my husband is endlessly hospitable… I have but one hairpin left on my head, and he took it to go buy wine. I was deeply depressed, but the guest was sitting outside, so I couldn’t say anything at all. Suddenly there was a woman with disheveled hair at my side, and she said she was the neighbor who lived to our left, and she told me that my husband had not taken the hairpin because of his guest, but that he was actually on his way to visit a gambling hall. I became even more filled with sadness and grief, and was thinking that the night was late and my husband hadn’t returned home yet, and the guest wasn’t leaving, and I felt ashamed sending him away myself. The disheveled woman made a circle with her hands, and said: ‘From here you can


enter the land of the Buddha, where joy knows no end.’ So from there I entered the circle, but her grip was not ti ght, and the circle kept on breaking open. Then she said to me: ‘Let me go get my Buddha belt and then you can become a Buddha.’ She ran off to go get it, and didn’t come back for quite a long time. Then everything I was in a stupor like a dream, and you came to save me. Interestingly, Scholar Cai also bears a mild resemblance to Yuan, in that he is enjoying the autumn moon, slight breeze, a volume of poetry, and the strange encounter with a ghost to which he responds to not with terror, but with childlike fascination and courageous curiosity. In this story there is an obvious aversion to the idea of subjecting to a ghost because of its terrifying countenance. Ultimately, Yuan asserts that a human being inherently should have more powers than ghosts, and should rely on this knowledge and their intuition to hold their own when faced with an apparition. The ghost here is depicted as preying on its weak, gullible target, and even employs Buddhist imagery to lure her unsuspecting victim to her death, another of Yuan’s subtle jabs at popular religion. The hanging ghost is an important theme in Yuan’s stories for another reason, and can be attributed, at least in part, to the need for families to make sense of the suicide of a family member by placing the blame on external causes.85 These types of ghosts are particularly frightening, as they prey on discontented and downtrodden individuals, and if successful, perpetuate a never-ending cycle of suicides. Yuan employs them specifically as a

For a complete discussion of this topic, see Rania Huntington’s 2003 article “Ghosts Seeking Substitution: Female Suicide and Repetition.” 85


symbol of the never-ending cycle of hopelessness and disempowerment wherein women become trapped. His first encounter with this matter was at a very young age when his widowed aunt Sun Xiugu 孫秀姑 hung herself after a rich and powerful neighbor had tried to seduce her. This incident had a powerful impact on his young psyche and even in his later life he recounts the story in several of his writings. 86 Before it happened, he was already aware of the financial hardship that his family was in, and the sacrifices that his mother and aunt made. Part of the reason for his dislike of the government system probably stems from the fact that his father, who was known for being very knowledgeable in history, was unable to provide for his family, exposing the very inability of the system to provide for its people. The incident with his aunt, however, was the most poignant, symbolic of both the predicaments of being part of a low social class and being a defenseless woman. Yuan uses his intimate knowledge of the problems of the inner chambers to recreate them publicly in these stories, thereby advocating on behalf of women and also expressing a fundamental futility that he sees in their lives. One such woman is the ghost who antagonizes Mr. Lü in “Ghosts Have Three Tricks and that is All.” She once was a helpless woman who took her own life after a spat with her father, and like all other hanged ghosts, she thus came back to prey on others who are in her situation. By bringing these stories out into the open, Yuan might be laying bare the social conditions that drove women to take their own lives, and moreover, to ameliorate the stigma and the terror that is associated with suicide. Like Mr. Lü, Yuan finds a non-violent way to release these women from blame. A complete discussion is provided in Fu Yuheng Yuan Mei nianpu pp. 5–6. According to Schmidt, Yuan writes a poem about the affair after visiting her tomb (Wenji 26.634–5), and the story is also fictionalized in What the Master does not Speak of (15.288-9). 86


The theme of financial hardship and women’s lack of power to escape it appears once again in the tale “Chen Qingke Blows the Ghost Away.” Miss Zheng is another victim of domestic pressures, who has grown weary under the burden of her family’s poverty, and her husband’s constant entertainment. It was on the night that her husband took her last hairpin in order to buy wine for a passing guest that she became so depressed that a ghost could easily prey on her. Yet another victim of domestic pressures, not to mention the unfair and unyielding social obligations that Confucian society inflicts upon people, is the young Miss Zheng, from the story “Mr. Song” (Song Sheng 宋生). 87 The story begins in Suzhou, where a young orphan is brought up by his uncle, but runs away after he is found skipping class to watch a play. He goes to Mudu village where he begs for a living, and is eventually employed as a janitor by a man named Li, who takes pity on him. After years of loyal service, he had worked his way through the ranks, accumulated quite a bit of wealth and was even given a young servant girl by the name of Zheng to keep him company. All is well until he runs into his uncle in the city, who forces him to leave his wife and rejoin their family and marry a woman of high standing by the family name of Jin. After being served with the divorce papers, his wife Zheng throws herself and her daughter into a lake and the two of them drown. Three years later, Miss Zheng returns from the afterlife, kills the uncle and appears to Miss Jin in a dream, informing her that she has taken revenge on the uncle, that she will do the same to her husband, and that she will take her Jin’s daughter as compensation for


For a complete translation of this story see Appendix A page 90.


the loss of her own. Since Jin herself had nothing to do with it, she would be safe. Miss Jin immediately tells the scholar of the dream, and he prepares a sum of money to a Daoist monk, after which the spirit is locked up in Fengdu, unable to harm anyone else. Another three years pass, when one day, out of the blue, the Scholar’s servant approached him, possessed, and scorning him in broad daylight says: The reason I took your uncle first and you later is that the evil intentions were not born of you, and because, furthermore I still had some feelings about our former relationship as husband and wife. But now, instead you made the first move against me, and sent me to Fengdu the Daoist charm. How can your indecency reach this point? Now, the charm has expired, and I presented my undeserved punishment to the City God. The City God commended me for being so chaste and being willing to die for it, and allowed me to seek revenge. Where will you escape to now? Following this the scholar went dumb, tumbled to the ground and beat himself, and within ten days his life came to an end. Not only had the ghost been able to execute her revenge, but she had also been rewarded by the city god for her chastity, and thus received a shorter sentence and permission to seek revenge on those who had harmed her. What is interesting to note is that for the women in Yuan’s stories, the threat often comes from the inside of the domestic sphere, not the outside, which again makes a very strong comment about the social conventions of the time. Yuan was not only aware of the burden that was placed on women to silently suffer for their families, but also the restrictions that were often placed on them by their families, which would prevent them


from flourishing. Yuan’s sister, with whom he was very close, also suffered under the pressures of a conservative husband who would destroy her poetry and keep her confined to the house. In “Mr. Song,” we see many of Yuan’s ideas underscored once more, starting with the uncle’s refusal to let his young nephew enjoy a play, to his forced re-entry into the family once he had become a man of wealth and status. We also see the same cool, calculated logic that was displayed in the “Crooked-Mouthed Scholar,” which completely disregards the affection (not to mention matrimony) between Miss Zheng and her husband. The notion of chastity is one that is important in Yuan Mei’s stories. Unlike staunch Confucians who believed in the strict ethical codes for women advocated by people such as Zhang Xuecheng, Yuan’s constant exposure to women throughout his life had profoundly impacted his understanding of women’s positions and rights, which made him more sympathetic to their struggles and their suppression. What is particularly interesting to note in the above story is that the ghost stops short of killing the new wife. Generally speaking, the ghosts who have committed suicide will return to find replacements so that they may be reincarnated, but several of Yuan’s characters do not do this, and instead go through the legal system in the afterlife, and win either permission to seek revenge, or, in the case that they are not in the right, they are detained in Hell’s court and prevented from seeking out their victims. This is seen in the story “The Female Ghost Sues,” (Nügui Gaozhuang 女鬼告狀), 88 wherein a young man’s soul


For a complete translation of this story see Appendix A page 71.


is kidnapped by a woman who had fallen so deeply in love with him that she had died from unrequited love. The day after the ghost releases him he is summoned to the underworld to stand trial. The following day two deputies from the underworld come to fetch Bao and take him to his trial. One of them, who went by the name of Chen, was a childhood friend and classmate of Bao’s who had passed away three years ago. Because they had been friends, Bao was not placed in chains, and halfway down the road they ran into the ghost who, seeing that Bao had not been chained, grew furious, head-butted him and used her hands to scratch Bao’s abdomen and face, spots which would appear as red splotches on his fevered body back in the world of the living. After walking for some time, they arrived at a government office, where they found and official dressed in a red robe and black cap waiting for them. The ghost was interrogated, and even though Bao was sitting but a foot away he couldn’t hear a thing that was being said. Finally, the official grew angry with the ghost, ordered her to fifteen slaps and had her cangue put on, and had her led away. Bao, who had been kneeling in damp but and been torn up by cold wind, was sent back home to his family, and ordered to pay his deputies in offerings. This story starts to reveal a dichotomy in the way that Yuan feels about women. On the one hand, he saw them as vulnerable, self-sacrificing beings that often bore the silent burden of domestic problems. These kinds of stories seem to reflect his personal, familial experiences with women, be it the ones who are directly related to him, or the ones he felt should be encouraged to develop their training, like the ones he took under his wing and


taught poetry to. His aunt, who had killed herself after being pursued by a neighbor, is the perhaps the most poignant example of this. On the other hand, some of the women found in Yuan’s stories are fierce, sexual and ultimately harm the men that they are in pursuit of, as seen in “The Soft-handed Scholar Wu,” “The Female Ghost Presses Suit,” and “Mr. Song” where women come from the afterlife to harass and pursue men for various reasons, whether it be for revenge of an actual or imagined crime, to pain a mate for the afterlife, or a woman gone mad. There is, ultimately, a certain difficulty in trying to reconcile these types of stories with the ones that portray women in a vulnerable, sympathetic light, and also with Yuan’s personal experiences with women.89 It seems that more often than not, that the women who are committing evil or destructive deeds are somehow justified, or at least explained, and in many cases the women are given posthumous justice or released from their karmic obligations through the sympathy of onlookers. The exception to this is the succubus, which are alluring ghosts that can seduce men and rob them of their essence, luring them into a slow death as their healthy slowly decays. These also occur in Yuan’s stories, including “The Spirit of the Stone Tortoise,” (Bixi Jing 贔屭精)90 wherein a young scholar by the name of Hua goes out to catch a breeze one day and instead catches the eye of a beautiful young woman, who invites herself to his house: The scholar was excited and rushed home. He lied to his wife, telling her he While Yuan generally treats his female characters quite well, this did not always extend to prostitutes (courtesans were the exceptions). Yuan had confessed to having prostitutes in this past, but he claims he felt no attraction to, as is apparent by his letter wherein he turned down an invitation to a banquet, saying that “Whenever I attend a banquet with prostitutes, I unexpectedly find my enthusiasm spoiled by their ugliness.” Schmidt (2008) p. 16. 89


For a complete translation of this story see Appendix A page 79.


was afraid of the heat and thought it would be good for him to sleep alone. After cleaning and tidying the outer room he went and stealthily waited by the outer gates. The woman came at night as expected, and holding hands they went into the room. The scholar’s happiness surpassed his every expectation, and from then on she came every night. Several months passed, and the scholar had grown thin and weak. His parents went to spy on him in his sleeping quarters, where they saw him sitting next to the woman, giggling merrily. They hurriedly threw the door open, but the room was empty and quiet, and they found nobody. So his parents interrogated him sternly, and finally he told them the whole story, start to finish. They were astonished, and they took the student and went to the school to investigate, but there was no alley or door there as the student had seen. They asked around among the gatekeeper, there wasn’t one who had a daughter. They all realized this was a demon, and so they sent out many invitations to Buddhist monks and a Daoist priests requesting talismans and charms, but none of them were of any use. Eventually the family is able to trace her to a stone tortoise in the local schoolyard, which bleeds when they smash it to pieces. They take the small, shiny stone that they find inside and throw it into the Tai River and the succubus did not return for a half a month. When she does return, she brings with her sweet herbs that give the scholar the appearance of health, and also moves into their home where all members of the family could see her. All seems well until one day a Daoist monk approaches the scholar and warns him that death is


nigh should he continue to carry on his relationship with the woman, and eventually all the family members come together to exorcise her. Despite all of the trouble that the succubus had brought them, she still remains a fairly sympathetic character until the end of the story, when she begs the scholar to do her a final favor and release her in exchange for all of the love that she had shown him. Ultimately, no matter how terrifying the concept of a succubus or a female ghost coming to haunt are portrayed in these stories, they still convey a great deal of sympathy on the part of the author, as they fail to be completely terrifying. Yuan’s sympathies, especially towards women, were often seen in his legal cases where he was often willing to bend conventional rules in order to give more lenient rulings to the women that he was dealing with. The same thing happens in his ghost stories, where the females figures are often portrayed in a more sensitive, understanding light, and even the bad spirits get away relatively easy in comparison to their male counterparts. One final story that serves as an excellent portrayal of this phenomenon is “The Great, Hairy Man Snatches a Woman” (Da Maoren Jue Nü 大毛人攫女), 91 wherein a woman is attacked and carried off by a hairy giant when she goes outside to relieve herself. The story is vivid and terrifying, with the scantily dressed woman clinging to the sides of the wall and eventually being dragged off by the hairy man as her husband and the village look on helplessly. After tracking the man for quite some time, the villagers eventually come across the woman’s body, which has been raped and torn to pieces by the attacking man. The district magistrate, greatly grieved by this event, provides the woman with a lavish burial, 91

For a complete translation of this story see Appendix A page 114.


even though according to the morals of the times the fact that she had been penially penetrated (even post-mortem) meant that she was “irrevocably polluted and ineligible for canonization.”92 Yuan Mei, however, felt that her death should be honored and her dignity, despite her cruel and revolting end, should be retained, and thus has his fictional district magistrate provide her with a proper burial. CONCLUSION In the preface to the Guangyi Ji (Guangyi Ji 廣異記), author Dai Fu 戴孚 (8th century) remarks that in the past the characters for not (bu 不) and to show or illustrate (shi 示) were written very similarly,93 and perhaps there is something to be said about this observation. Perhaps these tales allowed Yuan Mei to create in the supernatural things that were too surreal to create in real life, or perhaps he used these things, spirits, feats of strength, disorder in nature and ghosts, to talk about and express his feelings towards the things that no one talked about, and in a sense, to devote himself to the duties due to men, and even women. A final option is that these stories really were, as Henri Lefebvre designates them, “a mild stimulant for the nerves and the mind – particularly recommended as risk-free for cases of nervous fatigue,”94 which allowed him to enjoy himself without the pressures of adult life.


For a complete discussion, see Francis (p. 149) and Sommer (pp. 12–15, 316).


The original text reads: “古文‘示’字如今文‘不’字,儒有不本其意,雲‘子不語此,’大破格言,非觀象

設教之本也。 94

Lefebvre p. 119.


When Yuan left his official position, he made a point of leaving behind official life, and its woes, and dedicated his life to the fullest in pursuit of pleasure. Much of his writing represents the youthful, intelligent exuberance of a curious mind, but quite frequently the reader comes across works that betray the resentment, remorse and sadness that Yuan harbored in his heart. Underneath of his joyful exterior was a conscience that was haunted by the things he had seen and experienced in his past: his own failures and frustrations in official life, his annoyance with popular religion and superstition, and the mistreatment of women, all of which appear in his poetry, prose, and in his collection of ghost stories What the Master does not Speak of. Many of the stories contained in this collection are anecdotes of strange events and clever anecdotes: a human prawn, two star-crossed lovers who finally fulfill their destiny after they are reborn as goats, and a description of the chicanery used in the theft of precious items. Others, however, are not so lighthearted, and they often cause their readers to stop and contemplate whether or not this is a simple recollection of a strange anecdote, or if they harbor some kind of deeper meaning, and upon deeper exploration it seems that they do. Many of Yuan’s contemporaries collected and composed ghost stories, and some used these stories to express their personal grief and agitation. Pu Songling, perhaps the most famous of these writers, used his collection of tales as a creative outlet for his grief, and according to some researchers, Ji Yun wrote his between the emotionally and physically exhausting terms of service working on the Complete Library of the Four Treasuries as a way to express his personal talent and his grief. While all ghost stories share some fundamental similarities, Yuan’s differ in their origin and in their composition, and while many of his


characters are satirical mockeries or tragic characters, they are presented with an air of humor wherein Yuan not only takes the Master’s name in vain, but uses the very things the master does not speak of to talk about the things not spoken of in proper society. Yuan never really utilized his stories in a didactic way,95 but the themes that were represented in them were pertinent, progressive and often painful. They spoke of a certain disillusion that he suffered at his realization that even prestigious positions were not truly based on talent, but on the compliance one shows with their superiors, and that the virtues of women were hardly ever what others claimed them to be, and that they often toiled and suffered without relief or reward. While the themes of the stories he noted down in his collection were not popular among literati contemporaries, they did resonate with the people, and despite the unadorned language and shallow characters, his two zhiguai collections remained immensely popular even after his death, indeed they were so progressive and popular that even a half a century after his death the Emperor Daoguang 道光 (1782–1851, served as Emperor from 1821–51) attempted to censor them to curb their influence.

Chan (1998) cites the Russian scholar O.L. Fishman’s 1980 work that compared the works of Pu Songling, Ji Yun and Yuan Mei. Fishman found that statistically, Yuan had the least didactic stories. Of Yuan’s collection 21.2% were didactic, of Ji’s 42.8% were didactic, and of Pu’s 39.2% were didactic. The evaluation criterion is not given. 95

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The Soft-handed Scholar Wu - 吳生手軟 In the fifth month of the 24th year of the Qianlong Emperor’s reign,96 the magistrate of Feng County,97 Lu Shichang,98 was revising the city gazette. He invited Scholar Wu from Suzhou to transcribe it, and he lived together with his colleagues in the same building. Suddenly, he put on his clothes and cap, put his hands together and bowed to his colleagues saying: “I am about to die, and afterwards, you will be burdened with my tasks.” His friends asked him the reason, he looked sad and told them: “When I was on my way to Feng county, I reached Pei99 county, where I met a woman on the road, who asked me if we could share the carriage. I used the reason that the carriage was very small to refuse her. The woman followed the carriage for over twenty li, and secretly, in my heart, I was very startled by this. When I asked the sedan-chair bearers, none of them had seen her, and that is when I first knew that she was a ghost. That evening when I was staying at the hotel, after everyone was quiet, the woman came and sat on my bed and said: ‘You and I are both twenty-nine years of, and are suitable to be man and wife.’ I was very scared, used my pillow and threw it at her, and she disappeared with a sound. From then on, I didn’t see her shape again, but would


In the Western calendar this would be the year 1759.


Feng 豐 county is the name of an old Zhou dynasty city. The modern location of this city is in Shaanxi 陝西,

east of Lu 鄠 county. 98

According to the 中國古代名人錄 Lu Shichang’s 盧世昌 sobriquet name was Jiong Zhai 綗齋 and he was

made magistrate of Feng County in 1754 (乾隆十九年). He was fond of poetry, Han-style calligraphy, and drawing orchids. 99

Pei 沛 county has been in modern Anhui 安徽 province since the Tang dynasty.


occasionally hear a muttering near my ear, asking to be husband and wife, calling me ‘the writer.’ The chatter never ceased. So I asked her: ‘How can I pay you, so that you will leave?’ She said: ‘Bring me 200 pieces of cash and place them on the floor. Then I shall leave immediately.’ I did what she said, but my money was still there, and the woman came back to harass me just as in the beginning. What was I to do? What was I to do?” His friends all looked at one another and tried to comfort him, and told two young male servants to protect him. A few days later, there was a loud yell upstairs. Everyone ran upstairs, and saw Wu collapsed on the floor. On the right side of his stomach there was a stab wound, and half of his intestine had spilled out. His throat and esophagus had also been severed. When they propped him up, he didn’t have any sensation of pain. When master Lu went to look at him, he summoned him closer with a wave of his hand and wrote the character ‘injustice.’ Lu asked: “What kind of injustice is it?” and he answered: “A lover’s spat. This morning, the woman came to force me to die, so that we could be husband and wife. I asked her: ‘Which method of death should I use?’ The woman pointed to the knife on the desk and said: ‘This is perfect!’ I took it and stabbed myself in the right side of the abdomen, and it was unbearably painful. The woman quickly used her hand to massage it and said ‘this isn’t helping.’ Whichever place she massaged, I no longer thought painful.’ I asked: ‘Well then, what shall I do?’ The woman rubbed her own neck, and made the gesture of slitting one’s throat: ‘This method will work.’ I again used the knife to sever the left side of my throat. The woman stamped her feet and yelled: “This also is of no use, you are uselessly creating pain for yourself!’ Once again she used her hand to massage it, and I also didn’t think it painful


anymore. She pointed at the lower right side of my throat and said: ‘This place is excellent.’ I said: ‘My hands are already weak. I can’t do it. You come here and stab it.’ The woman came straightforward holding the knife, letting her hair become disheveled as she shook her head. But by then you had already run upstairs. When she heard people coming she cast the knife down and ran away.” Master Lu was astounded. He sent for a doctor to put his intestine back in. In the beginning, Wu couldn’t eat or drink, they used medicine to cure him, and in the end he recovered. She woman was not seen again, and Scholar Wu has lived to this day. 乾隆二十四年五月,豐縣宰盧世昌修邑志,聘蘇州吳生為謄錄,與同事者同住一 樓。忽具衣冠揖同事友曰:「吾死矣,以後事累公。」友問故,吳愀然云:「我初 赴豐時,至沛縣,道上遇一婦人,求與共載,我以車小不許。婦隨車行二十里,心 竊訝之。問輿夫,皆不見,始知為鬼。晚投旅店,人靜後,婦來坐榻上語我曰: 『君與我年俱廿九,合為夫婦。』我大駭,以枕投之,隨響而沒。自此不復見形, 時聞耳邊嚅嚅作語,求作夫婦,呼我為『寫字人』,噪聒不已。問:『如何酬汝, 汝方去?』曰:『與我錢二百,置樓板上,我即去。』如其言。既而我錢仍在,婦 來纏擾如初,奈何奈何?」友人咸相解慰,令二僮守之。 越數日,樓上大呼,眾奔上,見吳倒地,腹右刀戳一洞,腸半潰出,喉下食嗓 已斷。扶起之,絕無痛楚。盧公往視,吳手招之近前,作一「冤」字。盧曰:「是 何冤?」曰:「歡喜冤家也。今早婦人來逼我死,以便作夫妻。我問:『作何死 法?』婦指案上刀曰:『此物佳。』余取刺右腹,痛不可忍,婦人亟以手按摩之, 曰:『此無濟也。』所摩處遂不覺痛。我問:『然則如何?』婦人自摩其頸作刎勢


曰:『如此方可。』我復以刀斷左喉,婦人跌足歎曰:『此亦無濟,徒多痛苦 耳。』又以手按摩之,亦不覺痛。指右喉下曰:『此處佳。』余曰:『我手軟矣, 無能為也,卿來刺之。』婦遂披髮搖首,持刀直前,而樓下諸公已走上矣。彼聞人 來,擲刀奔去。」盧公詫異,為延醫納其腸。吳始不能飲食,用藥敷治,亦遂平 復。婦人不復再至。吳生至今尚存。

Scholar Cai - 蔡書生 Outside the northern gates of Hangzhou100 there was a building where ghosts had often been seen; nobody dared to live there and the latches on the doors were locked tight. A scholar by the name of the Cai was about to buy this place. People feared for his sake, but he did not listen to them. After the contract was completed, his family was not willing to enter. Cai, by himself, opened the room and sat alone holding a candle. Around midnight a woman slowly came inside, a red piece of silk trailing from her neck. She prostrated herself before him and bowed,101 tied a knot around the ceiling beam, stuck out her neck and placed it in the noose. The scholar had not the slightest bit of worry in his face. The woman hung another noose, and waved Cai over. Cai kicked up one foot and with it approached the noose. She said: “You’re all wrong!” Cai laughed and said: “It’s only because you’ve done wrong that we are here today. I have made no mistake!” The ghost wept, prostrated herself on the floor, and


杭州北關門 is another way of referring to the 杭州市北林門.

In ancient times xiabai 侠拜, which is written similarly to fubai 伏拜 was a form of polite greeting between a man and a woman where the woman would first bow to the man, the man would return the bow, and the woman would bow once more. 101


left, bowing. From this point on, the apparition disappeared, and what is more, Cai went on to pass his Jinshi exams.102 Some say that he is Provincial Governor Cai Binghou.103 杭州北關門外有一屋,鬼屢見,人不敢居,扃鎖甚固。書生蔡姓者將買其宅。人危 之,蔡不聽。券成,家人不肯入。蔡親自啟屋,秉燭坐。至夜半,有女子冉冉來, 頸拖紅帛,向蔡伏拜,結繩於梁,伸頸就之。蔡無怖色。女子再掛一繩,招蔡。蔡 曳一足就之。女子曰:「君誤矣。」蔡笑曰:「汝誤才有今日,我勿誤也。」鬼大 哭,伏地再拜去。自此,怪遂絕,蔡亦登第。或云即蔡炳侯方伯也。

The Female Ghost Sues - 女鬼告狀 In the city of Zhenjiang104 there was a man named Bao, who was young, handsome and charming, and who married a woman from the Wang family. Bao was a merchant by trade, and he was often coming and going through streets and alleys105 with his colleagues.


Dengdi 登第 means to pass a competitive exam.


Fangbo 方伯 in earlier times referred to a feudal prince, and during the Qing period came to mean something

along the lines of a 长官, a senior commanding officer. The person in question here might be Cai Fangbing 蔡 方炳. According to the 中國古代名人錄 he lived sometime during the latter half of the 17th century. He was a tireless student and kind in his official duties. He was fond of poetry and Han-style calligraphy. He edited several volumes of literature, which have been passed down in the Qing Biographies (Qingshi Liezhuan 清史列 傳). Zhenjiang 鎮江 is located near modern Yangzhou 揚州, about 130 miles outside of Shanghai 上海. Incidentally, this is also Tempe, Arizona’s sister city. 104

Lüxiang 閭巷 is sometimes used to describe the realm of the people, perhaps the implication here is that Bao and his colleagues are carousing in a less proper part of town. 105


On one autumn day of the 37th year of the Qianlong emperor,106 he went with several of his friends to the red light district.107 At dusk, he came home. Wang (his wife) went with an old female servant to prepare his supper, and when she heard a knock on the door, she ordered the old woman to go and open it, and she saw a young woman, all dressed up, come inside and go straight into the inner quarters. When she asked her (who she was) she did not respond. The old woman suspected that she was a relation, and went back to Wang and told her about it. Wang rushed into the room, but it was Bao who was in it. Because of this he mocked the old woman for her retarded, (saying that) she mistook the master of the house for a woman. Suddenly Bao took on the mannerisms of a woman, gathered his dress108 and advanced towards them, exchanged greetings with Miss Wang, and said: “While Mr. Bao was drinking at some brothel, I was keeping watch behind the gate, waiting for him to come out, so that we might come back together. Wang saw that the voice and movements were unlike those of Mr. Bao and worried that he had gone mad, and urgently called over all the servants and relatives from the neighboring rooms to have a look. Bao exchanged greetings with each of them, observing etiquette and being very thoughtful, addressing them without error, just like a woman of an established family would. When the men were a bit too intimate with Bao, the ghost immediately got angry and said: “I am a proper woman! Whosoever comes 106

In this Western calendar this would be the year 1772.

Xiaxie 狎邪 literally means to be familiar with intimate with the demonical and is a euphemism for brothels and prostitutes. 107


Ren 衽 is the overlapping part of the gown traditionally worn by the Chinese, which men tied on the right

side and women on the left side (and Manchurians tied on the opposite side). Lian 襝 literally means to gather up in one’s hands, but here could also be referring to the fastening of the dress.


near me, I will immediately take his life!” The group asked her “What vendetta do you have against Bao?” The ghost said: “I and Mr. Bao, in fact, have become enemies because of love. I have already made my complaints to the City God, and all in all there were nineteen plaints. None of them were decided in my favor. Today I once again charged him to the Emperor of the Five Sacred Mountains,109 and he has begun to process them, and before long I will be going there with Bao.” When they asked her family name and name, the ghost said: “I am the daughter of a good family. My name is not something you can ask!” “What are you charging Bao with?” The ghost immediately recited a list of nineteen allegations, but her words were rushed and couldn't be understood thoroughly. Roughly she was accusing Bao of being selfish and not reciproacting. Somebody asked her further: “You are speaking through Bao’s body, where is Bao right now?” The ghost smiled and said: “He was tied up by me and is in the a small room on the side of the City God’s temple.” Miss Wang wept silently and prostrated herself, begging her to release her husband. The ghost did not respond. At midnight, all of the relatives talked amongst themselves: “The ghost had said that she had filed a complaint with the City God and that it was not awarded in your favor. Today, she bound Bao up in the corner room of the City God’s temple. Why don’t we go and tell the spirit, and ask him to decide the case?” Thereupon they all looked for joss sticks, candles and paper money, and it seemed as though they were about to go. Suddenly the ghost said: “Now you are all going together to seek help (from the City God). For the time 109

The Princely Emperor of the Scared Mountains of the East (Dongyue Dijun 東嶽帝君) is also called Dongyue

Dadi 東獄大帝. In the Daoist tradition, he is the highest-ranking divinity and governs the Five Sacred Mountains (Wuyue 五嶽).


being I will return him, and we will have the Emperor of the Five Sacred Mountains pass his verdict.” Soon thereafter Bao came to, saying that he was extremely exhausted. The crowd gathered around him and asked him what he had seen, and Bao said: “When I first left some brothel, I immediately saw this woman following me. First she was to my left and then to my right. When I reached the field,110 the woman suddenly came up and dragged me into the small room in the left side of the City God’s temple, and in the darkness she used ropes to bind my hands and feet, and placed me on the ground. On my sides it seemed as though there were men guarding me. Just then, I heard the woman coming, saying, ‘Now, for the time being I am going to release you and let you return.’ She pushed me out of the door, I stumbled and woke up, and my body was already home. Tomorrow, the Emperor of the Eastern Hell will summon us and judge the case.” When they tried to ask him for more details the second time around, Bao could only fall into a deep sleep, and that is all. The next day he woke up after noon, and said: “The magistrate’s deputies have arrived. Quickly provide them with some food and drink.” He went into the hall came to an empty seat, cupped his hands and bowed. There were many words, but none of them were understandable. When the wine was served, he again returned and lay on his bed and died at about the first watch, expect for a slight warmth around his heart. Wang and the others wept and kept watch over his body. They saw the color of Bao’s face changing: sometimes green, sometimes red and sometimes yellow, fluctuating unpredictably. After the third watch, there appeared several red spots and scratches between his chest and his throat and the side of the


Jiaochang 教場 is an open field where military drills are conducted. It is also used for executions.


face. The next night at the second drum, his braid scattered into disorder. He didn’t come to until early morning dawn, and devoured more than ten bowls of rice, gulping them down with great speed, shocking those who were watching him. After some time, he called out: “Get some wine and foods to treat the magistrate’s deputies!” Wang came forward and served the food. He also ordered them to take six thousand cash in paper money, making sure to remove those torn or tattered, and to burn four thousand in front of the main hall, and two thousand in the alley at the side of the gate. Again he got out of bed by himself, went to the main gate, and acted as though he was seeing someone off by making bows, and then returned to his bedroom where he slept for two days. Then he told what he experienced in detail: “On the day after the ghost untied me and sent me home, sometime around noon, two magistrate’s deputies came to summon me. One of them I didn’t know, one of them was named Chen, who was also the son of a merchant. When we were young, we were class buddies. The Chen family was poor, and when he took a wife, I helped him out with several thousand cash. Now he has been dead for three years. Chen said: ‘This matter has been in the public, and it will soon be sent to the proper office, you and I were classmates and close friends in life, When I was alive I was also indebted to you for your graciousness, naturally I will look after you with great care, and we don’t have to place you in a cangue and chains.’” They traveled together and when they were on their way they saw two other deputies, with the aforementioned female ghost in locks and chains. The ghost was very angry, and headbutted Bao, and used her hands to scratch the side of this face. This is why there were red spots and scratch marks on Bao’s body. She scolded the two deputies for giving favor to Bao


against the law by taking his money, the deputies didn’t have a choice so they locked up Bao and advanced together. The further they traveled the darker it became, and the chilly wind was very violent. This is why his braided hair scattered. They arrived at a place and saw something like a government office, and the deputies ordered us to sit on the ground and wait. Immediately, we saw two red lanterns coming from inside, and the runners took off his lock, and brought him in to kneel before the place where the lanterns stopped. He saw that there was a judge’s bench with files upon it, one official ascended the bench, wearing a red robe and a black silk cap, he stroked his beard with his hand. He asked: “Are you Bao?” And Bao replied: “It is so.” The official immediately summoned the female ghost from official custody, and there were many exchanges of words of inquiry and response. The female knelt with Bao at the bottom of the steps, about a foot apart, but he heard not a single word she said. He saw the official get mad, and ordered the woman to be punished with fifteen slaps on the face and to have a cangue put on. The two runners led her away, and she wept bitterly as she went. Bao was kneeling in front of the bench, and it felt as though he was kneeling in damp mud. The cold wind blew through his hair, which felt like tiny slits of a sword on his face. He was trembling with the unbearable cold. When the woman was being punished and slapped, Chen leaned in from the side and quietly whispered: “You have already won the case. I will tidy up your hair for you.” Bao once again raised his head, and the lantern and official were no longer seen. The two deputies then accompanied him home, and stated specifically that he owed them four thousand cash for the cost of their mission, and that the other two thousand then was given to Chen personally.


The people asked Bao: “In the past, did you know this woman or not?” Bao insisted that he did not know her. People guessed that the female ghost wasted away because of her passion for Bao. She wanted to bring Bao to her, to be her mate in the afterlife. She asserted her selfish desire and petition without ground, therefore she was punished and denounced by an underworld authority. 鎮江包某,年少美丰姿,娶室王氏。包世業賈,常與同事者往來閭巷。乾隆庚 子秋日,偕數友為狎邪之游,日暮乃返。王氏方同一老嫗入廚下治晚餐,聞叩門 聲,命老嫗往啟,見一少婦盛妝而入,直赴內室,問之不答。嫗疑為姻戚,往告王 氏。王急趨至室,則包在焉,因大笑老嫗目昏,誤認主人為婦人也。 忽包作女態襝衽而前,與王氏寒暄,且言:「包郎在某娼家飲酒時,我在門後 專守,俟其出,方得同回。」王見其聲音舉動不類包郎,恐其瘋狂,急召僮僕及鄰 里姻戚共來看視。包皆一一與見,禮儀週到,稱謂無誤,宛然一大家女也。或男子 稍與相狎,鬼即怒曰:「我貞女也,誰近我,我即取其命!」眾問:「你與包有何 仇?」鬼曰:「妾與包實因愛成仇,曾控告於城隍神,前後共十九狀,俱未見准。 今又告於東嶽帝君,始蒙批准,不日與包同往矣。」詢其姓名,鬼曰:「我好人家 兒女,姓名不可聞也。」「告包者何詞?」鬼即連誦十九詞,其詞甚急,不能悉 曉,大概控包負心,令彼無歸之意。或又問:「汝即托包身而言,包今何在?」鬼 微笑曰:「渠被我縛在城隍廟側小屋中矣。」王氏泣拜,求放其夫,鬼不答。


至夜分,眾姻戚私語曰:「彼鬼曾言告城隍狀不准,今縛包於城隍廟側,何不 往告於神,求其伸理?」於是共覓香燭楮鏹,若將往者。鬼忽言曰:「今諸人既同 來相求,且放彼歸,自有東嶽審斷。」言畢倒地。 少頃包蘇,極稱困頓,眾環問所見,包曰:「初出某娼門,即見此婦相隨。初 尚或左或右,至教場,婦遽前扯我往城隍廟左側小屋內,黑暗中以繩縛我手足,置 之於地,旁似有相守之人。適聞婦來曰:『今且放汝歸。』推我出戶,一跌而醒, 身已在家。此事明日東嶽當傳審矣。」再詢其細,包惟酣睡而已。 次日午後起,曰:「差人至矣,速具酒食。」自出廳向空座拱揖,語多不解。 酒既設,復歸臥牀上,更許死矣,惟心頭微熱。王氏與諸人泣守之,見包面色時青 時紅時黃,變幻不測。三更後,胸前及喉頰間見紅斑爪痕數處。次夜二鼓,髮辮忽 散亂。至曉始蘇,索茶飯盡十數器,吞咽迅速,觀者駭然。少定,呼:「取酒食款 差役!」王氏如前設之;又命取紙錢六千,須去其破缺者,以四千焚於廳前,二千 焚於門側巷內。復自起至大門作拜送狀,反室熟睡兩日乃能起。悉言所見: 「自女鬼解縛放回後,次日下午,有二差役來傳,其一不識,其一陳姓,亦賈 人子,兒時與包為同窗友。陳家貧,娶婦時,包曾助以錢數千文,今已歿三載。謂 包曰:『此事已發速報司審辦,爾我同窗好友,在生又承高誼,自當用情照應,不 必上刑具。』同行至中途,見二役鎖前女鬼,鬼大恚,以首觸包,手抓傷包面頰, 此包身所以有紅斑爪痕之現也。女鬼詈二差賣法,差不得已,為包亦上鎖同行。路 愈遠愈黑,陰風慘烈,辮髮俱散。


「至一處,彷彿見衙署,差令坐地守候。旋見二紅燈由內出,二差去包鎖,帶 入跪於燈止處。見有公案文卷,一官上坐,紅袍烏紗,以手捋鬚,問曰:『汝包某 耶?』包應曰:『諾。』官即提女鬼至,訊答語頗多。女與包並跪階下,相去尺 許,絕不聞其一字。見官震怒,令批女鬼頰十五,即上枷鎖,二役牽之,痛哭而 去。 「包初跪案前,覺沮洳泥泞,陰風吹髮,面上絲絲如刀刺,寒慄難當。迨批女 頰時,陳役從旁悄言曰:『老兄官司已贏矣,吾為兄辮起髮來。』包再舉首,燈與 官俱不復見。二役乃送之回,言明差錢四千文,其二千,則陳役所私得也。」 人問包:「曾識此女否?」包力言不識。揣其情,女鬼因慕包之色而亡,又欲 招包以偕陰耦,逞私妄控,故為陰司所責譴。

The Spirit of the Stone Tortoise - 贔屭精 In the city of Wuxi there was a certain scholar Hua, whose looks were gaining. His family lived at the head of the water ditch, very close to the county school, in front of which was a rather broad bridge which tourists would oftentimes rest upon. One summer’s day the scholar went up to the bridge to catch the breeze, and as the sun set he walked over to the school, where he saw a small door in a little alley. In front of it, there was a woman pacing back and forth. The scholar was titillated and he went over to ask for a light.111 The woman smiled and produced the requested object, and also took a close look at him. The scholar 111

Tobacco use came to China sometime during the Ming dynasty. The match was not yet in use during this

time and instead the light here would have been a striking stone huoshi 火石, which produces sparks to light the tobacco.


tried to strike up a conversation with her, but she had already (gone inside and) closed the door. So he remembered the way to her door and left. The next day he went there again. The woman was already outside waiting for him. He asked for her name and found out that she was the daughter of temple’s gatekeeper. She said to him: “My house is too small, we won’t be able to escape peeping eyes and listening ears. Your house is nearby, if you may obtain a quiet and secluded room, then I will come to you at midnight. You can wait for me by the door tomorrow night. The scholar was excited and rushed home. He lied to his wife, telling her he was afraid of the heat and thought it would be good for him to sleep alone. After cleaning and tidying the outer room he went and stealthily waited by the outer gates. The woman came at night as expected, and holding hands they went into the room. The scholar’s happiness surpassed his every expectations, and from then on she came every night. Several months passed, and the scholar had grown thin and weak. His parents went to spy on him in his sleeping quarters, where they saw him sitting next to the woman, giggling merrily. They hurriedly threw the door open, but the room was empty and quiet, and they found nobody. So his parents interrogated him sternly, and finally he told them the whole story, start to finish. They were astonished, and they took the student and went to the school to investigate, but there was no alley or door there as the student had seen. They asked around among the gatekeeper, there wasn’t one who had a daughter. They all realized this was a demon, and so they sent out many invitations to Buddhist monks and a Daoist priests requesting talismans and charms, but none of them were of any use.


His father gave the scholar some cinnabar dust and said: “Wait for her to come, and then secretly rub this on her body. That way we can trace her steps.” The scholar waited for the woman to fall asleep, and sprinkled the cinnabar into her hair. The woman didn't notice. The next day his father went with him to the temple and searched everywhere, but there was no trace whatsoever of her. Suddenly, they heard the next door neighbor scorning her son: “You just changed into a new pair of pants, and you’ve gone and stained them bright red! Where did you get them so dirty?” The father heard this and was interested and went to have a look. He studied himself and then said: “I was only riding the head of the turtle that holds the stele112 outside of the temple. I didn’t know that the red dust got on my pants.” When they went to have a look at the bixi’s head, they found their cinnabar. The father went and informed the head of the school, and under his order, they smashed off the head of the turtle there were streaks of blood laced in the shards of stone. In the stomach they found a small stone about the size of an egg, hard and as shiny as a mirror. They couldn’t smash it, and they went a long ways to and threw it lake Tai.113 From them on, the woman did not return. After about a half a month, the woman suddenly appeared in the scholar’s bedroom and scorned him: “What acts of your kindness did I not reciprocate, to make you want to smash my old body? Nonetheless I am not angry… what your parents worry about is your illness. I have already obtained some mystical herbs from the Immortals, and once you have

Bixi 赑屃 is a stone tortoise and is often portrayed bearing stone steles on its back in public parks and temples. 112


Lake Tai 太湖 is located in modern day Anhui Province.


taken them you will be free of all illness.” She brought forth several stems of grass and leaves and forced him to take them. Then she said: “The place I lived before was very close to here, and I could make my nightly visits. But now my home is far away, therefore I would just live here for a longer time.” From then on, her form was visible during the daytime, but she didn’t eat or drink. All the family members could see her, and the scholar’s wife would curse her severely, all she would do is to smile and not answer. Every night the scholar’s wife would hold him and sit with him on the bed, not allowing the woman to join them, and the woman did not force it. However, when the scholar and his wife put their head on the pillow, the wife would grow dizzy and fall into a long and deep sleep, and would not know what went on after that. Then the woman would have the scholar all to herself. Since the time that he had consumed the mystical herbs, his spirits had immediately improved, and he was nothing like his former, sickly self. His parents had to resign themselves to it, and for the time being they allowed it. It went on like this for over a year. One day, the scholar was casually walking through the market street, when there was a scabby monk who, scrutinizing him, said: “The smell of demons is strong on you! If you don’t tell me the truth, your end is near!” The scholar told him the truth, and the scabby monk invited him to a teahouse, where he took the gourd off of his back, poured the wine out and asked the scholar to drink it. He then took out two charms written on yellow paper and handed them to the scholar, saying: “Take these back with you. Tape one to your bedroom door, and one over your bed, but don’t let the woman know. Her pre-destined


connection with you hasn’t expired. Wait until the ides of the eighth month and I will return to see you.” This was in the middle of sixth month. When the scholar returned, he pasted the charms as prescribed, and as the woman approached the door she was startled, and faulted him violently, saying: “How can you be so cold-hearted again? Do you think this will scare me?” Her words were aggressive, but in the end she didn’t dare to enter. After a long time she broke into loud laughter and said: “I have something important I want to tell you, but you can make your own choice but you need to take off the charms first!” He did as she said, and she came inside, and told the scholar: “You, my love, are so beautiful. I love you, and so does the Daoist. I love you, and I want you to be my husband. The Daoist loves you because he wants to make you his catamite. You have to chose between these two options.” The scholar felt totally enlightened, and they went on mutually loving one another as before. During a mid-autumn eve, the two of them were sitting together watching the moon, when suddenly they heard someone calling out the scholar’s name and saw someone partially hidden behind the short wall. When he went closer to see who it was, he found the scabby Daoist. The latter dragged the scholar by the arm and told him: “The demon’s predestined connection with you is coming to an end. I made a special trip to exorcise her for you!” The scholar didn’t want him to perform the service, and the Daoist said: “I already know the demon has used dirty words to slander me, and because of this I am even less inclined to forgive her.” He wrote out two charms and said: “Go quickly! Capture her!” The scholar was undecided, and the Doaist asked a servant to quickly send the charms to his wife. They hurriedly gave the charms to his wife, who was thrilled and took them straight to the woman,


who shuddered and couldn’t say a word. The wife then had the servant bind the woman’s hands and the servant carried her away. The woman wept and said to the scholar: “I knew from the start that when my days were up and I would have to go, but because of these silly attachments I stayed and courted disaster. I have loved you tenderly for all these years, you know well, now that we have to bid our last farewells, I beg of you to put me on the shady side of the wall, and don’t allow the moonbeams to shine on me, so that I may postpone death a little. Can you have some pity on me?” The scholar certainly didn’t have the heart to reject her, and so he carried her over to the shady area of the wall and untied her hands. The woman elevated into the air and changed into a black cloud, and lifted off into the sky. The Daoist monk let out a cry, and jutted towards the south east of the sky. No one knows what became of them. 無錫華生,美風姿,家住水溝頭,密邇聖廟。廟前有橋甚闊,多為遊人憩息。 夏日,生上橋納涼,日將夕,步入學宮,見間道側一小門,有女徘徊戶下。生心 動,試前乞火。女笑而與之,亦以目相注。生更欲進詞,而女已闔扉,遂記門逕而 出。次日再往,女已在門相待。生叩姓氏,知為學中門斗女,且曰:「妾舍逼隘, 不避耳目;卿家咫尺,但得靜僻一室,妾當夜分相就。卿明夕可待我於門。」生喜 急歸,誑婦以畏暑,宜獨寢,灑掃外室,潛候於門。女果夜來,攜手入室,生喜過 望。自是每夕必至。 數月後,生漸羸弱。父母潛窺寢處,見生與女並坐嬉笑,亟排闥入,寂然無 人,乃嚴詰生,生備道始末,父母大駭,偕生赴學宮蹤跡,絕無向時門逕;遍訪門 斗中,亦並無有女者。其知為妖,乃廣延僧道,請符籙,一無所效。其父研硃砂與


生曰:「俟其來時,潛印女身,便可蹤跡。」生俟女睡,以硃砂散置髮上,而女不 知。次日,父母偕人入聖廟遍尋,絕無影響。忽聞鄰婦詬小兒曰:「甫換新褲,又 染猩紅,從何處染來耶?」其父聞而異之,往視,小兒褲上盡硃砂,因究兒所自。 曰:「適騎學宮前負碑龜首,不覺染此。」往視贔屭之首,硃砂在焉。乃啟學宮, 碎碑下龜首,石片片有血絲,腹中有小石如卵,堅光若鏡,錘之不碎,遠投太湖。 自是女不復來。 閱半月,女忽直入寢所詈生曰:「我何負卿?竟碎我身體!然我亦不惱也。卿 父母所慮者,為卿病耳。今已乞得仙宮靈藥,服之當無恙。」出草葉數莖,強生 食。其味香甘,且云:「前者居處相近,可朝夕往返;今稍遠,便當長住此矣。」 自是白晝見形,惟不飲食,家人大小咸得見之。生妻大罵,女笑而不答。每夕,生 妻擁生坐牀,不令女上,女亦不強。但一就枕,妻即惛惛長睡,不知所為,而女獨 與生寢。生服靈藥後,精神頓好,絕不似曩時孱弱。父母無奈,姑聽之。如是年 餘。 一日,生偶行街市,有一疥道人熟視生曰:「君妖氣過重,不實言,死期近 矣!」生以實告。疥道人邀入茶肆,取背上葫蘆傾酒飲之,出黃紙二符授生曰: 「汝持歸,一貼寢門,一貼牀上,毋令女知。彼緣尚未絕,俟八月十五夜,我當來 相見。」時六月中旬也。生歸,如約貼符。女至門驚卻,大詬曰:「何又薄情若 此?然吾豈懼此哉!」詞甚厲,而終不敢入。良久,大笑曰:「我有要語告君,憑 君自擇,君且啟符。」如其言,乃入,告生曰:「郎君貌美,妾愛君,道人亦愛


君。妾愛君,想君為夫;道人愛君,想君為龍陽耳。二者,郎君擇焉。」生大悟, 遂相愛如初。 至中秋望夕,生方與女並坐看月,忽聞喚名聲,見一人露半身於短牆外。迫視 之,疥道人也。拉生告曰:「妖緣將盡,特來為汝驅除。」生意不欲。道人曰: 「妖以穢言謗我,我亦知之,以此愈不饒他。」書二符曰:「速去擒來。」生方逡 巡,適家人出,遽將符送至妻所。妻大喜,持符向女,女戰慄作噤,乃縛女手,擁 之以行。女泣謂生曰:「早知緣盡當去,因一點癡情,淹留受禍。但數年恩愛,卿 所深知,今當永訣,乞置我於牆陰,勿令月光照我,或冀須臾緩死。卿能見憐 否?」生固不忍絕之也,乃擁女至牆陰,手解其縛。女奮身躍起,化一片黑雲,平 地飛升。道人亦長嘯一聲,向東南騰空追去,不知所往。

Cultivated Talent Zhang - 張秀才 Cultivated Talent Zhang is from the city of Hangzhou, and he was hired as a private tutor at the Military commander’s house in Beijing. His classroom was located in the garden, one hundred steps away from the main residence. Zhang was always very cautious and timid, and he would always call out for a page to stay by his side, and went to bed immediately after the lanterns had been hung up. It has already been like this for more than one year. On the mid-autumn festival of the eighth month, the moonlight was very bright, and the page was on leave with other people drinking wine. The gate of the garden had not been closed. Zhang was standing on top of a rock on top of the rock garden admiring the moonlight when he saw a naked woman with long, disheveled hair approach from afar.


Looking at her more closely, her skin was very pale, and her body was covered with dirt and discolorations from head to toe. Zhang was frightened, and reckoned this was a zombie that had broken out of the ground. Both of her eyes were very bright and shining back at the moon, which made him feel that she was especially dreadful. He urgently grabbed a wooden peg to enforce his closed door, and climbed onto his bed to peep out at her. There was a loud crack as the door prop was pushed broken, and the woman strode inside. She sat on the seat of Zhang’s chair, and tore to pieces all the books and loose papers on his desk, and it made a rustling sound. Zhang was scared stiff. Then she took his ruler and violently struck it on the desk, looked up at the heavens and gave a loud sigh. Zhang’s soul seemed leave his body and that is when he became unconscious. In his delirium, he felt someone rubbing his lower parts, cursing: “Southern Barbarian! Shame! Shame!” She strutted away with happy steps. The next morning, Zhang lay stiff and could not get up, and when he was called, he could not respond. The page and students made haste to the commander and asked him to have a look. He didn’t wake up until they poured ginger tea into his mouth. He told them every detail of what happened last night. The commander laughed and said: “Sir, there is no need to be terrified. This is not a ghost. Our family has a female servant who lost her husband, and because of her pent up reminiscences she went insane. She has already been locked up and restrained for two years. Yesterday, the lock happened to break, and her escaping caused quite a ruckus, thus you were surprised.” Zhang didn’t believe him. The commander pulled to the place where the woman was locked up and had a look, and indeed it was the woman he had seen the night before. His illness was instantly cured.


Zhang felt very embarrassed because of the word “shame!” and when the page heard this he laughed and said: “The master was very lucky that your thing was shamed. Those in the family who can live up to her interest are endlessly harassed by her, and some had their penises bitten so painfully or pinched so hard they fell off!” 杭州張秀才某,館京師某都統家。書舍在花園中,離正宅百步。張素膽小,喚 館僮作伴,燈上即眠,已年餘矣。 八月中秋,月色大明,館僮在外飲酒,園門未關。張立假山石上玩月,見一婦 人披髮赤身,遠遠而至。諦視之,膚體甚白,而自臉至身,皆有泥污垢瘢。張大 驚,以為此必僵屍破土而出者也。雙睛炯然,與月光相射,尤覺可畏。急取木杙撐 房門,而已登牀竊視之。 未幾,砉然有聲,門撐推斷,而此婦昂然進矣。坐張所坐椅上,將案頭書帖盡 撕毀之,颯颯有聲。張已駭絕。更取其界尺大敲桌上,仰天長歎。張神魂飛越,從 此不省人事矣。昏迷中,覺有摩其下體者,罵曰:「南蠻子,不堪!不堪!」遂搖 步而去。 次早,張僵臥不起,呼之不應。館僮及學生急請都統來視,灌以薑汁始蘇。具 道昨宵情形。都統笑曰:「先生毋駭,此非鬼也。吾家有僕婦喪偶,積思成瘋,已 鎖禁二年矣。昨偶然鎖斷,故逸出作鬧,致驚先生。」張不信。都統親拉至鎖婦處 窺觀,果昨所見也。病乃霍然。 張頗以「不堪」二字自慚,館僮聞而笑曰:「幸而相公此物不堪,家中人有中 瘋婦意者,都被其索鬧不休,有咬傷掐痛其陰幾至斷者。」


The Revenge of the Wronged Wife - 負妻之報 In the city of Hangzhou, near the Xianlin Bridge, Xu Songnian opened a copper shop. When he was thirty-two years old he fell very ill, and after several months his illness became more severe, and his wife sobbed and said: “We have two sons who are both young. If the unspeakable happens to you, I won’t be able to support them. I am willing to pray to the gods that I will give you my remaining years. Then you can support our sons, and wait for the elder son to grow old enough to take a bride and form a family. But you needn’t marry again.” The husband agreed to this and she submitted her words to the City God and made another prayer to the family god, and as her illness gradually developed, the husband’s illness gradually improved. After a little more than a year she passed away. Songnian reneged on his promise after all and married a woman of the Cao family. On the night of their wedding, there was a cold person wedged between their bedrolls and it didn’t allow the bridegroom to consummate the marriage. The bride was startled, sat up, and found that the former wife’s soul had taken over the maidservant’s body. She cursed the husband violently. They slept together in one bed for five or six months, and when alms and prayers didn’t work, Songnian, as before, grew ill and died. 杭城仙林橋徐松年,開銅店。年三十二,驟得瘵疾。越數月,疾漸劇,其妻泣 謂曰:「我有兩兒俱幼,君或不諱,我不能撫,我願禱於神,以壽借君。君當撫 兒,待其長娶媳,可以成家,君不必再娶矣。」夫許之,婦投詞於城隍,再禱于家 神,婦疾漸作,夫疾漸瘳,浹歲而卒。


松年竟違其言,續娶曹氏。合巹之夕,牀褥間夾一冷人,不許新郎交接,新 婦驚起,蓋前妻附魂於從婢以鬧之也。口中痛責其夫,共寢五六月,齋禱不靈,松 年仍以瘵歿。

Mr. Song - 宋生 In the city of Suzhou there lives the inspector Song Zongyuan,114 who has a distant cousin on the father’s side, who was orphaned at a young age and lived with his uncle, who brought him up in a strict manner. When he was seven years old he was sent to study with a private tutor. He secretly snuck off to the theater to watch a play. He was found out and told on by someone, and was so scared that he didn’t dare return, and fled to Mudu village where begged for a living. There, there was a man named Li, who took pity on him and took him into his care, and employed him as a servant at a banking house. He was quite diligent and wise. And Li therefore married a young servant girl named Zheng to him. In this way nine years passed, during which Mr. Song accumulated quite a bit of wealth. On his way to the city to burn incense, he ran into his uncle on the road, and there was no possibility to mislead him, and therefore he told him the truth. Once the uncle knew that he had savings, he ordered him to rejoin the family and to form a different marriage. At the beginning, Song was not willing to form a different family, and told his uncle, saying: “My wife, the former maid, has already born a daughter.” The uncle angrily said: “Ours is a large clan, how could you have a servant as your wife?” And he compelled his nephew to

There is no such person in the 中國古代名人錄, although it does mention a Ming dynasty painter by the name of 宋宗遠. 114


take a divorce. When the Li family heard of this, they were willing to adopt the servant girl as a daughter, and in addition, to make-up for her trosseau and a dowry. The uncle did not allow this, and ordered him to write divorce papers to send to Zheng, and instead he was to take a woman from the Jin family. After receiving the papers, his wife Zheng cried bitterly, and holding her daughter drowned herself in the river. After three years had passed, Jin also gave birth to a daughter. His uncle was sitting in a sedan chair and passing the foundation of a former residence of a prince, when suddenly a whirlwind rose and blew open the curtains. When his family next saw him, he was violently coughing up phlegm and breathing his last breath. His neck had strangling marks. That night, Jin dreamt of a woman dripping with blood and with disheveled hair who told her: “I am Zhen, the servant girl. Your husband is evil. He followed his evil uncle’s words and divorced me. As for me, I could not remarry (as I am honoring my commitment), and drowned myself in a river. Today, I first got my revenge on the uncle, and will immediately seek revenge on your husband. My revenge has nothing to do with you; you have nothing to worry about. But the daughter that you gave birth to I cannot spare. A daughter for a daughter. This also is just retribution.” The wife awoke and told Mr. Song. He grew terribly afraid, and discussed it with his friend. His friend told him: “In the Xuanmiao Temple there is a Daoist priest by the name of Shi, who can make charms to exorcise ghosts. Ask him to perform an exorcism and send a notice to Fengdu and that will be it.” He then bestowed a large amount of money on Shi. Shi took the daughter’s birth year, month and day and wrote them on a yellow piece of paper, and printed the master’s seal upon it, with which he sent the ghost to Fengdu, and indeed in Mr. Song’s family there was peace.


Three years later, while the. Song was sitting at his study’s window, he saw Zheng the servant girl approaching in broad daylight, scorning him: “The reason I took your uncle first and you later is that the evil intentions were not born of you, and because, furthermore I still had some feelings about our former relationship as husband and wife. But now, instead you made the first move against me, and sent me to Fengdu the Daoist charm. How can your indecency reach this point? Now, the charm has expired, and I presented my undeserved punishment to the City God. The City God commended me for being so chaste and being willing to die for it, and allowed me to seek revenge. Where will you escape to now?” After this, Mr. Song became dumb and confused, and no longer understood human affairs. His family’s utensils and porcelain broke without a reason, and the door prop and cudgels were flying through the air. The whole family was very afraid and invited Buddhist monks to help release him from his illness, and ultimately it was to no avail. Within ten days Mr. Song passed away, and another ten days thereafter his daughter died. Jin, however, remained in good health. 蘇州宋觀察宗元之族弟某,幼孤依叔,叔待之嚴。七歲時,赴塾師處讀書,偷 往戲場看戲,被人告知其叔,懼不敢歸,逃於木瀆鄉作乞丐。有李姓者,憐而收留 之,俾在錢鋪傭工,頗勤慎,遂以婢鄭氏配之。如是者九年,宋生頗積資財。 到城內燒香,遇其叔於途,勢不能瞞,遂以實告。叔知其有蓄,勸令還家,別 為擇配。生初意不肯,且告叔云:「婢已生女矣。」叔怒曰:「我家大族,豈可以 婢為妻?」逼令離婚。李家聞之,情願認婢為女,另備妝奩陪嫁。叔不許,命寫離 書寄鄭,而別為娶於金氏。鄭得書大哭,抱其女自沉於河。


越三年,金氏亦生一女。其叔坐轎過王府基,忽旋風刮簾而起,家人視之,痰 湧氣絕,頸有爪痕。是夜,金氏夢一女子披髮瀝血訴曰:「我鄭氏婢也。汝夫不 良,聽從惡叔之言,將我離異。我義不再嫁,投河死。今我先報其叔,當即來報汝 夫。與汝無干,汝無怖也。但汝所生之女我不能饒,以女易女,亦是公道報法。」 妻醒,告宋生。生大駭,謀之友。友曰:「玄妙觀有施道士,能作符驅鬼,俾其作 法牒之酆都可也。」乃以重幣賂施。施取女之生年月日寫黃紙上,加天師符,押解 酆都,其家果平靜。 三年後,生方坐書窗,白日見此婢來罵曰:「我先拿汝叔遲拿汝者,為惡意 非從汝起,且猶戀從前夫妻之情故也。今汝反先下手,牒我酆都,何不良至此?今 我牒限已滿,將冤訴與城隍神。神嘉我貞烈,許我報仇,汝復何逃?」宋生從此癡 迷,不省人事。家中器具,無故自碎;門撐棍棒,空中亂飛。舉家大懼,延僧超 度,終於無益。十日內宋生死;十日外其女死;金氏無恙。

Ghosts have three Skills, and then They are out of Luck - 鬼有三技過此鬼道乃窮 Cai Weigong, a provincial graduate, often said that ghosts have three skills: “They can enchant, they can hinder, and they can terrify.” Someone asked: “What do these three skills refer to?” He told them: “I have a cousin by the name of Lü, a public scholar115 who received his candidacy in Song Jiang. His personality was powerful and unrestrained, and he

Linsheng 廪生 is a scholar who has prepared a monetary gift to the treasury in order to pass the first level of examinations and win a candidacy. This position was created in order to integrate the growing merchant class (and their finances) into the government. 115


liked to brag and call himself ‘Mr. All or Nothing.’116 Once he passed the west side of Mao Lake. The day was slowly turning dark and he saw a woman, made up with powder and blackened eyebrows, who was disarray, carrying a rope and rushing along. When she saw Lü, she ran and hid under a tree, dropping the rope on the ground. Lü picked it up and inspected it: it was a coarse, straw rope, and when he smelled it, it had a musty, dark ether to it. Intuitively he knew that she was a woman who had hanged herself in a noose. He took it and stuck it into the fold of his shirt, and went straight on his way. The woman came out from under the tree and advanced in front of him and blocked his way. If he went left, she blocked his left, and when he went right, she blocked his right. Lü knew that this was popularly known as ‘the ghost building up walls,’ and so he rushed straight ahead and kept on walking. The ghost had no other choice, and so she let out a loud yell, and changed into a disheveled-hair, blood-dripping form. She stuck out a tongue over a foot long and started hopping towards him. Lü said: ‘When you were all made up, you tried to enchanted me, and then you stood in my way and tried to hinder me. And now with these loathsome looks, you tried to frighten me. You have used all three skills, and still I am not scared, and I presume you have no other skills to execute. Did you also know that I have been called Mr. All or Nothing?’ The ghost returned to her original shape, and kneeling on the ground, said: ‘I am a woman of the Shi family from the city. I had a quarrel with my husband, and, in a moment of foolishness, I hung myself. Today I heard that there was a young woman in the East of

This phrase refers to people who left behind the trivial details of everyday life and focused on the grand scheme of things. 116


Mao Lake who is not getting along with her husband, and I am heading over there so that she can take my place among the dead. I didn’t anticipate that you would stop me halfway down the road, and that you would go and snatch my rope. My tricks, are indeed, all used up. I just beg of you to help me to reincarnate as something better.’ ‘What method do you want me to use?’ asked Lü. ‘Go in my place and tell the Shi family of this city to hold a religious ceremony. Invite a seasoned Buddhist priest, read the ‘reincarnation prayer’ several times. And then I will be born again.’ Lü laughed and said: ‘Actually, I am a seasoned Buddhist monk of great virtue, and I have the ‘reincarnation prayer,’ and I am going to recite it for you.’ Then, in a loud voice, he began singing: ‘Such a great world of time and space, and not a hindrance or a blockage. From death to life, how can you replace another? If you have to go, then go, why do you want to be so slow?’ After she heard it, she was suddenly able to see the truth. She prostrated herself and paid her respects several times, and then was off in a hurry. Later, the peasants said: ‘In the past, this area had disturbances, but ever since Mr. All or Nothing passed through here, there were there any evil spirits.’” 蔡魏公孝廉常言:「鬼有三技:一迷二遮三嚇。」或問:「三技云何?」曰: 「我表弟呂某,松江廩生,性豪放,自號豁達先生。嘗過泖湖西鄉,天漸黑,見婦 人面施粉黛,貿貿然持繩索而奔。望見呂,走避大樹下,而所持繩則遺墜地上。呂 取觀,乃一條草索。嗅之,有陰霾之氣。心知為縊死鬼。取藏懷中,逕向前行。其 女出樹中,往前遮攔,左行則左攔,右行則右攔。呂心知俗所稱『鬼打牆』是也, 直衝而行。鬼無奈何,長嘯一聲,變作披髮流血狀,伸舌尺許,向之跳躍。呂曰:


「『汝前之塗眉畫粉,迷我也;向前阻拒,遮我也;今作此惡狀,嚇我也。三技畢 矣,我總不怕,想無他技可施。爾亦知我素名豁達先生乎?』鬼仍復原形跪地曰: 『我城中施姓女子,與夫口角,一時短見自縊。今聞泖東某家婦亦與其夫不睦,故 我往取替代。不料半路被先生截住,又將我繩奪去。我實在計窮,只求先生超 生。』呂問:『作何超法?』曰:『替我告知城中施家,作道場,請高僧,多念 《往生咒》,我便可托生。』呂笑曰:『我即高僧也。我有《往生咒》,為汝一 誦。』即高唱曰:『好大世界,無遮無礙。死去生來,有何替代?要走便走,豈不 爽快!』鬼聽畢,恍然大悟,伏地再拜,奔趨而去。」後土人云:「此處向不平 靜,自豁達先生過後,永無為祟者。」

Mr. Chen Qingke Blows the Ghost Away - 陳清恪公吹氣退鬼 In the years before Mr. Chen had met his luck, he was very friendly with a hometown friend named Li Fu. One autumn eve, he took advantage of the bright moon to head over to Li’s house for some idle chitchat. Li, who had long been a poor scholar, told Mr. Chen: “I tried to get some wine from my wife, but I couldn’t. Go ahead and have a seat, I am going outside to buy some wine to enjoy the moon with you.” Chen picked up his volume of his poetry and sat and read it while waiting for him. Outside of the gate there was a woman, with tattered clothes and disheveled hair. She opened the door and came inside, but when she saw Mr. Chen she immediately retreated. Chen assumed this was a relative of Li, who was hiding from the guest and that is why she didn’t come inside, so he turned to the side to avoid her. The woman came up with


something in her sleeve and hid it under the doorsill, and then went inside. Chen wondered what it was and went over to the doorsill to have a look: It was a rope, rank, and bearing traces of blood. Chen realized that this was a ghost who had hung herself, and he took the rope and stuck it in his boot, and sat as before. Before long the disheveled woman reappeared and pried under the hiding place, couldn’t find the rope, became angry and rushed right over to Chen and yelled: “Give me back my thing!” Chen said: “What thing?” She did not answer, stood up tall, opened her mouth and blew on Mr. Chen. What she blew was a burst of air as cold as ice. His hair stood on end and he clenched his teeth,117 and flame in his lamp was reduced to a blue glow and started to go out. Chen thought to himself: “Even that ghost still has a breath. If she still has it, am I the one who doesn’t have a breath?” He then roused up his breath and also blew on the woman. In the place where he blew there appeared a hole in her person. First her stomach and finally, even her head disappeared. After a short while the body completely scattered like fine dust, and wasn’t seen again. Soon thereafter Li, carrying the wine, went inside and screamed out: “My wife has strangled herself on the bedpost!” Chen laughed and said: “Don’t worry. The ghost’s rope is still in my boot.” He told him what had happened, and the two of them went inside to save her. They gave her ginger soup and she came to. They asked: “Why do you want to kill yourself?” Li’s wife told them: “Our family is so poor, and my husband is endlessly hospitable… I have but one hairpin left on my head, and he took it to go buy wine. I was deeply depressed, but the guest was sitting outside, so I couldn’t say anything at all. Suddenly


This phrase could also be interpreted as chattering teeth. The Chinese itself is not correct.


there was a woman with disheveled hair at my side, and she said she was the neighbor who lived to our left, and she told me that my husband had not taken the hairpin because of his guest, but that he was actually on his way to visit a gambling hall. I became even more filled with sadness and grief, and was thinking that the night was late and my husband hadn’t returned home yet, and the guest wasn’t leaving, and I felt ashamed sending him away myself. The disheveled woman made a circle with her hands, and said: ‘From here you can enter the land of the Buddha, where joy knows no end.’ So from there I entered the circle, but her grip was not tight, and the circle kept on breaking open. Then she said to me: ‘Let me go get my Buddha belt and then you can become a Buddha.’ She ran off to go get it, and didn’t come back for quite a long time. Then everything I was in a stupor like a dream, and you came to save me.” When they asked the neighbor it turned out that several months before, there was a woman from the village who had hung herself. 陳公䳟年未遇時,與鄉人李孚相喜。秋夕,乘月色過李閒話。李故寒士,謂陳 曰:「與婦謀酒不得,子少坐,我外出沽酒,與子賞月。」陳持其詩卷坐觀待之。 門外有婦人藍衣蓬首開戶入,見陳,便卻去。陳疑李氏戚也,避客,故不入,乃側 坐避婦人。婦人袖物來,藏門檻下,身走入內。陳心疑何物,就檻視之,一繩也, 臭,有血痕。陳悟此乃縊鬼,取其繩置靴中,坐如故。 少頃,蓬首婦出,探藏處,失繩,怒,直奔陳前,呼曰:「還我物!」陳曰: 「何物?」婦不答,但聳立張口吹陳,冷風一陣如冰,毛髮噤齘,燈熒熒青色將


滅。陳私念:「鬼尚有氣,我獨無氣乎?」乃亦鼓氣吹婦。婦當公吹處,成一空 洞,始而腹穿,繼而胸穿,終乃頭滅。頃刻,如輕煙散盡,不復見矣。 少頃,李持酒入,大呼:「婦縊於牀!」陳笑曰:「無傷也,鬼繩尚在我 靴。」告之故,乃共入解救,灌以薑湯,蘇,問:「何故尋死?」其妻曰:「家貧 甚,夫君好客不已。頭止一釵,拔去沽酒。心悶甚,客又在外,未便聲張。旁忽有 蓬首婦人,自稱左鄰,告我以夫非為客拔釵也,將赴賭錢場耳。我愈鬱恨,且念夜 深,夫不歸,客不去,無面目辭客。蓬首婦手作圈曰:『從此入即佛國,歡喜無 量。』余從此圈入,而手套不緊,圈屢散。婦人曰:『取吾佛帶來,則成佛矣。』 走出取帶,良久不來。余方冥然若夢,而君來救我矣。」訪之鄰,數月前果縊死一 村婦。

Li Xiangjun118 Presents the Scrolls - 李香君薦卷 I have a friend named Yang Chaoguan.119 He is styled Hongdu, and comes from the city of Wuxi. He was appointed the magistrate at Gushi county in Henan province as the provincial graduate. During the provincial examinations, which took place in 1752,120 Yang was asked to be an associate examiner. When the reading of the papers was finished and the 118

Li Xiangjun 李香君 was a famous courtesan who was the lover of Hou Fangyu 侯方域 (1618–54), who was

styled Chaozong 朝宗. 样潮观 styled 宏度, was a friend of Yuan Mei’s and came from the city of Wuxi in Jiangsu. In 1736 he passed the provincial imperial examination and served as a county magistrate of several counties. After telling his dream to Yuan Mei it was included in this volume, which Yang did not agree with and asked him to remove it, and even went so far as to leverage punishment against him. 119


In the Western calendar this would be the year 1752.


announcements were about to be made, they searched through the papers that had didn’t pass in order to add some notes to them, but he grew tired and dozed off. In his dream there was a woman around thirty, lightly made-up, with a bright and clear face, petite, wearing a green and purple skirt, and a black scarf tied around her head. She looked like someone from Jiangnan. She lifted the curtains and muttered quietly: "Please help, noble master. The scroll ‘Osmanthus Fragrance,’ whatever you do, be sure to pay attention to it and help [bring it to notice].” Yang awoke startled and told this story to his fellow examiners, who all laughed and said: “This an irrelevant dream... is it possible to recommend a paper right before the results of the exam are about to be announced?” Yang also felt the same way. He accidentally came across one of the failed papers and its opening poem read: During the season of the apricot flower the osmanthus is fragrant This couplet was written in the second month (early spring) of the Renshen year, 121 and the title of this poem is “In Gratitude to the Granting of the Special Exam.”122 Yang was greatly surprised and with additional interested began reading it over. The preface was ornate and balanced, and the five discussions of the state affairs were extremely detailed and clear. The author was clearly a person of great learning. But because his Eight-Legged Essays were not

According to the Chinese agricultural calendar, the renshen 壬申 year is the 9th year in Chinese sexagenary cycle, which is a cyclical numbering system of 60 combinations of the two basic cycles, the Ten Heavenly 121

Stems (tiangan 天干) and the Twelve Earthly Branches (dizhi 地支). In this case it is 1752. In the first year of the Qianlong emperor’s reign the topic for the imperial tests were poems dedicated to the Empress on her 60th birthday. 122


up to par, so therefore he was placed lower than the last successful candidate.123 Yang was moved by the omen in his dream, but found it difficult to inform the chief examiner in directly. He wanted to recommend it, but was still afraid to do so, and just as he was walking back and forth, the Vice Minister of Treasury and chief examiner, Qian Donglu,124 thought that of all the papers, there were no good papers in policy discussion, and he ordered a search by the associate examiners in their sections. Yang was delighted and presented the Osmanthus Papers. When his Excellency Qian found this paper it was like finding a treasure and he passed it in the 83rd position. When they pealed back the piece of paper covering the name of the examiner, the author was the paying scholar Hou Yuanbiao, from Shangqiu county.125 His grandfather was Hou Chaozong. Only then did Yang suspect that the one who had come to ask for help was Li Xiangjun. Yang, having laid eyes on Xiangjun, bragged about this to others and he thought it was a fascinating thing! 吾友楊潮觀,字宏度,無錫人,以孝廉授河南固始縣知縣。乾隆壬申鄉試,楊 為同考官。閱卷畢,將發榜矣,搜落卷為加批焉,倦而假寐。夢有女子年三十許, 淡妝,面目疏秀,短身,青紺裙,烏巾束額,如江南人儀態,揭帳低語曰:「拜托 使君,『桂花香』一卷,千萬留心相助。」楊驚醒,告同考官,皆笑曰:「此噩夢 也,焉有榜將發而可以薦卷者乎?」楊亦以為然。

Sunshan 孙山 was a Song dynasty scholar who took the Imperial Exams with a fellow villager. Sun Shan came in last, and not having the heart to tell the other person his score directly he simply pointed out that the other person came in after Sun Shan. 123

Qian Shaosi 錢少司 styled Li Zhi 立之 and called Nong Donglu 农东簏 came from the city of Jiaxing in Zhejiang. He worked in the Department of Revenue and the Department of Punishments. 124


Shangqiu 商丘 is located in the east of Henan 河南 Province.


偶閱一落卷,表聯有「杏花時節桂花香」之句,蓋壬申二月表,題即《謝開科 事》也。楊大驚,加意翻閱。表頗華贍,五策尤詳明,真飽學者也,以時藝不甚 佳,故置之孫山外。楊既感夢兆,又難直告主司,欲薦未薦,方徘徊間,適正主試 錢少司農東麓先生嫌進呈策通場未得佳者,命各房搜索。楊喜,即以「桂花香」卷 薦上。錢公如得至寶,取中八十三名。拆卷填榜,乃商丘老貢生侯元標,其祖侯朝 宗也。方疑女子來托者,即李香君。楊自以得見香君,誇於人前,以為奇事。

The Leader of Pingyang - 平陽令 The magistrate of Pingyang Zhu Shuo was merciless and excessive in his punishment of the bad. In all the counties that he governed, he would build giant cangues and huge clubs. In cases that involved women, he would turn these cases into cases of adultery and then extract confessions. When caning prostitutes he would have them disrobed and would push the canes into their private parts, causing them to puss and swell for months on end, saying: “Let’s see how she greets her customers now!” Then he would use the blood from their bottoms126 to smear the faces of the customers. With the beautiful prostitutes, he became even more cruel: He would pull out their hair and use a knife to cut open their nostrils, saying “Only making the beautiful unattractive will cause this culture of whoredom come to an end!” When he met a colleague he would [be surprised by himself and] brag to other people: “How could we be unmoved by sexy women, if not for an iron face and icy heart,

These women were likely caned with a tunzhang 臀杖 a special torture implement used for caning the bottom. 126


who could accomplish the same?” After he served his term,127 he was transferred to Shandong to serve as a regional officer at the same level. When he traveled with his family to a hotel in Chiping county. The second story of which was sealed and locked up tight. Zhu asked for the reason, and the owner said: “There have been apparitions in the building, so we haven’t opened it for many years.” Zhu, always, said headstrong, said: “What could go wrong? Should the apparitions have heard my powerful name, they would have retreated sooner rather than later!” His wife and children pleaded with him with all their might, but he wouldn’t listen. He put them to another room. He armed himself with no more than a sword, and brought a candle into the room and sat there until the third drum. Someone knocked on the door and came inside. He had a white beard and crimson cap, and seeing Zhu, closed his hands and bowed to him. Zhu demanded: “What apparition are you?” The only man said: “I am no apparition. I am a local god. When I heard that an honored guest had arrived, and at the same time many apparitions had gone extinct, I was very excited and wanted to come greet you myself.” He went on to request, “In a short while, apparitions will appear, your Excellency need only slash your precious sword at them. I will help, and there will be none that we don’t kill.” Zhu was delighted, thanked him and sent him on his way. A little while later, green-faced apparition and white-faced apparitions appeared one right after the other. Zhu used his sword to hack them, one of them falling with each stroke of his hand. Finally, another one emerged, this one with long teeth and black lips and as Zhu struck at it with his sword it cried out in pain and fell and died. Zhu was pleased and proud


Fengman 俸满 is the changed conditions of officers who have completed their term of service.


of himself, and in haste called for the owner of the hotel. At that time, the roosters were already crowing, and the family members of the owner came in carrying candles to light up the room, [and what he saw was] the floor was covered by corpses: all of them belonging to his wife, concubine and his children. “Now I am the one who is played by these apparitions!” Zhu cried out and died. 平陽令朱鑠,性慘刻,所宰邑,別造厚枷巨梃。案涉婦女,必引入姦情訊之。 杖妓,去小衣,以杖抵其陰,使腫潰數月,曰:「看渠如何接客!」以臀血塗嫖客 面。妓之美者加酷焉,髡其髮,以刀開其兩鼻孔,曰:「使美者不美,則妓風絕 矣。」逢同寅官,必自詫曰:「見色不動,非吾鐵面冰心,何能如此!」以俸滿遷 山東別駕。 挈眷至茌平旅店,店樓封鎖甚固,朱問故。店主曰:「樓中有怪,歷年不 啟。」朱素愎,曰:「何害!怪聞吾威名,早當自退!」妻子苦勸不聽。乃置妻子 於別室,己獨攜劍秉燭坐至三鼓,有扣門進者,白鬚絳冠,見朱長揖。朱叱:「何 怪?」老人曰:「某非怪,乃此方土地神也。聞貴人至此,正群怪殄滅之時,故喜 而相迎。」且囑曰:「公,少頃怪至,但須以寶劍揮之,某更相助,無不授首 矣。」朱大喜,謝而遣之。 須臾,青面者、白面者以次第至。朱以劍斲,應手而倒。最後有長牙黑嘴者 來,朱以劍擊,亦呼痛而隕。朱喜自負,急呼店主告之。時雞已鳴,家人秉燭來 照,橫屍滿地,悉其妻妾子女也。朱大叫曰:「吾乃為妖鬼所弄乎!」一慟而絕。


The Hunters Get Rid of the Foxes - 獵戶除狐 In Haichang County,128 Yuanhua city, there lived a wealthy family. Their three bedrooms were upstairs, and during the day everybody would come downstairs to do their chores. One day, the wife of the family went upstairs to fetch some clothes, and found that the door had been locked from the inside. She thought to herself: “All of us are downstairs, who could have done this?” She peeked through a crack in the wallboards, and saw a man sitting on the bed. Thinking it was a thief, she called all of the other family members to come upstairs. The person inside called out in a loud voice: “I am moving my family into this floor. I came first, and my family is in transit and it about to arrive. We’re going to borrow your bed and your table, and the rest we’ll return!” And with that, from the window he tossed their cases, boxes and miscellaneous items onto the ground. After a short while, they heard many voices gathering upstairs, and saw that in the three rooms old and young alike mingled. They beat on plates and sang out loud: “Master of the House! Master of the House! Your guests have come from far away, and not even one cup of wine is served!” The family feared them, and so they prepared a four-table feast and placed it in the middle of the hall. The tables floated up in the air, and when they finished eating, they tossed the table back down from above. For a while thereafter they played no evil tricks. The wealthy family invited a Daoist priest to exorcise the ghosts for them, and as they were standing outside discussing the matter when once again singing erupted from the


Haichang 海昌 is located near Zhejiang’s Haishou 海守 county.


upstairs: “Daoist Dog! Daoist Dog! Who dares come here?!” The next day the Daoist priest arrived and as he was setting up a cloth altar, it was as though something beat him with a stick, and flustered he rushed outside, all of his statues and paraphernalia scattered outside of the door. From then on, day or night, there was no peace. So they went to Jiangxi to entreat the Daoist Master Zhang who ordered one of his Daoist clerics to go. The apparitions again sang: “The Master! The Master! There is no spell he can use! The Cleric! The Cleric! His coming is in vain too!” Suddenly the cleric arrived: it was as though someone had seized his head and tossed him, his face was cut and his clothes torn. The cleric was greatly ashamed and said: “The power of these apparitions is great, we must invite Revered Xie to come, and only then will we be able to do anything. Revered Xie lives in some monastery in the city of Chang’an.” The master of the house went to welcome him. He set up his altar and began to work his spells, and indeed the apparitions never sang. The rich family was overjoyed! Then, all of a sudden, there was a beam of red light, and a man with a white beard came out of nowhere and into the hall. He called out: “Do not fear Reverend Xie! Whatever techniques he uses, I can destroy!” Xie sat in the outer hall and began to speak his incantations, tossed this alms bowl to the ground. It took off flying and circled the hall trying to fly upstairs, but in the end it was unable to do so. After a while, the sound of bronze bells tinkling came from the upstairs, and his alms bowl came to rest on the ground where it moved no more. Reverend Xie said in alarm: “My powers are exhausted, and I am unable to expel these apparitions!” He immediately picked up his alms bowl and left, and the sounds of happiness


coming from upstairs spilled outside of the walls. After this, there was no evil they would not engage in. It went on like this for another half a year. One winter evening there was a great deal of snow, and over ten hunters arrived and asked if they could borrow a room for the night. The family said that borrowing the room wouldn’t be hard, but they were afraid it would be filled with disturbances. One hunter said: “ Those are foxes. I have been hunting these foxes for a lifetime. All we want is for you to give us enough wine to get drunk, and then we will be able to repay you!” The family went and bought wine and prepared meats and delicacies, and lit candles inside and out as the hunters got smashed. Throughout the night the house stayed well lit, as the hunters drank to their heart’s desires. Then each of them took out their bird guns, loaded them with gunpowder and set them off into the air. Smoke and dust filled the air, and the commotion lasted all night long, until the day broke and the snow stopped falling. The family was very worried that the ghosts would create more trouble, but it remained quiet until dusk. Even after several days, there was no more noise to be heard. When they went upstairs to investigate, they found the floor scattered with fur, and the window open all the way. The apparitions had moved on. 海昌元化鎮,有富家,臥房三間在樓上。日間,人俱下樓理家務。一日其婦 上樓取衣,樓門內閉,加橛焉。因思:家中人皆在下,誰為此者?板隙窺之,見男 子坐於牀,疑為偷兒,呼家人齊上。其人大聲曰:「我當移家此樓。我先來,家眷 行且至矣。假爾牀桌一用,餘物還汝。」自窗間擲其篋箱零星之物於地。少頃,聞 樓上聚語聲,三間房內,老幼雜沓,敲盤而唱曰:「主人翁!主人翁!千里客來,


酒無一鍾?」其家畏之,具酒四桌置庭中,其桌即憑空取上。食畢,復從空擲下。 此後,亦不甚作惡。 富家延道士為驅除,方在外定議歸,樓上人又唱曰:「狗道,狗道,何人敢 到!」明日,道士至,方布壇,若有物捶之;踉蹌奔出,一切神像法器,皆撒門 外。自此,日夜不寧。乃至江西求張天師,天師命法官某來。其怪又唱曰:「天 師,天師,無法可施。法官,法官,來亦枉然。」俄而,法官至,若有人捽其首而 擲之,面破衣裂,法官大慚,曰:「此怪力量大,須請謝法官來才可。謝住長安, 鎮某觀中。」主人迎謝來,立壇施法,怪竟不唱。富家喜甚。忽紅光一道,有白鬚 者從空中至樓,呼曰:「毋畏謝道士。謝所行法,我能破之!」謝坐廳前誦咒,擲 缽於地,走如飛,周廳盤旋,欲飛上樓者屢矣,而終不得上。須臾,樓上搖銅鈴, 瑯瑯聲響,缽遂委地,不復轉動。謝驚曰:「吾力竭,不能除此怪。」即取缽走, 而樓上歡呼之聲徹牆外。自是,作祟無所不至。如是者又半年。 冬暮大雪,有獵戶十餘人來借宿,其家告以「借宿不難,恐有擾累。」獵戶 曰:「此狐也,我輩獵狐者也,但求燒酒飲醉,當有以報君。」其家即沽酒具肴 饌,徹內外燃巨燭。獵戶轟飲,大醉,各出鳥槍,裝火藥,向空點放。煙塵障天, 竟夕震動,迨天明雪止始去。其家方慮驚駭之當更作祟,乃竟夕悄然。又數日,了 無所聞。上樓察之:則群毛委地,窗槅盡開,而其怪遷矣。


Mr. Xu - 徐先生 The family of Shi Zanchen129 was an abundantly wealthy Susong county,130 all of his numerous brothers, children and all, were worth several tens of thousands. In this county was an old custom, whereby all wealthy families would set out a whole dinner in their outer halls, and whatever guest should happen to come by, they were welcome to partake of it. This was called the “banquet sitting.” One day there was a man named Xu, who was meager and had a scraggly beard, who came and ate, and then pointed to the green mountains outside of the gate and said: “Have you ever seen a mountain jump before?” They told him they hadn’t, and Xu pinched his fingers together three times, and then mountain leapt up three times. Everyone thought this greatly remarkable, and they started calling him Venerable Master. He then turned to Zanchen and said: “Although your family is rich, if you practice alchemy you can increase your wealth ten-fold!” All the brothers were deluded by his words, and set up stoves and ovens, and each produced several thousand taels of silver as the seed in anticipation of its growth. The wife of the second brother by the name of something or other, was had always been a crafty woman, and secretly threw several pieces of copper in with the seed silver, and did not allow the Venerable Master to see what she was doing. In 129

Shi Zanchen 石贊臣 was not found in any historical records, however there is reference of him

collaborating with Luo Pin 罗聘 on the etching of the woodblock《狐生員勸人修仙圖》. Luopin also created a painting of Yuan Mei, and even took Yuan’s son Yuan Chi 袁遲 into his care at one point. In one of his poems, Yuan mentions that he did not know what a ghost looked like until he had seen Luo Pin’s portrayal of them. Schmidt (2003) pp. 468-469. 130

Susong 宿松 County used to be called Gaotang 高塘 County. It now belongs to Anhui’s 安徽 Anqing 安慶



no time at all, as the flames of the charcoal began to burn, wind and thunder could be heard above the house, which shattered several roof tiles. The Venerable Master cursed them: “There must have been some fake silver mixed in with it, which has angered the ghosts and spirits.” When they inquired, it sure enough was the case, and the whole family was astonished and persuaded by the powers of the Venerable Master. He then set a copper pan into the middle of the air and called out: “Cinnabar! Here!” In the pan, ding! A pellet fell down, and as he went on shouting this, the da-ding didn’t stop. Ingots both big and small dropped into the pan. The Venerable Master then told them: “When you do alchemy in the deep part of the mountains, where no human has ever set foot, you can get tens of thousands. Why don't you come with me to Mount Lu in Jiangxi?” The brothers Shi were more delighted, and carried several tens of thousands of taels of silver and followed the Venerable Master. Less than halfway there the Venerable Master went ashore and left. In the night, he led several dozen full-blooded thieves with lit torches and clubs to rob them of their silver. He told them: “Don’t be scared! Even though I am the leader of these thieves, I am quite compassionate. In consideration that you have entertained me very well, you have treated me very well, so I am going to leave you a thousand pieces of silver to enable you to get home.” Thus the brothers Shi, changing in their fortunes for this small amount, returned home in a daze. Ten years later the deputies of the office of the provincial judge stationed at Anqing sent someone to summon Shi Zanchen. He said: “There is a thief named Xu in our prison and he has requested to see you.” Zanchen had no choice but to go, and thus he saw the Venerable. He said: “My culpic number has run out and there is no reason to postpone


death. Think about our years of friendship and arrange a burial for my corpse.” He took off four golden bracelets and gave them to Zanchen for the price of the coffin. Then he said to Zanchen: “My final hour will be between one and three131 on the first of the 7th lunar month, you can come and see me off.” When the time arrived, Zanchen went to the market place and saw the Venerable Master with his hands tied behind his back, waiting for decapitation. Suddenly, from his crotch, dropped a small child, who in the Master’s voice said: “Watch me being killed! Watch me being killed!” After a moment his head tumbled down, and the little child was no longer seen. The provincial judge during this time was Zu Tinggui,132 who was a member of the Blue Banner tribe of Manchuria. 宿松石贊臣家饒於財,兄弟數人,資各數萬。宿俗:富饒之家,每日必設一家 常飯置外廳堂,不拘來客,皆就食焉,號曰「燕坐」。忽有徐姓者,清瘦微鬚,亦 來就食,指門外青山曰:「君等曾見過山跳乎?」曰:「未也。」徐以手指三撮, 山果三躍。眾人大奇之,呼為先生。 先生謂贊臣曰:「君等家資雖富,能煉丹,可加十倍。」群兄弟惑其言,置爐 設灶,各出銀母數千以求子金。二房弟婦某氏,素黠,暗置銅於銀母中,不與先生 見。亡何炭熾,風雷起於屋上,劈碎瓦數片。先生罵曰:「此必有假銀攙雜,致於 鬼神怒。」詢之,果然,合家駭服。先生置銅盤於空中,呼曰:「丹來。」盤中鏗 然,一錠墜下;連呼之,鏗鏗之聲不已,大錠小錠齊落於盤。先生曰:「煉大丹在


The Wei 未 period lasts from 1-3pm.

祖秉珪 was a Chinese general of the Upper Yellow Banner Tribe of Manchuria, from 1726 to 1727 he served as the provincial judge of Anhui, and later as the provincial governor of Guangxi. 132


深山中人跡不到之所,可致千萬,盍隨我往江西廬山乎?」石氏兄弟愈喜,即載銀 數萬隨先生往。未半途,先生上岸去矣。夜,率大盜數十明火執杖來劫取銀,曰: 「毋怖,我雖盜魁,然頗有良心。念汝等供養我甚誠,當留下千金,俾汝等還 鄉。」於是,石家兄弟以全數與之,惘惘然歸。 十年後,安慶按察使衙門役吏差人來召贊臣,曰:「獄有大盜徐某,請君相 見。」贊臣不得已往,果見先生。先生曰:「我劫數已盡,死亦何辭。但念我數年 交誼,為葬其遺骸。」脫手上金釧四隻與贊臣為棺費,且曰:「我大限在七月一日 未時,汝可來送。」至期,贊臣往市曹,見先生反接待斬。忽胯下出一小兒作先生 音曰:「看殺我!看殺我!」須臾頭落,小兒亦不見。其時臬使為祖廷圭,滿洲正 藍旗人。

An Artisan Paints a Zombie - 畫工畫僵屍 Liu Yixian was skilled at portraiture. Among his neighbors were a son and a father who lived in the same house. After his father died, the son went out to buy a coffin, and he asked one of his neighbors to ask Yixian on his behalf to pass on an image of his father. Yixian went, entered into their house, and it was empty. He figured the dead person must be kept upstairs, and walked up the stairs on tip-toe. He approached the dead person’s bed, sat down and took out his pen. The corpse suddenly shot up. Yixian knew it was a walking corpse, and so he did not move. The corpse did not move. It just closed its eyes and opened its mouth with its eyebrows arched. His face was puckered and you could see the folds on his face. Yixian realized that if he moves the corpse would follow, and he would rather finish his painting,


and then he took his pen and stretched the paper. He traced the form of the corpse. Every time his arm moved and finger moved exerted force, the corpse imitated him. Yixian cried out, but no one replied. After a while the son came upstairs, and saw that his father's corpse had sat up. He was so surprised, fainted and fell to the floor. Another neighbor came upstairs, and seeing the erect corpse, he was so startled that he rolled down the stairs. Yixian was extremely uncomfortable, and made a great effort to endure this. After a while, the pallbearers came. Yixian slowly remembered that that walking corpses feared brooms, and so called out to them: "You! Bring a broom and come here!" The pallbearers knew that this was a matter of a walking corpse, and carried a broom upstairs. Being brushed, the corpse fell over. They went and fetched some ginger tea and fed it to the fainted, and placed the corpse inside of its coffin. 劉以賢,善寫照。鄰人有一子一父而居室者。其父死,子外出買棺,囑鄰人 代請以賢為其父傳形。以賢往,入其室,虛無人焉。意死者必居樓上,乃躡梯登 樓,就死人之牀,坐而抽筆。屍忽蹷然起,以賢知為走屍,坐而不動。屍亦不動, 但閉目張口,翕翕然眉撐肉皺而已。以賢念身走則屍必追,不如竟畫,乃取筆申 紙,依屍樣描摹。每臂動指運,屍亦如之。以賢大呼,無人答應。俄而其子上樓, 見父屍起,驚而仆。又一鄰上樓,見屍起,亦驚滾落樓下。以賢窘甚,強忍待之。 俄而,抬棺者來。以賢徐記屍走畏苕帚,乃呼曰:“汝等持苕帚來!”抬棺者心知有 走屍之事,持帚上樓,拂之,倒。乃取姜湯灌醒仆者,而納屍入棺。


The Great, Hairy Man Snatches a Woman - 大毛人攫女 In the northwest when women go to relieve themselves, many of them do not use a chamber pot. In Shaanxi province, Xianning county,133 there was a woman from the Zhao family, who was over twenty years old, fair and of good looks. On a moonlit night during high summer night she was naked134 and went outside to relieve herself in the wild and didn’t come back for a long time. Her husband heard that the tiles on the outside wall were clanking. He was suspicious and apprehensive and went outside to have a look. He saw his wife kneeling on the wall buck-naked, her two feet were outside, and her arms were hanging on the inside. The husband hurried over and held her. The wife was unable to make a sound, and he opened her mouth and took out several clumps of dirt, and then she was able to speak. She said: “I went out to pee, then, when I loosened my pants, I saw that there was a hairy man outside of our wall. His eyes were flickering, and he used his hand to wave me over. I ran away in great haste. The hairy man reached his great hand over the wall and raised me by my bun and carried me to the top of the wall, and stuffed my mouth with mud. He was about to pull me over the wall. My two hands grabbed the wall and struggled to hang on, now all my strength is gone. Please help me quickly!” Zhao stretched his head over the wall to have a look, and there was indeed a hairy man. It looked something like a monkey, squatting by the wall. The man was tightly holding the woman’s feet without intention to


Xianning 咸寧 was historically also known as Wannian 萬年 and Fanzhou 樊州. During the Ming and Qing

dynasties it was combined with Chang’an 長安 county to form the prefecture seat of Shaanxi, Xi’an 西安. After the Republican Era it was returned Chang’an county. While this literally means naked, the story later mentions that she was wearing some kind of clothes. Chances are that the exposure here refers to the skin that can be seen between the ribbons that are used to tie a padded undershirt (which are tied in the back), worn by many northerners. 134


release her. Zhao held the woman’s body as if in a tug-of-war and tried to get it from him. But his power was not equal to that of the hairy man. At that point he loudly cried to his village neighbors, but their houses were far, and no one responded. He rushed inside to grab a knife, intending to cut off the hairy man’s hands to save his wife. When he arrived with the knife, the woman had already been dragged over the wall by the hairy man. Zhao opened the gate to pursue them, and many neighbors all rushed over. The hairy man took off holding the woman under his arm, the sound of the woman’s call for help was exceedingly saddening. They followed them for over 20 li, but in the end were not able to catch up to them. Early the next day, they followed the man’s huge footsteps and proceeded. Then they saw the woman dead between big trees. Her four limbs were all bound up with thick vines, and her lips bore the traces of giant tooth marks. Her private parts were so shredded open, that her pelvic bones were visible. Her blood was mixed with white semen, soiling the ground with over ten liters.135 The whole village was intensely pained, and brought the case to the magistrate’s office. The magistrate also shed a tear, and provided the body with a generous funeral. He summoned hunters to catch the hairy man, but ultimately, he was never caught. 西北婦女小便,多不用溺器。陝西咸寧縣鄉間有趙氏婦,年二十餘,潔白有 姿,盛夏月夜,裸而野溺,久不返。其夫聞牆瓦颯拉聲,疑而出視,見婦赤身爬據 牆上,兩腳在牆外,兩手懸牆內,急而持之。婦不能聲,啟其口,出泥數塊,始能 言,曰:「我出戶溺,方解褲,見牆外有一大毛人,目光閃閃,以手招我。我急


A dou 斗 is a Chinese measure equivalent to about ten liters.


走,毛人自牆外伸巨手提我髻至牆頭,以泥塞我口,將拖出牆。我兩手據牆掙住, 今力竭矣,幸速相救。」趙探頭外視,果有大毛人,似猴非猴,蹲牆下,雙手持婦 腳不放。趙抱婦身與之奪,力不勝,及大呼村鄰。鄰遠,無應者。急入室取刀,擬 斷毛人手救婦。刀至,而婦已被毛人拉出牆矣。趙開戶追之,眾鄰齊至。毛人挾婦 去,走如風,婦呼救聲尤慘。追二十餘里,卒不能及。 明早,隨巨跡而往,見婦死大樹間:四肢皆巨藤穿縛,唇吻有巨齒齧痕,陰處 潰裂,骨皆見。血裹白精,漬地斗餘。合村大痛,鳴於官。官亦淚下,厚為殯殮, 召獵戶擒毛人,卒不得。

Crooked-Mouthed Scholar - 歪嘴先生 A native Huzhou,136 Pan Shu137 was betrothed to a woman but had not yet married her. On his deathbed he asked her father, Li the elder, to come, requested that the unmarried daughter is to remain faithful to him. The elder agreed to this. After Pan died, the elder forgot his previous words, and ultimately he found the woman another match. On the eve of the wedding, a ghost possessed the woman's body and started causing trouble. There was a tutor by the name of Mr. Zhang who heard of this and didn’t think it was fair [to the woman], and boldly went up to the woman’s room, and cited from the ancient rituals in the

Huzhou 湖州 has been a city since Later Han, when it was known as Wu prefecture 吳郡. It first took its current name during the Song dynasty, during the Ming dynasty is was know as Huzhou prefecture, and during 136

the Qing it was part of Zhejiang province. Today it is the prefectural seat of Zhejiang province, Wuxing 吳興. There is a Qing Dynasty female painter by the name of Pan Shu 潘淑, but other than that no references were found. 137


hope that he might make the ghost change his mind. This argument was based on the following: Even if the woman is married to you, if she has not been brought to the family temple to pay respects to the ancestors, and if she should die, she would be buried with her own family. Now we are talking about an unmarried daughter, what is the ground for saying that she should remain faithful? The ghost couldn’t respond, but went up to Scholar Zhang, stood in front of him and exhaled into his mouth, and produced a breath of air as cold as ice, so foul that Scholar Zhang could not stand it. Thereupon the girl recovered from her illness, but Scholar Zhang's mouth became crooked. Li was very thankful, and employed Zhang as a tutor in his house. The entire village called him ‘the Crooked-Mouthed Scholar.’ 湖州潘淑聘妻未娶,以瘵疾亡。臨終請岳翁李某來,要其未嫁之女守志,翁 許之。潘卒後,翁忘前言,女竟改適。將婚之夕,鬼附女身作祟。有教讀張先生者 聞之,意不能平,竟上女樓,引古禮折之,以為女雖已嫁,而未廟見,尚歸葬於女 氏之黨。況未嫁之女,有何守志之說。鬼不能答,但走至張前張口呵之,一條冷氣 如冰,臭不可耐。從此,女病癒,而張嘴歪矣。李德之,延請在家。合村呼「歪嘴 先生」。

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