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Title: Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio (Volumes I and II)
Author: Pu, Songling, 1640-1715
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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STRANGE STORIES

FROM A

CHINESE STUDIO.



  STRANGE STORIES
  FROM A
  CHINESE STUDIO.

  TRANSLATED AND ANNOTATED
  BY
  HERBERT A. GILES,
  _Of H.M.’s Consular Service_.

  IN TWO VOLUMES.

  VOL. I.

  LONDON:
  THOS. DE LA RUE & CO.
  110, BUNHILL ROW.

  1880.



  PRINTED BY
  THOMAS DE LA RUE AND CO., BUNHILL ROW,
  LONDON.



  TO MY WIFE AND OUR CHILDREN:

        _BERTRAM_,

            _LIONEL_,

               _VALENTINE_,

                     _LANCELOT_.



CONTENTS.


  INTRODUCTION                         Vol. I., pp. xiii-xxxii.


  STORIES.

                                             VOL. I.   VOL. II.

                                              PAGE       PAGE

  Adulteration Punished                         --        332

  Alchemist, The                                --        313

  Boat-girl Bride, The                          --        149

  Boatmen of Lao-lung, The                      --        348

  Boon Companion, The                          165         --

  Bribery and Corruption                        --        170

  Buddhist Priest of Ch‘ang-ch‘ing, The         22         --

  Buddhist Priests, Arrival of                  --        231

  Butterfly’s Revenge, The                      --        289

  Carrying a Corpse                             --        181

  Cattle Plague, The                            --        253

  Censor in Purgatory, The                      --        238

  Chang Pu-liang                                --        177

  Chang’s Transformation                       237         --

  Chou K‘o-ch‘ang and his Ghost                 --        106

  Clay Image, The                               --        276

  Cloth Merchant, The                           --        127

  Collecting Subscriptions                      --        220

  Considerate Husband, The                     158         --

  Country of the Cave Men, The                 397         --

  Courage Tested                                --        116

  Cruelty Avenged                               --        267

  Dead Priest, The                              --        247

  Death by Laughing                            352         --

  Disembodied Friend, The                       --        119

  Dishonesty Punished                           --        279

  Doctor, The                                   --        290

  Donkey’s Revenge, The                         --         64

  Dr. Tsêng’s Dream                            387         --

  Dreaming Honours                              --        327

  Dutch Carpet, The                             --        179

  Dwarf, A                                     224         --

  Earthquake, An                                --        263

  Elephants and the Lion, The                   --        343

  Engaged to a Nun                             262         --

  Examination for the Post of Guardian Angel     1         --

  Faithful Dog, The                             --        261

  Faithful Gander, The                          --        342

  Faithless Widow, The                          --         39

  Feasting the Ruler of Purgatory               --        284

  Fêng-shui                                     --        322

  Fight with the Foxes, The                    251         --

  Fighting Cricket, The                         --         17

  Fighting Quails, The                          66         --

  Fisherman and his Friend, The                 --        197

  Flood, A                                     350         --

  Flower-nymphs, The                           285         --

  Flying Cow, The                               --        249

  Foot-ball on the Tung-t‘ing Lake             408         --

  Foreign Priests                              343         --

  Fortune-hunter Punished, The                  --        272

  Forty Strings of Cash, The                    --        211

  Friendship with Foxes                         --        300

  Gambler’s Talisman, The                      419         --

  Grateful Dog, The                             --        308

  Great Rat, The                                --        303

  Great Test, The                               --        310

  Hidden Treasure, The                          --        345

  His Father’s Ghost                            --        142

  Hsiang-ju’s Misfortunes                      225         --

  Husband Punished, The                        422         --

  Incorrupt Official, The                       --        358

  Infernal Regions, In the                      --         95

  Ingratitude Punished                          --        138

  Injustice of Heaven, The                      --        111

  Invisible Priest, The                         --        235

  Jen Hsiu, The Gambler                        196         --

  Joining the Immortals                         53         --

  Jonah, A Chinese                              --        176

  Judge Lu                                      92         --

  Justice for Rebels                            --        184

  Killing a Serpent                             --        190

  King, The                                    257         --

  Life Prolonged                                --        273

  Lingering Death, The                          --        325

  Little Chu                                   143         --

  Lo-ch‘a Country and the Sea Market, The       --          1

  Lost Brother, The                            203         --

  Mad Priest, The                               --        282

  Magic Mirror, The                             --        114

  Magic Path, The                               --         36

  Magic Sword, The                             124         --

  Magical Arts                                  47         --

  Magnanimous Girl, The                        160         --

  Making Animals                                --        265

  Man who was changed into a Crow, The         278         --

  Man who was thrown down a Well, The          365         --

  Marriage Lottery, The                        428         --

  Marriage of the Fox’s Daughter, The           26         --

  Marriage of the Virgin Goddess, The           --        257

  Master-thief, The                            347         --

  Metempsychosis                                --        207

  “Mirror and Listen” Trick, The                --        251

  Miss Chiao-no                                 33         --

  Miss Lien-hsiang, The Fox-girl               168         --

  Miss Quarta Hu                               152         --

  Miss Ying-ning; or, the Laughing Girl        106         --

  Mr. Tung; or, Virtue Rewarded                 --        244

  Mr. Willow and the Locusts                    --        242

  Mysterious Head, The                          --        135

  Painted Skin, The                             76         --

  Painted Wall, The                              9         --

  Performing Mice, The                         218         --

  Perseverance Rewarded                        186         --

  Picture Horse, The                            --        286

  Pious Surgeon, The                            --        351

  Planchette                                    --        295

  Planting a Pear-tree                          14         --

  Playing at Hanging                           354         --

  Priest’s Warning, The                         --        205

  Princess Lily, The                            --         56

  Princess of the Tung-t‘ing Lake               --         43

  Quarrelsome Brothers, The                    313         --

  Raising the Dead                              --        318

  Rat Wife, The                                355         --

  Resuscitated Corpse, The                      --        193

  Rip van Winkle, A Chinese                     --         85

  Roc, The                                      --        340

  Salt Smuggler, The                            --        215

  Saving Life                                   --        213

  Sea-serpent, The                              --        113

  Self-punished Murderer, The                  345         --

  She-wolf and the Herd-boys, The               --        330

  Shui-mang Plant, The                         136         --

  Singing Frogs, The                           217         --

  Singular case of Ophthalmia                   --        102

  Singular Verdict                              --        307

  Sisters, The                                 336         --

  Smelling Essays                               --        139

  Snow in Summer                                --        294

  Solomon, A Chinese                            --        335

  Solomon, Another                              --        355

  Spirit of the Hills, The                      --        137

  Spirits of the Po-yang Lake, The              --        109

  Spiritualistic Séances                        --        131

  Stolen Eyes, The                              --        233

  Strange Companion, A                          --        130

  Stream of Cash, The                           --        110

  Supernatural Wife, A                          --        166

  Taking Revenge                                --         25

  Talking Pupils, The                            5         --

  Ta-nan in Search of his Father               296         --

  Taoist Devotee, A                             --        183

  Taoist Miracles                               --        226

  Taoist Priest, A                             246         --

  Taoist Priest of Lao-shan, The                17         --

  Theft of the Peach                            --        186

  Three Genii, The                             214         --

  Three States of Existence, The                --         90

  Thunder God, The                             413         --

  Tiger Guest, The                             330         --

  Tiger of Chao-ch‘êng, The                    219         --

  Tipsy Turtle, The                             --         28

  Trader’s Son, The                             85         --

  Two Brides, The                               --        158

  Unjust Sentence, The                          --         80

  Virtuous Daughter-in-law, The                374         --

  Wei-ch‘i Devil, The                           --        268

  Wine Insect, The                              --        259

  Wolf Dream, The                               --         73

  Wolves                                        --        305

  Wonderful Stone, The                         306         --

  Young Gentleman who couldn’t spell, The      326         --

  Young Lady of the Tung-t‘ing Lake, The       271         --


  APPENDIX A                                    --        361

      „    B                                    --        389



INTRODUCTION.


I.--PERSONAL.--The public has, perhaps, a right to be made acquainted
with the title under which I, an unknown writer, come forward as the
translator of a difficult Chinese work. In the spring of 1867 I began
the study of Chinese at H.B.M.’s Legation, Peking, under an implied
promise, in a despatch from the then Secretary of State for Foreign
Affairs, that successful efforts would be rewarded by proportionately
rapid advancement in the service of which I was a member. Then
followed a long novitiate of utterly uninteresting and, indeed, most
repellent labour,--inseparable, however, from the acquisition of this
language, which throughout its early stages demands more from sheer
memory than from the exercise of any other intellectual faculty. At
length, in the spring of 1877, while acting as Vice-Consul at Canton,
I commenced the translation of the work here offered to the English
reader. For such a task I had flattered myself into the belief that I
possessed two of the requisite qualifications: an accurate knowledge
of the grammatical structure of the language, and an extensive insight
into the manners, customs, superstitions, and general social life of
the Chinese. I had been variously stationed at Peking, Tientsin,
Takow, and Taiwan Fu (in Formosa), Ningpo, Hankow, Swatow, and Canton,
from the latter of which I was transferred--when my task was still
only half finished--to Amoy. I had travelled beyond the Great Wall
into Mongolia; and I had made the journey overland from Swatow to
Canton, a distance of five hundred miles; besides which, in addition
to my study of the language, my daily object in life had always been
to familiarise myself as much as possible with Chinese sympathies and
habits of thought. With these advantages, and by the interesting
nature of the subject-matter, I hoped to be able on the one hand to
arouse a somewhat deeper interest than is usually taken in the affairs
of China; and, on the other, to correct at any rate some of the
erroneous views, too frequently palmed off by inefficient and
disingenuous workers, and too readily accepted as fact. And I would
here draw attention to one most important point; namely, that although
a great number of books have been published about China and the
Chinese, there are extremely few in which the information is conveyed
at first hand; in other words, in which the Chinese are allowed to
speak for themselves.[1] Hence, perhaps, it may be that in an
accurately-compiled work such as Tylor’s _Primitive Culture_,
allusions to the religious rites and ceremonies of nearly one-third of
the human race are condensed within the limits of barely a dozen short
passages. Hence, too, it undoubtedly is that many Chinese customs are
ridiculed and condemned by turns, simply because the medium through
which they have been conveyed has produced a distorted image. Much of
what the Chinese do actually believe and practise in their religious
and social life will be found in this volume, in the _ipsissima verba_
of a highly-educated scholar writing about his fellow-countrymen and
his native land; while for the notes with which I have essayed to make
the picture more suggestive and more acceptable to the European eye,
I claim only so much authority as is due to the opinion of one
qualified observer who can have no possible motive in deviating ever
so slightly from what his own personal experience has taught him to
regard as the truth.


II.--BIOGRAPHICAL.--The barest skeleton of a biography is all that can
be formed from the very scanty materials which remain to mark the
career of a writer whose work has been for the best part of two
centuries as familiar throughout the length and breadth of China as
are the tales of the “Arabian Nights” in all English-speaking
communities. The author of “Strange Stories” was a native of Tzu-chou,
in the province of Shan-tung. His family name was P‘u; his particular
name was Sung-ling; and the designation or literary epithet by which,
in accordance with Chinese usage, he was commonly known among his
friends, was Liu-hsien, or “Last of the Immortals.” A further fancy
name, given to him probably by some enthusiastic admirer, was
Liu Ch‘üan, or “Willow Spring;” but he is now familiarly spoken of
simply as P‘u Sung-ling. We are unacquainted with the years of his
birth or death; however, by the aid of a meagre entry in the _History
of Tzü-chou_ it is possible to make a pretty good guess at the date
of the former event. For we are there told that P‘u Sung-ling
successfully competed for the lowest or bachelor’s degree before he
had reached the age of twenty; and that in 1651 he was in the position
of a graduate of ten years’ standing, having failed in the interim to
take the second, or master’s, degree. To this failure, due, as we are
informed in the history above quoted, to his neglect of the beaten
track of academic study, we owe the existence of his great work; not,
indeed, his only production, though the one _par excellence_ by which,
as Confucius said of his own “Spring and Autumn,” men will know him.
All else that we have on record of P‘u Sung-ling, besides the fact
that he lived in close companionship with several eminent scholars of
the day, is gathered from his own words, written when, in 1679, he
laid down his pen upon the completion of a task which was to raise him
within a short period to a foremost rank in the Chinese world of
letters. Of that record I here append a close translation, accompanied
by such notes as are absolutely necessary to make it intelligible to
non-students of Chinese.

AUTHOR’S OWN RECORD.

    “‘Clad in wistaria, girdled with ivy;’[2] thus sang San-lü[3] in
    his _Dissipation of Grief_.[4] Of ox-headed devils and serpent
    Gods,[5] he of the long-nails[6] never wearied to tell. Each
    interprets in his own way the music of heaven;[7] and whether it
    be discord or not, depends upon antecedent causes.[8] As for me, I
    cannot, with my poor autumn fire-fly’s light, match myself against
    the hobgoblins of the age.[9] I am but the dust in the sunbeam, a
    fit laughing-stock for devils.[10] For my talents are not those of
    Yü Pao,[11] elegant explorer of the records of the Gods; I am
    rather animated by the Spirit of Su Tung-p‘o,[12] who loved to
    hear men speak of the supernatural. I get people to commit what
    they tell me to writing, and subsequently I dress it up in the
    form of a story; and thus in the lapse of time my friends from all
    quarters have supplied me with quantities of material, which, from
    my habit of collecting, has grown into a vast pile.[13]

    “Human beings, I would point out, are not beyond the pale of fixed
    laws, and yet there are more remarkable phenomena in their midst
    than in the country of those who crop their hair;[14] antiquity is
    unrolled before us, and many tales are to be found therein
    stranger than that of the nation of Flying Heads.[15]
    ‘Irrepressible bursts, and luxurious ease,’[16]--such was always
    his enthusiastic strain. ‘For ever indulging in liberal
    thought,’[17]--thus he spoke openly without restraint. Were men
    like these to open my book, I should be a laughing-stock to them
    indeed. At the cross-roads[18] men will not listen to me, and yet
    I have some knowledge of the three states of existence[19] spoken
    of beneath the cliff;[20] neither should the words I utter be set
    aside because of him that utters them.[21] When the bow[22] was
    hung at my father’s door, he dreamed that a sickly-looking
    Buddhist priest, but half-covered by his stole, entered the
    chamber. On one of his breasts was a round piece of plaster like
    a _cash_;[23] and my father, waking from sleep, found that I, just
    born, had a similar black patch on my body. As a child, I was thin
    and constantly ailing, and unable to hold my own in the battle of
    life. Our home was chill and desolate as a monastery; and working
    there for my livelihood with my pen,[24] I was as poor as a priest
    with his alms-bowl.[25] Often and often I put my hand to my
    head[26] and exclaimed, ‘Surely he who sat with his face to the
    wall[27] was myself in a previous state of existence;’ and thus I
    referred my non-success in this life to the influence of a destiny
    surviving from the last. I have been tossed hither and thither in
    the direction of the ruling wind, like a flower falling in filthy
    places; but the six paths[28] of transmigration are inscrutable
    indeed, and I have no right to complain. As it is, midnight finds
    me with an expiring lamp, while the wind whistles mournfully
    without; and over my cheerless table I piece together my
    tales,[29] vainly hoping to produce a sequel to the _Infernal
    Regions_.[30] With a bumper I stimulate my pen, yet I only succeed
    thereby in ‘venting my excited feelings,’[31] and as I thus commit
    my thoughts to writing, truly I am an object worthy of
    commiseration. Alas! I am but the bird that, dreading the winter
    frost, finds no shelter in the tree: the autumn insect that chirps
    to the moon, and hugs the door for warmth. For where are they who
    know me?[32] They are ‘in the bosky grove, and at the frontier
    pass’[33]--wrapped in an impenetrable gloom!”

From the above curious document the reader will gain some insight into
the abstruse, but at the same time marvellously beautiful, style of
this gifted writer. The whole essay--for such it is, and among the
most perfect of its kind--is intended chiefly as a satire upon the
scholarship of the age; scholarship which had turned the author back
to the disappointment of a private life, himself conscious all the
time of the inward fire that had been lent him by heaven. It is the
key-note to his own subsequent career, spent in the retirement of
home, in the society of books and friends; as also to the numerous
uncomplimentary allusions which occur in all his stories relating to
official life. Whether or not the world at large has been a gainer by
this instance of the fallibility of competitive examinations has been
already decided in the affirmative by the millions of P‘u Sung-ling’s
own countrymen, who for the past two hundred years have more than made
up to him by a posthumous and enduring reverence for the loss of those
earthly and ephemeral honours which he seems to have coveted so much.


III.--BIBLIOGRAPHICAL.--_Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio_, known
to the Chinese as the _Liao-Chai-Chih-I_, or more familiarly, the
_Liao-Chai_, has hardly been mentioned by a single foreigner without
some inaccuracy on the part of the writer concerned. For instance, the
late Mr. Mayers states in his _Chinese Reader’s Manual_, p. 176, that
this work was composed “circa A.D. 1710,” the fact being that the
collection was actually completed in 1679, as we know by the date
attached to the “Author’s Own Record” given above. It is consequently
two centuries, almost to the day, since the first appearance of a book
destined to a popularity which the lapse of time seems wholly unable
to diminish; and the present may fairly be considered a fitting epoch
for its first presentation to the English reader in an English dress.
I should mention, however, that the _Liao-Chai_ was originally, and
for many years, circulated in manuscript only. P‘u Sung-ling, as we
are told in a colophon by his grandson to the first edition, was too
poor to meet the heavy expense of block-cutting; and it was not until
as late as 1740, when the author must have been already for some time
a denizen of the dark land he so much loved to describe, that his
aforesaid grandson printed and published the collection now so
universally famous. Since then many editions have been laid before the
Chinese public, the best of which is that by Tan Ming-lun, a Salt
Commissioner, who flourished during the reign of Tao Kuang, and who in
1842 produced, at his own expense, an excellent edition in sixteen
small octavo volumes of about 160 pages each. And as various editions
will occasionally be found to contain various readings, I would here
warn students of Chinese who wish to compare my rendering with the
text, that it is from the edition of Tan Ming-lun, collated with that
of Yü Chi, published in 1766, that this translation has been made.
Many have been the commentaries and disquisitions upon the meaning of
obscure passages and the general scope of this work; to say nothing of
the prefaces with which the several editions have been ushered into
the world. Of the latter, I have selected one specimen, from which the
reader will be able to form a tolerably accurate opinion as to the
true nature of these always singular and usually difficult
compositions. Here it is:--

T‘ANG MÊNG LAI’S PREFACE.

    “The common saying, ‘He regards a camel as a horse with a swelled
    back,’ trivial of itself, may be used in illustration of greater
    matters. Men are wont to attribute an existence only to such
    things as they daily see with their own eyes, and they marvel at
    whatsoever, appearing before them at one instant, vanishes at the
    next. And yet it is not at the sprouting and falling of foliage,
    or at the metamorphosis of insects that they marvel, but only at
    the manifestations of the supernatural world; though of a truth,
    the whistling of the wind and the movement of streams, with
    nothing to set the one in motion or give sound to the other, might
    well be ranked among extraordinary phenomena. We are accustomed to
    these, and therefore do not note them. We marvel at devils and
    foxes: we do not marvel at man. But who is it that causes a man to
    move and to speak?--to which question comes the ready answer of
    each individual so questioned, ‘_I_ do.’ This ‘I do,’ however, is
    merely a personal consciousness of the facts under discussion.
    For a man can see with his eyes, but he cannot see what it is that
    makes him see; he can hear with his ears, but he cannot hear what
    it is that makes him hear; how, then, is it possible for him to
    understand the rationale of things he can neither see nor hear.
    Whatever has come within the bounds of their own ocular or
    auricular experience men regard as proved to be actually existing;
    and only such things.[34] But this term ‘experience’ may be
    understood in various senses. For instance, people speak of
    something which has certain attributes as _form_, and of something
    else which has certain other attributes as _substance_; ignorant
    as they are that form and substance are to be found existing
    without those particular attributes. Things which are thus
    constituted are inappreciable, indeed, by our ears and eyes; but
    we cannot argue that therefore they do not exist. Some persons can
    see a mosquito’s eye, while to others even a mountain is
    invisible; some can hear the sound of ants battling together,
    while others again fail to catch the roar of a thunder-peal.
    Powers of seeing and hearing vary; there should be no reckless
    imputations of blindness. According to the schoolmen, man at his
    death is dispersed like wind or fire, the origin and end of his
    vitality being alike unknown; and as those who have seen strange
    phenomena are few, the number of those who marvel at them is
    proportionately great, and the ‘horse with a swelled back’
    parallel is very widely applicable. And ever quoting the fact that
    Confucius would have nothing to say on these topics, these
    schoolmen half discredit such works as the _Ch‘i-chieh-chih-kuai_
    and the _Yü-ch‘u-chi-i_,[35] ignorant that the Sage’s
    unwillingness to speak had reference only to persons of an
    inferior mental calibre; for his own _Spring and Autumn_ can
    hardly be said to be devoid of all allusions of the kind. Now P‘u
    Liu-hsien devoted himself in his youth to the marvellous, and as
    he grew older was specially remarkable for his comprehension
    thereof; and being moreover a most elegant writer, he occupied his
    leisure in recording whatever came to his knowledge of a
    particularly marvellous nature. A volume of these compositions of
    his formerly fell into my hands, and was constantly borrowed by
    friends; now, I have another volume, and of what I read only about
    three-tenths was known to me before. What there is, should be
    sufficient to open the eyes of those schoolmen, though I much fear
    it will be like talking of ice to a butterfly. Personally, I
    disbelieve in the irregularity of natural phenomena, and regard as
    evil spirits only those who injure their neighbours. For eclipses,
    falling stars, the flight of herons, the nest of a mina, talking
    stones, and the combats of dragons, can hardly be classed as
    irregular; while the phenomena of nature occurring out of season,
    wars, rebellions, and so forth, may certainly be relegated to the
    category of evil. In my opinion the morality of P‘u Liu-hsien’s
    work is of a very high standard, its object being distinctly to
    glorify virtue and to censure vice, and as a book calculated to
    elevate mankind may be safely placed side by side with the
    philosophical treatises of Yang Hsiung which Huan Tan declared to
    be so worthy of a wide circulation.”

With regard to the meaning of the Chinese words _Liao-Chai-Chih-I_,
this title has received indifferent treatment at the hands of
different writers. Dr. Williams chose to render it by “Pastimes of the
Study,” and Mr. Mayers by “The Record of Marvels, or Tales of the
Genii;” neither of which is sufficiently near to be regarded in the
light of a translation. Taken literally and in order, these words
stand for “Liao--library--record--strange,” “Liao” being simply a
fanciful name given by our author to his private library or studio. An
apocryphal anecdote traces the origin of this selection to a remark
once made by himself with reference to his failure for the second
degree. “Alas!” he is reported to have said, “I shall now have no
resource (_Liao_) for my old age;” and accordingly he so named his
study, meaning that in his pen he would seek that resource which fate
had denied to him as an official. For this untranslatable “Liao” I
have ventured to substitute “Chinese,” as indicating more clearly the
nature of what is to follow. No such title as “Tales of the Genii”
fully expresses the scope of this work, which embraces alike weird
stories of Taoist devilry and magic, marvellous accounts of impossible
countries beyond the sea, simple scenes of Chinese every-day life, and
notices of extraordinary natural phenomena. Indeed, the author once
had it in contemplation to publish only the more imaginative of the
tales in the present collection under the title of “Devil and Fox
Stories;” but from this scheme he was ultimately dissuaded by his
friends, the result being the heterogeneous mass which is more aptly
described by the title I have given to this volume. In a similar
manner, I too had originally determined to publish a full and complete
translation of the whole of these sixteen volumes; but on a closer
acquaintance many of the stories turned out to be quite unsuitable for
the age in which we live, forcibly recalling the coarseness of our own
writers of fiction in the last century. Others again were utterly
pointless, or mere repetitions in a slightly altered form. Of the
whole, I therefore selected one hundred and sixty-four of the best and
most characteristic stories, of which eight had previously been
published by Mr. Allen in the _China Review_, one by Mr. Mayers in
_Notes and Queries on China and Japan_, two by myself in the columns
of the _Celestial Empire_, and four by Dr. Williams in a now forgotten
handbook of Chinese. The remaining one hundred and forty-nine have
never before, to my knowledge, been translated into English. To those,
however, who can enjoy the _Liao-Chai_ in the original text, the
distinctions between the various stories of felicity in plot,
originality, and so on, are far less sharply defined, so impressed as
each competent reader must be by the incomparable style in which even
the meanest is arrayed. For in this respect, as important now in
Chinese eyes as it was with ourselves in days not long gone by, the
author of the _Liao-Chai_ and the rejected candidate succeeded in
founding a school of his own, in which he has since been followed by
hosts of servile imitators with more or less success. Terseness is
pushed to its extreme limits; each particle that can be safely
dispensed with is scrupulously eliminated; and every here and there
some new and original combination invests perhaps a single word with a
force it could never have possessed except under the hands of a
perfect master of his art. Add to the above, copious allusions and
adaptations from a course of reading which would seem to have been
co-extensive with the whole range of Chinese literature, a wealth of
metaphor and an artistic use of figures generally to which only the
_chef-d’œuvres_ of Carlyle form an adequate parallel; and the result
is a work which for purity and beauty of style is now universally
accepted in China as the best and most perfect model. Sometimes the
story runs along plainly and smoothly enough; but the next moment we
may be plunged into pages of abstruse text, the meaning of which is so
involved in quotations from and allusions to the poetry or history of
the past three thousand years as to be recoverable only after diligent
perusal of the commentary and much searching in other works of
reference. In illustration of the popularity of this book, Mr. Mayers
once stated that “the porter at his gate, the boatman at his mid-day
rest, the chair-coolie at his stand, no less than the man of letters
among his books, may be seen poring with delight over the
elegantly-narrated marvels of the _Liao-Chai_;” but he would doubtless
have withdrawn this judgment in later years, with the work lying open
before him. Ever since I have been in China, I have made a point of
never, when feasible, passing by a reading Chinaman without asking
permission to glance at the volume in his hand; and at my various
stations in China I have always kept up a borrowing acquaintance with
the libraries of my private or official servants; but I can safely
affirm that I have not once detected the _Liao-Chai_ in the hands of
an ill-educated man. Mr. Mayers made, perhaps, a happier hit when he
observed that “fairy-tales told in the style of the _Anatomy of
Melancholy_ would scarcely be a popular book in Great Britain;” though
except in some particular points of contact, the styles of these two
writers could scarcely claim even the most distant of relationships.

Such, then, is the setting of this collection of _Strange Stories from
a Chinese Studio_, many of which contain, in addition to the
advantages of style and plot, a very excellent moral. The intention of
most of them is, in the actual words of T‘ang Mêng-lai, “to glorify
virtue and to censure vice,”--always, it must be borne in mind,
according to the Chinese and not to a European interpretation of these
terms. As an addition to our knowledge of the folk-lore of China, and
as an _aperçu_ of the manners, customs, and social life of that vast
Empire, my translation of the _Liao-Chai_ may not be wholly devoid of
interest. The amusement and instruction I have myself derived from the
task thus voluntarily imposed has already more than repaid me for the
pains I have been at to put this work before the English public in a
pleasing and available form.


FOOTNOTES:

[1] “How can a statement as to customs, myths, beliefs, &c., of a
savage tribe, be treated as evidence, where it depends on the
testimony of some traveller or missionary, who may be a superficial
observer, more or less ignorant of the native language, a careless
retailer of unsifted talk, a man prejudiced or even wilfully
deceitful?”--TYLOR’S _Primitive Culture_, Vol. I., p. 9.

[2] Said of the bogies of the hills, in allusion to their _clothes_.
Here quoted with reference to the official classes, in ridicule of the
title under which they hold posts which, from a literary point of
view, they are totally unfit to occupy.

[3] A celebrated statesman (B.C. 314) who, having lost his master’s
favour by the intrigues of a rival, finally drowned himself in
despair. The Annual Dragon Festival is said by some to be a “search”
for his body.

[4] A poem addressed by San-lü to his Prince, after his disgrace. Its
non-success was the immediate cause of his death.

[5] That is, of the supernatural generally.

[6] A poet of the T‘ang Dynasty whose eyebrows met, whose nails were
very long, and who could write very fast.

[7] “You know the music of earth,” said the Taoist sage, Chuang-tzŭ;
“but you have not heard the music of heaven.”

[8] That is, to the operation of some influence surviving from a
previous existence.

[9] This is another hit at the ruling classes. Chi K‘ang, a celebrated
musician and alchemist (A.D. 223-262), was sitting one night alone,
playing upon his lute, when suddenly a man with a tiny face walked in,
and began to stare hard at him, the stranger’s face enlarging all the
time. “I’m not going to match myself against a devil!” cried the
musician, after a few moments, and instantly blew out the light.

[10] When Liu Chüan, Governor of Wu-ling, determined to relieve his
poverty by trade, he saw a devil standing by his side, laughing and
rubbing his hands for glee. “Poverty and wealth are matters of
destiny,” said Liu Chüan; “But to be laughed at by a devil----,” and
accordingly he desisted from his intention.

[11] A writer who flourished in the early part of the fourth century,
and composed a work in thirty books entitled _Supernatural
Researches_.

[12] The famous poet, statesman, and essayist, who flourished A.D.
1036-1101.

[13] “And his friends had the habit of jotting down for his unfailing
delight anything quaint or comic that they came across.”--_The World_
on Charles Dickens: 24th July 1878.

[14] It is related in the _Historical Record_ that when T‘ai Po and Yü
Chung visited the southern savages they saw men with tattooed bodies
and short hair.

[15] A fabulous community, placed by geographers to the west of the
Dragon city--wherever that may be. So called because the heads of the
men are in the habit of leaving their bodies, and flying down to
marshy places to feed on worms and crabs. A red ring is seen the night
before the flight encircling the neck of the man whose head is about
to fly. At daylight the head returns.

[16] A quotation from the admired works of Wang Po, a brilliant
scholar and poet, who was drowned at the early age of twenty-eight,
A.D. 675.

[17] I have hitherto failed in all attempts to identify this
quotation.

[18] The cross-road of the “Five Fathers” is here mentioned, which the
commentator tells us is merely the name of the place.

[19] The past, present, and future life, of the Buddhist system of
metempsychosis.

[20] A certain man, who was staying at a temple, dreamt that an old
priest appeared to him beneath a jade-stone cliff, and, pointing to a
stick of burning incense, said to him, “That incense represents a vow
to be fulfilled; but I say unto you, that ere its smoke shall have
curled away, your three states of existence will have been already
accomplished.” The meaning is that time on earth is as nothing to the
Gods.

[21] This remark occurs in the fifteenth of the Confucian Gospels,
section 22.

[22] The birth of a boy was formerly signalled by hanging a bow at the
door; that of a girl, by displaying a small towel--indicative of the
parts that each would hereafter play in the drama of life.

[23] See note 42 to No. II.

[24] Literally, “ploughing with my pen.”

[25] The _patra_ or bowl, used by Buddhist mendicants, in imitation of
the celebrated alms-dish of Shâkyamuni Buddha.

[26] Literally, “scratched my head,” as is often done by the Chinese
in perplexity or doubt.

[27] Alluding to the priest Dharma-nandi, who came from India to
China, and tried to convert the Emperor Wu Ti of the Liang Dynasty;
but, failing in his attempt, he retired full of mortification to a
temple at Sung-shan, where he sat for nine years before a rock, until
his own image was imprinted thereon.

[28] The six _gâti_ or conditions of existence, namely: angels, men,
demons, hungry devils, brute beasts, and tortured sinners.

[29] Literally, “putting together the pieces under the forelegs (of
foxes) to make robes.” This part of the fox-skin is the most valuable
for making fur clothes.

[30] The work of a well-known writer, named Lin I-ch‘ing, who
flourished during the Sung Dynasty.

[31] Alluding to an essay by Han Fei, a philosopher of the third
century B.C., in which he laments the iniquity of the age in general,
and the corruption of officials in particular. He finally committed
suicide in prison, where he had been cast by the intrigues of a rival
minister.

[32] Confucius (_Gospel_ xiv., sec. 37) said, “Alas! there is no one
who knows me (to be what I am).”

[33] The great poet Tu Fu (A.D. 712-770) dreamt that his greater
predecessor, Li T‘ai-po (A.D. 699-762) appeared to him, “coming when
the maple-grove was in darkness, and returning while the frontier-pass
was still obscured;”--that is, at night, when no one could see him;
the meaning being that he never came at all, and that those “who know
me (P‘u Sung-ling)” are equally non-existent.

[34] “Thus, since countless things exist that the senses _can_ take
account of, it is evident that nothing exists that the senses can
_not_ take account of.”--The “Professor” in W. H. Mallock’s _New Paul
and Virginia_.

This passage recalls another curious classification by the great
Chinese philosopher Han Wên-kung. “There are some things which possess
form but are devoid of sound, as for instance jade and stones; others
have sound but are without form, such as wind and thunder; others
again have both form and sound, such as men and animals; and lastly,
there is a class devoid of both, namely, _devils and spirits_.”

[35] I have never seen any of these works, but I believe they treat,
as implied by their titles, chiefly of the supernatural world.



STRANGE STORIES

FROM A

CHINESE STUDIO.



I.

EXAMINATION FOR THE POST OF GUARDIAN ANGEL.[36]


My eldest sister’s husband’s grandfather, named Sung Tao, was a
graduate.[37] One day, while lying down from indisposition, an
official messenger arrived, bringing the usual notification in his
hand and leading a horse with a white forehead, to summon him to the
examination for his master’s degree. Mr. Sung here remarked that the
Grand Examiner had not yet come, and asked why there should be this
hurry. The messenger did not reply to this, but pressed so earnestly
that at length Mr. Sung roused himself, and getting upon the horse
rode with him. The way seemed strange, and by-and-by they reached a
city which resembled the capital of a prince. They then entered the
Prefect’s _yamên_,[38] the apartments of which were beautifully
decorated; and there they found some ten officials sitting at the
upper end, all strangers to Mr. Sung, with the exception of one whom
he recognised to be the God of War.[39] In the verandah were two
tables and two stools, and at the end of one of the former a candidate
was already seated, so Mr. Sung sat down alongside of him. On the
table were writing materials for each, and suddenly down flew a piece
of paper with a theme on it, consisting of the following eight
words:--“One man, two men; by intention, without intention.” When Mr.
Sung had finished his essay, he took it into the hall. It contained
the following passage: “Those who are virtuous by intention, though
virtuous, shall not be rewarded. Those who are wicked without
intention, though wicked, shall receive no punishment.” The presiding
deities praised this sentiment very much, and calling Mr. Sung to come
forward, said to him, “A Guardian Angel is wanted in Honan. Go you and
take up the appointment.” Mr. Sung no sooner heard this than he bowed
his head and wept, saying, “Unworthy though I am of the honour you
have conferred upon me, I should not venture to decline it but that my
aged mother has reached her seventh decade, and there is no one now to
take care of her. I pray you let me wait until she has fulfilled her
destiny, when I will hold myself at your disposal.” Thereupon one of
the deities, who seemed to be the chief, gave instructions to search
out his mother’s term of life, and a long-bearded attendant forthwith
brought in the Book of Fate. On turning it over, he declared that she
still had nine years to live; and then a consultation was held among
the deities, in the middle of which the God of War said, “Very well.
Let Mr. graduate Chang take the post, and be relieved in nine years’
time.” Then, turning to Mr. Sung, he continued, “You ought to proceed
without delay to your post; but as a reward for your filial piety, you
are granted a furlough of nine years. At the expiration of that time
you will receive another summons.” He next addressed a few kind words
to Mr. Chang; and the two candidates, having made their _kotow_, went
away together. Grasping Mr. Sung’s hand, his companion, who gave
“Chang Ch‘i of Ch‘ang-shan” as his name and address, accompanied him
beyond the city walls and gave him a stanza of poetry at parting. I
cannot recollect it all, but in it occurred this couplet:--

   “With wine and flowers we chase the hours,
        In one eternal spring:
    No moon, no light, to cheer the night--
        Thyself that ray must bring.”

Mr. Sung here left him and rode on, and before very long reached his
own home; here he awaked as if from a dream, and found that he had
been dead three days,[40] when his mother, hearing a groan in the
coffin, ran to it and helped him out. It was some time before he could
speak, and then he at once inquired about Ch‘ang-shan, where, as it
turned out, a graduate named Chang had died that very day.

Nine years afterwards, Mr. Sung’s mother, in accordance with fate,
passed from this life; and when the funeral obsequies were over, her
son, having first purified himself, entered into his chamber and died
also. Now his wife’s family lived within the city, near the western
gate; and all of a sudden they beheld Mr. Sung, accompanied by
numerous chariots and horses with carved trappings and red-tasselled
bits, enter into the hall, make an obeisance, and depart. They were
very much disconcerted at this, not knowing that he had become a
spirit, and rushed out into the village to make inquiries, when they
heard he was already dead. Mr. Sung had an account of his adventure
written by himself; but unfortunately after the insurrection it was
not to be found. This is only an outline of the story.


FOOTNOTES:

[36] The tutelar deity of every Chinese city.

[37] That is, he had taken the first or bachelor’s degree. I shall not
hesitate to use strictly English equivalents for all kinds of Chinese
terms. The three degrees are literally, (1) Cultivated Talent, (2)
Raised Man, and (3) Promoted Scholar.

[38] The official residence of a mandarin above a certain rank.

[39] The Chinese Mars. A celebrated warrior, named Kuan Yü, who lived
about the beginning of the third century of our era. He was raised
after death to the rank of a God, and now plays a leading part in the
Chinese Pantheon.

[40] Catalepsy, which is the explanation of many a story in this
collection, would appear to be of very common occurrence amongst the
Chinese. Such, however, is not the case; in which statement I am borne
out by my friend, Dr. Manson, of Amoy, who, after many years’ practice
among the natives of that port, and also of Formosa, informs me that
he has never even heard of a single instance of this strange
complaint.



II.

THE TALKING PUPILS.


At Ch‘ang-ngan there lived a scholar, named Fang Tung, who though by
no means destitute of ability was a very unprincipled rake, and in the
habit of following and speaking to any woman he might chance to meet.
The day before the spring festival of Clear Weather,[41] he was
strolling about outside the city when he saw a small carriage with red
curtains and an embroidered awning, followed by a crowd of
waiting-maids on horseback, one of whom was exceedingly pretty, and
riding on a small palfrey. Going closer to get a better view, Mr. Fang
noticed that the carriage curtain was partly open, and inside he
beheld a beautifully dressed girl of about sixteen, lovely beyond
anything he had ever seen. Dazzled by the sight, he could not take his
eyes off her; and, now before, now behind, he followed the carriage
for many a mile. By-and-by he heard the young lady call out to her
maid, and, when the latter came alongside, say to her, “Let down the
screen for me. Who is this rude fellow that keeps on staring so?” The
maid accordingly let down the screen, and looking angrily at Mr. Fang,
said to him, “This is the bride of the Seventh Prince in the City of
Immortals going home to see her parents, and no village girl that you
should stare at her thus.” Then taking a handful of dust, she threw it
at him and blinded him. He rubbed his eyes and looked round, but the
carriage and horses were gone. This frightened him, and he went off
home, feeling very uncomfortable about the eyes. He sent for a doctor
to examine his eyes, and on the pupils was found a small film, which
had increased by next morning, the eyes watering incessantly all the
time. The film went on growing, and in a few days was as thick as a
cash.[42] On the right pupil there came a kind of spiral, and as no
medicine was of any avail, the sufferer gave himself up to grief and
wished for death. He then bethought himself of repenting of his
misdeeds, and hearing that the _Kuang-ming_ sutra could relieve
misery, he got a copy and hired a man to teach it to him. At first it
was very tedious work, but by degrees he became more composed, and
spent every evening in a posture of devotion, telling his beads. At
the end of a year he had arrived at a state of perfect calm, when one
day he heard a small voice, about as loud as a fly’s, calling out from
his left eye:--“It’s horridly dark in here.” To this he heard a reply
from the right eye, saying, “Let us go out for a stroll, and cheer
ourselves up a bit.” Then he felt a wriggling in his nose which made
it itch, just as if something was going out of each of the nostrils;
and after a while he felt it again as if going the other way.
Afterwards he heard a voice from one eye say, “I hadn’t seen the
garden for a long time: the epidendrums are all withered and dead.”
Now Mr. Fang was very fond of these epidendrums, of which he had
planted a great number, and had been accustomed to water them himself;
but since the loss of his sight he had never even alluded to them.
Hearing, however, these words, he at once asked his wife why she had
let the epidendrums die. She inquired how he knew they were dead, and
when he told her she went out to see, and found them actually withered
away. They were both very much astonished at this, and his wife
proceeded to conceal herself in the room. She then observed two tiny
people, no bigger than a bean, come down from her husband’s nose and
run out of the door, where she lost sight of them. In a little while
they came back and flew up to his face, like bees or beetles seeking
their nests. This went on for some days, until Mr. Fang heard from the
left eye, “This roundabout road is not at all convenient. It would be
as well for us to make a door.” To this the right eye answered, “My
wall is too thick; it wouldn’t be at all an easy job.” “I’ll try and
open mine,” said the left eye, “and then it will do for both of us.”
Whereupon Mr. Fang felt a pain in his left eye as if something was
being split, and in a moment he found he could see the tables and
chairs in the room. He was delighted at this and told his wife, who
examined his eye and discovered an opening in the film, through which
she could see the black pupil shining out beneath, the eyeball itself
looking like a cracked pepper-corn. By next morning the film had
disappeared, and when his eye was closely examined it was observed to
contain two pupils. The spiral on the right eye remained as before;
and then they knew that the two pupils had taken up their abode in one
eye. Further, although Mr. Fang was still blind of one eye, the sight
of the other was better than that of the two together. From this time
he was more careful of his behaviour, and acquired in his part of the
country the reputation of a virtuous man.[43]


FOOTNOTES:

[41] One of the twenty-four solar terms. It falls on or about the 5th
of April, and is the special time for worshipping at the family tombs.

[42] The common European name for the only Chinese coin, about twenty
of which go to a penny. Each has a square hole in the middle, for the
convenience of stringing them together; hence the expression “strings
of cash.”

[43] The belief that the human eye contains a tiny being of the human
shape is universal in China. It originated, of course, from the
reflection of oneself that is seen on looking into the pupil of
anybody’s eye, or even, with the aid of a mirror, into one’s own.



III.

THE PAINTED WALL.


A Kiang-si gentleman, named Mêng Lung-t‘an, was lodging at the capital
with a Mr. Chu, M.A., when one day chance led them to a certain
monastery, within which they found no spacious halls or meditation
chambers, but only an old priest in _deshabille_. On observing the
visitors, he arranged his dress and went forward to meet them, leading
them round and showing whatever there was to be seen. In the chapel
they saw an image of Chih Kung, and the walls on either side were
beautifully painted with life-like representations of men and things.
On the east side were pictured a number of fairies, among whom was a
young girl whose maiden tresses were not yet confined by the matron’s
knot. She was picking flowers and gently smiling, while her cherry
lips seemed about to move, and the moisture of her eyes to overflow.
Mr. Chu gazed at her for a long time without taking his eyes off,
until at last he became unconscious of anything but the thoughts that
were engrossing him. Then, suddenly, he felt himself floating in the
air, as if riding on a cloud, and found himself passing through the
wall,[44] where halls and pavilions stretched away one after another,
unlike the abodes of mortals. Here an old priest was preaching the Law
of Buddha, surrounded by a large crowd of listeners. Mr. Chu mingled
with the throng, and after a few moments perceived a gentle tug at his
sleeve. Turning round, he saw the young girl above-mentioned, who
walked laughing away. Mr. Chu at once followed her, and passing a
winding balustrade arrived at a small apartment beyond which he dared
not venture further. But the young lady, looking back, waved the
flowers she had in her hand as though beckoning him to come on. He
accordingly entered and found nobody else within. Then they fell on
their knees and worshipped heaven and earth together,[45] and rose up
as man and wife, after which the bride went away, bidding Mr. Chu keep
quiet until she came back. This went on for a couple of days, when the
young lady’s companions began to smell a rat and discovered Mr. Chu’s
hiding-place. Thereupon they all laughed and said, “My dear, you are
now a married woman, and should leave off that maidenly _coiffure_.”
So they gave her the proper hair-pins and head ornaments, and bade her
go bind her hair, at which she blushed very much but said nothing.
Then one of them cried out, “My sisters, let us be off. Two’s
company, more’s none.” At this they all giggled again and went away.

Mr. Chu found his wife very much improved by the alteration in the
style of her hair. The high top-knot and the coronet of pendants were
very becoming to her. But suddenly they heard a sound like the
tramping of heavy-soled boots, accompanied by the clanking of chains
and the noise of angry discussion. The bride jumped up in a fright,
and she and Mr. Chu peeped out. They saw a man clad in golden armour,
with a face as black as jet, carrying in his hand chains and whips,
and surrounded by all the girls. He asked, “Are you all here?” “All,”
they replied. “If,” said he, “any mortal is here concealed amongst
you, denounce him at once, and lay not up sorrow for yourselves.” Here
they all answered as before that there was no one. The man then made a
movement as if he would search the place, upon which the bride was
dreadfully alarmed, and her face turned the colour of ashes. In her
terror she said to Mr. Chu, “Hide yourself under the bed,” and opening
a small lattice in the wall, disappeared herself. Mr. Chu in his
concealment hardly dared to draw his breath; and in a little while he
heard the boots tramp into the room and out again, the sound of the
voices getting gradually fainter and fainter in the distance. This
reassured him, but he still heard the voices of people going backwards
and forwards outside; and having been a long time in a cramped
position, his ears began to sing as if there was a locust in them,
and his eyes to burn like fire. It was almost unbearable; however, he
remained quietly awaiting the return of the young lady without giving
a thought to the why and wherefore of his present position.

Meanwhile, Mêng Lung-t‘an had noticed the sudden disappearance of his
friend, and thinking something was wrong, asked the priest where he
was. “He has gone to hear the preaching of the Law,” replied the
priest. “Where?” said Mr. Mêng. “Oh, not very far,” was the answer.
Then with his finger the old priest tapped the wall and called out,
“Friend Chu! what makes you stay away so long?” At this, the likeness
of Mr. Chu was figured upon the wall, with his ear inclined in the
attitude of one listening. The priest added, “Your friend here has
been waiting for you some time;” and immediately Mr. Chu descended
from the wall, standing transfixed like a block of wood, with starting
eyeballs and trembling legs. Mr. Mêng was much terrified, and asked
him quietly what was the matter. Now the matter was that while
concealed under the bed he had heard a noise resembling thunder and
had rushed out to see what it was.

Here they all noticed that the young lady on the wall with the
maiden’s tresses had changed the style of her _coiffure_ to that of a
married woman. Mr. Chu was greatly astonished at this and asked the
old priest the reason.

He replied, “Visions have their origin in those who see them: what
explanation can I give?” This answer was very unsatisfactory to Mr.
Chu; neither did his friend, who was rather frightened, know what to
make of it all; so they descended the temple steps and went away.


FOOTNOTES:

[44] Which will doubtless remind the reader of _Alice through the
Looking-glass, and what she saw there_.

[45] The all-important item of a Chinese marriage ceremony; amounting,
in fact, to calling God to witness the contract.



IV.

PLANTING A PEAR-TREE.


A countryman was one day selling his pears in the market. They were
unusually sweet and fine flavoured, and the price he asked was high. A
Taoist[46] priest in rags and tatters stopped at the barrow and
begged one of them. The countryman told him to go away, but as he did
not do so he began to curse and swear at him. The priest said, “You
have several hundred pears on your barrow; I ask for a single one, the
loss of which, Sir, you would not feel. Why then get angry?” The
lookers-on told the countryman to give him an inferior one and let him
go, but this he obstinately refused to do. Thereupon the beadle of the
place, finding the commotion too great, purchased a pear and handed it
to the priest. The latter received it with a bow and turning to the
crowd said, “We who have left our homes and given up all that is dear
to us[47] are at a loss to understand selfish niggardly conduct in
others. Now I have some exquisite pears which I shall do myself the
honour to put before you.” Here somebody asked, “Since you have pears
yourself, why don’t you eat those?” “Because,” replied the priest, “I
wanted one of these pips to grow them from.” So saying, he munched up
the pear; and when he had finished took a pip in his hand, unstrapped
a pick from his back, and proceeded to make a hole in the ground,
several inches deep, wherein he deposited the pip, filling in the
earth as before. He then asked the bystanders for a little hot water
to water it with, and one among them who loved a joke fetched him some
boiling water from a neighbouring shop. The priest poured this over
the place where he had made the hole, and every eye was fixed upon him
when sprouts were seen shooting up, and gradually growing larger and
larger. By-and-by, there was a tree with branches sparsely covered
with leaves; then flowers, and last of all fine, large, sweet-smelling
pears hanging in great profusion. These the priest picked and handed
round to the assembled crowd until all were gone, when he took his
pick and hacked away for a long time at the tree, finally cutting it
down. This he shouldered, leaves and all, and sauntered quietly away.
Now, from the very beginning, our friend the countryman had been
amongst the crowd, straining his neck to see what was going on, and
forgetting all about his business. At the departure of the priest he
turned round and discovered that every one of his pears was gone. He
then knew that those the old fellow had been giving away so freely
were really his own pears. Looking more closely at the barrow he also
found that one of the handles was missing, evidently having been newly
cut off. Boiling with rage, he set out in pursuit of the priest, and
just as he turned the corner he saw the lost barrow-handle lying under
the wall, being in fact the very pear-tree that the priest had cut
down. But there were no traces of the priest--much to the amusement of
the crowd in the market-place.


FOOTNOTES:

[46] That is, of the religion of _Tao_, or, as it is sometimes called,
_Rationalism_. It was founded some six centuries before the Christian
era by a man named Lao-tzŭ, “Old boy,” who was said to have been born
with white hair and a beard. Originally a pure system of metaphysics,
it is now but a shadow of its former self, and is corrupted by the
grossest forms of superstition borrowed from Buddhism, which has in
its turn adopted many of the forms and beliefs of Taoism, so that the
two religions are hardly distinguishable one from the other.

“What seemed to me the most singular circumstance connected with the
matter, was the presence of half-a-dozen Taoist priests, who joined in
all the ceremonies, doing everything that the Buddhist priests did,
and presenting a very odd appearance, with their top-knots and cues,
among their closely shaven Buddhist brethren. It seemed strange that
the worship of Sakyamuni by celibate Buddhist priests, with shaved
heads, into which holes were duly burned at their initiation, should
be participated in by married Taoist priests, whose heads are not
wholly shaven, and have never been burned.”--_Initiation of Buddhist
Priests at Kooshan_, by S. L. B.

Taoist priests are credited with a knowledge of alchemy and the black
art in general.

[47] A celibate priesthood belongs properly to Buddhism, and is not a
doctrine of the Taoist church.



V.

THE TAOIST PRIEST OF LAO-SHAN.


There lived in our village a Mr. Wang, the seventh son in an old
family. This gentleman had a _penchant_ for the Taoist religion; and
hearing that at Lao-shan there were plenty of Immortals,[48]
shouldered his knapsack and went off for a tour thither. Ascending a
peak of the mountain he reached a secluded monastery where he found a
priest sitting on a rush mat, with long hair flowing over his neck,
and a pleasant expression on his face. Making a low bow, Wang
addressed him thus:--“Mysterious indeed is the doctrine: I pray you,
Sir, instruct me therein.” “Delicately-nurtured and wanting in energy
as you are,” replied the priest, “I fear you could not support the
fatigue.” “Try me,” said Wang. So when the disciples, who were very
many in number, collected together at dusk, Wang joined them in making
obeisance to the priest, and remained with them in the monastery. Very
early next morning the priest summoned Wang, and giving him a hatchet
sent him out with the others to cut firewood. Wang respectfully
obeyed, continuing to work for over a month until his hands and feet
were so swollen and blistered that he secretly meditated returning
home. One evening when he came back he found two strangers sitting
drinking with his master. It being already dark, and no lamp or
candles having been brought in, the old priest took some scissors and
cut out a circular piece of paper like a mirror, which he proceeded to
stick against the wall. Immediately it became a dazzling moon, by the
light of which you could have seen a hair or a beard of corn. The
disciples all came crowding round to wait upon them, but one of the
strangers said, “On a festive occasion like this we ought all to enjoy
ourselves together.” Accordingly he took a kettle of wine from the
table and presented it to the disciples, bidding them drink each his
fill; whereupon our friend Wang began to wonder how seven or eight of
them could all be served out of a single kettle. The disciples, too,
rushed about in search of cups, each struggling to get the first drink
for fear the wine should be exhausted. Nevertheless, all the
candidates failed to empty the kettle, at which they were very much
astonished, when suddenly one of the strangers said, “You have given
us a fine bright moon; but it’s dull work drinking by ourselves. Why
not call Ch‘ang-ngo[49] to join us?” He then seized a chop-stick and
threw it into the moon, whereupon a lovely girl stepped forth from its
beams. At first she was only a foot high, but on reaching the ground
lengthened to the ordinary size of women. She had a slender waist and
a beautiful neck, and went most gracefully through the Red Garment
figure.[50] When this was finished she sang the following words:--

   “Ye fairies! ye fairies! I’m coming back soon,
    Too lonely and cold is my home in the moon.”

Her voice was clear and well sustained, ringing like the notes of a
flageolet, and when she had concluded her song she pirouetted round
and jumped up on the table, where, with every eye fixed in
astonishment upon her, she once more became a chop-stick. The three
friends laughed loudly, and one of them said, “We are very jolly
to-night, but I have hardly room for any more wine. Will you drink a
parting glass with me in the palace of the moon?” They then took up
the table and walked into the moon where they could be seen drinking
so plainly, that their eyebrows and beards appeared like reflections
in a looking-glass. By-and-by the moon became obscured; and when the
disciples brought a lighted candle they found the priest sitting in
the dark alone. The viands, however, were still upon the table and the
mirror-like piece of paper on the wall. “Have you all had enough to
drink?” asked the priest; to which they answered that they had. “In
that case,” said he, “you had better get to bed, so as not to be
behindhand with your wood-cutting in the morning.” So they all went
off, and among them Wang, who was delighted at what he had seen, and
thought no more of returning home. But after a time he could not stand
it any longer; and as the priest taught him no magical arts he
determined not to wait, but went to him and said, “Sir, I travelled
many long miles for the benefit of your instruction. If you will not
teach me the secret of Immortality, let me at any rate learn some
trifling trick, and thus soothe my cravings for a knowledge of your
art. I have now been here two or three months, doing nothing but chop
firewood, out in the morning and back at night, work to which I was
never accustomed in my own home.” “Did I not tell you,” replied the
priest, “that you would never support the fatigue? To-morrow I will
start you on your way home.” “Sir,” said Wang, “I have worked for you
a long time. Teach me some small art, that my coming here may not have
been wholly in vain.” “What art?” asked the priest. “Well,” answered
Wang, “I have noticed that whenever you walk about anywhere, walls and
so on are no obstacle to you. Teach me this, and I’ll be satisfied.”
The priest laughingly assented, and taught Wang a formula which he
bade him recite. When he had done so he told him to walk through the
wall; but Wang, seeing the wall in front of him, didn’t like to walk
at it. As, however, the priest bade him try, he walked quietly up to
it and was there stopped. The priest here called out, “Don’t go so
slowly. Put your head down and rush at it.” So Wang stepped back a few
paces and went at it full speed; and the wall yielding to him as he
passed, in a moment he found himself outside. Delighted at this, he
went in to thank the priest, who told him to be careful in the use of
his power, or otherwise there would be no response, handing him at the
same time some money for his expenses on the way. When Wang got home,
he went about bragging of his Taoist friends and his contempt for
walls in general; but as his wife disbelieved his story, he set about
going through the performance as before. Stepping back from the wall,
he rushed at it full speed with his head down; but coming in contact
with the hard bricks, finished up in a heap on the floor. His wife
picked him up and found he had a bump on his forehead as big as a
large egg, at which she roared with laughter; but Wang was overwhelmed
with rage and shame, and cursed the old priest for his base
ingratitude.


FOOTNOTES:

[48] The “angels” of Taoism--immortality in a happy land being the
reward held out for a life on earth in accordance with the doctrines
of Tao, for which, as Mr. Chalmers says, “three terms suggest
themselves--the Way, Reason, and the _Word_; but they are all liable
to objection.”

Taoist priests are believed by some to possess an elixir of
immortality in the form of a precious liquor; others again hold that
the elixir consists solely in a virtuous conduct of life.

[49] The beautiful wife of a legendary chieftain, named Hou I, who
flourished about 2,500 B.C. She is said to have stolen from her
husband the elixir of immortality, and to have fled with it to the
moon.

[50] The name of a celebrated _pas seul_ of antiquity.



VI.

THE BUDDHIST PRIEST OF CH‘ANG-CH‘ING.


At Ch‘ang-ch‘ing there lived a Buddhist priest of exceptional virtue
and purity of conduct, who, though over eighty years of age, was still
hale and hearty. One day he fell down and could not move; and when the
other priests rushed to help him up, they found he was already gone.
The old priest was himself unconscious of death, and his soul flew
away to the borders of the province of Honan. Now it chanced that the
scion of an old family residing in Honan, had gone out that very day
with some ten or a dozen followers to hunt the hare with falcons;[51]
but his horse having run away with him he fell off and was killed.
Just at that moment the soul of the priest came by and entered into
the body, which thereupon gradually recovered consciousness. The
servants crowded round to ask him how he felt, when opening his eyes
wide, he cried out, “How did I get here?” They assisted him to rise,
and led him into the house, where all his ladies came to see him and
inquire how he did. In great amazement he said, “I am a Buddhist
priest. How came I hither?” His servants thought he was wandering, and
tried to recall him by pulling his ears. As for himself, he could make
nothing of it, and closing his eyes refrained from saying anything
further. For food, he would only eat rice, refusing all wine and meat;
and avoided the society of his wives.[52] After some days he felt
inclined for a stroll, at which all his family were delighted; but no
sooner had he got outside and stopped for a little rest than he was
besieged by servants begging him to take their accounts as usual.
However, he pleaded illness and want of strength, and no more was
said. He then took occasion to ask if they knew the district of
Ch‘ang-ch‘ing, and on being answered in the affirmative expressed his
intention of going thither for a trip, as he felt dull and had nothing
particular to do, bidding them at the same time look after his affairs
at home. They tried to dissuade him from this on the ground of his
having but recently risen from a sick bed; but he paid no heed to
their remonstrances, and on the very next day set out. Arriving in the
Ch‘ang-ch‘ing district, he found everything unchanged; and without
being put to the necessity of asking the road, made his way straight
to the monastery. His former disciples received him with every token
of respect as an honoured visitor; and in reply to his question as to
where the old priest was, they informed him that their worthy teacher
had been dead for some time. On asking to be shewn his grave, they led
him to a spot where there was a solitary mound some three feet high,
over which the grass was not yet green. Not one of them knew his
motives for visiting this place; and by-and-by he ordered his horse,
saying to the disciples, “Your master was a virtuous priest. Carefully
preserve whatever relics of him you may have, and keep them from
injury.” They all promised to do this, and he then set off on his way
home. When he arrived there, he fell into a listless state and took
no interest in his family affairs. So much so, that after a few
months he ran away and went straight to his former home at the
monastery, telling the disciples that he was their old master. This
they refused to believe, and laughed among themselves at his
pretensions; but he told them the whole story, and recalled many
incidents of his previous life among them, until at last they were
convinced. He then occupied his old bed and went through the same
daily routine as before, paying no attention to the repeated
entreaties of his family, who came with carriages and horses to beg
him to return.

About a year subsequently, his wife sent one of the servants with
splendid presents of gold and silk, all of which he refused with the
exception of a single linen robe. And whenever any of his old friends
passed this monastery, they always went to pay him their respects,
finding him quiet, dignified, and pure. He was then barely thirty,
though he had been a priest for more than eighty years.[53]


FOOTNOTES:

[51] This form of sport may still be seen in the north of China. A
hare being started, two Chinese greyhounds (which are very slow) are
slipped from their leash in pursuit. But, as the hare would easily run
straight away from them, a falcon is released almost simultaneously.
The latter soars to a considerable height, and then swoops down on the
hare, striking it a violent blow with the “pounce,” or claw. This
partially stuns the hare, and allows the dogs to regain lost ground,
by which time the hare is ready once more, and off they go again. The
chase is ended by the hare getting to earth in a fox’s burrow, or
being ultimately overtaken by the dogs. In the latter case the heart
and liver are cut out on the spot, and given to the falcon; otherwise
he would hunt no more that day. Two falcons are often released, one
shortly after the other. They wear hoods, which are removed at the
moment of flying, and are attached by a slip-string from one leg to
the falconer’s wrist. During the night previous to a day’s hunting,
they are not allowed to sleep. Each falconer lies down with one falcon
on his left wrist, and keeps up an incessant tapping with the other on
the bird’s head. This is done to make them fierce. Should the quarry
escape, a hare’s skin is thrown down, by which means the falcons are
secured, and made ready for a further flight. Occasionally, but
rarely, the falcon misses its blow at the hare, with the result of a
broken or injured “arm.”

[52] Abstinence from wine and meat, and celibacy, are among the most
important dogmas of the Buddhist church, as specially applied to its
priesthood. At the door of every Buddhist monastery may be seen a
notice that “No wine or meat may enter here!” Even the laity are not
supposed to drink wine.

[53] Having renewed his youth by assuming the body of the young man
into which his soul had entered.



VII.

THE MARRIAGE OF THE FOX’S DAUGHTER.


A president of the Board of Civil Office,[54] named Yin, and a native
of Li-ch‘êng, when a young man, was very badly off, but was endowed
with considerable physical courage. Now in his part of the country
there was a large establishment, covering several acres, with an
unbroken succession of pavilions and verandahs, and belonging to one
of the old county families; but because ghosts and apparitions were
frequently seen there, the place had for a long time remained
untenanted, and was overgrown with grass and weeds, no one venturing
to enter in even in broad daylight. One evening when Yin was carousing
with some fellow-students, one of them jokingly said, “If anybody will
pass a night in the haunted house, the rest of us will stand him a
dinner.” Mr. Yin jumped up at this, and cried out, “What is there
difficult in that?” So, taking with him a sleeping-mat, he proceeded
thither, escorted by all his companions as far as the door, where
they laughed and said, “We will wait here a little while. In case you
see anything, shout out to us at once.” “If there are any goblins or
foxes,” replied Yin, “I’ll catch them for you.” He then went in, and
found the paths obliterated by long grass, which had sprung up,
mingled with weeds of various kinds. It was just the time of the new
moon, and by its feeble light he was able to make out the door of the
house. Feeling his way, he walked on until he reached the back
pavilion, and then went up on to the Moon Terrace, which was such a
pleasant spot that he determined to stop there. Gazing westwards, he
sat for a long time looking at the moon--a single thread of light
embracing in its horns the peak of a hill--without hearing anything at
all unusual; so, laughing to himself at the nonsense people talked, he
spread his mat upon the floor, put a stone under his head for a
pillow, and lay down to sleep. He had watched the Cow-herd and the
Lady[55] until they were just disappearing, and was on the point of
dropping off, when suddenly he heard footsteps down below coming up
the stairs. Pretending to be asleep, he saw a servant enter, carrying
in his hand a lotus-shaped lantern,[56] who, on observing Mr. Yin,
rushed back in a fright, and said to someone behind, “There is a
stranger here!” The person spoken to asked who it was, but the servant
did not know; and then up came an old gentleman, who, after examining
Mr. Yin closely, said, “It’s the future President: he’s as drunk as
can be. We needn’t mind him; besides, he’s a good fellow, and won’t
give us any trouble.” So they walked in and opened all the doors; and
by-and-by there were a great many other people moving about, and
quantities of lamps were lighted, till the place was as light as day.
About this time Mr. Yin slightly changed his position, and sneezed;
upon which the old man, perceiving that he was awake, came forward and
fell down on his knees, saying, “Sir, I have a daughter who is to be
married this very night. It was not anticipated that Your Honour would
be here. I pray, therefore, that we may be excused.” Mr. Yin got up
and raised the old man, regretting that, in his ignorance of the
festive occasion, he had brought with him no present.[57] “Ah, Sir,”
replied the old man, “your very presence here will ward off all
noxious influences; and that is quite enough for us.” He then begged
Mr. Yin to assist in doing the honours, and thus double the obligation
already conferred. Mr. Yin readily assented, and went inside to look
at the gorgeous arrangements they had made. He was here met by a lady,
apparently about forty years of age, whom the old gentleman introduced
as his wife; and he had hardly made his bow when he heard the sound of
flageolets,[58] and someone came hurrying in, saying, “He has come!”
The old gentleman flew out to meet this personage, and Mr. Yin also
stood up, awaiting his arrival. In no long time, a bevy of people with
gauze lanterns ushered in the bridegroom himself, who seemed to be
about seventeen or eighteen years old, and of a most refined and
prepossessing appearance. The old gentleman bade him pay his respects
first to their worthy guest; and upon his looking towards Mr. Yin,
that gentleman came forward to welcome him on behalf of the host. Then
followed ceremonies between the old man and his son-in-law; and when
these were over, they all sat down to supper. Hosts of waiting-maids
brought in profuse quantities of wine and meats, with bowls and cups
of jade or gold, till the table glittered again. And when the wine had
gone round several times, the old gentleman told one of the maids to
summon the bride. This she did, but some time passed and no bride
came. So the old man rose and drew aside the curtain, pressing the
young lady to come forth; whereupon a number of women escorted out the
bride, whose ornaments went _tinkle tinkle_ as she walked along, sweet
perfumes being all the time diffused around. Her father told her to
make the proper salutation, after which she went and sat by her
mother. Mr. Yin took a glance at her, and saw that she wore on her
head beautiful ornaments made of kingfisher’s feathers, her beauty
quite surpassing anything he had ever seen. All this time they had
been drinking their wine out of golden goblets big enough to hold
several pints, when it flashed across him that one of these goblets
would be a capital thing to carry back to his companions in evidence
of what he had seen. So he secreted it in his sleeve, and, pretending
to be tipsy,[59] leaned forward with his head upon the table as if
going off to sleep. “The gentleman is drunk,” said the guests; and
by-and-by Mr. Yin heard the bridegroom take his leave, and there was a
general trooping downstairs to the tune of a wedding march. When they
were all gone the old gentleman collected the goblets, one of which
was missing, though they hunted high and low to find it. Someone
mentioned the sleeping guest; but the old gentleman stopped him at
once for fear Mr. Yin should hear, and before long silence reigned
throughout. Mr. Yin then arose. It was dark, and he had no light; but
he could detect the lingering smell of the food, and the place was
filled with the fumes of wine. Faint streaks of light now appearing in
the east, he began quietly to make a move, having first satisfied
himself that the goblet was still in his sleeve. Arriving at the door,
he found his friends already there; for they had been afraid he might
come out after they left, and go in again early in the morning. When
he produced the goblet they were all lost in astonishment; and on
hearing his story, they were fain to believe it, well knowing that a
poor student like Yin was not likely to have such a valuable piece of
plate in his possession.

Later on Mr. Yin took his doctor’s degree, and was appointed
magistrate over the district of Fei-ch‘iu, where there was an
old-established family of the name of Chu. The head of the family
asked him to a banquet in honour of his arrival, and ordered the
servants to bring in the large goblets. After some delay a slave-girl
came and whispered something to her master which seemed to make him
very angry. Then the goblets were brought in, and Mr. Yin was invited
to drink. He now found that these goblets were of precisely the same
shape and pattern as the one he had at home, and at once begged his
host to tell him where he had had these made. “Well,” said Mr. Chu,
“there should be eight of them. An ancestor of mine had them made,
when he was a minister at the capital, by an experienced artificer.
They have been handed down in our family from generation to
generation, and have now been carefully laid by for some time; but I
thought we would have them out to-day as a compliment to your Honour.
However, there are only seven to be found. None of the servants can
have touched them, for the old seals of ten years ago are still upon
the box, unbroken. I don’t know what to make of it.” Mr. Yin laughed,
and said, “It must have flown away! Still, it is a pity to lose an
heir-loom of that kind; and as I have a very similar one at home, I
shall take upon myself to send it to you.” When the banquet was over,
Mr. Yin went home, and taking out his own goblet, sent it off to Mr.
Chu. The latter was somewhat surprised to find that it was identical
with his own, and hurried away to thank the magistrate for his gift,
asking him at the same time how it had come into his possession. Mr.
Yin told him the whole story, which proves conclusively that although
a fox may obtain possession of a thing, even at a distance of many
hundred miles, he will not venture to keep it altogether.[60]


FOOTNOTES:

[54] One of the “Six Boards” at the capital, equivalent to our own War
Office, Board of Works, etc.

[55] The Chinese names for two stars: βγ Aquila and α Lyra.

[56] Lanterns very prettily made to resemble all kinds of flowers are
to be seen at the Chinese New Year.

[57] This is, as with us, obligatory on all friends invited to a
marriage.

[58] The accompaniment of all weddings and funerals in China.

[59] The soberest people in the world, amongst whom anything like
sottishness is comparatively unknown, think it no disgrace, but rather
complimentary, to get pleasantly tipsy on all festive occasions; and
people who are physically unable to do so, frequently go so far as to
hire substitutes to drink for them. Mandarins especially suffer very
much from the custom of being obliged to “take wine” with a large
number of guests. For further on this subject, see No. LIV., note 292.

[60] The wedding-party was, of course, composed entirely of foxes;
this animal being believed by the Chinese to be capable of appearing
at will under the human form, and of doing either good or evil to its
friends or foes. These facts will be prominently brought out in
several of the stories to follow.



VIII.

MISS CHIAO-NO.


K‘ung Hsüeh-li was a descendant of Confucius.[61] He was a man of
considerable ability, and an excellent poet.[62] A fellow-student, to
whom he was much attached, became magistrate at T‘ien-t‘ai, and sent
for K‘ung to join him. Unfortunately, just before K‘ung arrived his
friend died, and he found himself without the means of returning home;
so he took up his abode in a Buddhist monastery, where he was employed
in transcribing for the priests. Several hundred paces to the west of
this monastery there was a house belonging to a Mr. Shan, a gentleman
who had known better days, but who had spent all his money in a heavy
law-suit; and then, as his family was a small one, had gone away to
live in the country and left his house vacant. One day there was a
heavy fall of snow which kept visitors away from the monastery; and
K‘ung, finding it dull, went out. As he was passing by the door of the
house above-mentioned, a young man of very elegant appearance came
forth, who, the moment he saw K‘ung, ran up to him, and with a bow,
entered into conversation, asking him to be pleased to walk in. K‘ung
was much taken with the young man, and followed him inside. The rooms
were not particularly large, but adorned throughout with embroidered
curtains, and from the walls hung scrolls and drawings by celebrated
masters. On the table lay a book, the title of which was, “Jottings
from Paradise;” and turning over its leaves, K‘ung found therein many
strange things. He did not ask the young man his name, presuming that
as he lived in the Shan family mansion, he was necessarily the owner
of the place. The young man, however, inquired what he was doing in
that part of the country, and expressed great sympathy with his
misfortunes, recommending him to set about taking pupils. “Alas!” said
K‘ung, “who will play the Mæcenas to a distressed wayfarer like
myself?” “If,” replied the young man, “you would condescend so far, I
for my part would gladly seek instruction at your hands.” K‘ung was
much gratified at this, but said he dared not arrogate to himself the
position of teacher, and begged merely to be considered as the young
man’s friend. He then asked him why the house had been shut up for so
long; to which the young man replied, “This is the Shan family
mansion. It has been closed all this time because of the owner’s
removal into the country. My surname is Huang-fu, and my home is in
Shen-si; but as our house has been burnt down in a great fire, we have
put up here for a while.” Thus Mr. K‘ung found out that his name was
not Shan. That evening they spent in laughing and talking together,
and K‘ung remained there for the night. In the morning a lad came in
to light the fire; and the young man, rising first, went into the
private part of the house. Mr. K‘ung was sitting up with the
bed-clothes still huddled round him, when the lad looked in and said,
“Master’s coming!” So he jumped up with a start, and in came an old
man with a silvery beard, who began to thank him, saying, “I am very
much obliged to you for your condescension in becoming my son’s tutor.
At present he writes a villainous hand; and I can only hope you will
not allow the ties of friendship to interfere with discipline.”
Thereupon, he presented Mr. K‘ung with an embroidered suit of clothes,
a sable hat, and a set of shoes and stockings; and when the latter had
washed and dressed himself he called for wine and food. K‘ung could
not make out what the valances of the chairs and tables were made of:
they were so very bright-coloured and dazzling. By-and-by, when the
wine had circulated several times, the old gentleman picked up his
walking-stick and took his leave. After breakfast, the young man
handed in his theme, which turned out to be written in an archaic
style, and not at all after the modern fashion of essay-writing. K‘ung
asked him why he had done this, to which the young man replied that he
did not contemplate competing at the public examinations. In the
evening they had another drinking-bout, but it was agreed that there
should be no more of it after that night. The young man then called
the boy and told him to see if his father was asleep or not; adding,
that if he was, he might quietly summon Miss Perfume. The boy went
off, first taking a guitar out of a very pretty case; and in a few
minutes in came a very nice-looking young girl. The young man bade
her play the _Death of Shun_;[63] and seizing an ivory plectrum she
swept the chords, pouring forth a vocal melody of exquisite sweetness
and pathos. He then gave her a goblet of wine to drink, and it was
midnight before they parted. Next morning they got up early and
settled down to work. The young man proved an apt scholar; he could
remember what he had once read, and at the end of two or three months
had made astonishing progress. Then they agreed that every five days
they would indulge in a symposium, and that Miss Perfume should always
be of the party. One night when the wine had gone into K‘ung’s head,
he seemed to be lost in a reverie; whereupon his young friend, who
knew what was the matter with him, said, “This girl was brought up by
my father. I know you find it lonely, and I have long been looking out
for a nice wife for you.” “Let her only resemble Miss Perfume,” said
K‘ung, “and she will do.” “Your experience,” said the young man,
laughing, “is but limited, and, consequently, anything is a surprise
to you. If Miss Perfume is your _beau ideal_, why it will not be
difficult to satisfy you.”

Some six months had passed away, when one day Mr. K‘ung took it into
his head that he would like to go out for a stroll in the country. The
entrance, however, was carefully closed; and on asking the reason, the
young man told him that his father wished to receive no guests for
fear of causing interruption to his studies. So K‘ung thought no more
about it; and by-and-by, when the heat of summer came on, they moved
their study to a pavilion in the garden. At this time Mr. K‘ung had a
swelling on the chest about as big as a peach, which, in a single
night, increased to the size of a bowl. There he lay groaning with the
pain, while his pupil waited upon him day and night. He slept badly
and took hardly any food; and in a few days the place got so much
worse that he could neither eat nor drink. The old gentleman also came
in, and he and his son lamented over him together. Then the young man
said, “I was thinking last night that my sister, Chiao-no, would be
able to cure Mr. K‘ung, and accordingly I sent over to my
grandmother’s asking her to come. She ought to be here by now.” At
that moment a servant entered and announced Miss Chiao-no, who had
come with her cousin, having been at her aunt’s house. Her father and
brother ran out to meet her, and then brought her in to see Mr. K‘ung.
She was between thirteen and fourteen years old, and had beautiful
eyes with a very intelligent expression in them, and a most graceful
figure besides. No sooner had Mr. K‘ung beheld this lovely creature
than he quite forgot to groan, and began to brighten up. Meanwhile the
young man was saying, “This respected friend of mine is the same to
me as a brother. Try, sister, to cure him.” Miss Chiao-no immediately
dismissed her blushes, and rolling up her long sleeves approached the
bed to feel his pulse.[64] As she was grasping his wrist, K‘ung became
conscious of a perfume more delicate than that of the epidendrum; and
then she laughed, saying, “This illness was to be expected; for the
heart is touched. Though it is severe, a cure can be effected; but, as
there is already a swelling, not without using the knife.” Then she
drew from her arm a gold bracelet which she pressed down upon the
suffering spot, until by degrees the swelling rose within the bracelet
and overtopped it by an inch and more, the outlying parts that were
inflamed also passing under, and thus very considerably reducing the
extent of the tumour. With one hand she opened her robe and took out a
knife with an edge as keen as paper, and pressing the bracelet down
all the time with the other, proceeded to cut lightly round near the
root of the swelling. The dark blood gushed forth, and stained the bed
and the mat; but Mr. K‘ung was delighted to be near such a
beauty,--not only felt no pain, but would willingly have continued the
operation that she might sit by him a little longer. In a few moments
the whole thing was removed, and the place looked like the knot on a
tree where a branch has been cut away. Here Miss Chiao-no called for
water to wash the wound, and from between her lips she took a red pill
as big as a bullet, which she laid upon the flesh, and, after drawing
the skin together, passed round and round the place. The first turn
felt like the searing of a hot iron; the second like a gentle itching;
and at the third he experienced a sensation of lightness and coolness
which penetrated into his very bones and marrow. The young lady then
returned the pill to her mouth, and said, “He is cured,” hurrying away
as fast as she could. Mr. K‘ung jumped up to thank her, and found that
his complaint had quite disappeared. Her beauty, however, had made
such an impression on him that his troubles were hardly at an end.
From this moment he gave up his books, and took no interest in
anything. This state of things was soon noticed by the young man, who
said to him, “My brother, I have found a fine match for you.” “Who is
it to be?” asked K‘ung. “Oh, one of the family,” replied his friend.
Thereupon Mr. K‘ung remained some time lost in thought, and at length
said, “Please don’t!” Then turning his face to the wall, he repeated
these lines:--

   “Speak not of lakes and streams to him who once has seen the sea;
    The clouds that circle Wu’s peak are the only clouds for me.”

The young man guessed to whom he was alluding, and replied, “My father
has a very high opinion of your talents, and would gladly receive you
into the family, but that he has only one daughter, and she is much
too young. My cousin, Ah-sung, however, is seventeen years old, and
not at all a bad-looking girl. If you doubt my word, you can wait in
the verandah until she takes her daily walk in the garden, and thus
judge for yourself.” This Mr. K‘ung acceded to, and accordingly saw
Miss Chiao-no come out with a lovely girl--her black eyebrows
beautifully arched, and her tiny feet encased in phœnix-shaped
shoes--as like one another as they well could be. He was of course
delighted, and begged the young man to arrange all preliminaries; and
the very next day his friend came to tell him that the affair was
finally settled. A portion of the house was given up to the bride and
bridegroom, and the marriage was celebrated with plenty of music and
hosts of guests, more like a fairy wedding than anything else. Mr.
K‘ung was very happy, and began to think that the position of Paradise
had been wrongly laid down, until one day the young man came to him
and said, “For the trouble you have been at in teaching me, I shall
ever remain your debtor. At the present moment, the Shan family
law-suit has been brought to a termination, and they wish to resume
possession of their house immediately. We therefore propose returning
to Shen-si, and as it is unlikely that you and I will ever meet again,
I feel very sorrowful at the prospect of parting.” Mr. K‘ung replied
that he would go too, but the young man advised him to return to his
old home. This, he observed, was no easy matter; upon which the young
man said, “Don’t let that trouble you: I will see you safe there.”
By-and-by his father came in with Mr. K‘ung’s wife, and presented Mr.
K‘ung with one hundred ounces of gold; and then the young man gave the
husband and wife each one of his hands to grasp, bidding them shut
their eyes. The next instant they were floating away in the air, with
the wind whizzing in their ears. In a little while he said, “You have
arrived,” and opening his eyes, K‘ung beheld his former home. Then he
knew that the young man was not a human being. Joyfully he knocked at
the old door, and his mother was astonished to see him arrive with
such a nice wife. They were all rejoicing together, when he turned
round and found that his friend had disappeared. His wife attended on
her mother-in-law with great devotion, and acquired a reputation both
for virtue and beauty, which was spread round far and near. Some time
passed away, and then Mr. K‘ung took his doctor’s degree, and was
appointed Governor of the Gaol in Yen-ngan. He proceeded to his post
with his wife only, the journey being too long for his mother, and
by-and-by a son was born. Then he got into trouble by being too honest
an official, and threw up his appointment; but had not the wherewithal
to get home again. One day when out hunting he met a handsome young
man riding on a nice horse, and seeing that he was staring very hard
looked closely at him. It was young Huang-fu. So they drew bridle, and
fell to laughing and crying by turns,--the young man then inviting
K‘ung to go along with him. They rode on together until they had
reached a village thickly shaded with trees, so that the sun and sky
were invisible overhead, and entered into a most elaborately-decorated
mansion, such as might belong to an old-established family. K‘ung
asked after Miss Chiao-no, and heard that she was married; also that
his own mother-in-law was dead, at which tidings he was greatly moved.
Next day he went back and returned again with his wife. Chiao-no also
joined them, and taking up K‘ung’s child played with it, saying, “Your
mother played us truant.” Mr. K‘ung did not forget to thank her for
her former kindness to him, to which she replied, “You’re a great man
now. Though the wound has healed, haven’t you forgotten the pain yet?”
Her husband, too, came to pay his respects, returning with her on the
following morning. One day the young Huang-fu seemed troubled in
spirit, and said to Mr. K‘ung, “A great calamity is impending. Can you
help us?” Mr. K‘ung did not know what he was alluding to, but readily
promised his assistance. The young man then ran out and summoned the
whole family to worship in the ancestral hall, at which Mr. K‘ung was
alarmed, and asked what it all meant. “You know,” answered the young
man, “I am not a man but a fox. To-day we shall be attacked by
thunder;[65] and if only you will aid us in our trouble, we may still
hope to escape. If you are unwilling, take your child and go, that you
may not be involved with us.” Mr. K‘ung protested he would live or die
with them, and so the young man placed him with a sword at the door,
bidding him remain quiet there in spite of all the thunder. He did as
he was told, and soon saw black clouds obscuring the light until it
was all as dark as pitch. Looking round, he could see that the house
had disappeared, and that its place was occupied by a huge mound and a
bottomless pit. In the midst of his terror, a fearful peal was heard
which shook the very hills, accompanied by a violent wind and driving
rain. Old trees were torn up, and Mr. K‘ung became both dazed and
deaf. Yet he stood firm until he saw in a dense black column of smoke
a horrid thing with a sharp beak and long claws, with which it
snatched some one from the hole, and was disappearing up with the
smoke. In an instant K‘ung knew by her clothes and shoes that the
victim was no other than Chiao-no, and instantly jumping up he struck
the devil violently with his sword, and cut it down. Immediately the
mountains were riven, and a sharp peal of thunder laid K‘ung dead upon
the ground. Then the clouds cleared away, and Chiao-no gradually came
round, to find K‘ung dead at her feet. She burst out crying at the
sight, and declared that she would not live since K‘ung had died for
her. K‘ung’s wife also came out, and they bore the body inside.
Chiao-no then made Ah-sung hold her husband’s head, while her brother
prised open his teeth with a hair-pin, and she herself arranged his
jaw. She next put a red pill into his mouth, and bending down breathed
into him. The pill went along with the current of air, and presently
there was a gurgle in his throat, and he came round. Seeing all the
family about him, he was disturbed as if waking from a dream. However
they were all united together, and fear gave place to joy; but Mr.
K‘ung objected to live in that out-of-the-way place, and proposed that
they should return with him to his native village. To this they were
only too pleased to assent--all except Chiao-no; and when Mr. K‘ung
invited her husband, Mr. Wu, as well, she said she feared her father
and mother-in-law would not like to lose the children. They had tried
all day to persuade her, but without success, when suddenly in rushed
one of the Wu family’s servants, dripping with perspiration and quite
out of breath. They asked what was the matter, and the servant replied
that the Wu family had been visited by a calamity on the very same
day, and had every one perished. Chiao-no cried very bitterly at this,
and could not be comforted; but now there was nothing to prevent them
from all returning together. Mr. K‘ung went into the city for a few
days on business, and then they set to work packing-up night and day.
On arriving at their destination, separate apartments were allotted to
young Mr. Huang-fu, and these he kept carefully shut up, only opening
the door to Mr. K‘ung and his wife.

Mr. K‘ung amused himself with the young man and his sister Chiao-no,
filling up the time with chess,[66] wine, conversation, and good
cheer, as if they had been one family. His little boy, Huan, grew up
to be a handsome young man, with a fox-like _penchant_ for roaming
about; and it was generally known that he was actually the son of a
fox.


FOOTNOTES:

[61] Lineal descendants of Confucius are to be found at this day near
their founder’s mausoleum in Shantung. The head of the family is a
hereditary _kung_ or “duke,” and each member enjoys a share of the
revenues with which the family has been endowed, in well-merited
recognition of the undying influence of China’s greatest sage.

[62] More or less proficiency in the art of poetry is an absolutely
essential qualification for all who present themselves at the great
competitive tests by which successful candidates are admitted to
Chinese official life. [See _Appendix_ A.] The following anecdote is
given by the London correspondent of the _Leeds Mercury_:--

“The new Chinese ambassador in this country is a man of considerable
literary ability, and perhaps one of the few diplomatists since the
days of Matthew Prior (Lord Lytton alone excepted) who has achieved
distinction as a poet. Shortly after his arrival in this country, he
expressed a wish to become acquainted with the principal English
poets, and as Mr. Browning is more accessible and more a man of the
world than the Poet Laureate, an arrangement was made the other day by
which the two should be brought in contact with one another. After the
mutual courtesies, Mr. Browning having learnt that His Excellency was
also a poet, expressed a desire to know how much he had published.
“Only three or four volumes,” was the reply, through the interpreter.
“Then,” said Mr. Browning, “I am a greater offender than His
Excellency, and unequal to him in self-restraint. What kind of poetry
does His Excellency write: pastoral, humorous, epic or what?” There
was a pause for a short time. At length the interpreter said that His
Excellency thought his poetry would be better described as the
“enigmatic.” “Surely,” replied Mr. Browning, “there ought then to be
the deepest sympathy between us, for that is just the criticism which
is brought against my own works; and I believe it to be a just one.””

[63] One of the two celebrated but legendary rulers of China in the
golden ages of antiquity. Yao--who died B.C. 2258--nominated as his
successor a young and virtuous husbandman named Shun, giving him both
his daughters in marriage. At the death of Shun, these ladies are said
to have wept so much that their tears literally drenched the bamboos
which grew beside their husband’s grave; and the speckled bamboo is
now commonly known as the bamboo of Shun’s wives.

[64] Volumes have been written by Chinese doctors on the subject of
the pulse. They profess to distinguish as many as twenty-four
different kinds, among which is one well known to our own
practitioners--namely, the “thready” pulse; they, moreover, make a
point of feeling the pulses of _both_ wrists.

[65] The Chinese believe that wicked people are struck by the God of
Thunder, and killed in punishment for some hidden crime. They regard
lightning merely as an arrangement by which the God is enabled to see
his victim.

[66] Chinese “chess” is similar to, but not identical with, our game.
The board is divided by a river, and the king is confined to a small
square of moves on his own territory. The game _par excellence_ in
China is _wei-ch‘i_, an account of which I contributed to the _Temple
Bar_ Magazine for January, 1877.



IX.

MAGICAL ARTS.


A certain Mr. Yü was a spirited young fellow, fond of boxing and
trials of strength. He was able to take two kettles and swing them
round about with the speed of the wind. Now, during the reign of
Ch‘ung Chêng,[67] when up for the final examination at the capital,
his servant became seriously ill. Much troubled at this, he applied to
a necromancer in the market-place[68] who was skilful at determining
the various leases of life allotted to men. Before he had uttered a
word, the necromancer asked him, saying, “Is it not about your
servant, Sir, that you would consult me?” Mr. Yü was startled at this,
and replied that it was. “The sick man,” continued the necromancer,
“will come to no harm; you, Sir, are the one in danger.” Mr. Yü then
begged him to cast his nativity, which he proceeded to do, finally
saying to Mr. Yü, “You have but three days to live!” Dreadfully
frightened, he remained some time in a state of stupefaction, when the
necromancer quietly observed that he possessed the power of averting
this calamity by magic, and would exert it for the sum of ten ounces
of silver. But Mr. Yü reflected that Life and Death are already
fixed,[69] and he didn’t see how magic could save him. So he refused,
and was just going away, whereupon the necromancer said, “You grudge
this trifling outlay. I hope you will not repent it.” Mr. Yü’s friends
also urged him to pay the money, advising him rather to empty his
purse than not secure the necromancer’s compassion. Mr. Yü, however,
would not hear of it and the three days slipped quickly away. Then he
sat down calmly in his inn to see what was going to happen. Nothing
did happen all day, and at night he shut his door and trimmed the
lamp; then, with a sword at his side, he awaited the approach of
death.

By-and-by, the clepsydra[70] shewed that two hours had already gone
without bringing him any nearer to dissolution; and he was thinking
about lying down, when he heard a scratching at the window, and then
saw a tiny little man creep through, carrying a spear on his shoulder,
who, on reaching the ground, shot up to the ordinary height. Mr. Yü
seized his sword and at once struck at it; but only succeeded in
cutting the air. His visitor instantly shrunk down small again, and
made an attempt to escape through the crevice of the window; but Yü
redoubled his blows and at last brought him to the ground. Lighting
the lamp, he found only a paper man,[71] cut right through the middle.
This made him afraid to sleep, and he sat up watching, until in a
little time he saw a horrid hobgoblin creep through the same place. No
sooner did it touch the ground than he assailed it lustily with his
sword, at length cutting it in half. Seeing, however, that both halves
kept on wriggling about, and fearing that it might get up again, he
went on hacking at it. Every blow told, giving forth a hard sound, and
when he came to examine his work, he found a clay image all knocked to
pieces. Upon this he moved his seat near to the window, and kept his
eye fixed upon the crack. After some time, he heard a noise like a
bull bellowing outside the window, and something pushed against the
window-frame with such force as to make the whole house tremble and
seem about to fall. Mr. Yü, fearing he should be buried under the
ruins, thought he could not do better than fight outside; so he
accordingly burst open the door with a crash and rushed out. There he
found a huge devil, as tall as the house, and he saw by the dim light
of the moon that its face was as black as coal. Its eyes shot forth
yellow fire: it had nothing either upon its shoulders or feet; but
held a bow in its hand and had some arrows at its waist. Mr. Yü was
terrified; and the devil discharged an arrow at him which he struck to
the ground with his sword. On Mr. Yü preparing to strike, the devil
let off another arrow which the former avoided by jumping aside, the
arrow quivering in the wall beyond with a smart crack. The devil here
got very angry, and drawing his sword flourished it like a whirlwind,
aiming a tremendous blow at Mr. Yü. Mr. Yü ducked, and the whole force
of the blow fell upon the stone wall of the house, cutting it right in
two. Mr. Yü then ran out from between the devil’s legs, and began
hacking at its back--whack!--whack! The devil now became furious, and
roared like thunder, turning round to get another blow at his
assailant. But Mr. Yü again ran between his legs, the devil’s sword
merely cutting off a piece of his coat. Once more he hacked
away--whack!--whack!--and at length the devil came tumbling down flat.
Mr. Yü cut at him right and left, each blow resounding like the
watchman’s wooden gong;[72] and then, bringing a light, he found it
was a wooden image about as tall as a man. The bow and arrows were
still there, the latter attached to its waist. Its carved and painted
features were most hideous to behold; and wherever Mr. Yü had struck
it with his sword, there was blood. Mr. Yü sat with the light in his
hand till morning, when he awaked to the fact that all these devils
had been sent by the necromancer in order to kill him, and so evidence
his own magical power. The next day, after having told the story far
and wide, he went with some others to the place where the necromancer
had his stall; but the latter, seeing them coming, vanished in the
twinkling of an eye. Some one observed that the blood of a dog would
reveal a person who had made himself invisible, and Mr. Yü immediately
procured some and went back with it. The necromancer disappeared as
before, but on the spot where he had been standing they quickly threw
down the dog’s blood. Thereupon they saw his head and face all smeared
over with the blood, his eyes glaring like a devil’s; and at once
seizing him, they handed him over to the authorities, by whom he was
put to death.


FOOTNOTES:

[67] The last emperor of the Ming dynasty. Began to reign A.D. 1628.

[68] The trade of fortune-teller is one of the most flourishing in
China. A large majority of the candidates who are unsuccessful at the
public examinations devote their energies in this direction; and in
every Chinese city there are regular establishments whither the
superstitious people repair to consult the oracle on every imaginable
subject; not to mention hosts of itinerant soothsayers, both in town
and country, whose stock-in-trade consists of a trestle-table, pen,
ink, and paper, and a few other mysterious implements of their art.
The nature of the response, favourable or otherwise, is determined by
an inspection of the year, month, day and hour at which the applicant
was born, taken in combination with other particulars referring to the
question at issue.

[69] A firm belief in predestination is an important characteristic of
the Chinese mind. “All is destiny” is a phrase daily in the mouth of
every man, woman, and child, in the empire. Confucius himself, we are
told, objected to discourse to his disciples upon this topic; but it
is evident from many passages in the _Lun Yü_, or _Confucian Gospels_,
[Book VI. ch. 8., Book XIV. ch. 38, &c.] that he believed in a certain
pre-arrangement of human affairs, against which all efforts would be
unavailing.

[70] An appliance of very ancient date in China, now superseded by
cheap clocks and watches. A large clepsydra, consisting of four copper
jars standing on steps one above the other, is still, however, to be
seen in the city of Canton, and is in excellent working order, the
night-watches being determined by reference to its indicator in the
lower jar. By its aid, coils of “joss-stick,” or pastille, are
regulated to burn so many hours, and are sold to the poor, who use
them both for the purpose of guiding their extremely vague notions of
time, and for the oft-recurring tobacco-pipe.

[71] “Paper men” are a source of great dread to the people at large.
During the year 1876 whole provinces were convulsed by the belief that
some such superstitious agency was at work to deprive innocent persons
of their tails; and the so-called “Pope” of the Taoist religion even
went so far as to publish a charm against the machinations of the
unseen. It ran as follows:--“Ye who urge filthy devils to spy out the
people!--the Master’s spirits are at hand and will soon discover you.
With this charm anyone may travel by sunlight, moonlight, or starlight
all over the earth.” At one time popular excitement ran so high that
serious consequences were anticipated; and the mandarins in the
affected districts found it quite as much as they could do to prevent
lynch-law being carried out on harmless strangers who were unlucky
enough to give rise to the slightest suspicion.

Taoist priests are generally credited with the power of cutting out
human, animal, or other figures, of infusing vitality into them on the
spot, and of employing them for purposes of good or evil.

[72] Watchmen in China, when on their nightly rounds, keep up an
incessant beating on what, for want of a better term, we have called a
wooden gong. The object is to let thieves know they are awake and on
the look-out.



X.

JOINING THE IMMORTALS.


A Mr. Chou, of Wên-têng, had in his youth been fellow-student with a
Mr. Ch‘êng, and a firm friendship was the result. The latter was poor,
and depended very much upon Chou, who was the elder of the two. He
called Chou’s wife his “sister,” and had the run of the house just as
if he was one of the family. Now this wife happening to die in
child-bed, Chou married another named Wang; but as she was quite a
young girl, Ch‘êng did not seek to be introduced.[73] One day her
younger brother came to visit her, and was being entertained in the
“inner” apartments[74] when Ch‘êng chanced to call. The servant
announced his arrival, and Chou bade him ask Mr. Ch‘êng in. But Ch‘êng
would not enter, and took his leave. Thereupon Chou caused the
entertainment to be moved into the public part of the house, and,
sending after Ch‘êng, succeeded in bringing him back. They had hardly
sat down before some one came in to say that a former servant of the
establishment had been severely beaten at the magistrate’s yamên; the
facts of the case being that a cow-boy of the Huang family connected
with the Board of Rites had driven his cattle across the Chou family’s
land, and that words had arisen between the two servants in
consequence; upon which the Huang family’s servant had complained to
his master, who had seized the other and had sent him in to the
magistrate’s, where he had been bambooed. When Mr. Chou found out what
the matter was, he was exceedingly angry, and said, “How dares this
pig-boy fellow behave thus? Why, only a generation ago his master was
my father’s servant! He emerges a little from his obscurity, and
immediately thinks himself I don’t know what!” Swelling with rage, he
rose to go in quest of Huang, but Ch‘êng held him back, saying, “The
age is corrupt: there is no distinction between right and wrong.
Besides, the officials of the day are half of them thieves, and you
will only get yourself into hot water.” Chou, however, would not
listen to him; and it was only when tears were added to remonstrances
that he consented to let the matter drop. But his anger did not cease,
and he lay tossing and turning all night. In the morning he said to
his family, “I can stand the insults of Mr. Huang; but the magistrate
is an officer of the Government, and not the servant of influential
people. If there is a case of any kind, he should hear both plaintiff
and defendant, and not act like a dog, biting anybody he is set upon.
I will bring an action against the cow-boy, and see what the
magistrate will do to him.” As his family rather egged him on, he
accordingly proceeded to the magistrate’s and entered a formal plaint;
but that functionary tore up his petition, and would have nothing to
do with it. This roused Chou’s anger, and he told the magistrate
plainly what he thought of him, in return for which contempt of court
he was at once seized and bound. During the forenoon Mr. Ch‘êng called
at his house, where he learnt that Chou had gone into the city to
prosecute the cow-boy, and immediately hurried after him with a view
to stop proceedings. But his friend was already in the gaol, and all
he could do was to stamp his foot in anger. Now it happened that three
pirates had just been caught; and the magistrate and Huang, putting
their heads together, bribed these fellows to say that Chou was one of
their gang, whereupon the higher authorities were petitioned to
deprive him of his status as a graduate,[75] and the magistrate then
had him most unmercifully bambooed.[76] Mr. Ch‘êng gained admittance
to the gaol, and, after a painful interview, proposed that a petition
should be presented direct to the Throne. “Alas!” cried Chou, “here
am I bound and guarded, like a bird in a cage. I have indeed a young
brother, but it is as much as he can do to provide me with food.” Then
Ch‘êng stepped forward, saying, “I will perform this service. Of what
use are friends who will not assist in the hour of trouble?” So away
he went, and Chou’s son provided him with money to defray his
expenses. After a long journey he arrived at the capital, where he
found himself quite at a loss as to how he should get the petition
presented. However, hearing that the Emperor was about to set out on a
hunting tour, he concealed himself in the market-place, and when His
Majesty passed by, prostrated himself on the ground with loud cries
and gesticulations. The Emperor received his petition, and sent it to
the Board of Punishments,[77] desiring to be furnished with a report
on the case. It was then more than ten months since the beginning of
the affair, and Chou, who had been made to confess[78] to this false
charge, was already under sentence of death; so that the officers of
the Board were very much alarmed when they received the Imperial
instructions, and set to work to re-hear the case in person. Huang was
also much alarmed, and devised a plan for killing Mr. Chou by bribing
the gaolers to stop his food and drink; so that when his brother
brought provisions he was rudely thrust back and prevented from
taking them in. Mr. Ch‘êng complained of this to the Viceroy of the
province, who investigated the matter himself, and found that Chou was
in the last stage of starvation, for which the gaolers were bambooed
to death. Terrified out of his wits, Huang, by dint of bribing
heavily, succeeded in absconding and escaping a just punishment for
his crimes. The magistrate, however, was banished for perversion of
the law, and Chou was permitted to return home, his affection for
Ch‘êng being now very much increased. But ever after the prosecution
and his friend’s captivity, Mr. Ch‘êng took a dismal view of human
affairs, and one day invited Chou to retire with him from the world.
The latter, who was deeply attached to his young wife, threw cold
water on the proposition, and Mr. Ch‘êng pursued the subject no
farther, though his own mind was fully made up. Not seeing him for
some days afterwards, Mr. Chou sent to inquire about him at his house;
but there they all thought he was at Chou’s, neither family, in fact,
having seen anything of him. This looked suspicious, and Chou, aware
of his peculiarity, sent off people to look for him, bidding them
search all the temples and monasteries in the neighbourhood. He also
from time to time supplied Ch‘êng’s son with money and other
necessaries.

Eight or nine years had passed away when suddenly Ch‘êng re-appeared,
clad in a yellow cap and stole, and wearing the expression of a Taoist
priest. Chou was delighted, and seized his arm, saying, “Where have
you been?--letting me search for you all over the place.” “The
solitary cloud and the wild crane,” replied Ch‘êng, laughing, “have no
fixed place of abode. Since we last met my equanimity has happily been
restored.” Chou then ordered wine, and they chatted together on what
had taken place in the interval. He also tried to persuade Ch‘êng to
detach himself from the Taoist persuasion, but the latter only smiled
and answered nothing. “It is absurd!” argued Chou. “Why cast aside
your wife and child as you would an old pair of shoes?” “Not so,”
answered Ch‘êng; “a man may wish to cast aside his son, but how can he
do so?” Chou asked where he lived, to which he replied, “In the Great
Pure Mansion on Mount Lao.” They then retired to sleep on the same
bed; and by-and-by Chou dreamt that Ch‘êng was lying on his chest so
that he could not breathe. In a fright he asked him what he was doing,
but got no answer; and then he waked up with a start. Calling to
Ch‘êng and receiving no reply, he sat up and stretched out his hand to
touch him. The latter, however, had vanished, he knew not whither.
When he got calm, he found he was lying at Ch‘êng’s end of the bed,
which rather startled him. “I was not tipsy last night,” reflected he;
“how could I have got over here?” He next called his servants, and
when they came and struck a light, lo! he was Ch‘êng. Now Chou had had
a beard, so he put up his hand to feel for it, but found only a few
straggling hairs. He then seized a mirror to look at himself, and
cried out in alarm: “If this is Mr. Ch‘êng, where on earth am I?” By
this time he was wide awake, and knew that Ch‘êng had employed magic
to induce him to retire from the world. He was on the point of
entering the ladies’ apartments; but his brother, not recognising who
he was, stopped him, and would not let him go in; and as he himself
was unable to prove his own identity, he ordered his horse that he
might go in search of Ch‘êng. After some days’ journey he arrived at
Mount Lao; and, as his horse went along at a good rate, the servant
could not keep up with him. By-and-by he rested awhile under a tree,
and saw a great number of Taoist priests going backwards and forwards,
and among them was one who stared fixedly at him. So he inquired of
him where he should find Ch‘êng; whereat the priest laughed and said,
“I know the name. He is probably in the Great Pure Mansion.” When he
had given this answer he went on his way, Chou following him with his
eyes about a stone’s throw, until he saw him speak with some one else,
and, after saying a few words, proceed onwards as before. The person
whom he had spoken with came on to where Chou was, and turned out to
be a fellow-townsman of his. He was much surprised at meeting Chou,
and said, “I haven’t seen you for some years. They told me you had
gone to Mount Lao to be a Taoist priest. How is it you are still
amusing yourself among mortals?” Chou told him who he really was; upon
which the other replied, “Why, I thought the gentleman I just met was
you! He has only just left me, and can’t have got very far.” “Is it
possible,” cried Chou, “that I didn’t know my own face?” Just then
the servant came up, and away they went full speed, but could not
discover the object of their search. All around them was a vast
desert, and they were at a loss whether to go on or to return. But
Chou reflected that he had no longer any home to receive him, and
determined to carry out his design to the bitter end; but as the road
was dangerous for riding, he gave his horse to the servant, and bade
him go back. On he went cautiously by himself, until he spied a boy
sitting by the wayside alone. He hurried up to him and asked the boy
to direct him where he could find Mr. Ch‘êng. “I am one of his
disciples,” replied the lad; and, shouldering Chou’s bundle, started
off to shew the way. They journeyed on together, taking their food by
the light of the stars, and sleeping in the open air, until, after
many miles of road, they arrived in three days at their destination.
But this Great Pure locality was not like that generally spoken of in
the world. Though as late as the middle of the tenth moon, there was a
great profusion of flowers along the road, quite unlike the beginning
of winter. The lad went in and announced the arrival of a stranger,
whereupon Mr. Ch‘êng came out, and Chou recognised his own features.
Ch‘êng grasped his hand and led him inside, where he prepared wine and
food, and they began to converse together. Chou noticed many birds of
strange plumage, so tame that they were not afraid of him; and these
from time to time would alight on the table and sing with voices like
Pan-pipes. He was very much astonished at all this, but a love of
mundane pleasures had eaten into his soul, and he had no intention of
stopping. On the ground were two rush-mats, upon which Ch‘êng invited
his friend to sit down with him. Then about midnight a serene calm
stole over him; and while he was dozing off for a moment, he seemed to
change places with Ch‘êng. Suspecting what had happened, he put his
hand up to his chin, and found it covered with a beard as before. At
dawn he was anxious to return home, but Ch‘êng pressed him to stay;
and when three days had gone by Ch‘êng said to him, “I pray you take a
little rest now: to-morrow I will set you on your way.” Chou had
barely closed his eyelids before he heard Ch‘êng call out, “Everything
is ready for starting!” So he got up and followed him along a road
other than that by which he had come, and in a very short time he saw
his home in the distance. In spite of Chou’s entreaties, Ch‘êng would
not accompany him so far, but made Chou go, waiting himself by the
roadside. So the latter went alone, and when he reached his house,
knocked at the door. Receiving no answer, he determined to get over
the wall, when he found that his body was as light as a leaf, and with
one spring he was over. In the same manner he passed several inner
walls, until he reached the ladies’ apartments, where he saw by the
still burning lamp that the inmates had not yet retired for the night.
Hearing people talking within, he licked a hole in the paper
window[79] and peeped through, and saw his wife sitting drinking with
a most disreputable-looking fellow. Bursting with rage, his first
impulse was to surprise them in the act; but seeing there were two
against one, he stole away and let himself out by the entrance-gate,
hurrying off to Ch‘êng, to whom he related what he had seen, and
finally begged his assistance. Ch‘êng willingly went along with him;
and when they reached the room, Chou seized a big stone and hammered
loudly at the door. All was then confusion inside, so Chou hammered
again, upon which the door was barricaded more strongly than before.
Here Ch‘êng came forward with his sword,[80] and burst the door open
with a crash. Chou rushed in, and the man inside rushed out; but
Ch‘êng was there, and with his sword cut his arm right off. Chou
rudely seized his wife, and asked what it all meant; to which she
replied that the man was a friend who sometimes came to take a cup of
wine with them. Thereupon Chou borrowed Ch‘êng’s sword and cut off her
head,[81] hanging up the trunk on a tree in the court-yard. He then
went back with Ch‘êng. By-and-by he awaked and found himself on the
bed, at which he was somewhat disturbed, and said, “I have had a
strangely-confused dream, which has given me a fright.” “My brother,”
replied Ch‘êng, smiling, “you look upon dreams as realities: you
mistake realities for dreams.” Chou asked what he meant by these
words; and then Ch‘êng shewed him his sword besmeared with blood. Chou
was terrified, and sought to destroy himself; but all at once it
occurred to him that Ch‘êng might be deceiving him again. Ch‘êng
divined his suspicions, and made haste at once to see him home. In a
little while they arrived at the village-gate, and then Ch‘êng said,
“Was it not here that, sword in hand, I awaited you that night? I
cannot look upon the unclean spot. I pray you go on, and let me stay
here. If you do not return by the afternoon, I will depart alone.”
Chou then approached his house, which he found all shut up as if no
one was living there; so he went into his brother’s.

The latter, when he beheld Chou, began to weep bitterly, saying,
“After your departure, thieves broke into the house and killed my
sister-in-law, hanging her body upon a tree. Alas! alas! The murderers
have not yet been caught.” Chou then told him the whole story of his
dream, and begged him to stop further proceedings; at all of which his
brother was perfectly lost in astonishment. Chou then asked after his
son, and his brother told the nurse to bring him in; whereupon the
former said, “Upon this infant are centered the hopes of our
race.[82] Tend him well; for I am going to bid adieu to the world.” He
then took his leave, his brother following him all the time with tears
in his eyes to induce him to remain. But he heeded him not; and when
they reached the village-gate his brother saw him go away with Ch‘êng.
From afar he looked back and said, “Forbear, and be happy!” His
brother would have replied; but here Ch‘êng whisked his sleeve, and
they disappeared. The brother remained there for some time, and then
went back overwhelmed with grief. He was an unpractical man, and
before many years were over all the property was gone and the family
reduced to poverty. Chou’s son, who was growing up, was thus unable to
secure the services of a tutor, and had no one but his uncle to teach
him. One morning, on going into the school-room, the uncle found a
letter lying on his desk addressed to himself in his brother’s
handwriting. There was, however, nothing in it but a finger-nail about
four inches in length. Surprised at this, he laid the nail down on the
ink-slab while he went out to ask whence the letter had come. This no
one knew; but when he went back he found that the ink-stone had been
changed into a piece of shining yellow gold. More than ever
astonished, he tried the nail on copper and iron things, all of which
were likewise turned to gold. He thus became very rich, sharing his
wealth with Chou’s son; and it was bruited about that the two families
possessed the secret of transmutation.[83]


FOOTNOTES:

[73] This is a characteristic touch. Only the most intimate of friends
ever see each other’s wives.

[74] Where the women of the family live, and into which no stranger
ever penetrates. Among other names by which a Chinese husband speaks
of his wife, a very common one is “the inner [wo]man.”

[75] Until which he would be safe, by virtue of his degree, from the
degrading penalty of the bamboo.

[76] This is the instrument commonly used for flogging criminals in
China, and consists of a strip of split bamboo planed down smooth.
Strictly speaking there are two kinds, the _heavy_ and the _light_;
the former is now hardly if ever used. Until the reign of K‘ang Hsi
all strokes were given across the back; but that humane Emperor
removed the _locus operandi_ lower down, “for fear of injuring the
liver or the lungs.”

[77] See No. VII., note 54.

[78] It is a principle of Chinese jurisprudence that no sentence can
be passed until the prisoner has confessed his guilt--a principle,
however, not unfrequently set aside in practice.

[79] Wooden frames covered with a semi-transparent paper are used all
over the northern provinces of China; in the south, oyster-shells, cut
square and planed down thin, are inserted tile-fashion in the long
narrow spaces of a wooden frame made to receive them, and used for the
same purpose. But glass is gradually finding its way into the houses
of the well-to-do, large quantities being made at Canton and exported
to various parts of the empire.

[80] Every Taoist priest has a magic sword, corresponding to our
“magician’s wand.”

[81] In China, a man has the right to slay his adulterous wife, but he
must slay her paramour also; both or neither. Otherwise, he lays
himself open to a prosecution for murder. The act completed, he is
further bound to proceed at once to the magistrate of the district and
report what he has done.

[82] The importance of male offspring in Chinese social life is hardly
to be expressed in words. To the son is confided the task of
worshipping at the ancestral tombs, the care of the ancestral tablets,
and the due performance of all rites and ceremonies connected with the
departed dead. No Chinaman will die, if he can help it, without
leaving a son behind him. If his wife is childless he will buy a
concubine; and we are told on page 41, vol. xiii., of the _Liao Chai_,
that a good wife, “who at thirty years of age has not borne a child
should forthwith pawn her jewellery and purchase a concubine for her
husband; for to be without a son is hard indeed!” Another and a common
resource is to adopt a nephew; and sometimes a boy is bought from
starving parents, or from a professional kidnapper. Should a little
boy die, no matter how young, his parents do not permit even him to be
without the good offices of a son. They adopt some other child on his
behalf; and when the latter grows up it becomes his duty to perform
the proper ceremonies at his baby father’s tomb. Girls do not enjoy
the luxury of this sham posterity. They are quietly buried in a hole
near the family vault, and their disembodied spirits are left to
wander about in the realms below uncared for and unappeased. Every
mother, however, shares in the ancestral worship, and her name is
recorded on the tombstone, side by side with that of her husband.
Hence it is that Chinese tombstones are always to the memory either of
a father or of a mother, or of both, with occasionally the addition of
the grandfather and grandmother, and sometimes even that of the
generation preceding.

[83] The belief that a knowledge of alchemy is obtainable by leading
the life of a pure and perfect Taoist, is one of the numerous
additions in later ages to this ancient form of religion. See No. IV.,
note 46.



XI.

THE FIGHTING QUAILS.


Wang Ch‘êng belonged to an old family in P‘ing-yüan, but was such an
idle fellow that his property gradually disappeared, until at length
all he had left was an old tumble-down house. His wife and he slept
under a coarse hempen coverlet, and the former was far from sparing of
her reproaches. At the time of which we are speaking the weather was
unbearably hot; and Wang went to pass the night with many other of his
fellow-villagers in a pavilion which stood among some dilapidated
buildings belonging to a family named Chou. With the first streaks of
dawn his comrades departed; but Wang slept well on till about nine
o’clock, when he got up and proceeded leisurely home. All at once he
saw in the grass a gold hair-pin; and taking it up to look at it,
found engraved thereon in small characters--“The property of the
Imperial family.” Now Wang’s own grandfather had married into the
Imperial family,[84] and consequently he had formerly possessed many
similar articles; but while he was thinking it over up came an old
woman in search of the hair-pin, which Wang, who though poor was
honest, at once produced and handed to her. The old woman was
delighted, and thanked Wang very much for his goodness, observing that
the pin was not worth much in itself, but was a relic of her departed
husband. Wang asked what her husband had been; to which she replied,
“His name was Wang Chien-chih, and he was connected by marriage with
the Imperial family.” “My own grandfather!” cried Wang, in great
surprise; “how could you have known him?” “You, then,” said the old
woman, “are his grandson. I am a fox, and many years ago I was married
to your grandfather; but when he died I retired from the world.
Passing by here I lost my hair-pin, which destiny conveyed into your
hands.” Wang had heard of his grandfather’s fox-wife, and believing
therefore the old woman’s story, invited her to return with him, which
she did. Wang called his wife out to receive her; but when she came in
rags and tatters, with unkempt hair and dirty face, the old woman
sighed, and said, “Alas! Alas! has Wang Chien-chih’s grandson come to
this?” Then looking at the broken, smokeless stove, she added, “How,
under these circumstances, have you managed even to support life?”
Here Wang’s wife told the tale of their poverty, with much sobbing and
tears; whereupon the old woman gave her the hair-pin, bidding her go
pawn it, and with the proceeds buy some food, saying that in three
days she would visit them again. Wang pressed her to stay, but she
said, “You can’t even keep your wife alive; what would it benefit you
to have me also dependent on you?” So she went away, and then Wang
told his wife who she was, at which his wife felt very much alarmed;
but Wang was so loud in her praises, that finally his wife consented
to treat her with all proper respect. In three days she returned as
agreed, and, producing some money, sent out for a hundred-weight of
rice and a hundred-weight of corn. She passed the night with them,
sleeping with Mrs. Wang, who was at first rather frightened, but who
soon laid aside her suspicions when she found that the old lady meant
so well towards them. Next day, the latter addressed Wang, saying, “My
grandson, you must not be so lazy. You should try to make a little
money in some way or other.” Wang replied that he had no capital; upon
which the old lady said, “When your grandfather was alive, he allowed
me to take what money I liked; but not being a mortal, I had no use
for it, and consequently did not draw largely upon him. I have,
however, saved from my pin-money the sum of forty ounces of silver,
which has long been lying idle for want of an investment. Take it, and
buy summer cloth, which you may carry to the capital and re-sell at a
profit.” So Wang bought some fifty pieces of summer cloth; and the old
lady made him get ready, calculating that in six or seven days he
would reach the capital. She also warned him, saying,

          “Be neither lazy nor slow--
   For if a day too long you wait,
   Repentance comes a day too late.”

Wang promised all obedience, and packed up his goods and went off. On
the road he was overtaken by a rain-storm which soaked him through to
the skin; and as he was not accustomed to be out in bad weather, it
was altogether too much for him. He accordingly sought shelter in an
inn, but the rain went on steadily till night, running over the eaves
of the house like so many ropes. Next morning the roads were in a
horrible state; and Wang, watching the passers-by slipping about in
the slush, unable to see any path, dared not face it all, and remained
until noon, when it began to dry up a little. Just then, however, the
clouds closed over again, and down came the rain in torrents, causing
him to stay another night before he could go on. When he was nearing
the capital, he heard to his great joy that summer cloth was at a
premium; and on arrival proceeded at once to take up his quarters at
an inn. There the landlord said it was a pity he had come so late, as
communications with the south having been only recently opened, the
supply of summer cloth had been small; and there being a great demand
for it among the wealthy families of the metropolis, its price had
gone up to three times the usual figure. “But,” he added, “two days
ago several large consignments arrived, and the price went down again,
so that the late comers have lost their market.” Poor Wang was thus
left in the lurch, and as every day more summer cloth came in, the
value of it fell in a corresponding ratio. Wang would not part with
his at a loss, and held on for some ten days, when his expenses for
board and lodging were added to his present distress. The landlord
urged him to sell even at a loss, and turn his attention to something
else, which he ultimately did, losing over ten ounces of silver on his
venture. Next day he rose in the morning to depart, but on looking in
his purse found all his money gone. He rushed away to tell the
landlord, who, however, could do nothing for him. Some one then
advised him to take out a summons and make the landlord reimburse him;
but he only sighed, and said, “It is my destiny, and no fault of the
landlord’s.” Thereupon the landlord was very grateful to him, and gave
him five ounces of silver to enable him to go home. He did not care,
however, to face his grandmother empty-handed, and remained in a very
undecided state, until suddenly he saw a quail-catcher winning heaps
of money by fighting his birds, and selling them at over 100 _cash_
a-piece. He then determined to lay out his five ounces of silver in
quails, and pay back the landlord out of the profits. The latter
approved very highly of this plan, and not only agreed to lend him a
room but also to charge him little or nothing for his board. So Wang
went off rejoicing, and bought two large baskets of quails, with which
he returned to the city, to the great satisfaction of the landlord
who advised him to lose no time in disposing of them. All that night
it poured in torrents, and the next morning the streets were like
rivers, the rain still continuing to fall. Wang waited for it to clear
up, but several days passed and still there were no signs of fine
weather. He then went to look at his quails, some of which he found
dead and others dying. He was much alarmed at this, but was quite at a
loss what to do; and by the next day a lot more had died, so that only
a few were left, which he fed all together in one basket. The day
after this he went again to look at them, and lo! there remained but a
single quail. With tears in his eyes he told the landlord what had
happened, and he, too, was much affected. Wang then reflected that he
had no money left to carry him home, and that he could not do better
than cease to live. But the landlord spoke to him and soothed him, and
they went together to look at the quail. “This is a fine bird,” said
the landlord, “and it strikes me that it has simply killed the others.
Now, as you have got nothing to do, just set to work and train it; and
if it is good for anything, why you’ll be able to make a living out of
it.” Wang did as he was told; and when the bird was trained, the
landlord bade him take it into the street and gamble for something to
eat. This, too, he did, and his quail won every main; whereupon the
landlord gave him some money to bet with the young fellows of the
neighbourhood. Everything turned out favourably, and by the end of six
months he had saved twenty ounces of silver, so that he became quite
easy in his mind and looked upon the quail as a dispensation of his
destiny.

Now one of the princes was passionately fond of quail-fighting, and
always at the Feast of Lanterns anybody who owned quails might go and
fight them in the palace against the prince’s birds. The landlord
therefore said to Wang, “Here is a chance of enriching yourself by a
single stroke; only I can’t say what your luck will do for you.” He
then explained to him what it was, and away they went together, the
landlord saying, “If you lose, burst out into lamentations; but if you
are lucky enough to win, and the prince wishes, as he will, to buy
your bird, don’t consent. If he presses you very much watch for a nod
from me before you agree.” This settled, they proceeded to the palace
where they found crowds of quail-fighters already on the ground; and
then the prince came forth, heralds proclaiming to the multitude that
any who wished to fight their birds might come up. Some man at once
stepped forward, and the prince gave orders for the quails to be
released; but at the first strike the stranger’s quail was knocked out
of time. The prince smiled, and by-and-by won several more mains,
until at last the landlord said, “Now’s our time,” and went up
together with Wang. The Prince looked at their bird and said, “It has
a fierce-looking eye and strong feathers. We must be careful what we
are doing.” So he commanded his servants to bring out Iron Beak to
oppose Wang’s bird; but, after a couple of strikes, the prince’s quail
was signally defeated. He sent for a better bird, but that shared the
same fate; and then he cried out, “Bring the Jade Bird from the
palace!” In a little time it arrived, with pure white feathers like an
egret, and an unusually martial appearance. Wang was much alarmed, and
falling on his knees prayed to be excused this main, saying, “Your
highness’s bird is too good. I fear lest mine should be wounded, and
my livelihood be taken from me.” But the Prince laughed and said, “Go
on. If your quail is killed I will make it up to you handsomely.” Wang
then released his bird and the prince’s quail rushed at it at once;
but when the Jade bird was close by, Wang’s quail awaited its coming
head down and full of rage. The former made a violent peck at its
adversary, and then sprung up to swoop down on it. Thus they went on
up and down, backwards and forwards, until at length they got hold of
each other, and the prince’s bird was beginning to show signs of
exhaustion. This enraged it all the more, and it fought more violently
than ever; but soon a perfect snowstorm of feathers began to fall,
and, with drooping wings, the Jade bird made its escape. The
spectators were much moved by the result; and the prince himself,
taking up Wang’s bird, examined it closely from beak to claws, finally
asking if it was for sale. “My sole dependence,” replied Wang, “is
upon this bird. I would rather not part with it.” “But,” said the
prince, “if I give you as much as the capital, say of an ordinary
tradesman, will not that tempt you?” Wang thought some time, and then
answered, “I would rather not sell my bird; but as your highness has
taken a fancy to it I will only ask enough to find me in food and
clothes.” “How much do you want?” inquired the prince; to which Wang
replied that he would take a thousand ounces of silver. “You fool!”
cried the Prince; “do you think your bird is such a jewel as all
that?” “If your highness,” said Wang, “does not think the bird a
jewel, I value it more than that stone which was priced at fifteen
cities.” “How so?” asked the prince. “Why,” said Wang, “I take my bird
every day into the market-place. It there wins for me several ounces
of silver, which I exchange for rice; and my family, over ten in
number, has nothing to fear from either cold or hunger. What jewel
could do that?” “You shall not lose anything,” replied the prince; “I
will give you two hundred ounces.” But Wang would not consent, and
then the prince added another hundred; whereupon Wang looked at the
landlord, who, however, made no sign. Wang then offered to take nine
hundred; but the prince ridiculed the idea of paying such a price for
a quail, and Wang was preparing to take his leave with the bird, when
the prince called him back, saying, “Here! here! I will give you six
hundred. Take it or leave it as you please.” Wang here looked at the
landlord, and the landlord remained motionless as before. However,
Wang was satisfied himself with this offer, and being afraid of
missing his chance, said to his friend, “If I get this price for it I
shall be quite content. If we go on haggling and finally come to no
terms, that will be a very poor end to it all.” So he took the
prince’s offer, and the latter, overjoyed, caused the money to be
handed to him. Wang then returned with his earnings; but the landlord
said to him, “What did I say to you? You were in too much of a hurry
to sell. Another minute, and you would have got eight hundred.” When
Wang got back he threw the money on the table and told the landlord to
take what he liked; but the latter would not, and it was only after
some pressing that he would accept payment for Wang’s board. Wang then
packed up and went home, where he told his story and produced his
silver to the great delight of all of them. The old lady counselled
the purchase of a quantity of land, the building of a house, and the
purchase of implements; and in a very short time they became a wealthy
family. The old lady always got up early in the morning and made Wang
attend to the farm, his wife to her spinning; and rated them soundly
at any signs of laziness. The husband and wife henceforth lived in
peace, and no longer abused each other, until at the expiration of
three years the old lady declared her intention of bidding them adieu.
They both tried to stop her, and with the aid of tears succeeded in
persuading her; but the next day she had disappeared.[85]


FOOTNOTES:

[84] The direct issue of the Emperors of the present dynasty and their
descendants in the male line for ever are entitled to wear a yellow
girdle in token of their relationship to the Imperial family, each
generation becoming a degree lower in rank, but always retaining this
distinctive badge. Members of the collateral branches wear a red
girdle, and are commonly known as _gioros_. With the lapse of two
hundred and fifty years, the wearers of these badges have become
numerous, and in many cases disreputable; and they are now to be found
even among the lowest dregs of Chinese social life.

[85] Quail fighting is not so common now in China as it appears to
have been formerly. Cricket-fighting is, however, a very favourite
form of gambling, large quantities of these insects being caught every
year for this purpose, and considerable sums frequently staked on the
result of a contest between two champions.



XII.

THE PAINTED SKIN.


At T‘ai-yüan there lived a man named Wang. One morning he was out
walking when he met a young lady carrying a bundle and hurrying along
by herself. As she moved along with some difficulty,[86] Wang
quickened his pace and caught her up, and found she was a pretty girl
of about sixteen. Much smitten he inquired whither she was going so
early, and no one with her. “A traveller like you,” replied the girl,
“cannot alleviate my distress; why trouble yourself to ask?” “What
distress is it?” said Wang; “I’m sure I’ll do anything I can for you.”
“My parents,” answered she, “loved money, and they sold me as
concubine into a rich family, where the wife was very jealous, and
beat and abused me morning and night. It was more than I could stand,
so I have run away.” Wang asked her where she was going; to which she
replied that a runaway had no fixed place of abode. “My house,” said
Wang, “is at no great distance; what do you say to coming there?” She
joyfully acquiesced; and Wang, taking up her bundle, led the way to
his house. Finding no one there, she asked Wang where his family were;
to which he replied that that was only the library. “And a very nice
place, too,” said she; “but if you are kind enough to wish to save my
life, you mustn’t let it be known that I am here.” Wang promised he
would not divulge her secret, and so she remained there for some days
without anyone knowing anything about it. He then told his wife, and
she, fearing the girl might belong to some influential family, advised
him to send her away. This, however, he would not consent to do; when
one day, going into the town, he met a Taoist priest, who looked at
him in astonishment, and asked him what he had met. “I have met
nothing,” replied Wang. “Why,” said the priest, “you are bewitched;
what do you mean by not having met anything?” But Wang insisted that
it was so, and the priest walked away, saying, “The fool! Some people
don’t seem to know when death is at hand.” This startled Wang, who at
first thought of the girl; but then he reflected that a pretty young
thing as she was couldn’t well be a witch, and began to suspect that
the priest merely wanted to do a stroke of business. When he returned,
the library door was shut, and he couldn’t get in, which made him
suspect that something was wrong; and so he climbed over the wall,
where he found the door of the inner room shut too. Softly creeping
up, he looked through the window and saw a hideous devil, with a green
face and jagged teeth like a saw, spreading a human skin upon the bed
and painting it with a paint-brush. The devil then threw aside the
brush, and giving the skin a shake out, just as you would a coat,
threw it over its shoulders, when, lo! it was the girl. Terrified at
this, Wang hurried away with his head down in search of the priest who
had gone he knew not whither; subsequently finding him in the fields,
where he threw himself on his knees and begged the priest to save him.
“As to driving her away,” said the priest, “the creature must be in
great distress to be seeking a substitute for herself;[87] besides, I
could hardly endure to injure a living thing.”[88] However, he gave
Wang a fly-brush, and bade him hang it at the door of the bedroom,
agreeing to meet again at the Ch‘ing-ti temple. Wang went home, but
did not dare enter the library; so he hung up the brush at the bedroom
door, and before long heard a sound of footsteps outside. Not daring
to move, he made his wife peep out; and she saw the girl standing
looking at the brush, afraid to pass it. She then ground her teeth and
went away; but in a little while came back, and began cursing, saying,
“You priest, you won’t frighten me. Do you think I am going to give up
what is already in my grasp?” Thereupon, she tore the brush to pieces,
and bursting open the door, walked straight up to the bed, where she
ripped open Wang and tore out his heart, with which she went away.
Wang’s wife screamed out, and the servant came in with a light; but
Wang was already dead and presented a most miserable spectacle. His
wife, who was in an agony of fright, hardly dared cry for fear of
making a noise; and next day she sent Wang’s brother to see the
priest. The latter got into a great rage, and cried out, “Was it for
this that I had compassion on you, devil that you are?” proceeding at
once with Wang’s brother to the house, from which the girl had
disappeared without anyone knowing whither she had gone. But the
priest, raising his head, looked all round, and said, “Luckily she’s
not far off.” He then asked who lived in the apartments on the south
side, to which Wang’s brother replied that he did; whereupon the
priest declared that there she would be found. Wang’s brother was
horribly frightened and said he did not think so; and then the priest
asked him if any stranger had been to the house. To this he answered
that he had been out to the Ch‘ing-ti temple and couldn’t possibly
say; but he went off to inquire, and in a little while came back and
reported that an old woman had sought service with them as a
maid-of-all-work, and had been engaged by his wife. “That is she,”
said the priest, as Wang’s brother added she was still there; and they
all set out to go to the house together. Then the priest took his
wooden sword, and standing in the middle of the court-yard, shouted
out, “Base-born fiend, give me back my fly-brush!” Meanwhile the new
maid-of-all-work was in a great state of alarm, and tried to get away
by the door; but the priest struck her and down she fell flat, the
human skin dropped off, and she became a hideous devil. There she lay
grunting like a pig, until the priest grasped his wooden sword and
struck off her head. She then became a dense column of smoke curling
up from the ground, when the priest took an uncorked gourd and threw
it right into the midst of the smoke. A sucking noise was heard, and
the whole column was drawn into the gourd; after which the priest
corked it up closely and put it in his pouch.[89] The skin, too, which
was complete even to the eyebrows, eyes, hands, and feet, he also
rolled up as if it had been a scroll, and was on the point of leaving
with it, when Wang’s wife stopped him, and with tears entreated him to
bring her husband to life. The priest said he was unable to do that;
but Wang’s wife flung herself at his feet, and with loud lamentations
implored his assistance. For some time he remained immersed in
thought, and then replied, “My power is not equal to what you ask. I
myself cannot raise the dead; but I will direct you to some one who
can, and if you apply to him properly you will succeed.” Wang’s wife
asked the priest who it was; to which he replied, “There is a maniac
in the town who passes his time grovelling in the dirt. Go, prostrate
yourself before him, and beg him to help you. If he insults you, shew
no sign of anger.” Wang’s brother knew the man to whom he alluded, and
accordingly bade the priest adieu, and proceeded thither with his
sister-in-law.

They found the destitute creature raving away by the road side, so
filthy that it was all they could do to go near him. Wang’s wife
approached him on her knees; at which the maniac leered at her, and
cried out, “Do you love me, my beauty?” Wang’s wife told him what she
had come for, but he only laughed and said, “You can get plenty of
other husbands. Why raise the dead one to life?” But Wang’s wife
entreated him to help her; whereupon he observed, “It’s very strange:
people apply to me to raise their dead as if I was king of the
infernal regions.” He then gave Wang’s wife a thrashing with his
staff, which she bore without a murmur, and before a gradually
increasing crowd of spectators. After this he produced a loathsome
pill which he told her she must swallow, but here she broke down and
was quite unable to do so. However, she did manage it at last, and
then the maniac crying out, “How you do love me!” got up and went away
without taking any more notice of her. They followed him into a temple
with loud supplications, but he had disappeared, and every effort to
find him was unsuccessful. Overcome with rage and shame, Wang’s wife
went home, where she mourned bitterly over her dead husband,
grievously repenting the steps she had taken, and wishing only to die.
She then bethought herself of preparing the corpse, near which none of
the servants would venture; and set to work to close up the frightful
wound of which he died.

While thus employed, interrupted from time to time by her sobs, she
felt a rising lump in her throat, which by-and-by came out with a pop
and fell straight into the dead man’s wound. Looking closely at it,
she saw it was a human heart; and then it began as it were to throb,
emitting a warm vapour like smoke. Much excited, she at once closed
the flesh over it, and held the sides of the wound together with all
her might. Very soon, however, she got tired, and finding the vapour
escaping from the crevices, she tore up a piece of silk and bound it
round, at the same time bringing back circulation by rubbing the body
and covering it up with clothes. In the night, she removed the
coverings, and found that breath was coming from the nose; and by
next morning her husband was alive again, though disturbed in mind as
if awaking from a dream and feeling a pain in his heart. Where he had
been wounded, there was a cicatrix about as big as a cash, which soon
after disappeared.


FOOTNOTES:

[86] Impeded, of course, by her small feet. This practice is said to
have originated about A.D. 970, with Yao Niang, the concubine of the
pretender Li Yü, who wished to make her feet like the “new moon.” The
Manchu or Tartar ladies have not adopted this custom, and therefore
the empresses of modern times have feet of the natural size; neither
is it in force among the Hakkas or hill-tribes of China and Formosa.
The practice was forbidden in 1664 by the Manchu Emperor, K‘ang Hsi;
but popular feeling was so strong on the subject that four years
afterwards the prohibition was withdrawn. Protestant missionaries are
now making a dead set at this shameful custom, but so far with very
indifferent success; as parents who do not cramp the feet of their
daughters would experience no small difficulty in finding husbands for
them when they grow up. Besides, the gait of a young lady hobbling
along, as we should say, seems to be much admired by the other sex.
The following seven reasons why this custom still keeps its hold upon
the Chinese mind emanate from a native convert:--

“1st.--If a girl’s feet are not bound, people say she is not like a
woman but like a man; they laugh at her, calling her names, and her
parents are ashamed of her.

“2nd.--Girls are like flowers, like the willow. It is very important
that their feet should be bound short so that they can walk
beautifully, with mincing steps, swaying gracefully, thus showing they
are persons of respectability. People praise them. If not bound short,
they say the mother has not trained her daughter carefully. She goes
from house to house with noisy steps, and is called names. Therefore
careful persons bind short.

“3rd.--One of a good family does not wish to marry a woman with long
feet. She is commiserated because her feet are not perfect. If
betrothed, and the size of her feet is not discovered till after
marriage, her husband and mother-in-law are displeased, her
sisters-in-law laugh at her, and she herself is sad.

“4th.--The large footed has to do rough work, does not sit in a sedan
when she goes out, walks in the streets barefooted, has no red
clothes, does not eat the best food. She is wetted by the rain, tanned
by the sun, blown upon by the wind. If unwilling to do all the rough
work of the house she is called ‘gormandizing and lazy.’ Perhaps she
decides to go out as a servant. She has no fame and honour. To escape
all this her parents bind her feet.

“5th.--There _are_ those with unbound feet who do no heavy work, wear
gay clothing, ride in a sedan, call others to wait upon them. Although
so fine they are low and mean. If a girl’s feet are unbound, she
cannot be distinguished from one of these.

“6th.--Girls are like gold, like gems. They ought to stay in their own
house. If their feet are not bound they go here and go there with
unfitting associates; they have no good name. They are like defective
gems that are rejected.

“7th.--Parents are covetous. They think small feet are pleasing and
will command a high price for a bride.”--_On Foot-Binding_, by Miss S.
Woolston.

[87] The disembodied spirits of the Chinese _Inferno_ are permitted,
under certain conditions of time and good conduct, to appropriate to
themselves the vitality of some human being, who, as it were,
exchanges places with the so-called “devil.” The devil does not,
however, reappear as the mortal whose life it has become possessed of,
but is merely born again into the world; the idea being that the
amount of life on earth is a constant quantity, and cannot be
increased or diminished, reminding one in a way of the great modern
doctrine of the conservation of energy. This curious belief has an
important bearing that will be brought out in a subsequent story.

[88] Here again is a Taoist priest quoting the Buddhist commandment,
“Thou shalt not take life.” The Buddhist laity in China, who do not
hesitate to take life for the purposes of food, salve their
consciences from time to time by buying birds, fishes, &c., and
letting them go, in the hope that such acts will be set down on the
credit side of their record of good and evil.

[89] This recalls the celebrated story of the fisherman in the
_Arabian Nights_.



XIII.

THE TRADER’S SON.


In the province of Hunan there dwelt a man who was engaged in trading
abroad; and his wife, who lived alone, dreamt one night that some one
was in her room. Waking up, she looked about, and discovered a small
creature which on examination she knew to be a fox; but in a moment
the thing had disappeared, although the door had not been opened. The
next evening she asked the cook-maid to come and keep her company; as
also her own son, a boy of ten, who was accustomed to sleep elsewhere.
Towards the middle of the night, when the cook and the boy were fast
asleep, back came the fox; and the cook was waked up by hearing her
mistress muttering something as if she had nightmare. The former then
called out, and the fox ran away; but from that moment the trader’s
wife was not quite herself. When night came she dared not blow out the
candle, and bade her son be sure and not sleep too soundly. Later on,
her son and the old woman having taken a nap as they leant against the
wall, suddenly waked up and found her gone. They waited some time, but
she did not return, and the cook was too frightened to go and look
after her; so her son took a light, and at length found her fast
asleep in another room. She didn’t seem aware that anything particular
had happened, but she became queerer and queerer every day, and
wouldn’t have either her son or the cook to keep her company any more.
Her son, however, made a point of running at once into his mother’s
room if he heard any unusual sounds; and though his mother always
abused him for his pains, he paid no attention to what she said. At
the same time, the more people urged him on to keep a sharp look-out,
the more eccentric were his mother’s ways. One day she played at being
a mason, and piled up stones upon the window-sill, in spite of all
that was said to her; and if anyone took away a stone, she threw
herself on the ground, and cried like a child, so that nobody dared go
near her. In a few days she had got both windows blocked up and the
light excluded; and then she set to filling up the chinks with mud.
She worked hard all day without minding the trouble, and when it was
finished she smoothed it off with the kitchen chopper. Everyone who
saw her was disgusted with such antics, and would take no notice of
her. At night her son darkened his lamp, and, with a knife concealed
on his person, sat waiting for his mother to mutter. As soon as she
began he uncovered his light, and, blocking up the doorway, shouted
out at the top of his voice. Nothing, however, happened, and he moved
from the door a little way, when suddenly out rushed something like a
fox, which was disappearing through the door, when he made a quick
movement and cut off about two inches of its tail, from which the warm
blood was still dripping as he brought the light to bear upon it. His
mother hereupon cursed and reviled him, but he pretended not to hear
her, regretting only as he went to bed that he hadn’t hit the brute
fair. But he consoled himself by thinking that although he hadn’t
killed it outright, he had done enough to prevent it coming again. On
the morrow he followed the tracks of blood over the wall and into the
garden of a family named Ho; and that night, to his great joy, the fox
did not reappear. His mother was meanwhile prostrate, with hardly any
life in her, and in the midst of it all his father came home. The boy
told him what had happened, at which he was much alarmed, and sent for
a doctor to attend his wife; but she only threw the medicine away, and
cursed and swore horribly. So they secretly mixed the medicine with
her tea and soup, and in a few days she began to get better, to the
inexpressible delight of both her husband and son. One night, however,
her husband woke up and found her gone; and after searching for her
with the aid of his son, they discovered her sleeping in another room.
From that time she became more eccentric than ever, and was always
being found in strange places, cursing those who tried to remove her.
Her husband was at his wits’ end. It was no use keeping the door
locked, for it opened of itself at her approach; and he had called in
any number of magicians to exorcise the fox, but without obtaining the
slightest result. One evening her son concealed himself in the Ho
family garden, and lay down in the long grass with a view to detecting
the fox’s retreat. As the moon rose he heard the sound of voices, and,
pushing aside the grass, saw two people drinking, with a long-bearded
servant pouring out their wine, dressed in an old dark-brown coat.
They were whispering together, and he could not make out what they
said; but by-and-by he heard one of them remark, “Get some white wine
for to-morrow,” and then they went away, leaving the long-bearded
servant alone. The latter then threw off his coat, and lay down to
sleep on the stones; whereupon the trader’s son eyed him carefully,
and saw that he was like a man in every respect except that he had a
tail. The boy would then have gone home; but he was afraid the fox
might hear him, and accordingly remained where he was till near dawn,
when he saw the other two come back, one at a time, and then they all
disappeared among the bushes. On reaching home his father asked him
where he had been, and he replied that he had stopped the night with
the Ho family. He then accompanied his father to the town, where he
saw hanging up at a hat-shop a fox’s tail, and finally, after much
coaxing, succeeded in making his father buy it for him. While the
latter was engaged in a shop, his son, who was playing about beside
him, availed himself of a moment when his father was not looking and
stole some money from him, and went off and bought a quantity of white
wine, which he left in charge of the wine-merchant. Now an uncle of
his, who was a sportsman by trade, lived in the city, and thither he
next betook himself. His uncle was out, but his aunt was there, and
inquired after the health of his mother. “She has been better the last
few days,” replied he; “but she is now very much upset by a rat having
gnawed a dress of hers, and has sent me to ask for some poison.” His
aunt opened the cupboard and gave him about the tenth of an ounce in a
piece of paper, which he thought was very little; so, when his aunt
had gone to get him something to eat, he took the opportunity of being
alone, opened the packet, and abstracted a large handful. Hiding this
in his coat, he ran to tell his aunt that she needn’t prepare anything
for him, as his father was waiting in the market, and he couldn’t stop
to eat it. He then went off; and having quietly dropped the poison
into the wine he had bought, went sauntering about the town. At
nightfall he returned home, and told his father that he had been at
his uncle’s. This he continued to do for some time, until one day he
saw amongst the crowd his long-bearded friend. Marking him closely, he
followed him, and at length entered into conversation, asking him
where he lived. “I live at Pei-ts‘un,” said he; “where do you live?”
“I,” replied the trader’s son, falsely, “live in a hole on the
hill-side.” The long-bearded man was considerably startled at his
answer, but much more so when he added, “We’ve lived there for
generations: haven’t _you_?” The other then asked his name, to which
the boy replied, “My name is Hu.[90] I saw you with two gentlemen in
the Ho family garden, and haven’t forgotten you.” Questioning him more
fully, the long-bearded man was still in a half-and-half state of
belief and doubt, when the trader’s son opened his coat a little bit,
and showed him the end of the tail he had bought, saying, “The like
of us can mix with ordinary people, but unfortunately we can never get
rid of this.” The long-bearded man then asked him what he was doing
there, to which he answered that his father had sent him to buy wine;
whereupon the former remarked that that was exactly what he had come
for, and the boy then inquired if he had bought it yet or not. “We are
poor,” replied the stranger, “and as a rule I prefer to steal it.” “A
difficult and dangerous job,” observed the boy. “I have my master’s
instructions to get some,” said the other, “and what am I to do?” The
boy then asked him who his masters were, to which he replied that they
were the two brothers the boy had seen that night. “One of them has
bewitched a lady named Wang; and the other, the wife of a trader who
lives near. The son of the last-mentioned lady is a violent fellow,
and cut off my master’s tail, so that he was laid up for ten days. But
he is putting her under spells again now.” He was then going away,
saying he should never get his wine; but the boy said to him, “It’s
much easier to buy than steal. I have some at the wine-shop there
which I will give to you. My purse isn’t empty, and I can buy some
more.” The long-bearded man hardly knew how to thank him; but the boy
said, “We’re all one family. Don’t mention such a trifle. When I have
time I’ll come and take a drink with you.” So they went off together
to the wine-shop, where the boy gave him the wine and they then
separated. That night his mother slept quietly and had no fits, and
the boy knew that something must have happened. He then told his
father, and they went to see if there were any results; when lo! they
found both foxes stretched out dead in the arbour. One of the foxes
was lying on the grass, and out of its mouth blood was still
trickling. The wine-bottle was there; and on shaking it they heard
that some was left. Then his father asked him why he had kept it all
so secret; to which the boy replied that foxes were very sagacious,
and would have been sure to scent the plot. Thereupon his father was
mightily pleased, and said he was a perfect Ulysses[91] for cunning.
They then carried the foxes home, and saw on the tail of one of them
the scar of a knife-wound. From that time they were left in peace; but
the trader’s wife became very thin, and though her reason returned,
she shortly afterwards died of consumption. The other lady, Mrs. Wang,
began to get better as soon as the foxes had been killed; and as to
the boy, he was taught riding and archery[92] by his proud parent, and
subsequently rose to high rank in the army.


FOOTNOTES:

[90] _Hu_ is the sound of the character for “fox;” it is also the
sound of quite a different character, which is used as a surname.

[91] The name of the Chinese type was Ch‘ên P‘ing. See Mayer’s
_Reader’s Manual_, No. 102.

[92] At the date at which we are writing skill in archery is still _de
rigueur_ for all Manchus, and for those who would rise in the Chinese
army. Only the other day the progressive Governor-General of the Two
Kiang, Shên Pao-chên, memorialised the Throne with a view to the
abandonment of this effete and useless form of military drill, and
received a direct snub for his pains. Two hundred odd years ago, when
the Manchus were establishing their power, the dexterity of their
bowmen doubtless stood them in good stead; though if we are to judge
of their skill then by the ordinary practice of to-day, as seen on any
Chinese parade-ground, they could never have been more than very
third-rate archers after all.



XIV.

JUDGE LU.


At Ling-yang there lived a man named Chu Erh-tan, whose literary
designation[93] was Hsiao-ming. He was a fine manly fellow, but an
egregious dunce, though he tried hard to learn. One day he was taking
wine with a number of fellow-students, when one of them said to him,
by way of a joke, “People credit you with plenty of pluck. Now, if you
will go in the middle of the night to the Chamber of Horrors,[94] and
bring back the Infernal Judge from the left-hand porch, we’ll all
stand you a dinner.” For at Ling-yang there was a representation of
the Ten Courts of Purgatory, with the Gods and devils carved in wood,
and almost life-like in appearance; and in the eastern vestibule there
was a full-length image of the Judge with a green face, and a red
beard, and a hideous expression in his features. Sometimes sounds of
examination under the whip were heard to issue during the night from
both porches, and persons who went in found their hair standing on end
from fear; so the other young men thought it would be a capital test
for Mr. Chu. Thereupon Chu smiled, and rising from his seat went
straight off to the temple; and before many minutes had elapsed they
heard him shouting outside, “His Excellency has arrived!” At this they
all got up, and in came Chu with the image on his back, which he
proceeded to deposit on the table, and then poured out a triple
libation in its honour. His comrades who were watching what he did,
felt ill at ease, and did not like to resume their seats; so they
begged him to carry the Judge back again. But he first poured some
wine upon the ground, invoking the image as follows:--“I am only a
fool-hardy, illiterate fellow: I pray Your Excellency excuse me. My
house is close by, and whenever Your Excellency feels so disposed I
shall be glad to take a cup of wine with you in a friendly way.” He
then carried the Judge back, and the next day his friends gave him the
promised dinner, from which he went home half-tipsy in the evening.
But not feeling that he had had enough, he brightened up his lamp, and
helped himself to another cup of wine, when suddenly the bamboo
curtain was drawn aside, and in walked the Judge. Mr. Chu got up and
said, “Oh, dear! Your Excellency has come to cut off my head for my
rudeness the other night.” The Judge parted his thick beard, and
smiling, replied, “Nothing of the kind. You kindly invited me last
night to visit you; and as I have leisure this evening, here I am.”
Chu was delighted at this, and made his guest sit down, while he
himself wiped the cups and lighted a fire.[95] “It’s warm weather,”
said the Judge; “let’s drink the wine cold.” Chu obeyed, and putting
the bottle on the table, went out to tell his servants to get some
supper. His wife was much alarmed when she heard who was there, and
begged him not to go back; but he only waited until the things were
ready, and then returned with them. They drank out of each other’s
cups,[96] and by-and-by Chu asked the name of his guest. “My name is
Lu,” replied the Judge; “I have no other names.” They then conversed
on literary subjects, one capping the other’s quotation as echo
responds to sound. The Judge then asked Chu if he understood
composition; to which he answered that he could just tell good from
bad; whereupon the former repeated a little infernal poetry which was
not very different from that of mortals. He was a deep drinker, and
took off ten goblets at a draught; but Chu who had been at it all day,
soon got dead drunk and fell fast asleep with his head on the table.
When he waked up the candle had burnt out and day was beginning to
break, his guest having already departed; and from this time the Judge
was in the habit of dropping in pretty often, until a close friendship
sprang up between them. Sometimes the latter would pass the night at
the house, and Chu would show him his essays, all of which the Judge
scored and underlined as being good for nothing. One night Chu got
tipsy and went to bed first, leaving the Judge drinking by himself. In
his drunken sleep he seemed to feel a pain in his stomach, and waking
up he saw that the Judge, who was standing by the side of the bed, had
opened him, and was carefully arranging his inside. “What harm have I
done you?” cried Chu, “that you should thus seek to destroy me?”
“Don’t be afraid,” replied the Judge, laughing, “I am only providing
you with a more intelligent heart.”[97] He then quietly put back Chu’s
viscera, and closed up the opening, securing it with a bandage tied
tightly round his waist. There was no blood on the bed, and all Chu
felt was a slight numbness in his inside. Here he observed the Judge
place a piece of flesh upon the table, and asked him what it was.
“Your heart,” said the latter, “which wasn’t at all good at
composition, the proper orifice being stuffed up.[98] I have now
provided you with a better one, which I procured from Hades, and I am
keeping yours to put in its place.”[99] He then opened the door and
took his leave. In the morning Chu undid the bandage, and looked at
his waist, the wound on which had quite healed up, leaving only a red
seam. From that moment he became an apt scholar, and found his memory
much improved; so much so, that a few days afterwards he showed an
essay to the Judge for which he was very much commended. “However,”
said the latter, “your success will be limited to the master’s degree.
You won’t get beyond that.” “When shall I take it?” asked Chu. “This
year,” replied the Judge. And so it turned out. Chu passed first on
the list for the bachelor’s degree, and then among the first five for
the master’s degree. His old comrades, who had been accustomed to make
a laughing-stock of him, were now astonished to find him a full blown
M.A., and when they learned how it had come about, they begged Chu to
speak to the Judge on their behalf. The Judge promised to assist them,
and they made all ready to receive him; but when in the evening he did
come, they were so frightened at his red beard and flashing eyes that
their teeth chattered in their heads, and one by one they stole away.
Chu then took the Judge home with him to have a cup together, and when
the wine had mounted well into his head, he said, “I am deeply
grateful to Your Excellency’s former kindness in arranging my inside;
but there is still another favour I venture to ask which possibly may
be granted.” The Judge asked him what it was; and Chu replied, “If you
can change a person’s inside, you surely could also change his face.
Now my wife is not at all a bad figure, but she is very ugly. I pray
Your Excellency try the knife upon her.” The Judge laughed, and said
he would do so, only it would be necessary to give him a little time.
Some days subsequently, the Judge knocked at Chu’s door towards the
middle of the night; whereupon the latter jumped up and invited him
in. Lighting a candle, it was evident that the Judge had something
under his coat, and in answer to Chu’s inquiries, he said, “It’s what
you asked me for. I have had great trouble in procuring it.” He then
produced the head of a nice-looking young girl, and presented it to
Chu, who found the blood on the neck was still warm. “We must make
haste,” said the Judge, “and take care not to wake the fowls or
dogs.”[100] Chu was afraid his wife’s door might be bolted; but the
Judge laid his hand on it and it opened at once. Chu then led him to
the bed where his wife was lying asleep on her side; and the Judge,
giving Chu the head to hold, drew from his boot a steel blade shaped
like the handle of a spoon. He laid this across the lady’s neck, which
he cut through as if it had been a melon, and the head fell over the
back of the pillow. Seizing the head he had brought with him, he now
fitted it on carefully and accurately, and pressing it down to make it
stick, bolstered the lady up with pillows placed on either side. When
all was finished, he bade Chu put his wife’s old head away, and then
took his leave. Soon after Mrs. Chu waked up, and perceived a curious
sensation about her neck, and a scaly feeling about the jaws. Putting
her hand to her face, she found flakes of dry blood; and much
frightened called a maid-servant to bring water to wash it off. The
maid-servant was also greatly alarmed at the appearance of her face,
and proceeded to wash off the blood, which coloured a whole basin of
water; but when she saw her mistress’s new face she was almost
frightened to death. Mrs. Chu took a mirror to look at herself, and
was staring at herself in utter astonishment, when her husband came in
and explained what had taken place. On examining her more closely, Chu
saw that she had a well-featured pleasant face, of a medium order of
beauty; and when he came to look at her neck, he found a red seam all
round, with the parts above and below of a different coloured flesh.
Now the daughter of an official named Wu was a very nice-looking girl
who, though nineteen years of age, had not yet been married, two
gentlemen who were engaged to her having died before the day.[101] At
the Feast of Lanterns,[102] this young lady happened to visit the
Chamber of Horrors, whence she was followed home by a burglar, who
that night broke into the house and killed her. Hearing a noise, her
mother told the servant to go and see what was the matter; and the
murder being thus discovered, every member of the family got up. They
placed the body in the hall, with the head alongside, and gave
themselves up to weeping and wailing the livelong night. Next morning,
when they removed the coverings, the corpse was there but the head had
disappeared. The waiting-maids were accordingly flogged for neglect of
duty, and consequent loss of the head, and Mr. Wu brought the matter
to the notice of the Prefect. This officer took very energetic
measures, but for three days no clue could be obtained; and then the
story of the changed head in the Chu family gradually reached Mr. Wu’s
ears. Suspecting something, he sent an old woman to make inquiries;
and she at once recognised her late young mistress’s features, and
went back and reported to her master. Thereupon Mr. Wu, unable to make
out why the body should have been left, imagined that Chu had slain
his daughter by magical arts, and at once proceeded to the house to
find out the truth of the matter; but Chu told him that his wife’s
head had been changed in her sleep, and that he knew nothing about it,
adding that it was unjust to accuse him of the murder. Mr. Wu refused
to believe this, and took proceedings against him; but as all the
servants told the same story, the Prefect was unable to convict him.
Chu returned home and took counsel with the Judge, who told him there
would be no difficulty, it being merely necessary to make the murdered
girl herself speak. That night Mr. Wu dreamt that his daughter came
and said to him, “I was killed by Yang Ta-nien, of Su-ch‘i. Mr. Chu
had nothing to do with it; but desiring a better-looking face for his
wife, Judge Lu gave him mine, and thus my body is dead while my head
still lives. Bear Chu no malice.” When he awaked, he told his wife,
who had dreamt the same dream; and thereupon he communicated these
facts to the officials. Subsequently, a man of that name was captured,
who confessed under the bamboo that he had committed the crime; so Mr.
Wu went off to Chu’s house, and asked to be allowed to see his wife,
regarding Chu from that time as his son-in-law. Mrs. Chu’s old head
was fitted on to the young lady’s body, and the two parts were buried
together.

Subsequent to these events Mr. Chu tried three times for his doctor’s
degree, but each time without success, and at last he gave up the idea
of entering into official life. Then when thirty years had passed
away, Judge Lu appeared to him one night, and said, “My friend, you
cannot live for ever. Your hour will come in five days’ time.” Chu
asked the Judge if he could not save him; to which he replied, “The
decrees of Heaven cannot be altered to suit the purposes of mortals.
Besides, to an intelligent man life and death are much the same.[103]
Why necessarily regard life as a boon and death as a misfortune?” Chu
could make no reply to this, and forthwith proceeded to order his
coffin and shroud;[104] and then, dressing himself in his
grave-clothes, yielded up the ghost. Next day, as his wife was weeping
over his bier, in he walked at the front door, to her very great
alarm. “I am now a disembodied spirit,” said Chu to her, “though not
different from what I was in life; and I have been thinking much of
the widow and orphan I left behind.” His wife, hearing this, wept till
the tears ran down her face, Chu all the time doing his best to
comfort her. “I have heard tell,” said she, “of dead bodies returning
to life; and since your vital spark is not extinct, why does it not
resume the flesh?” “The ordinances of Heaven,” replied her husband,
“may not be disobeyed.” His wife here asked him what he was doing in
the infernal regions; and he said that Judge Lu had got him an
appointment as Registrar, with a certain rank attached, and that he
was not at all uncomfortable. Mrs. Chu was proceeding to inquire
further, when he interrupted her, saying, “The Judge has come with me;
get some wine ready and something to eat.” He then hurried out, and
his wife did as he had told her, hearing them laughing and drinking in
the guest chamber just like old times come back again. About midnight
she peeped in, and found that they had both disappeared; but they came
back once in every two or three days, often spending the night, and
managing the family affairs as usual. Chu’s son was named Wei, and was
about five years old; and whenever his father came he would take the
little boy upon his knee. When he was about eight years of age, Chu
began to teach him to read; and the boy was so clever that by the time
he was nine he could actually compose. At fifteen he took his
bachelor’s degree, without knowing all this time that he had no
father. From that date Chu’s visits became less frequent, occurring
not more than once or so in a month; until one night he told his wife
that they were never to meet again. In reply to her inquiry as to
whither he was going, he said he had been appointed to a far-off post,
where press of business and distance would combine to prevent him from
visiting them any more. The mother and son clung to him, sobbing
bitterly; but he said, “Do not act thus. The boy is now a man, and can
look after your affairs. The dearest friends must part some day.”
Then, turning to his son, he added, “Be an honourable man, and take
care of the property. Ten years hence we shall meet again.” With this
he bade them farewell, and went away.

Later on, when Wei was twenty-two years of age, he took his doctor’s
degree, and was appointed to conduct the sacrifices at the Imperial
tombs. On his way thither he fell in with a retinue of an official,
proceeding along with all the proper insignia,[105] and, looking
carefully at the individual sitting in the carriage, he was astonished
to find that it was his own father. Alighting from his horse, he
prostrated himself with tears at the side of the road; whereupon his
father stopped and said, “You are well spoken of. I now take leave of
this world.” Wei remained on the ground, not daring to rise; and his
father, urging on his carriage, hurried away without saying any more.
But when he had gone a short distance, he looked back, and unloosing a
sword from his waist, sent it as a present to his son, shouting out to
him, “Wear this and you will succeed.” Wei tried to follow him; but,
in an instant, carriage, retinue, and horses, had vanished with the
speed of wind. For a long time his son gave himself up to grief, and
then seizing the sword began to examine it closely. It was of
exquisite workmanship, and on the blade was engraved this
legend:--“_Be bold, but cautious; round in disposition, square in
action._”[106] Wei subsequently rose to high honours, and had five
sons named Ch‘ên, Ch‘ien, Wu, Hun, and Shên. One night he dreamt that
his father told him to give the sword to Hun, which he accordingly
did; and Hun rose to be a Viceroy of great administrative ability.


FOOTNOTES:

[93] Every Chinese man and woman inherits a family name or surname. A
woman takes her husband’s surname, followed in official documents by
her maiden name. Children usually have a pet name given to them soon
after birth, which is dropped after a few years. Then there is the
_ming_ or name, which once given is unchangeable, and by which the
various members of a family are distinguished. But only the father and
mother and certain other relatives are allowed to use this. Friends
call each other by their literary designations or “book-names,” which
are given generally by the teacher to whom the boy’s education is
first entrusted. Brothers and sisters and others have all kinds of
nick-names as with us. Dogs and cats are called by such names as
“Blackey,” “Whitey,” “Yellowy,” “Jewel,” “Pearly,” &c., &c. Junks are
christened “Large Profits,” “Abounding Wealth,” “Favourite of
Fortune,” &c., &c. Places are often named after some striking
geographical feature; _e.g._, _Hankow_--“mouth of the Han river,”
_i.e._, its point of junction with the Yang-tsze; or they have fancy
names, such as _Fuhkien_--“happily established;” _Tientsin_--“Heaven’s
ford;” or names implying a special distinction, such as
_Nanking_--“southern capital;” _Shan-tung_--“east of the mountains,”
&c.

[94] The name given by foreigners in China to the imitation of the ten
torture-chambers of purgatory, as seen in every _Ch‘êng-huang_ or
municipal temple. The various figures of the devil-lictors and the
tortured sinners are made either of clay or wood, and painted in very
bright colours; and in each chamber is depicted some specimen of the
horrible tortures that wicked people will undergo in the world to
come. I have given in the _Appendix_ a translation of the
“_Yü-li-ch‘ao_,” a celebrated Taoist work on this subject, which
should at any rate be glanced at by persons who would understand the
drift of some of these stories.

[95] To heat the wine, which is almost invariably taken hot.

[96] In token of their mutual good feeling.

[97] The Chinese as a nation believe to this day that the heart is the
seat of the intellect and the emotions.

[98] The heart itself is supposed to be pierced by a number of “eyes,”
which pass right through; and in physical and mental health these
passages are believed to be clear.

[99] See No. XII., note 87.

[100] The _Hsi-yüan-lu_, a well-known work on Chinese medical
jurisprudence, and an _officially-authorised book_, while giving an
absurd antidote against a poison that never existed [see my _Chinese
Sketches_, p. 190], gravely insists that it is to be prepared at
certain dates only, “in some place quite away from women, fowls, and
dogs.”

[101] It was almost a wonder that she got a second _fiancé_, few
people caring to affiance their sons in a family where such a
catastrophe has once occurred. The death of an engaged girl is a
matter of much less importance, but is productive of a very curious
ceremony. Her betrothed goes to the house where she is lying dead and
steps over the coffin containing her body, returning home with a pair
of the girl’s shoes. He thus severs all connection with her, and her
spirit cannot haunt him as it otherwise most certainly would.

[102] Held annually on the 15th of the first Chinese month--_i.e._, at
the first full moon of the year, when coloured lanterns are hung at
every door. It was originally a ceremonial worship in the temple of
the First Cause, and dates from about the time of the Han dynasty, or
nearly two thousand years ago.

[103] It was John Stuart Mill who pointed out that the fear of death
is due to “the illusion of imagination, which makes one conceive
oneself as if one were alive and feeling oneself dead” (_The Utility
of Religion_).

[104] “Boards of old age” and “Clothes of old age sold here” are
common shop-signs in every Chinese city; death and burial being
always, if possible, spoken of euphemistically in some such terms as
these. A dutiful son provides, when he can afford it, decent coffins
for his father and mother. They are generally stored in the house,
sometimes in a neighbouring temple; and the old people take pleasure
in seeing that their funeral obsequies are properly provided for,
though the subject is never raised in conversation. Chinese coffins
are beautifully made; and when the body has been in for a day or two,
a candle is closely applied to the seams all round to make sure it is
air-tight,--any crack, however fine, being easily detected by the
flickering of the flame in the escaping gas. Thus bodies may be kept
unburied for a long time, until the geomancer has selected an
auspicious site for the grave.

[105] Gongs, red umbrellas, men carrying boards on which the officer’s
titles are inscribed in large characters, a huge wooden fan, &c., &c.

[106] “Be like a cash” [see No. II., note 42] is a not uncommon saying
among the Chinese, the explanation of which rests upon the fact that a
cash is “round in shape and convenient for use,” which words are
pronounced identically with a corresponding number of words meaning
“round in disposition, square in action.” It is, in fact, a play on
words.



XV.

MISS YING-NING; OR, THE LAUGHING GIRL.


At Lo-tien, in the province of Shantung, there lived a youth named
Wang Tzŭ-fu, who had been left an orphan when quite young. He was a
clever boy, and took his bachelor’s degree at the age of fourteen,
being quite his mother’s pet, and not allowed by her to stray far away
from home. One young lady to whom he had been betrothed having
unhappily died, he was still in search of a wife when, on the occasion
of the Feast of Lanterns, his cousin Wu asked him to come along for a
stroll. But they had hardly got beyond the village before one of his
uncle’s servants caught them up and told Wu he was wanted. The latter
accordingly went back; but Wang, seeing plenty of nice girls about and
being in high spirits himself, proceeded on alone. Amongst others, he
noticed a young lady with her maid. She had just picked a sprig of
plum-blossom, and was the prettiest girl he had ever heard of--a
perfect bunch of smiles. He stared and stared at her quite regardless
of appearances; and when she had passed by, she said to her maid,
“That young fellow has a wicked look in his eyes.” As she was walking
away, laughing and talking, the flower dropped out of her hand; and
Wang, picking it up, stood there disconsolate as if he had lost his
wits. He then went home in a very melancholy mood; and, putting the
flower under his pillow, lay down to sleep. He would neither talk nor
eat; and his mother became very anxious about him, and called in the
aid of the priests.[107] By degrees, he fell off in flesh and got very
thin; and the doctor felt his pulse and gave him medicines to bring
out the disease. Occasionally, he seemed bewildered in his mind, but
in spite of all his mother’s inquiries would give no clue as to the
cause of his malady. One day when his cousin Wu came to the house,
Wang’s mother told him to try and find out what was the matter; and
the former, approaching the bed, gradually and quietly led up to the
point in question. Wang, who had wept bitterly at the sight of his
cousin, now repeated to him the whole story, begging him to lend some
assistance in the matter. “How foolish you are, cousin,” cried Wu;
“there will be no difficulty at all, I’ll make inquiries for you. The
girl herself can’t belong to a very aristocratic family to be walking
alone in the country. If she’s not already engaged, I have no doubt we
can arrange the affair; and even if she is unwilling, an extra outlay
will easily bring her round.[108] You make haste and get well: I’ll
see to it all.” Wang’s features relaxed when he heard these words; and
Wu left him to tell his mother how the case stood, immediately setting
on foot inquiries as to the whereabouts of the girl. All his efforts,
however, proved fruitless, to the great disappointment of Wang’s
mother; for since his cousin’s visit Wang’s colour and appetite had
returned. In a few days Wu called again, and in answer to Wang’s
questions falsely told him that the affair was settled. “Who do you
think the young lady is?” said he. “Why, a cousin of ours, who is only
waiting to be betrothed; and though you two are a little near,[109] I
daresay the circumstances of the case will be allowed to overrule this
objection.” Wang was overjoyed, and asked where she lived; so Wu had
to tell another lie, and say, “On the south-west hills, about ten
miles from here.” Wang begged him again and again to do his best for
him, and Wu undertook to get the betrothal satisfactorily arranged. He
then took leave of his cousin, who from this moment was rapidly
restored to health. Wang drew the flower from underneath his pillow,
and found that, though dried up, the leaves had not fallen away. He
often sat playing with this flower and thinking of the young lady; but
by-and-by, as Wu did not reappear, he wrote a letter and asked him to
come. Wu pleaded other engagements, being unwilling to go; at which
Wang got in a rage and quite lost his good spirits; so that his
mother, fearing a relapse, proposed to him a speedy betrothal in
another quarter. Wang shook his head at this, and sat day after day
waiting for Wu, until his patience was thoroughly exhausted. He then
reflected that ten miles was no great distance, and that there was no
particular reason for asking anybody’s aid; so, concealing the flower
in his sleeve, he went off in a huff by himself without letting it be
known. Having no opportunity of asking the way, he made straight for
the hills; and after about ten miles walking found himself right in
the midst of them, enjoying their exquisite verdure, but meeting no
one, and with nothing better than mountain paths to guide him. Away
down in the valley below, almost buried under a densely luxuriant
growth of trees and flowers, he espied a small hamlet, and began to
descend the hill and make his way thither. He found very few houses,
and all built of rushes, but otherwise pleasant enough to look at.
Before the door of one, which stood at the northern end of the
village, were a number of graceful willow trees, and inside the wall
plenty of peach and apricot trees, with tufts of bamboo between them,
and birds chirping on the branches. As it was a private house he did
not venture to go in, but sat down to rest himself on a huge smooth
stone opposite the front door. By-and-by he heard a girl’s voice from
within calling out Hsiao-jung; and, noticing that it was a sweet-toned
voice, set himself to listen, when a young lady passed with a bunch of
apricot-flowers in her hand, and occupied in putting hair-pins into
her downcast head. As soon as she raised her face she saw Wang, and
stopped putting in hair-pins; then, smothering a laugh, picked a few
flowers and ran in. Wang perceived to his intense delight that she was
none other than his heroine of the Feast of Lanterns; but recollecting
that he had no right to follow her in, was on the point of calling
after her as his cousin. There was no one, however, in the street, and
he was afraid lest he might have made a mistake; neither was there
anybody at the door of whom he could make inquiries. So he remained
there in a very restless state till the sun was well down in the west,
and his hopes were almost at an end, forgetting all about food and
drink. He then saw the young lady peep through the door, apparently
very much astonished to find him still there; and in a few minutes out
came an old woman leaning on a stick, who said to him, “Whence do you
come, Sir? I hear you have been here ever since morning. What is it
you want? Aren’t you hungry?” Wang got up, and making a bow, replied
that he was in search of some relatives of his; but the old woman was
deaf and didn’t catch what he said, so he had to shout it out again at
the top of his voice. She asked him what their names were, but he was
unable to tell her; at which she laughed and said, “It is a funny
thing to look for people when you don’t know their names. I am afraid
you are an unpractical gentleman. You had better come in and have
something to eat; we’ll give you a bed and you can go back to-morrow
and find out the names of the people you are in quest of.” Now Wang
was just beginning to get hungry, and, besides, this would bring him
nearer to the young lady; so he readily accepted and followed the old
woman in. They walked along a paved path banked on both sides with
hibiscus, the leaves of which were scattered about on the ground; and
passing through another door, entered a court-yard full of trained
creepers and other flowers. The old woman showed Wang into a small
room with beautifully white walls and a branch of a crab-apple tree
coming through the window, the furniture being also nice and clean.
They had hardly sat down when it was clear that some one was taking a
peep through the window; whereupon the old woman cried out,
“Hsiao-jung! make haste and get dinner,” and a maid from outside
immediately answered “Yes, ma’am.” Meanwhile, Wang had been explaining
who he was; and then the old lady said, “Was your maternal grandfather
named Wu?” “He was,” replied Wang. “Well, I never!” cried the old
woman, “he was my uncle, and your mother and I are cousins. But in
consequence of our poverty, and having no sons, we have kept quite to
ourselves, and you have grown to be a man without my knowing you.” “I
came here,” said Wang, “about my cousin, but in the hurry I forgot
your name.” “My name is Ch‘in,” replied the old lady; “I have no son:
only a girl, the child of a concubine, who, after my husband’s death,
married again[110] and left her daughter with me. She’s a clever girl,
but has had very little education; full of fun and ignorant of the
sorrows of life. I’ll send for her by-and-by to make your
acquaintance.” The maid then brought in the dinner--a large dish full
of choice morsels of fowl--and the old woman pressed him to eat. When
they had finished, and the things were taken away, the old woman said,
“Call Miss Ning,” and the maid went off to do so. After some time
there was a giggling at the door, and the old woman cried out,
“Ying-ning! your cousin is here.” There was then a great tittering as
the maid pushed her in, stopping her mouth all the time to try and
keep from laughing. “Don’t you know better than to behave like that?”
asked the old woman, “and before a stranger, too.” So Ying-ning
controlled her feelings, and Wang made her a bow, the old woman
saying, “Mr. Wang is your cousin: you have never seen him before.
Isn’t that funny?” Wang asked how old his cousin was, but the old
woman didn’t hear him, and he had to say it again, which sent
Ying-ning off into another fit of laughter. “I told you,” observed the
old woman, “she hadn’t much education; now you see it. She is sixteen
years old, and as foolish as a baby.” “One year younger than I am,”
remarked Wang. “Oh, you’re seventeen are you? Then you were born in
the year ----, under the sign of the horse.”[111] Wang nodded assent,
and then the old woman asked who his wife was, to which Wang replied
that he had none. “What! a clever, handsome young fellow of seventeen
not yet engaged?[112] Ying-ning is not engaged either: you two would
make a nice pair if it wasn’t for the relationship.” Wang said
nothing, but looked hard at his cousin; and just then the maid
whispered to her, “It is the fellow with the wicked eyes! He’s at his
old game.” Ying-ning laughed, and proposed to the maid that they should
go and see if the peaches were in blossom or not; and off they went
together, the former with her sleeve stuffed into her mouth until she
got outside, where she burst into a hearty fit of laughing. The old
woman gave orders for a bed to be got ready for Wang, saying to him,
“It’s not often we meet: you must spend a few days with us now you are
here, and then we’ll send you home. If you are at all dull, there’s a
garden behind where you can amuse yourself, and books for you to
read.” So next day Wang strolled into the garden, which was of
moderate size, with a well-kept lawn and plenty of trees and flowers.
There was also an arbour consisting of three posts with a thatched
roof, quite shut in on all sides by the luxurious vegetation. Pushing
his way among the flowers, Wang heard a noise from one of the trees,
and looking up saw Ying-ning, who at once burst out laughing and
nearly fell down. “Don’t! don’t!” cried Wang, “you’ll fall!” Then
Ying-ning came down, giggling all the time, until, when she was near
the ground, she missed her hold, and tumbled down with a run. This
stopped her merriment, and Wang picked her up, gently squeezing her
hand as he did so. Ying-ning began laughing again, and was obliged to
lean against a tree for support, it being some time before she was
able to stop. Wang waited till she had finished, and then drew the
flower out of his sleeve and handed it to her. “It’s dead,” said she;
“why do you keep it?” “You dropped it, cousin, at the Feast of
Lanterns,” replied Wang, “and so I kept it.” She then asked him what
was his object in keeping it, to which he answered, “To show my love,
and that I have not forgotten you. Since that day when we met, I have
been very ill from thinking so much of you, and am quite changed from
what I was. But now that it is my unexpected good fortune to meet you,
I pray you have pity on me.” “You needn’t make such a fuss about a
trifle,” replied she, “and with your own relatives, too. I’ll give
orders to supply you with a whole basketful of flowers when you go
away.” Wang told her she did not understand, and when she asked what
it was she didn’t understand, he said, “I didn’t care for the flower
itself; it was the person who picked the flower.” “Of course,”
answered she, “everybody cares for their relations; you needn’t have
told me that.” “I wasn’t talking about ordinary relations,” said Wang,
“but about husbands and wives.” “What’s the difference?” asked
Ying-ning. “Why,” replied Wang, “husband and wife are always
together.” “Just what I shouldn’t like,” cried she, “to be always with
anybody.”[113] At this juncture up came the maid, and Wang slipped
quietly away. By-and-by they all met again in the house, and the old
woman asked Ying-ning where they had been; whereupon she said they had
been talking in the garden. “Dinner has been ready a long time. I
can’t think what you have had to say all this while,” grumbled the old
woman. “My cousin,” answered Ying-ning, “has been talking to me about
husbands and wives.” Wang was much disconcerted, and made a sign to
her to be quiet, so she smiled and said no more; and the old woman
luckily did not catch her words, and asked her to repeat them. Wang
immediately put her off with something else, and whispered to
Ying-ning that she had done very wrong. The latter did not see that;
and when Wang told her that what he had said was private, answered him
that she had no secrets from her old mother. “Besides,” added she,
“what harm can there be in talking on such a common topic as husbands
and wives?” Wang was angry with her for being so dull, but there was
no help for it; and by the time dinner was over he found some of his
mother’s servants had come in search of him, bringing a couple of
donkeys with them. It appeared that his mother, alarmed at his
non-appearance, had made strict search for him in the village; and
when unable to discover any traces of him, had gone off to the Wu
family to consult. There her nephew, who recollected what he had
previously said to young Wang, advised that a search should be
instituted in the direction of the hills; and accordingly the servants
had been to all the villages on the way until they had at length
recognised him as he was coming out of the door. Wang went in and told
the old woman, begging that he might be allowed to take Ying-ning with
him. “I have had the idea in my head for several days,” replied the
old woman, overjoyed; “but I am a feeble old thing myself, and
couldn’t travel so far. If, however, you will take charge of my girl
and introduce her to her aunt, I shall be very pleased.” So she called
Ying-ning, who came up laughing as usual; whereupon the old woman
rebuked her, saying, “What makes you always laugh so? You would be a
very good girl but for that silly habit. Now, here’s your cousin, who
wants to take you away with him. Make haste and pack up.” The servants
who had come for Wang were then provided with refreshment, and the old
woman bade them both farewell, telling Ying-ning that her aunt was
quite well enough off to maintain her, and that she had better not
come back. She also advised her not to neglect her studies, and to be
very attentive to her elders, adding that she might ask her aunt to
provide her with a good husband. Wang and Ying-ning then took their
leave; and when they reached the brow of the hill, they looked back
and could just discern the old woman leaning against the door and
gazing towards the north. On arriving at Wang’s home, his mother,
seeing a nice-looking young girl with him, asked in astonishment who
she might be; and Wang at once told her the whole story. “But that was
all an invention of your cousin Wu’s,” cried his mother; “I haven’t
got a sister, and consequently I can’t have such a niece.” Ying-ning
here observed, “I am not the daughter of the old woman; my father was
named Ch‘in and died when I was a little baby, so that I can’t
remember anything.” “I _had_ a sister,” said Wang’s mother, “who
actually did marry a Mr. Ch‘in, but she died many years ago, and can’t
be still living, of course.” However, on inquiring as to facial
appearance and characteristic marks, Wang’s mother was obliged to
acknowledge the identity, wondering at the same time how her sister
could be alive when she had died many years before. Just then in came
Wu, and Ying-ning retired within; and when he heard the story,
remained some time lost in astonishment, and then said, “Is this young
lady’s name Ying-ning?” Wang replied that it was, and asked Wu how he
came to know it. “Mr. Ch‘in,” answered he, “after his wife’s death was
bewitched by a fox, and subsequently died. The fox had a daughter
named Ying-ning, as was well known to all the family; and when Mr.
Ch‘in died, as the fox still frequented the place, the Taoist
Pope[114] was called in to exorcise it. The fox then went away, taking
Ying-ning with it, and now here she is.” While they were thus
discussing, peals of laughter were heard coming from within, and Mrs.
Wang took occasion to remark what a foolish girl she was. Wu begged to
be introduced, and Mrs. Wang went in to fetch her, finding her in an
uncontrollable fit of laughter, which she subdued only with great
difficulty, and by turning her face to the wall. By-and-by she went
out; but, after making a bow, ran back and burst out laughing again to
the great discomfiture of all the ladies. Wang then said he would go
and find out for them all about Ying-ning and her queer story, so as
to be able to arrange the marriage; but when he reached the spot
indicated, village and houses had all vanished, and nothing was to be
seen except hill-flowers scattered about here and there. Wu
recollected that Mrs. Ch‘in had been buried at no great distance from
that spot; he found, however, that the grave had disappeared, and he
was no longer able to determine its position. Not knowing what to make
of it all, he returned home, and then Mrs. Wang told him she thought
the girl must be a disembodied spirit. Ying-ning shewed no signs of
alarm at this remark; neither did she cry at all when Mrs. Wang began
to condole with her on no longer having a home. She only laughed in
her usual silly way, and fairly puzzled them all. Sharing Miss Wang’s
room, she now began to take her part in the duties of a daughter of
the family; and as for needlework, they had rarely seen anything like
hers for fineness. But she could not get over that trick of laughing,
which, by the way, never interfered with her good looks, and
consequently rather amused people than otherwise, amongst others a
young married lady who lived next door. Wang’s mother fixed an
auspicious day for the wedding, but still feeling suspicious about
Ying-ning, was always secretly watching her. Finding, however, that
she had a proper shadow,[115] and that there was nothing
extraordinary in her behaviour, she had her dressed up when the day
came, in all the finery of a bride; and would have made her perform
the usual ceremonies, only Ying-ning laughed so much she was unable to
kneel down.[116] They were accordingly obliged to excuse her, but Wang
began to fear that such a foolish girl would never be able to keep the
family counsel. Luckily, she was very reticent and did not indulge in
gossip; and moreover, when Mrs. Wang was in trouble or out of temper,
Ying-ning could always bring her round with a laugh. The
maid-servants, too, if they expected a whipping for anything, would
always ask her to be present when they appeared before their mistress,
and thus they often escaped punishment. Ying-ning had a perfect
passion for flowers. She got all she could out of her relations, and
even secretly pawned her jewels to buy rare specimens; and by the end
of a few months the whole place was one mass of flowers. Behind the
house there was one especial tree[117] which belonged to the
neighbours on that side; but Ying-ning was always climbing up and
picking the flowers, for which Mrs. Wang rebuked her severely, though
without any result. One day the owner saw her, and gazed at her some
time in rapt astonishment; however, she didn’t move, deigning only to
laugh. The gentleman was much smitten with her; and when she smilingly
descended the wall on her own side, pointing all the time with her
finger to a spot hard by, he thought she was making an assignation. So
he presented himself at nightfall at the same place, and sure enough
Ying-ning was there. Seizing her hand, to tell his passion, he found
that he was grasping only a log of wood which stood against the wall;
and the next thing he knew was that a scorpion had stung him violently
on the finger. There was an end of his romance, except that he died of
the wound during the night, and his family at once commenced an action
against Wang for having a witch-wife. The magistrate happened to be a
great admirer of Wang’s talent, and knew him to be an accomplished
scholar; he therefore refused to grant the summons, and ordered the
prosecutor to be bambooed for false accusation.[118] Wang interposed
and got him off this punishment, and returned home himself. His mother
then scolded Ying-ning well, saying, “I knew your too playful
disposition would some day bring sorrow upon you. But for our
intelligent magistrate we should have been in a nice mess. Any
ordinary hawk-like official would have had you publicly interrogated
in court; and then how could your husband ever have held up his head
again?” Ying-ning looked grave and did not laugh this time; and Mrs.
Wang continued, “There’s no harm in laughing as long as it is
seasonable laughter;” but from that moment Ying-ning laughed no more,
no matter what people did to make her, though at the same time her
expression was by no means gloomy. One evening she went in tears to
her husband, who wanted to know what was the matter. “I couldn’t tell
you before,” said she, sobbing; “we had known each other such a short
time. But now that you and your mother have been so kind to me, I will
keep nothing from you, but tell you all. I am the daughter of a fox.
When my mother went away she put me in the charge of the disembodied
spirit of an old woman, with whom I remained for a period of over ten
years. I have no brothers: only you to whom I can look. And now my
foster-mother is lying on the hill-side with no one to bury her and
appease her discontented shade. If not too much, I would ask you to do
this, that her spirit may be at rest, and know that it was not
neglected by her whom she brought up.” Wang consented, but said he
feared they would not be able to find her grave; on which Ying-ning
said there was no danger of that, and accordingly they set forth
together. When they arrived, Ying-ning pointed out the tomb in a
lonely spot amidst a thicket of brambles, and there they found the old
woman’s bones. Ying-ning wept bitterly, and then they proceeded to
carry her remains home with them, subsequently interring them in the
Ch‘in family vault. That night Wang dreamt that the old woman came to
thank him, and when he waked he told Ying-ning, who said that she had
seen her also, and had been warned by her not to frighten Mr. Wang.
Her husband asked why she had not detained the old lady; but Ying-ning
replied, “She is a disembodied spirit, and would be ill at ease for
any time surrounded by so much life.”[119] Wang then enquired after
Hsiao-jung, and his wife said, “She was a fox too, and a very clever
one. My foster-mother kept her to wait on me, and she was always
getting fruit and cakes for me, so that I have a friendship for her
and shall never forget her. My foster-mother told me yesterday she was
married.”

After this, whenever the great fast-day[120] came round, husband and
wife went off without fail to worship at the Ch‘in family tomb; and by
the time a year had passed she gave birth to a son, who wasn’t a bit
afraid of strangers, but laughed at everybody, and in fact took very
much after his mother.


FOOTNOTES:

[107] Sickness being supposed to result from evil influences,
witchcraft, &c., just as often as from more natural causes.

[108] The rule which guides betrothals in China is that “the doors
should be opposite”--_i.e._, that the families of the bride and
bridegroom should be of equal position in the social scale. Any
unpleasantness about the value of the marriage presents, and so on, is
thereby avoided.

[109] Marriage between persons of the same surname is forbidden by
law, for such are held to be blood relations, descended lineally from
the original couple of that name. Inasmuch, however, as the line of
descent is traced through the male branches only, a man may marry his
cousins on the maternal side without let or hindrance except that of
sentiment, which is sufficiently strong to keep these alliances down
to a minimum.

[110] A very unjustifiable proceeding in Chinese eyes, unless driven
to it by actual poverty.

[111] The Chinese years are distinguished by the names of twelve
animals--namely, rat, ox, tiger, hare, dragon, serpent, horse, sheep,
monkey, cock, dog, and boar. To the common question, “What is your
honourable age?” the reply is frequently, “I was born under the ----;”
and the hearer by a short mental calculation can tell at once how old
the speaker is, granting, of course, the impossibility of making an
error of so much as twelve years.

[112] Parents in China like to get their sons married as early as
possible, in the hope of seeing themselves surrounded by grandsons,
and the family name in no danger of extinction. Girls are generally
married at from fifteen to seventeen.

[113] This scene should for ever disabuse people of the notion that
there is no such thing as “making love” among the Chinese. That the
passion is just as much a disease in China as it is with us will be
abundantly evident from several subsequent stories; though by those
who have lived and mixed with the Chinese people, no such confirmation
will be needed. I have even heard it gravely asserted by an educated
native that not a few of his countrymen had “died for love” of the
beautiful Miss Lin, the charming but fictitious heroine of _The Dream
of the Red Chamber_.

Play-goers can here hardly fail to notice a very striking similarity
to the close of the first act of Mr. W. S. Gilbert’s “Sweethearts.”

[114] The semi-divine head of the Taoist religion, sometimes called
the Master of Heaven. In his body is supposed to reside the soul of a
celebrated Taoist, an ancestor of his, who actually discovered the
elixir of life and became an immortal some eighteen hundred years ago.
At death, the precious soul above-mentioned will take up its abode in
the body of some youthful member of the family to be hereinafter
revealed. Meanwhile, the present Pope makes a very respectable income
from the sale of charms, by working miracles, and so forth; and only
about two years ago he visited Shanghai, where he was interviewed by
several foreigners.

[115] Disembodied spirits are supposed to have no shadow, and but very
little appetite. There are also certain occasions on which they cannot
stand the smell of sulphur. Fiske, in his _Myths and Myth-makers_
(page 230) says, “Almost universally, ghosts, however impervious to
thrust of sword or shot of pistol, can eat and drink like Squire
Westerns.”

[116] See No. III., note 45.

[117] The _Mu-hsiang_ or _Costus amarus_.

[118] Strictly in accordance with Chinese criminal law.

[119] These disembodied spirits are unable to stand for any length of
time the light and life of this upper world, darkness and death being
as it were necessary to their existence and comfort.

[120] The day before the annual spring festival.



XVI.

THE MAGIC SWORD.


Ning Lai-ch‘ên was a Chekiang man, and a good-natured, honourable
fellow, fond of telling people that he had only loved once. Happening
to go to Chinhua, he took shelter in a temple to the north of the
city; very nice as far as ornamentation went, but overgrown with grass
taller than a man’s head, and evidently not much frequented. On either
side were the priest’s apartments, the doors of which were ajar, with
the exception of a small room on the south side, where the lock had a
new appearance. In the east corner he espied a group of bamboos,
growing over a large pool of water-lilies in flower; and, being much
pleased with the quiet of the place, determined to remain; more
especially as, the Grand Examiner being in the town, all lodgings had
gone up in price. So he roamed about waiting till the priests should
return; and in the evening, a gentleman came and opened the door on
the south side. Ning quickly made up to him, and with a bow informed
him of his design. “There is no one here whose permission you need
ask,” replied the stranger; “I am only lodging here, and if you don’t
object to the loneliness, I shall be very pleased to have the benefit
of your society.” Ning was delighted, and made himself a straw bed,
and put up a board for a table, as if he intended to remain some time;
and that night, by the beams of the clear bright moon, they sat
together in the verandah and talked. The stranger’s name was Yen
Ch‘ih-hsia, and Ning thought he was a student up for the provincial
examination, only his dialect was not that of a Chekiang man. On being
asked, he said he came from Shensi; and there was an air of
straightforwardness about all his remarks. By-and-by, when their
conversation was exhausted, they bade each other good night and went
to bed; but Ning, being in a strange place, was quite unable to sleep;
and soon he heard sounds of voices from the room on the north side.
Getting up, he peeped through a window, and saw, in a small court-yard
the other side of a low wall, a woman of about forty with an old
maid-servant in a long faded gown, humped-backed and feeble-looking.
They were chatting by the light of the moon; and the mistress said,
“Why doesn’t Hsiao-ch‘ien come?” “She ought to be here by now,”
replied the other. “She isn’t offended with you; is she?” asked the
lady. “Not that I know of,” answered the old servant; “but she seems
to want to give trouble.” “Such people don’t deserve to be treated
well,” said the other; and she had hardly uttered these words when up
came a young girl of seventeen or eighteen, and very nice looking. The
old servant laughed, and said, “Don’t talk of people behind their
backs. We were just mentioning you as you came without our hearing
you; but fortunately we were saying nothing bad about you. And, as far
as that goes,” added she, “if I were a young fellow why I should
certainly fall in love with you.” “If _you_ don’t praise me,” replied
the girl, “I’m sure I don’t know who will;” and then the lady and the
girl said something together, and Mr. Ning, thinking they were the
family next door, turned round to sleep without paying further
attention to them. In a little while no sound was to be heard; but, as
he was dropping off to sleep, he perceived that somebody was in the
room. Jumping up in great haste, he found it was the young lady he had
just seen; and detecting at once that she was going to attempt to
bewitch him, sternly bade her begone. She then produced a lump of gold
which he threw away, and told her to go after it or he would call his
friend. So she had no alternative but to go, muttering something about
his heart being like iron or stone. Next day, a young candidate for
the examination came and lodged in the east room with his servant. He,
however, was killed that very night, and his servant the night after;
the corpses of both shewing a small hole in the sole of the foot as if
bored by an awl, and from which a little blood came. No one knew who
had committed these murders, and when Mr. Yen came home, Ning asked
him what he thought about it. Yen replied that it was the work of
devils, but Ning was a brave fellow, and that didn’t frighten him
much. In the middle of the night Hsiao-ch‘ien appeared to him again,
and said, “I have seen many men, but none with a steel cold heart like
yours. You are an upright man, and I will not attempt to deceive you.
I, Hsiao-ch‘ien, whose family name is Nieh, died when only eighteen,
and was buried alongside of this temple. A devil then took possession
of me, and employed me to bewitch people by my beauty, contrary to my
inclination. There is now nothing left in this temple to slay, and I
fear that imps will be employed to kill you.” Ning was very frightened
at this, and asked her what he should do. “Sleep in the same room with
Mr. Yen,” replied she. “What!” asked he, “cannot the spirits trouble
Yen?” “He is a strange man,” she answered, “and they don’t like going
near him.” Ning then inquired how the spirits worked. “I bewitch
people,” said Hsiao-ch‘ien, “and then they bore a hole in the foot
which renders the victim senseless, and proceed to draw off the blood,
which the devils drink. Another method is to tempt people by false
gold, the bones of some horrid demon; and if they receive it, their
hearts and livers will be torn out. Either method is used according to
circumstances.” Ning thanked her, and asked when he ought to be
prepared; to which she replied, “To-morrow night.” At parting she
wept, and said, “I am about to sink into the great sea, with no
friendly shore at hand. But your sense of duty is boundless, and you
can save me. If you will collect my bones and bury them in some quiet
spot, I shall not again be subject to these misfortunes.” Ning said he
would do so, and asked where she lay buried. “At the foot of the
aspen-tree on which there is a bird’s nest,” replied she; and passing
out of the door, disappeared. The next day Ning was afraid that Yen
might be going away somewhere, and went over early to invite him
across. Wine and food were produced towards noon; and Ning, who took
care not to lose sight of Yen, then asked him to remain there for the
night. Yen declined, on the ground that he liked being by himself; but
Ning wouldn’t hear any excuses, and carried all Yen’s things to his
own room, so that he had no alternative but to consent. However, he
warned Ning, saying, “I know you are a gentleman and a man of honour.
If you see anything you don’t quite understand, I pray you not to be
too inquisitive; don’t pry into my boxes, or it may be the worse for
both of us.” Ning promised to attend to what he said, and by-and-by
they both lay down to sleep; and Yen, having placed his boxes on the
window-sill, was soon snoring loudly. Ning himself could not sleep;
and after some time he saw a figure moving stealthily outside, at
length approaching the window to peep through. It’s eyes flashed like
lightning, and Ning in a terrible fright was just upon the point of
calling Yen, when something flew out of one of the boxes like a strip
of white silk, and dashing against the window-sill returned at once to
the box, disappearing very much like lightning. Yen heard the noise
and got up, Ning all the time pretending to be asleep in order to
watch what happened. The former then opened the box, and took out
something which he smelt and examined by the light of the moon. It
was dazzlingly white like crystal, and about two inches in length by
the width of an onion leaf in breadth. He then wrapped it up carefully
and put it back in the broken box, saying, “A bold-faced devil that,
to come so near my box;” upon which he went back to bed; but Ning, who
was lost in astonishment, arose and asked him what it all meant,
telling at the same time what he himself had seen. “As you and I are
good friends,” replied Yen, “I won’t make any secret of it. The fact
is I am a Taoist priest. But for the window-sill the devil would have
been killed; as it is, he is badly wounded.” Ning asked him what it
was he had there wrapped up, and he told him it was his sword,[121] on
which he had smelt the presence of the devil. At Ning’s request he
produced the weapon, a bright little miniature of a sword; and from
that time Ning held his friend in higher esteem than ever.

Next day he found traces of blood outside the window which led round
to the north of the temple; and there among a number of graves he
discovered the aspen-tree with the bird’s nest at its summit. He then
fulfilled his promise and prepared to go home, Yen giving him a
farewell banquet, and presenting him with an old leather case which he
said contained a sword, and would keep at a distance from him all
devils and bogies. Ning then wished to learn a little of Yen’s art;
but the latter replied that although he might accomplish this easily
enough, being as he was an upright man, yet he was well off in life,
and not in a condition where it would be of any advantage to him. Ning
then pretending he had to go and bury his sister, collected
Hsiao-ch‘ien’s bones, and, having wrapped them up in grave-clothes,
hired a boat, and set off on his way home. On his arrival, as his
library looked towards the open country, he made a grave hard by and
buried the bones there, sacrificing, and invoking Hsiao-ch‘ien as
follows:--“In pity for your lonely ghost, I have placed your remains
near my humble cottage, where we shall be near each other, and no
devil will dare annoy you. I pray you reject not my sacrifice, poor
though it be.” After this, he was proceeding home when he suddenly
heard himself addressed from behind, the voice asking him not to
hurry; and turning round he beheld Hsiao-ch‘ien, who thanked him,
saying, “Were I to die ten times for you I could not discharge my
debt. Let me go home with you and wait upon your father and mother;
you will not repent it.” Looking closely at her, he observed that she
had a beautiful complexion, and feet as small as bamboo shoots,[122]
being altogether much prettier now that he came to see her by
daylight. So they went together to his home, and bidding her wait
awhile, Ning ran in to tell his mother, to the very great surprise of
the old lady. Now Ning’s wife had been ill for a long time, and his
mother advised him not to say a word about it to her for fear of
frightening her; in the middle of which in rushed Hsiao-ch‘ien, and
threw herself on the ground before them. “This is the young lady,”
said Ning; whereupon his mother in some alarm turned her attention to
Hsiao-ch‘ien, who cried out, “A lonely orphan, without brother or
sister, the object of your son’s kindness and compassion, begs to be
allowed to give her poor services as some return for favours shewn.”
Ning’s mother, seeing that she was a nice pleasant-looking girl, began
to lose fear of her, and replied, “Madam, the preference you shew for
my son is highly pleasing to an old body like myself; but this is the
only hope of our family, and I hardly dare agree to his taking a
devil-wife.” “I have but one motive in what I ask,” answered
Hsiao-ch‘ien, “and if you have no faith in disembodied people, then
let me regard him as my brother, and live under your protection,
serving you like a daughter.” Ning’s mother could not resist her
straightforward manner, and Hsiao-ch‘ien asked to be allowed to see
Ning’s wife, but this was denied on the plea that the lady was ill.
Hsiao-ch‘ien then went into the kitchen and got ready the dinner,
running about the place as if she had lived there all her life. Ning’s
mother was, however, much afraid of her, and would not let her sleep
in the house; so Hsiao-ch‘ien went to the library, and was just
entering when suddenly she fell back a few steps, and began walking
hurriedly backwards and forwards in front of the door. Ning seeing
this, called out and asked her what it meant; to which she replied,
“The presence of that sword frightens me, and that is why I could not
accompany you on your way home.” Ning at once understood her, and hung
up the sword-case in another place; whereupon she entered, lighted a
candle, and sat down. For some time she did not speak: at length
asking Ning if he studied at night or not--“For,” said she, “when I
was little I used to repeat the Lêng-yen _sutra_; but now I have
forgotten more than half, and, therefore, I should like to borrow a
copy, and when you are at leisure in the evening you might hear me.”
Ning said he would, and they sat silently there for some time, after
which Hsiao-ch‘ien went away and took up her quarters elsewhere.
Morning and night she waited on Ning’s mother, bringing water for her
to wash in, occupying herself with household matters, and endeavouring
to please her in every way. In the evening before she went to bed, she
would always go in and repeat a little of the _sutra_, and leave as
soon as she thought Ning was getting sleepy. Now the illness of Ning’s
wife had given his mother a great deal of extra trouble--more, in
fact, than she was equal to; but ever since Hsiao-ch‘ien’s arrival all
this was changed, and Ning’s mother felt kindly disposed to the girl
in consequence, gradually growing to regard her almost as her own
child, and forgetting quite that she was a spirit. Accordingly, she
didn’t make her leave the house at night; and Hsiao-ch‘ien, who being
a devil had not tasted meat or drink since her arrival,[123] now
began at the end of six months to take a little thin gruel. Mother and
son alike became very fond of her, and henceforth never mentioned what
she really was; neither were strangers able to detect the fact.
By-and-by, Ning’s wife died, and his mother secretly wished him to
espouse Hsiao-ch‘ien, though she rather dreaded any unfortunate
consequences that might arise. This Hsiao-ch‘ien perceived, and
seizing an opportunity said to Ning’s mother, “I have been with you
now more than a year, and you ought to know something of my
disposition. Because I was unwilling to injure travellers I followed
your son hither. There was no other motive; and, as your son has shewn
himself one of the best of men, I would now remain with him for three
years in order that he may obtain for me some mark of Imperial
approbation[124] which will do me honour in the realms below.” Ning’s
mother knew that she meant no evil, but hesitated to put the family
hopes of a posterity into jeopardy. Hsiao-ch‘ien, however, reassured
her by saying that Ning would have three sons, and that the line would
not be interrupted by his marrying her. On the strength of this the
marriage was arranged to the great joy of Ning, a feast prepared, and
friends and relatives invited; and when in response to a call the
bride herself came forth in her gay wedding-dress, the beholders took
her rather for a fairy than for a devil. After this, numbers of
congratulatory presents were given by the various female members of
the family, who vied with one another in making her acquaintance; and
these Hsiao-ch‘ien returned by gifts of paintings of flowers, done by
herself, in which she was very skilful, the receivers being extremely
proud of such marks of her friendship. One day she was leaning at the
window in a despondent mood, when suddenly she asked where the
sword-case was. “Oh,” replied Ning, “as you seemed afraid of it, I
moved it elsewhere.” “I have now been so long under the influence of
surrounding life,”[125] said Hsiao-ch‘ien, “that I shan’t be afraid of
it any more. Let us hang it on the bed.” “Why so?” asked Ning. “For the
last three days,” explained she, “I have been much agitated in mind;
and I fear that the devil at the temple, angry at my escape, may come
suddenly and carry me off.” So Ning brought the sword-case, and
Hsiao-ch‘ien, after examining it closely, remarked, “This is where the
magician puts people. I wonder how many were slain before it got old
and worn out as it is now. Even now when I look at it my flesh
creeps.” The case was then hung up, and next day removed to over the
door. At night they sat up and watched, Hsiao-ch‘ien warning Ning not
to go to sleep; and suddenly something fell down flop like a bird.
Hsiao-ch‘ien in a fright got behind the curtain; but Ning looked at
the thing, and found it was an imp of darkness, with glaring eyes and
a bloody mouth, coming straight to the door. Stealthily creeping up it
made a grab at the sword-case, and seemed about to tear it in pieces,
when bang!--the sword-case became as big as a wardrobe, and from it a
devil protruded part of his body and dragged the imp in. Nothing more
was heard, and the sword-case resumed its original size. Ning was
greatly alarmed, but Hsiao-ch‘ien came out rejoicing, and said,
“There’s an end of my troubles.” In the sword-case they found only a
few quarts of clear water; nothing else.

After these events Ning took his doctor’s degree and Hsiao-ch‘ien bore
him a son. He then took a concubine, and had one more son by each, all
of whom became in time distinguished men.


FOOTNOTES:

[121] See No. X., note 80.

[122] Which, well cooked, are a very good substitute for asparagus.

[123] See note 115 to the last story.

[124] Such as are from time to time bestowed upon virtuous widows and
wives, filial sons and daughters, and others. These consist of some
laudatory scroll or tablet, and are much prized by the family of the
recipient.

[125] See note 119 to last story.



XVII.

THE _SHUI-MANG_ PLANT.


The _shui-mang_[126] is a poisonous herb. It is a creeper, like the
bean, and has a similar red flower. Those who eat of it die, and
become _shui-mang_ devils, tradition asserting that such devils are
unable to be born again unless they can find some one else who has
also eaten of this poison to take their place.[127] These _shui-mang_
devils abound in the province of Hunan, where, by the way, the phrase
“same-year man” is applied to those born in the same year, who
exchange visits and call each other brother, their children addressing
the father’s “brother” as uncle. This has now become a regular custom
there.[128]

A young man named Chu was on his way to visit a same-year friend of
his, when he was overtaken by a violent thirst. Suddenly he came upon
an old woman sitting by the roadside under a shed and distributing
tea gratis,[129] and immediately walked up to her to get a drink. She
invited him into the shed, and presented him with a bowl of tea in a
very cordial spirit; but the smell of it did not seem like the smell
of ordinary tea, and he would not drink it, rising up to go away. The
old woman stopped him, and called out, “San-niang! bring some good
tea.” Immediately a young girl came from behind the shed, carrying in
her hands a pot of tea. She was about fourteen or fifteen years old,
and of very fascinating appearance, with glittering rings and
bracelets on her fingers and arms. As Chu received the cup from her
his reason fled; and drinking down the tea she gave him, the flavour
of which was unlike any other kind, he proceeded to ask for more.
Then, watching for a moment when the old woman’s back was turned, he
seized her wrist and drew a ring from her finger. The girl blushed and
smiled; and Chu, more and more inflamed, asked her where she lived.
“Come again this evening,” replied she, “and you’ll find me here.” Chu
begged for a handful of her tea, which he stowed away with the ring,
and took his leave. Arriving at his destination, he felt a pain in his
heart, which he at once attributed to the tea, telling his friend
what had occurred. “Alas! you are undone,” cried the other; “they were
_shui-mang_ devils. My father died in the same way, and we were unable
to save him. There is no help for you.” Chu was terribly frightened,
and produced the handful of tea, which his friend at once pronounced
to be leaves of the _shui-mang_ plant. He then shewed him the ring,
and told him what the girl had said; whereupon his friend, after some
reflection, said, “She must be San-niang, of the K‘ou family.” “How
could you know her name?” asked Chu, hearing his friend use the same
words as the old woman. “Oh,” replied he, “there was a nice-looking
girl of that name who died some years ago from eating of the same
herb. She is doubtless the girl you saw.” Here some one observed that
if the person so entrapped by a devil only knew its name, and could
procure an old pair of its shoes, he might save himself by boiling
them in water and drinking the liquor as medicine. Chu’s friend
thereupon rushed off at once to the K‘ou family, and implored them to
give him an old pair of their daughter’s shoes; but they, not wishing
to prevent their daughter from finding a substitute in Chu, flatly
refused his request. So he went back in anger and told Chu, who ground
his teeth with rage, saying, “If I die, she shall not obtain her
transmigration thereby.” His friend then sent him home; and just as he
reached the door he fell down dead. Chu’s mother wept bitterly over
his corpse, which was in due course interred; and he left behind one
little boy barely a year old. His wife did not remain a widow, but in
six months married again and went away, putting Chu’s son under the
care of his grandmother, who was quite unequal to any toil, and did
nothing but weep morning and night. One day she was carrying her
grandson about in her arms, crying bitterly all the time, when
suddenly in walked Chu. His mother, much alarmed, brushed away her
tears, and asked him what it meant. “Mother,” replied he, “down in the
realms below I heard you weeping. I am therefore come to tend you.
Although a departed spirit, I have a wife, who has likewise come to
share your toil. Therefore do not grieve.” His mother inquired who his
wife was, to which he replied, “When the K‘ou family sat still and
left me to my fate I was greatly incensed against them; and after
death I sought for San-niang, not knowing where she was. I have
recently seen my old same-year friend, and he told me where she was.
She had come to life again in the person of the baby-daughter of a
high official named Jen; but I went thither and dragged her spirit
back. She is now my wife, and we get on extremely well together.” A
very pretty and well-dressed young lady here entered, and made
obeisance to Chu’s mother, Chu saying, “This is San-niang, of the K‘ou
family;” and although not a living being, Mrs. Chu at once took a
great fancy to her. Chu sent her off to help in the work of the house,
and, in spite of not being accustomed to this sort of thing, she was
so obedient to her mother-in-law as to excite the compassion of all.
The two then took up their quarters in Chu’s old apartments, and there
they continued to remain.

Meanwhile San-niang asked Chu’s mother to let the K‘ou family know;
and this she did, notwithstanding some objections raised by her son.
Mr. and Mrs. K‘ou were much astonished at the news, and, ordering
their carriage, proceeded at once to Chu’s house. There they found
their daughter, and parents and child fell into each other’s arms.
San-niang entreated them to dry their tears; but her mother, noticing
the poverty of Chu’s household, was unable to restrain her feelings.
“We are already spirits,” cried San-niang; “what matters poverty to
us? Besides, I am very well treated here, and am altogether as happy
as I can be.” They then asked her who the old woman was; to which she
replied, “Her name was Ni. She was mortified at being too ugly to
entrap people herself, and got me to assist her. She has now been born
again at a soy-shop in the city.” Then, looking at her husband, she
added, “Come, since you are the son-in-law, pay the proper respect to
my father and mother, or what shall I think of you?” Chu made his
obeisance, and San-niang went into the kitchen to get food ready for
them, at which her mother became very melancholy, and went away home,
whence she sent a couple of maid-servants, a hundred ounces of silver,
and rolls of cloth and silk, besides making occasional presents of
food and wine, so that Chu’s mother lived in comparative comfort.
San-niang also went from time to time to see her parents, but would
never stay very long, pleading that she was wanted at home, and such
excuses; and if the old people attempted to keep her, she simply went
off by herself. Her father built a nice house for Chu with all kinds
of luxuries in it; but Chu never once entered his father-in-law’s
door.

Subsequently a man of the village who had eaten _shui-mang_, and had
died in consequence, came back to life, to the great astonishment of
everybody. However, Chu explained it, saying, “I brought him back to
life. He was the victim of a man named Li Chiu; but I drove off Li’s
spirit when it came to make the other take his place.” Chu’s mother
then asked her son why he did not get a substitute for himself; to
which he replied, “I do not like to do this. I am anxious to put an
end to, rather than take advantage of, such a system. Besides, I am
very happy waiting on you, and have no wish to be born again.” From
that time all persons who had poisoned themselves with _shui-mang_
were in the habit of feasting Chu and obtaining his assistance in
their trouble. But in ten years’ time his mother died, and he and his
wife gave themselves up to sorrow, and would see no one, bidding their
little boy put on mourning, beat his breast, and perform the proper
ceremonies. Two years after Chu had buried his mother, his son married
the granddaughter of a high official named Jen. This gentleman had had
a daughter by a concubine, who had died when only a few months old;
and now, hearing the strange story of Chu’s wife, came to call on her
and arrange the marriage. He then gave his granddaughter to Chu’s son,
and a free intercourse was maintained between the two families.
However, one day Chu said to his son, “Because I have been of service
to my generation, God has appointed me Keeper of the Dragons; and I
am now about to proceed to my post.” Thereupon four horses appeared in
the court-yard, drawing a carriage with yellow hangings, the flanks of
the horses being covered with scale-like trappings. Husband and wife
came forth in full dress, and took their seats, and, while son and
daughter-in-law were weeping their adieus, disappeared from view. That
very day the K‘ou family saw their daughter arrive, and, bidding them
farewell, she told them the same story. The old people would have kept
her, but she said, “My husband is already on his way,” and, leaving
the house, parted from them for ever. Chu’s son was named Ngo, and his
literary name was Li-ch‘ên. He begged San-niang’s bones from the K‘ou
family, and buried them by the side of his father’s.


FOOTNOTES:

[126] Probably the _Illicium religiosum_ is meant.

[127] See No. XII., note 87.

[128] The common application of the term “same-year-men,” is to
persons who have graduated at the same time.

[129] This is by no means an uncommon form of charity. During the
temporary distress at Canton, in the summer of 1877, large tubs of
gruel were to be seen standing at convenient points, ready for any
poor person who might wish to stay his hunger. It is thus, and by
similar acts of benevolence, such as building bridges, repairing
roads, etc., etc., that the wealthy Chinaman strives to maintain an
advantageous balance in his record of good and evil.



XVIII.

LITTLE CHU.


A man named Li Hua dwelt at Ch‘ang-chou. He was very well off, and
about fifty years of age, but he had no sons; only one daughter, named
Hsiao-hui, a pretty child on whom her parents doted. When she was
fourteen she had a severe illness and died, leaving their home
desolate and depriving them of their chief pleasure in life. Mr. Li
then bought a concubine, and she by-and-by bore him a son, who was
perfectly idolised, and called Chu, or the Pearl. This boy grew up to
be a fine manly fellow, though so extremely stupid that when five or
six years old he didn’t know pulse from corn, and could hardly talk
plainly. His father, however, loved him dearly, and did not observe
his faults.

Now it chanced that a one-eyed priest came to collect alms in the
town, and he seemed to know so much about everybody’s private affairs
that the people all looked upon him as superhuman. He himself declared
he had control over life, death, happiness, and misfortune; and
consequently no one dared refuse him whatever sum he chose to ask of
them. From Li he demanded one hundred ounces of silver, but was
offered only ten, which he refused to receive. This sum was increased
to thirty ounces, whereupon the priest looked sternly at Li and said,
“I must have one hundred; not a fraction less.” Li now got angry, and
went away without giving him any, the priest, too, rising up in a rage
and shouting after him, “I hope you won’t repent.” Shortly after these
events little Chu fell sick, and crawled about the bed scratching the
mat, his face being of an ashen paleness. This frightened his father,
who hurried off with eighty ounces of silver, and begged the priest to
accept them. “A large sum like this is no trifling matter to earn,”
said the priest, smiling; “but what can a poor recluse like myself do
for you?” So Li went home, to find that little Chu was already dead;
and this worked him into such a state that he immediately laid a
complaint before the magistrate. The priest was accordingly summoned
and interrogated; but the magistrate wouldn’t accept his defence, and
ordered him to be bambooed. The blows sounded as if falling on
leather, upon which the magistrate commanded his lictors to search
him; and from about his person they drew forth two wooden men, a small
coffin, and five small flags. The magistrate here flew into a passion,
and made certain mystic signs with his fingers, which when the priest
saw he was frightened, and began to excuse himself; but the magistrate
would not listen to him, and had him bambooed to death. Li thanked him
for his kindness, and, taking his leave, proceeded home. In the
evening, after dusk, he was sitting alone with his wife, when suddenly
in popped a little boy, who said, “Pa! why did you hurry on so fast?
I couldn’t catch you up.” Looking at him more closely, they saw that
he was about seven or eight years old, and Mr. Li, in some alarm, was
on the point of questioning him, when he disappeared, re-appearing
again like smoke, and, curling round and round, got upon the bed. Li
pushed him off, and he fell down without making any sound, crying out,
“Pa! why do you do this?” and in a moment he was on the bed again. Li
was frightened, and ran away with his wife, the boy calling after
them, “Pa! Ma! boo-oo-oo.” They went into the next room, bolting the
door after them; but there was the little boy at their heels again. Li
asked him what he wanted, to which he replied, “I belong to Su-chou;
my name is Chan; at six years of age I was left an orphan; my brother
and his wife couldn’t bear me, so they sent me to live at my maternal
grandfather’s. One day, when playing outside, a wicked priest killed
me by his black art underneath a mulberry-tree, and made of me an evil
spirit, dooming me to everlasting devildom without hope of
transmigration. Happily you exposed him; and I would now remain with
you as your son.” “The paths of men and devils,” replied Li, “lie in
different directions. How can we remain together?” “Give me only a
tiny room,” cried the boy, “a bed, a mattress, and a cup of cold gruel
every day. I ask for nothing more.” So Li agreed, to the great delight
of the boy, who slept by himself in another part of the house, coming
in the morning and walking in and out like any ordinary person.
Hearing Li’s concubine crying bitterly, he asked how long little Chu
had been dead, and she told him seven days. “It’s cold weather now,”
said he, “and the body can’t have decomposed. Have the grave opened,
and let me see it; if not too far gone, I can bring him to life
again.” Li was only too pleased, and went off with the boy; and when
they opened the grave they found the body in perfect preservation; but
while Li was controlling his emotions, lo! the boy had vanished from
his sight. Wondering very much at this, he took little Chu’s body
home, and had hardly laid it on the bed when he noticed the eyes move.
Little Chu then called for some broth, which put him into a
perspiration, and then he got up. They were all overjoyed to see him
come to life again; and, what is more, he was much brighter and
cleverer than before. At night, however, he lay perfectly stiff and
rigid, without shewing any signs of life; and, as he didn’t move when
they turned him over and over, they were much frightened, and thought
he had died again. But towards daybreak he awaked as if from a dream,
and in reply to their questions said that when he was with the wicked
priest there was another boy named Ko-tzŭ;[130] and that the day
before, when he had been unable to catch up his father, it was because
he had stayed behind to bid adieu to Ko-tzŭ; that Ko-tzŭ was now the
son of an official in Purgatory named Chiang, and very comfortably
settled; and that he had invited him (Chan) to go and play with him
that evening, and had sent him back on a white-nosed horse. His mother
then asked him if he had seen little Chu in Purgatory; to which he
replied, “Little Chu has already been born again. He and our father
here had not really the destiny of father and son. Little Chu was
merely a man named Yen Tzŭ-fang, from Chin-ling, who had come to
reclaim an old debt.”[131] Now Mr. Li had formerly traded to
Chin-ling, and actually owed money for goods to a Mr. Yen; but he had
died, and no one else knew anything about it, so that he was now
greatly alarmed when he heard this story. His mother next asked (the
quasi) little Chu if he had seen his sister, Hsiao-hui; and he said he
had not, promising to go again and inquire about her. A few days
afterwards he told his mother that Hsiao-hui was very happy in
Purgatory, being married to a son of one of the Judges; and that she
had any quantity of jewels,[132] and crowds of attendants when she
went abroad. “Why doesn’t she come home to see her parents?” asked his
mother. “Well,” replied the boy, “dead people, you know, haven’t got
any flesh or bones; however, if you can only remind them of something
that happened in their past lives, their feelings are at once touched.
So yesterday I managed, through Mr. Chiang, to get an interview with
Hsiao-hui; and we sat together on a coral couch, and I spoke to her
of her father and mother at home, all of which she listened to as if
she was asleep. I then remarked, ‘Sister, when you were alive you were
very fond of embroidering double-stemmed flowers; and once you cut
your finger with the scissors, and the blood ran over the silk, but
you brought it into the picture as a crimson cloud. Your mother has
that picture still, hanging at the head of her bed, a perpetual
souvenir of you. Sister, have you forgotten this?’ Then she burst into
tears, and promised to ask her husband to let her come and visit you.”
His mother asked when she would arrive; but he said he could not tell.
However, one day he ran in and cried out, “Mother, Hsiao-hui has come,
with a splendid equipage and a train of servants; we had better get
plenty of wine ready.” In a few moments he came in again, saying,
“Here is my sister,” at the same time asking her to take a seat and
rest. He then wept; but none of those present saw anything at all.
By-and-by he went out and burnt a quantity of paper money[133] and
made offerings of wine outside the door, returning shortly and saying
he had sent away her attendants for a while. Hsiao-hui then asked if
the green coverlet, a small portion of which had been burnt by a
candle, was still in existence. “It is,” replied her mother, and,
going to a box, she at once produced the coverlet. “Hsiao-hui would
like a bed made up for her in her old room,” said her (quasi) brother;
“she wants to rest awhile, and will talk with you again in the
morning.”

Now their next-door neighbour, named Chao, had a daughter who was
formerly a great friend of Hsiao-hui’s, and that night she dreamt that
Hsiao-hui appeared with a turban on her head and a red mantle over her
shoulders, and that they talked and laughed together precisely as in
days gone by. “I am now a spirit,” said Hsiao-hui, “and my father and
mother can no more see me than if I was far separated from them. Dear
sister, I would borrow your body, from which to speak to them. You
need fear nothing.” On the morrow when Miss Chao met her mother, she
fell on the ground before her and remained some time in a state of
unconsciousness, at length saying, “Madam, it is many years since we
met; your hair has become very white.” “The girl’s mad,” said her
mother, in alarm; and, thinking something had gone wrong, proceeded to
follow her out of the door. Miss Chao went straight to Li’s house, and
there with tears embraced Mrs. Li, who did not know what to make of it
all. “Yesterday,” said Miss Chao, “when I came back, I was unhappily
unable to speak with you. Unfilial wretch that I was, to die before
you, and leave you to mourn my loss. How can I redeem such behaviour?”
Her mother thereupon began to understand the scene, and, weeping,
said to her, “I have heard that you hold an honourable position, and
this is a great comfort to me; but, living as you do in the palace of
a Judge, how is it you are able to get away?” “My husband,” replied
she, “is very kind; and his parents treat me with all possible
consideration. I experience no harsh treatment at their hands.” Here
Miss Chao rested her cheek upon her hand, exactly as Hsiao-hui had
been wont to do when she was alive; and at that moment in came her
brother to say that her attendants were ready to return. “I must go,”
said she, rising up and weeping bitterly all the time; after which she
fell down, and remained some time unconscious as before.

Shortly after these events Mr. Li became dangerously ill, and no
medicines were of any avail, so that his son feared they would not be
able to save his life. Two devils sat at the head of his bed, one
holding an iron staff, the other a nettle-hemp rope four or five feet
in length. Day and night his son implored them to go, but they would
not move; and Mrs. Li in sorrow began to prepare the funeral
clothes.[134] Towards evening her son entered and cried out,
“Strangers and women, leave the room! My sister’s husband is coming to
see his father-in-law.” He then clapped his hands, and burst out
laughing. “What is the matter?” asked his mother. “I am laughing,”
answered he, “because when the two devils heard my sister’s husband
was coming, they both ran under the bed, like terrapins, drawing in
their heads.” By-and-by, looking at nothing, he began to talk about the
weather, and ask his sister’s husband how he did, and then he clapped
his hands, and said, “I begged the two devils to go, but they would
not; it’s all right now.” After this he went out to the door and
returned, saying, “My sister’s husband has gone. He took away the two
devils tied to his horse. My father ought to get better now. Besides,
Hsiao-hui’s husband said he would speak to the Judge, and obtain a
hundred years’ lease of life both for you and my father.” The whole
family rejoiced exceedingly at this, and, when night came, Mr. Li was
better, and in a few days quite well again. A tutor was engaged for
(the quasi) little Chu, who shewed himself an apt pupil, and at
eighteen years of age took his bachelor’s degree. He could also see
things of the other world; and when anyone in the village was ill, he
pointed out where the devils were, and burnt them out with fire, so
that everybody got well. However, before long he himself became very
ill, and his flesh turned green and purple; whereupon he said, “The
devils afflict me thus because I let out their secrets. Henceforth I
shall never divulge them again.”


FOOTNOTES:

[130] It may be necessary here to remind the reader that Chan’s spirit
is speaking from Chu’s body.

[131] We shall come by and by to a story illustrative of this
extraordinary belief.

[132] The _summum bonum_ of many a Chinese woman.

[133] Chinese silver, called sycee (from the Cantonese _sai see_ “fine
silk;” because, if pure, it may be drawn out under the application of
heat into fine silk threads), is cast in the form of “shoes,” weighing
from one to one hundred ounces. Paper imitations of these are burnt
for the use of the spirits in the world below. The sharp edges of a
“shoe” of sycee are caused by the mould containing the molten silver
being gently shaken until the metal has set, with a view to secure
uniform fineness throughout the lump.

[134] Death is regarded as a summons from the authorities of
Purgatory; lictors are sent to arrest the doomed man, armed with a
written warrant similar to those issued on earth from a magistrate’s
yamên.



XIX.

MISS QUARTA HU.


Mr. Shang was a native of T‘ai-shan, and lived quietly with his books
alone. One autumn night when the Silver River[135] was unusually
distinct and the moon shining brightly in the sky, he was walking up
and down under the shade, with his thoughts wandering somewhat at
random, when lo! a young girl leaped over the wall, and, smiling,
asked him, “What are you thinking about, Sir, all so deeply?” Shang
looked at her, and seeing that she had a pretty face, asked her to
walk in. She then told him her name was Hu,[136] and that she was
called Tertia; but when he wanted to know where she lived, she laughed
and would not say. So he did not inquire any further; and by degrees
they struck up a friendship, and Miss Tertia used to come and chat
with him every evening. He was so smitten that he could hardly take
his eyes off her, and at last she said to him, “What _are_ you
looking at?” “At you,” cried he, “my lovely rose, my beautiful peach.
I could gaze at you all night long.” “If you think so much of poor
me,” answered she, “I don’t know where your wits would be if you saw
my sister Quarta.” Mr. Shang said he was sorry he didn’t know her, and
begged that he might be introduced; so next night Miss Tertia brought
her sister, who turned out to be a young damsel of about fifteen, with
a face delicately powdered and resembling the lily, or like an
apricot-flower seen through mist; and altogether as pretty a girl as
he had ever seen. Mr. Shang was charmed with her, and inviting them
in, began to laugh and talk with the elder, while Miss Quarta sat
playing with her girdle, and keeping her eyes on the ground. By-and-by
Miss Tertia got up and said she was going, whereupon her sister rose
to take leave also; but Mr. Shang asked her not to be in a hurry, and
requested the elder to assist in persuading her. “You needn’t hurry,”
said she to Miss Quarta; and accordingly the latter remained chatting
with Mr. Shang without reserve, and finally told him she was a fox.
However, Mr. Shang was so occupied with her beauty, that he didn’t pay
any heed to that; but she added, “And my sister is very dangerous; she
has already killed three people. Any one bewitched by her has no
chance of escape. Happily, you have bestowed your affections on me,
and I shall not allow you to be destroyed. You must break off your
acquaintance with her at once.” Mr. Shang was very frightened, and
implored her to help him; to which she replied, “Although a fox, I am
skilled in the arts of the Immortals;[137] I will write out a charm
for you which you must paste on the door, and thus you will keep her
away.” So she wrote down the charm, and in the morning when her sister
came and saw it, she fell back, crying out, “Ungrateful minx! you’ve
thrown me up for him, have you? You two being destined for each other,
what have I done that you should treat me thus?” She then went away;
and a few days afterwards Miss Quarta said she too would have to be
absent for a day, so Shang went out for a walk by himself, and
suddenly beheld a very nice-looking young lady emerge from the shade
of an old oak that was growing on the hill-side. “Why so dreadfully
pensive?” said she to him; “those Hu girls can never bring you a
single cent.” She then presented Shang with some money, and bade him
go on ahead and buy some good wine, adding, “I’ll bring something to
eat with me, and we’ll have a jolly time of it.” Shang took the money
and went home, doing as the young lady had told him; and by-and-by in
she herself came, and threw on the table a roast chicken and a
shoulder of salt pork, which she at once proceeded to cut up. They now
set to work to enjoy themselves, and had hardly finished when they
heard some one coming in, and the next minute in walked Miss Tertia
and her sister. The strange young lady didn’t know where to hide, and
managed to lose her shoes; but the other two began to revile her,
saying, “Out upon you, base fox; what are you doing here?” They then
chased her away after some trouble, and Shang began to excuse himself
to them, until at last they all became friends again as before.

One day, however, a Shensi man arrived, riding on a donkey, and coming
to the door said, “I have long been in search of these evil spirits:
now I have got them.” Shang’s father thought the man’s remark rather
strange, and asked him whence he had come. “Across much land and sea,”
replied he; “for eight or nine months out of every year I am absent
from my native place. These devils killed my brother with their
poison, alas! alas! and I have sworn to exterminate them; but I have
travelled many miles without being able to find them. They are now in
your house, and if you do not cut them off, you will die even as my
brother.” Now Shang and the young ladies had kept their
acquaintanceship very dark; but his father and mother had guessed that
something was up, and, much alarmed, bade the Shensi man walk in and
perform his exorcisms. The latter then produced two bottles which he
placed upon the ground, and proceeded to mutter a number of charms and
cabalistic formulæ; whereupon four wreaths of smoke passed two by two
into each bottle. “I have the whole family,” cried he, in an ecstasy
of delight; as he proceeded to tie down the mouths of the bottles with
pig’s bladder, sealing them with the utmost care. Shang’s father was
likewise very pleased, and kept his guest to dinner; but the young man
himself was sadly dejected, and approaching the bottles unperceived,
bent his ear to listen. “Ungrateful man,” said Miss Quarta from
within, “to sit there and make no effort to save me.” This was more
than Shang could stand, and he immediately broke the seal, but found
that he couldn’t untie the knot. “Not so,” cried Miss Quarta; “merely
lay down the flag that now stands on the altar, and with a pin prick
the bladder, and I can get out.” Shang did as she bade him, and in a
moment a thin streak of white smoke issued forth from the hole and
disappeared in the clouds. When the Shensi man came out, and saw the
flag lying on the ground, he started violently, and cried out,
“Escaped! This must be your doing, young Sir.” He then shook the
bottle and listened, finally exclaiming, “Luckily only one has got
away. She was fated not to die, and may therefore be pardoned.”[138]
Thereupon he took the bottles and went his way.

Some years afterwards Shang was one day superintending his reapers
cutting the corn, when he descried Miss Quarta at a distance, sitting
under a tree. He approached, and she took his hand, saying, “Ten years
have rolled away since last we met. Since then I have gained the
prize of immortality;[139] but I thought that perhaps you had not
quite forgotten me, and so I came to see you once more.” Shang wished
her to return home with him; to which she replied, “I am no longer
what I was that I should mingle in the affairs of mortals. We shall
meet again.” And as she said this, she disappeared; but twenty years
later, when Shang was one day alone, Miss Quarta walked in. Shang was
overjoyed, and began to address her; but she answered him, saying, “My
name is already enrolled in the Register of the Immortals, and I have
no right to return to earth. However, out of gratitude to you I
determined to announce to you the date of your dissolution that you
might put your affairs in order. Fear nothing; I will see you safely
through to the happy land.” She then departed, and on the day named
Shang actually died. A relative of a friend of mine, Mr. Li Wên-yü,
frequently met the above-mentioned Mr. Shang.[140]


FOOTNOTES:

[135] The Milky Way is known to the Chinese under this
name--unquestionably a more poetical one than our own.

[136] See No. XIII., note 90.

[137] That is, of the Taoists. See No. IV., note 46.

[138] Predestination _after the event_ is, luckily for China, the form
of this superstition which really appeals to her all-practical
children. Not a larger percentage than with ourselves allow belief in
an irremediable destiny to divert their efforts one moment from the
object in view; though thousands upon thousands are ready enough to
acknowledge the “will of heaven” in any national or individual
calamities that may befall. See No. IX., note 69.

[139] Any disembodied spirit whose conduct for a certain term of years
is quite satisfactory is competent to obtain this reward. Thus,
instead of being born again on earth, perhaps as an animal, they
become angels or good spirits, and live for ever in heaven in a state
of supreme beatitude.

[140] Our author occasionally ends up with a remark of this kind; and
these have undoubtedly had their weight with his too credulous
countrymen.



XX.

MR. CHU, THE CONSIDERATE HUSBAND.


At the village of Chu in Chi-yang, there was a man named Chu, who died
at the age of fifty and odd years. His family at once proceeded to put
on their mourning robes, when suddenly they heard the dead man cry
out. Rushing up to the coffin, they found that he had come to life
again; and began, full of joy, to ask him all about it. But the old
gentleman replied only to his wife, saying, “When I died I did not
expect to come back. However, by the time I had got a few miles on my
way, I thought of the poor old body I was leaving behind me, dependent
for everything on others, and with no more enjoyment of life. So I
made up my mind to return, and take you away with me.” The bystanders
thought this was only the disconnected talk of a man who had just
regained consciousness, and attached no importance to it; but the old
man repeated it, and then his wife said, “It’s all very well, but you
have only just come to life; how can you go and die again directly?”
“It is extremely simple,” replied her husband; “you go and pack up
everything ready.” The old lady laughed and did nothing; upon which
Mr. Chu urged her again to prepare, and then left the house. In a
short time he returned, and his wife pretended that she had done what
he wanted. “Then you had better dress,” said he; but Mrs. Chu did not
move until he pressed her again and again, after which she did not
like to cross him, and by-and-by came out all fully equipped. The
other ladies of the family were laughing on the sly, when Mr. Chu laid
his head upon the pillow, and told his wife to do likewise. “It’s too
ridiculous,” she was beginning to say, when Mr. Chu banged the bed
with his hand, and cried out, “What is there to laugh at in dying?”
upon which the various members of the family, seeing the old gentleman
was in a rage, begged her to gratify his whim. Mrs. Chu then lay down
alongside of her husband, to the infinite amusement of the spectators;
but it was soon noticed that the old lady had ceased to smile, and
by-and-by her two eyes closed. For a long time not a sound was heard,
as if she was fast asleep; and when some of those present approached
to touch her, they found she was as cold as ice, and no longer
breathing; then, turning to her husband, they perceived that he also
had passed away.

This story was fully related by a younger sister-in-law of Mr. Chu’s,
who, in the twenty-first year of the reign K‘ang Hsi,[141] was
employed in the house of a high official named Pi.


FOOTNOTE:

[141] A.D. 1682.



XXI.

THE MAGNANIMOUS GIRL.


At Chin-ling there lived a young man named Ku, who had considerable
ability but was very poor; and having an old mother, he was very loth
to leave home. So he employed himself in writing or painting[142] for
people, and gave his mother the proceeds, going on thus till he was
twenty-five years of age without taking a wife. Opposite to their
house was another building, which had long been untenanted; and one
day an old woman and a young girl came to occupy it, but there being
no gentleman with them young Ku did not make any inquiries as to who
they were or whence they hailed. Shortly afterwards it chanced that
just as Ku was entering the house he observed a young lady come out of
his mother’s door. She was about eighteen or nineteen, very clever
and refined looking, and altogether such a girl as one rarely sets
eyes on; and when she noticed Mr. Ku, she did not run away, but seemed
quite self-possessed. “It was the young lady over the way; she came to
borrow my scissors and measure,” said his mother, “and she told me
that there was only her mother and herself. They don’t seem to belong
to the lower classes. I asked her why she didn’t get married, to which
she replied that her mother was old. I must go and call on her
to-morrow, and find out how the land lies. If she doesn’t expect too
much, you could take care of her mother for her.” So next day Ku’s
mother went, and found that the girl’s mother was deaf, and that they
were evidently poor, apparently not having a day’s food in the house.
Ku’s mother asked what their employment was, and the old lady said
they trusted for food to her daughter’s ten fingers. She then threw
out some hints about uniting the two families, to which the old lady
seemed to agree; but, on consultation with her daughter, the latter
would not consent. Mrs. Ku returned home and told her son, saying,
“Perhaps she thinks we are too poor. She doesn’t speak or laugh, is
very nice-looking, and as pure as snow; truly no ordinary girl.” There
ended that; until one day, as Ku was sitting in his study, up came a
very agreeable young fellow, who said he was from a neighbouring
village, and engaged Ku to draw a picture for him. The two youths soon
struck up a firm friendship and met constantly, when it happened that
the stranger chanced to see the young lady of over the way. “Who is
that?” said he, following her with his eyes. Ku told him, and then he
said, “She is certainly pretty, but rather stern in her appearance.”
By-and-by Ku went in, and his mother told him the girl had come to beg
a little rice, as they had had nothing to eat all day. “She’s a good
daughter,” said his mother, “and I’m very sorry for her. We must try
and help them a little.” Ku thereupon shouldered a peck of rice, and,
knocking at their door, presented it with his mother’s compliments.
The young lady received the rice but said nothing; and then she got
into the habit of coming over and helping Ku’s mother with her work
and household affairs, almost as if she had been her daughter-in-law,
for which Ku was very grateful to her, and whenever he had anything
nice he always sent some of it in to her mother, though the young lady
herself never once took the trouble to thank him. So things went on
until Ku’s mother got an abscess on her leg, and lay writhing in agony
day and night. Then the young lady devoted herself to the invalid,
waiting on her and giving her medicine with such care and attention
that at last the sick woman cried out, “Oh, that I could secure such a
daughter-in-law as you, to see this old body into its grave!” The
young lady soothed her, and replied, “Your son is a hundred times more
filial than I, a poor widow’s only daughter.” “But even a filial son
makes a bad nurse,” answered the patient; “besides, I am now drawing
towards the evening of my life, when my body will be exposed to the
mists and the dews, and I am vexed in spirit about our ancestral
worship and the continuance of our line.” As she was speaking Ku
walked in; and his mother, weeping, said, “I am deeply indebted to
this young lady; do not forget to repay her goodness.” Ku made a low
bow, but the young lady said, “Sir, when you were kind to my mother, I
did not thank you; why, then, thank me?” Ku thereupon became more than
ever attached to her; but could never get her to depart in the
slightest degree from her cold demeanour towards himself. One day,
however, he managed to squeeze her hand, upon which she told him never
to do so again; and then for some time he neither saw nor heard
anything of her. She had conceived a violent dislike to the young
stranger above-mentioned; and one evening when he was sitting talking
with Ku, the young lady reappeared. After a while she got angry at
something he said, and drew from her robe a glittering knife about a
foot long. The young man, seeing her do this, ran out in a fright and
she after him, only to find that he had vanished. She then threw her
dagger up into the air, and whish! a streak of light like a rainbow,
and something came tumbling down with a flop. Ku got a light, and ran
to see what it was; and lo! there lay a white fox, head in one place
and body in another. “There is your _friend_,” cried the girl; “I knew
he would cause me to destroy him sooner or later.” Ku dragged it into
the house, and said, “Let us wait till to-morrow to talk it over; we
shall then be more calm.” Next day the young lady arrived, and Ku
inquired about her knowledge of the black art; but she told Ku not to
trouble himself about such affairs, and to keep it secret or it might
be prejudicial to his happiness. Ku then entreated her to consent to
their union, to which she replied that she had already been as it were
a daughter-in-law to his mother, and there was no need to push the
thing further. “Is it because I am poor?” asked Ku. “Well, I am not
rich,” answered she, “but the fact is I had rather not.” She then took
her leave, and the next evening when Ku went across to their house to
try once more to persuade her, the young lady had disappeared, and was
never seen again.


FOOTNOTE:

[142] The usual occupation of poor scholars who are ashamed to go into
trade, and who have not enterprise enough to start as doctors or
fortune-tellers. Besides painting pictures and fans, and illustrating
books, these men write fancy scrolls in the various ornamental styles
so much prized by the Chinese; they keep accounts for people, and
write or read business and private letters for the illiterate masses.



XXII.

THE BOON-COMPANION.


Once upon a time there was a young man named Ch‘ê, who was not
particularly well off, but at the same time very fond of his wine; so
much so, that without his three stoups of liquor every night, he was
quite unable to sleep, and bottles were seldom absent from the head of
his bed. One night he had waked up and was turning over and over, when
he fancied some one was in the bed with him; but then, thinking it was
only the clothes which had slipped off, he put out his hand to feel,
and, lo! he touched something silky like a cat, only larger. Striking
a light, he found it was a fox, lying in a drunken sleep like a dog;
and then looking at his wine bottle he saw that it had been emptied.
“A boon-companion,” said he, laughing, as he avoided startling the
animal, and covering it up, lay down to sleep with his arm across it,
and the candle alight so as to see what transformation it might
undergo. About midnight, the fox stretched itself, and Ch‘ê cried,
“Well, to be sure, you’ve had a nice sleep!” He then drew off the
clothes, and beheld an elegant young man in a scholar’s dress; but the
young man jumped up, and making a low obeisance, returned his host
many thanks for not cutting off his head. “Oh,” replied Ch‘ê, “I am
not averse to liquor myself; in fact they say I’m too much given to
it. You shall play Pythias to my Damon;[143] and if you have no
objection, we’ll be a pair of bottle-and-glass chums.” So they lay
down and went to sleep again, Ch‘ê urging the young man to visit him
often, and saying that they must have faith in each other. The fox
agreed to this, but when Ch‘ê awoke in the morning his bedfellow had
already disappeared. So he prepared a goblet of first-rate wine in
expectation of his friend’s arrival, and at nightfall sure enough he
came. They then sat together drinking, and the fox cracked so many
jokes that Ch‘ê said he regretted he had not known him before. “And
truly I don’t know how to repay your kindness,” replied the former,
“in preparing all this nice wine for me.” “Oh,” said Ch‘ê, “what’s a
pint or so of wine?--nothing worth speaking of.” “Well,” rejoined the
fox, “you are only a poor scholar, and money isn’t so easily to be
got. I must try if I can’t secure a little wine capital for you.” Next
evening when he arrived, he said to Ch‘ê, “Two miles down towards the
south-east you will find some silver lying by the wayside. Go early in
the morning and get it.” So on the morrow Ch‘ê set off and actually
obtained two lumps of silver with which he bought some choice morsels
to help them out with their wine that evening. The fox now told him
that there was a vault in his back-yard which he ought to open; and
when he did so, he found therein more than a hundred strings of
cash.[144] “Now then,” cried Ch‘ê, delighted, “I shall have no more
anxiety about funds for buying wine with all this in my purse.” “Ah,”
replied the fox, “the water in a puddle is not inexhaustible. I must
do something further for you.” Some days afterwards the fox said to
Ch‘ê, “Buckwheat is very cheap in the market just now. Something is to
be done in this line.” Accordingly, Ch‘ê bought over forty tons, and
thereby incurred general ridicule; but by-and-by there was a bad
drought and all kinds of grain and beans were spoilt. Only buckwheat
would grow, and Ch‘ê sold off his stock at a profit of one thousand
per cent. His wealth thus began to increase; he bought two hundred
acres of rich land, and always planted his crops, corn, millet, or
what not, upon the advice of the fox secretly given him beforehand.
The fox looked on Ch‘ê’s wife as a sister, and on Ch‘ê’s children as
his own; but when, subsequently, Ch‘ê died, it never came to the house
again.


FOOTNOTES:

[143] Kuan Chung and Pao Shu are the Chinese types of friendship. They
were two statesmen of considerable ability, who flourished in the
seventh century B.C.

[144] Say about £10. See No. II., note 42.



XXIII.

MISS LIEN-HSIANG.


There was a young man named Sang Tzŭ-ming, a native of I-chou, who had
been left an orphan when quite young. He lived near the Saffron
market, and kept himself very much to himself, only going out twice a
day for his meals to a neighbour’s close by, and sitting quietly at
home all the rest of his time. One day the said neighbour called, and
asked him in joke if he wasn’t afraid of devil-foxes, so much alone as
he was. “Oh,” replied Sang, laughing, “what has the superior man[145]
to fear from devil-foxes. If they come as men, I have here a sharp
sword for them; and if as women, why, I shall open the door and ask
them to walk in.” The neighbour went away, and having arranged with a
friend of his, they got a young lady of their acquaintance to climb
over Sang’s wall with the help of a ladder, and knock at the door.
Sang peeped through, and called out, “Who’s there?” to which the girl
answered, “A devil!” and frightened Sang so dreadfully that his teeth
chattered in his head. The girl then ran away, and next morning when
his neighbour came to see him, Sang told him what had happened, and
said he meant to go back to his native place. The neighbour then
clapped his hands, and said to Sang, “Why didn’t you ask her in?”
Whereupon Sang perceived that he had been tricked, and went on quietly
again as before.

Some six months afterwards, a young lady knocked at his door; and
Sang, thinking his friends were at their old tricks, opened it at
once, and asked her to walk in. She did so; and he beheld to his
astonishment a perfect Helen for beauty.[146] Asking her whence she
came, she replied that her name was Lien-hsiang, and that she lived
not very far off, adding that she had long been anxious to make his
acquaintance. After that she used to drop in every now and again for a
chat; but one evening when Sang was sitting alone expecting her,
another young lady suddenly walked in. Thinking it was Lien-hsiang,
Sang got up to meet her, but found that the new-comer was somebody
else. She was about fifteen or sixteen years of age, wore very full
sleeves, and dressed her hair after the fashion of unmarried girls,
being otherwise very stylish-looking and refined, and apparently
hesitating whether to go on or go back. Sang, in a great state of
alarm, took her for a fox; but the young lady said, “My name is Li,
and I am of a respectable family. Hearing of your virtue and talent, I
hope to be accorded the honour of your acquaintance.” Sang laughed,
and took her by the hand, which he found was as cold as ice; and when
he asked the reason, she told him that she had always been delicate,
and that it was very chilly outside. She then remarked that she
intended to visit him pretty frequently, and hoped it would not
inconvenience him; so he explained that no one came to see him except
another young lady, and that not very often. “When she comes, I’ll
go,” replied the young lady, “and only drop in when she’s not here.”
She then gave him an embroidered slipper, saying that she had worn it,
and that whenever he shook it she would know that he wanted to see
her, cautioning him at the same time never to shake it before
strangers. Taking it in his hand he beheld a very tiny little shoe
almost as fine pointed as an awl, with which he was much pleased; and
next evening, when nobody was present, he produced the shoe and shook
it, whereupon the young lady immediately walked in. Henceforth,
whenever he brought it out, the young lady responded to his wishes and
appeared before him. This seemed so strange that at last he asked her
to give him some explanation; but she only laughed, and said it was
mere coincidence. One evening after this Lien-hsiang came, and said in
alarm to Sang, “Whatever has made you look so melancholy?” Sang
replied that he did not know, and by-and-by she took her leave,
saying, they would not meet again for some ten days. During this
period Miss Li visited Sang every day, and on one occasion asked him
where his other friend was. Sang told her; and then she laughed and
said, “What is your opinion of me as compared with Lien-hsiang?” “You
are both of you perfection,” replied he, “but you are a little
_colder_ of the two.” Miss Li didn’t much like this, and cried out,
“_Both of us perfection_ is what you say to _me_. Then she must be a
downright Cynthia,[147] and I am no match for her.” Somewhat out of
temper, she reckoned that Lien-hsiang’s ten days had expired, and said
she would have a peep at her, making Sang promise to keep it all
secret. The next evening Lien-hsiang came, and while they were talking
she suddenly exclaimed, “Oh, dear! how much worse you seem to have
become in the last ten days. You must have encountered something bad.”
Sang asked her why so; to which she answered, “First of all your
appearance; and then your pulse is very thready.[148] You’ve got the
devil-disease.”

The following evening when Miss Li came, Sang asked her what she
thought of Lien-hsiang. “Oh,” said she, “there’s no question about her
beauty; but she’s a fox. When she went away I followed her to her hole
on the hill side.” Sang, however, attributed this remark to jealousy,
and took no notice of it; but the next evening when Lien-hsiang came,
he observed, “I don’t believe it myself, but some one has told me you
are a fox.” Lien-hsiang asked who had said so, to which Sang replied
that he was only joking; and then she begged him to explain what
difference there was between a fox and an ordinary person. “Well,”
answered Sang, “foxes frighten people to death, and, therefore, they
are very much dreaded.” “Don’t you believe that!” cried Lien-hsiang;
“and now tell me who has been saying this of me.” Sang declared at
first that it was only a joke of his, but by-and-by yielded to her
instances, and let out the whole story. “Of course I saw how changed
you were,” said Lien-hsiang; “she is surely not a human being to be
able to cause such a rapid alteration in you. Say nothing, to-morrow
I’ll watch her as she watched me.” The following evening Miss Li came
in; and they had hardly interchanged half-a-dozen sentences when a
cough was heard outside the window, and Miss Li ran away. Lien-hsiang
then entered and said to Sang, “You are lost! She is a devil, and if
you do not at once forbid her coming here, you will soon be on the
road to the other world.” “All jealousy,” thought Sang, saying
nothing, as Lien-hsiang continued, “I know that you don’t like to be
rude to her; but I, for my part, cannot see you sacrificed, and
to-morrow I will bring you some medicine to expel the poison from your
system. Happily, the disease has not yet taken firm hold of you, and
in ten days you will be well again.” The next evening she produced a
knife and chopped up some medicine for Sang, which made him feel much
better; but, although he was very grateful to her, he still persisted
in disbelieving that he had the devil-disease. After some days he
recovered and Lien-hsiang left him, warning him to have no more to do
with Miss Li. Sang pretended that he would follow her advice, and
closed the door and trimmed his lamp. He then took out the slipper,
and on shaking it Miss Li appeared, somewhat cross at having been kept
away for several days. “She merely attended on me these few nights
while I was ill,” said Sang; “don’t be angry.” At this Miss Li
brightened up a little; but by-and-by Sang told her that people said
she was a devil. “It’s that nasty fox,” cried Miss Li, after a pause,
“putting these things into your head. If you don’t break with her, I
won’t come here again.” She then began to sob and cry, and Sang had
some trouble in pacifying her. Next evening Lien-hsiang came and found
out that Miss Li had been there again; whereupon she was very angry
with Sang, and told him he would certainly die. “Why need you be so
jealous?” said Sang, laughing; at which she only got more enraged, and
replied, “When you were nearly dying the other day and I saved you, if
I had not been jealous, where would you have been now?” Sang pretended
he was only joking, and said that Miss Li had told him his recent
illness was entirely owing to the machinations of a fox; to which she
replied, “It’s true enough what you say, only you don’t see _whose_
machinations. However, if any thing happens to you, I should never
clear myself even had I a hundred mouths; we will, therefore, part. A
hundred days hence I shall see you on your bed.” Sang could not
persuade her to stay, and away she went; and from that time Miss Li
became a regular visitor.

Two months passed away, and Sang began to experience a feeling of
great lassitude, which he tried at first to shake off, but by-and-by
he became very thin, and could only take thick gruel. He then thought
about going back to his native place; however, he could not bear to
leave Miss Li, and in a few more days he was so weak that he was
unable to get up. His friend next door, seeing how ill he was, daily
sent in his boy with food and drink; and now Sang began for the first
time to suspect Miss Li. So he said to her, “I am sorry I didn’t
listen to Lien-hsiang before I got as bad as this.” He then closed his
eyes and kept them shut for some time; and when he opened them again
Miss Li had disappeared. Their acquaintanceship was thus at an end,
and Sang lay all emaciated as he was upon his bed in his solitary room
longing for the return of Lien-hsiang. One day, while he was still
thinking about her, some one drew aside the screen and walked in. It
was Lien-hsiang; and approaching the bed she said with a smile, “Was I
then talking such nonsense?” Sang struggled a long time to speak; and,
at length, confessing he had been wrong, implored her to save him.
“When the disease has reached such a pitch as this,” replied
Lien-hsiang, “there is very little to be done. I merely came to bid
you farewell, and to clear up your doubts about my jealousy.” In great
tribulation, Sang asked her to take something she would find under
his pillow and destroy it; and she accordingly drew forth the slipper,
which she proceeded to examine by the light of the lamp, turning it
over and over. All at once Miss Li walked in, but when she saw
Lien-hsiang she turned back as though she would run away, which
Lien-hsiang instantly prevented by placing herself in the doorway.
Sang then began to reproach her, and Miss Li could make no reply;
whereupon Lien-hsiang said, “At last we meet. Formerly you attributed
this gentleman’s illness to me; what have you to say now?” Miss Li
bent her head in acknowledgment of her guilt, and Lien-hsiang
continued, “How is it that a nice girl like you can thus turn love
into hate?” Here Miss Li threw herself on the ground in a flood of
tears and begged for mercy; and Lien-hsiang, raising her up, inquired
of her as to her past life. “I am a daughter of a petty official named
Li, and I died young, leaving the web of my destiny incomplete, like
the silkworm that perishes in the spring. To be the partner of this
gentleman was my ardent wish; but I had never any intention of causing
his death.” “I have heard,” remarked Lien-hsiang, “that the advantage
devils obtain by killing people is that their victims are ever with
them after death. Is this so?” “It is not,” replied Miss Li; “the
companionship of two devils gives no pleasure to either. Were it
otherwise, I should not have wanted for friends in the realms below.
But tell me, how do foxes manage not to kill people?” “You allude to
such foxes as suck the breath out of people?” replied Lien-hsiang; “I
am not of that class. Some foxes are harmless; no devils are,[149]
because of the dominance of the _yin_[150] in their compositions.”
Sang now knew that these two girls were really a fox and a devil;
however, from being long accustomed to their society, he was not in
the least alarmed. His breathing had dwindled to a mere thread, and at
length he uttered a cry of pain. Lien-hsiang looked round and said,
“How shall we cure him?” upon which Miss Li blushed deeply and drew
back; and then Lien-hsiang added, “If he does get well, I’m afraid you
will be dreadfully jealous.” Miss Li drew herself up, and replied,
“Could a physician be found to wipe away the wrong I have done to this
gentleman, I would bury my head in the ground. How should I look the
world in the face?” Lien-hsiang here opened a bag and drew forth some
drugs, saying, “I have been looking forward to this day. When I left
this gentleman I proceeded to gather my simples, as it would take
three months for the medicine to be got ready; but then, should the
poison have brought anyone even to death’s door, this medicine is able
to call him back. The only condition is that it be administered by the
very hand which wrought the ill.” Miss Li did as she was told and put
the pills Lien-hsiang gave her one after another into Sang’s mouth.
They burnt his inside like fire; but soon vitality began to return,
and Lien-hsiang cried out, “He is cured!” Just at this moment Miss Li
heard the cock crow and vanished,[151] Lien-hsiang remaining behind in
attendance on the invalid, who was unable to feed himself. She bolted
the outside door and pretended that Sang had returned to his native
place, so as to prevent visitors from calling. Day and night she took
care of him, and every evening Miss Li came in to render assistance,
regarding Lien-hsiang as an elder sister, and being treated by her
with great consideration and kindness. Three months afterwards Sang
was as strong and well as ever he had been, and then for several
evenings Miss Li ceased to visit them, only staying a few moments when
she did come, and seeming very uneasy in her mind. One evening Sang
ran after her and carried her back in his arms, finding her no heavier
than so much straw; and then, being obliged to stay, she curled
herself up and lay down, to all appearance in a state of
unconsciousness, and by-and-by she was gone. For many days they heard
nothing of her, and Sang was so anxious that she should come back that
he often took out her slipper and shook it. “I don’t wonder at your
missing her,” said Lien-hsiang, “I do myself very much indeed.”
“Formerly,” observed Sang, “when I shook the slipper she invariably
came. I thought it very strange, but I never suspected her of being a
devil. And now, alas! all I can do is to sit and think about her with
this slipper in my hand.” He then burst into a flood of tears.

Now a young lady named Yen-êrh, belonging to the wealthy Chang family,
and about fifteen years of age, had died suddenly, without any
apparent cause, and had come to life again in the night, when she got
up and wished to go out. They barred the door and would not hear of
her doing so; upon which she said, “I am the spirit daughter of a
petty magistrate. A Mr. Sang has been very kind to me, and I have left
my slipper at his house. I am really a spirit; what is the use of
keeping me in?” There being some reason for what she said, they asked
her why she had come there; but she only looked up and down without
being able to give any explanation. Some one here observed, that Mr.
Sang had already gone home, but the young lady utterly refused to
believe them. The family was much disturbed at all this; and when
Sang’s neighbour heard the story, he jumped over the wall, and peeping
through beheld Sang sitting there chatting with a pretty-looking girl.
As he went in, there was some commotion, during which Sang’s visitor
had disappeared, and when his neighbour asked the meaning of it all,
Sang replied, laughing, “Why, I told you if any ladies came I should
ask them in.” His friend then repeated what Miss Yen-êrh had said; and
Sang, unbolting his door, was about to go and have a peep at her, but
unfortunately had no means of so doing. Meanwhile Mrs. Chang, hearing
that he had not gone away, was more lost in astonishment than ever,
and sent an old woman-servant to get back the slipper. Sang
immediately gave it to her, and Miss Yen-êrh was delighted to recover
it, though when she came to try it on it was too small for her by a
good inch. In considerable alarm, she seized a mirror to look at
herself; and suddenly became aware that she had come to life again in
some one else’s body. She therefore told all to her mother, and
finally succeeded in convincing her, crying all the time because she
was so changed for the worse as regarded personal appearance from what
she had been before. And whenever she happened to see Lien-hsiang, she
was very much disconcerted, declaring that she had been much better
off as a devil than now as a human being. She would sit and weep over
the slipper, no one being able to comfort her; and finally, covering
herself up with bed-clothes, she lay all stark and stiff, positively
refusing to take any nourishment. Her body swelled up, and for seven
days she refused all food, but did not die; and then the swelling
began to subside, and an intense hunger to come upon her which made
her once more think about eating. Then she was troubled with a severe
irritation, and her skin peeled entirely away; and when she got up in
the morning, she found that the shoes had fallen off. On trying to put
them on again, she discovered that they did not fit her any longer;
and then she went back to her former pair which were now exactly of
the right size and shape. In an ecstasy of joy, she grasped her
mirror, and saw that her features had also changed back to what they
had formerly been; so she washed and dressed herself and went in to
visit her mother. Every one who met her was much astonished; and when
Lien-hsiang heard the strange story, she tried to persuade Mr. Sang to
make her an offer of marriage. But the young lady was rich and Sang
was poor, and he did not see his way clearly. However, on Mrs. Chang’s
birthday, when she completed her cycle of sixty-one years,[152] Sang
went along with the others to wish her many happy returns of the day;
and when the old lady knew who was coming, she bade Yen-êrh take a
peep at him from behind the curtain. Sang arrived last of all; and
immediately out rushed Miss Yen-êrh and seized his sleeve, and said
she would go back with him. Her mother scolded her well for this, and
she ran in abashed; but Sang, who had looked at her closely, began to
weep, and threw himself at the feet of Mrs. Chang who raised him up
without saying anything unkind. Sang then took his leave, and got his
uncle to act as medium between them; the result being that an
auspicious day was fixed upon for the wedding. At the appointed time
Sang proceeded to the house to fetch her; and when he returned he
found that, instead of his former poor-looking furniture, beautiful
carpets were laid down from the very door, and thousands of coloured
lanterns were hung about in elegant designs. Lien-hsiang assisted the
bride to enter, and took off her veil, finding her the same bright
girl as ever. She also joined them while drinking the wedding
cup,[153] and inquired of her friend as to her recent transmigration;
and Yen-êrh related as follows:--“Overwhelmed with grief, I began to
shrink from myself as some unclean thing; and, after separating from
you that day, I would not return any more to my grave. So I wandered
about at random, and whenever I saw a living being, I envied its happy
state. By day I remained among trees and shrubs, but at night I used
to roam about anywhere. And once I came to the house of the Chang
family, where, seeing a young girl lying upon the bed, I took
possession of her mortal coil, unknowing that she would be restored to
life again.” When Lien-hsiang heard this she was for some time lost in
thought; and a month or two afterwards became very ill. She refused
all medical aid and gradually got worse and worse, to the great grief
of Mr. Sang and his wife, who stood weeping at her bedside. Suddenly
she opened her eyes, and said, “You wish to live; I am willing to die.
If fate so ordains it, we shall meet again ten years hence.” As she
uttered these words, her spirit passed away, and all that remained was
the dead body of a fox. Sang, however, insisted on burying it with all
the proper ceremonies.

Now his wife had no children; but one day a servant came in and said,
“There is an old woman outside who has got a little girl for sale.”
Sang’s wife gave orders that she should be shown in; and no sooner had
she set eyes on the girl than she cried out, “Why, she’s the image of
Lien-hsiang!” Sang then looked at her, and found to his astonishment
that she was really very like his old friend. The old woman said she
was fourteen years old; and when asked what her price was, declared
that her only wish was to get the girl comfortably settled, and
enough to keep herself alive, and ensure not being thrown out into the
kennel at death. So Sang gave a good price for her;[154] and his wife,
taking the girl’s hand, led her into a room by themselves. Then,
chucking her under the chin, she asked her, smiling, “Do you know me?”
The girl said she did not; after which she told Mrs. Sang that her
name was Wei, and that her father, who had been a pickle-merchant at
Hsü-ch‘êng, had died three years before. Mrs. Sang then calculated
that Lien-hsiang had been dead just ten years; and, looking at the
girl, who resembled her so exactly in every trait, at length patted
her on the head, saying, “Ah, my sister, you promised to visit us
again in ten years, and you have not played us false.” The girl here
seemed to wake up as if from a dream, and, uttering an exclamation of
surprise, fixed a steady gaze upon Sang’s wife. Sang himself laughed,
and said, “Just like the return of an old familiar swallow.” “Now I
understand,” cried the girl, in tears; “I recollect my mother saying
that when I was born I was able to speak; and that, thinking it an
inauspicious manifestation, they gave me dog’s blood to drink, so that
I should forget all about my previous state of existence.[155] Is it
all a dream, or are you not the Miss Li who was so ashamed of being a
devil?” Thus they chatted of their existence in a former life, with
alternate tears and smiles; but when it came to the day for
worshipping at the tombs, Yen-êrh explained that she and her husband
were in the habit of annually visiting and mourning over her grave.
The girl replied that she would accompany them; and when they got
there they found the whole place in disorder, and the coffin wood all
warped. “Lien-hsiang and I,” said Yen-êrh to her husband, “have been
attached to each other in two states of existence. Let us not be
separated, but bury my bones here with hers.” Sang consented, and
opening Miss Li’s tomb, took out the bones and buried them with those
of Lien-hsiang, while friends and relatives, who had heard the strange
story, gathered round the grave in gala dress to the number of many
hundreds.

I learnt the above when travelling through I-chou, where I was
detained at an inn by rain, and read a biography of Mr. Sang written
by a comrade of his named Wang Tzŭ-chang. It was lent me by a Mr. Liu
Tzŭ-ching, a relative of Sang’s, and was quite a long account. This is
merely an outline of it.


FOOTNOTES:

[145] The term constantly employed by Confucius to denote the man of
perfect probity, learning, and refinement. The nearest, if not an
exact, translation would be “gentleman.”

[146] Literally, “a young lady whose beauty would overthrow a
kingdom,” in allusion to an old story which it is not necessary to
reproduce here.

[147] The Lady of the Moon. See No. V., note 49.

[148] See No. VIII., note 64.

[149] Miss Lien-hsiang was here speaking without book, as will be seen
in a story later on.

[150] The female principle. In a properly-constituted human being the
male and female principles are harmoniously combined. Nothing short of
a small volume would place this subject, the basis of Chinese
metaphysics, in a clear light before the uninitiated reader. Broadly
speaking, the _yin_ and the _yang_ are the two primeval forces from
the interaction of which all things have been evolved.

[151]

   “_Ber._--It was about to speak, when the cock crew.

    _Hor._--And then it started like a guilty thing
            Upon a fearful summons. I have heard,
            The cock, that is the trumpet to the morn,
            Doth with his lofty and shrill-sounding throat
            Awake the God of Day; and, at his warning,
            Whether in sea or fire, in earth or air,
            The extravagant and erring spirit hies
            To his confine.”

                                                  _Hamlet._

[152] “From time immemorial, the Chinese have employed a combination
of two sets of characters, numbering ten and twelve respectively, to
form a cycle of sixty terms for the purpose of chronological notation.
The period at which this cycle was invented is a subject upon which
complete uncertainty prevails, but there is little doubt that it first
came into use as a method of reckoning years after the reform of the
calendar in B.C. 104.”--Mayers’ _Reader’s Manual_.

The birthday on which any person completes his cycle is considered a
very auspicious occasion. The second emperor of the present dynasty,
K‘ang Hsi, completed a cycle in his _reign_, with one year to spare;
and his grandson, Ch‘ien Lung (or Kien Lung) fell short of this only
by a single year, dying in the same cyclical period as that in which
he had ascended the throne.

[153] Bride and bridegroom drink wine together out of two cups joined
by a red string, typical of that imaginary bond which is believed to
unite the destinies of husband and wife long before they have set eyes
on each other. Popular tradition assigns to an old man who lives in
the moon the arrangement of all matches among mortals; hence the
common Chinese expression, “Marriages are made in the moon.”

[154] The bill of sale always handed to the purchaser of a child in
China, as a proof that the child is his _bonâ fide_ property and has
not been kidnapped, is by a pleasant fiction called a “deed of gift,”
the amount paid over to the seller being therein denominated “ginger
and vinegar money,” or compensation for the expense of rearing and
educating up to the date of sale. This phrase originates from the fact
that a dose of ginger and vinegar is administered to every Chinese
woman immediately after the delivery of her child.

We may here add that the value of male children to those who have no
heirs, and of female children to those who want servants, has fostered
a regular kidnapping trade, which is carried on with great activity in
some parts of China, albeit the penalty on discovery is instant
decapitation. Some years ago I was present in the streets of Tientsin
when a kidnapper was seized by the infuriated mob, and within two
hours I heard that the man had been summarily executed.

[155] The power of recalling events which have occurred in a previous
life will be enlarged upon in several stories to come.



XXIV.

MISS A-PAO; OR, PERSEVERANCE REWARDED.


In the province of Kuang-si there lived a scholar of some reputation,
named Sun Tzŭ-ch‘u. He was born with six fingers, and such a simple
fellow was he that he readily believed any nonsense he was told. Very
shy with the fair sex, the sight of a woman was enough to send him
flying in the opposite direction; and once when he was inveigled into
a room where there were some young ladies, he blushed down to his neck
and the perspiration dripped off him like falling pearls. His
companions laughed heartily at his discomfiture, and told fine stories
of what a noodle he looked, so that he got the nickname of Silly Sun.

In the town where our hero resided, there was a rich trader whose
wealth equalled that of any prince or nobleman, and whose connections
were all highly aristocratic.[156] He had a daughter, A-pao, of great
beauty, for whom he was seeking a husband; and the young men of
position in the neighbourhood were vying with each other to obtain her
hand, but none of them met with the father’s approval. Now Silly Sun
had recently lost his wife; and some one in joke persuaded him to try
his luck and send in an application. Sun, who had no idea of his own
shortcomings, proceeded at once to follow this advice; but the father,
though he knew him to be an accomplished scholar, rejected his suit on
the ground of poverty. As the go-between[157] was leaving the house,
she chanced to meet A-pao, and related to her the object of her visit.
“Tell him,” cried A-pao, laughing, “that if he’ll cut off his extra
finger, I’ll marry him.” The old woman reported this to Sun, who
replied, “That is not very difficult;” and, seizing a chopper, cut the
finger clean off. The wound was extremely painful and he lost so much
blood that he nearly died, it being many days before he was about
again. He then sought out the go-between, and bade her inform Miss
A-pao, which she did; and A-pao was taken rather aback, but she told
the old woman to go once more and bid him cut off the “silly” from
his reputation. Sun got much excited when he heard this, and denied
that he was silly; however, as he was unable to prove it to the young
lady herself, he began to think that probably her beauty was
over-stated, and that she was giving herself great airs. So he ceased
to trouble himself about her until the following spring festival,[158]
when it was customary for both men and women to be seen abroad, and
the young rips of the place would stroll about in groups and pass
their remarks on all and sundry. Sun’s friends urged him to join them
in their expedition, and one of them asked him with a smile if he did
not wish to look out for a suitable mate. Sun knew they were chaffing
him, but he thought he should like to see the girl that had made such
a fool of him, and was only too pleased to accompany them. They soon
perceived a young lady resting herself under a tree, with a throng of
young fellows crowding round her, and they immediately determined that
she must be A-pao, as in fact they found she was. Possessed of
peerless beauty, the ring of her admirers gradually increased, till at
last she rose up to go. The excitement among the young men was
intense; they criticised her face and discussed her feet,[159] Sun
only remaining silent; and when they had passed on to something else,
there they saw Sun rooted like an imbecile to the same spot. As he
made no answer when spoken to, they dragged him along with them,
saying, “Has your spirit run away after A-pao?” He made no reply to
this either; but they thought nothing of that, knowing his usual
strangeness of manner, so by dint of pushing and pulling they managed
to get him home. There he threw himself on the bed and did not get up
again for the rest of the day, lying in a state of unconsciousness
just as if he were drunk. He did not wake when called; and his people,
thinking that his spirit had fled, went about in the fields calling
out to it to return.[160] However, he shewed no signs of improvement;
and when they shook him, and asked him what was the matter, he only
answered in a sleepy kind of voice, “I am at A-pao’s house;” but to
further questions he would not make any reply, and left his family in
a state of keen suspense.

Now when Silly Sun had seen the young lady get up to go, he could not
bear to part with her, and found himself first following and then
walking along by her side without anyone saying anything to him. Thus
he went back with her to her home, and there he remained for three
days, longing to run home and get something to eat, but unfortunately
not knowing the way. By that time Sun had hardly a breath left in
him; and his friends, fearing that he was going to die, sent to beg of
the rich trader that he would allow a search to be made for Sun’s
spirit in his house. The trader laughed and said, “He wasn’t in the
habit of coming here, so he could hardly have left his spirit behind
him;” but he yielded to the entreaties of Sun’s family, and permitted
the search to be made. Thereupon a magician proceeded to the house,
taking with him an old suit of Sun’s clothes and some grass matting;
and when Miss A-pao heard the reason for which he had come, she
simplified matters very much by leading the magician straight to her
own room. The magician summoned the spirit in due form, and went back
towards Sun’s house. By the time he had reached the door, Sun groaned
and recovered consciousness; and he was then able to describe all the
articles of toilette and furniture in A-pao’s room without making a
single mistake. A-pao was amazed when the story was repeated to her,
and could not help feeling kindly towards him on account of the depth
of his passion. Sun himself, when he got well enough to leave his bed,
would often sit in a state of abstraction as if he had lost his wits;
and he was for ever scheming to try and have another glimpse at A-pao.

One day he heard that she intended to worship at the Shui-yüeh temple
on the 8th of the fourth moon, that day being the Wash-Buddha
festival; and he set off early in the morning to wait for her at the
roadside. He was nearly blind with straining his eyes, and the sun was
already past noontide before the young lady arrived; but when she saw
from her carriage a gentleman standing there, she drew aside the
screen and had a good stare at him. Sun followed her in a great state
of excitement, upon which she bade one of her maids to go and ask his
name. Sun told her who he was, his perturbation all the time
increasing; and when the carriage drove on he returned home. Again he
became very ill, and lay on his bed unconscious, without taking any
food, occasionally calling on A-pao by name, at the same time abusing
his spirit for not having been able to follow her as before. Just at
this juncture a parrot that had been long with the family died; and a
child, playing with the body, laid it upon the bed. Sun then reflected
that if he was only a parrot one flap of his wings would bring him
into the presence of A-pao; and while occupied with these thoughts,
lo! the dead body moved and the parrot flew away. It flew straight to
A-pao’s room, at which she was delighted; and catching it, tied a
string to its leg, and fed it upon hemp-seed. “Dear sister,” cried the
bird, “do not tie me by the leg: I am Sun Tzŭ-ch‘u.” In great alarm
A-pao untied the string, but the parrot did not fly away. “Alas!” said
she, “your love has engraved itself upon my heart; but now you are no
longer a man, how shall we ever be united together?” “To be near your
dear self,” replied the parrot, “is all I care about.” The parrot then
refused to take food from anyone else, and kept close to Miss A-pao
wherever she went, day and night alike. At the expiration of three
days, A-pao, who had grown very fond of her parrot, secretly sent some
one to ask how Mr. Sun was; but he had already been dead three days,
though the part over his heart had not grown cold. “Oh! come to life
again as a man,” cried the young lady, “and I swear to be yours for
ever.” “You are surely not in earnest,” said the parrot, “are you?”
Miss A-pao declared she was, and the parrot, cocking its head aside,
remained some time as if absorbed in thought. By-and-by A-pao took off
her shoes to bind her feet a little tighter;[161] and the parrot,
making a rapid grab at one, flew off with it in its beak. She called
loudly after it to come back, but in a moment it was out of sight; so
she next sent a servant to inquire if there was any news of Mr. Sun,
and then learnt that he had come round again, the parrot having flown
in with an embroidered shoe and dropped down dead on the ground. Also,
that directly he regained consciousness he asked for the shoe, of
which his people knew nothing; at which moment her servant had
arrived, and demanded to know from him where it was. “It was given to
me by Miss A-pao as a pledge of faith,” replied Sun; “I beg you will
tell her I have not forgotten her promise.” A-pao was greatly
astonished at this, and instructed her maid to divulge the whole
affair to her mother, who, when she had made some inquiries, observed
that Sun was well known as a clever fellow, but was desperately poor,
and “to get such a son-in-law after all our trouble would give our
aristocratic friends the laugh against us.”[162] However, A-pao
pleaded that with the shoe there as a proof against her, she would not
marry anybody else; and, ultimately, her father and mother gave their
consent. This was immediately announced to Mr. Sun, whose illness
rapidly disappeared in consequence. A-pao’s father would have had Sun
come and live with them;[163] but the young lady objected, on the
score that a son-in-law should not remain long at a time with the
family of his wife,[164] and that as he was poor he would lower
himself still more by doing so. “I have accepted him,” added she, “and
I shall gladly reside in his humble cottage, and share his poor fare
without complaint.” The marriage was then celebrated, and bride and
bridegroom met as if for the first time in their lives.[165] The dowry
A-pao brought with her somewhat raised their pecuniary position, and
gave them a certain amount of comfort; but Sun himself stuck only to
his books, and knew nothing about managing affairs in general. Luckily
his wife was clever in that respect, and did not bother him with such
things; so much so that by the end of three years they were
comparatively well off, when Sun suddenly fell ill and died. Mrs. Sun
was inconsolable, and refused either to sleep or take nourishment,
being deaf to all entreaties on the subject; and before long, taking
advantage of the night, she hanged herself.[166] Her maid, hearing a
noise, ran in and cut her down just in time: but she still steadily
refused all food. Three days passed away, and the friends and
relatives of Sun came to attend his funeral, when suddenly they heard
a sigh proceeding forth from the coffin. The coffin was then opened
and they found that Sun had come to life again. He told them that he
had been before the Great Judge, who, as a reward for his upright and
honourable life, had conferred upon him an official appointment. “At
this moment,” said Sun, “it was reported that my wife was close at
hand,[167] but the Judge, referring to the register, observed that her
time had not yet come. They told him she had taken no food for three
days; and then the Judge, looking at me, said that as a recompense for
her wifely virtues she should be permitted to return to life.
Thereupon he gave orders to his attendants to put to the horses and
see us safely back.” From that hour Sun gradually improved, and the
next year went up for his master’s degree. All his old companions
chaffed him exceedingly before the examination, and gave him seven
themes on out-of-the-way subjects, telling him privately that they had
been surreptitiously obtained from the examiners. Sun believed them as
usual, and worked at them day and night until he was perfect, his
comrades all the time enjoying a good laugh against him. However, when
the day came it was found that the examiners, fearing lest the themes
they had chosen in an ordinary way should have been dishonestly made
public,[168] took a set of fresh ones quite out of the common run--in
fact, on the very subjects Sun’s companions had given to him.
Consequently, he came out at the head of the list; and the next year,
after taking his doctor’s degree, he was entered among the Han-lin
Academicians.[169] The Emperor, too, happening to hear of his curious
adventures, sent for him and made him repeat his story; subsequently,
summoning A-pao and making her some very costly presents.


FOOTNOTES:

[156] There is nothing in China like an aristocracy of birth. Any man
may raise himself from the lowest level to the highest; and as long as
he and his family keep themselves there, they may be considered
aristocratic. Wealth has nothing to do with the question; official
rank and literary tastes, separate or combined, these constitute a
man’s title to the esteem of his fellows. Trade is looked upon as
ignoble and debasing; and friendly intercourse between merchants and
officials, the two great social divisions, is so rare as to be almost
unknown.

[157] The medium, without whose good offices no marriage can be
arranged. Generally, but not always, a woman.

This system of go-betweens is not confined to matrimonial engagements.
No servant ever offers himself for a place; he invariably employs some
one to introduce him. So also in mercantile transactions the broker
almost invariably appears upon the scene.

[158] See No. II., note 41.

[159] The so-called “golden lilies” always come in for a large share
of criticism. See No. XII., note 86. This term originated with an
emperor who reigned in the fifth century, when, in ecstasies at the
graceful dancing of a concubine upon a stage ornamented with lilies,
he cried out, “Every footstep makes a lily grow.”

[160] A common custom; _e.g._ in the case of a little child lying
dangerously ill, its mother will go outside the door into the garden
or field, and call out its name several times, in the hope of bringing
back the wandering spirit.

[161] This process must be regularly gone through night and morning,
otherwise the bandages become loose, and the gait of the walker
unsteady.

[162] I have explained before that any great disparity of means is
considered an obstacle to a matrimonial alliance between two families.

[163] This is a not unusual arrangement in cases where there are other
sons in the bridegroom’s family, but none in that of the bride’s,
especially if the advantage of wealth is on the side of the latter.

[164] Such is the Chinese rule, adopted simply with a view to the
preservation of harmony.

[165] They are supposed never to see each other before the
wedding-day; but, after careful investigation of the subject, I have
come to the conclusion that certainly in seven cases out of ten, the
intended bridegroom secretly procures a sight of his future wife. I am
now speaking of the higher classes; among the poor, both sexes mix
almost as freely as with us.

[166] This would still be considered a creditable act on the part of a
Chinese widow. It is, however, of exceedingly rare occurrence.

[167] Being nearly dead from hanging.

[168] This is occasionally done, great influence or a heavy bribe
being brought to bear upon the Examiners, of whom there are only
two for the Master’s degree, and the second of these, or
Assistant-Examiner, holds but a subordinate position. See _Appendix_
A, and No. LXXV., note 426.

[169] Admission to the Han-lin, or Chinese National Academy, is the
highest honour obtainable by a scholar. Its members are employed in
drawing up Government documents, histories, etc.



XXV.

JEN HSIU.


Jen Chien-chih was a native of Yü-t‘ai, and a dealer in rugs and furs.
One day he set off for Shensi, taking with him every penny he could
scrape together; and on the road he met a man who told him that his
name was Shên Chu-t‘ing, and his native place Su-ch‘ien. These two
soon became firm friends, and entered into a masonic bond[170] with
each other, journeying on together by the same stages until they
reached their destination. By-and-by Mr. Jen fell sick, and his
companion had to nurse him, which he did with the utmost attention,
but for ten days he gradually got worse and worse, and at length said
to Shên, “My family is very poor. Eight mouths depend upon my
exertions for food; and now, alas! I am about to die, far from my own
home. You and I are brothers. At this distance there is no one else to
whom I can look. Now in my purse you will find two hundred ounces of
silver. Take half, and when you have defrayed my funeral expenses, use
the balance for your return journey; and give the other half to my
family, that they may be able to send for my coffin.[171] If, however,
you will take my mortal remains with you home to my native place,
these expenses need not be incurred.” He then, with the aid of a
pillow, wrote a letter, which he handed to Shên, and that evening he
died. Thereupon Shên purchased a cheap coffin[172] for some five or
six ounces of silver; and, as the landlord kept urging him to take
away the body, he said he would go out and seek for a temple where it
might be temporarily deposited. But he ran away and never went back
to the inn; and it was more than a year before Jen’s family knew what
had taken place. His son was just about seventeen years of age, and
had recently been reading with a tutor; but now his books were laid
aside, and he proposed to go in search of his father’s body. His
mother said he was too young; and it was only when he declared he
would rather not live than stay at home, that with the aid of the
pawn-shop[173] enough money was raised to start him on his way. An old
servant accompanied him, and it was six months before they returned
and performed the last ceremonies over Jen’s remains. The family was
thus reduced to absolute destitution; but happily young Hsiu was a
clever fellow, and when the days of mourning[174] were over, took his
bachelor’s degree. On the other hand, he was somewhat wild and very
fond of gambling; and although his mother strictly prohibited such
diversions, all her prohibitions were in vain. By-and-by the Grand
Examiner arrived, and Hsiu came out in the fourth class. His mother
was extremely angry, and refused to take food, which brought young
Hsiu to his senses, and he promised her faithfully he would never
gamble again. From that day he shut himself up, and the following year
took a first class degree, coming out among the “senior”
graduates.[175] His mother now advised him to take pupils, but his
reputation as a disorderly fellow stuck to him, and no one would
entrust their sons to his care.

Just then an uncle of his, named Chang, was about to start with
merchandise for the capital, and recommended that Hsiu should go along
with him, promising himself to pay all expenses, an offer which Hsiu
was only too pleased to accept. When they reached Lin-ch‘ing, they
anchored outside the Custom House, where they found a great number of
salt-junks, in fact a perfect forest of masts; and what with the noise
of the water and the people it was quite impossible to sleep.
Besides, as the row was beginning to subside, the clear rattle of dice
from a neighbouring boat fell upon Hsiu’s ear, and before long he was
itching to be back again at his old games. Listening to hear if all
around him were sound asleep, he drew forth a string of cash that he
had brought with him, and thought he would just go across and try his
luck. So he got up quietly with his money, and was on the point of
going, when he suddenly recollected his mother’s injunctions, and at
once tying his purse-strings laid himself down to sleep. He was far
too excited, however, to close his eyes; and after a while got up
again and re-opened his purse. This he did three times, until at last
it was too much for him, and off he went with his money. Crossing over
into the boat whence the sounds proceeded, he beheld two persons
engaged in gambling for high stakes; so throwing his money on the
table, he begged to be allowed to join. The others readily consented,
and they began to play, Hsiu winning so rapidly that soon one of the
strangers had no money left, and was obliged to get the proprietor of
the boat to change a large piece of silver for him, proceeding to lay
down as much as several ounces of silver for a single stake.

As the play was in full swing another man walked in, who after
watching for some time at length got the proprietor to change another
lump of silver for him of one hundred ounces in weight, and also asked
to be allowed to join. Now Hsiu’s uncle, waking up in the middle of
the night, and finding his nephew gone, and hearing the sound of
dice-throwing hard by, knew at once where he was, and immediately
followed him to the boat with a view of bringing him back. Finding,
however, that Hsiu was a heavy winner, he said nothing to him, only
carrying off a portion of his winnings to their own boat and making
the others of his party get up and help him to fetch the rest, even
then leaving behind a large sum for Hsiu to go on with. By-and-by the
three strangers had lost all their ready money, and there wasn’t a
farthing left in the boat: upon which one of them proposed to play for
lumps of silver, but Hsiu said he never went so high as that. This
made them a little quarrelsome, Hsiu’s uncle all the time trying to
get him away; and the proprietor of the boat, who had only his own
commission in view, managed to borrow some hundred strings of cash
from another boat, and started them all again. Hsiu soon took this out
of them; and, as day was beginning to dawn and the Custom House was
about to open, he went off with his winnings back to his own boat.

The proprietor of the gambling-boat now found that the lumps of silver
which he had changed for his customers were nothing more than so much
tinsel, and rushing off in a great state of alarm to Hsiu’s boat, told
him what had happened and asked him to make it good; but when he
discovered he was speaking to the son of his former travelling
companion, Jen Chien-chih, he hung his head and slunk away covered
with shame. For the proprietor of that boat was no other than Shên
Chu-t‘ing, of whom Hsiu had heard when he was in Shensi; now,
however, that with supernatural aid[176] the wrongs of his father had
been avenged, he determined to pursue the man no further. So going
into partnership with his uncle, they proceeded north together; and by
the end of the year their capital had increased five-fold. Hsiu then
purchased the status of _chien-shêng_,[177] and by further careful
investment of his money ultimately became the richest man in that part
of the country.


FOOTNOTES:

[170] Besides the numerous secret societies so much dreaded by the
Government, membership of which is punishable by death, very intimate
friends are in the habit of adopting each other as sworn brothers,
bound to stand by one another in cases of danger and difficulty, to
the last drop of blood. The bond is cemented by an oath, accompanied
by such ceremonies as fancy may at the moment dictate. The most
curious of all, however, are the so-called “Golden Orchid” societies,
the members of which are young girls, who have sworn never to enter
into the matrimonial state. To such an extent have these sisterhoods
spread in the Kuang-tung Province, that the authorities have been
compelled to prohibit them under severe penalties.

[171] A Chinaman loves to be buried alongside of his ancestors, and
poor families are often put to great straits to pay this last tribute
of respect and affection to the deceased. At all large cities are to
be found temporary burial grounds, where the bodies of strangers are
deposited until their relatives can come to carry them away. Large
freights of dead bodies are annually brought back to China from
California, Queensland, and other parts to which the Chinese are in
the habit of emigrating, to the great profit of the steamer-companies
concerned. Coffins are also used as a means of smuggling, respect for
the dead being so great that they are only opened under the very
strongest suspicion.

[172] See No. XIV., note 104. The price of an elaborate Chinese coffin
goes as high as £100 or £150.

[173] The never-failing resource of an impecunious Chinaman who has
any property whatever bearing an exchange value. The pawn-shop proper
is a licensed institution, where three per cent. _per month_ is
charged on all loans, all pledges being redeemable within sixteen
months. It is generally a very high brick structure, towering far
above the surrounding houses, with the deposits neatly packed up in
paper and arranged on the shelves of a huge wooden skeleton-like
frame, that completely fills the interior of the building, on the top
of which are ranged buckets of water in case of fire, and a quantity
of huge stones to throw down on any thieves who may be daring enough
to attempt to scale the wall. [In Peking, houses are not allowed to be
built above a certain height, as during the long summer months ladies
are in the habit of sitting to spin or sew in their courtyards, very
lightly clad.] Pawning goods in China is not held to be so disgraceful
as with us; in fact, most people, at the beginning of the hot weather,
pawn their furs and winter clothes, these being so much more carefully
looked after there than they might be at home.

[174] Nominally of three years’--really of twenty-eight
months’--duration.

[175] These are entitled to receive from Government a small allowance
of rice, besides being permitted to exercise certain petty functions,
for which a certain charge is authorized. See _Appendix_ A.

[176] One of the strangers was the disembodied spirit of Hsiu’s
father, helping his son to take vengeance on the wicked Shên.

[177] An intermediate step between the first and second degrees, to
which certain privileges are attached.



XXVI.

THE LOST BROTHER.


In Honan there lived a man named Chang, who originally belonged to
Shantung. His wife had been seized and carried off by the soldiery
during the period when Ching Nan’s troops were overrunning the latter
province;[178] and as he was frequently in Honan on business, he
finally settled there and married a Honan wife, by whom he had a son
named Na. By-and-by this wife died, and he took another, who bore him
a son named Ch‘êng. The last-mentioned lady was from the Niu family,
and a very malicious woman. So jealous was she of Na, that she treated
him like a slave or a beast of the field, giving him only the coarsest
food, and making him cut a large bundle of wood every day, in default
of which she would beat and abuse him in a most shameful manner. On
the other hand she secretly reserved all the tit-bits for Ch‘êng, and
also sent him to school. As Ch‘êng grew up, and began to understand
the meaning of filial piety and fraternal love,[179] he could not bear
to see this treatment of his elder brother, and spoke privately to
his mother about it; but she would pay no heed to what he said.

One day, when Na was on the hills performing his task, a violent storm
came on, and he took shelter under a cliff. However, by the time it
was over the sun had set, and he began to feel very hungry. So,
shouldering his bundle, he wended his way home, where his step-mother,
displeased with the small quantity of wood he had brought, refused to
give him anything to eat. Quite overcome with hunger, Na went in and
lay down; and when Ch‘êng came back from school, and saw the state he
was in, he asked him if he was ill. Na replied that he was only
hungry, and then told his brother the whole story; whereupon Ch‘êng
coloured up and went away, returning shortly with some cakes, which he
offered to Na. “Where did you get them?” asked the latter. “Oh,”
replied Ch‘êng, “I stole some flour and got a neighbour’s wife to make
them for me. Eat away, and don’t talk.” Na ate them up; but begged his
brother not to do this again, as he might get himself into trouble. “I
shan’t die,” added he, “if I only get one meal a-day.” “You are not
strong,” rejoined Ch‘êng, “and shouldn’t cut so much wood as you do.”

Next day, after breakfast, Ch‘êng slipped away to the hills, and
arrived at the place where Na was occupied with his usual task, to the
great astonishment of the latter, who inquired what he was going to
do. “To help you cut wood,” replied Ch‘êng. “And who sent you?” asked
his brother. “No one,” said he; “I came of my own accord.” “Ah,” cried
Na, “you can’t do this work; and even if you can you must not. Run
along home again.” Ch‘êng, however, remained, aiding his brother with
his hands and feet alone, but declaring that on the morrow he would
bring an axe. Na tried to stop him, and found that he had already hurt
his finger and worn his shoes into holes; so he began to cry, and
said, “If you don’t go home directly, I’ll kill myself with my axe.”
Ch‘êng then went away, his brother seeing him half-way home, and going
back to finish his work by himself. He also called in the evening at
Ch‘êng’s school, and told the master his brother was a delicate boy,
and should not be allowed to go on the hills, where, he said, there
were fierce tigers and wolves. The master replied that he didn’t know
where Ch‘êng had been all the morning, but that he had caned him for
playing truant. Na further pointed out to Ch‘êng that by not doing as
he had told him, he had let himself in for a beating. Ch‘êng laughed,
and said he hadn’t been beaten; and the very next day off he went
again, and this time with a hatchet. “I told you not to come,” cried
Na, much alarmed; “why have you done so?” Ch‘êng made no reply, but
set to work chopping wood with such energy that the perspiration
poured down his face; and when he had cut about a bundle he went away
without saying a word. The master caned him again, and then Ch‘êng
told him how the matter stood, at which the former became full of
admiration for his pupil’s kind behaviour, and no longer prevented him
from going. His brother, however, frequently urged him not to come,
though without the slightest success; and one day, when they went with
a number of others to cut wood, a tiger rushed down from the hills
upon them. The wood-cutters hid themselves, in the greatest
consternation; and the tiger, seizing Ch‘êng, ran off with him in his
mouth. Ch‘êng’s weight caused the tiger to move slowly; and Na,
rushing after them, hacked away at the tiger’s flanks with his axe.
The pain only made the tiger hurry off, and in a few minutes they were
out of sight. Overwhelmed with grief, Na went back to his comrades,
who tried to soothe him; but he said, “My brother was no ordinary
brother, and, besides, he died for me; why, then, should I live?”
Here, seizing his hatchet, he made a great chop at his own neck, upon
which his companions prevented him from doing himself any more
mischief. The wound, however, was over an inch deep, and blood was
flowing so copiously that Na became faint, and seemed at the point of
death. They then tore up their clothes, and, after having bandaged his
neck, proceeded to carry him home. His step-mother cried bitterly, and
cursed him, saying, “You have killed my son, and now you go and cut
your neck in this make-believe kind of way.” “Don’t be angry, mother,”
replied Na; “I will not live now that my brother is dead.” He then
threw himself on the bed; but the pain of his wound was so great he
could not sleep, and day and night he sat leaning against the wall in
tears. His father, fearing that he too would die, went every now and
then and gave him a little nourishment; but his wife cursed him so for
doing it, that at length Na refused all food, and in three days he
died.

Now in the village where these events took place there was a magician
who was employed in certain devil-work among mortals,[180] and Na’s
ghost, happening to fall in with him, related the story of its
previous sorrows, winding up by asking where his brother’s ghost was.
The magician said he didn’t know, but turned round with Na and shewed
him the way to a city where they saw an official servant coming out of
the city gates. The magician stopped him, and inquired if he could
tell them anything about Ch‘êng; whereupon the man drew out a list
from a pouch at his side, and, after carefully examining it, replied
that among the male and female criminals within there was no one of
the name of Chang.[181] The magician here suggested that the name
might be on another list; but the man replied that he was in charge of
that road, and surely ought to know. Na, however, was not satisfied,
and persuaded the magician to enter the city, where they met many new
and old devils walking about, among whom were some Na had formerly
known in life. So he asked them if they could direct him to his
brother but none of them knew where he was; and suddenly there was a
great commotion, the devils on all sides crying out, “P‘u-sa[182] has
come!” Then, looking up, Na beheld a most beautiful man descending
from above, encircled by rays of glory, which shot forth above and
below, lighting up all around him. “You are in luck’s way, Sir,” said
the magician to Na; “only once in many thousand years does P‘u-sa
descend into hell and banish all suffering. He has come to-day.” He
then made Na kneel, and all the devils began with clasped hands to
sing songs of praise to P‘u-sa for his compassion in releasing them
from their misery, shaking the very earth with the sound. P‘u-sa
himself, seizing a willow-branch, sprinkled them all with holy water;
and when this was done the clouds and glory melted away, and he
vanished from their sight. Na, who had felt the holy water fall upon
his neck, now became conscious that the axe-wound was no longer
painful; and the magician then proceeded to lead him back, not
quitting him until within sight of the village gate. In fact, Na had
been in a trance for two days, and when he recovered he told them all
that he had seen, asserting positively that Ch‘êng was not dead. His
mother, however, looked upon the story as a make-up, and never ceased
reviling him; and, as he had no means of proving his innocence, and
his neck was now quite healed, he got up from the bed and said to his
father, “I am going away to seek for my brother throughout the
universe; if I do not find him, never expect to see me again, but I
pray you regard me as dead.” His father drew him aside and wept
bitterly. However, he would not interfere with his son’s design, and
Na accordingly set off. Whenever he came to a large town or populous
place he used to ask for news of Ch‘êng; and by-and-by, when his money
was all spent, he begged his way on foot. A year had passed away
before he reached Nanking, and his clothes were all in tatters as
ragged as a quail’s tail,[183] when suddenly he met some ten or a
dozen horsemen, and drew away to the roadside. Among them was a
gentleman of about forty, who appeared to be a mandarin, with numerous
lusty attendants and fiery steeds accompanying him before and behind.
One young man on a small palfrey, whom Na took to be the mandarin’s
son, and at whom, of course, he did not venture to stare, eyed him
closely for some time, and at length stopped his steed, and, jumping
off, cried out, “Are you not my brother?” Na then raised his head, and
found that Ch‘êng stood before him. Grasping each other’s hands, the
brothers burst into tears, and at length Ch‘êng said, “My brother, how
is it you have strayed so far as this?” Na told him the
circumstances, at which he was much affected; and Ch‘êng’s companions,
jumping off their horses to see what was the matter, went off and
informed the mandarin. The latter ordered one of them to give up his
horse to Na, and thus they rode together back to the mandarin’s house.
Ch‘êng then told his brother how the tiger had carried him away, and
how he had been thrown down in the road, where he had passed a whole
night; also how the mandarin, Mr. Chang,[184] on his return from the
capital, had seen him there, and, observing that he was no
common-looking youth, had set to work and brought him round again.
Also how he had said to Mr. Chang that his home was a great way off,
and how Mr. Chang had taken him to his own home, and finally cured him
of his wounds; when, having no son of his own, he had adopted him. And
now, happening to be out with his father, he had caught sight of his
brother. As he was speaking Mr. Chang walked in, and Na thanked him
very heartily for all his kindness; Ch‘êng, meanwhile, going into the
inner apartments to get some clothes for his brother. Wine and food
was placed on the table; and while they were chatting together the
mandarin asked Na about the number of their family in Honan. “There is
only my father,” replied Na, “and he is a Shantung man who came to
live in Honan.” “Why, I am a Shantung man too,” rejoined Mr. Chang;
“what is the name of your father’s native place?” “I have heard that
it was in the Tung-ch‘ang district,” replied Na. “Then we are from the
same place,” cried the mandarin. “Why did your father go away to
Honan?” “His first wife,” said Na, “was carried off by soldiers, and
my father lost everything he possessed; so, being in the habit of
trading to Honan, he determined to settle down there for good.” The
mandarin then asked what his father’s other name was, and when he
heard, he sat some time staring at Na, and at length hurried away
within. In a few moments out came an old lady, and when they had all
bowed to her, she asked Na if he was Chang Ping-chih’s grandson. On
his replying in the affirmative, the old lady wept, and, turning to
Mr. Chang, said, “These two are your younger brothers.” And then she
explained to Na and Ch‘êng as follows:--“Three years after my marriage
with your father, I was carried off to the north and made a
slave[185] in a mandarin’s family. Six months afterwards your elder
brother here was born, and in another six months the mandarin died.
Your elder brother being his heir, he received this appointment, which
he is now resigning. I have often thought of my native place, and have
not unfrequently sent people to inquire about my husband, giving them
the full particulars as to name and clan; but I could never hear
anything of him. How should I know that he had gone to Honan?” Then,
addressing Mr. Chang, she continued, “That was rather a mistake of
yours, adopting your own brother.” “He never told me anything about
Shantung,” replied Mr. Chang; “I suppose he was too young to remember
the story; and I only looked at the difference between our ages.” For
he, the elder of the brothers, was forty-one; Ch‘êng, the younger,
being only sixteen; and Na, twenty years of age. Mr. Chang was very
glad to get two young brothers; and when he heard the tale of their
separation, proposed that they should all go back to their father.
Mrs. Chang was afraid her husband would not care to receive her back
again; but her eldest son said, “We will cast our lot together; all or
none. How can there be a country where fathers are not valued?” They
then sold their house and packed up, and were soon on the way to
Honan. When they arrived, Ch‘êng went in first to tell his father,
whose third wife had died since Na left, and who now was a desolate
old widower, left alone with only his own shadow. He was overjoyed to
see Ch‘êng again, and, looking fondly at his son, burst into a flood
of tears. Ch‘êng told him his mother and brothers were outside, and
the old man was then perfectly transfixed with astonishment, unable
either to laugh or to cry. Mr. Chang next appeared, followed by his
mother; and the two old people wept in each other’s arms, the late
solitary widower hardly knowing what to make of the crowd of men and
women-servants that suddenly filled his house. Here Ch‘êng, not seeing
his own mother, asked where she was; and when he heard she was dead,
he fainted away, and did not come round for a good half-hour. Mr.
Chang found the money for building a fine house, and engaged a tutor
for his two brothers. Horses pranced in the stables, and servants
chattered in the hall--it was quite a large establishment.


FOOTNOTES:

[178] A.D. 1400

[179] The first of the sixteen maxims which form the so-called Sacred
Edict, embodies these two all-important family ties. The doctrine of
primogeniture is carried so far in China as to put every younger
brother in a subordinate position to every elder brother. All
property, however, of whatever kind, is equally divided among the
sons. [The Sacred Edict was delivered by the great Emperor K‘ang Hsi,
and should be publicly read and explained in every city of the Empire
on the first and fifteenth of each month.]

[180] Ordinary devils being unable to stand for any length of time the
light and life of the upper world, the souls of certain persons are
often temporarily employed in this work by the authorities of
Purgatory, their bodies remaining meanwhile in a trance or cataleptic
fit.

[181] Their family name.

[182] The Chinese corrupted form of Bodhisatva. Now widely employed to
designate any deity of any kind.

[183] The usual similitude for a Chinese tatterdemalion.

[184] The surnames Chang, Wang, and Li, correspond in China to our
Brown, Jones, and Robinson.

[185] Slavery, under a modified form, exists in China at the present
day. All parents, having absolute power over their children, are at
liberty to sell them as servants or slaves to their wealthier
neighbours. This is not an infrequent occurrence in times of distress,
the children even going so far as to voluntarily sell themselves, and
exposing themselves in some public thoroughfare, with a notice affixed
to a kind of arrow on their backs, stating that they are for sale, and
the amount required from the purchaser. This I have seen with my own
eyes. The chief source, however, from which the supply of slaves is
kept up is kidnapping. [See No. XXIII., note 154.] As to the condition
of the slaves themselves, it is by no means an unhappy one. Their
master has nominally the power of life and death over them, but no
Chinaman would ever dream of availing himself of this dangerous
prerogative. They are generally well fed, and fairly well clothed,
being rarely beaten, for fear they should run away, and either be lost
altogether or entail much expense to secure their capture. The girls
do not have their feet compressed; hence they are infinitely more
useful than small-footed women; and, on reaching a marriageable age,
their masters are bound to provide them with husbands. They live on
terms of easy familiarity with the whole household; and, ignorant of
the meaning and value of liberty, seem quite contented with a lot
which places them beyond the reach of hunger and cold. Slaves take the
surnames of their masters, and the children of slaves are likewise
slaves. Manumission is not uncommon; and Chinese history furnishes
more than one example of a quondam slave attaining to the highest
offices of State.



XXVII.

THE THREE GENII.


There was a certain scholar who, passing through Su-ch‘ien on his way
to Nanking, where he was going to try for his master’s degree,
happened to fall in with three other gentlemen, all graduates like
himself, and was so charmed with their unusual refinement that he
purchased a quantity of wine, and begged them to join him in drinking
it. While thus pleasantly employed, his three friends told him their
names. One was Chieh Ch‘in-hêng; the second, Ch‘ang Fêng-lin; and the
other, Ma Hsi-ch‘ih. They drank away and enjoyed themselves very much,
until evening had crept upon them unperceived, when Chieh said, “Here
we, who ought to have been playing the host, have been feasting at a
stranger’s expense. This is not right. But, come, my house is close
by; I will provide you with a bed.” Ch‘ang and Ma got up, and, taking
our hero by the arm, bade his servant come along with them. When they
reached a hill to the north of the village, there before them was a
house and grounds, with a stream of clear water in front of the door,
all the apartments within being beautifully clean and nice. Chieh then
gave orders to light the lamps and see after his visitor’s servant;
whereupon Ma observed, “Of old it was customary to set intellectual
refreshments before one’s friends; let us not miss the opportunity of
this lovely evening, but decide on four themes, one for each of us;
and then, when we have finished our essays, we can set to work on the
wine.”[186] To this the others readily agreed; and each wrote down a
theme and threw it on the table. These were next divided amongst them
as they sat, and before the second watch[187] was over the essays were
all completed and handed round for general inspection; and our scholar
was so struck with the elegance and vigour of those by his three
friends, that he ran off a copy of them and put it in his pocket. The
host then produced some excellent wine, which was drunk by them in
such bumpers that soon they were all tolerably tipsy. The other two
now took their leave; but Chieh led the scholar into another room,
where, so overcome was he with wine, that he went to bed in his boots
and clothes.

The sun was high in the heavens when our hero awaked, and, looking
round, he saw no house or grounds, only a dell on the hill-side, in
which he and his servant had been sleeping. In great alarm he called
out to the servant, who also got up, and then they found a hole with a
rill of water trickling down before it. Much astonished at all this,
he felt in his pocket, and there, sure enough, was the paper on which
he had copied the three essays of his friends. On descending the hill
and making inquiries, he found that he had been to the Grotto of the
Three Genii--namely, Crab, Snake, and Frog, three very wonderful
beings, who often came out for a stroll, and were occasionally visible
to mortal eyes. Subsequently, when our hero entered the examination
hall, lo! the three themes set were those of the Three Genii, and he
came out at the top of the list.


FOOTNOTES:

[186] No Chinese wine-party is complete without more or less amusement
of a literary character. Capping verses, composing impromptu odes on
persons or places, giving historical and mythological allusions, are
among the ordinary diversions of this kind.

[187] The Chinese night lasts from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m., and is divided
into five watches of two hours each, which are subdivided into five
“beats” of the watchman’s wooden tom-tom.



XXVIII.

THE SINGING FROGS.


Wang Tzŭ-sun told me that when he was at the capital he saw a man in
the street who gave the following performance:--He had a wooden box,
divided by partitions into twelve holes, in each of which was a frog;
and whenever he tapped any one of these frogs on the head with a tiny
wand, the frog so touched would immediately begin to sing. Some one
gave him a piece of silver, and then he tapped the frogs all round,
just as if he was striking a gong; whereupon they all sang together,
with their _Do_, _Ré_, _Mi_, _Fa_, in perfect time and harmony.



XXIX.

THE PERFORMING MICE.


Mr. Wang also told me that there was a man at Ch‘ang-an who made his
living by exhibiting performing mice. He had a pouch on his back in
which he kept some ten of these little animals; and whenever he got
among a number of people he would fix a little frame on his back,
exactly resembling a stage. Then beating a drum he would sing some old
theatrical melody, at the first sounds of which the mice would issue
forth from the pouch, and then, with masks on their faces, and arrayed
in various costumes, they would climb up his back on to the stage,
where standing on their hind-legs they would go through a performance
portraying the various emotions of joy and anger, exactly like human
actors of either sex.[188]


FOOTNOTE:

[188] The _rôles_ of women are always played in China by men, dressed
up so perfectly, small feet and all, as to be quite undistinguishable
from real women.



XXX.

THE TIGER OF CHAO-CH‘ÊNG.


At Chao-ch‘êng there lived an old woman more than seventy years of
age, who had an only son. One day he went up to the hills and was
eaten by a tiger, at which his mother was so overwhelmed with grief
that she hardly wished to live. With tears and lamentations she ran
and told her story to the magistrate of the place, who laughed and
asked her how she thought the law could be brought to bear on a tiger.
But the old woman would not be comforted, and at length the magistrate
lost his temper and bade her begone. Of this, however, she took no
notice; and then the magistrate, in compassion for her great age and
unwilling to resort to extremities, promised her that he would have
the tiger arrested. Even then she would not go until the warrant had
been actually issued; so the magistrate, at a loss what to do, asked
his attendants which of them would undertake the job.[189] Upon this
one of them, Li Nêng, who happened to be gloriously drunk, stepped
forward and said that he would; whereupon the warrant was immediately
issued and the old woman went away. When our friend, Li Nêng, got
sober, he was sorry for what he had done; but reflecting that the
whole thing was a mere trick of his master’s to get rid of the old
woman’s importunities, did not trouble himself much about it, handing
in the warrant as if the arrest had been made. “Not so,” cried the
magistrate, “you said you could do this, and now I shall not let you
off.” Li Nêng was at his wits’ end, and begged that he might be
allowed to impress the hunters of the district.[190] This was
conceded; so collecting together these men, he proceeded to spend day
and night among the hills in the hope of catching a tiger, and thus
making a show of having fulfilled his duty.

A month passed away, during which he received several hundred blows
with the bamboo,[191] and at length, in despair, he betook himself to
the Ch‘êng-huang temple in the eastern suburb, where, falling on his
knees, he prayed and wept by turns. By-and-by a tiger walked in, and
Li Nêng, in a great fright, thought he was going to be eaten alive.
But the tiger took no notice of anything, remaining seated in the
doorway. Li Nêng then addressed the animal as follows:--“O tiger, if
thou didst slay that old woman’s son, suffer me to bind thee with this
cord;” and, drawing a rope from his pocket, threw it over the animal’s
neck. The tiger drooped its ears, and allowing itself to be bound,
followed Li Nêng to the magistrate’s office. The latter then asked it,
saying, “Did you eat the old woman’s son?” to which the tiger replied
by nodding its head; whereupon the magistrate rejoined, “That
murderers should suffer death has ever been the law.[192] Besides,
this old woman had but one son, and by killing him you took from her
the sole support of her declining years. But if now you will be as a
son to her, your crime shall be pardoned.” The tiger again nodded
assent, and accordingly the magistrate gave orders that he should be
released, at which the old woman was highly incensed, thinking that
the tiger ought to have paid with its life for the destruction of her
son.

Next morning, however, when she opened the door of her cottage, there
lay a dead deer before it; and the old woman, by selling the flesh and
skin, was able to purchase food. From that day this became a common
event, and sometimes the tiger would even bring her money and
valuables, so that she became quite rich, and was much better cared
for than she had been even by her own son. Consequently, she became
very well-disposed to the tiger, which often came and slept in the
verandah, remaining for a whole day at a time, and giving no cause of
fear either to man or beast. In a few years the old woman died, upon
which the tiger walked in and roared its lamentations in the hall.
However, with all the money she had saved, she was able to have a
splendid funeral; and while her relatives were standing round the
grave, out rushed a tiger, and sent them all running away in fear. But
the tiger merely went up to the mound, and, after roaring like a
thunder-peal, disappeared again. Then the people of that place built a
shrine in honour of the Faithful Tiger, and it remains there to this
day.


FOOTNOTES:

[189] All underlings (and we might add overlings) in China being
unpaid, it behoves them to make what they can out of the opportunities
afforded. In most _yamêns_, the various warrants and such documents
are distributed to the runners in turn, who squeeze the victims thus
handed over to them. For a small bribe they will go back and report
“not at home;” for a larger one “has absconded,” and so on.

Gatekeepers charge a fee on every petition that passes through their
hands; gaolers, for a consideration and with proper security, allow
their prisoners to be at large until wanted; clerks take bribes to use
their influence, honestly or dishonestly, with the magistrate who is
to try the case; and all the servants share equally in the gratuities
given by anyone to whom their master may send presents. The amount,
whatever it may be, is enclosed in a red envelope and addressed to the
sender of the present, with the words “Instead of tea,” in large
characters; the meaning being that the refreshments which should have
been set before the servants who brought the gifts have been commuted
by a money payment. This money is put into a general fund and equally
divided at stated periods.

All Government officers holding a post, from the highest to the
lowest, are entitled to a nominal, and what would be a quite
inadequate, salary; but no one ever sees this. It is customary to
refuse acceptance of it on some such grounds as want of merit, and
refund it to the Imperial Treasury.

[190] Anybody is liable to be “impressed” at any moment for the
service of the Government. Boat owners, sedan-chair and coolie
proprietors, especially dread the frequent and heavy calls that are
made upon them for assistance, the remuneration they receive being in
all cases insufficient to defray mere working expenses. But inasmuch
as Chinese officials may not seize any men, or boats, or carts,
holding passes to show that they are in the employ of a foreign
merchant, a lively trade in such documents has sprung up in certain
parts of China between the dishonest of the native and foreign
commercial circles.

[191] Constables, detectives, and others, are liable to be bambooed at
intervals, generally of three or five days, until the mission on which
they are engaged has been successfully accomplished. In cases of theft
and non-restoration of the stolen property within a given time, the
detectives or constables employed may be required to make it good.

[192] Extended by the Chinese to certain cases of simple man
slaughter.



XXXI.

A DWARF.


In the reign of K‘ang Hsi, there was a magician who carried about with
him a wooden box, in which he had a dwarf not much more than a foot in
height. When people gave him money he would open the box and bid the
little creature come out. The dwarf would then sing a song and go in
again. Arriving one day at Yeh, the magistrate there seized the box,
and taking it into his yamên asked the dwarf whence he came. At first
he dared not reply, but on being pressed told the magistrate
everything. He said he belonged to a respectable family, and that once
when returning home from school he was stupified by the magician, who
gave him some drug which made his limbs shrink, and then took him
about to exhibit to people. The magistrate was very angry and had the
magician beheaded, himself taking charge of the dwarf. He was
subsequently very anxious to get him cured, but unable to obtain the
proper prescription.[193]


FOOTNOTE:

[193] The Cantonese believe the following to be the usual
process:--“Young children are bought or stolen at a tender age and
placed in a _ch‘ing_, or vase with a narrow neck, and having in this
case a moveable bottom. In this receptacle the unfortunate little
wretches are kept for years in a sitting posture, their heads outside,
being all the while carefully tended and fed.... When the child has
reached the age of twenty or over, he or she is taken away to some
distant place and ‘discovered’ in the woods as a wild man or
woman.”--_China Mail_, 15th May, 1878.



XXXII.

HSIANG-JU’S MISFORTUNES.


At Kuang-p‘ing there lived an old man named Fêng, who had an only son
called Hsiang-ju. Both of them were graduates; and the father was very
particular and strict, though the family had long been poor. Mrs. Fêng
and Hsiang-ju’s wife had died one shortly after the other, so that the
father and son were obliged to do their household work for themselves.

One night Hsiang-ju was sitting out in the moonlight, when suddenly a
young lady from next door got on the wall to have a look at him. He
saw she was very pretty, and as he approached her she began to laugh.
He then beckoned to her with his hand; but she did not move either to
come or to go away. At length, however, she accepted the invitation,
and descended the ladder that he had placed for her. In reply to
Hsiang-ju’s inquiries, the young lady said her name was Hung-yü, and
that she lived next door; so Hsiang-ju, who was much taken with her
beauty, begged her to come over frequently and have a chat. To this
she readily assented, and continued to do so for several months, until
one evening old Mr. Fêng, hearing sounds of talking and laughing in
his son’s room, got up and looked in. Seeing Miss Hung-yü, he was
exceedingly angry, and called his son out, saying, “You
good-for-nothing fellow! poor as we are, why aren’t you at your books,
instead of wasting your time like this? A pretty thing for the
neighbours to hear of!--and even if they don’t hear of it, somebody
else will, and shorten your life accordingly.”[194] Hsiang-ju fell on
his knees, and with tears implored forgiveness; whereupon his father
turned to the young lady, and said, “A girl who behaves like this
disgraces others as well as herself; and if people find this out, we
shan’t be the only ones to suffer.” The old man then went back to bed
in a rage, and Miss Hung-yü, weeping bitterly, said to Hsiang-ju,
“Your father’s reproaches have overwhelmed me with shame. Our
friendship is now at an end.” “I could say nothing,” replied he, “as
long as my father was here; but if you have any consideration for me,
I pray you think nothing of his remarks.” Miss Hung-yü protested,
however, that they could meet no more, and then Hsiang-ju also burst
into tears. “Do not weep,” cried she, “our friendship was an
impossible one, and time must sooner or later have put an end to these
visits. Meanwhile, I hear there is a very good match to be made in the
neighbourhood.” Hsiang-ju replied that he was poor; but Miss Hung-yü
told him to meet her again the following evening, when she would
endeavour to do something for him. At the appointed time she arrived,
and, producing forty ounces of silver, presented them to Hsiang-ju;
telling him that at a village some distance off there was a Miss Wei,
eighteen years of age, who was not yet married because of the
exorbitant demands of her parents, but that a little extra outlay
would secure for him the young lady’s hand. Miss Hung-yü then bade him
farewell, and Hsiang-ju went off to inform his father, expressing a
desire to go and make inquiries, but saying nothing about the forty
ounces. His father, thinking that they were not sufficiently well off,
urged him not to go; however, by dint of argument, he finally
persuaded the old man that, at any rate, there was no harm in trying.
So he borrowed horses and attendants, and set off to the house of Mr.
Wei, who was a man of considerable property; and when he got there he
asked Mr. Wei to come outside and accord him a few minutes’
conversation. Now the latter knew that Hsiang-ju belonged to a very
good family; and when he saw all the retinue that Hsiang-ju had
brought with him, he inwardly consented to the match, though he was
afraid that perhaps his would-be son-in-law might not be as liberal as
he would like. Hsiang-ju soon perceived what Mr. Wei’s feelings were,
and emptied his purse on the table, at which Mr. Wei was delighted,
and begged a neighbour to allow the marriage contract to be drawn up
in his house.[195] Hsiang-ju then went in to pay his respects to Mrs.
Wei, whom he found in a small, miserable room, with Miss Wei hiding
behind her. Still he was pleased to see that, in spite of her homely
toilette, the young lady herself was very nice-looking; and, while he
was being entertained in the neighbour’s house, the old lady said, “It
will not be necessary for you, Sir, to come and fetch our daughter. As
soon as we have made up a small trousseau for her, we will send her
along to you.”[196] Hsiang-ju then agreed with them upon a day for the
wedding, and went home and informed his father, pretending that the
Wei family only asked for respectability, and did not care about
money. His father was overjoyed to hear this; and when the day came,
the young lady herself arrived. She proved to be a thrifty housekeeper
and an obedient wife, so that she and her husband got along capitally
together. In two years she had a son, who was called Fu-êrh. And once,
on the occasion of the great spring festival, she was on her way to
the family tombs, with her boy in her arms, when she chanced to meet a
man named Sung, who was one of the gentry of the neighbourhood. This
Mr. Sung had been a Censor,[197] but had purchased his retirement, and
was now leading a private life, characterised by many overbearing and
violent acts. He was returning from his visit to the graves of his
ancestors when he saw Hsiang-ju’s wife, and, attracted by her beauty,
found out who she was; and imagining that, as her husband was a poor
scholar, he might easily be induced for a consideration to part with
the lady, sent one of his servants to find out how the land lay. When
Hsiang-ju heard what was wanted, he was very angry; but, reflecting on
the power of his adversary, controlled his passion, and passed the
thing off with a laugh. His father, however, to whom he repeated what
had occurred, got into a violent rage, and, rushing out, flung his
arms about, and called Mr. Sung every name he could lay his tongue to.
Mr. Sung’s emissary slunk off and went home; and then a number of men
were sent by the enraged Sung, and these burst into the house and gave
old Fêng and his son a most tremendous beating. In the middle of the
hubbub Hsiang-ju’s wife ran in, and, throwing her child down on the
bed, tore her hair and shrieked for help. Sung’s attendants
immediately surrounded her and carried her off, while there lay her
husband and his father, wounded on the ground and the baby squalling
on the bed. The neighbours, pitying their wretched condition, helped
them up on to the couches, and by the next day Hsiang-ju could walk
with a stick; however, his father’s anger was not to be appeased, and,
after spitting a quantity of blood, he died. Hsiang-ju wept bitterly
at this, and, taking his child in his arms, used every means to bring
the offenders to justice, but without the slightest success. He then
heard that his wife had put an end to her own existence, and with this
his cup of misery was full. Unable to get his wrongs redressed, he
often meditated assassinating Sung in the open street,[198] but was
deterred from attempting this by the number of his retainers and the
fear of leaving his son with no one to protect him. Day and night he
mourned over his lot, and his eyelids were never closed in sleep, when
suddenly in walked a personage of striking appearance to condole with
him on his losses. The stranger’s face was covered with a huge curly
beard; and Hsiang-ju, not knowing who he was, begged him to take a
seat, and was about to ask whence he came, when all at once he began,
“Sir! have you forgotten your father’s death, your wife’s disgrace?”
Thereupon Hsiang-ju, suspecting him to be a spy from the Sung family,
made some evasive reply, which so irritated the stranger that he
roared out, “I thought you were a man; but now I know that you are a
worthless, contemptible wretch.” Hsiang-ju fell on his knees and
implored the stranger to forgive him, saying, “I was afraid it was a
trick of Sung’s: I will speak frankly to you. For days I have lain, as
it were, upon thorns, my mouth filled with gall, restrained only by
pity for this little one and fear of breaking our ancestral line.
Generous friend, will you take care of my child if I fall?” “That,”
replied the stranger, “is the business of women; I cannot undertake
it. But what you wish others to do for you, do yourself; and that
which you would do yourself, I will do for you.” When Hsiang-ju heard
these words he knocked his head upon the ground; but the stranger took
no more notice of him, and walked out. Following him to the door,
Hsiang-ju asked his name, to which he replied, “If I cannot help you I
shall not wish to have your reproaches; if I do help you, I shall not
wish to have your gratitude.” The stranger then disappeared, and
Hsiang-ju, having a presentiment that some misfortune was about to
happen, fled away with his child.

When night came, and the members of the Sung family were wrapped in
sleep, some one found his way into their house and slew the ex-Censor
and his two sons, besides a maid-servant and one of the ladies.
Information was at once given to the authorities; and as the Sung
family had no doubt that the murderer was Hsiang-ju, the magistrate,
who was greatly alarmed,[199] sent out lictors to arrest him.
Hsiang-ju, however, was nowhere to be found, a fact which tended to
confirm the suspicions of the Sung family; and they, too, despatched a
number of servants to aid the mandarin in effecting his capture.
Towards evening the lictors and others reached a hill, and, hearing a
child cry, made for the sound, and thus secured the object of their
search, whom they bound and led away. As the child went on crying
louder than ever, they took it from him and threw it down by the
wayside, thereby nearly causing Hsiang-ju to die of grief and rage. On
being brought before the magistrate he was asked why he had killed
these people; to which he replied that he was falsely accused, “For,”
said he, “they died in the night, whereas I had gone away in the
daytime. Besides,” added he, “how, with a crying baby in my arms,
could I scale walls and kill people?” “If you didn’t kill people,”
cried the magistrate, “why did you run away?” Hsiang had no answer to
make to this, and he was accordingly ordered to prison; whereupon he
wept and said, “I can die without regret; but what has my child done
that he, too, should be punished?” “You,” replied the magistrate,
“have slain the children of others; how can you complain if your child
meets the same fate?” Hsiang-ju was then stripped of his degree[200]
and subjected to all kinds of indignities, but they were unable to
wring a confession from his lips;[201] and that very night, as the
magistrate lay down, he heard a sharp noise of something striking the
bed, and, jumping up in a fright, found, by the light of a candle, a
small, keen blade sticking in the wood at the head of his couch so
tightly that it could not be drawn out. Terribly alarmed at this, the
magistrate walked round the room with a spear over his shoulder, but
without finding anything; and then, reflecting that nothing more was
to be feared from Sung, who was dead, as well as his two sons, he
laid Hsiang-ju’s case before the higher authorities, and obtained for
him an acquittal. Hsiang-ju was released and went home. His cupboard,
however, was empty, and there was nothing except his own shadow within
the four walls of his house. Happily, his neighbours took pity on him
and supplied him with food; and whenever he thought upon the vengeance
that had been wreaked, his countenance assumed an expression of joy;
but as often as his misfortunes and the extinction of his family came
into his mind, his tears would begin to flow. And when he remembered
the poverty of his life and the end of his ancestral line, he would
seek out some solitary spot, and there burst into an ungovernable fit
of grief. Thus things went on for about six months, when the search
after the murderer began to be relaxed; and then Hsiang-ju petitioned
for the recovery of his wife’s bones, which he took home with him and
buried. His sorrows made him wish to die, and he lay tossing about on
the bed without any object in life, when suddenly he heard somebody
knock at the door. Keeping quiet to listen, he distinguished the sound
of a voice outside talking with a child; and, getting up to look, he
perceived a young lady, who said to him, “Your great wrongs are all
redressed, and now, luckily, you have nothing to ail you.” The voice
seemed familiar to him, but he could not at the moment recall where he
had heard it; so he lighted a candle, and Miss Hung-yü stood before
him. She was leading a small, happy-looking child by the hand; and
after she and Hsiang-ju had expressed their mutual satisfaction at
meeting once more, Miss Hung-yü pushed the boy forward, saying, “Have
you forgotten your father?” The boy clung to her dress, and looked
shyly at Hsiang-ju, who, on examining him closely, found that he was
Fu-êrh. “Where did he come from?” asked his father, in astonishment,
not unmingled with tears. “I will tell you all,” replied Miss Hung-yü.
“I was only deceiving you when I said I belonged to a neighbouring
family. I am really a fox, and, happening to go out one evening, I
heard a child crying in a ditch. I took him home and brought him up;
and, now that your troubles are over, I return him to you, that father
and son may be together.” Hsiang-ju wiped away his tears and thanked
her heartily; but Fu-êrh kept close to Miss Hung-yü, whom he had come
to regard as a mother, and did not seem to recognise his father again.
Before day-break Miss Hung-yü said she must go away; but Hsiang-ju
fell upon his knees and entreated her to stop, until at last she said
she was only joking, adding that, in a new establishment like theirs,
it would be a case of early to rise and late to bed. She then set to
work cutting fuel and sweeping it up, toiling hard as if she had been
a man, which made Hsiang-ju regret that he was too poor to have all
this done for her. However, she bade him mind his books, and not
trouble himself about the state of their affairs, as they were not
likely to die of hunger. She also produced some money, and bought
implements for spinning, besides renting a few acres of land and
hiring labourers to till them. Day by day she would shoulder her hoe
and work in the fields, or employ herself in mending the roof, so
that her fame as a good wife spread abroad, and the neighbours were
more than ever pleased to help them. In half-a-year’s time their home
was like that of a well-to-do family, with plenty of servants about;
but one day Hsiang-ju said to Miss Hung-yü, “With all that you have
accomplished on my behalf, there is still one thing left undone.” On
her asking him what it was, he continued: “The examination for
master’s degree is at hand, and I have not yet recovered the
bachelor’s degree of which I was stripped.” “Ah,” replied she, “some
time back I had your name replaced upon the list; had I waited for you
to tell me, it would have been too late.” Hsiang-ju marvelled very
much at this, and accordingly took his master’s degree. He was then
thirty-six years of age, the master of broad lands and fine houses;
and Miss Hung-yü, who looked delicate enough to be blown away by the
wind, and yet worked harder than an ordinary labourer’s wife, keeping
her hands smooth and nice in spite of winter weather, gave herself out
to be thirty-eight, though no one took her to be much more than
twenty.


FOOTNOTES:

[194] Meaning that it would become known to the Arbiter of life and
death in the world below, who would punish him by shortening his
appointed term of years. See _The Wei-ch‘i Devil_, No. CXXXI.

[195] One important preliminary consists in the exchange of the four
pairs of characters which denote the year, month, day, and hour of the
births of the contracting parties. It remains for a geomancer to
determine whether these are in harmony or not; and a very simple
expedient for backing out of a proposed alliance is to bribe him to
declare that the nativities of the young couple could not be happily
brought together.

[196] The bridegroom invariably fetches the bride from her father’s
house, conveying her to his home in a handsomely-gilt red sedan-chair,
closed in on all sides, and accompanied by a band of music.

[197] The Censorate is a body of fifty-six officials, whose duty it is
to bring matters to the notice of the Emperor which might otherwise
have escaped attention; to take exception to any acts, including those
of His Majesty himself, calculated to interfere with the welfare of
the people; and to impeach, as occasion may require, the high
provincial authorities, whose position, but for this wholesome check,
would be almost unassailable. Censors are popularly termed the “ears
and eyes” of the monarch.

[198] In the _Book of Rites_ (I. Pt. i. v. 10), which dates, in its
present form, only from the first century B.C., occurs this passage,
“With the slayer of his father, a man may not live under the same
heaven;” and in the _Family Sayings_ (Bk. X. _ab init._), a work which
professes, though on quite insufficient authority, to record a number
of the conversations and apophthegms of Confucius not given in the
_Lun-yü_, or Confucian Gospels, we find the following course laid down
for a man whose father has been murdered:--“He must sleep upon a grass
mat, with his shield for his pillow; he must decline to take office;
he must not live under the same heaven (with the murderer). When he
meets him in the court or in the market-place, he must not return for
a weapon, but engage him there and then;” being always careful, as the
commentator observes, to carry a weapon about with him. Sir John Davis
and Dr. Legge agree in stigmatizing this as “one of the objectionable
principles of Confucius.” It must, however, be admitted that (1) a
patched-up work which appeared as we have it now from two to three
centuries after Confucius’s death, and (2) a confessedly apocryphal
work such as the _Family Sayings_, are hardly sufficient grounds for
affixing to the fair fame of China’s great Sage the positive
inculcation of a dangerous principle of blood-vengeance like that I
have just quoted.

[199] The Chinese theory being that every official is responsible for
the peace and well-being of the district committed to his charge, and
even liable to punishment for occurrences over which he could not
possibly have had any control.

[200] See No. X., note 75.

[201] See No. X., note 78.



XXXIII.

CHANG’S TRANSFORMATION.


Chang Yü-tan, of Chao-yuan, was a wild fellow, who pursued his studies
at the Hsiao temple. Now it chanced that the magistrate of the
district, Mr. Tsêng of San-han, had a daughter who was very fond of
hunting, and that one day young Chang met her in the fields, and was
much struck with her great beauty. She was dressed in an embroidered
sable jacket, and rode about on a small palfrey, for all the world
like a girl in a picture. Chang went home with the young lady still in
his thoughts, his heart being deeply touched; but he soon after heard,
to his infinite sorrow and dismay, that Miss Tsêng had died suddenly.
Their own home being at a distance,[202] her father deposited the
coffin in a temple;[203] the very temple, in fact, where her lover was
residing. Accordingly Chang paid to her remains the same respect he
would have offered to a god; he burnt incense every morning, and
poured out libations at every meal, always accompanied by the
following invocation:--“I had hardly seen you when your spirit became
ever present to me in my dreams. But you passed suddenly away; and
now, near as we are together, we are as far apart as if separated by
hills and rivers. Alas! alas! In life you were under the control of
your parents; now, however, there is nothing to restrain you, and with
your supernatural power, I should be hearing the rustle of your robe
as you approach to ease the sorrow of my heart.” Day and night he
prayed thus, and when some six months had passed away, and he was one
night trimming his lamp to read, he raised his head and saw a young
lady standing, all smiles, before him. Rising up, he inquired who she
was; to which his visitor replied, “Grateful to you for your love of
me, I was unable to resist the temptation of coming to thank you
myself.” Chang then offered her a seat, and they sat together chatting
for some time. From this date the young lady used to come in every
evening, and on one occasion said to Chang, “I was formerly very fond
of riding and archery, shooting the musk and slaying the deer; it is a
great sorrow to me to be deprived of these pleasures by death. If you
have any friendly feelings towards me, I pray you recite for me the
Diamond _sutra_[204] five thousand and forty-eight times, and I will
never forget your kindness.” Chang did as he was asked, getting up
every night and telling his beads before the coffin, until the
occasion of a certain festival, when he wished to go home to his
parents, and take the young lady with him. Miss Tsêng said she was
afraid her feet were too tender to walk far; but Chang offered to
carry her, to which she laughingly assented. It was just like carrying
a child, she was so light;[205] and by degrees Chang got so accustomed
to taking her about with him, that when he went up for his examination
she went in too.[206] The only thing was she could not travel except
at night. Later on, Chang would have gone up for his master’s degree,
but the young lady told him it was of no use to try, for it was not
destined that he should pass; and accordingly he desisted from his
intention. Four or five years afterwards, Miss Tsêng’s father resigned
his appointment, and so poor was he that he could not afford to pay
for the removal of his daughter’s coffin, but wanted to bury it
economically where it was. Unfortunately, he had no ground of his own,
and then Chang came forward and said that a friend of his had a piece
of waste land near the temple, and that he might bury it there. Mr.
Tsêng was very glad to accept, and Chang kindly assisted him with the
funeral,--for what reason the former was quite unable to guess. One
night after this, as Miss Tsêng was sitting by Chang’s side, her
father having already returned home, she burst into a flood of tears,
and said, “For five years we have been good friends; we must now part.
I can never repay your goodness to me.” Chang was alarmed, and asked
her what she meant; to which she replied, “Your sympathy has told for
me in the realms below. The sum of my _sutras_ is complete, and to-day
I am to be born again in the family of a high official, Mr. Lu, of
Ho-pei. If you do not forget the present time, meet me there in
fifteen years from now, on the 16th of the 8th moon.” “Alas!” cried
Chang, “I am already over thirty, and in fifteen years more I shall be
drawing near the wood.[207] What good will our meeting do?” “I can be
your servant,” replied Miss Tsêng, “and so make some return to you.
But come, escort me a few miles on my way; the road is beset with
brambles, and I shall have some trouble with my dress.” So Chang
carried her as before, until they reached a high road, where they
found a number of carriages and horses, the latter with one or two
riders on the backs of each, and three or four, or even more persons,
in every carriage. But there was one richly-decorated carriage, with
embroidered curtains and red awnings, in which sat only one old woman,
who, when she saw Miss Tsêng, called out, “Ah, there you are.” “Here I
am,” replied Miss Tsêng; and then she turned to Chang and said, “We
must part here; do not forget what I told you.” Chang promised he
would remember; and then the old woman helped her up into the
carriage, round went the wheels, off went the attendants, and they
were gone. Sorrowfully Chang wended his way home, and there wrote upon
the wall the date mentioned by Miss Tsêng; after which, bethinking
himself of the efficacy of prayer, he took to reciting _sutras_ more
energetically than ever. By-and-by he dreamed that an angel appeared
to him, and said, “The bent of your mind is excellent indeed, but you
must visit the Southern Sea.”[208] Asking how far off the Southern Sea
was, the angel informed him it was close by; and then waking up, and
understanding what was required of him, he fixed his sole thoughts on
Buddha, and lived a purer life than before. In three years’ time his
two sons, Ming and Chêng, came out very high on the list at the
examination for the second degree, in spite of which worldly successes
Chang continued to lead his usual holy life. Then one night he dreamed
that another angel led him among beautiful halls and palaces, where he
saw a personage sitting down who resembled Buddha himself. This
personage said to him, “My son, your virtue is a matter of great joy;
unhappily your term of life is short, and I have, therefore, made an
appeal to God[209] on your behalf.” Chang prostrated himself, and
knocked his head upon the ground; upon which he was commanded to rise,
and was served with tea, fragrant as the epidendrum. A boy was next
instructed to take him to bathe in a pool, the water of which was so
exquisitely clear that he could count the fishes swimming about
therein. He found it warm as he walked in, and scented like the leaves
of the lotus-flower; and gradually the water got deeper and deeper,
until he went down altogether and passed through with his head under
water. He then waked up in a fright; but from this moment he became
more robust and his sight improved. As he stroked his beard the white
hairs all came out, and by-and-by the black ones too; the wrinkles on
his face were smoothed away, and in a few months he had the beardless
face of a boy of fifteen or sixteen. He also grew very fond of playing
about like other boys, and would sometimes tumble head over heels, and
be picked up by his sons. Soon afterwards his wife died of old age,
and his sons begged him to marry again into some good family; but he
said he should be obliged to go to Ho-pei first; and then, calculating
his dates, found that the appointed time had arrived. So he ordered
his horses and servants, and set off for Ho-pei, where he discovered
that there actually was a high official named Lu. Now Mr. Lu had a
daughter, who when born was able to talk,[210] and became very clever
and beautiful as she grew up. She was the idol of her parents, and had
been asked in marriage by many suitors, but would not accept any of
them; and when her father and mother inquired her motives for refusal,
she told them the story of her engagement in her former life. “Silly
child,” said they, reckoning up the time, and laughing at her; “that
Mr. Chang would now be about fifty years of age, a changed and feeble
old man. Even if he is still alive, his hair will be white and his
teeth gone.” But their daughter would not listen to them; and, finding
her so obstinate in her determination, they instructed the doorkeeper
to admit no strangers until the appointed time should have passed,
that thus her expectations might be brought to naught. Before long,
Chang arrived, but the doorkeeper would not let him in, and he went
back to his inn in great distress, not knowing what to do. He then
took to walking about the fields, and secretly making inquiries
concerning the family. Meanwhile Miss Tsêng thought that he had broken
his engagement, and refused all food, giving herself up to tears
alone. Her mother argued that he was probably dead, or in any case
that the breach of engagement was no fault of her daughter’s; to none
of which, however, would Miss Tsêng listen, lying where she was the
livelong day. Mr. Lu now became anxious about her, and determined to
see what manner of man this Chang might be; so, on the plea of taking
a walk, he went out to meet him in the fields, and to his astonishment
found quite a young man. They sat down together on some leaves, and
after chatting awhile Mr. Lu was so charmed with his young friend’s
bearing that he invited him to his house. No sooner had they arrived,
than Mr. Lu begged Chang to excuse him a moment, and ran in first to
tell his daughter, who exerted herself to get up and take a peep at
the stranger. Finding, however, that he was not the Chang she had
formerly known, she burst into tears and crept back to bed, upbraiding
her parents for trying to deceive her thus. Her father declared he was
no other than Chang, but his daughter replied only with tears; and
then he went back very much upset to his guest, whom he treated with
great want of courtesy. Chang asked him if he was not the Mr. Lu, of
such and such a position, to which he replied in a vacant kind of way
that he was, looking the other way all the time and paying no
attention to Chang. The latter did not approve of this behaviour, and
accordingly took his leave; and in a few days Miss Tsêng had cried
herself to death. Chang then dreamed that she appeared to him, and
said, “Was it you after all that I saw? You were so changed in age and
appearance that when I looked upon your face I did not know you. I
have already died from grief; but if you make haste to the little
street shrine and summon my spirit back, I may still recover. Be not
late!” Chang then waked, and immediately made inquiries at Mr. Lu’s
house, when he found that the young lady had been dead two days.
Telling her father his dream, they went forth to summon the spirit
back; and on opening the shroud, and throwing themselves with
lamentations over the corpse, a noise was heard in the young lady’s
throat, and her cherry lips parted. They moved her on to a bed, and
soon she began to moan, to the great joy of Mr. Lu, who took Chang out
of the room and, over a bumper of wine, asked some questions about his
family. He was glad to find that Chang was a suitable match for his
daughter, and an auspicious day was fixed for the wedding. In a
fortnight the event came off, the bride being escorted to Chang’s
house by her father, who remained with them six months before going
home again. They were a youthful pair, and people who didn’t know the
story mistook Chang’s son and daughter-in-law for his father and
mother. A year later Mr. Lu died; and his son, a mere child, having
been badly wounded by some scoundrels, and the family property being
almost gone, Chang made him come and live with them, and be one of
their own family.


FOOTNOTES:

[202] No man being allowed to hold office within a radius of 500 _li_,
or nearly 200 miles, from his native place.

[203] This is a very common custom all over China.

[204] Of all the Buddhist _sutras_, this is perhaps the favourite with
the Chinese.

[205] Contrary to the German notion that the spirit of the dead
mother, coming back at night to suckle the child she has left behind,
makes an impress on the bed alongside the baby.

[206] Being, of course, invisible to all except himself.

[207] A very ancient expression, signifying “the grave,” the word
“wood” being used by synecdoche for “coffin.”

[208] The supposed residence of Kuan-yin, the Chinese Goddess of
Mercy, she who “hears prayers” and is the giver of children.

[209] The great Supreme Ruler, who is supposed to have absolute sway
over the various other deities of the Chinese Pantheon.

[210] Generally spoken of as an inauspicious phenomenon.



XXXIV.

A TAOIST PRIEST.


Once upon a time there was a Mr. Han, who belonged to a wealthy
family, and was fond of entertaining people. A man named Hsü, of the
same town, frequently joined him over the bottle; and on one occasion
when they were together a Taoist priest came to the door with his
alms-bowl[211] in his hand. The servants threw him some money and
food, but the priest would not accept them, neither would he go away;
and at length they would take no more notice of him. Mr. Han heard the
noise of the priest knocking his bowl[212] going on for a long time,
and asked his servants what was the matter; and they had hardly told
him when the priest himself walked in. Mr. Han begged him to be
seated; whereupon the priest bowed to both gentlemen and took his
seat. On making the usual inquiries, they found that he lived at an
old tumble-down temple to the east of the town, and Mr. Han expressed
regret at not having heard sooner of his arrival, so that he might
have shown him the proper hospitality of a resident. The priest said
that he had only recently arrived, and had no friends in the place;
but hearing that Mr. Han was a jovial fellow, he had been very anxious
to take a glass with him. Mr. Han then ordered wine, and the priest
soon distinguished himself as a hard drinker; Mr. Hsü treating him all
the time with a certain amount of disrespect in consequence of his
shabby appearance, while Mr. Han made allowances for him as being a
traveller. When he had drunk over twenty large cups of wine, the
priest took his leave, returning subsequently whenever any
jollification was going on, no matter whether it was eating or
drinking. Even Han began now to tire a little of him; and on one
occasion Hsü said to him in raillery, “Good priest, you seem to like
being a guest; why don’t you play the host sometimes for a change?”
“Ah,” replied the priest, “I am much the same as yourself--a mouth
carried between a couple of shoulders.”[213] This put Hsü to shame,
and he had no answer to make; so the priest continued, “But although
that is so, I have been revolving the question with myself for some
time, and when we do meet I shall do my best to repay your kindness
with a cup of my own poor wine.” When they had finished drinking, the
priest said he hoped he should have the pleasure of their company the
following day at noon; and at the appointed time the two friends went
together, not expecting, however, to find anything ready for them. But
the priest was waiting for them in the street; and passing through a
handsome court-yard, they beheld long suites of elegant apartments
stretching away before them. In great astonishment, they remarked to
the priest that they had not visited this temple for some time, and
asked when it had been thus repaired; to which he replied that the
work had been only lately completed. They then went inside, and there
was a magnificently-decorated apartment, such as would not be found
even in the houses of the wealthy. This made them begin to feel more
respect for their host; and no sooner had they sat down than wine and
food were served by a number of boys, all about sixteen years of age,
and dressed in embroidered coats, with red shoes. The wine and the
eatables were delicious, and very nicely served; and when the dinner
was taken away, a course of rare fruits was put on the table, the
names of all of which it would be impossible to mention. They were
arranged in dishes of crystal and jade, the brilliancy of which
lighted up the surrounding furniture; and the goblets in which the
wine was poured were of glass,[214] and more than a foot in
circumference. The priest here cried out, “Call the Shih sisters,”
whereupon one of the boys went out, and in a few moments two elegant
young ladies walked in. The first was tall and slim like a willow
wand; the other was short and very young, both being exceedingly
pretty girls. Being told to sing while the company were drinking, the
younger beat time and sang a song, while the elder accompanied her on
the flageolet. They acquitted themselves admirably; and, when the song
was over, the priest holding his goblet bottom upwards in the air,
challenged his guests to follow his example, bidding his servants pour
out more wine all round. He then turned to the girls, and remarked
that they had not danced for a long time, asking if they were still
able to do so; upon which a carpet was spread by one of the boys, and
the two young ladies proceeded to dance, their long robes waving about
and perfuming the air around. The dance concluded, they leant against
a painted screen, while the two guests gradually became more and more
confused, and were at last irrecoverably drunk. The priest took no
notice of them; but when he had finished drinking, he got up and said,
“Pray, go on with your wine; I am going to rest awhile, and will
return by-and-by.” He then went away, and lay down on a splendid couch
at the other end of the room; at which Hsü was very angry, and shouted
out, “Priest, you are a rude fellow,” at the same time making towards
him with a view of rousing him up. The priest then ran out, and Han
and Hsü lay down to sleep, one at each end of the room, on
elaborately-carved couches covered with beautiful mattresses. When
they woke up, they found themselves lying in the road, Mr. Hsü with
his head in a dirty drain. Hard by were a couple of rush huts; but
everything else was gone.


FOOTNOTES:

[211] This is the Buddhist _patra_, which modern writers have come to
regard as an instrumental part of the Taoist religion. See No. IV.,
note 46.

[212] To call attention to his presence. Beggars in China accomplish
their purpose more effectually by beating a gong in the shop where
they ask for alms so loudly as to prevent the shopkeeper from hearing
his customers speak; or they vary the performance by swinging about
some dead animal tied to the end of a stick. Mendicity not being
prohibited in China, there results a system of black mail payable by
every householder to a beggars’ guild, and this frees them from the
visits of the beggars of their own particular district; many, however,
do not subscribe, but take their chance in the struggle as to who will
tire out the other first, the shopkeeper, who has all to lose, being
careful to stop short of anything like manual violence, which would
forthwith bring down upon him the myrmidons of the law, and subject
him to innumerable “squeezes.”

[213] _Sc._ a “sponge.”

[214] Said to have been introduced into China from the west by a
eunuch named San-pao during the Ming dynasty.



XXXV.

THE FIGHT WITH THE FOXES.


In the province of Chih-li, there was a wealthy family in want of a
tutor. One day a graduate presented himself at the door, and was asked
by the master of the house to walk in; and he conversed so pleasantly
that in a short time it was clear to both sides that they were
mutually pleased with each other. The tutor said his name was Hu; and
when the usual present had been made to him, he was forthwith provided
with apartments, and entered very energetically upon his duties,
proving himself a scholar of no mean order. He was, however, very fond
of roaming, and generally came back in the middle of the night, not
troubling himself to knock if the door was locked but suddenly
appearing on the inside. It was therefore suspected that he was a fox,
though as his intentions seemed to be harmless, he was treated
extremely well, and not with any want of courtesy as if he had been
something uncanny. By-and-by he discovered that his master had a
daughter,[215] and being desirous of securing the match was always
dropping hints to that effect, which his master, on the other hand,
invariably pretended not to understand. One day he went off for a
holiday, and on the next day a stranger called; who, tying a black
mule at the door, accepted the invitation of the master to take a seat
within. He was about fifty years of age, very neat and clean in his
dress, and gentlemanly in his manners. When they were seated, the
stranger began by saying that he was come with proposals of marriage
on behalf of Mr. Hu; to which his host, after some consideration,
replied that he and Mr. Hu got along excellently well as friends, and
there was no object in bringing about a closer connection. “Besides,”
added he, “my daughter is already betrothed, and I beg you, therefore,
to ask Mr. Hu to excuse me.” The stranger said he was quite sure the
young lady was not engaged, and inquired what might be the objection
to the match: but it was all of no avail, until at length he remarked,
“Mr. Hu is of a good family; I see no reason why you should have such
an aversion to him.” “Well, then,” replied the other, “I will tell you
what it is. We don’t like his _species_.” The stranger here got very
angry, and his host also lost his temper, so that they came to high
words, and were already on the way to blows, when the latter bade his
servants give the stranger a beating and turn him out. The stranger
then retired, leaving his mule behind him; and when they drew near to
look at it they found a huge creature with black hair, drooping ears,
and a long tail. They tried to lead it away, but it would not move;
and on giving it a shove with the hand from behind, it toppled over
and was discovered to be only of straw. In consequence of the angry
words that had been said, the master of the house felt sure that there
would be an attempt at revenge, and accordingly made all preparations;
and sure enough the next day a whole host of fox-soldiers arrived,
some on horseback, some on foot, some with spears, and others with
cross-bows, men and horses trampling along with an indescribable din.
The family were afraid to leave the house, and the foxes shouted out
to set the place on fire, at which the inmates were dreadfully
alarmed; but just then one of the bravest of them rushed forth with a
number of the servants to engage the foxes. Stones and arrows flew
about in all directions, and many on both sides were wounded; at
length, however, the foxes drew off leaving their swords on the field.
These glittered like frost or snow, but when picked up turned out to
be only millet-stalks. “Is this all their cunning?” cried their
adversary, laughing, at the same time making still more careful
preparations in case the foxes should come again. Next day they were
deliberating together, when suddenly a giant descended upon them from
the sky. He was over ten feet in height by several feet in breadth,
and brandished a sword as broad as half a door; but they attacked him
so vigorously with arrows and stones that he was soon stretched dead
upon the ground, when they saw that he was made of grass. Our friends
now began to make light of their fox-foes, and as they saw nothing
more of them for three days their precautions were somewhat relaxed.
The foxes, however, soon reappeared, armed with bows and arrows, and
succeeded in shooting the master of the house in the back,
disappearing when he summoned his servants and proceeded to attack
them. Then, drawing the arrow from his back, he found it was a long
thorn; and thus the foxes went on for a month or so, coming and going,
and making it necessary to take precautions, though not really
inflicting any serious injury. This annoyed the master of the family
very much, until one day Mr. Hu[216] himself appeared with a troop of
soldiers at his back, and he immediately went out to meet him. Mr. Hu
withdrew among his men, but the master called to him to come forth,
and then asked him what he had done that soldiers should be thus
brought against his family. The foxes were now on the point of
discharging their arrows; Mr. Hu, however, stopped them; whereupon he
and his old master shook hands, and the latter invited him to walk
into his old room. Wine being served, his host observed, “You, Mr. Hu,
are a man of intelligence, and I trust you will make allowances for
me. Friends as we were, I should naturally have been glad to form a
connection with you; your carriages, however, horses, houses, etc.,
are not those of ordinary mortals; and even had my daughter consented,
you must know the thing would have been impossible, she being still a
great deal too young.” Mr. Hu was somewhat disconcerted at this, but
his host continued, “It’s of no consequence; we can still be friends
as before, and if you do not despise us earthly creatures, there is my
son whom you have taught; he is fifteen years old, and I should be
proud to see him connected with you if such an arrangement should be
feasible.” Mr. Hu was delighted, and said, “I have a daughter one year
younger than your son; she is neither ugly nor stupid. How would she
do?” His host got up and made a low bow, which Mr. Hu forthwith
returned, and they then became the best of friends, forgetting all
about the former unpleasantness. Wine was given to Mr. Hu’s
attendants, and every one was made happy. The host now inquired where
Mr. Hu lived, that the ceremony of pouring out a libation to the
geese[217] might be performed; but Mr. Hu said this would not be
necessary, and remained drinking till night, when he went away again.
From this time there was no more trouble; and a year passed without
any news of Mr. Hu, so that it seemed as if he wished to get out of
his bargain. The family, however, went on waiting, and in six months
more Mr. Hu reappeared, when, after a few general remarks, he declared
that his daughter was ready, and requested that an auspicious day
might be fixed for her to come to her husband’s home. This being
arranged, the young lady arrived with a retinue of sedan-chairs, and
horses, and a beautiful trousseau that nearly filled a room.[218] She
was unusually respectful to her father and mother in-law, and the
former was much pleased with the match. Her father and a younger
brother of his had escorted her to the house, and conversing away in a
most refined style they sat drinking till daybreak before they went
away. The bride herself had the gift of foreknowing whether the
harvest would be good or bad, and her advice was always taken in such
matters. Mr. Hu and his brother, and also their mother, often came to
visit her in her new home, and were then very frequently seen by
people.


FOOTNOTES:

[215] The women’s apartments being quite separate from the rest of a
Chinese house, male visitors consequently know nothing about their
inhabitants.

[216] See No. XIII., note 90.

[217] A very ancient custom in China, originating in a belief that
these birds never mate a second time. The libation is made on the
occasion of the bridegroom fetching his bride from her father’s house.

[218] A Chinese trousseau, in addition to clothes and jewels, consists
of tables and chairs, and all kinds of house furniture and ornaments.



XXXVI.

THE KING.


A certain Governor of Hu-nan despatched a magistrate to the capital in
charge of treasure to the amount of six hundred thousand ounces of
silver. On the road the magistrate encountered a violent storm of
rain, which so delayed him that night came on before he was able to
reach the next station. He therefore took refuge in an old temple;
but, when morning came, he was horrified to find that the treasure had
disappeared. Unable to fix the guilt on any one, he returned forthwith
to the Governor and told him the whole story. The latter, however,
refused to believe what the magistrate said, and would have had him
severely punished, but that each and all of his attendants stoutly
corroborated his statements; and accordingly he bade him return and
endeavour to find the missing silver. When the magistrate got back to
the temple, he met an extraordinary-looking blind man, who informed
him that he could read people’s thoughts, and further went on to say
that the magistrate had come there on a matter of money. The latter
replied that it was so, and recounted the misfortune that had
overtaken him; whereupon the blind man called for sedan-chairs, and
told the magistrate to follow and see for himself, which he
accordingly did, accompanied by all his retinue. If the blind man said
east, they went east; or if north, north; journeying along for five
days until far among the hills, where they beheld a large city with a
great number of inhabitants. They entered the gates and proceeded on
for a short distance, when suddenly the blind man cried, “Stop!” and,
alighting from his chair, pointed to a lofty door facing the west, at
which he told the magistrate to knock and make what inquiries were
necessary. He then bowed and took his leave, and the magistrate obeyed
his instructions, whereupon a man came out in reply to his summons. He
was dressed in the fashion of the Han dynasty,[219] and did not say
what his name was; but as soon as the magistrate informed him
wherefore he had come, he replied that if the latter would wait a few
days he himself would assist him in the matter. The man then conducted
the magistrate within, and giving him a room to himself, provided him
regularly with food and drink. One day he chanced to stroll away to
the back of the building, and there found a beautiful garden with
dense avenues of pine-trees and smooth lawns of fine grass. After
wandering about for some time among the arbours and ornamental
buildings, the magistrate came to a lofty kiosque, and mounted the
steps, when he saw hanging on the wall before him a number of human
skins, each with its eyes, nose, ears, mouth, and heart.[220]
Horrified at this, he beat a hasty retreat to his quarters, convinced
that he was about to leave his own skin in this out-of-the-way place,
and giving himself up for lost. He reflected, however, that he should
probably gain nothing by trying to escape, and made up his mind to
wait; and on the following day the same man came to fetch him, saying
he could now have an audience. The magistrate replied that he was
ready; and his conductor then mounted a fiery steed, leaving the other
to follow on foot. By-and-by they reached a door like that leading
into a Viceroy’s _yamên_, where stood on either side crowds of
official servants, preserving the utmost silence and decorum. The man
here dismounted and led the magistrate inside; and after passing
through another door they came into the presence of a king, who wore a
cap decorated with pearls, and an embroidered sash, and sat facing the
south. The magistrate rushed forward and prostrated himself on the
ground; upon which the king asked him if he was the Hu-nan official
who had been charged with the conveyance of treasure. On his answering
in the affirmative, the king said, “The money is all here; it’s a mere
trifle, but I have no objection to receive it as a present from the
Governor.” The magistrate here burst into tears, and declared that
his term of grace had already expired: that he would be punished if he
went back thus, especially as he would have no evidence to adduce in
substantiation of his story. “That is easy enough,” replied the king,
and put into his hands a thick letter, which he bade him give to the
Governor, assuring him that this would prevent him from getting into
any trouble. He also provided him with an escort; and the magistrate,
who dared not argue the point further, sorrowfully accepted the letter
and took his departure. The road he travelled along was not that by
which he had come; and when the hills ended, his escort left him and
went back. In a few days more he reached Ch‘ang-sha, and respectfully
informed the Governor of what had taken place; but the Governor
thought he was telling more lies, and in a great rage bade the
attendants bind him hand and foot. The magistrate then drew the letter
forth from his coat; and when the Governor broke the seal and saw its
contents, his face turned deadly pale. He gave orders for the
magistrate to be unbound, remarking that the loss of the treasure was
of no importance, and that the magistrate was free to go. Instructions
were next issued that the amount was to be made up in some way or
other and forwarded to the capital; and meanwhile the Governor fell
sick and died.

Now this Governor had had a wife of whom he was dotingly fond; and one
morning when they waked up, lo! all her hair was gone. The whole
establishment was in dismay, no one knowing what to make of such an
occurrence. But the letter above-mentioned contained that hair,
accompanied by the following words:--“Ever since you first entered
into public life your career has been one of peculation and avarice.
The six hundred thousand ounces of silver are safely stored in my
treasury. Make good this sum from your own accumulated extortions. The
officer you charged with the treasure is innocent; he must not be
wrongly punished. On a former occasion I took your wife’s hair as a
gentle warning. If now you disobey my injunctions, it will not be long
before I have your head. Herewith I return the hair as an evidence of
what I say.” When the Governor was dead, his family divulged the
contents of the letter; and some of his subordinates sent men to
search for the city, but they only found range upon range of
inaccessible mountains, with nothing like a road or path.


FOOTNOTES:

[219] Which ended some sixteen hundred years ago.

[220] Corresponding with our five “senses,” the heart taking the place
of the brain, and being regarded by Chinese doctors as the seat not
only of intelligence and the passions, but also of all sensation.



XXXVII.

ENGAGED TO A NUN.


At I-ling, in Hupei, there lived a young man named Chên Yü, the son of
a graduate. He was a good scholar and a handsome fellow, and had made
a reputation for himself even before he arrived at manhood. When quite
a boy, a physiognomist had predicted that he would marry a Taoist nun;
but his parents regarded it only as a joke, and made several attempts
to get him a different kind of wife. Their efforts, however, had not
hitherto proved successful, the difficulty being to find a suitable
match.

Now his maternal grandmother lived at Huang-kang; and on one occasion,
when young Chên was paying her a visit, he heard some one say that of
the four Yüns at Huang-chou the youngest had no peer. This remark
referred to some very nice-looking nuns who lived in a temple[221] a
few miles from his grandmother’s house; and accordingly Chên secretly
set off to see them, and, knocking at the door, was very cordially
received by the four ladies, who were persons of considerable
refinement. The youngest was a girl of incomparable beauty, and Chên
could not keep his eyes off her, until at last she put her hand up to
her face and looked the other way. Her companions now going out of the
room to get tea for their visitor, Chên availed himself of the
opportunity to ask the young lady’s name; to which she replied that
she was called Yün-ch‘i, and that her surname was Ch‘ên. “How
extraordinary!” cried Chên; “and mine is P‘an.”[222] This made her
blush very much, and she bent her head down and made no answer;
by-and-by rising up and going away. The tea then came in, accompanied
by some nice fruit, and the nuns began telling him their names. One
was Pai Yün-shên, and thirty odd years of age; another was Shêng
Yün-mien, just twenty; and the third was Liang Yün-tung, twenty-four
or five years old, but the junior in point of religious standing.[223]
Yün-ch‘i did not re-appear, and at length Chên grew anxious to see her
again, and asked where she was. Miss Pai told him her sister was
afraid of strangers, and Chên then got up and took his leave in spite
of their efforts to detain him. “If you want to see Yün-ch‘i you had
better come again to-morrow,” said Miss Pai; and Chên, who went home
thinking of nothing but Yün-ch‘i, did return to the temple on the
following day. All the nuns were there except Yün-ch‘i, but he hardly
liked to begin by inquiring after her; and then they pressed him to
stay and take dinner with them, accepting no excuses, Miss Pai herself
setting food and chop-sticks before him, and urging him to eat. When
he asked where Yün-ch‘i was, they said she would come directly; but
evening gradually drew on and Chên rose to go home. Thereupon they all
entreated him to stay, promising that if he did so they would make
Yün-ch‘i come in. Chên then agreed to remain; the lamps were lighted,
and wine was freely served round, until at last he said he was so
tipsy he couldn’t take any more. “Three bumpers more,” cried Miss Pai,
“and then we will send for Yün-ch‘i.” So Chên drank off his three
cups, whereupon Miss Liang said he must also drink three with her,
which he did, turning his wine-cup down on the table[224] and
declaring that he would have no more. “The gentleman won’t condescend
to drink with us,” said Miss Pai to Miss Liang, “so you had better
call in Yün-ch‘i, and tell the fair Eloïsa that her Abelard is
awaiting her.” In a few moments Miss Liang came back and told Chên
that Yün-ch‘i would not appear; upon which he went off in a huff,
without saying a word to either of them, and for several days did not
go near the place again. He could not, however, forget Yün-ch‘i, and
was always hanging about on the watch, until one afternoon he observed
Miss Pai go out, at which he was delighted, for he wasn’t much afraid
of Miss Liang, and at once ran up to the temple and knocked at the
door. Yün-mien answered his knock, and from her he discovered that
Miss Liang had also gone out on business. He then asked for Yün-ch‘i,
and Yün-mien led him into another court-yard, where she called out,
“Yün-ch‘i! here’s a visitor.” At this the door of the room was
immediately slammed, and Yün-mien laughed and told Chên she had locked
herself in. Chên was on the point of saying something, when Yün-mien
moved away, and a voice was heard from the other side of the window,
“They all declare I’m setting my cap at you, Sir; and if you come here
again, I cannot answer for my safety. I do not wish to remain a nun,
and if I could only meet with a gentleman like you, Mr. P‘an, I would
be a handmaid to him all the days of my life.” Chên offered his hand
and heart to the young lady on the spot; but she reminded him that her
education for the priesthood had not been accomplished without
expense, “and if you truly love me,” added she, “bring twenty ounces
of silver wherewith to purchase my freedom. I will wait for you three
years with the utmost fidelity.” Chên assented to this, and was about
to tell her who he really was, when Yün-mien returned and they all
went out together, Chên now bidding them farewell and going back to
his grandmother’s. After this he always had Yün-ch‘i in his thoughts,
and wanted very much to get another interview with her and be near
her once again, but at this juncture he heard that his father was
dangerously ill, and promptly set off on his way home, travelling day
and night. His father died, and his mother who then ruled the
household was such a severe person that he dared not tell her what was
nearest to his heart. Meanwhile he scraped together all the money he
could; and refused all proposals of marriage on the score of being in
mourning for his father.[225] His mother, however, insisted on his
taking a wife; and he then told her that when he was with his
grandmother at Huang-kang, an arrangement had been made that he was to
marry a Miss Ch‘ên, to which he himself was quite ready to accede; and
that now, although his father’s death had stopped all communications
on the subject, he could hardly do better than pay a visit to his
grandmother and see how matters stood, promising that if the affair
was not actually settled he would obey his mother’s commands. His
mother consented to this, and off he started with the money he had
saved; but when he reached Huang-kang and went off to the temple, he
found the place desolate and no longer what it had been. Entering in,
he saw only one old priestess employed in cooking her food; and on
making inquiries of her, she told him that the Abbess had died in the
previous year, and that the four nuns had gone away in different
directions. According to her, Yün-ch‘i was living in the northern
quarter of the city, and thither he proceeded forthwith; but after
asking for her at all the temples in the neighbourhood, he could get
no news of her, and returned sorrowfully home, pretending to his
mother that his uncle had said Mr. Ch‘ên had gone away, and that as
soon as he came back they would send a servant to let him know.

Some months after these events, Chên’s mother went on a visit to her
own home, and mentioned this story in conversation with her old
mother, who, to her astonishment, knew nothing at all about it, but
suggested that Chên and his uncle must have concocted the thing
together. Luckily, however, for Chên his uncle was away at that time,
and they had no means of getting at the real truth. Meanwhile, Chên’s
mother went away to the Lily Hill to fulfil a vow she had made, and
remained all night at an inn at the foot of the hill. That evening the
landlord knocked at her door and ushered in a young priestess to share
the room. The girl said her name was Yün-ch‘i; and when she heard that
Chên’s mother lived at I-ling, she went and sat by her side, and
poured out to her a long tale of tribulation, finishing up by saying
that she had a cousin named P‘an, at I-ling, and begging Chên’s mother
to send some one to tell him where she would be found. “Every day I
suffer,” added she, “and each day seems like a year. Tell him to come
quickly, or I may be gone.” Chên’s mother inquired what his other name
might be, but she said she did not know; to which the old lady replied
that it was of no consequence, as, being a graduate, it would be easy
to find him out. Early in the morning Chên’s mother bade the girl
farewell, the latter again begging her not to forget; and when she
reached home she told Chên what had occurred. Chên threw himself on
his knees, and told his mother that he was the P‘an to whom the young
lady alluded; and after hearing how the engagement had come about, his
mother was exceedingly angry, and said, “Undutiful boy! how will you
face your relations with a nun for a wife?” Chên hung his head and
made no reply; but shortly afterwards when he went up for his
examination, he presented himself at the address given by
Yün-ch‘i--only, however, to find that the young lady had gone away a
fortnight before. He then returned home and fell into a bad state of
health, when his grandmother died and his mother set off to assist at
her funeral. On her way back she missed the right road and reached the
house of some people named Ching, who turned out to be cousins of
hers. They invited her in, and there she saw a young girl of about
eighteen sitting in the parlour, and as great a beauty as she had ever
set eyes on. Now, as she was always thinking of making a good match
for her son, and curing him of his settled melancholy, she asked who
the young lady might be; and they told her that her name was
Wang,--that she was a connection of their own, and that her father and
mother being dead, she was staying temporarily with them. Chên’s
mother inquired the name of Miss Wang’s betrothed, but they said she
was not engaged; and then taking her hand, she entered into
conversation, and was very much charmed with her. Passing the night
there, Chên’s mother took her cousin into her confidence, and the
latter agreed that it would be a capital match; “but,” added she,
“this young lady is somewhat ambitious, or she would hardly have
remained single so long. We must think about it.” Meanwhile, Chên’s
mother and Miss Wang got on so extremely well together that they were
already on the terms of mother and daughter; and Miss Wang was invited
to accompany her home. This invitation she readily accepted, and next
day they went back; Chên’s mother, who wished to see her son free from
his present trouble, bidding one of the servants tell him that she had
brought home a nice wife for him; Chên did not believe this; but on
peeping through the window beheld a young lady much prettier even than
Yün-ch‘i herself. He now began to reflect that the three years agreed
upon had already expired; that Yün-ch‘i had gone no one knew whither,
and had probably by this time found another husband; so he had no
difficulty in entertaining the thought of marrying this young lady,
and soon regained his health. His mother then caused the young people
to meet, and be introduced to one another; saying to Miss Wang, when
her son had left the room, “Did you guess why I invited you to come
home with me?” “I did,” replied the young lady, “but I don’t think you
guessed what was _my_ object in coming. Some years ago I was betrothed
to a Mr. P‘an, of I-ling. I have heard nothing of him for a long time.
If he has found another wife I will be your daughter-in-law; if not, I
will ever regard you as my own mother, and endeavour to repay you for
your kindness to me.” “As there is an actual engagement,” replied
Chên’s mother, “I will say no more; but when I was at the Lily Hill
there was a Taoist nun inquiring after this Mr. P‘an, and now you
again, though, as a matter of fact, there is no Mr. P‘an in I-ling at
all.” “What!” cried Miss Wang, “are you that lady I met? I am the
person who inquired for Mr. P‘an.” “If that is so,” replied Chên’s
mother with a smile, “then your Mr. P‘an is not far off.” “Where is
he?” said she; and then Chên’s mother bade a maid-servant lead her out
to her son and ask him. “Is your name Yün-ch‘i?” said Chên, in great
astonishment; and when the young lady asked him how he knew it, he
told her the whole story of his pretending to be a Mr. P‘an. But when
Yün-ch‘i found out to whom she was talking, she was abashed, and went
back and told his mother, who inquired how she came to have two names.
“My real name is Wang,” replied the young lady; “but the old Abbess,
being very fond of me, made me take her own name.” Chên’s mother was
overjoyed at all this, and an auspicious day was immediately fixed for
the celebration of their marriage.


FOOTNOTES:

[221] These nunneries, of which there are plenty in China, are well
worth visiting, and may be freely entered by both sexes. Sometimes
there are as many as a hundred nuns living together in one temple, and
to all appearances devoting their lives to religious exercises;
report, however, tells many tales of broken vows, and makes sad havoc
generally with the reputation of these fair vestals.

[222] In corresponding English, this would be:--The young lady said
her name was Eloïsa. “How funny!” cried Chên, “and mine is Abelard.”

[223] That is, she was the last to take the vows.

[224] The usual signal that a person does not wish to take any more
wine.

[225] This would carry him well on into the third of the years during
which Yün-ch‘i had promised to wait for him.



XXXVIII.

THE YOUNG LADY OF THE TUNG-T‘ING LAKE.


The spirits of the Tung-t‘ing lake[226] are very much in the habit of
borrowing boats. Sometimes the cable of an empty junk will cast itself
off, and away goes the vessel over the waves to the sound of music in
the air above. The boatmen crouch down in one corner and hide their
faces, not daring to look up until the trip is over and they are once
more at their old anchorage.

Now a certain Mr. Lin, returning home after having failed at the
examination for Master’s degree, was lying down very tipsy on the deck
of his boat, when suddenly strains of music and singing began to be
heard. The boatmen shook Mr. Lin, but failing to rouse him, ran down
and hid themselves in the hold below. Then some one came and lifted
him up, letting him drop again on to the deck, where he was allowed to
remain in the same drunken sleep as before. By-and-by the noise of
the various instruments became almost deafening, and Lin, partially
waking up, smelt a delicious odour of perfumes filling the air around
him. Opening his eyes, he saw that the boat was crowded with a number
of beautiful girls; and knowing that something strange was going on,
he pretended to be fast asleep. There was then a call for Chih-ch‘eng,
upon which a young waiting-maid came forward and stood quite close to
Mr. Lin’s head. Her stockings were the colour of the kingfisher’s
wing, and her feet encased in tiny purple shoes, no bigger than one’s
finger. Much smitten with this young lady, he took hold of her
stocking with his teeth, causing her, the next time she moved, to fall
forward flat on her face. Some one, evidently in authority, asked what
was the matter; and when he heard the explanation, was very angry, and
gave orders to take off Mr. Lin’s head. Soldiers now came and bound
Lin, and on getting up he beheld a man sitting with his face to the
south, and dressed in the garments of a king. “Sire,” cried Lin, as he
was being led away, “the king of the Tung-t‘ing lake was a mortal
named Lin; your servant’s name is Lin also. His Majesty was a
disappointed candidate; your servant is one too. His Majesty met the
Dragon Lady, and was made immortal; your servant has played a trick
upon this girl, and he is to die. Why this inequality of fortunes?”
When the king heard this, he bade them bring him back, and asked him,
saying, “Are you, then, a disappointed candidate?” Lin said he was;
whereupon the king handed him writing materials, and ordered him to
compose an ode upon a lady’s head-dress. Some time passed before Lin,
who was a scholar of some repute in his own neighbourhood, had done
more than sit thinking about what he should write; and at length the
king upbraided him, saying, “Come, come, a man of your reputation
should not take so long.” “Sire,” replied Lin, laying down his pen,
“it took ten years to complete the Songs of the Three Kingdoms;
whereby it may be known that the value of compositions depends more
upon the labour given to them than the speed with which they are
written.” The king laughed and waited patiently from early morning
till noon, when a copy of the verses was put into his hand, with which
he declared himself very pleased. He now commanded that Lin should be
served with wine; and shortly after there followed a collation of all
kinds of curious dishes, in the middle of which an officer came in and
reported that the register of people to be drowned had been made up.
“How many in all?” asked the king. “Two hundred and twenty-eight,” was
the reply; and then the king inquired who had been deputed to carry it
out; whereupon he was informed that the generals Mao and Nan had been
appointed to do the work. Lin here rose to take leave, and the king
presented him with ten ounces of pure gold and a crystal square,[227]
telling him that it would preserve him from any danger he might
encounter on the lake. At this moment the king’s retinue and horses
ranged themselves in proper order upon the surface of the lake; and
His Majesty, stepping from the boat into his sedan-chair, disappeared
from view.

When everything had been quiet for a long time, the boatmen emerged
from the hold, and proceeded to shape their course northwards. The
wind, however, was against them, and they were unable to make any
headway; when all of a sudden an iron cat appeared floating on the top
of the water. “General Mao has come,” cried the boatmen, in great
alarm; and they and all the passengers on board fell down on their
faces. Immediately afterwards a great wooden beam stood up from the
lake, nodding itself backwards and forwards, which the boatmen, more
frightened than ever, said was General Nan. Before long a tremendous
sea was raging, the sun was darkened in the heavens, and every vessel
in sight was capsized. But Mr. Lin sat in the middle of the boat, with
the crystal square in his hand, and the mighty waves broke around
without doing them any harm. Thus were they saved, and Lin returned
home; and whenever he told his wonderful story he would assert that,
although unable to speak positively as to the facial beauty of the
young lady he had seen, he dared say that she had the most exquisite
pair of feet in the world.

Subsequently, having occasion to visit the city of Wu-ch‘ang, he heard
of an old woman who wished to sell her daughter, but was unwilling to
accept money, giving out that any one who had the fellow of a certain
crystal square in her possession should be at liberty to take the
girl. Lin thought this very strange; and taking his square with him
sought out the old woman, who was delighted to see him, and told her
daughter to come in. The young lady was about fifteen years of age,
and possessed of surpassing beauty; and after saying a few words of
greeting, she turned round and went within again. Lin’s reason had
almost fled at the sight of this peerless girl, and he straightway
informed the old woman that he had such an article as she required,
but could not say whether it would match hers or not. So they compared
their squares together, and there was not a fraction of difference
between them, either in length or breadth. The old woman was
overjoyed, and inquiring where Lin lived, bade him go home and get a
bridal chair, leaving his square behind him as a pledge of his good
faith. This he refused to do; but the old woman laughed, and said,
“You are too cautious, Sir; do you think I should run away for a
square?” Lin was thus constrained to leave it behind him, and hurrying
away for a chair, made the best of his way back. When, however, he got
there, the old woman was gone. In great alarm he inquired of the
people who lived near as to her whereabouts; no one, however, knew;
and it being already late he returned disconsolately to his boat. On
the way, he met a chair coming towards him, and immediately the screen
was drawn aside, and a voice cried out, “Mr. Lin! why so late?”
Looking closely, he saw that it was the old woman, who, after asking
him if he hadn’t suspected her of playing him false, told him that
just after he left she had had the offer of a chair; and knowing that
he, being only a stranger in the place, would have some trouble in
obtaining one, she had sent her daughter on to his boat. Lin then
begged she would return with him, to which she would not consent; and
accordingly, not fully trusting what she said, he hurried on himself
as fast as he could, and, jumping into the boat, found the young lady
already there. She rose to meet him with a smile, and then he was
astonished to see that her stockings were the colour of a kingfisher’s
wing, her shoes purple, and her appearance generally like that of the
girl he had met on the Tung-t‘ing lake. While he was still confused,
the young lady remarked, “You stare, Sir, as if you had never seen me
before!” but just then Lin noticed the tear in her stocking made by
his own teeth, and cried out in amazement, “What! are you
Chih-ch‘eng?” The young lady laughed at this; whereupon Lin rose, and,
making her a profound bow, said, “If you are that divine creature, I
pray you tell me at once, and set my anxiety at rest.” “Sir,” replied
she, “I will tell you all. That personage you met on the boat was
actually the king of the Tung-t‘ing lake. He was so pleased with your
talent that he wished to bestow me upon you; but, because I was a
great favourite with Her Majesty the Queen, he went back to consult
with her. I have now come at the Queen’s own command.” Lin was highly
pleased; and washing his hands, burnt incense, with his face towards
the lake, as if it were the Imperial Court, and then they went home
together.

Subsequently, when Lin had occasion to go to Wu-ch‘ang, his wife asked
to be allowed to avail herself of the opportunity to visit her
parents; and when they reached the lake, she drew a hair-pin from her
hair, and threw it into the water. Immediately a boat rose from the
lake, and Lin’s wife, stepping into it, vanished from sight like a
bird on the wing. Lin remained waiting for her on the prow of his
vessel, at the spot where she had disappeared; and by-and-by, he
beheld a house-boat approach, from the window of which there flew a
beautiful bird which was no other than Chih-ch‘eng. Then some one
handed out from the same window gold and silk, and precious things in
great abundance, all presents to them from the Queen. After this,
Chih-ch‘eng went home regularly twice every year, and Lin soon became
a very rich man, the things he had being such as no one had ever
before seen or heard of.


FOOTNOTES:

[226] The celebrated lake in Hu-nan, round which has gathered so much
of the folk-lore of China.

[227] The instrument used by masons is here meant.



XXXIX.

THE MAN WHO WAS CHANGED INTO A CROW.


Mr. Yü Jung was a Hu-nan man. The person who told me his story did not
recollect from what department or district he came. His family was
very poor; and once, when returning home after failure at the
examination, he ran quite out of funds. Being ashamed to beg, and
feeling uncomfortably hungry, he turned to rest awhile in the Wu
Wang[228] temple, where he poured out all his sorrows at the feet of
the God. His prayers over, he was about to lie down in the outer
porch, when suddenly a man took him and led him into the presence of
Wu Wang; and then, falling on his knees, said, “Your Majesty, there is
a vacancy among the black-robes; the appointment might be bestowed on
this man.” The King assented, and Yü received a suit of black clothes;
and when he had put these on he was changed into a crow, and flew
away. Outside he saw a number of fellow-crows collected together, and
immediately joined them, settling with them on the masts of the boats,
and imitating them in catching and eating the meat or cakes which the
passengers and boatmen on board threw up to them in the air.[229] In a
little while he was no longer hungry, and, soaring aloft, alighted on
the top of a tree quite satisfied with his change of condition. Two or
three days passed, and the King, now pitying his solitary state,
provided him with a very elegant mate, whose name was Chu-ch‘ing, and
who took every opportunity of warning him when he exposed himself too
much in search of food. However, he did not pay much attention to
this, and one day a soldier shot him in the breast with a cross-bow;
but luckily Chu-ch‘ing got away with him in her beak, and he was not
captured. This enraged the other crows very much, and with their wings
they flapped the water into such big waves that all the boats were
upset. Chu-ch‘ing now procured food and fed her husband; but his wound
was a severe one, and by the end of the day he was dead--at which
moment he waked, as it were, from a dream, and found himself lying in
the temple.

The people of the place had found Mr. Yü to all appearance dead; and
not knowing how he had come by his death, and finding that his body
was not quite cold, had set some one to watch him. They now learnt
what had happened to him, and making up a purse between them, sent him
away home. Three years afterwards he was passing by the same spot,
and went in to worship at the temple; also preparing a quantity of
food, and inviting the crows to come down and eat it. He then prayed,
saying, “If Chu-ch‘ing is among you, let her remain.” When the crows
had eaten the food they all flew away; and by-and-by Yü returned,
having succeeded in obtaining his master’s degree. Again he visited Wu
Wang’s temple, and sacrificed a calf as a feast for the crows; and
again he prayed as on the previous occasion. That night he slept on
the lake, and, just as the candles were lighted and he had sat down,
suddenly there was a noise as of birds settling, and lo! some twenty
beautiful young ladies stood before him. “Have you been quite well
since we parted?” asked one of them; to which Yü replied that he
should like to know whom he had the honour of addressing. “Don’t you
remember Chu-ch‘ing?” said the young lady; and then Yü was overjoyed,
and inquired how she had come. “I am now,” replied Chu-ch‘ing, “a
spirit of the Han river, and seldom go back to my old home; but in
consequence of what you did on two occasions, I have come to see you
once more.” They then sat talking together like husband and wife
reunited after long absence, and Yü proposed that she should return
with him on his way south. Chu-ch‘ing, however, said she must go west
again, and upon this point they could not come to any agreement. Next
morning, when Yü waked up, he found himself in a lofty room with two
large candles burning brightly, and no longer in his own boat. In
utter amazement he arose and asked where he was. “At Han-yang,”
replied Chu-ch‘ing; “my home is your home; why need you go south?”
By-and-by, when it got lighter, in came a number of serving-women with
wine, which they placed on a low table on the top of a broad couch;
and then husband and wife sat down to drink together. “Where are all
my servants?” asked Yü; and when he heard they were still on the boat,
he said he was afraid the boat people would not be able to wait.
“Never mind,” replied Chu-ch‘ing; “I have plenty of money, and I’ll
help you to make it up to them.” Yü therefore remained with her,
feasting and enjoying himself, and forgetting all about going home. As
for the boatmen, when they waked up and found themselves at Han-yang,
they were greatly astonished; and, seeing that the servants could find
no trace of their missing master, they wished to go about their own
business. They were unable, however, to undo the cable, and so they
all remained there together for more than a couple of months, by the
end of which time Mr. Yü became anxious to return home, and said to
Chu-ch‘ing, “If I stay here, my family connections will be completely
severed. Besides, as we are husband and wife, it is only right that
you should pay a visit to my home.” “That,” replied Chu-ch‘ing, “I
cannot do; and even were I able to go, you have a wife there already,
and where would you put me? It is better for me to stop where I am,
and thus you will have a second family.” Yü said she would be so far
off that he could not always be dropping in; whereupon Chu-ch‘ing
produced a black suit, and replied, “Here are your old clothes.
Whenever you want to see me, put these on and come, and on your
arrival I will take them off for you.” She then prepared a parting
feast for her husband, at which he got very tipsy; and when he waked
up he was on board his boat again, and at his old anchorage on the
lake. The boatmen and his servants were all there, and they looked at
one another in mutual amazement; and when they asked Yü where he had
been, he hardly knew what to say. By the side of his pillow he
discovered a bundle in which were some new clothes Chu-ch‘ing had
given him, shoes, stockings, &c.; and folded up with them was the suit
of black. In addition to these he found an embroidered belt for tying
round the waist, which was stuffed full of gold. He now started on his
way south, and, when he reached the end of his journey, dismissed the
boatmen with a handsome present.

After being at home for some months, his thoughts reverted to
Han-yang; and, taking out the black clothes, he put them on, when
wings immediately grew from his ribs, and with a flap he was gone. In
about four hours he arrived at Han-yang, and, wheeling round and round
in the air, espied below him a solitary islet, on which stood a house,
and there he proceeded to alight. A maid-servant had already seen him
coming, and cried out, “Here’s master!” and in a few moments out came
Chu-ch‘ing, and bade the attendants take off Mr. Yü’s feathers. They
were not long in setting him free, and then, hand in hand, he and
Chu-ch‘ing went into the house together. “You have come at a happy
moment,” said his wife, as they sat down to tell each other all the
news; and in three days’ time she gave birth to a boy, whom they
called Han-ch‘an, which means “born on the Han river.” Three days
after the event all the river-nymphs came to congratulate them, and
brought many handsome presents. They were a charming band, not one
being over thirty years of age; and, going into the bedroom and
approaching the bed, each one pressed her thumb on the baby’s nose,
saying, “Long life to thee, little one!” Yü asked who they all were,
and Chu-ch‘ing told him they belonged to the same family of spirits as
herself; “And the two last of all,” said she, “dressed in white like
the lily, are the nymphs who gave away their girdles at Hankow.”[230]

A few months passed away, and then Chu-ch‘ing sent her husband back in
a boat to his old home. No sails or oars were used, but the boat sped
along of itself; and at the end of the river journey there were men
waiting with horses to convey him to his own door. After this he went
backwards and forwards very frequently; and in time Han-ch‘an grew up
to be a fine boy, the apple of his father’s eye. Unhappily his first
wife had no children, and she was extremely anxious to see Han-ch‘an;
so Yü communicated this to Chu-ch‘ing, who at once packed up a box and
sent him back with his father, on the understanding that he was to
return in three months. However, the other wife became quite as fond
of him as if he had been her own child, and ten months passed without
her being able to bear the thought of parting with him. But one day
Han-ch‘an was taken violently ill, and died; upon which Yü’s wife was
overwhelmed with grief, and wished to die too. Yü then set off for
Han-yang, to carry the tidings to Chu-ch‘ing; and when he arrived, lo!
there was Han-ch‘an, with his shoes and socks off, lying on the bed.
He was greatly rejoiced at this, and asked Chu-ch‘ing what it all
meant. “Why,” replied she, “the term agreed upon by us had long
expired, and, as I wanted my boy, I sent for him.” Yü then told her
how much his other wife loved Han-ch‘an, but Chu-ch‘ing said she must
wait until there was another child, and then she should have him.
Later on Chu-ch‘ing had twins, a boy and a girl, the former named
Han-shêng and the latter Yü-p‘ei; whereupon Han-ch‘an went back again
with his father, who, finding it inconvenient to be travelling
backwards and forwards three or four times in a year, removed with his
family to the city of Han-yang. At twelve years of age Han-ch‘an took
his bachelor’s degree; and his mother, thinking there was no girl
among mortals good enough for her son, sent for him to come home, that
she herself might find a wife for him, which she did in the person of
a Miss Chih-niang, who was the daughter of a spirit like herself. Yü’s
first wife then died, and the three children all went to mourn her
loss, Han-ch‘an remaining in Hu-nan after the funeral, but the other
two returning with their father, and not leaving their mother again.


FOOTNOTES:

[228] The guardian angel of crows.

[229] In order to secure a favourable passage. The custom here
mentioned was actually practised at more than one temple on the river
Yang-tsze, and allusions to it will be found in more than one serious
work.

[230] Alluding to a legend of a young man meeting two young ladies at
Hankow, each of whom wore a girdle adorned with a pearl as big as a
hen’s egg. The young man begged them to give him these girdles, and
they did so; but the next moment they had vanished, and the girdles
too.



XL.

THE FLOWER NYMPHS.


At the lower temple on Mount Lao the camellias[231] are twenty feet in
height, and many spans in circumference. The peonies are more than ten
feet high; and when the flowers are in bloom the effect is that of
gorgeous tapestry.

There was a Mr. Huang, of Chiao-chow, who built himself a house at
that spot, for the purposes of study; and one day he saw from his
window a young lady dressed in white wandering about amongst the
flowers. Reflecting that she could not possibly belong to the
monastery,[232] he went out to meet her, but she had already
disappeared. After this he frequently observed her, and once hid
himself in a thick-foliaged bush, waiting for her to come. By-and-by
she appeared, bringing with her another young lady dressed in red,
who, as he noticed from his distant point of observation, was an
exceedingly good-looking girl. When they approached nearer, the young
lady in the red dress ran back, saying, “There is a man here!”
whereupon Mr. Huang jumped out upon them, and away they went in a
scare, with their skirts and long sleeves fluttering in the breeze,
and perfuming the air around. Huang pursued them as far as a low wall,
where they suddenly vanished from his gaze. In great distress at thus
losing the fair creatures, he took a pencil and wrote upon a tree the
following lines:--

   “The pangs of love my heart enthrall
    As I stand opposite this wall.
    I dread some hateful tyrant’s power,
    With none to save you in that hour.”

Returning home he was absorbed in his own thoughts, when all at once
the young lady walked in, and he rose up joyfully to meet her. “I
thought you were a brigand,” said his visitor, smiling; “you nearly
frightened me to death. I did not know you were a great scholar whose
acquaintance I now hope to have the honour of making.” Mr. Huang asked
the young lady her name, &c., to which she replied, “My name is
Hsiang-yü, and I belong to P‘ing-k‘ang-hsiang; but a magician has
condemned me to remain on this hill much against my own inclination.”
“Tell me his name,” cried Huang, “and I’ll soon set you free.” “There
is no need for that,” answered the young lady; “I suffer no injury
from him, and the place is not an inconvenient one for making the
acquaintance of such worthy gentlemen as yourself.” Huang then
inquired who was the young lady in red, and she told him that her name
was Chiang-hsüeh, and that they were half-sisters; “and now,” added
she, “I will sing you a song; but please don’t laugh at me.” She then
began as follows:--

   “In pleasant company the hours fly fast,
    And through the window daybreak peeps at last.
    Ah, would that, like the swallow and his mate,
    To live together were our happy fate.”

Huang here grasped her hand[233] and said, “Beauty without and
intellect within--enough to make a man love you and forget all about
death, regarding one day’s absence like the separation of a thousand
years. I pray you come again whenever an opportunity may present
itself.” From this time the young lady would frequently walk in to
have a chat, but would never bring her sister with her in spite of all
Mr. Huang’s entreaties. Huang thought they weren’t friends, but Hsiang
said her sister did not care for society in the same way that she
herself did, promising at the same time to try and persuade her to
come at some future day. One evening Hsiang-yü arrived in a melancholy
frame of mind, and told Huang that he was wanting more when he
couldn’t even keep what he had got; “for to-morrow,” said she, “we
part.” Huang asked what she meant; and then wiping away her tears with
her sleeve, Hsiang-yü declared it was destiny, and that she couldn’t
well tell him. “Your former prophecy,” continued she, “has come too
true; and now it may well be said of me--

   ‘Fallen into the tyrant’s power,
    With none to save me in that hour.’”

Huang again tried to question her, but she would tell him nothing; and
by-and-by she rose and took her leave. This seemed very strange;
however, next day a visitor came, who, after wandering round the
garden, was much taken with a white peony,[234] which he dug up and
carried away with him. Huang now awaked to the fact that Hsiang-yü was
a flower nymph, and became very disconsolate in consequence of what
had happened; but when he subsequently heard that the peony only
lived a few days after being taken away, he wept bitterly, and
composed an elegy in fifty stanzas, besides going daily to the hole
from which it had been taken, and watering the ground with his tears.
One day, as he was returning thence, he espied the young lady of the
red clothes also wiping away her tears alongside the hole, and
immediately walked back gently towards her. She did not run away, and
Huang, grasping her sleeve, joined with her in her lamentations. When
these were concluded he invited her to his house, and then she burst
out with a sigh, saying, “Alas! that the sister of my early years
should be thus suddenly taken from me. Hearing you, Sir, mourn as you
did, I have also been moved to tears. Those you shed have sunk down
deep to the realms below, and may perhaps succeed in restoring her to
us; but the sympathies of the dead are destroyed for ever, and how
then can she laugh and talk with us again?” “My luck is bad,” said
Huang, “that I should injure those I love, neither can I have the good
fortune to draw towards me another such a beauty. But tell me, when I
often sent messages by Hsiang-yü to you, why did you not come?” “I
knew,” replied she, “what nine young fellows out of ten are; but I did
not know what you were.” She then took leave, Huang telling her how
dull he felt without Hsiang-yü, and begging her to come again. For
some days she did not appear; and Huang remained in a state of great
melancholy, tossing and turning on his bed and wetting the pillow with
his tears, until one night he got up, put on his clothes, and trimmed
the lamp; and having called for pen and ink, he composed the
following lines:--

   “On my cottage roof the evening raindrops beat;
    I draw the blind and near the window take my seat.
    To my longing gaze no loved one appears;
    Drip, drip, drip, drip: fast flow my tears.”

This he read aloud; and when he had finished, a voice outside said,
“You want some one to cap your verses there!” Listening attentively,
he knew it was Chiang-hsüeh; and opening the door he let her in. She
looked at his stanza, and added impromptu--

   “She is no longer in the room;
    A single lamp relieves the gloom;
    One solitary man is there;
    He and his shadow make a pair.”

As Huang read these words his tears fell fast; and then, turning to
Chiang-hsüeh, he upbraided her for not having been to see him. “I
can’t come so often as Hsiang-yü did,” replied she, “but only now and
then when you are very dull.” After this she used to drop in
occasionally, and Huang said Hsiang-yü was his beloved wife, and she
his dear friend, always trying to find out every time she came which
flower in the garden she was, that he might bring her home with him,
and save her from the fate of Hsiang-yü. “The old earth should not be
disturbed,” said she, “and it would not do any good to tell you. If
you couldn’t keep your wife always with you, how will you be sure of
keeping a friend?” Huang, however, paid no heed to this, and seizing
her arm, led her out into the garden, where he stopped at every peony
and asked if this was the one; to which Chiang-hsüeh made no reply,
but only put her hand to her mouth and laughed.

At New Year’s time Huang went home, and a couple of months afterwards
he dreamt that Chiang-hsüeh came to tell him she was in great trouble,
begging him to hurry off as soon as possible to her rescue. When he
woke up, he thought his dream a very strange one; and ordering his
servant and horses to be ready, started at once for the hills. There
he found that the priests were about to build a new room; and finding
a camellia in the way, the contractor had given orders that it should
be cut down. Huang now understood his dream, and immediately took
steps to prevent the destruction of the flower. That night
Chiang-hsüeh came to thank him, and Huang laughed and said, “It serves
you right for not telling me which you were. Now I know you, and if
you don’t come and see me, I’ll get a firebrand and make it hot for
you.” “That’s just why I didn’t tell you before,” replied she. “The
presence of my dear friend,” said Huang, after a pause, “makes me
think more of my lost wife. It is long since I have mourned for her.
Shall we go and bemoan her loss together?” So they went off and shed
many a tear on the spot where formerly Hsiang-yü had stood, until at
last Chiang-hsüeh wiped her eyes and said it was time to go. A few
evenings later Huang was sitting alone when suddenly Chiang-hsüeh
entered, her face radiant with smiles. “Good news!” cried she, “the
Flower-God,[235] moved by your tears, has granted Hsiang-yü a return
to life.” Huang was overjoyed, and asked when she would come; to which
Chiang-hsüeh replied, that she could not say for certain, but that it
would not be long. “I came here on your account,” said Huang; “don’t
let me be duller than you can help.” “All right,” answered she, and
then went away, not returning for the next two evenings. Huang then
went into the garden and threw his arms around her plant, entreating
her to come and see him, though without eliciting any response. He
accordingly went back, and began twisting up a torch, when all at once
in she came, and snatching the torch out of his hand, threw it away,
saying, “You’re a bad fellow, and I don’t like you, and I shan’t have
any more to do with you.” However, Huang soon succeeded in pacifying
her, and by-and-by in walked Hsiang-yü herself. Huang now wept tears
of joy as he seized her hand, and drawing Chiang-hsüeh towards them,
the three friends mingled their tears together. They then sat down and
talked over the miseries of separation, Huang meanwhile noticing that
Hsiang-yü seemed to be unsubstantial, and that when he grasped her
hand his fingers seemed to close only on themselves, and not as in
the days gone by. This Hsiang-yü explained, saying, “When I was a
flower-nymph I had a body; but now I am only the disembodied spirit of
that flower. Do not regard me as a reality, but rather as an
apparition seen in a dream.” “You have come at the nick of time,”
cried Chiang-hsüeh; “your husband there was just getting troublesome.”
Hsiang-yü now instructed Huang to take a little powdered white-berry,
and mixing it with some sulphur, to pour out a libation to her,
adding, “This day next year I will return your kindness.” The young
ladies then went away, and next day Huang observed the shoots of a
young peony growing up where Hsiang-yü had once stood. So he made the
libation as she had told him, and had the plant very carefully tended,
even building a fence all round to protect it. Hsiang-yü came to thank
him for this, and he proposed that the plant should be removed to his
own home; but to this she would not agree, “for,” said she, “I am not
very strong, and could not stand being transplanted. Besides, all
things have their appointed place; and as I was not originally
intended for your home, it might shorten my life to be sent there. We
can love each other very well here.” Huang then asked why Chiang-hsüeh
did not come; to which Hsiang-yü replied that they must make her, and
proceeded with him into the garden, where, after picking a blade of
grass, she measured upwards from the roots of Chiang-hsüeh’s plant to
a distance of four feet six inches, at which point she stopped, and
Huang began to scratch a mark on the place with his nails. At that
moment Chiang-hsüeh came from behind the plant, and in mock anger
cried out, “You hussy you! what do you aid that wretch for?” “Don’t be
angry, my dear,” said Hsiang-yü; “help me to amuse him for a year
only, and then you shan’t be bothered any more.” So they went on,
Huang watching the plant thrive, until by the spring it was over two
feet in height. He then went home, giving the priests a handsome
present, and bidding them take great care of it. Next year, in the
fourth moon, he returned and found upon the plant a bud just ready to
break; and as he was walking round, the stem shook violently as if it
would snap, and suddenly the bud opened into a flower as large as a
plate, disclosing a beautiful maiden within, sitting upon one of the
pistils, and only a few inches in height. In the twinkling of an eye
she had jumped out, and lo! it was Hsiang-yü. “Through the wind and
the rain I have waited for you,” cried she; “why have you come so
late?” They then went into the house, where they found Chiang-hsüeh
already arrived, and sat down to enjoy themselves as they had done in
former times. Shortly afterwards Huang’s wife died, and he took up his
abode at Mount Lao for good and all. The peonies were at that time as
large round as one’s arm; and whenever Huang went to look at them, he
always said, “Some day my spirit will be there by your side;” to which
the two girls used to reply with a laugh, and say, “Mind you don’t
forget.” Ten years after these events, Huang became dangerously ill,
and his son, who had come to see him, was very much distressed about
him. “I am about to be born,” cried his father; “I am not going to
die. Why do you weep?” He also told the priests that if later on they
should see a red shoot, with five leaves, thrusting itself forth
alongside of the peony, that would be himself. This was all he said,
and his son proceeded to convey him home, where he died immediately on
arrival. Next year a shoot did come up exactly as he had mentioned;
and the priests, struck by the coincidence, watered it and supplied it
with earth. In three years it was a tall plant, and a good span in
circumference, but without flowers. When the old priest died, the
others took no care of it; and as it did not flower they cut it down.
The white peony then faded and died; and before long the camellia was
dead too.


FOOTNOTES:

[231] The text has _nai-tung_ (“endure the winter”), for the
identification of which I am indebted to Mr. L. C. Hopkins, of H.M.’s
Consular service.

[232] Women, of course, being excluded.

[233] Although the Chinese do not “shake hands” in our sense of the
term, it is a sign of affection to seize the hand of a parting or
returning friend. “The Book of Rites,” however, lays down the rule
that persons of opposite sexes should not, in passing things from one
to the other, _let their hands touch_; and the question was gravely
put to Mencius (Book IV.) as to whether a man might even pull his
drowning sister-in-law out of the water. Mencius replied that it was
indeed a general principle that a man should avoid touching a woman’s
hand, but that he who could not make an exception in such a case would
be no better than a wolf. Neither, according to the Chinese rule,
should men and women hang their clothes on the same rack, which
reminds one of the French prude who would not allow male and female
authors to be ranged upon the same bookshelf.

[234] The _Pæonia albiflora_.

[235] The various subdivisions of the animal and vegetable kingdoms
are each believed by the Chinese to be under the sway of a ruler
holding his commission from and responsible to the one Supreme Power
or God, fully in accordance with the general scheme of supernatural
Government accepted in other and less civilized communities.



XLI.

TA-NAN IN SEARCH OF HIS FATHER.


Hsi Ch‘êng-lieh was a Ch‘êng-tu man. He had a wife and a concubine,
the latter named Ho Chao-jung. His wife dying, he took a second by
name Shên, who bullied the concubine dreadfully, and by her constant
wrangling made his life perfectly unbearable, so that one day in a fit
of anger he ran away and left them. Shortly afterwards Ho gave birth
to a son, and called him Ta-nan; but as Hsi did not return, the wife
Shên turned them out of the house, making them a daily allowance of
food. By degrees Ta-nan became a big boy; and his mother, not daring
to ask for an increase of victuals, was obliged to earn a little money
by spinning. Meanwhile, Ta-nan, seeing all his companions go to school
and learn to read, told his mother he should like to go too; and
accordingly, as he was still very young, she sent him for a few days’
probation. He turned out to be so clever that he soon beat the other
boys; at which the master of the school was much pleased, and offered
to teach him for nothing.[236] His mother, therefore, sent him
regularly, making what trifling presents she could to the master; and
by the end of two or three years he had a first-rate knowledge of the
Sacred Books.[237] One day he came home and asked his mother, saying,
“All the fellows at our school get money from their fathers to buy
cakes. Why don’t I?” “Wait till you are grown up,” replied his
mother, “and I will explain it to you.” “Why, mother,” cried he, “I’m
only seven or eight years old. What a time it will be before I’m grown
up.” “Whenever you pass the temple of the God of War on your way to
school,” said his mother, “you should go in and pray awhile; that
would make you grow faster.” Ta-nan believed she was serious; and
every day, going and coming, he went in and worshipped at that temple.
When his mother found this out, she asked him how soon he was praying
to be grown up; to which he replied that he only prayed that by the
following year he might be as big as if he were fifteen or sixteen
years old. His mother laughed; but Ta-nan went on, increasing in
wisdom and stature alike, until by the time he was ten, he looked
quite thirteen or fourteen, and his master was no longer able to
correct his essays. Then he said to his mother, “You promised me that
when I grew up you would tell me where my father is. Tell me now.”
“By-and-by, by-and-by,” replied his mother; so he waited another year,
and then pressed her so eagerly to tell him that she could no longer
refuse, and related to him the whole story. He heard her recital with
tears and lamentations, and expressed a wish to go in search of his
father; but his mother objected that he was too young, and also that
no one knew where his father was. Ta-nan said nothing; however, in the
middle of the day he did not come home as usual, and his mother at
once sent off to the school, where she found he had not shewn himself
since breakfast. In great alarm, and thinking that he had been playing
truant, she paid some people to go and hunt for him everywhere, but
was unable to obtain the slightest clue to his whereabouts. As to
Ta-nan himself, when he left the house he followed the road without
knowing whither he was going, until at length he met a man who was on
his way to K‘uei-chou, and said his name was Ch‘ien. Ta-nan begged of
him something to eat, and went along with him; Mr. Ch‘ien even
procuring an animal for him to ride because he walked too slowly. The
expenses of the journey were all defrayed by Ch‘ien; and when they
arrived at K‘uei-chou they dined together, Ch‘ien secretly putting
some drug in Ta-nan’s food which soon reduced him to a state of
unconsciousness. Ch‘ien then carried him off to a temple, and,
pretending that Ta-nan was his son, offered him to the priests[238] on
the plea that he had no money to continue his journey. The priests,
seeing what a nice-looking boy he was, were only too ready to buy him;
and when Ch‘ien had got his money he went away. They then gave Ta-nan
a draught which brought him round; but as soon as the abbot heard of
the affair and saw Ta-nan himself, he would not allow them to keep
him, sending him away with a purse of money in his pocket. Ta-nan next
met a gentleman named Chiang, from Lu-chou, who was returning home
after having failed at the examination; and this Mr. Chiang was so
pleased with the story of his filial piety that he took him to his own
home at Lu-chou. There he remained for a month and more, asking
everybody he saw for news of his father, until one day he was told
that there was a man named Hsi among the Fokien traders. So he bade
good-by to Mr. Chiang, and set off for Fokien, his patron providing
him with clothes and shoes, and the people of the place making up a
subscription for him. On the road he met two traders in cotton cloth
who were going to Fu-ch‘ing, and he joined their party; but they had
not travelled many stages before these men found out that he had
money, and taking him to a lonely spot, bound him hand and foot and
made off with all he had. Before long a Mr. Ch‘ên, of Yung-fu,
happened to pass by, and at once unbound him, and giving him a seat in
one of his own vehicles, carried him off home. This Mr. Ch‘ên was a
wealthy man, and in his house Ta-nan had opportunities of meeting with
traders from all quarters. He therefore begged them to aid him by
making inquiries about his father, himself remaining as a fellow
student with Mr. Ch‘ên’s sons, and roaming the country no more,
neither hearing any news of his former and now distant home.

Meanwhile, his mother, Ho, had lived alone for three or four years,
until the wife, Shên, wishing to reduce the expenses, tried to
persuade her to find another husband. As Ho was now supporting
herself, she steadfastly refused to do this; and then Shên sold her to
a Chung-ch‘ing trader, who took her away with him. However, she so
frightened this man by hacking herself about with a knife, that when
the wounds were healed he was only too happy to get rid of her to a
trader from Yen-t‘ing, who in his turn, after Ho had nearly
disembowelled herself, readily listened to her repeated cries that
she wished to become a nun. However, he persuaded her to hire herself
out as housekeeper to a friend of his, as a means of reimbursing
himself for his outlay in purchasing her; but no sooner had she set
eyes on the gentleman in question than she found it was her own
husband. For Hsi had given up the career of a scholar, and gone into
business; and as he had no wife, he was consequently in want of a
housekeeper. They were very glad to see each other again; and on
relating their several adventures, Hsi knew for the first time that he
had a son who had gone forth in search of his father. Hsi then asked
all the traders and commercial travellers to keep a look out for
Ta-nan, at the same time raising Ho from the status of concubine to
that of wife. In consequence, however, of the many hardships Ho had
gone through, her health was anything but good, and she was unable to
do the work of the house; so she advised her husband to buy a
concubine. This he was most unwilling to do, remembering too well the
former squabbling he had to endure; but ultimately he yielded, asked a
friend to buy for him an oldish woman--at any rate more than thirty
years of age. A few months afterwards his friend arrived, bringing
with him a person of about that age; and on looking closely at her,
Hsi saw that she was no other than his own wife Shên!

Now this lady had lived by herself for a year and more when her
brother Pao advised her to marry again, which she accordingly agreed
to do. She was prevented, however, by the younger branches of the
family from selling the landed property; but she disposed of
everything else, and the proceeds passed into her brother’s hands.
About that time a Pao-ning trader, hearing that she had plenty of
money, bribed her brother to marry her to himself; and afterwards,
finding that she was a disagreeable woman, took possession of
everything she had, and advertised her for sale. No one caring to buy
a woman of her age, and her master being on the eve of starting for
K‘uei-chou, took her with him, finally getting rid of her to Hsi, who
was in the same line of business as himself. When she stood before her
former husband, she was overwhelmed with shame and fear, and had not a
word to say; but Hsi gathered an outline of what had happened from the
trader, and then said to her, “Your second marriage with this Pao-ning
gentleman was doubtless contracted after you had given up all hope of
seeing me again. It doesn’t matter in the least, as now I am not in
search of a wife but only of a concubine. So you had better begin by
paying your respects to your mistress here, my wife Ho Chao-jung.”
Shên was ashamed to do this: but Hsi reminded her of the time when she
had been in the wife’s place, and in spite of all Ho’s intercession
insisted that she should do so, stimulating her to obedience by the
smart application of a stick. Shên was therefore compelled to yield,
but at the same time she never tried to gain Ho’s favour, and kept
away from her as much as possible. Ho, on the other hand, treated her
with great consideration, and never took her to task on the
performance of her duties; whilst Hsi himself, whenever he had a
dinner-party, made her wait at table, though Ho often entreated him
to hire a maid.

Now the magistrate at Yen-t‘ing was named Ch‘ên Tsung-ssŭ, and once
when Hsi had some trifling difficulty with one of the neighbours he
was further accused to this official of having forced his wife to
assume the position of concubine. The magistrate, however, refused to
take up the case, to the great satisfaction of Hsi and his wife, who
lauded him to the skies as a virtuous mandarin. A few nights after, at
rather a late hour, the servant knocked at the door, and called out,
“The magistrate has come!” Hsi jumped up in a hurry, and began looking
for his clothes and shoes; but the magistrate was already in the
bedroom without either of them understanding what it all meant: when
suddenly Ho, examining him closely, cried out, “It is my son!” She
then burst into tears, and the magistrate, throwing himself on the
ground, wept with his mother. It seemed he had taken the name of the
gentleman with whom he had lived, and had since entered upon an
official career. That on his way to the capital[239] he had made a
_détour_ and visited his old home, where he heard to his infinite
sorrow that both his mothers had married again; and that his
relatives, finding him already a man of position, had restored to him
the family property, of which he had left some one in charge in the
hope that his father might return. That then he had been appointed to
Yen-t‘ing, but had wished to throw up the post and travel in search
of his father, from which design he had been dissuaded by Mr. Ch‘ên.
Also that he had met a fortune-teller from whom he had obtained the
following response to his inquiries:--“The lesser is the greater; the
younger is the elder. Seeking the cock, you find the hen; seeking one,
you get two. Your official life will be successful.” Ch‘ên then took
up his appointment, but not finding his father he confined himself
entirely to a vegetable diet, and gave up the use of wine.[240] The
above-mentioned case had subsequently come under his notice, and
seeing the name Hsi, he quietly sent his private servant to find out,
and thus discovered that this Hsi was his father. At night-fall he set
off himself, and when he saw his mother he knew that the
fortune-teller had told him true. Bidding them all say nothing to
anybody about what had occurred, he provided money for the journey,
and sent them back home. On arriving there, they found the place newly
painted, and with their increased retinue of servants and horses, they
were quite a wealthy family. As to Shên when she found what a great
man Ta-nan had become, she put still more restraint upon herself; but
her brother Pao brought an action for the purpose of reinstating her
as wife. The presiding official happened to be a man of probity, and
delivered the following judgment:--“Greedy of gain you urged your
sister to re-marry. After she had driven Hsi away, she took two fresh
husbands. How have you the face to talk about reinstating her as
wife?” He thereupon ordered Pao to be severely bambooed, and from this
time there was no longer any doubt about Shên’s _status_. She was the
lesser and Ho the greater; and yet in the matter of clothes and food
Ho shewed herself by no means grasping. Shên was at first afraid that
Ho would pay her out, and was consequently more than ever repentant;
and Hsi himself, letting by-gones be by-gones, gave orders that Shên
should be called _madam_ by all alike, though of course she was
excluded from any titles that might be gained for them by Ta-nan.[241]


FOOTNOTES:

[236] This is by no means uncommon. The debt of gratitude between
pupil and teacher is second only to that existing between child and
parent; and a successful student soon has it in his power to more than
repay any such act of kindness as that here mentioned.

[237] Which form the unvarying curriculum of a Chinese education.
These are (1) the _Four Books_, consisting of the teachings of
Confucius and Mencius; and (2) the _Five Canons_ (in the
ecclesiastical sense of the word) or the Canons of Changes, History,
Poetry, the Record of Rites, and Spring and Autumn. The _Four Books_
consist of:--

(1) The Book of Wisdom, attributed by Chu Hi to Confucius. It is a
disquisition upon virtue and the moral elevation of the people.

(2) The _Chung Yung_, or Gospel of Tzŭ Ssŭ (the grandson of Confucius)
wherein the ruling motives of human conduct are traced from their
psychological source.

(3) The Confucian Gospels, being discourses of the Sage with his
disciples on miscellaneous topics.

(4) The Gospels of Mencius.

_The Canon of Changes_ contains a fanciful system of philosophy based
upon the combinations of eight diagrams said to have been copied from
the lines on the back of a tortoise. Ascribed to B.C. 1150.

_The Canon of History_ embraces a period extending from the middle of
the 24th century B.C. to B.C. 721. Was edited by Confucius from then
existing documents.

_The Canon of Poetry_ is a collection of irregular lyrics in vogue
among the people many centuries before the Christian era. Collected
and arranged by Confucius.

_The Record of Rites_ contains a number of rules for the performance
of ceremonies and guidance of individual conduct.

_Spring and Autumn_ consists of the annals of the petty kingdom of Lu
from 722 to 484 B.C. Is the work of Confucius himself.

[238] See No. XXIII., note 154.

[239] To be presented to the Emperor before taking up his post.

[240] Hoping thus to interest Buddha in his behalf.

[241] In accordance with Chinese usage, by which titles of nobility
are often conferred upon the _dead_ parents of a distinguished son.



XLII.

THE WONDERFUL STONE.


In the prefecture of Shun-t‘ien[242] there lived a man named Hsing
Yün-fei, who was an amateur mineralogist and would pay any price for a
good specimen. One day as he was fishing in the river, something
caught his net, and diving down he brought up a stone about a foot in
diameter, beautifully carved on all sides to resemble clustering hills
and peaks. He was quite as pleased with this as if he had found some
precious stone; and having had an elegant sandal-wood stand made for
it, he set his prize upon the table. Whenever it was about to rain,
clouds, which from a distance looked like new cotton wool, would come
forth from each of the holes or grottoes on the stone, and appear to
close them up. By-and-by an influential personage called at the house
and begged to see the stone, immediately seizing it and handing it
over to a lusty servant, at the same time whipping his horse and
riding away. Hsing was in despair; but all he could do was to mourn
the loss of his stone, and indulge his anger against the thief.
Meanwhile, the servant, who had carried off the stone on his back,
stopped to rest at a bridge; when all of a sudden his hand slipped and
the stone fell into the water. His master was extremely put out at
this, and gave him a sound beating; subsequently hiring several
divers, who tried every means in their power to recover the stone, but
were quite unable to find it. He then went away, having first
published a notice of reward, and by these means many were tempted to
seek for the stone. Soon after, Hsing himself came to the spot, and as
he mournfully approached the bank, lo! the water became clear, and he
could see the stone lying at the bottom. Taking off his clothes he
quickly jumped in and brought it out, together with the sandal-wood
stand which was still with it. He carried it off home, but being no
longer desirous of shewing it to people, he had an inner room cleaned
and put it in there. Some time afterwards an old man knocked at the
door and asked to be allowed to see the stone; whereupon Hsing replied
that he had lost it a long time ago. “Isn’t that it in the inner
room?” said the old man, smiling. “Oh, walk in and see for yourself if
you don’t believe me,” answered Hsing; and the old man did walk in,
and there was the stone on the table. This took Hsing very much aback;
and the old man then laid his hand upon the stone and said, “This is
an old family relic of mine: I lost it many months since. How does it
come to be here? I pray you now restore it to me.” Hsing didn’t know
what to say, but declared he was the owner of the stone; upon which
the old man remarked, “If it is really yours, what evidence can you
bring to prove it?” Hsing made no reply; and the old man continued,
“To show you that I know this stone, I may mention that it has
altogether ninety-two grottoes, and that in the largest of these are
five words:--

   ‘A stone from Heaven above.’”

Hsing looked and found that there were actually some small characters,
no larger than grains of rice, which by straining his eyes a little he
managed to read; also, that the number of grottoes was as the old man
had said. However, he would not give him the stone; and the old man
laughed, and asked, “Pray, what right have you to keep other people’s
things?” He then bowed and went away, Hsing escorting him as far as
the door; but when he returned to the room, the stone had disappeared.
In a great fright, he ran after the old man, who had walked slowly and
was not far off, and seizing his sleeve entreated him to give back the
stone. “Do you think,” said the latter, “that I could conceal a stone
a foot in diameter in my sleeve?” But Hsing knew that he must be
superhuman, and led him back to the house, where he threw himself on
his knees and begged that he might have the stone. “Is it yours or
mine?” asked the old man. “Of course it is yours,” replied Hsing,
“though I hope you will consent to deny yourself the pleasure of
keeping it.” “In that case,” said the old man, “it is back again;” and
going into the inner room, they found the stone in its old place.
“The jewels of this world,” observed Hsing’s visitor, “should be given
to those who know how to take care of them. This stone can choose its
own master, and I am very pleased that it should remain with you; at
the same time I must inform you that it was in too great a hurry to
come into the world of mortals, and has not yet been freed from all
contingent calamities. I had better take it away with me, and three
years hence you shall have it again. If, however, you insist on
keeping it, then your span of life will be shortened by three years,
that your terms of existence may harmonize together. Are you willing?”
Hsing said he was; whereupon the old man with his fingers closed up
three of the stone’s grottoes, which yielded to his touch like mud.
When this was done, he turned to Hsing and told him that the grottoes
on that stone represented the years of his life; and then he took his
leave, firmly refusing to remain any longer, and not disclosing his
name.

More than a year after this, Hsing had occasion to go away on
business, and in the night a thief broke in and carried off the stone,
taking nothing else at all. When Hsing came home, he was dreadfully
grieved, as if his whole object in life was gone; and made all
possible inquiries and efforts to get it back, but without the
slightest result. Some time passed away, when one day going into a
temple Hsing noticed a man selling stones, and amongst the rest he saw
his old friend. Of course he immediately wanted to regain possession
of it; but as the stone-seller would not consent, he shouldered the
stone and went off to the nearest mandarin. The stone-seller was then
asked what proof he could give that the stone was his; and he replied
that the number of grottoes was eighty-nine. Hsing inquired if that
was all he had to say, and when the other acknowledged that it was, he
himself told the magistrate what were the characters inscribed within,
also calling attention to the finger marks at the closed-up grottoes.
He therefore gained his case, and the mandarin would have bambooed the
stone-seller, had he not declared that he bought it in the market for
twenty ounces of silver,--whereupon he was dismissed.

A high official next offered Hsing one hundred ounces of silver for
it; but he refused to sell it even for ten thousand, which so enraged
the would-be purchaser that he worked up a case against Hsing,[243]
and got him put in prison. Hsing was thereby compelled to pawn a great
deal of his property; and then the official sent some one to try if
the affair could not be managed through his son, to which Hsing, on
hearing of the attempt, steadily refused to consent, saying that he
and the stone could not be parted even in death. His wife, however,
and his son, laid their heads together, and sent the stone to the high
official, and Hsing only heard of it when he arrived home from the
prison. He cursed his wife and beat his son, and frequently tried to
make away with himself, though luckily his servants always managed to
prevent him from succeeding.[244] At night he dreamt that a
noble-looking personage appeared to him, and said, “My name is Shih
Ch‘ing-hsü--(Stone from Heaven). Do not grieve. I purposely quitted
you for a year and more; but next year on the 20th of the eighth moon,
at dawn, come to the Hai-tai Gate and buy me back for two strings of
cash.” Hsing was overjoyed at this dream, and carefully took down the
day mentioned. Meanwhile the stone was at the official’s private
house; but as the cloud manifestations ceased, the stone was less and
less prized; and the following year when the official was disgraced
for maladministration and subsequently died, Hsing met some of his
servants at the Hai-tai Gate going off to sell the stone, and
purchased it back from them for two strings of cash.

Hsing lived till he was eighty-nine; and then having prepared the
necessaries for his interment, bade his son bury the stone with
him,[245] which was accordingly done. Six months later robbers broke
into the vault[246] and made off with the stone, and his son tried in
vain to secure their capture; however, a few days afterwards, he was
travelling with his servants, when suddenly two men rushed forth
dripping with perspiration, and looking up into the air, acknowledged
their crime, saying, “Mr. Hsing, please don’t torment us thus! We took
the stone, and sold it for only four ounces of silver.” Hsing’s son
and his servants then seized these men, and took them before the
magistrate, where they at once acknowledged their guilt. Asking what
had become of the stone, they said they had sold it to a member of the
magistrate’s family; and when it was produced, that official took such
a fancy to it that he gave it to one of his servants and bade him
place it in the treasury. Thereupon the stone slipped out of the
servant’s hand and broke into a hundred pieces, to the great
astonishment of all present. The magistrate now had the thieves
bambooed and sent them away; but Hsing’s son picked up the broken
pieces of the stone, and buried them in his father’s grave.


FOOTNOTES:

[242] In which Peking is situated.

[243] A common form of revenge in China, and one which is easily
carried through when the prosecutor is a man of wealth and influence.

[244] Another favourite method of revenging oneself upon an enemy, who
is in many cases held responsible for the death thus occasioned. Mr.
Alabaster told me an amusing story of a Chinese woman who deliberately
walked into a pond until the water reached her knees, and remained
there alternately putting her lips below the surface and threatening
in a loud voice to drown herself on the spot, as life had been made
unbearable by the presence of foreign barbarians. This was during the
Taiping rebellion.

[245] Valuables of some kind or other are often placed in the coffins
of wealthy Chinese; and women are almost always provided with a
certain quantity of jewels with which to adorn themselves in the
realms below.

[246] One of the most heinous offences in the Chinese Penal Code.



XLIII.

THE QUARRELSOME BROTHERS.


At K‘un-yang there lived a wealthy man named Tsêng. When he died, and
before he was put in the coffin, tears were seen to gush forth from
both eyes of the corpse, to the infinite amazement of his six sons.
His second son, T‘i, otherwise called Yu-yü, who had gained for
himself the reputation of being a scholar, said it was a bad omen, and
warned his brothers to be careful and not give cause for sorrow to the
dead,--at which the others only laughed at him as an idiot.

Tsêng’s first wife and eldest son having been carried off by the
rebels when the latter was only seven or eight years old, he married a
second wife, by whom he had three sons, Hsiao, Chung, and Hsin;
besides three other sons by a concubine--namely, the above-mentioned
T‘i, or Yu-yü, Jen, and Yi. Now the three by the second wife banded
themselves together against the three by the concubine, saying that
the latter were a base-born lot; and whenever a guest was present and
either of them happened to be in the room, Hsiao and his two brothers
would not take the slightest notice of them. This enraged Jen and Yi
very much, and they went to consult with Yu-yü as to how they should
avenge themselves for such slights. Yu-yü, however, tried every means
in his power to pacify them, and would not take part in any plot; and,
as they were much younger than he, they took his advice,[247] and did
nothing.

Hsiao had a daughter, who died shortly after her marriage to a Mr.
Chou; and her father begged Yu-yü and his other brothers to go with
him and give his late daughter’s mother-in-law a sound beating.[248]
Yu-yü would not hear of it for a moment; so Hsiao in a rage got his
brothers Chung and Hsin, with a lot of rowdies from the neighbourhood,
and went off and did it themselves, scattering the goods and chattels
of the family about, and smashing everything they could lay their
hands on. An action was immediately brought by the Chou family, and
Hsiao and his two brothers were thrown into prison by the angry
mandarin, who purposed sending the case before a higher tribunal.
Yu-yü, however, whose high character was well known to that official,
interceded for them, and himself went to the Chou family and tendered
the most humble apologies for what had occurred. The Chou family, out
of respect for Yu-yü, suffered the case to drop, and Hsiao regained
his liberty, though he did not evince the slightest gratitude for his
brother’s exertions. Shortly after, Yu-yü’s mother died; but Hsiao and
the other two refused to put on mourning for her, going on with their
usual feasting and drinking as if nothing had happened. Jen and Yi
were furious at this; but Yu-yü only observed, “What they do is their
own indecorous behaviour; it does not injure us.” Then, again, when
the funeral was about to take place, Hsiao, Chung, and Hsin stood
before the door of the vault, and would not allow the others to bury
their mother there. So Yu-yü buried her alongside the principal grave.
Before long Hsiao’s wife died, and Yu-yü told Jen and Yi to accompany
him to the house and condole with the widower; to which they both
objected, saying, “He would not wear mourning for our mother; shall we
do so for his wife?”[249] Ultimately Yu-yü had to go alone; and while
he was pouring forth his lamentations beside the bier, he heard Jen
and Yi playing drums and trumpets outside the door. Hsiao flew into a
tremendous passion, and went after them with his own two brothers to
give them a good thrashing. Yu-yü, too, seized a big stick and
accompanied them to the house where Jen and Yi were; whereupon Jen
made his escape; but as Yi was clambering over the wall, Yu-yü hit him
from behind and knocked him down. Hsiao and the others then set upon
him with their fists and sticks, and would never have stopped but that
Yu-yü interposed his body between them and made them desist. Hsiao was
very angry at this, and began to abuse Yu-yü, who said, “The
punishment was for want of decorum, for which death would be too
severe. I can neither connive at their bad behaviour, nor at your
cruelty. If your anger is not appeased, strike me.” Hsiao now turned
his fury against Yu-yü, and being well seconded by his two brothers,
they beat Yu-yü until the neighbours separated them and put an end to
the row. Yu-yü at once proceeded to Hsiao’s house to apologize for
what had occurred; but Hsiao drove him away, and would not let him
take part in the funeral ceremonies. Meanwhile, as Yi’s wounds were
very severe, and he could neither eat nor drink, his brother Jen went
on his behalf to the magistrate, stating in the petition that the
accused had not worn mourning for their father’s concubine. The
magistrate issued a warrant; and, besides causing the arrest of Hsiao,
Chung, and Hsin, he ordered Yu-yü to prosecute them as well. Yu-yü,
however, was so much cut about the head and face that he could not
appear in court, but he wrote out a petition, in which he begged that
the case might be quashed; and this the magistrate consented to do. Yi
soon got better, the feeling of hatred and resentment increasing in
the family day by day; while Jen and Yi, who were younger than the
others, complained to Yu-yü of their recent punishment, saying, “The
relationship of elder and younger brothers exists for others, why not
for us?” “Ah,” replied Yu-yü, “that is what I might well say; not
you.” Yu-yü then tried to persuade them to forget the past; but, not
succeeding in his attempt, he shut up his house, and went off with his
wife to live somewhere else, about twenty miles away. Now, although
when Yu-yü was among them he did not help the two younger ones, yet
his presence acted as some restraint upon Hsiao and the other two; but
now that he was gone their conduct was beyond all bounds. They sought
out Jen and Yi in their own houses, and not only reviled them, but
abused the memory of their dead mother, against which Jen and Yi could
only retaliate by keeping the door shut against them. However, they
determined to do them some injury, and carried knives about with them
wherever they went for that purpose.

One day the eldest brother, Ch‘êng, who had been carried off by the
rebels, returned with his wife; and, after three days’ deliberation,
Hsiao and the other two determined that, as he had been so long
separated from the family, he had no further claims upon them for
house-room, &c. Jen and Yi were secretly delighted at this result, and
at once inviting Ch‘êng to stay with them, sent news of his arrival to
Yu-yü, who came back directly, and agreed with the others to hand over
a share of the property to their elder brother. Hsiao and his clique
were much enraged at this purchase of Ch‘êng’s good will, and,
hurrying to their brothers’ houses, assailed them with every possible
kind of abuse. Ch‘êng, who had long been accustomed to scenes of
violence among the rebels, now got into a great passion, and cried
out, “When I came home none of you would give me a place to live in.
Only these younger ones recognised the ties of blood,[250] and you
would punish them for so doing. Do you think to drive me away?”
Thereupon he threw a stone at Hsiao and knocked him down; and Jen and
Yi rushed out with clubs and gave the three of them a severe
thrashing. Ch‘êng did not wait for them to lay a plaint, but set off
to the magistrate on the spot, and preferred a charge against his
three brothers. The magistrate, as before, sent for Yu-yü to ask his
opinion, and Yu-yü had no alternative but to go, entering the yamên
with downcast head, his tears flowing in silence all the while. The
magistrate inquired of him how the matter stood; to which he replied
only by begging His Honour to hear the case; which the magistrate
accordingly did, deciding that the whole of the property was to be
divided equally among the seven brothers. Thenceforth Jen and Yi
became more and more attached to Ch‘êng; and one day, in conversation,
they happened to tell him the story of their mother’s funeral. Ch‘êng
was exceedingly angry, and declared that such behaviour was that of
brute beasts, proposing at the same time that the vault should be
opened and that she should be re-buried in the proper place. Jen and
Yi went off and told this to Yu-yü, who immediately came and begged
Ch‘êng to desist from his scheme; to which, however, he paid no
attention, and fixed a day for her interment in the family vault. He
then built a hut near by, and, with a knife lopping the branches off
the trees, informed the brothers that any of them who did not appear
at the funeral in the usual mourning would be treated by him in a
manner similar to the trees. So they were all obliged to go, and the
obsequies were conducted in a fitting manner. The brothers were now at
peace together, Ch‘êng keeping them in first-rate order, and always
treating Hsiao, Chung, and Hsin with much more severity than the
others. To Yu-yü he shewed a marked deference, and, whenever he was in
a rage, would always be appeased by a word from him. Hsiao, too, was
always going to Yu-yü to complain of the treatment he received at
Ch‘êng’s hands when he did anything that Ch‘êng disapproved of; and
then, if Yu-yü quietly reproved him, he would be dissatisfied, so that
at last Yu-yü could stand it no longer, and again went away and took a
house at a considerable distance, where he remained almost entirely
cut off from the others. By the time two years had passed away Ch‘êng
had completely succeeded in establishing harmony amongst them, and
quarrels were of rare occurrence. Hsiao was then forty-six years old,
and had five sons; Chi-yeh and Chi-tê, the first and third, by his
wife; Chi-kung and Chi-chi, the second and fourth, by a concubine;
and Chi-tsu, by a slave. They were all grown up, and exactly imitated
their father’s former behaviour, banding themselves together one
against the other, and so on, without their father being able to make
them behave better. Chi-tsu had no brothers of his own, and, being the
youngest, the others bullied him dreadfully; until at length, being on
a visit to his wife’s family, who lived not far from Yu-yü’s house, he
went slightly out of his way to call and see his uncle. There he found
his three cousins living peaceably together and pursuing their
studies, and was so pleased that he remained with them some time, and
said not a word as to returning home. His uncle urged him to go back,
but he entreated to be allowed to stay; and then his uncle told him it
was not that he grudged his daily food: it was because his father and
mother did not know where he was. Chi-tsu accordingly went home, and a
few months afterwards, when he and his wife were on the point of
starting to congratulate his wife’s mother on the anniversary of her
birthday, he explained to his father that he should not come home
again. When his father asked him why not, he partly divulged his
reasons for going; whereupon his father said he was afraid his uncle
would bear malice for what happened in the past, and that he would not
be able to remain there long. “Father,” replied Chi-tsu, “uncle Yu-yü
is a good and virtuous man.” He set out with his wife, and when they
arrived Yu-yü gave them separate quarters, and made Chi-tsu rank as
one of his own sons, making him join the eldest, Chi-san, in his
studies. Chi-tsu was a clever fellow, and now enrolled himself as a
resident of the place where his uncle lived.[251]

Meanwhile, his brothers went on quarrelling among themselves as usual;
and one day Chi-kung, enraged at an insult offered to his mother,
killed Chi-yeh. He was immediately thrown into prison, where he was
severely bambooed, and in a few days he died. Chi-yeh’s wife, whose
maiden name was Fêng, now spent the days of mourning in cursing her
husband’s murderer; and when Chi-kung’s wife heard this, she flew into
a towering passion, and said to her, “If your husband is dead, mine
isn’t alive.” She then drew a knife and killed her, completing the
tragedy by herself committing suicide in a well.

Mr. Fêng, the father of the murdered woman, was very much distressed
at his daughter’s untimely end; and, taking with him several members
of the family with arms concealed under their clothes, they proceeded
to Hsiao’s house, and there gave his wife a most terrific beating. It
was now Ch‘êng’s turn to be angry. “The members of my family are dying
like sheep,” cried he; “what do you mean by this, Mr. Fêng?” He then
rushed out upon them with a roar, accompanied by all his own brothers
and their sons; and the Fêng family was utterly routed. Seizing old
Fêng himself, Ch‘êng cut off both his ears; and when his son tried to
rescue him, Chi-chi ran up and broke both his legs with an iron
crowbar. Every one of the Fêng family was badly wounded, and thus
dispersed, leaving old Fêng’s son lying in the middle of the road. The
others not knowing what to do with him, Ch‘êng took him under his arm,
and, having thrown him down in the Fêng village, returned home, giving
orders to Chi-chi to go immediately to the authorities and enter their
plaint the first.[252]

The Fêng family had, however, anticipated them, and all the Tsêngs
were accordingly thrown into prison, except Chung, who managed to
escape. He ran away to the place where Yu-yü lived, and was pacing
backwards and forwards before the door, afraid lest his brother should
not have forgiven past offences, when suddenly Yu-yü, with his son and
nephew, arrived, on their return from the examination. “What do you
want, my brother?” asked Yu-yü; whereupon Chung prostrated himself at
the roadside, and then Yu-yü, seizing his hand, led him within to make
further inquiries. “Alas! alas!” cried Yu-yü, when he had heard the
story, “I knew that some dreadful calamity would be the result of all
this wicked behaviour. But why have you come hither? I have been
absent so long that I am no more acquainted with the local
authorities; and if I now went to ask a favour of them, I should
probably only be insulted for my pains. However, if none of the Fêng
family die of their wounds, and if we three may chance to be
successful in our examination, something may perhaps be done to
mitigate this calamity.”[253] Yu-yü then kept Chung to dinner, and at
night he shared their room, which kind treatment made him at once
grateful and repentant. By the end of ten days he was so struck with
the behaviour of the father, sons, uncle, nephew, and cousins, one
toward the other, that he burst into tears, and said, “Now I know how
badly I behaved in days gone by.” His uncle was overjoyed at his
repentance, and sympathised with his feelings, when suddenly it was
announced that Yu-yü and his son had both passed the examination for
master’s degree, and that Chi-tsu was _proximé accessit_. This
delighted them all very much. They did not, however, attend the
Fu-t‘ai’s congratulatory feast,[254] but went off first to worship at
the tombs of their ancestors.

Now, at the time of the Ming dynasty a man who had taken his master’s
degree was a very considerable personage,[255] and the Fêngs
accordingly began to draw in their horns. Yu-yü, too, met them
half-way. He got a friend to convey to them presents of food and money
to help them in recovering from their injuries, and thus the
prosecution was withdrawn. Then all his brothers implored him with
tears in their eyes to return home, and, after burning incense with
them,[256] and making them enter into a bond with him that by-gones
should be by-gones, he acceded to their request. Chi-tsu, however,
would not leave his uncle; and Hsiao himself said to Yu-yü, “I don’t
deserve such a son as that. Keep him, and teach him as you have done
hitherto, and let him be as one of your own children; but if at some
future time he succeeds in his examination, then I will beg you to
return him to me.” Yu-yü consented to this; and three years afterwards
Chi-tsu did take his master’s degree, upon which he sent him back to
his own family.

Both husband and wife were very loth to leave their uncle’s house, and
they had hardly been at home three days before one of their children,
only three years old, ran away and went back, returning to his
great-uncle’s as often as he was recaptured. This induced Hsiao to
remove to the next house to Yu-yü’s, and, by opening a door between
the two, they made one establishment of the whole. Ch‘êng was now
getting old, and the family affairs devolved entirely upon Yu-yü, who
managed things so well that their reputation for filial piety and
fraternal love was soon spread far and wide.


FOOTNOTES:

[247] Deference to elder brothers is held by the Chinese to be second
only in importance to filial piety.

[248] In a volume of _Chinese Sketches_, published by me in 1876,
occur (p. 129) the following words:--“Occasionally a young wife is
driven to commit suicide by the harshness of her mother-in-law, but
this is of rare occurrence, as the consequences are terrible to the
family of the guilty woman. The blood-relatives of the deceased repair
to the chamber of death, and in the injured victim’s hand they place a
broom. They then support the corpse round the room, making its dead
arm move the broom from side to side, and thus sweep away wealth,
happiness, and longevity, from the accursed place for ever.”

[249] A wife being an infinitely less important personage than a
mother in the Chinese social scale.

[250] Literally, of hand and foot, to the mutual dependence of which
that of brothers is frequently likened by the Chinese.

[251] Any permanent change of residence must be notified to the
District Magistrate, who keeps a running census of all persons within
his jurisdiction.

[252] To be thus beforehand with one’s adversary is regarded as _primâ
facie_ evidence of being in the right.

[253] By means of the _status_ which a graduate of the second degree
would necessarily have.

[254] A sham entertainment given by the Fu-t‘ai, or governor, to all
the successful candidates. I say _sham_, because the whole thing is
merely nominal; a certain amount of food is contracted for, but there
is never anything fit to eat, most of the money being embezzled by the
underlings to whose management the banquet is entrusted.

[255] Much more so than at present.

[256] Thereby invoking the Gods as witnesses. A common method of
making up a quarrel in China is to send the aggrieved party an olive
and a piece of red paper in token that peace is restored. Why the
_olive_ should be specially employed I have in vain tried to
ascertain.



XLIV.

THE YOUNG GENTLEMAN WHO COULDN’T SPELL.[257]


At Chia-p‘ing there lived a certain young gentleman of considerable
talent and very prepossessing appearance. When seventeen years of age
he went up for his bachelor’s degree; and as he was passing the door
of a house, he saw within a pretty-looking girl, who not only riveted
his gaze, but also smiled and nodded her head at him. Quite pleased at
this, he approached the young lady and began to talk, she, meanwhile,
inquiring of him where he lived, and if alone or otherwise. He assured
her he was quite by himself; and then she said, “Well, I will come and
see you, but you mustn’t let any one know.” The young gentleman
agreed, and when he got home he sent all the servants to another part
of the house, and by-and-by the young lady arrived. She said her name
was Wên-chi, and that her admiration for her host’s noble bearing had
made her visit him, unknown to her mistress. “And gladly,” added she,
“would I be your handmaid for life.” Our hero was delighted, and
proposed to purchase her from the mistress she mentioned; and from
this time she was in the habit of coming in every other day or so. On
one occasion it was raining hard, and, after hanging up her wet cloak
upon a peg, she took off her shoes, and bade the young gentleman clean
them for her. He noticed that they were newly embroidered with all the
colours of the rainbow, but utterly spoilt by the soaking rain; and
was just saying what a pity it was, when the young lady cried out, “I
should never have asked you to do such menial work except to show my
love for you.” All this time the rain was falling fast outside, and
Wên-chi now repeated the following line:--

   “A nipping wind and chilly rain fill the river and the city.”

“There,” said she, “cap that.” The young gentleman replied that he
could not, as he did not even understand what it meant. “Oh, really,”
retorted the young lady, “if you’re not more of a scholar than that, I
shall begin to think very little of you.” She then told him he had
better practice making verses, and he promised he would do so.

By degrees Miss Wên-chi’s frequent visits attracted the notice of the
servants, as also of a brother-in-law named Sung, who was likewise a
gentleman of position; and the latter begged our hero to be allowed
to have a peep at her. He was told in reply that the young lady had
strictly forbidden that any one should see her; however, he concealed
himself in the servants’ quarters, and when she arrived he looked at
her through the window. Almost beside himself, he now opened the door;
whereupon Wên-chi jumping up, vaulted over the wall and disappeared.
Sung was really smitten with her, and went off to her mistress to try
and arrange for her purchase; but when he mentioned Wên-chi’s name, he
was informed that they had once had such a girl, who had died several
years previously. In great amazement Sung went back and told his
brother-in-law, and he now knew that his beloved Wên-chi was a
disembodied spirit. So when she came again he asked her if it was so;
to which she replied, “It is; but as you wanted a nice wife and I a
handsome husband, I thought we should be a suitable pair. What matters
it that one is a mortal and the other a spirit?” The young gentleman
thoroughly coincided in her view of the case; and when his examination
was over, and he was homeward bound, Wên-chi accompanied him,
invisible to others and visible to him alone. Arriving at his parents’
house, he installed her in the library; and the day she went to pay
the customary bride’s visit to her father and mother,[258] he told his
own mother the whole story. She and his father were greatly alarmed,
and ordered him to have no more to do with her; but he would not
listen to this, and then his parents tried by all kinds of devices to
get rid of the girl, none of which met with any success.

One day our hero had left upon the table some written instructions for
one of the servants, wherein he had made a number of mistakes in
spelling, such as _paper_ for _pepper_, _jinjer_ for _ginger_, and so
on; and when Wên-chi saw this, she wrote at the foot:--

   “Paper for pepper do I see?
    Jinjer for ginger can it be?
    Of such a husband I’m afraid;
    I’d rather be a servant-maid.”

She then said to the young gentleman, “Imagining you to be a man of
culture, I hid my blushes and sought you out the first.[259] Alas,
your qualifications are on the outside; should I not thus be a
laughing-stock to all?” She then disappeared, at which the young
gentleman was much hurt; but not knowing to what she alluded, he gave
the instructions to his servant, and so made himself the butt of all
who heard the story.


FOOTNOTES:

[257] Of course there is no such thing as spelling, in our sense of
the term, in Chinese. But characters are frequently written with too
many or too few strokes, and may thus be said to be incorrectly spelt.

[258] A ceremonial visit made on the third day after marriage.

[259] Contrary to all Chinese notions of modesty and etiquette.



XLV.

THE TIGER GUEST.


A young man named Kung, a native of Min-chou, on his way to the
examination at Hsi-ngan, rested awhile in an inn, and ordered some
wine to drink. Just then a very tall and noble-looking stranger walked
in, and, seating himself by the side of Kung, entered into
conversation with him. Kung offered him a cup of wine, which the
stranger did not refuse; saying, at the same time, that his name was
Miao. But he was a rough, coarse fellow; and Kung, therefore, when the
wine was finished, did not call for any more. Miao then rose, and
observing that Kung did not appreciate a man of his capacity, went out
into the market to buy some, returning shortly with a huge bowl full.
Kung declined the proffered wine; but Miao, seizing his arm to
persuade him, gripped it so painfully that Kung was forced to drink a
few more cups, Miao himself swilling away as hard as he could go out
of a soup-plate. “I am not good at entertaining people,” cried Miao,
at length; “pray go on or stop just as you please.” Kung accordingly
put together his things and went off; but he had not gone more than a
few miles when his horse was taken ill, and lay down in the road.
While he was waiting there with all his heavy baggage, revolving in
his mind what he should do, up came Mr. Miao; who, when he heard what
was the matter, took off his coat and handed it to the servant, and
lifting up the horse, carried it off on his back to the nearest inn,
which was about six or seven miles distant. Arriving there he put the
animal in the stable, and before long Kung and his servants arrived
too. Kung was much astonished at Mr. Miao’s feat; and, believing him
to be superhuman, began to treat him with the utmost deference,
ordering both wine and food to be procured for their refreshment. “My
appetite,” remarked Miao, “is one that you could not easily satisfy.
Let us stick to wine.” So they finished another stoup together, and
then Miao got up and took his leave, saying, “It will be some time
before your horse is well; I cannot wait for you.” He then went away.

After the examination several friends of Kung’s invited him to join
them in a picnic to the Flowery Hill; and just as they were all
feasting and laughing together, lo! Mr. Miao walked up. In one hand he
held a large flagon, and in the other a ham, both of which he laid
down on the ground before them. “Hearing,” said he, “that you
gentlemen were coming here, I have tacked myself on to you, like a fly
to a horse’s tail.”[260] Kung and his friends then rose and received
him with the usual ceremonies, after which they all sat down
promiscuously.[261] By-and-by, when the wine had gone round pretty
freely, some one proposed capping verses; whereupon Miao cried out,
“Oh, we’re very jolly drinking like this; what’s the use of making
oneself uncomfortable?” The others, however, would not listen to him,
and agreed that as a forfeit a huge goblet of wine should be drunk by
any defaulter. “Let us rather make death the penalty,” said Miao; to
which they replied, laughing, that such a punishment was a trifle too
severe; and then Miao retorted that if it was not to be death, even a
rough fellow like himself might be able to join. A Mr. Chin, who was
sitting at the top of the line, then began:--

   “From the hill-top high, wide extends the gaze--”

upon which Miao immediately carried on with

   “Redly gleams the sword o’er the shattered vase.”[262]

The next gentleman thought for a long time, during which Miao was
helping himself to wine; and by-and-by they had all capped the verse,
but so wretchedly that Miao called out, “Oh, come! if we aren’t to be
fined for these,[263] we had better abstain from making any more.” As
none of them would agree to this, Miao could stand it no longer, and
roared like a dragon till the hills and valleys echoed again. He then
went down on his hands and knees, and jumped about like a lion, which
utterly confused the poets, and put an end to their lucubrations. The
wine had now been round a good many times, and being half tipsy each
began to repeat to the other the verses he had handed in at the recent
examination,[264] all at the same time indulging in any amount of
mutual flattery. This so disgusted Miao that he drew Kung aside to
have a game at “guess-fingers;”[265] but as they went on droning away
all the same, he at length cried out, “Do stop your rubbish, fit only
for your own wives,[266] and not for general company.” The others were
much abashed at this, and so angry were they at Miao’s rudeness that
they went on repeating all the louder. Miao then threw himself on the
ground in a passion, and with a roar changed into a tiger, immediately
springing upon the company, and killing them all except Kung and Mr.
Chin. He then ran off roaring loudly. Now this Mr. Chin succeeded in
taking his master’s degree; and three years afterwards, happening to
revisit the Flowery Hill, he beheld a Mr. Chi, one of those very
gentlemen who had previously been killed by the tiger. In great alarm
he was making off, when Chi seized his bridle and would not let him
proceed. So he got down from his horse, and inquired what was the
matter; to which Chi replied, “I am now the slave of Miao, and have to
endure bitter toil for him. He must kill some one else before I can be
set free.[267] Three days hence a man, arrayed in the robes and cap
of a scholar, should be eaten by the tiger at the foot of the
Ts‘ang-lung Hill. Do you on that day take some gentleman thither, and
thus help your old friend.” Chin was too frightened to say much, but
promising that he would do so, rode away home. He then began to
consider the matter over with himself, and, regarding it as a plot, he
determined to break his engagement, and let his friend remain the
tiger’s devil. He chanced, however, to repeat the story to a Mr.
Chiang who was a relative of his, and one of the local scholars; and
as this gentleman had a grudge against another scholar, named Yu, who
had come out equal with him at the examination, he made up his mind to
destroy him. So he invited Yu to accompany him on that day to the
place in question, mentioning that he himself should appear in undress
only. Yu could not make out the reason for this; but when he reached
the spot there he found all kinds of wine and food ready for his
entertainment. Now that very day the Prefect had come to the hill; and
being a friend of the Chiang family, and hearing that Chiang was
below, sent for him to come up. Chiang did not dare to appear before
him in undress, and borrowed Yu’s clothes and hat; but he had no
sooner got them on than out rushed the tiger and carried him away in
its mouth.


FOOTNOTES:

[260] Alluding to a well-known expression which occurs in the
_Historical Record_, and is often used in the sense of deriving
advantage from connection with some influential person.

[261] Without any regard to precedence, which plays quite as important
a part at a Chinese as at a western dinner-party. In China, however,
the most honoured guest sits at (what may be called) the head of the
table, the host at the foot. I say “what may be called,” as Chinese
dining-tables are almost invariably square, and position alone
determines which is the head and which the foot. They are usually made
to accommodate eight persons; hence the fancy name “eight-angel
table,” in allusion to the eight famous angels, or Immortals, of the
Taoist religion. (See No. V., note 48.) Occasionally, round tables are
used; especially in cases where the party consists of some such number
as ten.

[262] It is almost impossible to give in translation the true spirit
of a Chinese antithetical couplet. There are so many points to be
brought out, each word of the second line being in opposition both in
tone and sense to a corresponding word in the first, that anything
beyond a rough rendering of the idea conveyed would be superfluous in
a work like this. Suffice it to say that Miao has here successfully
capped the verse given; and the more so because he has introduced,
through the medium of “sword” and “shattered vase,” an allusion to a
classical story in which a certain Wang Tun, when drunk with wine,
beat time on a vase with his sword, and smashed the lip.

[263] This is the _vel ego vel Cluvienus_ style of satire, his own
verse having been particularly good.

[264] Many candidates, successful or otherwise, have their verses and
essays printed, and circulate them among an admiring circle of
friends.

[265] Accurately described in Tylor’s _Primitive Culture_, Vol. I., p.
75:--“Each player throws out a hand, and the sum of all the fingers
shown has to be called, the successful caller scoring a point;
practically each calls the total before he sees his adversary’s hand.”
The insertion of the word “simultaneously” after “called” would
improve this description. This game is so noisy that the Hong-kong
authorities have forbidden it, except within certain authorised
limits, between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.--Ordinance No. 2 of
1872.

[266] This delicate stroke is of itself sufficient to prove the truth
of the oft-quoted Chinese saying, that all between the Four Seas are
brothers.

[267] The “substitution” theory by which disembodied spirits are
enabled to find their way back to the world of mortals. A very
interesting and important example of this belief occurs in a later
story (No. CVII.), for which place I reserve further comments.



XLVI.

THE SISTERS.


His Excellency the Grand Secretary Mao came from an obscure family in
the district of Yeh, his father being only a poor cow-herd. At the
same place there resided a wealthy gentleman, named Chang, who owned a
burial-ground in the neighbourhood; and some one informed him that
while passing by he had heard sounds of wrangling from within the
grave, and voices saying, “Make haste and go away; do not disturb His
Excellency’s home.” Chang did not much believe this; but subsequently
he had several dreams in which he was told that the burial-ground in
question really belonged to the Mao family, and that he had no right
whatever to it. From this moment the affairs of his house began to go
wrong;[268] and at length he listened to the remonstrances of friends
and removed his dead elsewhere.

One day Mao’s father, the cow-herd, was out near this burial-ground,
when, a storm of rain coming on, he took refuge in the now empty
grave, while the rain came down harder than ever, and by-and-by
flooded the whole place and drowned the old man. The Grand Secretary
was then a mere boy, and his mother went off to Chang to beg a piece
of ground wherein to bury her dead husband. When Chang heard her name
he was greatly astonished; and on going to look at the spot where the
old man was drowned, found that it was exactly at the proper place for
the coffin. More than ever amazed, he gave orders that the body should
be buried there in the old grave, and also bade Mao’s mother bring her
son to see him. When the funeral was over, she went with Mao to Mr.
Chang’s house, to thank him for his kindness; and so pleased was he
with the boy that he kept him to be educated, ranking him as one of
his own sons. He also said he would give him his eldest daughter as a
wife, an offer which Mao’s mother hardly dared accept; but Mrs. Chang
said that the thing was settled and couldn’t be altered, so then she
was obliged to consent. The young lady, however, had a great contempt
for Mao, and made no effort to disguise her feelings; and if any one
spoke to her of him, she would put her fingers in her ears, declaring
she would die sooner than marry the cow-boy. On the day appointed for
the wedding, the bridegroom arrived, and was feasted within, while
outside the door a handsome chair was in waiting to convey away the
bride, who all this time was standing crying in a corner, wiping her
eyes with her sleeve, and absolutely refusing to dress. Just then the
bridegroom sent in to say he was going,[269] and the drums and
trumpets struck up the wedding march, at which the bride’s tears only
fell the faster as her hair hung dishevelled down her back. Her father
managed to detain Mao awhile, and went in to urge his daughter to make
haste, she weeping bitterly as if she did not hear what he was saying.
He now got into a rage, which only made her cry the louder; and in the
middle of it all a servant came to say the bridegroom wished to take
his leave. The father ran out and said his daughter wasn’t quite
ready, begging Mao to wait a little longer; and then hurried back
again to the bride. Thus they went on for some time, backwards and
forwards, until at last things began to look serious, for the young
lady obstinately refused to yield; and Mr. Chang was ready to commit
suicide for want of anything better. Just then his second daughter was
standing by upbraiding her elder sister for her disobedience, when
suddenly the latter turned round in a rage, and cried out, “So you are
imitating the rest of them, you little minx; why don’t you go and
marry him yourself?” “My father did not betroth me to Mr. Mao,”
answered she, “but if he had I should not require you to persuade me
to accept him.” Her father was delighted with this reply, and at once
went off and consulted with his wife as to whether they could venture
to substitute the second for the elder; and then her mother came and
said to her, “That bad girl there won’t obey her parent’s commands; we
wish, therefore, to put you in her place: will you consent to this
arrangement?” The younger sister readily agreed, saying that had they
told her to marry a beggar she would not have dared to refuse, and
that she had not such a low opinion of Mr. Mao as all that. Her father
and mother rejoiced exceedingly at receiving this reply; and dressing
her up in her sister’s clothes, put her in the bridal chair and sent
her off. She proved an excellent wife, and lived in harmony with her
husband; but she was troubled with a disease of the hair, which caused
Mr. Mao some annoyance. Later on, she told him how she had changed
places with her sister, and this made him think more highly of her
than before. Soon after Mao took his bachelor’s degree, and then set
off to present himself as a candidate for the master’s degree. On the
way he passed by an inn, the landlord of which had dreamt the night
before that a spirit appeared to him and said, “To-morrow Mr. Mao,
first on the list, will come. Some day he will extricate you from a
difficulty.” Accordingly the landlord got up early, and took especial
note of all guests who came from the eastward, until at last Mao
himself arrived. The landlord was very glad to see him, and provided
him with the best of everything, refusing to take any payment for it
all, but telling what he had dreamt the night before. Mao now began to
give himself airs; and, reflecting that his wife’s want of hair would
make him look ridiculous, he determined that as soon as he attained to
rank and power he would find another spouse. But alas! when the
successful list of candidates was published, Mao’s name was not among
them; and he retraced his steps with a heavy heart, and by another
road, so as to avoid meeting the innkeeper. Three years afterwards he
went up again, and the landlord received him with precisely the same
attentions as on the previous occasion; upon which Mao said to him,
“Your former words did not come true; I am now ashamed to put you to
so much trouble.” “Ah,” replied the landlord, “you meant to get rid of
your wife, and the Ruler of the world below struck out your name.[270]
My dream couldn’t have been false.” In great astonishment, Mao asked
what he meant by these words; and then he learnt that after his
departure the landlord had had a second dream informing him of the
above facts. Mao was much alarmed at what he heard, and remained as
motionless as a wooden image, until the landlord said to him, “You,
Sir, as a scholar, should have more self-respect, and you will
certainly take the highest place.” By-and-by when the list came out,
Mao was the first of all; and almost simultaneously his wife’s hair
began to grow quite thick, making her much better-looking than she had
hitherto been.

Now her elder sister had married a rich young fellow of good family,
who lived in the neighbourhood, which made the young lady more
contemptuous than ever; but he was so extravagant and so idle that
their property was soon gone, and they were positively in want of
food. Hearing, too, of Mr. Mao’s success at the examination, she was
overwhelmed with shame and vexation, and avoided even meeting her
sister in the street. Just then her husband died and left her
destitute; and about the same time Mao took his doctor’s degree, which
so aggravated her feelings that, in a passion, she became a nun.
Subsequently, when Mao rose to be a high officer of state, she sent a
novice to his yamên to try and get a subscription out of him for the
temple; and Mao’s wife, who gave several pieces of silk and other
things, secretly inserted a sum of money among them. The novice, not
knowing this, reported what she had received to the elder sister, who
cried out in a passion, “I wanted money to buy food with; of what use
are these things to me?” So she bade the novice take them back; and
when Mao and his wife saw her return, they suspected what had
happened, and opening the parcel found the money still there. They now
understood why the presents had been refused; and taking the money,
Mao said to the novice, “If one hundred ounces of silver is too much
luck for your mistress to secure, of course she could never have
secured a high official, such as I am now, for her husband.” He then
took fifty ounces, and giving them to the novice, sent her away,
adding, “Hand this to your mistress, I’m afraid more would be too much
for her.”[271] The novice returned and repeated all that had been
said; and then the elder sister sighed to think what a failure her
life had been, and how she had rejected the worthy to accept the
worthless. After this, the innkeeper got into trouble about a case of
murder, and was imprisoned; but Mao exerted his influence, and
obtained the man’s pardon.


FOOTNOTES:

[268] Such is the dominant belief regarding the due selection of an
auspicious site, whether for a house or grave; and with this
superstition deeply ingrained in the minds of the people, it is easy
to understand the hold on the public mind possessed by the
pseudo-scientific professors of Fêng-Shui, or the geomantic art.

[269] The bridegroom leads off the procession, and the bride follows
shortly afterwards in an elaborately-gilt sedan-chair, closed in on
all sides so that the occupant cannot be seen.

[270] Here again we have the common Chinese belief that fate is fate
only within certain limits, and is always liable to be altered at the
will of heaven.

[271] This is another curious phase of Chinese superstition, namely,
that each individual is so constituted by nature as to be able to
absorb only a given quantity of good fortune and no more, any
superfluity of luck doing actual harm to the person on whom it falls.



XLVII.

FOREIGN[272] PRIESTS.


The Buddhist priest, T‘i-k‘ung, relates that when he was at
Ch‘ing-chou he saw two foreign priests of very extraordinary
appearance. They wore rings in their ears, were dressed in yellow
cloth, and had curly hair and beards. They said they had come from the
countries of the west; and hearing that the Governor of the district
was a devoted follower of Buddha, they went to visit him. The Governor
sent a couple of servants to escort them to the monastery of the
place, where the abbot, Ling-p‘ei, did not receive them very
cordially; but the secular manager, seeing that they were not ordinary
individuals, entertained them and kept them there for the night. Some
one asked if there were many strange men in the west, and what magical
arts were practised by the Lohans;[273] whereupon one of them laughed,
and putting forth his hand from his sleeve, showed a small pagoda,
fully a foot in height, and beautifully carved, standing upon the
palm. Now very high up in the wall there was a niche; and the priest
threw the pagoda up to it, when lo! it stood there firm and straight.
After a few moments the pagoda began to incline to one side, and a
glory, as from a relic of some saint, was diffused throughout the
room. The other priest then bared his arms, and stretched out his left
until it was five or six feet in length, at the same time shortening
his right arm until it dwindled to nothing. He then stretched out the
latter until it was as long as his left arm.


FOOTNOTES:

[272] The word here used is _fan_, generally translated “barbarian.”

[273] The disciples of Shâkyamuni Buddha. Same as _Arhans_.



XLVIII.

THE SELF-PUNISHED MURDERER.


Mr. Li took his doctor’s degree late in life.[274] On the 28th of the
9th moon of the 4th year of K‘ang Hsi,[275] he killed his wife. The
neighbours reported the murder to the officials, and the high
authorities instructed the district magistrate to investigate the
case. At this juncture Mr. Li was standing at the door of his
residence; and snatching a butcher’s knife from a stall hard by, he
rushed into the Ch‘êng-huang[276] temple, where, mounting the
theatrical stage,[277] he threw himself on his knees, and spoke as
follows:--“The spirit here will punish me. I am not to be prosecuted
by evil men who, from party motives, confuse right and wrong. The
spirit moves me to cut off an ear.” Thereupon he cut off his left ear
and threw it down from the stage. He then said the spirit was going to
fine him a hand for cheating people out of their money; and he
forthwith chopped off his left hand. Lastly, he cried out that he was
to be punished severely for all his many crimes; and immediately cut
his own throat. The Viceroy subsequently received the Imperial
permission to deprive him of his rank[278] and bring him to trial; but
he was then being punished by a higher power in the realms of darkness
below. See the _Peking Gazette_.[279]


FOOTNOTES:

[274] There is no limit as to age in the competitive examinations of
China. The _San-tzŭ-Ching_ records the case of a man who graduated at
the mature age of eighty-two.

[275] In 1665, that is between fourteen and fifteen years previous to
the completion of the _Liao Chai_.

[276] See No. I., note 36.

[277] Religion and the drama work hand in hand in China.

[278] Always the first step in the prosecution of a graduate. In this
case, the accused was also an official.

[279] Of what date, our author does not say, or it would be curious to
try and hunt up the official record of this case as it appeared in the
government organ of the day. The unfortunate man was in all
probability insane.



XLIX.

THE MASTER THIEF.


Before his rebellion,[280] Prince Wu frequently told his soldiers that
if any one of them could catch a tiger unaided he would give him a
handsome pension and the title of the Tiger Daunter. In his camp there
was a man named Pao-chu, as strong and agile as a monkey; and once
when a new tower was being built, the wooden framework having only
just been set up, Pao-chu walked along the eaves, and finally got up
on to the very tip-top beam, where he ran backwards and forwards
several times. He then jumped down, alighting safely on his feet.

Now Prince Wu had a favourite concubine, who was a skilful player on
the guitar; and the nuts of the instrument she used were of warm
jade,[281] so that when played upon there was a general feeling of
warmth throughout the room. The young lady was extremely careful of
this treasure, and never produced it for any one to see unless on
receipt of the Prince’s written order. One night, in the middle of a
banquet, a guest begged to be allowed to see this wonderful guitar;
but the Prince, being in a lazy mood, said it should be exhibited to
him on the following day. Pao-chu, who was standing by, then observed
that he could get it without troubling the Prince to write an order.
Some one was therefore sent off beforehand to instruct all the
officials to be on the watch, and then the Prince told Pao-chu he
might go; and after scaling numerous walls the latter found himself
near the lady’s room. Lamps were burning brightly within; the doors
were bolted and barred, and it was impossible to effect an entrance.
Under the verandah, however, was a cockatoo fast asleep on its perch;
and Pao-chu first mewing several times like a cat, followed it up by
imitating the voice of the bird, and cried out as though in distress,
“The cat! the cat!” He then heard the concubine call to one of the
slave girls, and bid her go rescue the cockatoo which was being
killed; and, hiding himself in a dark corner, he saw a girl come forth
with a light in her hand. She had barely got outside the door when he
rushed in, and there he saw the lady sitting with the guitar on a
table before her. Seizing the instrument he turned and fled; upon
which the concubine shrieked out, “Thieves! thieves!” And the guard,
seeing a man making off with the guitar, at once started in pursuit.
Arrows fell round Pao-chu like drops of rain, but he climbed up one of
a number of huge ash trees growing there, and from its top leaped on
to the top of the next, and so on, until he had reached the
furthermost tree, when he jumped on to the roof of a house, and from
that to another, more as if he were flying than anything else. In a
few minutes he had disappeared, and before long presented himself
suddenly at the banquet-table with the guitar in his hand, the
entrance-gate having been securely barred all the time, and not a dog
or a cock aroused.


FOOTNOTES:

[280] A.D. 1675. His full name was Wu San-kuei.

[281] Such is the literal translation of a term which I presume to be
the name of some particular kind of jade, which is ordinarily
distinguished from the imitation article by its comparative
_coldness_.



L.

A FLOOD.


In the twenty-first year of K‘ang Hsi[282] there was a severe drought,
not a green blade appearing in the parched ground all through the
spring and well into the summer. On the 13th of the 6th moon a little
rain fell, and people began to plant their rice. On the 18th there was
a heavy fall, and beans were sown.

Now at a certain village there was an old man, who, noticing two
bullocks fighting on the hills, told the villagers that a great flood
was at hand, and forthwith removed with his family to another part of
the country. The villagers all laughed at him; but before very long
rain began to fall in torrents, lasting all through the night, until
the water was several feet deep, and carrying away the houses. Among
the others was a man who, neglecting to save his two children, with
his wife assisted his aged mother to reach a place of safety, from
which they looked down at their old home, now only an expanse of
water, without hope of ever seeing the children again. When the flood
had subsided, they went back, to find the whole place a complete ruin;
but in their own house they discovered the two boys playing and
laughing on the bed as if nothing had happened. Some one remarked that
this was a reward for the filial piety of the parents. It happened on
the 20th of the 6th moon.[283]


FOOTNOTES:

[282] A.D. 1682; that is, three years after the date of our author’s
preface. See _Introduction_.

[283] A curious note here follows in the original, not however from
the pen of the great commentator, I Shih-shih:--“In 1696 a severe
earthquake occurred at P‘ing-yang, and out of seventeen or eighteen
cities destroyed, only one room remained uninjured--a room inhabited
by a certain filial son. And thus, when in the crash of a collapsing
universe, filial piety is specially marked out for protection, who
shall say that God Almighty does not know black from white?”



LI.

DEATH BY LAUGHING.


A Mr. Sun Ching-hsia, a marshal of undergraduates,[284] told me that
in his village there was a certain man who had been killed by the
rebels when they passed through the place. The man’s head was left
hanging down on his chest; and as soon as the rebels had gone, his
servants secured the body and were about to bury it. Hearing, however,
a sound of breathing, they looked more closely, and found that the
windpipe was not wholly severed; and, setting his head in its proper
place, they carried him back home. In twenty-four hours he began to
moan; and by dint of carefully feeding him with a spoon, within six
months he had quite recovered.

Some ten years afterwards he was chatting with a few friends, when one
of them made a joke which called forth loud applause from the others.
Our hero, too, clapped his hands; but, as he was bending backwards and
forwards with laughter, the seam on his neck split open, and down fell
his head with a gush of blood. His friends now found that he was
quite dead, and his father immediately commenced an action against the
joker;[285] but a sum of money was subscribed by those present and
given to the father, who buried his son and stopped further
proceedings.


FOOTNOTES:

[284] Or “Director of Studies.”

[285] The Chinese distinguish five degrees of homicide, of which
accidental homicide is one (see _Penal Code_, Book VI.) Thus, if a gun
goes off of itself in a man’s hand and kills a bystander, the holder
of the gun is guilty of homicide; but were the same gun lying on a
table, it would be regarded as the will of Heaven. Similarly, a man is
held responsible for any death caused by an animal belonging to him;
though in such cases the affair can usually be hushed up by a money
payment, no notice being taken of crimes in general unless at the
instigation of a prosecutor, at whose will the case may be
subsequently withdrawn. Where the circumstances are purely accidental,
the law admits of a money compensation.



LII.

PLAYING AT HANGING.


A number of wild young fellows were one day out walking when they saw
a young lady approach, riding on a pony.[286] One of them said to the
others, “I’ll back myself to make that girl laugh,” and a supper was
at once staked by both sides on the result. Our hero then ran out in
front of the pony, and kept on shouting “I’m going to die! I’m going
to die!” at the same time pulling out from over the top of a wall a
stalk of millet, to which he attached his own waistband, and tying the
latter round his neck, made a pretence of hanging himself. The young
lady did laugh as she passed by, to the great amusement of the
assembled company; but as when she was already some distance off their
friend did not move, the others laughed louder than ever. However, on
going up to him they saw that his tongue protruded, and that his eyes
were glazed; he was, in fact, quite dead. Was it not strange that a
man should be able to hang himself on a millet stalk?[287] It is a
good warning against practical joking.


FOOTNOTES:

[286] Women in China ride _à califourchon_.

[287] Which, although tolerably stout and strong, is hardly capable of
sustaining a man’s weight.



LIII.

THE RAT WIFE.


Hsi Shan was a native of Kao-mi, and a trader by occupation. He
frequently slept at a place called Mêng-i. One day he was delayed on
the road by rain, and when he arrived at his usual quarters it was
already late in the night. He knocked at all the doors, but no one
answered; and he was walking backwards and forwards in the piazza when
suddenly a door flew open and an old man came out. He invited the
traveller to enter, an invitation to which Hsi Shan gladly responded;
and, tying up his mule, he went in. The place was totally unfurnished;
and the old man began by saying that it was only out of compassion
that he had asked him in, as his house was not an inn. “There are only
three or four of us,” added he; “and my wife and daughter are fast
asleep. We have some of yesterday’s food, which I will get ready for
you; you must not object to its being cold.” He then went within, and
shortly afterwards returned with a low couch, which he placed on the
ground, begging his guest to be seated, at the same time hurrying back
for a low table, and soon for a number of other things, until at last
Hsi Shan was quite uncomfortable, and entreated his host to rest
himself awhile. By-and-by a young lady came out, bringing some wine;
upon which the old man said, “Oh, our A-ch‘ien has got up.” She was
about sixteen or seventeen, a slender and pretty-looking girl; and as
Hsi Shan had an unmarried brother, he began to think directly that she
would do for him. So he inquired of the old man his name and address,
to which the latter replied that his name was Ku, and that his
children had all died save this one daughter. “I didn’t like to wake
her just now, but I suppose my wife told her to get up.” Hsi Shan then
asked the name of his son-in-law, and was informed that the young lady
was not yet engaged,--at which he was secretly very much pleased. A
tray of food was now brought in, evidently the remains from the day
before; and when he had finished eating, Hsi Shan began respectfully
to address the old man as follows:--“I am only a poor wayfarer, but I
shall never forget the kindness with which you have treated me. Let me
presume upon it, and submit to your consideration a plan I have in my
head. My younger brother, San-lang, is seventeen years old. He is a
student, and by no means unsteady or dull. May I hope that you will
unite our families together, and not think it presumption on my part?”
“I, too, am but a temporary sojourner,” replied the old man,
rejoicing; “and if you will only let me have a part of your house, I
shall be very glad to come and live with you.” Hsi Shan consented to
this, and got up and thanked him for the promise of his daughter; upon
which the old man set to work to make him comfortable for the night,
and then went away. At cock-crow he was outside, calling his guest to
come and have a wash; and when Hsi Shan had packed up ready to go, he
offered to pay for his night’s entertainment. This, however, the old
man refused, saying, “I could hardly charge a stranger anything for a
single meal; how much less could I take money from my intended
son-in-law?” They then separated, and in about a month Hsi Shan
returned; but when he was a short distance from the village he met an
old woman with a young lady, both dressed in deep mourning. As they
approached he began to suspect it was A-ch‘ien; and the young lady,
after turning round to look at him, pulled the old woman’s sleeve, and
whispered something in her ear, which Hsi Shan himself did not hear.
The old woman stopped immediately, and asked if she was addressing Mr.
Hsi; and when informed that she was, she said mournfully, “Alas! my
husband has been killed by the falling of a wall. We are going to bury
him to-day. There is no one at home; but please wait here, and we will
be back by-and-by.” They then disappeared among the trees; and,
returning after a short absence, they walked along together in the
dusk of the evening. The old woman complained bitterly of their lonely
and helpless state, and Hsi Shan himself was moved to compassion by
the sight of her tears. She told him that the people of the
neighbourhood were a bad lot, and that if he thought of marrying the
poor widow’s daughter, he had better lose no time in doing so. Hsi
Shan said he was willing; and when they reached the house the old
woman, after lighting the lamp and setting food before him, proceeded
to speak as follows:--“Knowing, Sir, that you would shortly arrive, we
sold all our grain except about twenty piculs. We cannot take this
with us so far; but a mile or so to the north of the village, at the
first house you come to, there lives a man named T‘an Erh-ch‘üan, who
often buys grain from me. Don’t think it too much trouble to oblige me
by taking a sack with you on your mule and proceeding thither at once.
Tell Mr. T‘an that the old lady of the southern village has several
piculs of grain which she wishes to sell in order to get money for a
journey, and beg him to send some animals to carry it.” The old woman
then gave him a sack of grain; and Hsi Shan, whipping up his mule, was
soon at the place; and, knocking at the door, a great fat fellow came
out, to whom he told his errand. Emptying the sack he had brought, he
went back himself first; and before long a couple of men arrived
leading five mules. The old woman took them into the granary, which
was a cellar below ground, and Hsi Shan, going down himself, handed up
the bags to the mother and daughter, who passed them on from one to
the other. In a little while the men had got a load, with which they
went off, returning altogether four times before all the grain was
exhausted. They then paid the old woman, who kept one man and two
mules, and, packing up her things, set off towards the east. After
travelling some seven miles day began to break; and by-and-by they
reached a market town, where the old woman hired animals and sent back
T‘an’s servant. When they arrived at Hsi Shan’s home he related the
whole story to his parents, who were very pleased at what had
happened, and provided separate apartments for the old lady, at the
same time engaging a fortune-teller to fix on a lucky day for
A-ch‘ien’s marriage with their son San-lang. The old woman prepared a
handsome trousseau; and as for A-ch‘ien herself, she spoke but little,
seldom losing her temper, and if any one addressed her she would only
reply with a smile. She employed all her time in spinning, and thus
became a general favourite with all alike. “Tell your brother,” said
she to San-lang, “that when he happens to pass our old residence he
will do well not to make any mention of my mother and myself.”

In three or four years’ time the Hsi family had made plenty of money,
and San-lang had taken his bachelor’s degree, when one day Hsi Shan
happened to pass a night with the people who lived next door to the
house where he had met A-ch‘ien. After telling them the story of his
having had nowhere to sleep, and taking refuge with the old man and
woman, his host said to him, “You must make a mistake, Sir; the house
you allude to belongs to my uncle, but was abandoned three years ago
in consequence of its being haunted. It has now been uninhabited for a
long time. What old man and woman can have entertained you there?” Hsi
Shan was very much astonished at this, but did not put much faith in
what he heard; meanwhile his host continued, “For ten years no one
dared enter the house; however, one day the back wall fell down, and
my uncle, going to look at it, found, half-buried underneath the
ruins, a large rat, almost as big as a cat. It was still moving, and
my uncle went off to call for assistance, but when he got back the rat
had disappeared. Everyone suspected some supernatural agency to be at
work, though on returning to the spot ten days afterwards nothing was
to be either heard or seen; and about a year subsequently the place
was inhabited once more.” Hsi Shan was more than ever amazed at what
he now heard, and on reaching home told the family what had occurred;
for he feared that his brother’s wife was not a human being, and
became rather anxious about him. San-lang himself continued to be much
attached to A-ch‘ien; but by-and-by the other members of the family
let A-ch‘ien perceive that they had suspicions about her. So one night
she complained to San-lang, saying, “I have been a good wife to you
for some years: now I have become an object of contempt. I pray you
give me my divorce,[288] and seek for yourself some worthier mate.”
She then burst into a flood of tears; whereupon San-lang said, “You
should know my feelings by this time. Ever since you entered the
house the family has prospered; and that prosperity is entirely due to
you. Who can say it is not so?” “I know full well,” replied A-ch‘ien,
“what you feel; still there are the others, and I do not wish to share
the fate of an autumn fan.”[289] At length San-lang succeeded in
pacifying her; but Hsi Shan could not dismiss the subject from his
thoughts, and gave out that he was going to get a first-rate mouser,
with a view to testing A-ch‘ien. She did not seem very frightened at
this, though evidently ill at ease; and one night she told San-lang
that her mother was not very well, and that he needn’t come to bid her
good night as usual. In the morning mother and daughter had
disappeared; at which San-lang was greatly alarmed, and sent out to
look for them in every direction. No traces of the fugitives could be
discovered, and San-lang was overwhelmed with grief, unable either to
eat or to sleep. His father and brother thought it was a lucky thing
for him, and advised him to console himself with another wife. This,
however, he refused to do; until, about a year afterwards, nothing
more having been heard of A-ch‘ien, he could not resist their
importunities any longer, and bought himself a concubine. But he never
ceased to think of A-ch‘ien; and some years later, when the prosperity
of the family was on the wane, they all began to regret her loss.

Now San-lang had a step-brother, named Lan, who, when travelling to
Chiao-chou on business, passed a night at the house of a relative
named Lu. He noticed that during the night sounds of weeping and
lamentation proceeded from their next-door neighbours, but he did not
inquire the reason of it; however, on his way back he heard the same
sounds, and then asked what was the cause of such demonstrations. Mr.
Lu told him that a few years ago an old widow and her daughter had
come there to live, and that the mother had died about a month
previously, leaving her child quite alone in the world. Lan inquired
what her name was, and Mr. Lu said it was Ku; “But,” added he, “the
door is closely barred, and as they never had any communication with
the village, I know nothing of their antecedents.” “It’s my
sister-in-law,” cried Lan, in amazement, and at once proceeded to
knock at the door of the house. Some one came to the front door, and
said, in a voice that betokened recent weeping, “Who’s there? There
are no men in this house.”[290] Lan looked through a crack, and saw
that the young lady really was his sister-in-law; so he called out,
“Sister, open the door. I am your step-brother A-sui.” A-ch‘ien
immediately opened the door and asked him in, and recounted to him the
whole story of her troubles. “Your husband,” said Lan, “is always
thinking of you. For a trifling difference you need hardly have run
away so far from him.” He then proposed to hire a vehicle and take her
home; but A-ch‘ien replied, “I came hither with my mother to hide
because I was held in contempt, and should make myself ridiculous by
now returning thus. If I am to go back, my elder brother Hsi Shan must
no longer live with us; otherwise, I will assuredly poison myself.”
Lan then went home and told San-lang, who set off and travelled all
night until he reached the place where A-ch‘ien was. Husband and wife
were overjoyed to meet again, and the following day San-lang notified
the landlord of the house where A-ch‘ien had been living. Now this
landlord had long desired to secure A-ch‘ien as a concubine for
himself; and, after making no claim for rent for several years, he
began to hint as much to her mother. The old lady, however, refused
flatly; but shortly afterwards she died, and then the landlord thought
that he might be able to succeed. At this juncture San-lang arrived,
and the landlord sought to hamper him by putting in his claim for
rent; and, as San-lang was anything but well off at the moment, it
really did annoy him very much. A-ch‘ien here came to the rescue,
showing San-lang a large quantity of grain she had in the house, and
bidding him use it to settle accounts with the landlord. The latter
declared he could not accept grain, but must be paid in silver;
whereupon A-ch‘ien sighed and said it was all her unfortunate self
that had brought this upon them, at the same time telling San-lang of
the landlord’s former proposition. San-lang was very angry, and was
about to take out a summons against him, when Mr. Lu interposed, and,
by selling the grain in the neighbourhood, managed to collect
sufficient money to pay off the rent. San-lang and his wife then
returned home; and the former, having explained the circumstances to
his parents, separated his household from that of his brother.
A-ch‘ien now proceeded to build, with her own money, a granary, which
was a matter of some astonishment to the family, there not being a
hundredweight of grain in the place. But in about a year the granary
was full,[291] and before very long San-lang was a rich man, Hsi Shan
remaining as poor as before. Accordingly, A-ch‘ien persuaded her
husband’s parents to come and live with them, and made frequent
presents of money to the elder brother; so that her husband said,
“Well, at any rate, you bear no malice.” “Your brother’s behaviour,”
replied she, “was from his regard for you. Had it not been for him,
you and I would never have met.” After this there were no more
supernatural manifestations.


FOOTNOTES:

[288] The Chinese acknowledge seven just causes for putting away a
wife. (1) Bad behaviour towards the husband’s father and mother. (2)
Adultery. (3) Jealousy. (4) Garrulity. (5) Theft. (6) Disease. (7)
Barrenness. The right of divorce may not, however, be enforced if the
husband’s father and mother have died since the marriage, as thus it
would be inferred that the wife had served them well up to the time of
their death; or if the husband has recently risen to wealth and power
(hence the saying, “The wife of my poverty shall not go down from my
hall”); or thirdly, if the wife’s parents and brothers are dead, and
she has no home in which she can seek shelter.

[289] This elegant simile is taken from a song ascribed to Pan
Chieh-yü, a favourite of the Emperor Ch‘êng Ti of the Han dynasty,
written when her influence with the Son of Heaven began to wane. I
venture to reproduce it here.

   “O fair white silk, fresh from the weaver’s loom;
    Clear as the frost, bright as the winter’s snow!
    See! friendship fashions out of thee a fan,
    Round as the round moon shines in heaven above.
    At home, abroad, a close companion thou,
    Stirring at every move the grateful gale.
    And yet I fear, ah, me! that autumn chills,
    Cooling the dying summer’s torrid rage,
    Will see thee laid neglected on the shelf,
    All thought of by-gone days, like them, by-gone.”

[290] Signifying that it would be impossible for him to enter.

[291] The result of A-ch‘ien’s depredations as a rat.



LIV.

THE MAN WHO WAS THROWN DOWN A WELL.


Mr. Tai, of An-ch‘ing, was a wild fellow when young. One day as he was
returning home tipsy,[292] he met by the way a dead cousin of his
named Chi; and having, in his drunken state, quite forgotten that his
cousin was dead, he asked him where he was going. “I am already a
disembodied spirit,” replied Chi; “don’t you remember?” Tai was a
little disturbed at this; but, being under the influence of liquor,
he was not frightened, and inquired of his cousin what he was doing in
the realms below. “I am employed as scribe,” said Chi, “in the court
of the Great King.” “Then you must know all about our happiness and
misfortunes to come,” cried Tai. “It is my business,” answered his
cousin, “so of course I know. But I see such an enormous mass that,
unless of special reference to myself or family, I take no notice of
any of it. Three days ago, by the way, I saw your name in the
register.” Tai immediately asked what there was about himself, and his
cousin replied, “I will not deceive you; your name was put down for a
dark and dismal hell.” Tai was dreadfully alarmed, and at the same
time sobered, and entreated his cousin to assist him in some way. “You
may try,” said Chi, “what merit will do for you as a means of
mitigating your punishment; but the register of your sins is as thick
as my finger, and nothing short of the most deserving acts will be of
any avail. What can a poor fellow like myself do for you? Were you to
perform one good act every day, you would not complete the necessary
total under a year and more, and it is now too late for that. But
henceforth amend your ways, and there may still be a chance of escape
for you.” When Tai heard these words he prostrated himself on the
ground, imploring his cousin to help him; but, on raising his head,
Chi had disappeared; he therefore returned sorrowfully home, and set
to work to cleanse his heart and order his behaviour.

Now Tai’s next door neighbour had long suspected him of paying too
much attention to his wife; and one day meeting Tai in the fields
shortly after the events narrated above, he inveigled him into
inspecting a dry well, and then pushed him down. The well was many
feet deep, and the man felt certain that Tai was killed; however, in
the middle of the night he came round, and sitting up at the bottom,
he began to shout for assistance, but could not make any one hear him.
On the following day, the neighbour, fearing that Tai might possibly
have recovered consciousness, went to listen at the mouth of the well;
and hearing him cry out for help, began to throw down a quantity of
stones. Tai took refuge in a cave at the side, and did not dare utter
another sound; but his enemy knew he was not dead, and forthwith
filled the well almost up to the top with earth. In the cave it was as
dark as pitch, exactly like the Infernal Regions; and not being able
to get anything to eat or drink, Tai gave up all hopes of life. He
crawled on his hands and knees further into the cave, but was
prevented by water from going further than a few paces, and returned
to take up his position at the old spot. At first he felt hungry;
by-and-by, however, this sensation passed away; and then reflecting
that there, at the bottom of a well, he could hardly perform any good
action, he passed his time in calling loudly on the name of
Buddha.[293] Before long he saw a number of Will-o’-the-Wisps
flitting over the water and illuminating the gloom of the cave; and
immediately prayed to them, saying, “O Will-o’-the-Wisps, I have heard
that ye are the shades of wronged and injured people. I have not long
to live, and am without hope of escape; still I would gladly relieve
the monotony of my situation by exchanging a few words with you.”
Thereupon, all the Wills came flitting across the water to him; and
among them was a man of about half the ordinary size. Tai asked him
whence he came; to which he replied, “This is an old coal-mine. The
proprietor, in working the coal, disturbed the position of some
graves;[294] and Mr. Lung-fei flooded the mine and drowned forty-three
workmen. We are the shades of those men.” He further said he did not
know who Mr. Lung-fei was, except that he was secretary to the City
God, and that in compassion for the misfortunes of the innocent
workmen, he was in the habit of sending them a quantity of gruel every
three or four days. “But the cold water,” added he, “soaks into our
bones, and there is but small chance of ever getting them removed. If,
Sir, you some day return to the world above, I pray you fish up our
decaying bones and bury them in some public burying-ground. You will
thus earn for yourself boundless gratitude in the realms below.” Tai
promised that if he had the luck to escape he would do as they wished;
“but how,” cried he, “situated as I am, can I ever hope to look again
upon the light of day?” He then began to teach the Wills to say their
prayers, making for them beads[295] out of bits of mud, and repeating
to them the liturgies of Buddha. He could not tell night from morning;
he slept when he felt tired, and when he waked he sat up. Suddenly, he
perceived in the distance the light of lamps, at which the shades all
rejoiced, and said, “It is Mr. Lung-fei with our food.” They then
invited Tai to go with them; and when he said he couldn’t because of
the water, they bore him along over it so that he hardly seemed to
walk. After twisting and turning about for nearly a quarter of a mile,
he reached a place at which the Wills bade him walk by himself; and
then he appeared to mount a flight of steps, at the top of which he
found himself in an apartment lighted by a candle as thick round as
one’s arm. Not having seen the light of fire for some time, he was
overjoyed and walked in; but observing an old man in a scholar’s dress
and cap seated in the post of honour, he stopped, not liking to
advance further. But the old man had already caught sight of him, and
asked him how he, a living man, had come there. Tai threw himself on
the ground at his feet, and told him all; whereupon the old man cried
out, “My great-grandson!” He then bade him get up; and offering him a
seat, explained that his own name was Tai Ch‘ien, and that he was
otherwise known as Lung-fei. He said, moreover, that in days gone by a
worthless grandson of his named T‘ang, had associated himself with a
lot of scoundrels and sunk a well near his grave, disturbing the peace
of his everlasting night; and that therefore he had flooded the place
with salt water and drowned them. He then inquired as to the general
condition of the family at that time.

Now Tai was a descendant of one of five brothers, from the eldest of
whom T‘ang himself was also descended; and an influential man of the
place had bribed T‘ang to open a mine[296] alongside the family grave.
His brothers were afraid to interfere; and by-and-by the water rose
and drowned all the workmen; whereupon actions for damages were
commenced by the relatives of the deceased,[297] and T‘ang and his
friend were reduced to poverty, and T‘ang’s descendants to absolute
destitution. Tai was a son of one of T‘ang’s brothers, and having
heard this story from his seniors, now repeated it to the old man.
“How could they be otherwise than unfortunate,” cried the latter,
“with such an unfilial progenitor? But since you have come hither, you
must on no account neglect your studies.” The old man then provided
him with food and wine, and spreading a volume of essays according to
the old style before him, bade him study it most carefully. He also
gave him themes for composition, and corrected his essays as if he had
been his tutor. The candle remained always burning in the room, never
needing to be snuffed and never decreasing. When he was tired he went
to sleep, but he never knew day from night. The old man occasionally
went out, leaving a boy to attend to his great-grandson’s wants. It
seemed that several years passed away thus, but Tai had no troubles of
any kind to annoy him. He had no other book except the volume of
essays, one hundred in all, which he read through more than four
thousand times. One day the old man said to him, “Your term of
expiation is nearly completed, and you will be able to return to the
world above. My grave is near the coal-mine, and the grosser breeze
plays upon my bones. Remember to remove them to Tung-yüan.” Tai
promised he would see to this; and then the old man summoned all the
shades together and instructed them to escort Tai back to the place
where they had found him. The shades now bowed one after the other,
and begged Tai to think of them as well, while Tai himself was quite
at a loss to guess how he was going to get out.

Meanwhile, Tai’s family had searched for him everywhere, and his
mother had brought his case to the notice of the officials, thereby
implicating a large number of persons, but without getting any trace
of the missing man. Three or four years passed away and there was a
change of magistrate; in consequence of which the search was relaxed,
and Tai’s wife, not being happy where she was, married another
husband. Just then an inhabitant of the place set about repairing the
old well and found Tai’s body in the cave at the bottom. Touching it,
he found it was not dead, and at once gave information to the family.
Tai was promptly conveyed home, and within a day he could tell his own
story.

Since he had been down the well, the neighbour who pushed him in had
beaten his own wife to death; and his father-in-law having brought an
action against him, he had been in confinement for more than a year
while the case was being investigated.[298] When released he was a
mere bag of bones;[299] and then hearing that Tai had come back to
life, he was terribly alarmed and fled away. The family tried to
persuade Tai to take proceedings against him, but this he would not
do, alleging that what had befallen him was a proper punishment for
his own bad behaviour, and had nothing to do with the neighbour. Upon
this, the said neighbour ventured to return; and when the water in the
well had dried up, Tai hired men to go down and collect the bones,
which he put in coffins and buried all together in one place. He next
hunted up Mr. Lung-fei’s name in the family tables of genealogy, and
proceeded to sacrifice all kinds of nice things at his tomb. By-and-by
the Literary Chancellor[300] heard this strange story, and was also
very pleased with Tai’s compositions; accordingly, Tai passed
successfully through his examinations, and, having taken his master’s
degree, returned home and reburied Mr. Lung-fei at Tung-yüan,
repairing thither regularly every spring without fail.[301]


FOOTNOTES:

[292] I have already discussed the subject of drunkenness in China
(_Chinese Sketches_, pp. 113, 114), and shall not return to it here,
further than to quote a single sentence, to which I adhere as firmly
now as when the book in question was published:--“Who ever sees in
China a tipsy man reeling about a crowded thoroughfare, or lying with
his head in a ditch by the side of some country road?”

It is not, however, generally known that the Chinese, with their usual
quaintness, distinguish between five kinds of drunkenness, different
people being differently affected, according to the physical
constitution of each. Wine may fly (1) to the heart, and produce
maudlin emotions; or (2) to the liver, and incite to pugnacity; or (3)
to the stomach, and cause drowsiness, accompanied by a flushing of the
face; or (4) to the lungs, and induce hilarity; or (5) to the kidneys,
and excite desire.

[293] “The very name of Buddha, if pronounced with a devout heart
1,000 or 5,000 times, will effectually dispel all harassing thoughts,
all fightings within and fears without.”--_Eitel._

[294] A religious and social offence of the deepest dye, sure to
entail punishment in the world to come, even if the perpetrator
escapes detection in this life.

[295] The Buddhist rosary consists of 108 beads, which number is the
same as that of the compartments in the _Phrabat_ or sacred footprint
of Buddha.

[296] It here occurred to me that the word hitherto translated “well”
should have been “shaft;” but the commentator refers expressly to the
_Tso Chuan_, where the phrase for “a dry well,” as first used, is so
explained. We must accordingly fall back on the supposition that our
author has committed a trifling slip.

[297] See No. LI., note 285.

[298] That is, as to whether or not there were extenuating
circumstances, in which case no punishment would be inflicted.

[299] Such is the invariable result of confinement in a Chinese
prison, unless the prisoner has the wherewithal to purchase food.

[300] The provincial examiner for the degree of bachelor.

[301] To worship at his tomb.



LV.

THE VIRTUOUS DAUGHTER-IN-LAW.


An Ta-ch‘êng was a Chung-ch‘ing man. His father, who had gained the
master’s degree, died early; and his brother Erh-ch‘êng was a mere
boy. He himself had married a wife from the Ch‘ên family, whose name
was Shan-hu; and this young lady had much to put up with from the
violent and malicious disposition of her husband’s mother.[302]
However, she never complained; and every morning dressed herself up
smart, and went in to pay her respects to the old lady. Once when
Ta-ch‘êng was ill, his mother abused Shan-hu for dressing so nicely;
whereupon Shan-hu went back and changed her clothes; but even then
Mrs. An was not satisfied, and began to tear her own hair with rage.
Ta-ch‘êng, who was a very filial son, at once gave his wife a beating,
and this put an end to the scene. From that moment his mother hated
her more than ever, and although she was everything that a
daughter-in-law could be, would never exchange a word with her.
Ta-ch‘êng then treated her in much the same way, that his mother might
see he would have nothing to do with her; still the old lady wasn’t
pleased, and was always blaming Shan-hu for every trifle that
occurred. “A wife,” cried Ta-ch‘êng “is taken to wait upon her
mother-in-law. This state of things hardly looks like the wife doing
her duty.” So he bade Shan-hu begone,[303] and sent an old
maid-servant to see her home: but when Shan-hu got outside the
village-gate, she burst into tears, and said, “How can a girl who has
failed in her duties as a wife ever dare to look her parents in the
face? I had better die.” Thereupon she drew a pair of scissors and
stabbed herself in the throat, covering herself immediately with
blood. The servant prevented any further mischief, and supported her
to the house of her husband’s aunt, who was a widow living by herself,
and who made Shan-hu stay with her. The servant went back and told
Ta-ch‘êng, and he bade her say nothing to any one, for fear his mother
should hear of it. In a few days Shan-hu’s wound was healed, and
Ta-ch‘êng went off to ask his aunt to send her away. His aunt invited
him in, but he declined, demanding loudly that Shan-hu should be
turned out; and in a few moments Shan-hu herself came forth, and
inquired what she had done. Ta-ch‘êng said she had failed in her duty
towards his mother; whereupon Shan-hu hung her head and made no
answer, while tears of blood[304] trickled from her eyes and stained
her dress all over. Ta-ch‘êng was much touched by this spectacle, and
went away without saying any more; but before long his mother heard
all about it, and, hurrying off to the aunt’s, began abusing her
roundly. This the aunt would not stand, and said it was all the fault
of her own bad temper, adding, “The girl has already left you, and has
nothing more to do with the family. Miss Ch‘ên is staying with me, not
your daughter-in-law; so you had better mind your own business.” This
made Mrs. An furious; but she was at a loss for an answer, and, seeing
that the aunt was firm, she went off home abashed and in tears.

Shan-hu herself was very much upset, and determined to seek shelter
elsewhere, finally taking up her abode with Mrs. An’s elder sister, a
lady of sixty odd years of age, whose son had died, leaving his wife
and child to his mother’s care. This Mrs. Yü was extremely fond of
Shan-hu; and when she heard the facts of the case, said it was all her
sister’s horrid disposition, and proposed to send Shan-hu back. The
latter, however, would not hear of this, and they continued to live
together like mother and daughter; neither would Shan-hu accept the
invitation of her two brothers to return home and marry some one else,
but remained there with Mrs. Yü, earning enough to live upon by
spinning and such work.

Ever since Shan-hu had been sent away, Ta-ch‘êng’s mother had been
endeavouring to get him another wife; but the fame of her temper had
spread far and wide, and no one would entertain her proposals. In
three or four years Erh-ch‘êng had grown up, and he was married first
to a young lady named Tsang-ku, whose temper turned out to be
something fearful, and far more ungovernable even than her
mother-in-law’s. When the latter only looked angry, Tsang-ku was
already at the shrieking stage; and Erh-ch‘êng, being of a very meek
disposition, dared not side with either. Thus it came about that Mrs.
An began to be in mortal fear of Tsang-ku; and whenever her
daughter-in-law was in a rage she would try and turn off her anger
with a smile. She seemed never to be able to please Tsang-ku, who in
her turn worked her mother-in-law like a slave, Ta-ch‘êng himself not
venturing to interfere, but only assisting his mother in washing the
dishes and sweeping the floor. Mother and son would often go to some
secluded spot, and there in secret tell their griefs to one another;
but before long Mrs. An was stretched upon a sick bed with nobody to
attend to her except Ta-ch‘êng. He watched her day and night without
sleeping, until both eyes were red and inflamed; and then when he went
to summon the younger son to take his place, Tsang-ku told him to
leave the house. Ta-ch‘êng now went off to inform Mrs. Yü, hoping that
she would come and assist; and he had hardly finished his tale of woe
before Shan-hu walked in. In great confusion at seeing her, he would
have left immediately had not Shan-hu held out her arms across the door;
whereupon he bolted underneath them and escaped. He did not dare tell
his mother, and shortly afterwards Mrs. Yü arrived, to the great joy
of Ta-ch‘êng’s mother, who made her stay in the house. Every day
something nice was sent for Mrs. Yü, and even when she told the
servants that there was no occasion for it, she having all she wanted
at her sister’s, the things still came as usual. However, she kept
none of them for herself, but gave what came to the invalid, who
gradually began to improve. Mrs. Yü’s grandson also used to come by
his mother’s orders, and inquire after the sick lady’s health, besides
bringing a packet of cakes and so on for her. “Ah, me!” cried Mrs. An,
“what a good daughter-in-law you have got, to be sure. What have you
done to her?” “What sort of a person was the one you sent away?” asked
her sister in reply. “She wasn’t as bad as some one I know of,” said
Mrs. An, “though not so good as yours.” “When she was here you had but
little to do,” replied Mrs. Yü; “and when you were angry she took no
notice of it. How was she not as good?” Mrs. An then burst into tears,
and saying how sorry she was, asked if Shan-hu had married again; to
which Mrs. Yü replied that she did not know, but would make inquiries.
In a few more days the patient was quite well, and Mrs. Yü proposed to
return; her sister, however, begged her to stay, and declared she
should die if she didn’t. Mrs. Yü then advised that Erh-ch‘êng and his
wife should live in a separate house, and Erh-ch‘êng spoke about it
to his wife; but she would not agree, and abused both Ta-ch‘êng and
his mother alike. It ended by Ta-ch‘êng giving up a large share of the
property, and ultimately Tsang-ku consented, and a deed of separation
was drawn up. Mrs. Yü then went away, returning next day with a
sedan-chair to carry her sister back; and no sooner had the latter put
her foot inside Mrs. Yü’s door, than she asked to see the
daughter-in-law, whom she immediately began to praise very highly.
“Ah,” said Mrs. Yü, “she’s a good girl, with her little faults like
the rest of us; but your daughter-in-law is just as good, though you
are not aware of it.” “Alas!” replied her sister, “I must have been as
senseless as a statue not to have seen what she was.” “I wonder what
Shan-hu, whom you turned out of doors, says of you,” rejoined Mrs. Yü.
“Why, swears at me, of course,” answered Mrs. An. “If you examine
yourself honestly and find nothing which should make people swear at
you, is it at all likely you would be sworn at?” asked Mrs. Yü. “Well,
all people are fallible,” replied the other, “and as I know she is not
perfect, I conclude she would naturally swear at me.” “If a person has
just cause for resentment, and yet does not indulge that resentment,
such behaviour should meet with a grateful acknowledgment; or if any
one has just cause for leaving another and yet does not do so, such
behaviour should entitle them to kind treatment. Now, all the things
that were sent when you were ill, and all the various little
attentions, did not come from my daughter-in-law but from yours.”
Mrs. An was amazed at hearing this, and asked for some explanation;
whereupon Mrs. Yü continued, “Shan-hu has been living here for a long
time. Everything she sent to you was bought with money earned by her
spinning, and that, too, continued late into the night.” Mrs. An here
burst into tears, and begged to be allowed to see Shan-hu, who came in
at Mrs. Yü’s summons, and threw herself on the ground at her
mother-in-law’s feet. Mrs. An was much abashed, and beat her head with
shame; but Mrs. Yü made it all up between them, and they became mother
and daughter as at first. In about ten days they went home, and, as
their property was not enough to support them, Ta-ch‘êng had to work
with his pen while his wife did the same with her needle. Erh-ch‘êng
was quite well off, but his brother would not apply to him, neither
did he himself offer to help them. Tsang-ku, too, would have nothing
to do with her sister-in-law, because she had been divorced; and
Shan-hu in her turn, knowing what Tsang-ku’s temper was, made no great
efforts to be friendly. So the two brothers lived apart;[305] and when
Tsang-ku was in one of her outrageous moods, all the others would stop
their ears, till at length there was only her husband and the servants
upon whom to vent her spleen. One day a maid-servant of hers
committed suicide, and the father of the girl brought an action
against Tsang-ku for having caused her death. Erh-ch‘êng went off to
the mandarin’s to take her place as defendant, but only got a good
beating for his pains, as the magistrate insisted that Tsang-ku
herself should appear, and answer to the charge, in spite of all her
friends could do. The consequence was she had her fingers
squeezed[306] until the flesh was entirely taken off; and the
magistrate, being a grasping man, a very severe fine was inflicted as
well. Erh-ch‘êng had now to mortgage his property before he could
raise enough money to get Tsang-ku released; but before long the
mortgagee threatened to foreclose, and he was obliged to enter into
negotiations for the sale of it to an old gentleman of the village
named Jen. Now Mr. Jen, knowing that half the property had belonged to
Ta-ch‘êng, said the deed of sale must be signed by the elder brother
as well; however, when Ta-ch‘êng reached his house, the old man cried
out, “I am Mr. An, M.A., who is this Jen that he should buy my
property?” Then, looking at Ta-ch‘êng, he added, “The filial piety of
you and your wife has obtained for me in the realms below this
interview;” upon which Ta-ch‘êng said, “O father, since you have this
power, help my younger brother.” “The unfilial son and the vixenish
daughter-in-law,” said the old man, “deserve no pity. Go home and
quickly buy back our ancestral property.” “We have barely enough to
live upon,” replied Ta-ch‘êng; “where, then, shall we find the
necessary money?” “Beneath the crape myrtle-tree,”[307] answered his
father, “you will find a store of silver, which you may take and use
for this purpose.” Ta-ch‘êng would have questioned him further, but
the old gentleman said no more, recovering consciousness shortly
afterwards[308] without knowing a word of what had happened. Ta-ch‘êng
went back and told his brother, who did not altogether believe the
story; Tsang-ku, however, hurried off with a number of men, and had
soon dug a hole four or five feet deep, at the bottom of which they
found a quantity of bricks and stones, but no gold. She then gave up
the idea and returned home, Ta-ch‘êng having meanwhile warned his
mother and wife not to go near the place while she was digging. When
Tsang-ku left, Mrs. An went herself to have a look, and seeing only
bricks and earth mingled together, she, too, retraced her steps.
Shan-hu was the next to go, and she found the hole full of silver
bullion; and then Ta-ch‘êng repaired to the spot and saw that there
was no mistake about it. Not thinking it right to apply this heir-loom
to his own private use, he now summoned Erh-ch‘êng to share it; and
having obtained twice as much as was necessary to redeem the estate,
the brothers returned to their homes. Erh-ch‘êng and Tsang-ku opened
their half together, when lo! the bag was full of tiles and rubbish.
They at once suspected Ta-ch‘êng of deceiving them, and Erh-ch‘êng ran
off to see how things were going at his brother’s. He arrived just as
Ta-ch‘êng was spreading the silver on the table, and with his mother
and wife rejoicing over their acquisition; and when he had told them
what had occurred, Ta-ch‘êng expressed much sympathy for him, and at
once presented him with his own half of the treasure. Erh-ch‘êng was
delighted, and paid off the mortgage on the land, feeling very
grateful to his brother for such kindness. Tsang-ku, however, declared
it was a proof that Ta-ch‘êng had been cheating him; “for how,
otherwise,” argued she, “can you understand a man sharing anything
with another, and then resigning his own half?”

Erh-ch‘êng himself did not know what to think of it; but next day the
mortgagee sent to say that the money paid in was all imitation silver,
and that he was about to lay the case before the authorities. Husband
and wife were greatly alarmed at this, and Tsang-ku exclaimed, “Well,
I never thought your brother was as bad as this. He’s simply trying to
take your life.” Erh-ch‘êng himself was in a terrible fright, and
hurried off to the mortgagee to entreat for mercy; but as the latter
was extremely angry and would hear of no compromise, Erh-ch‘êng was
obliged to make over the property to him to dispose of himself. The
money was then returned, and when he got home he found that two lumps
had been cut through, shewing merely an outside layer of silver, about
as thick as an onion-leaf, covering nothing but copper within.
Tsang-ku and Erh-ch‘êng then agreed to keep the broken pieces
themselves, but send the rest back to Ta-ch‘êng, with a message,
saying that they were deeply indebted to him for all his kindness, and
that they had ventured to retain two of the lumps of silver out of
compliment to the giver; also that Ta-ch‘êng might consider himself
the owner of the mortgaged land, which he could redeem or not as he
pleased. Ta-ch‘êng, who did not perceive the intention in all this,
refused to accept the land; however, Erh-ch‘êng entreated him to do
so, and at last he consented. When he came to weigh the money, he
found it was five ounces short, and therefore bade Shan-hu pawn
something from her jewel-box to make up the amount, with which he
proceeded to pay off the mortgage. The mortgagee, suspecting it was
the same money that had been offered him by Erh-ch‘êng, cut the pieces
in halves, and saw that it was all silver of the purest quality.
Accordingly he accepted it in liquidation of his claim, and handed the
mortgage back to Ta-ch‘êng. Meanwhile, Erh-ch‘êng had been expecting
some catastrophe; but when he found that the mortgaged land had been
redeemed, he did not know what to make of it. Tsang-ku thought that at
the time of the digging Ta-ch‘êng had concealed the genuine silver,
and immediately rushed off to his house, and began to revile them all
round. Ta-ch‘êng now understood why they had sent him back the money;
and Shan-hu laughed and said, “The property is safe; why, then, this
anger?” Thereupon she made Ta-ch‘êng hand over the deeds to Tsang-ku.

One night after this Erh-ch‘êng’s father appeared to him in a dream,
and reproached him, saying, “Unfilial son, unfraternal brother, your
hour is at hand. Wherefore usurp rights that do not belong to you?” In
the morning Erh-ch‘êng told Tsang-ku of his dream, and proposed to
return the property to his brother; but she only laughed at him for a
fool. Just then the eldest of his two sons, a boy of seven, died of
small-pox, and this frightened Tsang-ku so that she agreed to restore
the deeds. Ta-ch‘êng would not accept them; and now the second child,
a boy of three, died also; whereupon Tsang-ku seized the deeds, and
threw them into her brother-in-law’s house. Spring was over, but the
land was in a terribly neglected state; so Ta-ch‘êng set to work and
put it in order again. From this moment Tsang-ku was a changed woman
towards her mother- and sister-in-law; and when, six months later,
Mrs. An died, she was so grieved that she refused to take any
nourishment. “Alas!” cried she, “that my mother-in-law has died thus
early, and prevented me from waiting upon her. Heaven will not allow
me to retrieve my past errors.” Tsang-ku had thirteen children,[309]
but as none of them lived, they were obliged to adopt one of
Ta-ch‘êng’s,[310] who, with his wife, lived to a good old age, and had
three sons, two of whom took their doctor’s degree. People said this
was a reward for filial piety and brotherly love.


FOOTNOTES:

[302] See No. XLIII., note 248.

[303] See No. LIII., note 288.

[304] Such is the Chinese idiom for what we should call “bitter”
tears. This phrase is constantly employed in the notices of the death
of a parent sent round to friends and relatives.

[305] A disgraceful state of things, in the eyes of the Chinese. See
the paraphrase of the _Sacred Edict_, Maxim 1.

[306] An illegal form of punishment, under the present dynasty, which
authorizes only _bambooing_ of two kinds, each of five degrees of
severity; _banishment_, of three degrees of duration; _transportation_
for life, of three degrees of distance; and _death_, of two kinds,
namely, by strangulation and decapitation. That torture is
occasionally resorted to by the officers of the Chinese Empire is an
indisputable fact; that it is commonly employed by the whole body of
mandarins could only be averred by those who have not had the
opportunities or the desire to discover the actual truth.

[307] _Lagerstrœmia indica._

[308] That is, old Mr. Jen’s body had been possessed by the
disembodied spirit of Ta-ch‘êng’s father.

[309] Five is considered a large number for an ordinary Chinese woman.

[310] In order to leave some one behind to look after their graves and
perform the duties of ancestral worship. No one can well refuse to
give a son to be adopted by a childless brother.



LVI.

DR. TSÊNG’S DREAM.


There was a Fohkien gentleman named Tsêng, who had just taken his
doctor’s degree. One day he was out walking with several other
recently-elected doctors, when they heard that at a temple hard by
there lived an astrologer, and accordingly the party proceeded thither
to get their fortunes told. They went in and sat down, and the
astrologer made some very complimentary remarks to Tsêng, at which he
fanned himself and smiled, saying, “Have I any chance of ever wearing
the dragon robes and the jade girdle?”[311] The astrologer[312]
immediately put on a serious face, and replied that he would be a
Secretary of State during twenty years of national tranquillity.
Thereupon Tsêng was much pleased, and began to give himself greater
airs than ever. A slight rain coming on, they sought shelter in the
priest’s quarters, where they found an old bonze, with sunken eyes and
a big nose, sitting upon a mat. He took no notice of the strangers,
who, after having bowed to him, stretched themselves upon the couches
to chat, not forgetting to congratulate Tsêng upon the destiny which
had been foretold him. Tsêng, too, seemed to think the thing was a
matter of certainty, and mentioned the names of several friends he
intended to advance, amongst others the old family butler. Roars of
laughter greeted this announcement, mingled with the patter-patter of
the increasing rain outside. Tsêng then curled himself up for a nap,
when suddenly in walked two officials bearing a commission under the
Great Seal appointing Tsêng to the Grand Secretariat. As soon as Tsêng
understood their errand, he rushed off at once to pay his respects to
the Emperor, who graciously detained him some time in conversation,
and then issued instructions that the promotion and dismissal of all
officers below the third grade[313] should be vested in Tsêng alone.
He was next presented with the dragon robes, the jade girdle, and a
horse from the imperial stables, after which he performed the
_ko-t‘ow_[314] before His Majesty and took his leave. He then went
home, but it was no longer the old home of his youth. Painted beams,
carved pillars, and a general profusion of luxury and elegance, made
him wonder where on earth he was; until, nervously stroking his
beard, he ventured to call out in a low tone. Immediately the
responses of numberless attendants echoed through the place like
thunder. Presents of costly food were sent to him by all the grandees,
and his gate was absolutely blocked up by the crowds of retainers who
were constantly coming and going. When Privy Councillors came to
see him, he would rush out in haste to receive them; when
Under-Secretaries of State visited him, he made them a polite bow; but
to all below these he would hardly vouchsafe a word. The Governor of
Shansi sent him twelve singing-girls, two of whom, Ni-ni and Fairy, he
made his favourites. All day long he had nothing to do but find
amusement as best he could, until he bethought himself that formerly a
man named Wang had often assisted him with money. Thereupon he
memorialized the Throne and obtained official employment for him. Then
he recollected that there was another man to whom he owed a
long-standing grudge. He at once caused this man, who was in the
Government service, to be impeached and stripped of his rank and
dignities. Thus he squared accounts with both. One day when out in his
chair a drunken man bumped against one of his tablet-bearers.[315]
Tsêng had him seized and sent in to the mayor’s yamên, where he died
under the bamboo. Owners of land adjoining his would make him a
present of the richest portions, fearing the consequences if they did
not do so; and thus he became very wealthy, almost on a par with the
State itself. By-and-by, Ni-ni and Fairy died, and Tsêng was
overwhelmed with grief. Suddenly he remembered that in former years he
had seen a beautiful girl whom he wished to purchase as a concubine,
but want of money had then prevented him from carrying out his
intention. Now there was no longer that difficulty; and accordingly he
sent off two trusty servants to get the girl by force. In a short time
she arrived, when he found that she had grown more beautiful than
ever; and so his cup of happiness was full. But years rolled on, and
gradually his fellow-officials became estranged, Tsêng taking no
notice of their behaviour, until at last one of them impeached him to
the Throne in a long and bitter memorial. Happily, however, the
Emperor still regarded him with favour, and for some time kept the
memorial by him unanswered. Then followed a joint memorial from the
whole of the Privy Council, including those who had once thronged his
doors, and had falsely called him their dear father. The Imperial
rescript to this document was “Banishment to Yunnan,”[316] his son,
who was Governor of P‘ing-yang, being also implicated in his guilt.
When Tsêng heard the news, he was overcome with fear; but an armed
guard was already at his gate, and the lictors were forcing their way
into his innermost apartments. They tore off his robe and official
hat, and bound him and his wife with cords. Then they collected
together in the hall his gold, his silver, and bank-notes,[317] to the
value of many hundred thousands of taels. His pearls, and jade, and
precious stones filled many bushel baskets. His curtains, and screens,
and beds, and other articles of furniture were brought out by
thousands; while the swaddling-clothes of his infant boy and the shoes
of his little girl were lying littered about the steps. It was a sad
sight for Tsêng; but a worse blow was that of his concubine carried
off almost lifeless before his eyes, himself not daring to utter a
word. Then all the apartments, store-rooms, and treasuries were sealed
up; and, with a volley of curses, the soldiers bade Tsêng begone, and
proceeded to leave the place, dragging Tsêng with them. The husband
and wife prayed that they might be allowed some old cart, but this
favour was denied them. After about ten _li_, Tsêng’s wife could
barely walk, her feet being swollen and sore. Tsêng helped her along
as best he could, but another ten _li_ reduced him to a state of
abject fatigue. By-and-by they saw before them a great mountain, the
summit of which was lost in the clouds; and, fearing they should be
made to ascend it, Tsêng and his wife stood still and began to weep.
The lictors, however, clamoured round them, and would permit of no
rest. The sun was rapidly sinking, and there was no place at hand
where they could obtain shelter for the night. So they continued on
their weary way until about half-way up the hill, when his wife’s
strength was quite exhausted, and she sat down by the roadside. Tsêng,
too, halted to rest in spite of the soldiers and their abuse; but they
had hardly stopped a moment before down came a band of robbers upon
them, each with a sharp knife in his hand. The soldiers immediately
took to their heels, and Tsêng fell on his knees before the robbers,
saying, “I am a poor criminal going into banishment, and have nothing
to give you. I pray you spare my life.” But the robbers sternly
replied, “We are all the victims of your crimes, and now we want your
wicked head.” Then Tsêng began to revile them, saying, “Dogs! though I
am under sentence of banishment, I am still an officer of the State.”
But the robbers cursed him again, flourishing a sword over his neck,
and the next thing he heard was the noise of his own head as it fell
with a thud to the ground. At the same instant two devils stepped
forward and seized him each by one hand, compelling him to go with
them. After a little while they arrived at a great city where there
was a hideously ugly king sitting upon a throne judging between good
and evil. Tsêng crawled before him on his hands and knees to receive
sentence, and the king, after turning over a few pages of his
register, thundered out, “The punishment of a traitor who has brought
misfortune on his country: the cauldron of boiling oil!” To this ten
thousand devils responded with a cry like a clap of thunder, and one
huge monster led Tsêng down alongside the cauldron, which was seven
feet in height, and surrounded on all sides by blazing fuel, so that
it was of a glowing red heat. Tsêng shrieked for mercy, but it was all
up with him, for the devil seized him by the hair and the small of his
back and pitched him headlong in. Down he fell with a splash, and rose
and sank with the bubbling of the oil, which ate through his flesh
into his very vitals. He longed to die, but death would not come to
him. After about half-an-hour’s boiling, a devil took him out on a
pitchfork and threw him down before the Infernal King, who again
consulted his note-book, and said, “You relied on your position to
treat others with contumely and injustice, for which you must suffer
on the Sword-Hill.” Again he was led away by devils to a large hill
thickly studded with sharp swords, their points upwards like the
shoots of bamboo, with here and there the remains of many miserable
wretches who had suffered before him. Tsêng again cried for mercy and
crouched upon the ground; but a devil bored into him with a poisoned
awl until he screamed with pain. He was then seized and flung up high
into the air, falling down right on the sword points, to his most
frightful agony. This was repeated several times until he was almost
hacked to pieces. He was then brought once more before the king, who
asked what was the amount of his peculations while on earth.
Immediately an accountant came forward with an abacus, and said that
the whole sum was 3,210,000 taels, whereupon the king replied, “Let
him drink that amount.” Forthwith the devils piled up a great heap of
gold and silver, and, when they had melted it in a huge crucible,
began pouring it into Tsêng’s mouth. The pain was excruciating as the
molten metal ran down his throat into his vitals; but since in life he
had never been able to get enough of the dross, it was determined he
should feel no lack of it then. He was half-a-day drinking it, and
then the king ordered him away to be born again as a woman[318] in
Kan-chou. A few steps brought them to a huge frame, where on an iron
axle revolved a mighty wheel many hundred _yojanas_[319] in
circumference, and shining with a brilliant light. The devils flogged
Tsêng on to the wheel, and he shut his eyes as he stepped up. Then
whiz--and away he went, feet foremost, round with the wheel, until he
felt himself tumble off and a cold thrill ran through him, when he
opened his eyes and found he was changed into a girl. He saw his
father and mother in rags and tatters, and in one corner a beggar’s
bowl and a staff,[320] and understood the calamity that had befallen
him. Day after day he begged about the streets, and his inside rumbled
for want of food; he had no clothes to his back. At fourteen years of
age he was sold to a gentleman as concubine; and then, though food and
clothes were not wanting, he had to put up with the scoldings and
floggings of the wife, who one day burnt him with a hot iron.[321]
Luckily the gentleman took a fancy to him and treated him well, which
kindness Tsêng repaid by an irreproachable fidelity. It happened,
however, that on one occasion when they were chatting together,
burglars broke into the house and killed the gentleman, Tsêng having
escaped by hiding himself under the bed. Thereupon he was immediately
charged by the wife with murder, and on being taken before the
authorities was sentenced to die the “lingering death.”[322] This
sentence was at once carried out with tortures more horrible than any
in all the Courts of Purgatory, in the middle of which Tsêng heard one
of his companions call out, “Hullo, there! you’ve got the nightmare.”
Tsêng got up and rubbed his eyes, and his friends said, “It’s quite
late in the day, and we’re all very hungry.” But the old priest
smiled, and asked him if the prophecy as to his future rank was true
or not. Tsêng bowed and begged him to explain; whereupon the old
priest said, “For those who cultivate virtue, a lily will grow up even
in the fiery pit.”[323] Tsêng had gone thither full of pride and
vainglory; he went home an altered man. From that day he thought no
more of becoming a Secretary of State, but retired into the hills, and
I know not what became of him after that.


FOOTNOTES:

[311] That is, of rising to the highest offices of State.

[312] The Chinese term used throughout is “star-man.”

[313] Chinese official life is divided into nine grades.

[314] Prostrating himself three times, and knocking his head on the
ground thrice at each prostration.

[315] The _retinue_ of a high mandarin is composed as follows:--First,
gong-bearers, then bannermen, tablet-bearers (on which tablets are
inscribed the titles of the official), a large red umbrella, mounted
attendants, a box containing a change of clothes, bearers of regalia,
a second gong, a small umbrella or sunshade, a large wooden fan,
executioners, lictors from hell, who wear tall hats; a mace (called a
“golden melon”), bamboos for “bambooing,” incense-bearers, more
attendants, and now the great man himself, followed by a body-guard of
soldiers and a few personal attendants, amounting in all to nearly one
hundred persons, many of whom are mere street-rowdies or beggars,
hired at a trifling outlay when required to join what might otherwise
be an imposing procession. The scanty _retinues_ of foreign officials
in China still continue to excite the scorn of the populace, who love
to compare the rag-tag and bob-tail magnificence of their own
functionaries with the modest show even of H.B.M.’s Minister at
Peking.

[316] A land journey of about three months, ending in a region which
the Chinese have always regarded as semi-barbarous.

[317] This use of paper money in China is said to date from A.D. 1236;
that is, during the reign of the Mongol Emperor, Ogdai Khan.

[318] This contingency is much dreaded by the Chinese.

[319] A _yojana_ has been variously estimated at from five to nine
English miles.

[320] The _patra_ and _khakkharam_ of the _bikshu_ or Buddhist
mendicant.

[321] It is not considered quite correct to take a concubine unless
the wife is childless, in which case it is held that the proposition
to do so, and thus secure the much-desired posterity, should emanate
from the wife herself. On page 41 of Vol. XIII., of this author, we
read, “and if at thirty years of age you have no children, then sell
your hair-pins and other ornaments, and buy a concubine for your
husband. For the childless state is a hard one to bear;” or, as Victor
Hugo puts it in his _Légende des Siècles_, there is nothing so sad as
“la maison sans enfants.”

[322] This is the celebrated form of death, reserved for parricide and
similar awful crimes, about which so much has been written. Strictly
speaking, the malefactor should be literally chopped to pieces in
order to prolong his agonies; but the sentence is now rarely, if ever,
carried out in its extreme sense. A few gashes are made upon the
wretched victim’s body, and he is soon put out of his misery by
decapitation. As a matter of fact, this death is not enumerated among
the _Five Punishments_ authorized by the Penal Code of the present
dynasty. See No. LV., note 306.

[323] Alluding to a well-known Buddhist miracle in which a _bikshu_
was to be thrown into a cauldron of boiling water in a fiery pit, when
suddenly a lotus-flower came forth, the fire was extinguished, and the
water became cold.



LVII.

THE COUNTRY OF THE CANNIBALS.[324]


At Chiao-chou[325] there lived a man named Hsü, who gained his living
by trading across the sea. On one occasion he was carried far out of
his course by a violent tempest, and reached a country of high hills
and dense jungle,[326] where, after making fast his boat and taking
provisions with him, he landed, hoping to meet with some of the
inhabitants. He then saw that the rocks were covered with large holes,
like the cells of bees; and, hearing the sound of voices from within,
he stopped in front of one of them and peeped in. To his infinite
horror he beheld two hideous beings, with thick rows of horrid fangs,
and eyes that glared like lamps, engaged in tearing to pieces and
devouring some raw deer’s flesh; and, turning round, he would have
fled instantly from the spot, had not the cave-men already espied
him; and, leaving their food, they seized him and dragged him in.
Thereupon ensued a chattering between them, resembling the noise of
birds or beasts,[327] and they proceeded to pull off Hsü’s clothes as
if about to eat him; but Hsü, who was frightened almost to death,
offered them the food he had in his wallet, which they ate up with
great relish, and looked inside for more. Hsü waved his hand to shew
it was all finished, and then they angrily seized him again; at which
he cried out, “I have a saucepan in my boat, and can cook you some.”
The cave-men did not understand what he said; but, by dint of
gesticulating freely, they at length seemed to have an idea of what he
meant; and, having taken him down to the shore to fetch the saucepan,
they returned with him to the cave, where he lighted a fire and cooked
the remainder of the deer, with the flavour of which they appeared to
be mightily pleased. At night they rolled a big stone to the mouth of
the cave,[328] fearing lest he should try to escape; and Hsü himself
lay down at a distance from them in doubt as to whether his life would
be spared. At daybreak the cave-men went out, leaving the entrance
blocked, and by-and-by came back with a deer, which they gave to Hsü
to cook. Hsü flayed the carcase, and from a remote corner of the cave
took some water and prepared a large quantity, which was no sooner
ready than several other cave-men arrived to join in the feast. When
they had finished all there was, they made signs that Hsü’s saucepan
was too small; and three or four days afterwards they brought him a
large one of the same shape as those in common use amongst men,
subsequently furnishing him with constant supplies of wolf and
deer,[329] of which they always invited him to partake. By degrees
they began to treat him kindly, and not to shut him up when they went
out; and Hsü, too, gradually learnt to understand, and even to speak,
a little of their language, which pleased them so much that they
finally gave him a cave-woman for his wife. Hsü was horribly afraid of
her; but, as she treated him with great consideration, always
reserving tit-bits of food for him, they lived very happily together.
One day all the cave-people got up early in the morning, and, having
adorned themselves with strings of fine pearls, they went forth as if
to meet some honoured guest, giving orders to Hsü to cook an extra
quantity of meat that day. “It is the birthday of our King,” said
Hsü’s wife to him; and then, running out, she informed the other
cave-people that her husband had no pearls. So each gave five from
his own string, and Hsü’s wife added ten to these, making in all
fifty, which she threaded on a hempen fibre and hung around his neck,
each pearl being worth over an hundred ounces of silver. Then they
went away, and as soon as Hsü had finished his cooking, his wife
appeared and invited him to come and receive the King. So off they
went to a huge cavern, covering about a mow[330] of ground, in which
was a huge stone, smoothed away at the top like a table, with stone
seats at the four sides. At the upper end was a dais, over which was
spread a leopard’s skin, the other seats having only deer-skins; and
within the cavern some twenty or thirty cave-men ranged themselves on
the seats. After a short interval a great wind began to stir up the
dust, and they all rushed out to a creature very much resembling
themselves, which hurried into the cave, and, squatting down
cross-legged, cocked its head and looked about like a cormorant. The
other cave-men then filed in and took up their positions right and
left of the dais, where they stood gazing up at the King with their
arms folded before them in the form of a cross. The King counted them
one by one, and asked if they were all present; and when they replied
in the affirmative, he looked at Hsü and inquired who he was.
Thereupon Hsü’s wife stepped forward and said he was her husband, and
the others all loudly extolled his skill in cookery, two of them
running out and bringing back some cooked meat, which they set before
the King. His Majesty swallowed it by handfuls, and found it so nice
that he gave orders to be supplied regularly; and then, turning to
Hsü, he asked him why his string of beads[331] was so short. “He has
but recently arrived among us,” replied the cave-men, “and hasn’t got
a complete set;” upon which the King drew ten pearls from the string
round his own neck and bestowed them upon Hsü. Each was as big as the
top of one’s finger, and as round as a bullet; and Hsü’s wife threaded
them for him and hung them round his neck. Hsü himself crossed his
arms and thanked the King in the language of the country, after which
His Majesty went off in a gust of wind as rapidly as a bird can fly,
and the cave-men sat down and finished what was left of the banquet.
Four years afterwards Hsü’s wife gave birth to a triplet of two boys
and one girl, all of whom were ordinary human beings, and not at all
like the mother; at which the other cave-people were delighted, and
would often play with them and caress them.[332] Three years passed
away, and the children could walk about, after which their father
taught them to speak his own tongue; and in their early babblings
their human origin was manifested. The boys, as mere children, could
climb about on the mountains as easily as though walking upon a level
road; and between them and their father there grew up a mutual feeling
of attachment. One day the mother had gone out with the girl and one
of the boys, and was absent for a long time. A strong north wind was
blowing, and Hsü, filled with thoughts of his old home, led his other
son down with him to the beach, where lay the boat in which he had
formerly reached this country. He then proposed to the boy that they
should go away together; and, having explained to him that they could
not inform his mother, father and son stepped on board, and, after a
voyage of only twenty-four hours, arrived safely at Chiao-chou. On
reaching home Hsü found that his wife had married again; so he sold
two of his pearls for an enormous sum of money,[333] and set up a
splendid establishment. His son was called Piao, and at fourteen or
fifteen years of age the boy could lift a weight of three thousand
catties[334] (4,000 lbs.). He was extremely fond of athletics of all
kinds, and thus attracted the notice of the Commander-in-Chief, who
gave him a commission as sub-lieutenant. Just at that time there
happened to be some trouble on the frontier, and young Piao, having
covered himself with glory, was made a colonel at the age of eighteen.

About that time another merchant was driven by stress of weather to
the country of the cave-men, and had hardly stepped ashore before he
observed a young man whom he knew at once to be of Chinese origin. The
young man asked him whence he came, and finally took him into a cave
hid away in a dark valley and concealed by the dense jungle. There he
bade him remain, and in a little while he returned with some deer’s
flesh, which he gave the merchant to eat, saying at the same time that
his own father was a Chiao-chou man. The merchant now knew that the
young man was Hsü’s son, he himself being acquainted with Hsü as a
trader in the same line of business. “Why, he’s an old friend of
mine,” cried the latter; “his other son is now a colonel.” The young
man did not know what was meant by a _colonel_, so the merchant told
him it was the title of a Chinese mandarin. “And what is a
_mandarin_?” asked the youth. “A mandarin,” replied the merchant, “is
one who goes out with a chair and horses; who at home sits upon a dais
in the hall; whose summons is answered by a hundred voices; who is
looked at only with sidelong eyes, and in whose presence all people
stand aslant;--this is to be a mandarin.” The young man was deeply
touched at this recital, and at length the merchant said to him,
“Since your honoured father is at Chiao-chou, why do you remain here?”
“Indeed,” replied the youth, “I have often indulged the same feeling;
but my mother is not a Chinese woman, and, apart from the difference
of her language and appearance, I fear that if the other cave-people
found it out they would do us some mischief.” He then took his leave,
being in rather a disturbed state of mind, and bade the merchant wait
until the wind should prove favourable,[335] when he promised to come
and see him off, and charge him with a letter to his father and
brother. Six months the merchant remained in that cave, occasionally
taking a peep at the cave-people passing backwards and forwards, but
not daring to leave his retreat. As soon as the monsoon set in the
young man arrived and urged him to hurry away, begging him, also, not
to forget the letter to his father. So the merchant sailed away and
soon reached Chiao-chou, where he visited the colonel and told him the
whole story. Piao was much affected, and wished to go in search of
those members of the family; but his father feared the dangers he
would encounter, and advised him not to think of such a thing.
However, Piao was not to be deterred; and having imparted his scheme
to the commander-in-chief, he took with him two soldiers and set off.
Adverse winds prevailed at that time, and they beat about for half a
moon, until they were out of sight of all land, could not see a foot
before them, and had completely lost their reckoning. Just then a
mighty sea arose and capsized their boat, tossing Piao into the
water, where he floated about for some time at the will of the waves,
until suddenly somebody dragged him out and carried him into a house.
Then he saw that his rescuer was to all appearances a cave-man, and
accordingly he addressed him in the cave-people’s language, and told
him whither he himself was bound. “It is my native place,” replied the
cave-man, in astonishment; “but you will excuse my saying that you are
now 8,000 _li_ out of your course. This is the way to the country of
the Poisonous Dragons, and not your route at all.” He then went off to
find a boat for Piao, and, himself swimming in the water behind,
pushed it along like an arrow from a bow, so quickly that by the next
day they had traversed the whole distance. On the shore Piao observed
a young man walking up and down and evidently watching him; and,
knowing that no human beings dwelt there, he guessed at once that he
was his brother. Approaching more closely, he saw that he was right;
and, seizing the young man’s hand, he asked after his mother and
sister. On hearing that they were well, he would have gone directly to
see them; but the younger one begged him not to do so, and ran away
himself to fetch them. Meanwhile, Piao turned to thank the cave-man
who had brought him there, but he, too, had disappeared. In a few
minutes his mother and sister arrived, and, on seeing Piao, they could
not restrain their tears. Piao then laid his scheme before them, and
when they said they feared people would ill-treat them, he replied,
“In China I hold a high position, and people will not dare to shew
you disrespect.” Thus they determined to go. The wind, however, was
against them, and mother and son were at a loss what to do, when
suddenly the sail bellied out towards the south, and a rustling sound
was heard. “Heaven helps us, my mother!” cried Piao, full of joy; and,
hurrying on board at once, in three days they had reached their
destination. As they landed the people fled right and left in fear,
Piao having divided his own clothes amongst the party; and when they
arrived at the house, and his mother saw Hsü, she began to rate him
soundly for running away without her. Hsü hastened to acknowledge his
error, and then all the family and servants were introduced to her,
each one being in mortal dread of such a singular personage. Piao now
bade his mother learn to talk Chinese, and gave her any quantity of
fine clothes and rich meats, to the infinite delight of the old lady.
She and her daughter both dressed in man’s clothes, and by the end of
a few months were able to understand what was said to them. The
brother, named Pao [Leopard], and the sister, Yeh [Night], were both
clever enough, and immensely strong into the bargain. Piao was ashamed
that Pao could not read, and set to work to teach him; and the
youngster was so quick that he learnt the sacred books[336] and
histories by merely reading them once over. However, he would not
enter upon a literary career, loving better to draw a strong bow or
ride a spirited horse, and finally taking the highest military
degree. He married the daughter of a post-captain; but his sister had
some trouble in getting a husband, because of her being the child of a
cave-woman. At length a serjeant, named Yüan, who was under her
brother’s command, was forced to take her as his wife. She could draw
a hundred-catty bow, and shoot birds at a hundred paces without ever
missing. Whenever Yüan went to battle she went with him; and his
subsequent rise to high rank was chiefly due to her. At thirty-four
years of age Pao got a command; and in his great battles his mother,
clad in armour and grasping a spear, would fight by his side, to the
terror of all their adversaries; and when he himself received the
dignity of an hereditary title, he memorialized the Throne to grant
his mother the title of “lady.”


FOOTNOTES:

[324] The Chinese term--here translated “Cannibals”--is a meaningless
imitation by two Chinese characters of the Sanscrit _yakcha_, or
certain demons who feed upon human flesh.

[325] Hué, the capital of Cochin-China.

[326] The island of Hainan, inhabited as it was in earlier times by a
race of savages, is the most likely source of the following marvellous
adventures.

[327] To which sounds the languages of the west have been more than
once likened by the Chinese. It is only fair, however, to the lettered
classes to state that they have a similar contempt for their own local
dialects; regarding _Mandarin_ as the only form of speech worthy to be
employed by men.

[328] The occasional analogies to the story of the Cyclops must be
evident to all readers.

[329] The animal here mentioned is the plain brown deer, or _Rusa
Swinhoii_, of Formosa, in which island I should prefer to believe, but
for the great distance from Hué, that the scenes here narrated took
place.

[330] About one sixth of an acre. On old title-deeds of landed
property in China may still be seen measurements calculated according
to the amount of grain that could be sown thereon.

[331] The king here uses the words “ku-t‘u-tzŭ,” which are probably
intended by the author to be an imitation of a term in the savage
tongue.

[332] Fondness for children is specially a trait of Chinese character;
and a single baby would do far more to ensure the safety of a foreign
traveller in China than all the usual paraphernalia of pocket-pistols
and revolvers.

[333] Literally, “a million of taels,” the word used being the
Buddhist term _chao_.

[334] Here again we have 100 _chün_, one _chün_ being equal to about
40 _lbs._ Chinese weights, measures, distances, numbers, &c., are
often very loosely employed; and it is probable that not more than 100
_catties_, say 133 _lbs._, is here meant.

[335] That is, until the change of the monsoon from S.W. to N.E.

[336] See No. XLI., note 237.



LVIII.

FOOT-BALL ON THE TUNG-T‘ING LAKE.


Wang Shih-hsiu was a native of Lu-chou, and such a lusty fellow that
he could pick up a stone mortar.[337] Father and son were both good
foot-ball players; but when the former was about forty years of age he
was drowned while crossing the Money Pool.[338] Some eight or nine
years later our hero happened to be on his way to Hunan; and anchoring
in the Tung-t‘ing lake, watched the moon rising in the east and
illuminating the water into a bright sheet of light. While he was thus
engaged, lo! from out of the lake emerged five men, bringing with them
a large mat which they spread on the surface of the water so as to
cover about six yards square. Wine and food were then arranged upon
it, and Wang heard the sound of the dishes knocking together, but it
was a dull, soft sound, not at all like that of ordinary crockery.
Three of the men sat down on the mat and the other two waited upon
them. One of the former was dressed in yellow, the other two in white,
and each wore a black turban. Their demeanour as they sat there side
by side was grave and dignified; in appearance they resembled three of
the ancients, but by the fitful beams of the moon Wang was unable to
see very clearly what they were like. The attendants wore black serge
dresses, and one of them seemed to be a boy, while the other was many
years older. Wang now heard the man in the yellow dress say, “This is
truly a fine moonlight night for a drinking-bout;” to which one of his
companions replied, “It quite reminds me of the night when Prince
Kuang-li feasted at Pear-blossom Island.”[339] The three then pledged
each other in bumping goblets, talking all the time in such a low tone
that Wang could not hear what they were saying. The boatmen kept
themselves concealed, crouching down at the bottom of the boat; but
Wang looked hard at the attendants, the elder of whom bore a striking
resemblance to his father, though he spoke in quite a different tone
of voice. When it was drawing towards midnight, one of them proposed a
game at ball; and in a moment the boy disappeared in the water, to
return immediately with a huge ball--quite an armful in
fact--apparently full of quicksilver, and lustrous within and without.
All now rose up, and the man in the yellow dress bade the old
attendant join them in the game. The ball was kicked up some ten or
fifteen feet in the air, and was quite dazzling in its brilliancy; but
once, when it had gone up with a whish-h-h-h, it fell at some distance
off, right in the very middle of Wang’s boat. The occasion was
irresistible, and Wang, exerting all his strength, kicked the ball
with all his might. It seemed unusually light and soft to the touch,
and his foot broke right through. Away went the ball to a good height,
pouring forth a stream of light like a rainbow from the hole Wang had
made, and making as it fell a curve like that of a comet rushing
across the sky. Down it glided into the water, where it fizzed a
moment and then went out. “Ho, there!” cried out the players in anger,
“what living creature is that who dares thus to interrupt our sport?”
“Well kicked--indeed!” said the old man, “that’s a favourite drop-kick
of my own.” At this, one of the two in white clothes began to abuse
him saying, “What! you old baggage, when we are all so annoyed in this
manner, are you to come forward and make a joke of it? Go at once with
the boy and bring back to us this practical joker, or your own back
will have a taste of the stick.” Wang was of course unable to flee;
however, he was not a bit afraid, and grasping a sword stood there in
the middle of the boat. In a moment, the old man and boy arrived, also
armed, and then Wang knew that the former was really his father, and
called out to him at once, “Father, I am your son.” The old man was
greatly alarmed, but father and son forgot their troubles in the joy
of meeting once again. Meanwhile, the boy went back, and Wang’s
father bade him hide, or they would all be lost. The words were hardly
out of his mouth when the three men jumped on board the boat. Their
faces were black as pitch, their eyes as big as pomegranates, and they
at once proceeded to seize the old man. Wang struggled hard with them,
and managing to get the boat free from her moorings, he seized his
sword and cut off one of his adversaries’ arms. The arm dropped down
and the man in the yellow dress ran away; whereupon one of those in
white rushed at Wang who immediately cut off his head, and he fell
into the water with a splash, at which the third disappeared. Wang and
his father were now anxious to get away, when suddenly a great mouth
arose from the lake, as big and as deep as a well, and against which
they could hear the noise of the water when it struck. This mouth blew
forth a violent gust of wind, and in a moment the waves were mountains
high and all the boats on the lake were tossing about. The boatmen
were terrified, but Wang seized one of two huge stones there were on
board for use as anchors,[340] about 130 lbs. in weight, and threw it
into the water, which immediately began to subside; and then he threw
in the other one, upon which the wind dropped, and the lake became
calm again. Wang thought his father was a disembodied spirit, but the
old man said, “I never died. There were nineteen of us drowned in the
river, all of whom were eaten by the fish-goblins except myself: I was
saved because I could play foot-ball. Those you saw got into trouble
with the Dragon King, and were sent here. They were all marine
creatures, and the ball they were playing with was a fish-bladder.”
Father and son were overjoyed at meeting again, and at once proceeded
on their way. In the morning they found in the boat a huge fin--the
arm that Wang had cut off the night before.


FOOTNOTES:

[337] Used for pounding rice.

[338] A fancy name for the Tung-t‘ing lake. See No. XXXVIII., note
226.

[339] The commentator declares himself unable to trace this allusion.

[340] These are bound in between several sharp-pointed stakes and
serve their purpose very well in the inland waters of China.



LIX.

THE THUNDER GOD.


Lê Yün-hao and Hsia P‘ing-tzŭ lived as boys in the same village, and
when they grew up read with the same tutor, becoming the firmest of
friends. Hsia was a clever fellow, and had acquired some reputation
even at the early age of ten. Lê was not a bit envious, but rather
looked up to him, and Hsia in return helped his friend very much with
his studies, so that he, too, made considerable progress. This
increased Hsia’s fame, though try as he would he could never succeed
at the public examinations, and by-and-by he sickened and died. His
family was so poor they could not find money for his burial, whereupon
Lê came forward and paid all expenses, besides taking care of his
widow and children.

Every peck or bushel he would share with them, the widow trusting
entirely to his support; and thus he acquired a good name in the
village, though not being a rich man himself he soon ran through all
his own property. “Alas!” cried he, “where talents like Hsia’s failed,
can I expect to succeed? Wealth and rank are matters of destiny, and
my present career will only end by my dying like a dog in a ditch. I
must try something else.” So he gave up book-learning and went into
trade, and in six months he had a trifle of money in hand.

One day when he was resting at an inn in Nanking, he saw a great big
fellow walk in and seat himself at no great distance in a very
melancholy mood. Lê asked him if he was hungry, and on receiving no
answer, pushed some food over towards him. The stranger immediately
set to feeding himself by handfuls, and in no time the whole had
disappeared. Lê ordered another supply, but that was quickly disposed
of in like manner; and then he told the landlord to bring a shoulder
of pork and a quantity of boiled dumplings. Thus, after eating enough
for half a dozen, his appetite was appeased and he turned to thank his
benefactor, saying, “For three years I haven’t had such a meal.” “And
why should a fine fellow like you be in such a state of destitution?”
inquired Lê; to which the other only replied, “The judgments of heaven
may not be discussed.” Being asked where he lived, the stranger
replied, “On land I have no home, on the water no boat; at dawn in the
village, at night in the city.” Lê then prepared to depart; but his
friend would not leave him, declaring that he was in imminent danger,
and that he could not forget the late kindness Lê had shewn him. So
they went along together, and on the way Lê invited the other to eat
with him; but this he refused, saying that he only took food
occasionally. Lê marvelled more than ever at this; and next day when
they were on the river a great storm arose and capsized all their
boats, Lê himself being thrown into the water with the others.
Suddenly the gale abated and the stranger bore Lê on his back to
another boat, plunging at once into the water and bringing back the
lost vessel, upon which he placed Lê and bade him remain quietly
there. He then returned once more, this time carrying in his arms a
part of the cargo, which he replaced in the vessel, and so he went on
until it was all restored. Lê thanked him, saying, “It was enough to
save my life; but you have added to this the restoration of my goods.”
Nothing, in fact, had been lost, and now Lê began to regard the
stranger as something more than human. The latter here wished to take
his leave, but Lê pressed him so much to stay that at last he
consented to remain. Then Lê remarked that after all he had lost a
gold pin, and immediately the stranger plunged into the water again,
rising at length to the surface with the missing article in his mouth,
and presenting it to Lê with the remark that he was delighted to be
able to fulfil his commands. The people on the river were all much
astonished at what they saw; meanwhile Lê went home with his friend,
and there they lived together, the big man only eating once in ten or
twelve days, but then displaying an enormous appetite. One day he
spoke of going away, to which Lê would by no means consent; and as it
was just then about to rain and thunder, he asked him to tell him what
the clouds were like, and what thunder was, also how he could get up
to the sky and have a look, so as to set his mind at rest on the
subject. “Would you like to have a ramble among the clouds?” asked
the stranger, as Lê was lying down to take a nap; on awaking from
which he felt himself spinning along through the air, and not at all
as if he was lying on a bed. Opening his eyes he saw he was among the
clouds, and around him was a fleecy atmosphere. Jumping up in great
alarm, he felt giddy as if he had been at sea, and underneath his feet
he found a soft, yielding substance, unlike the earth. Above him were
the stars, and this made him think he was dreaming; but looking up he
saw that they were set in the sky like seeds in the cup of a lily,
varying from the size of the biggest bowl to that of a small basin. On
raising his hand he discovered that the large stars were all tightly
fixed; but he managed to pick a small one, which he concealed in his
sleeve; and then, parting the clouds beneath him, he looked through
and saw the sea glittering like silver below. Large cities appeared no
bigger than beans--just at this moment, however, he bethought himself
that if his foot were to slip, what a tremendous fall he would have.
He now beheld two dragons writhing their way along, and drawing a cart
with a huge vat in it, each movement of their tails sounding like the
crack of a bullock-driver’s whip. The vat was full of water, and
numbers of men were employed in ladling it out and sprinkling it on
the clouds. These men were astonished at seeing Lê; however, a big
fellow among them called out, “All right, he’s my friend,” and then
they gave him a ladle to help them throw the water out. Now it
happened to be a very dry season, and when Lê got hold of the ladle he
took good care to throw the water so that it should all fall on and
around his own home. The stranger then told him that he was the God of
Thunder,[341] and that he had just returned from a three years’
punishment inflicted on him in consequence of some neglect of his in
the matter of rain. He added that they must now part; and taking the
long rope which had been used as reins for the cart, bade Lê grip it
tightly, that he might be let down to earth. Lê was afraid of this,
but on being told there was no danger he did so, and in a moment
whish-h-h-h-h--away he went and found himself safe and sound on _terra
firma_. He discovered that he had descended outside his native
village, and then the rope was drawn up into the clouds and he saw it
no more. The drought had been excessive; for three or four miles round
very little rain had fallen, though in Lê’s own village the
water-courses were all full. On reaching home he took the star out of
his sleeve, and put it on the table. It was dull-looking like an
ordinary stone; but at night it became very brilliant and lighted up
the whole house. This made him value it highly, and he stored it
carefully away, bringing it out only when he had guests, to light them
at their wine. It was always thus dazzlingly bright, until one evening
when his wife was sitting with him doing her hair, the star began to
diminish in brilliancy, and to flit about like a fire-fly. Mrs. Lê sat
gaping with astonishment, when all of a sudden it flitted into her
mouth and ran down her throat. She tried to cough it up but couldn’t,
to the very great amazement of her husband. That night Lê dreamt that
his old friend Hsia appeared before him and said, “I am the Shao-wei
star. Your friendship is still cherished by me, and now you have
brought me back from the sky. Truly our destinies are knitted
together, and I will repay your kindness by becoming your son.” Now Lê
was thirty years of age but without sons; however, after this dream
his wife bore him a male child, and they called his name Star. He was
extraordinarily clever, and at sixteen years of age took his master’s
degree.


FOOTNOTE:

[341] This deity is believed to be constantly on the look-out for
wicked people, aided by the Goddess of Lightning, who flashes a mirror
on to whomsoever the God wishes to strike. “_The thief eats
thunderbolts_,” means that he will bring down vengeance from Heaven on
himself. Tylor’s _Primitive Culture_, Vol. I., p. 88.



LX.

THE GAMBLER’S TALISMAN.


A Taoist priest, called Han, lived at the T‘ien-ch‘i temple, in our
district city. His knowledge of the black art was very extensive, and
the neighbours all regarded him as an Immortal.[342] My late father
was on intimate terms with him, and whenever he went into the city
invariably paid him a visit. One day, on such an occasion, he was
proceeding thither in company with my late uncle, when suddenly they
met Han on the road. Handing them the key of the door, he begged them
to go on and wait awhile for him, promising to be there shortly
himself. Following out these instructions they repaired to the temple,
but on unlocking the door there was Han sitting inside--a feat which
he subsequently performed several times.

Now a relative of mine, who was terribly given to gambling, also knew
this priest, having been introduced to him by my father. And once this
relative, meeting with a Buddhist priest from the T‘ien-fo temple,
addicted like himself to the vice of gambling, played with him until
he had lost everything, even going so far as to pledge the whole of
his property, which he lost in a single night. Happening to call in
upon Han as he was going back, the latter noticed his exceedingly
dejected appearance, and the rambling answers he gave, and asked him
what was the matter. On hearing the story of his losses, Han only
laughed, and said, “That’s what always overtakes the gambler, sooner
or later; if, however, you will break yourself of the habit, I will
get your money back for you.” “Ah,” cried the other, “if you will only
do that, you may break my head with a pestle when you catch me
gambling again.” So Han gave him a talismanic formula, written out on
a piece of paper, to put in his girdle, bidding him only win back what
he had lost, and not attempt to get a fraction more. He also handed
him 1000 _cash_, on condition that this sum should be repaid from his
winnings, and off went my relative delighted. The Buddhist, however,
turned up his nose at the smallness of his means, and said it wasn’t
worth his while to stake so little; but at last he was persuaded into
having one throw for the whole lot. They then began, the priest
leading off with a fair throw, to which his opponent replied by a
better; whereupon the priest doubled his stake, and my relative won
again, going on and on until the latter’s good luck had brought him
back all that he had previously lost. He thought, however, that he
couldn’t do better than just win a few more strings of cash, and
accordingly went on; but gradually his luck turned, and on looking
into his girdle he found that the talisman was gone. In a great fright
he jumped up, and went off with his winnings to the temple, where he
reckoned up that after deducting Han’s loan, and adding what he had
lost towards the end, he had exactly the amount originally his. With
shame in his face he turned to thank Han, mentioning at the same time
the loss of the talisman; at which Han only laughed, and said, “That
has got back before you. I told you not to be over-greedy, and as you
didn’t heed me, I took the talisman away.”[343]


FOOTNOTES:

[342] See No. V., note 48.

[343] Gambling is the great Chinese vice, far exceeding in its ill
effects all that opium has ever done to demoralize the country. Public
gaming-houses are strictly forbidden by law, but their existence is
winked at by a too venal executive. _Fantan_ is the favourite game. It
consists in staking on the remainder of an unknown number of cash,
after the heap has been divided by four, namely whether it will be
three, two, one, or nothing; with other variations of a more
complicated nature.



LXI.

THE HUSBAND PUNISHED.


Ching Hsing, of Wên-têng, was a young fellow of some literary
reputation, who lived next door to a Mr. Ch‘ên, their studios being
separated only by a low wall. One evening Ch‘ên was crossing a piece
of waste ground when he heard a young girl crying among some
pine-trees hard by. He approached, and saw a girdle hanging from one
of the branches, as if its owner was just on the point of hanging
herself. Ch‘ên asked her what was the matter, and then she brushed
away her tears, and said, “My mother has gone away and left me in
charge of my brother-in-law; but he’s a scamp, and won’t continue to
take care of me; and now there is nothing left for me but to die.”
Hereupon the girl began crying again, and Ch‘ên untied the girdle and
bade her go and find herself a husband; to which she said there was
very little chance of that; and then Ch‘ên offered to take her to his
own home--an offer which she very gladly accepted. Soon after they
arrived, his neighbour Ching thought he heard a noise, and jumped over
the wall to have a peep, when lo and behold! at the door of Ch‘ên’s
house stood this young lady, who immediately ran away into the garden
on seeing Ching. The two young men pursued her, but without success,
and were obliged to return each to his own room, Ching being greatly
astonished to find the same girl now standing at his door. On
addressing the young lady, she told him that his neighbour’s destiny
was too poor a one for her,[344] and that she came from Shantung, and
that her name was Ch‘i A-hsia. She finally agreed to take up her
residence with Ching; but after a few days, finding that a great
number of his friends were constantly calling, she declared it was too
noisy a place for her, and that she would only visit him in the
evening. This she continued to do for a few days, telling him in reply
to his inquiries that her home was not very far off. One evening,
however, she remarked that their present _liaison_ was not very
creditable to either; that her father was a mandarin on the western
frontier, and that she was about to set out with her mother to join
him; begging him meanwhile to make a formal request for the
celebration of their nuptials, in order to prevent them from being
thus separated. She further said that they started in ten days or so,
and then Ching began to reflect that if he married her she would have
to take her place in the family, and that would make his first wife
jealous; so he determined to get rid of the latter, and when she came
in he began to abuse her right and left. His wife bore it as long as
she could, but at length cried out it were better she should die; upon
which Ching advised her not to bring trouble on them all like that,
but to go back to her own home. He then drove her away, his wife
asking all the time what she had done to be sent away like this after
ten years of blameless life with him.[345] Ching, however, paid no
heed to her entreaties, and when he had got rid of her he set to work
at once to get the house whitewashed and made generally clean, himself
being on the tip-toe of expectation for the arrival of Miss A-hsia.
But he waited and waited, and no A-hsia came; she seemed gone like a
stone dropped into the sea. Meanwhile emissaries came from his late
wife’s family begging him to take her back; and when he flatly
refused, she married a gentleman of position named Hsia, whose
property adjoined Ching’s, and who had long been at feud with him in
consequence, as is usual in such cases. This made Ching furious, but
he still hoped that A-hsia would come, and tried to console himself in
this way. Yet more than a year passed away and still no signs of her,
until one day, at the festival of the Sea Spirits, he saw among the
crowds of girls passing in and out one who very much resembled A-hsia.
Ching moved towards her, following her as she threaded her way through
the crowd as far as the temple gate, where he lost sight of her
altogether, to his great mortification and regret. Another six months
passed away, when one day he met a young lady dressed in red,
accompanied by an old man-servant, and riding on a black mule. It was
A-hsia. So he asked the old man the name of his young mistress, and
learnt from him that she was the second wife of a gentleman named
Chêng, having been married to him about a fortnight previously. Ching
now thought she could not be A-hsia, but just then the young lady,
hearing them talking, turned her head, and Ching saw that he was
right. And now, finding that she had actually married another man, he
was overwhelmed with rage, and cried out in a loud voice, “A-hsia!
A-hsia! why did you break faith?” The servant here objected to his
mistress being thus addressed by a stranger, and was squaring up to
Ching, when A-hsia bade him desist; and, raising her veil, replied,
“And you, faithless one, how do you dare meet my gaze?” “You are the
faithless one,” said Ching, “not I.” “To be faithless to your wife is
worse than being faithless to me,” rejoined A-hsia; “if you behaved
like that to her, how should I have been treated at your hands?
Because of the fair fame of your ancestors, and the honours gained by
them, I was willing to ally myself with you; but now that you have
discarded your wife, your thread of official advancement has been cut
short in the realms below, and Mr. Ch‘ên is to take the place that
should have been yours at the head of the examination list. As for
myself, I am now part of the Chêng family; think no more of me.” Ching
hung his head and could make no reply; and A-hsia whipped up her mule
and disappeared from his sight, leaving him to return home
disconsolate. At the forthcoming examination, everything turned out as
she had predicted; Mr. Ch‘ên was at the top of the list, and he
himself was thrown out. It was clear that his luck was gone. At forty
he had no wife, and was so poor that he was glad to pick up a meal
where he could. One day he called on Mr. Chêng, who treated him well
and kept him there for the night; and while there Chêng’s second wife
saw him, and asked her husband if his guest’s name wasn’t Ching. “It
is,” said he, “how could you guess that?” “Well,” replied she, “before
I married you, I took refuge in his house, and he was then very kind
to me. Although he has now sunk low, yet his ancestors’ influence on
the family fortunes is not yet exhausted;[346] besides he is an old
acquaintance of yours, and you should try and do something for him.”
Chêng consented, and having first given him a new suit of clothes,
kept him in the house several days. At night a slave-girl came to him
with twenty ounces of silver for him, and Mrs. Chêng, who was outside
the window, said, “This is a trifling return for your past kindness to
me. Go and get yourself a good wife. The family luck is not yet
exhausted, but will descend to your sons and grandchildren. Do not
behave like this again, and so shorten your term of life.” Ching
thanked her and went home, using ten ounces of silver to procure a
concubine from a neighbouring family, who was very ugly and
ill-tempered. However, she bore him a son, and he by-and-by graduated
as doctor. Mr. Chêng became Vice-President of the Board of Civil
Office,[347] and at his death A-hsia attended the funeral; but when
they opened her chair on its return home, she was gone, and then
people knew for the first time that she was not mortal flesh and
blood. Alas! for the perversity of mankind, rejecting the old and
craving for the new?[348] And then when they come back to the familiar
nest, the birds have all flown. Thus does heaven punish such people.


FOOTNOTES:

[344] See No. XLVI., note 271.

[345] See No. LIII., note 288.

[346] The virtuous conduct of any individual will result not only in
happiness and prosperity to himself, but a certain quantity of these
will descend to his posterity, unless, as in the present case, there
is one among them whose personal wickedness neutralizes any benefits
that would otherwise accrue therefrom. Here we have an instance where
the crimes of a descendant still left a balance of good fortune
surviving from the accumulated virtue of generations.

[347] One of the six departments of State administration.

[348] This seems a curious charge to bring against a people who for a
stolid and bigoted conservatism have rarely, if ever, been equalled.
Mencius, however, uttered one golden sentence which might be brought
to bear upon the occasionally foolish opposition of the Chinese to
measures of proved advantage to the commonwealth. “Live,” said the
Sage, “in harmony with the age in which you are born.”



LXII.

THE MARRIAGE LOTTERY.


A certain labourer’s son, named Ma T‘ien-jung, lost his wife when he
was only about twenty years of age, and was too poor to take another.
One day when out hoeing in the fields, he beheld a nice-looking young
lady leave the path and come tripping across the furrows towards him.
Her face was well painted,[349] and she had altogether such a refined
look that Ma concluded she must have lost her way, and began to make
some playful remarks in consequence. “You go along home,” cried the
young lady, “and I’ll be with you by-and-by.” Ma doubted this rather
extraordinary promise, but she vowed and declared she would not break
her word; and then Ma went off, telling her that his front door faced
the north, etc., etc. In the evening the young lady arrived, and then
Ma saw that her hands and face were covered with fine hair, which made
him suspect at once she was a fox. She did not deny the accusation;
and accordingly Ma said to her, “If you really are one of those
wonderful creatures you will be able to get me anything I want; and I
should be much obliged if you would begin by giving me some money to
relieve my poverty.” The young lady said she would; and next evening
when she came again, Ma asked her where the money was. “Dear me!”
replied she, “I quite forgot it.” When she was going away, Ma reminded
her of what he wanted, but on the following evening she made precisely
the same excuse, promising to bring it another day. A few nights
afterwards Ma asked her once more for the money, and then she drew
from her sleeve two pieces of silver, each weighing about five or six
ounces. They were both of fine quality, with turned-up edges,[350] and
Ma was very pleased and stored them away in a cupboard. Some months
after this, he happened to require some money for use, and took out
these pieces; but the person to whom he showed them said they were
only pewter, and easily bit off a portion of one of them with his
teeth. Ma was much alarmed, and put the pieces away directly; taking
the opportunity when evening came of abusing the young lady roundly.
“It’s all your bad luck,” retorted she; “real gold would be too much
for your inferior destiny.”[351] There was an end of that; but Ma went
on to say, “I always heard that fox-girls were of surpassing beauty;
how is it you are not?” “Oh,” replied the young lady, “we always adapt
ourselves to our company. Now you haven’t the luck of an ounce of
silver to call your own; and what would you do, for instance, with a
beautiful princess?[352] My beauty may not be good enough for the
aristocracy; but among your big-footed, burden-carrying rustics,[353]
why it may safely be called ‘surpassing.’”

A few months passed away, and then one day the young lady came and
gave Ma three ounces of silver, saying, “You have often asked me for
money, but in consequence of your weak luck I have always refrained
from giving you any. Now, however, your marriage is at hand, and I
here give you the cost of a wife, which you may also regard as a
parting gift from me.” Ma replied that he wasn’t engaged, to which the
young lady answered that in a few days a go-between would visit him to
arrange the affair. “And what will she be like?” asked Ma. “Why, as
your aspirations are for ‘surpassing’ beauty,” replied the young lady,
“of course she will be possessed of surpassing beauty.” “I hardly
expect that,” said Ma; “at any rate three ounces of silver will not be
enough to get a wife.” “Marriages,” explained the young lady, “are
made in the moon;[354] mortals have nothing to do with them.” “And why
must you be going away like this?” inquired Ma. “Because,” answered
she, “we go on shilly-shallying from day to day, and month to month,
and nothing ever comes of it. I had better get you another wife and
have done with you.” Then when morning came, she departed, giving Ma a
pinch of yellow powder, saying, “In case you are ill after we are
separated, this will cure you.” Next day, sure enough, a go-between
did come, and Ma at once asked what the proposed bride was like; to
which the former replied that she was very passable-looking. Four or
five ounces of silver was fixed as the marriage present, Ma making no
difficulty on that score, but declaring he must have a peep at the
young lady.[355] The go-between said she was a respectable girl, and
would never allow herself to be seen; however it was arranged that
they should go to the house together, and await a good opportunity. So
off they went, Ma remaining outside while the go-between went in,
returning in a little while to tell him it was all right. “A relative
of mine lives in the same court, and just now I saw the young lady
sitting in the hall. We have only got to pretend we are going to see
my relative, and you will be able to get a glimpse of her.” Ma
consented, and they accordingly passed through the hall, where he saw
the young lady sitting down with her head bent forward while some one
was scratching her back. She seemed to be all that the go-between had
said; but when they came to discuss the money, it appeared the young
lady only wanted one or two ounces of silver, just to buy herself a
few clothes, etc., at which Ma was delighted, and gave the go-between
a present for her trouble, which just finished up the three ounces his
fox-friend had provided. An auspicious day was chosen, and the young
lady came over to his house; when lo! she was hump-backed and
pigeon-breasted, with a short neck like a tortoise, and boat-shaped
feet, full ten inches long. The meaning of his fox-friend’s remarks
then flashed upon him.


FOOTNOTES:

[349] Only slave-girls and women of the poorer classes, and old women,
omit this very important part of a Chinese lady’s toilet.

[350] Alluding probably to the shape of the “shoe” or ingot of silver.

[351] See No. XLVI., note 271.

[352] Literally, “One who would make wild geese alight and fish dive
down for shame;” or, as the next line from the same poem has it, “a
beauty which would obscure the moon and put flowers to the blush.”

[353] Slave-girls do not have their feet compressed.

[354] Wherein resides an old gentleman who ties together with a red
cord the feet of those destined to become man and wife. From this bond
there is no escape, no matter what distance may separate the affianced
pair. The first go-between, Ku Ts‘ê, was originally seen, on ice,
arranging matches with some one below:--

   “Marriage is not a trifling thing--
    The Book and the Vermilion String!
    On ice by moonlight may be seen
    The wedded couples’ go-between.”

           --_A Thousand Character Essay for Girls._

Hence the common phrase “to do the ice (business),” _i.e._, to arrange
a marriage.

[355] This proceeding is highly improper, but is winked at in a large
majority of Chinese betrothals.


END OF VOL. I.


THOS. DE LA RUE AND CO., PRINTERS, BUNHILL ROW, LONDON.



  STRANGE STORIES
  FROM A
  CHINESE STUDIO.

  TRANSLATED AND ANNOTATED
  BY
  HERBERT A. GILES,
  _Of H.M.’s Consular Service_.

  IN TWO VOLUMES.

  VOL. II.

  LONDON:
  THOS. DE LA RUE & CO.
  110, BUNHILL ROW.

  1880.



  PRINTED BY
  THOMAS DE LA RUE AND CO., BUNHILL ROW,
  LONDON.



STRANGE STORIES

FROM A

CHINESE STUDIO.



LXIII.

THE LO-CH‘A COUNTRY AND THE SEA-MARKET.[356]


Once upon a time there was a young man, named Ma Chün, who was also
known as Lung-mei. He was the son of a trader, and a youth of
surpassing beauty. His manners were courteous, and he loved nothing
better than singing and playing. He used to associate with actors, and
with an embroidered handkerchief round his head the effect was that of
a beautiful woman. Hence he acquired the sobriquet of the Beauty. At
fourteen years of age he graduated and began to make a name for
himself; but his father, who was growing old and wished to retire from
business, said to him, “My boy, book-learning will never fill your
belly or put a coat on your back; you had much better stick to the old
thing.” Accordingly, Ma from that time occupied himself with scales
and weights, with principle and interest, and such matters.

He made a voyage across the sea, and was carried away by a typhoon.
After being tossed about for many days and nights he arrived at a
country where the people were hideously ugly. When these people saw Ma
they thought he was a devil and all ran screeching away. Ma was
somewhat alarmed at this, but finding that it was they who were
frightened at him, he quickly turned their fear to his own advantage.
If he came across people eating and drinking he would rush upon them,
and when they fled away for fear, he would regale himself upon what
they had left. By-and-by he went to a village among the hills, and
there the people had at any rate some facial resemblance to ordinary
men. But they were all in rags and tatters like beggars. So Ma sat
down to rest under a tree, and the villagers, not daring to come near
him, contented themselves with looking at him from a distance. They
soon found, however, that he did not want to eat them, and by degrees
approached a little closer to him. Ma, smiling, began to talk; and
although their language was different, yet he was able to make himself
tolerably intelligible, and told them whence he had come. The
villagers were much pleased, and spread the news that the stranger was
not a man-eater. Nevertheless, the very ugliest of all would only take
a look and be off again; they would not come near him. Those who did
go up to him were not very much unlike his own countrymen, the
Chinese. They brought him plenty of food and wine. Ma asked them what
they were afraid of. They replied, “We had heard from our forefathers
that 26,000 _li_ to the west there is a country called China. We had
heard that the people of that land were the most extraordinary in
appearance you can possibly imagine. Hitherto it has been hearsay; we
can now believe it.” He then asked them how it was they were so poor.
They answered, “You see, in our country everything depends, not on
literary talent, but on beauty. The most beautiful are made ministers
of state; the next handsomest are made judges and magistrates; and the
third class in looks are employed in the palace of the king. Thus
these are enabled out of their pay to provide for their wives and
families. But we, from our very birth, are regarded by our parents as
inauspicious, and are left to perish, some of us being occasionally
preserved by more humane parents to prevent the extinction of the
family.” Ma asked the name of their country, and they told him it was
Lo-ch‘a. Also that the capital city was some 30 _li_ to the north. He
begged them to take him there, and next day at cock-crow he started
thitherwards in their company, arriving just about dawn. The walls of
the city were made of black stone, as black as ink, and the city
gate-houses were about 100 feet high. Red stones were used for tiles,
and picking up a broken piece Ma found that it marked his finger-nail
like vermilion. They arrived just when the Court was rising, and saw
all the equipages of the officials. The village people pointed out
one who they said was Prime Minister. His ears drooped forward in
flaps; he had three nostrils, and his eye-lashes were just like bamboo
screens hanging in front of his eyes. Then several came out on
horseback, and they said these were the privy councillors. So they
went on, telling him the rank of all the ugly uncouth fellows he saw.
The lower they got down in the official scale the less hideous the
officials were. By-and-by Ma went back, the people in the streets
marvelling very much to see him, and tumbling helter-skelter one over
another as if they had met a goblin. The villagers shouted out to
re-assure them, and then they stood at a distance to look at him. When
he got back, there was not a man, woman, or child in the whole nation
but knew that there was a strange man at the village; and the gentry
and officials became very desirous to see him. However, if he went to
any of their houses the porter always slammed the door in his face,
and the master, mistress, and family, in general, would only peep at,
and speak to him through the cracks. Not a single one dared receive
him face to face; but, finally, the village people, at a loss what to
do, bethought themselves of a man who had been sent by a former king
on official business among strange nations. “He,” said they, “having
seen many kinds of men, will not be afraid of you.” So they went to
his house, where they were received in a very friendly way. He seemed
to be about eighty or ninety years of age; his eye-balls protruded,
and his beard curled up like a hedge-hog. He said, “In my youth I was
sent by the king among many nations, but I never went to China. I am
now one hundred and twenty years of age, and that I should be
permitted to see a native of your country is a fact which it will be
my duty to report to the Throne. For ten years and more I have not
been to Court, but have remained here in seclusion; yet I will now
make an effort on your behalf.” Then followed a banquet, and when the
wine had already circulated pretty freely, some dozen singing girls
came in and sang and danced before them. The girls all wore white
embroidered turbans, and long scarlet robes which trailed on the
ground. The words they uttered were unintelligible, and the tunes they
played perfectly hideous. The host, however, seemed to enjoy it very
much, and said to Ma, “Have you music in China?” He replied that they
had, and the old man asked for a specimen. Ma hummed him a tune,
beating time on the table, with which he was very much pleased,
declaring that his guest had the voice of a phœnix and the notes of a
dragon, such as he had never heard before. The next day he presented a
memorial to the Throne, and the king at once commanded Ma to appear
before him. Several of the ministers, however, represented that his
appearance was so hideous it might frighten His Majesty, and the king
accordingly desisted from his intention. The old man returned and told
Ma, being quite upset about it. They remained together some time until
they had drunk themselves tipsy. Then Ma, seizing a sword, began to
attitudinize, smearing his face all over with coal-dust. He acted the
part of Chang Fei,[357] at which his host was so delighted that he
begged him to appear before the Prime Minister in the character of
Chang Fei. Ma replied, “I don’t mind a little amateur acting, but how
can I play the hypocrite[358] for my own personal advantage?” On being
pressed he consented, and the old man prepared a great feast, and
asked some of the high officials to be present, telling Ma to paint
himself as before. When the guests had arrived, Ma was brought out to
see them; whereupon they all exclaimed, “Ai-yah! how is it he was so
ugly before and is now so beautiful?” By-and-by, when they were all
taking wine together, Ma began to sing them a most bewitching song,
and they got so excited over it that next day they recommended him to
the king. The king sent a special summons for him to appear, and asked
him many questions about the government of China, to all of which Ma
replied in detail, eliciting sighs of admiration from His Majesty. He
was honoured with a banquet in the royal guest-pavilion, and when the
king had made himself tipsy he said to him, “I hear you are a very
skilful musician. Will you be good enough to let me hear you?” Ma then
got up and began to attitudinize, singing a plaintive air like the
girls with the turbans. The king was charmed, and at once made him a
privy councillor, giving him a private banquet, and bestowing other
marks of royal favour. As time went on his fellow-officials found out
the secret of his painted face,[359] and whenever he was among them they
were always whispering together, besides which they avoided being near
him as much as possible. Thus Ma was left to himself, and found his
position anything but pleasant in consequence. So he memorialized the
Throne, asking to be allowed to retire from office, but his request
was refused. He then said his health was bad, and got three months’
sick leave, during which he packed up his valuables and went back to
the village. The villagers on his arrival went down on their knees to
him, and he distributed gold and jewels amongst his old friends. They
were very glad to see him, and said, “Your kindness shall be repaid
when we go to the sea-market; we will bring you some pearls and
things.” Ma asked them where that was. They said it was at the bottom
of the sea, where the mermaids[360] kept their treasures, and that as
many as twelve nations were accustomed to go thither to trade. Also
that it was frequented by spirits, and that to get there it was
necessary to pass through red vapours and great waves. “Dear Sir,”
they said, “do not yourself risk this great danger, but let us take
your money and purchase these rare pearls for you. The season is now
at hand.” Ma asked them how they knew this. They said, “Whenever we
see red birds flying backwards and forwards over the sea, we know that
within seven days the market will open.” He asked when they were
going to start, that he might accompany them; but they begged him not
to think of doing so. He replied, “I am a sailor: how can I be afraid
of wind and waves?” Very soon after this people came with merchandise
to forward, and so Ma packed up and went on board the vessel that was
going.

This vessel held some tens of people, was flat-bottomed with a railing
all round, and, rowed by ten men, it cut through the water like an
arrow. After a voyage of three days they saw afar off faint outlines
of towers and minarets, and crowds of trading vessels. They soon
arrived at the city, the walls of which were made of bricks as long as
a man’s body, the tops of its buildings being lost in the Milky
Way.[361] Having made fast their boat they went in, and saw laid out in
the market rare pearls and wondrous precious stones of dazzling
beauty, such as are quite unknown amongst men. Then they saw a young
man come forth riding upon a beautiful steed. The people of the market
stood back to let him pass, saying he was the third son of the king;
but when the Prince saw Ma, he exclaimed, “This is no foreigner,” and
immediately an attendant drew near and asked his name and country. Ma
made a bow, and standing at one side told his name and family. The
prince smiled, and said, “For you to have honoured our country thus is
no small piece of good luck.” He then gave him a horse and begged him
to follow. They went out of the city gate and down to the sea-shore,
whereupon their horses plunged into the water. Ma was terribly
frightened and screamed out; but the sea opened dry before them and
formed a wall of water on either side. In a little time they reached
the king’s palace, the beams of which were made of tortoise-shell and
the tiles of fishes’ scales. The four walls were of crystal, and
dazzled the eye like mirrors. They got down off their horses and went
in, and Ma was introduced to the king. The young prince said, “Sire, I
have been to the market, and have got a gentleman from China.”
Whereupon Ma made obeisance before the king, who addressed him as
follows:--“Sir, from a talented scholar like yourself I venture to ask
for a few stanzas upon our sea-market. Pray do not refuse.” Ma
thereupon made a _kot‘ow_ and undertook the king’s command. Using an
ink-slab of crystal, a brush of dragon’s beard, paper as white as
snow, and ink scented like the larkspur,[362] Ma immediately threw off
some thousand odd verses, which he laid at the feet of the king. When
His Majesty saw them, he said, “Sir, your genius does honour to these
marine nations of ours.” Then, summoning the members of the royal
family, the king gave a great feast in the Coloured Cloud pavilion;
and, when the wine had circulated freely, seizing a great goblet in
his hand, the king rose and said before all the guests, “It is a
thousand pities, Sir, that you are not married. What say you to
entering the bonds of wedlock?” Ma rose blushing, and stammered out
his thanks; upon which the king looking round spoke a few words to the
attendants, and in a few moments in came a bevy of court ladies
supporting the king’s daughter, whose ornaments went tinkle, tinkle,
as she walked along. Immediately the nuptial drums and trumpets began
to sound forth, and bride and bridegroom worshipped Heaven and Earth
together.[363] Stealing a glance Ma saw that the princess was endowed
with a fairy-like loveliness. When the ceremony was over she retired,
and by-and-by the wine-party broke up. Then came several
beautifully-dressed waiting-maids, who with painted candles escorted
Ma within. The bridal couch was made of coral adorned with eight kinds
of precious stones, and the curtains were thickly hung with pearls as
big as acorns. Next day at dawn a crowd of young slave-girls trooped
into the room to offer their services; whereupon Ma got up and went
off to Court to pay his respects to the king. He was then duly
received as royal son-in-law and made an officer of state. The fame of
his poetical talents spread far and wide, and the kings of the various
seas sent officers to congratulate him, vying with each other in their
invitations to him. Ma dressed himself in gorgeous clothes, and went
forth riding on a superb steed, with a mounted body-guard all
splendidly armed. There were musicians on horseback and musicians in
chariots, and in three days he had visited every one of the marine
kingdoms, making his name known in all directions. In the palace there
was a jade tree, about as big round as a man could clasp. Its roots
were as clear as glass, and up the middle ran, as it were, a stick of
pale yellow. The branches were the size of one’s arm; the leaves like
white jade, as thick as a copper cash. The foliage was dense, and
beneath its shade the ladies of the palace were wont to sit and sing.
The flowers which covered the tree resembled grapes, and if a single
petal fell to the earth it made a ringing sound. Taking one up, it
would be found to be exactly like carved cornelian, very bright and
pretty to look at. From time to time a wonderful bird came and sang
there. Its feathers were of a golden hue, and its tail as long as its
body. Its notes were like the tinkling of jade, very plaintive and
touching to listen to. When Ma heard this bird sing, it called up in
him recollections of his old home, and accordingly he said to the
princess, “I have now been away from my own country for three years,
separated from my father and mother. Thinking of them my tears flow
and the perspiration runs down my back. Can you return with me?” His
wife replied, “The way of immortals is not that of men. I am unable to
do what you ask, but I cannot allow the feelings of husband and wife
to break the tie of parent and child. Let us devise some plan.” When
Ma heard this he wept bitterly, and the princess sighed and said, “We
cannot both stay or both go.” The next day the king said to him, “I
hear that you are pining after your old home. Will to-morrow suit you
for taking leave?” Ma thanked the king for his great kindness, which
he declared he could never forget, and promised to return very
shortly. That evening the princess and Ma talked over their wine of
their approaching separation. Ma said they would soon meet again; but
his wife averred that their married life was at an end. Then he wept
afresh, but the princess said, “Like a filial son you are going home
to your parents. In the meetings and separations of this life, a
hundred years seem but a single day; why, then, should we give way to
tears like children? I will be true to you; do you be faithful to me;
and then, though separated, we shall be united in spirit, a happy
pair. Is it necessary to live side by side in order to grow old
together? If you break our contract your next marriage will not be a
propitious one; but if loneliness[364] overtakes you then choose a
concubine. There is one point more of which I would speak, with
reference to our married life. I am about to become a mother, and I
pray you give me a name for your child.” To this Ma replied, “If a
girl I would have her called Lung-kung; if a boy, then name him
Fu-hai.”[365] The princess asked for some token of remembrance, and Ma
gave her a pair of jade lilies that he had got during his stay in the
marine kingdom. She added, “On the 8th of the 4th moon, three years
hence, when you once more steer your course for this country, I will
give you up your child.” She next packed a leather bag full of jewels
and handed it to Ma, saying, “Take care of this; it will be a
provision for many generations.” When the day began to break a
splendid farewell feast was given him by the king, and Ma bade them
all adieu. The princess, in a car drawn by snow-white sheep, escorted
him to the boundary of the marine kingdom, where he dismounted and
stepped ashore. “Farewell!” cried the princess, as her returning car
bore her rapidly away, and the sea, closing over her, snatched her
from her husband’s sight. Ma returned to his home across the ocean.
Some had thought him long since dead and gone; all marvelled at his
story. Happily his father and mother were yet alive, though his former
wife had married another man; and so he understood why the princess
had pledged him to constancy, for she already knew that this had taken
place. His father wished him to take another wife, but he would not.
He only took a concubine. Then, after the three years had passed away,
he started across the sea on his return journey, when lo! he beheld,
riding on the wave-crests and splashing about the water in playing,
two young children. On going near, one of them seized hold of him and
sprung into his arms; upon which the elder cried until he, too, was
taken up. They were a boy and girl, both very lovely, and wearing
embroidered caps adorned with jade lilies. On the back of one of them
was a worked case, in which Ma found the following letter:--

“I presume my father and mother-in-law are well. Three years have
passed away and destiny still keeps us apart. Across the great ocean,
the letter-bird would find no path.[366] I have been with you in my
dreams until I am quite worn out. Does the blue sky look down upon any
grief like mine? Yet Ch‘ang-ngo[367] lives solitary in the moon, and
Chih Nü[368] laments that she cannot cross the Silver River. Who am I
that I should expect happiness to be mine? Truly this thought turns my
tears into joy. Two months after your departure I had twins, who can
already prattle away in the language of childhood, at one moment
snatching a date, at another a pear. Had they no mother they would
still live. These I now send to you, with the jade lilies you gave me
in their hats, in token of the sender. When you take them upon your
knee, think that I am standing by your side. I know that you have kept
your promise to me, and I am happy. I shall take no second husband,
even unto death. All thoughts of dress and finery are gone from me; my
looking-glass sees no new fashions; my face has long been unpowdered,
my eyebrows unblacked. You are my Ulysses, I am your Penelope;[369]
though not actually leading a married life, how can it be said that
we are not husband and wife. Your father and mother will take their
grandchildren upon their knees, though they have never set eyes upon
the bride. Alas! there is something wrong in this. Next year your
mother will enter upon the long night. I shall be there by the side of
the grave as is becoming in her daughter-in-law. From this time forth
our daughter will be well; later on she will be able to grasp her
mother’s hand. Our boy, when he grows up, may possibly be able to come
to and fro. Adieu, dear husband, adieu, though I am leaving much
unsaid.” Ma read the letter over and over again, his tears flowing all
the time. His two children clung round his neck, and begged him to
take them home. “Ah, my children,” said he, “where is your home?” Then
they all wept bitterly, and Ma, looking at the great ocean stretching
away to meet the sky, lovely and pathless, embraced his children, and
proceeded sorrowfully to return. Knowing, too, that his mother could
not last long, he prepared everything necessary for the ceremony of
interment, and planted a hundred young pine-trees at her grave.[370]
The following year the old lady did die, and her coffin was borne to
its last resting-place, when lo! there was the princess standing by
the side of the grave. The lookers-on were much alarmed, but in a
moment there was a flash of lightning, followed by a clap of thunder
and a squall of rain, and she was gone. It was then noticed that many
of the young pine-trees which had died were one and all brought to
life. Subsequently, Fu-hai went in search of the mother for whom he
pined so much, and after some days’ absence returned. Lung-kung, being
a girl, could not accompany him, but she mourned much in secret. One
dark day her mother entered and bid her dry her eyes, saying, “My
child, you must get married. Why these tears?” She then gave her a
tree of coral eight feet in height, some Baroos camphor,[371] one
hundred valuable pearls, and two boxes inlaid with gold and precious
stones, as her dowry. Ma having found out she was there, rushed in and
seizing her hand began to weep for joy, when suddenly a violent peal
of thunder rent the building, and the princess had vanished.


FOOTNOTES:

[356] The term “sea-market” is generally understood in the sense of
_mirage_, or some similar phenomenon.

[357] A famous General who played a leading part in the wars of the
Three Kingdoms. See No. XCIII., note 482.

[358] A hit at the hypocrisy of the age.

[359] Shewing that hypocrisy is bad policy in the long run.

[360] The tears of Chinese mermaids are said to be pearls.

[361] See No. XIX., note 135.

[362] Good ink of the kind miscalled “Indian,” is usually very highly
scented; and from a habit the Chinese have of sucking their
writing-brushes to a fine point, the phrase “to eat ink” has become a
synonym of “to study.”

[363] This all-important point in a Chinese marriage ceremony is the
equivalent of our own “signing in the vestry.”

[364] Literally, “if you have no one to cook your food.”

[365] “Dragon Palace” and “Happy Sea,” respectively.

[366] Alluding to an old legend of a letter conveyed by a bird.

[367] See No. V., note 49.

[368] The “Spinning Damsel,” or name of a star in Lyra, connected with
which there is a celebrated legend of its annual transit across the
Milky Way.

[369] These are of course only the equivalents of the Chinese names in
the text.

[370] To keep off the much-dreaded wind, which disturbs the rest of the
departed.

[371] For which a very high price is obtained in China.



LXIV.

THE FIGHTING CRICKET.


During the reign of Hsüan Tê,[372] cricket fighting was very much in
vogue at court, levies of crickets being exacted from the people as a
tax. On one occasion the magistrate of Hua-yin, wishing to make
friends with the Governor, presented him with a cricket which, on
being set to fight, displayed very remarkable powers; so much so that
the Governor commanded the magistrate to supply him regularly with
these insects. The latter, in his turn, ordered the beadles of his
district to provide him with crickets; and then it became a practice
for people who had nothing else to do to catch and rear them for this
purpose. Thus the price of crickets rose very high; and when the
beadle’s[373] runners came to exact even a single one, it was enough
to ruin several families.

Now in the village of which we are speaking there lived a man named
Ch‘êng, a student who had often failed for his bachelor’s degree; and,
being a stupid sort of fellow, his name was sent in for the post of
beadle. He did all he could to get out of it, but without success; and
by the end of the year his small patrimony was gone. Just then came a
call for crickets, and Ch‘êng, not daring to make a like call upon his
neighbours, was at his wits’ end, and in his distress determined to
commit suicide. “What’s the use of that?” cried his wife. “You’d do
better to go out and try to find some.” So off went Ch‘êng in the
early morning, with a bamboo tube and a silk net, not returning till
late at night; and he searched about in tumble-down walls, in bushes,
under stones, and in holes, but without catching more than two or
three, do what he would. Even those he did catch were weak creatures,
and of no use at all, which made the magistrate fix a limit of time,
the result of which was that in a few days Ch‘êng got one hundred
blows with the bamboo. This made him so sore that he was quite unable
to go after the crickets any more, and, as he lay tossing and turning
on the bed, he determined once again to put an end to his life.

About that time a hump-backed fortune-teller of great skill arrived at
the village, and Ch‘êng’s wife, putting together a trifle of money,
went off to seek his assistance. The door was literally blocked
up--fair young girls and white-headed dames crowding in from all
quarters. A room was darkened, and a bamboo screen hung at the door,
an altar being arranged outside at which the fortune-seekers burnt
incense in a brazier, and prostrated themselves twice, while the
soothsayer stood by the side, and, looking up into vacancy, prayed for
a response. His lips opened and shut, but nobody heard what he said,
all standing there in awe waiting for the answer. In a few moments a
piece of paper was thrown from behind the screen, and the soothsayer
said that the petitioner’s desire would be accomplished in the way he
wished. Ch‘êng’s wife now advanced, and, placing some money on the
altar, burnt her incense and prostrated herself in a similar manner.
In a few moments the screen began to move, and a piece of paper was
thrown down, on which there were no words, but only a picture. In the
middle was a building like a temple, and behind this a small hill, at
the foot of which were a number of curious stones, with the long,
spiky feelers of innumerable crickets appearing from behind. Hard by
was a frog, which seemed to be engaged in putting itself into various
kinds of attitudes. The good woman had no idea what it all meant; but
she noticed the crickets, and accordingly went off home to tell her
husband. “Ah,” said he, “this is to shew me where to hunt for
crickets;” and, on looking closely at the picture, he saw that the
building very much resembled a temple to the east of their village. So
he forced himself to get up, and, leaning on a stick, went out to seek
crickets behind the temple. Rounding an old grave, he came upon a
place where stones were lying scattered about as in the picture, and
then he set himself to watch attentively. He might as well have been
looking for a needle or a grain of mustard-seed; and by degrees he
became quite exhausted, without finding anything, when suddenly an old
frog jumped out. Ch‘êng was a little startled, but immediately pursued
the frog, which retreated into the bushes. He then saw one of the
insects he wanted sitting at the root of a bramble; but on making a
grab at it, the cricket ran into a hole, from which he was unable to
move it until he poured in some water, when out the little creature
came. It was a magnificent specimen, strong and handsome, with a fine
tail, green neck, and golden wings; and, putting it in his basket, he
returned home in high glee to receive the congratulations of his
family. He would not have taken anything for this cricket, and
proceeded to feed it up carefully in a bowl. Its belly was the colour
of a crab’s, its back that of a sweet chestnut; and Ch‘êng tended it
most lovingly, waiting for the time when the magistrate should call
upon him for a cricket.

Meanwhile, a son of Ch‘êng’s, aged nine, one day took the opportunity
of his father being out to open the bowl. Instantaneously the cricket
made a spring forward and was gone; and all efforts to catch it again
were unavailing. At length the boy made a grab at it with his hand,
but only succeeded in seizing one of its legs, which thereupon broke,
and the little creature soon afterwards died. Ch‘êng’s wife turned
deadly pale when her son, with tears in his eyes, told her what had
happened. “Oh! won’t you catch it when your father comes home,” said
she; at which the boy ran away, crying bitterly. Soon after Ch‘êng
arrived, and when he heard his wife’s story he felt as if he had been
turned to ice, and went in search of his son, who, however, was
nowhere to be found, until at length they discovered his body lying at
the bottom of a well. Their anger was thus turned to grief, and death
seemed as though it would be a pleasant relief to them as they sat
facing each other in silence in their thatched and smokeless[374] hut.
At evening they prepared to bury the boy; but, on touching the body,
lo! he was still breathing. Overjoyed, they placed him upon the bed,
and towards the middle of the night he came round; but a drop of
bitterness was mingled in his parents’ cup when they found that his
reason had fled. His father, however, caught sight of the empty bowl
in which he had kept the cricket, and ceased to think any more about
his son, never once closing his eyes all night; and as day gradually
broke, there he lay stiff and stark, until suddenly he heard the
chirping of a cricket outside the house door. Jumping up in a great
hurry to see, there was his lost insect; but, on trying to catch it,
away it hopped directly. At last he got it under his hand, though,
when he came to close his fingers on it, there was nothing in them. So
he went on, chasing it up and down, until finally it hopped into a
corner of the wall; and then, looking carefully about, he espied it
once more, no longer the same in appearance, but small, and of a dark
red colour. Ch‘êng stood looking at it, without trying to catch such a
worthless specimen, when all of a sudden the little creature hopped
into his sleeve; and, on examining it more nearly, he saw that it
really was a handsome insect, with well-formed head and neck, and
forthwith took it indoors. He was now anxious to try its prowess; and
it so happened that a young fellow of the village, who had a fine
cricket which used to win every bout it fought, and was so valuable to
him that he wanted a high price for it, called on Ch‘êng that very
day. He laughed heartily at Ch‘êng’s champion, and, producing his own,
placed it side by side, to the great disadvantage of the former.
Ch‘êng’s countenance fell, and he no longer wished to back his
cricket; however, the young fellow urged him, and he thought that
there was no use in rearing a feeble insect, and that he had better
sacrifice it for a laugh; so they put them together in a bowl. The
little cricket lay quite still like a piece of wood, at which the
young fellow roared again, and louder than ever when it did not move
even though tickled with a pig’s bristle. By dint of tickling it was
roused at last, and then it fell upon its adversary with such fury,
that in a moment the young fellow’s cricket would have been killed
outright had not its master interfered and stopped the fight. The
little cricket then stood up and chirped to Ch‘êng as a sign of
victory; and Ch‘êng, overjoyed, was just talking over the battle with
the young fellow, when a cock caught sight of the insect, and ran up
to eat it. Ch‘êng was in a great state of alarm; but the cock luckily
missed its aim, and the cricket hopped away, its enemy pursuing at
full speed. In another moment it would have been snapped up, when, lo!
to his great astonishment, Ch‘êng saw his cricket seated on the cock’s
head, holding firmly on to its comb. He then put it into a cage, and
by-and-by sent it to the magistrate, who, seeing what a small one he
had provided, was very angry indeed. Ch‘êng told the story of the
cock, which the magistrate refused to believe, and set it to fight
with other crickets, all of which it vanquished without exception. He
then tried it with a cock, and as all turned out as Ch‘êng had said,
he gave him a present, and sent the cricket in to the Governor. The
Governor put it into a golden cage, and forwarded it to the palace,
accompanied by some remarks on its performances; and when there, it
was found that of all the splendid collection of His Imperial Majesty,
not one was worthy to be placed alongside of this one. It would dance
in time to music, and thus became a great favourite, the Emperor in
return bestowing magnificent gifts of horses and silks upon the
Governor. The Governor did not forget whence he had obtained the
cricket, and the magistrate also well rewarded Ch‘êng by excusing him
from the duties of beadle, and by instructing the Literary Chancellor
to pass him for the first degree. A few months afterwards Ch‘êng’s son
recovered his intellect, and said that he had been a cricket, and had
proved himself a very skilful fighter.[375] The Governor, too, rewarded
Ch‘êng handsomely, and in a few years he was a rich man, with flocks,
and herds, and houses, and acres, quite one of the wealthiest of
mankind.


FOOTNOTES:

[372] Of the Ming dynasty; reigned A.D. 1426-1436.

[373] These beadles are chosen by the officials from among the
respectable and substantial of the people to preside over a small area
and be responsible for the general good behaviour of its inhabitants.
The post is one of honour and occasional emolument, since all
petitions presented to the authorities, all mortgages, transfers of
land, &c., should bear the beadle’s seal or signature in evidence of
their _bonâ fide_ character. On the other hand, the beadle is punished
by fine, and sometimes bambooed, if robberies are too frequent within
his jurisdiction, or if he fails to secure the person of any
malefactor particularly wanted by his superior officers. And other
causes may combine to make the post a dangerous one; but no one is
allowed to refuse acceptance of it point-blank.

[374] A favourite Chinese expression, signifying the absence of food.

[375] That is to say, his spirit had entered, during his period of
temporary insanity, into the cricket which had allowed itself to be
caught by his father, and had animated it to fight with such
extraordinary vigour in order to make good the loss occasioned by his
carelessness in letting the other escape.



LXV.

TAKING REVENGE.


Hsiang Kao, otherwise called Ch‘u-tan, was a T‘ai-yüan man, and deeply
attached to his half-brother Shêng. Shêng himself was desperately
enamoured of a young lady named Po-ssŭ,[376] who was also very fond of
him: but the mother wanted too much money for her daughter. Now a rich
young fellow named Chuang thought he should like to get Po-ssŭ for
himself, and proposed to buy her as a concubine. “No, no,” said Po-ssŭ
to her mother, “I prefer being Shêng’s wife to becoming Chuang’s
concubine.” So her mother consented, and informed Shêng, who had only
recently buried his first wife; at which he was delighted and made
preparations to take her over to his own house. When Chuang heard this
he was infuriated against Shêng for thus depriving him of Po-ssŭ; and
chancing to meet him out one day, set to and abused him roundly.
Shêng answered him back, and then Chuang ordered his attendants to
fall upon Shêng and beat him well, which they did, leaving him
lifeless on the ground. When Hsiang heard what had taken place he ran
out and found his brother lying dead upon the ground. Overcome with
grief, he proceeded to the magistrate’s, and accused Chuang of murder;
but the latter bribed so heavily that nothing came of the accusation.
This worked Hsiang to frenzy, and he determined to assassinate Chuang
on the high road; with which intent he daily concealed himself, with a
sharp knife about him, among the bushes on the hill-side, waiting for
Chuang to pass. By degrees, this plan of his became known far and
wide, and accordingly Chuang never went out except with a strong
body-guard, besides which he engaged at a high price the services of a
very skilful archer, named Chiao T‘ung, so that Hsiang had no means of
carrying out his intention. However, he continued to lie in wait day
after day, and on one occasion it began to rain heavily, and in a
short time Hsiang was wet through to the skin. Then the wind got up,
and a hailstorm followed, and by-and-by Hsiang was quite numbed with
the cold. On the top of the hill there was a small temple wherein
lived a Taoist priest, whom Hsiang knew from the latter having
occasionally begged alms in the village, and to whom he had often
given a meal. This priest, seeing how wet he was, gave him some other
clothes, and told him to put them on; but no sooner had he done so
than he crouched down like a dog, and found that he had been changed
into a tiger, and that the priest had vanished. It now occurred to him
to seize this opportunity of revenging himself upon his enemy; and
away he went to his old ambush, where lo and behold! he found his own
body lying stiff and stark. Fearing lest it should become food for
birds of prey, he guarded it carefully, until at length one day Chuang
passed by. Out rushed the tiger and sprung upon Chuang, biting his
head off, and swallowing it upon the spot; at which Chiao T‘ung, the
archer, turned round and shot the animal through the heart. Just at
that moment Hsiang awaked as though from a dream, but it was some time
before he could crawl home, where he arrived to the great delight of
his family, who didn’t know what had become of him. Hsiang said not a
word, lying quietly on the bed until some of his people came in to
congratulate him on the death of his great enemy Chuang. Hsiang then
cried out, “I was that tiger,” and proceeded to relate the whole
story, which thus got about until it reached the ears of Chuang’s son,
who immediately set to work to bring his father’s murderer to justice.
The magistrate, however, did not consider this wild story as
sufficient evidence against him, and thereupon dismissed the case.


FOOTNOTE:

[376] This is the term used by the Chinese for “Persia,” often put by
metonymy for things which come from that country, _sc._ “valuables.”
Thus, “to be poor in Persia” is to have but few jewels, gold and
silver ornaments, and even clothes.



LXVI.

THE TIPSY TURTLE.


At Lin-t‘iao there lived a Mr. Fêng, whose other name the person who
told me this story could not remember; he belonged to a good family,
though now somewhat falling into decay. Now a certain man, who caught
turtles, owed him some money which he could not pay, but whenever he
captured any turtles he used to send one to Mr. Fêng. One day he took
him an enormous creature, with a white spot on its forehead; but Fêng
was so struck with something in its appearance, that he let it go
again. A little while afterwards he was returning home from his
son-in-law’s, and had reached the banks of the river,[377] when in the
dusk of the evening he saw a drunken man come rolling along, attended
by two or three servants. No sooner did he perceive Fêng than he
called out, “Who are you?” to which Fêng replied that he was a
traveller. “And haven’t you got a name?” shouted out the drunken man
in a rage, “that you must call yourself a traveller?” To this Fêng
made no reply, but tried to pass by; whereupon he found himself seized
by the sleeve and unable to move. His adversary smelt horribly of
wine, and at length Fêng asked him, saying, “And pray who are you?”
“Oh, I am the late magistrate at Nan-tu,” answered he; “what do you
want to know for?” “A nice disgrace to society you are, too,” cried
Fêng; “however, I am glad to hear you are only _late_ magistrate, for
if you had been present magistrate there would be bad times in store
for travellers.” This made the drunken man furious, and he was
proceeding to use violence, when Fêng cried out, “My name is
So-and-so, and I’m not the man to stand this sort of thing from
anybody.” No sooner had he uttered these words than the drunken man’s
rage was turned into joy, and, falling on his knees before Fêng, he
said, “My benefactor! pray excuse my rudeness.” Then getting up, he
told his servants to go on ahead and get something ready; Fêng at
first declining to go with him, but yielding on being pressed. Taking
his hand, the drunken man led him along a short distance until they
reached a village, where there was a very nice house and grounds,
quite like the establishment of a person of position. As his friend
was now getting sober, Fêng inquired what might be his name. “Don’t be
frightened when I tell you,” said the other; “I am the Eighth Prince
of the T‘iao river. I have just been out to take wine with a friend,
and somehow I got tipsy; hence my bad behaviour to you, which please
forgive.” Fêng now knew that he was not of mortal flesh and blood;
but, seeing how kindly he himself was treated, he was not a bit
afraid. A banquet followed, with plenty of wine, of which the Eighth
Prince drank so freely that Fêng thought he would soon be worse than
ever, and accordingly said he felt tipsy himself, and asked to be
allowed to go to bed. “Never fear,” answered the Prince, who perceived
Fêng’s thoughts; “many drunkards will tell you that they cannot
remember in the morning the extravagances of the previous night, but I
tell you this is all nonsense, and that in nine cases out of ten those
extravagances are committed wittingly and with malice prepense.[378]
Now, though I am not the same order of being as yourself, I should
never venture to behave badly in your good presence; so pray do not
leave me thus.” Fêng then sat down again and said to the Prince,
“Since you are aware of this, why not change your ways?” “Ah,” replied
the Prince, “when I was a magistrate I drank much more than I do now;
but I got into disgrace with the Emperor and was banished here, since
which time, ten years and more, I have tried to reform. Now, however,
I am drawing near the wood,[379] and being unable to move about much,
the old vice has come upon me again; I have found it impossible to
stop myself, but perhaps what you say may do me some good.” While they
were thus talking, the sound of a distant bell broke upon their ears;
and the Prince, getting up and seizing Fêng’s hand, said, “We cannot
remain together any longer; but I will give you something by which I
may in part requite your kindness to me. It must not be kept for any
great length of time; when you have attained your wishes, then I will
receive it back again.” Thereupon he spit out of his mouth a tiny man,
no more than an inch high, and scratching Fêng’s arm with his nails
until Fêng felt as if the skin was gone, he quickly laid the little
man upon the spot. When he let go, the latter had already sunk into
the skin, and nothing was to be seen but a cicatrix well healed over.
Fêng now asked what it all meant, but the Prince only laughed, and
said, “It’s time for you to go,” and forthwith escorted him to the
door. The prince here bade him adieu, and when he looked round,
Prince, village, and house had all disappeared together, leaving
behind a great turtle which waddled down into the water, and
disappeared likewise. He could now easily account for the Prince’s
present to him; and from this moment his sight became intensely keen.
He could see precious stones lying in the bowels of the earth, and was
able to look down as far as Hell itself; besides which he suddenly
found that he knew the names of many things of which he had never
heard before. From below his own bedroom he dug up many hundred ounces
of pure silver, upon which he lived very comfortably; and once when a
house was for sale, he perceived that in it lay concealed a vast
quantity of gold, so he immediately bought it, and so became immensely
rich in all kinds of valuables. He secured a mirror, on the back of
which was a phœnix, surrounded by water and clouds, and portraits of
the celebrated wives of the Emperor Shun,[380] so beautifully executed
that each hair of the head and eyebrows could easily be counted. If
any woman’s face came upon the mirror, there it remained indelibly
fixed and not to be rubbed out; but if the same woman looked into the
mirror again, dressed in a different dress, or if some other woman
chanced to look in, then the former face would gradually fade away.

Now the third princess in Prince Su’s family was very beautiful; and
Fêng, who had long heard of her fame, concealed himself on the
K‘ung-tung hill, when he knew the Princess was going there. He waited
until she alighted from her chair, and then getting the mirror full
upon her, he walked off home. Laying it on the table, he saw therein a
lovely girl in the act of raising her handkerchief, and with a sweet
smile playing over her face; her lips seemed about to move, and a
twinkle was discernible in her eyes.[381] Delighted with this picture,
he put the mirror very carefully away; but in about a year his wife
had let the story leak out, and the Prince, hearing of it, threw Fêng
into prison, and took possession of the mirror. Fêng was to be
beheaded; however, he bribed one of the Prince’s ladies to tell His
Highness that if he would pardon him all the treasures of the earth
might easily become his; whereas, on the other hand, his death could
not possibly be of any advantage to the Prince. The Prince now thought
of confiscating all his goods and banishing him; but the third
princess observed, that as he had already seen her, were he to die ten
times over it would not give her back her lost face, and that she had
much better marry him. The Prince would not hear of this, whereupon
his daughter shut herself up and refused all nourishment, at which the
ladies of the palace were dreadfully alarmed, and reported it at once
to the Prince. Fêng was accordingly liberated, and was informed of the
determination of the Princess, which, however, he declined to fall in
with, saying that he was not going thus to sacrifice the wife of his
days of poverty,[382] and would rather die than carry out such an
order. He added that if His Highness would consent, he would purchase
his liberty at the price of everything he had. The Prince was
exceedingly angry at this, and seized Fêng again; and meanwhile one of
the concubines got Fêng’s wife into the palace, intending to poison
her. Fêng’s wife, however, brought her a beautiful present of a coral
stand for a looking-glass, and was so agreeable in her conversation,
that the concubine took a great fancy to her, and presented her to the
Princess, who was equally pleased, and forthwith determined that they
would both be Fêng’s wives.[383] When Fêng heard of this plan, he said
to his wife, “With a Prince’s daughter there can be no distinctions of
first and second wife;” but Mrs. Fêng paid no heed to him, and
immediately sent off to the Prince such an enormous quantity of
valuables that it took a thousand men to carry them, and the Prince
himself had never before heard of such treasures in his life. Fêng was
now liberated once more, and solemnized his marriage with the
Princess.

One night after this he dreamt that the Eighth Prince came to him and
asked him to return his former present, saying that to keep it too
long would be injurious to his chances of life. Fêng asked him to
take a drink, but the Eighth Prince said that he had forsworn wine,
acting under Fêng’s advice, for three years. He then bit Fêng’s arm,
and the latter waked up with the pain to find that the cicatrix on his
arm was no longer there.


FOOTNOTES:

[377] The name here used is the _Hêng_ or “ceaseless” river, which is
applied by the Chinese to the Ganges. A certain number, extending to
fifty-three places of figures, is called “Ganges sand,” in allusion to
a famous remark that “Buddha and the Bôdhisatvas knew of the creation
and destruction of every grain of dust in Jambudwipa (the universe);
how much more the number of the sand-particles in the river Ganges?”

[378] Drunkenness is not recognised in China as an extenuating
circumstance; neither, indeed, is insanity,--a lunatic who takes
another man’s life being equally liable with ordinary persons to the
forfeiture of his own.

[379] A favourite Chinese figure expressive of old age. It dates back
to the celebrated commentary by Tso Ch‘iu Ming on Confucius’ _Spring
and Autumn_ (See No. XLI., note 237):--“Hsi is twenty-three and I am
twenty-five; and marrying thus we shall approach the wood together;”
the “wood” being, of course, that of the coffin.

[380] See No. VIII., note 63.

[381]

   “... Move these eyes?
    ... Here are severed lips.”

          --_Merchant of Venice_, Act iii., sc. 2.

[382] See No. LIII., note 288.

[383] This method of arranging a matrimonial difficulty is a common one
in Chinese fiction, but I should say quite unknown in real life.



LXVII.

THE MAGIC PATH.


In the province of Kuangtung there lived a scholar named Kuo, who was
one evening on his way home from a friend’s, when he lost his way
among the hills. He got into a thick jungle, where, after about an
hour’s wandering, he suddenly heard the sound of laughing and talking
on the top of the hill. Hurrying up in the direction of the sound, he
beheld some ten or a dozen persons sitting on the ground engaged in
drinking. No sooner had they caught sight of Kuo than they all cried
out, “Come along! just room for one more; you’re in the nick of time.”
So Kuo sat down with the company, most of whom, he noticed, belonged
to the literati,[384] and began by asking them to direct him on his way
home; but one of them cried out, “A nice sort of fellow you are, to
be bothering about your way home, and paying no attention to the fine
moon we have got to-night.” The speaker then presented him with a
goblet of wine of exquisite bouquet, which Kuo drank off at a draught,
and another gentleman filled up again for him at once. Now, Kuo was
pretty good in that line, and being very thirsty withal from his long
walk, tossed off bumper after bumper, to the great delight of his
hosts, who were unanimous in voting him a jolly good fellow. He was,
moreover, full of fun, and could imitate exactly the note of any kind
of bird; so all of a sudden he began on the sly to twitter like a
swallow, to the great astonishment of the others, who wondered how it
was a swallow could be out so late. He then changed his note to that
of a cuckoo, sitting there laughing and saying nothing, while his
hosts were discussing the extraordinary sounds they had just heard.
After a while he imitated a parrot, and cried, “Mr. Kuo is very drunk:
you’d better see him home;” and then the sounds ceased, beginning
again by-and-by, when at last the others found out who it was, and all
burst out laughing. They screwed up their mouths and tried to whistle
like Kuo, but none of them could do so; and soon one of them observed,
“What a pity Madam Ch‘ing isn’t with us: we must rendezvous here again
at mid-autumn, and you, Mr. Kuo, must be sure and come.” Kuo said he
would, whereupon another of his hosts got up and remarked that, as he
had given them such an amusing entertainment, they would try to shew
him a few acrobatic feats. They all arose, and one of them planting
his feet firmly, a second jumped up on to his shoulders, a third on to
the second’s shoulders, and a fourth on to his, until it was too high
for the rest to jump up, and accordingly they began to climb as though
it had been a ladder. When they were all up, and the topmost head
seemed to touch the clouds, the whole column bent gradually down until
it lay along the ground transformed into a path. Kuo remained for some
time in a state of considerable alarm, and then, setting out along
this path, ultimately reached his own home. Some days afterwards he
revisited the spot, and saw the remains of a feast lying about on the
ground, with dense bushes on all sides, but no sign of a path. At
mid-autumn he thought of keeping his engagement; however, his friends
persuaded him not to go.


FOOTNOTE:

[384] This term, while really including all literary men, of no matter
what rank or standing, is more usually confined to that large section
of unemployed scholarship made up of (1) those who are waiting to get
started in an official career, (2) those who have taken one or more
degrees and are preparing for the next, (3) those who have failed to
distinguish themselves at the public examinations, and eke out a small
patrimony by taking pupils, and (4) scholars of sufficiently high
qualifications who have no taste for official life.



LXVIII.

THE FAITHLESS WIDOW.[385]


Mr. Niu was a Kiangsi man who traded in piece goods. He married a wife
from the Chêng family, by whom he had two children, a boy and a girl.
When thirty-three years of age he fell ill and died, his son Chung
being then only twelve and his little girl eight or nine. His wife did
not remain faithful to his memory, but, selling off all the property,
pocketed the proceeds and married another man, leaving her two
children almost in a state of destitution with their aunt, Niu’s
sister-in-law, an old lady of sixty, who had lived with them
previously, and had now nowhere to seek a shelter. A few years later
this aunt died, and the family fortunes began to sink even lower than
before; Chung, however, was now grown up, and determined to carry on
his father’s trade, only he had no capital to start with. His sister
marrying a rich trader named Mao, she begged her husband to lend Chung
ten ounces of silver, which he did, and Chung immediately started for
Nanking. On the road he fell in with some bandits, who robbed him of
all he had, and consequently he was unable to return; but one day when
he was at a pawnshop he noticed that the master of the shop was
wonderfully like his late father, and on going out and making
inquiries he found that this pawnbroker bore precisely the same names.
In great astonishment, he forthwith proceeded to frequent the place
with no other object than to watch this man, who, on the other hand,
took no notice of Chung; and by the end of three days, having
satisfied himself that he really saw his own father, and yet not
daring to disclose his own identity, he made application through one
of the assistants, on the score of being himself a Kiangsi man, to be
employed in the shop. Accordingly, an indenture was drawn up; and when
the master noticed Chung’s name and place of residence he started, and
asked him whence he came. With tears in his eyes Chung addressed him
by his father’s name, and then the pawnbroker became lost in a deep
reverie, by-and-by asking Chung how his mother was. Now Chung did not
like to allude to his father’s death, and turned the question by
saying, “My father went away on business six years ago, and never came
back; my mother married again and left us, and had it not been for my
aunt our corpses would long ago have been cast out in the kennel.”
Then the pawnbroker was much moved, and cried out, “I am your father!”
seizing his son’s hand and leading him within to see his step-mother.
This lady was about twenty-two, and, having no children of her own,
was delighted with Chung, and prepared a banquet for him in the inner
apartments. Mr. Niu himself was, however, somewhat melancholy, and
wished to return to his old home; but his wife, fearing that there
would be no one to manage the business, persuaded him to remain; so he
taught his son the trade, and in three months was able to leave it all
to him. He then prepared for his journey, whereupon Chung informed his
step-mother that his father was really dead, to which she replied in
great consternation that she knew him only as a trader to the place,
and that six years previously he had married her, which proved
conclusively that he couldn’t be dead. He then recounted the whole
story, which was a perfect mystery to both of them; and twenty-four
hours afterwards in walked his father, leading a woman whose hair was
all dishevelled. Chung looked at her and saw that she was his own
mother; and Niu took her by the ear and began to revile her, saying,
“Why did you desert my children?” to which the wretched woman made no
reply. He then bit her across the neck, at which she screamed to Chung
for assistance, and he, not being able to bear the sight, stepped in
between them. His father was more than ever enraged at this, when, lo!
Chung’s mother had disappeared. While they were still lost in
astonishment at this strange scene, Mr. Niu’s colour changed; in
another moment his empty clothes had dropped upon the ground, and he
himself became a black vapour and also vanished from their sight. The
step-mother and son were much overcome; they took Niu’s clothes and
buried them, and after that Chung continued his father’s business and
soon amassed great wealth. On returning to his native place he found
that his mother had actually died on the very day of the above
occurrence, and that his father had been seen by the whole family.


FOOTNOTE:

[385] Unless under exceptional circumstances it is not considered
creditable in China for widows to marry again. It may here be
mentioned that the honorary tablets conferred from time to time by His
Imperial Majesty upon virtuous widows are only given to women who,
widowed before the age of thirty, have remained in that state for a
period of thirty years. The meaning of this is obvious: temptations
are supposed to be fewer and less dangerous after thirty, which is the
equivalent of forty with us; and it is wholly improbable that thirty
years of virtuous life, at which period the widow would be at least
fifty, would be followed by any act that might cast a stain upon the
tablet thus bestowed.



LXIX.

THE PRINCESS OF THE TUNG-T‘ING LAKE.


Ch‘ên Pi-chiao was a Pekingese; and being a poor man he attached
himself as secretary to the suite of a high military official named
Chia. On one occasion, while anchored on the Tung-t‘ing lake, they saw
a dolphin[386] floating on the surface of the water; and General Chia
took his bow and shot at it, wounding the creature in the back. A fish
was hanging on to its tail, and would not let go; so both were pulled
out of the water together, and attached to the mast. There they lay
gasping, the dolphin opening its mouth as if pleading for life, until
at length young Ch‘ên begged the General to let them go again; and
then he himself half jokingly put a piece of plaster upon the
dolphin’s wound, and had the two thrown back into the water, where
they were seen for some time afterwards diving and rising again to the
surface. About a year afterwards, Ch‘ên was once more crossing the
Tung-t‘ing lake on his way home, when the boat was upset in a squall,
and he himself only saved by clinging to a bamboo crate, which
finally, after floating about all night, caught in the overhanging
branch of a tree, and thus enabled him to scramble on shore.
By-and-by, another body floated in, and this turned out to be his
servant; but on dragging him out, he found life was already extinct.
In great distress, he sat himself down to rest, and saw beautiful
green hills and waving willows, but not a single human being of whom
he could ask the way. From early dawn till the morning was far
advanced he remained in that state; and then, thinking he saw his
servant’s body move, he stretched out his hand to feel it, and before
long the man threw up several quarts of water and recovered his
consciousness. They now dried their clothes in the sun, and by noon
these were fit to put on; at which period the pangs of hunger began to
assail them, and accordingly they started over the hills in the hope
of coming upon some habitation of man. As they were walking along, an
arrow whizzed past, and the next moment two young ladies dashed by on
handsome palfreys. Each had a scarlet band round her head, with a
bunch of pheasant’s feathers stuck in her hair, and wore a purple
riding-jacket with small sleeves, confined by a green embroidered
girdle round the waist. One of them carried a cross-bow for shooting
bullets, and the other had on her arm a dark-coloured bow-and-arrow
case. Reaching the brow of the hill, Ch‘ên beheld a number of riders
engaged in beating the surrounding cover, all of whom were beautiful
girls and dressed exactly alike. Afraid to advance any further, he
inquired of a youth who appeared to be in attendance, and the latter
told him that it was a hunting party from the palace; and then, having
supplied him with food from his wallet, he bade him retire quickly,
adding that if he fell in with them he would assuredly be put to
death. Thereupon Ch‘ên hurried away; and descending the hill, turned
into a copse where there was a building which he thought would in all
probability be a monastery. On getting nearer, he saw that the place
was surrounded by a wall, and between him and a half-open red-door was
a brook spanned by a stone bridge leading up to it. Pulling back the
door, he beheld within a number of ornamental buildings circling in
the air like so many clouds, and for all the world resembling the
Imperial pleasure-grounds; and thinking it must be the park of some
official personage, he walked quietly in, enjoying the delicious
fragrance of the flowers as he pushed aside the thick vegetation which
obstructed his way. After traversing a winding path fenced in by
balustrades, Ch‘ên reached a second enclosure, wherein were a quantity
of tall willow-trees which swept the red eaves of the buildings with
their branches. The note of some bird would set the petals of the
flowers fluttering in the air, and the least wind would bring the
seed-vessels down from the elm-trees above; and the effect upon the
eye and heart of the beholder was something quite unknown in the world
of mortals. Passing through a small kiosque, Ch‘ên and his servant
came upon a swing which seemed as though suspended from the clouds,
while the ropes hung idly down in the utter stillness that
prevailed.[387] Thinking by this that they were approaching the ladies’
apartments,[388] Ch‘ên would have turned back, but at that moment he
heard sounds of horses’ feet at the door, and what seemed to be the
laughter of a bevy of girls. So he and his servant hid themselves in a
bush; and by-and-by, as the sounds came nearer, he heard one of the
young ladies say, “We’ve had but poor sport to-day;” whereupon another
cried out, “If the princess hadn’t shot that wild goose, we should
have taken all this trouble for nothing.” Shortly after this, a number
of girls dressed in red came in escorting a young lady, who went and
sat down under the kiosque. She wore a hunting costume with tight[389]
sleeves, and was about fourteen or fifteen years old. Her hair looked
like a cloud of mist at the back of her head, and her waist seemed as
though a breath of wind might snap it[390]--incomparable for beauty,
even among the celebrities of old. Just then the attendants handed her
some exquisitely fragrant tea, and stood glittering round her like a
bank of beautiful embroidery. In a few moments the young lady arose
and descended the kiosque; at which one of her attendants cried out,
“Is your Highness too fatigued by riding to take a turn in the swing?”
The princess replied that she was not; and immediately some supported
her under the shoulders, while others seized her arms, and others
again arranged her petticoats, and brought her the proper shoes.[391]
Thus they helped her into the swing, she herself stretching out her
shining arms, and putting her feet into a suitable pair of slippers;
and then--away she went, light as a flying-swallow, far up into the
fleecy clouds. As soon as she had had enough, the attendants helped
her out, and one of them exclaimed, “Truly, your Highness is a
perfect angel!” At this the young lady laughed, and walked away, Ch‘ên
gazing after her in a state of semi-consciousness, until, at length,
the voices died away, and he and his servant crept forth. Walking up
and down near the swing, he suddenly espied a red handkerchief near
the paling, which he knew had been dropped by one of the young ladies;
and, thrusting it joyfully into his sleeve, he walked up and entered
the kiosque. There, upon a table, lay writing materials, and taking
out the handkerchief he indited upon it the following lines:--

       “What form divine was just now sporting nigh?--
   ’Twas she, I trow of ‘golden lily’ fame;
    Her charms the moon’s fair denizens might shame,
        Her fairy footsteps bear her to the sky.”

Humming this stanza to himself, Ch‘ên walked along seeking for the
path by which he had entered; but every door was securely barred, and
he knew not what to do. So he went back to the kiosque, when suddenly
one of the young ladies appeared, and asked him in astonishment what
he did there. “I have lost my way,” replied Ch‘ên; “I pray you lend me
your assistance.” “Do you happen to have found a red handkerchief?”
said the girl. “I have, indeed,” answered Ch‘ên, “but I fear I have
made it somewhat dirty;” and, suiting the action to the word, he drew
it forth, and handed it to her. “Wretched man!” cried the young lady,
“you are undone. This is a handkerchief the princess is constantly
using, and you have gone and scribbled all over it; what will become
of you now?” Ch‘ên was in a great fright, and begged the young lady
to intercede for him; to which she replied, “It was bad enough that
you should come here and spy about; however, being a scholar, and a
man of refinement, I would have done my best for you; but after this,
how am I to help you?” Off she then ran with the handkerchief, while
Ch‘ên remained behind in an agony of suspense, and longing for the
wings of a bird to bear him away from his fate. By-and-by, the young
lady returned and congratulated him, saying, “There is some hope for
you. The Princess read your verses several times over, and was not at
all angry. You will probably be released; but, meanwhile, wait here,
and don’t climb the trees, or try to get through the walls, or you may
not escape after all.” Evening was now drawing on, and Ch‘ên knew not,
for certain, what was about to happen; at the same time he was very
empty, and, what with hunger and anxiety, death would have been almost
a happy release. Before long, the young lady returned with a lamp in
her hand, and followed by a slave-girl bearing wine and food, which
she forthwith presented to Ch‘ên. The latter asked if there was any
news about himself; to which the young lady replied that she had just
mentioned his case to the Princess who, not knowing what to do with
him at that hour of the night, had given orders that he should at once
be provided with food, “which, at any rate,” added she, “is not bad
news.” The whole night long Ch‘ên walked up and down unable to take
rest; and it was not till late in the morning that the young lady
appeared with more food for him. Imploring her once more to intercede
on his behalf, she told him that the Princess had not instructed them
either to kill or to release him, and that it would not be fitting for
such as herself to be bothering the Princess with suggestions. So
there Ch‘ên still remained until another day had almost gone, hoping
for the welcome moment; and then the young lady rushed hurriedly in,
saying, “You are lost! Some one has told the Queen, and she, in a fit
of anger, threw the handkerchief on the ground, and made use of very
violent language. Oh dear! oh dear! I’m sure something dreadful will
happen.” Ch‘ên threw himself on his knees, his face as pale as ashes,
and begged to know what he should do; but at that moment sounds were
heard outside, and the young lady waved her hand to him, and ran away.
Immediately a crowd came pouring in through the door, with ropes ready
to secure the object of their search; and among them was a slave-girl,
who looked fixedly at our hero, and cried out, “Why, surely you are
Mr. Ch‘ên, aren’t you?” at the same time stopping the others from
binding him until she should have reported to the Queen. In a few
minutes she came back, and said the Queen requested him to walk in;
and in he went, through a number of doors, trembling all the time with
fear, until he reached a hall, the screen before which was ornamented
with green jade and silver. A beautiful girl drew aside the bamboo
curtain at the door, and announced, “Mr. Ch‘ên;” and he himself
advanced, and fell down before a lady, who was sitting upon a dais at
the other end, knocking his head upon the ground, and crying out,
“Thy servant is from a far-off country; spare, oh! spare his life.”
“Sir!” replied the Queen, rising hastily from her seat, and extending
a hand to Ch‘ên, “but for you, I should not be here to-day. Pray
excuse the rudeness of my maids.” Thereupon a splendid repast was
served, and wine was poured out in chased goblets, to the no small
astonishment of Ch‘ên, who could not understand why he was treated
thus. “Your kindness,” observed the Queen, “in restoring me to life, I
am quite unable to repay; however, as you have made my daughter the
subject of your verse, the match is clearly ordained by fate, and I
shall send her along to be your handmaid.” Ch‘ên hardly knew what to
make of this extraordinary accomplishment of his wishes, but the
marriage was solemnized there and then; bands of music struck up
wedding-airs, beautiful mats were laid down for them to walk upon, and
the whole place was brilliantly lighted with a profusion of coloured
lamps. Then Ch‘ên said to the Princess, “That a stray and unknown
traveller like myself, guilty of spoiling your Highness’s
handkerchief, should have escaped the fate he deserved, was already
more than could be expected; but now to receive you in marriage--this,
indeed, far surpasses my wildest expectations.” “My mother,” replied
the Princess, “is married to the King of this lake, and is herself a
daughter of the River Prince. Last year, when on her way to visit her
parents, she happened to cross the lake, and was wounded by an arrow;
but you saved her life, and gave her plaster for the wound. Our
family, therefore, is grateful to you, and can never forget your good
act. And do not regard me as of another species than yourself; the
Dragon King has bestowed upon me the elixir of immortality, and this I
will gladly share with you.” Then Ch‘ên knew that his wife was a
spirit, and by-and-by he asked her how the slave-girl had recognised
him; to which she replied, that the girl was the small fish which had
been found hanging to the dolphin’s tail. He then inquired why, as
they didn’t intend to kill him, he had been kept so long a prisoner.
“I was charmed with your literary talent,” answered the Princess, “but
I did not venture to take the responsibility upon myself; and no one
saw how I tossed and turned the livelong night.” “Dear friend,” said
Ch‘ên; “but, come, tell me who was it that brought my food.” “A trusty
waiting-maid of mine,” replied the Princess; “her name is A-nien.”
Ch‘ên then asked how he could ever repay her, and the Princess told
him there would be plenty of time to think of that; and when he
inquired where the king, her father, was, she said he had gone off
with the God of War to fight against Ch‘ih-yu,[392] and had not
returned. A few days passed, and Ch‘ên began to think his people at
home would be anxious about him; so he sent off his servant with a
letter to tell them he was safe and sound, at which they were all
overjoyed, believing him to have been lost in the wreck of the boat,
of which event news had already reached them. However, they were
unable to send him any reply, and were considerably distressed as to
how he would find his way home again. Six months afterwards Ch‘ên
himself appeared, dressed in fine clothes, and riding on a splendid
horse, with plenty of money, and valuable jewels in his
pocket--evidently a man of wealth. From that time forth he kept up a
magnificent establishment; and in seven or eight years had become the
father of five children. Every day he kept open house, and if any one
asked him about his adventures, he would readily tell them without
reservation. Now a friend of his, named Liang, whom he had known since
they were boys together, and who, after holding an appointment for
some years in Nan-fu, was crossing the Tung-t‘ing Lake, on his way
home, suddenly beheld an ornamental barge, with carved wood-work and
red windows, passing over the foamy waves to the sound of music and
singing from within. Just then a beautiful young lady leant out of one
of the windows, which she had pushed open, and by her side Liang saw a
young man sitting, in a _négligé_ attitude, while two nice-looking
girls stood by and shampooed[393] him. Liang, at first, thought it
must be the party of some high official, and wondered at the scarcity
of attendants;[394] but, on looking more closely at the young man, he
saw it was no other than his old friend Ch‘ên. Thereupon he began
almost involuntarily to shout out to him; and when Ch‘ên heard his own
name, he stopped the rowers, and walked out towards the
figure-head,[395] beckoning Liang to cross over into his boat, where
the remains of their feast was quickly cleared away, and fresh
supplies of wine, and tea, and all kinds of costly foods spread out by
handsome slave-girls. “It’s ten years since we met,” said Liang, “and
what a rich man you have become in the meantime.” “Well,” replied
Ch‘ên, “do you think that so very extraordinary for a poor fellow like
me?” Liang then asked him who was the lady with whom he was taking
wine, and Ch‘ên said she was his wife, which very much astonished
Liang, who further inquired whither they were going. “Westwards,”
answered Ch‘ên, and prevented any further questions by giving a signal
for the music, which effectually put a stop to all further
conversation.[396] By-and-by, Liang found the wine getting into his
head, and seized the opportunity to ask Ch‘ên to make him a present
of one of his beautiful slave-girls. “You are drunk,[397] my friend,”
replied Ch‘ên; “however, I will give you the price of one as a pledge
of our old friendship.” And, turning to a servant, he bade him present
Liang with a splendid pearl, saying, “Now you can buy a Green
Pearl;[398] you see I am not stingy;” adding forthwith, “but I am
pressed for time, and can stay no longer with my old friend.” So he
escorted Liang back to his boat, and, having let go the rope,
proceeded on his way. Now, when Liang reached home, and called at
Ch‘ên’s house, whom should he see but Ch‘ên himself drinking with a
party of friends. “Why, I saw you only yesterday,” cried Liang, “upon
the Tung-t‘ing. How quickly you have got back!” Ch‘ên denied this, and
then Liang repeated the whole story, at the conclusion of which, Ch‘ên
laughed, and said, “You must be mistaken. Do you imagine I can be in
two places at once?” The company were all much astonished, and knew
not what to make of it; and subsequently when Ch‘ên, who died at the
age of eighty, was being carried to his grave, the bearers thought the
coffin seemed remarkably light, and on opening it to see, found that
the body had disappeared.


FOOTNOTES:

[386] Literally, a “pig old-woman dragon.” Porpoise (Fr.
_porc-poisson_) suggests itself at once; but I think fresh-water
dolphin is the best term, especially as the Tung-t‘ing lake is many
hundred miles inland. The commentator explains it by _t‘o_, which
would be “alligator” or “cayman,” and is of course out of the
question. My friend, Mr. L. C. Hopkins, has taken the trouble to make
some investigations for me on this subject. He tells me that this
fish, also called the “river pig,” has first to be surrounded and
secured by a strong net. Being too large to be hauled on board a boat,
it is then driven ashore, where oil is extracted from the carcase and
used for giving a gloss to silk thread, &c.

[387] Literally, in the utter absence of anybody.

[388] In passing near to the women’s quarters in a friend’s house, it
is etiquette to cough slightly, that inmates may be warned and
withdraw from the doors or windows in time to escape observation. Over
and over again at interviews with mandarins of all grades I have heard
the rustling of the ladies’ dresses from some coigne of vantage,
whence every movement of mine was being watched by an inquisitive
crowd; and on one occasion I actually saw an eye peering through a
small hole in the partition behind me.

[389] Literally, “bald”--_i.e._, without the usual width and
ornamentation of a Chinese lady’s sleeve.

[390] Small waists are much admired in China, but any such artificial
aids as stays and tight lacing are quite unknown. A certain Prince Wei
admitted none but the possessors of small waists into his harem; hence
his establishment came to be called the _Palace of Small Waists_.

[391] Probably of felt or some such material, to prevent the young lady
from slipping as she stood, not sat, in the swing.

[392] A rebel chieftain of the legendary period of China’s history, who
took up arms against the Emperor Huang Ti (B.C. 2697-2597), but was
subsequently defeated in what was perhaps the first decisive battle of
the world.

[393] This favourite process consists in gently thumping the person
operated upon all over the back with the soft part of the closed
fists. Compare Lane, _Arabian Nights_, Vol. I., p. 551:--“She then
pressed me to her bosom, and laid me on the bed, and continued gently
kneading my limbs until slumber overcame me.”

[394] See No. LVI., note 315. A considerable number of the attendants
there mentioned would accompany any high official, some in the same,
the rest in another barge.

[395] Generally known as the “cut-wave God.”

[396] At all great banquets in China a theatrical troupe is engaged to
perform while the dinner, which may last from four to six hours, drags
its slow length along.

[397 See No. LIV., note 292.

[398] The name of a celebrated beauty.



LXX.

THE PRINCESS LILY.


At Chiao-chou there lived a man named Tou Hsün, otherwise known as
Hsiao-hui. One day he had just dropped off to sleep when he beheld a
man in serge clothes standing by the bedside, and apparently anxious
to communicate something to him. Tou inquired his errand; to which the
man replied that he was the bearer of an invitation from his master.
“And who is your master?” asked Tou. “Oh, he doesn’t live far off,”
replied the other; so away they went together, and after some time
came to a place where there were innumerable white houses rising one
above the other, and shaded by dense groves of lemon-trees. They
threaded their way past countless doors, not at all similar to those
usually used, and saw a great many official-looking men and women
passing and repassing, each of whom called out to the man in serge,
“Has Mr. Tou come?” to which he always replied in the affirmative.
Here a mandarin met them and escorted Tou into a palace, upon which
the latter remarked, “This is really very kind of you; but I haven’t
the honour of knowing you, and I feel somewhat diffident about going
in.” “Our Prince,” answered his guide, “has long heard of you as a
man of good family and excellent principles, and is very anxious to
make your acquaintance.” “Who is your Prince?” inquired Tou. “You’ll
see for yourself in a moment,” said the other; and just then out came
two girls with banners, and guided Tou through a great number of doors
until they came to a throne, upon which sat the Prince. His Highness
immediately descended to meet him, and made him take the seat of
honour; after which ceremony exquisite viands of all kinds were spread
out before them. Looking up, Tou noticed a scroll, on which was
inscribed, _The Cassia Court_, and he was just beginning to feel
puzzled as to what he should say next, when the Prince addressed him
as follows:--“The honour of having you for a neighbour is, as it were,
a bond of affinity between us. Let us, then, give ourselves up to
enjoyment, and put away suspicion and fear.” Tou murmured his
acquiescence; and when the wine had gone round several times there
arose from a distance the sound of pipes and singing, unaccompanied,
however, by the usual drum, and very much subdued in volume. Thereupon
the Prince looked about him and cried out, “We are about to set a
verse for any of you gentlemen to cap; here you are:--‘_Genius seeks
the Cassia Court_.’” While the courtiers were all engaged in thinking
of some fit antithesis,[399] Tou added, “_Refinement loves the Lily
flower_;” upon which the Prince exclaimed, “How strange! Lily is my
daughter’s name; and, after such a coincidence, she must come in for
you to see her.” In a few moments the tinkling of her ornaments and a
delicious fragrance of musk announced the arrival of the Princess, who
was between sixteen and seventeen and endowed with surpassing beauty.
The Prince bade her make an obeisance to Tou, at the same time
introducing her as his daughter Lily; and as soon as the ceremony was
over the young lady moved away. Tou remained in a state of
stupefaction, and, when the Prince proposed that they should pledge
each other in another bumper, paid not the slightest attention to what
he said. Then the Prince, perceiving what had distracted his guest’s
attention, remarked that he was anxious to find a consort for his
daughter, but that unfortunately there was the difficulty of
_species_, and he didn’t know what to do; but again Tou took no notice
of what the Prince was saying, until at length one of the bystanders
plucked his sleeve, and asked him if he hadn’t seen that the Prince
wished to drink with him, and had just been addressing some remarks to
him. Thereupon Tou started, and, recovering himself at once, rose from
the table and apologized to the Prince for his rudeness, declaring
that he had taken so much wine he didn’t know what he was doing.
“Besides,” said he, “your Highness has doubtless business to transact;
I will therefore take my leave.” “I am extremely pleased to have seen
you,” replied the Prince, “and only regret that you are in such a
hurry to be gone. However, I won’t detain you now; but, if you don’t
forget all about us, I shall be very glad to invite you here again.”
He then gave orders that Tou should be escorted home; and on the way
one of the courtiers asked the latter why he had said nothing when the
Prince had spoken of a consort for his daughter, as his Highness had
evidently made the remark with an eye to securing Tou as his
son-in-law. The latter was now sorry that he had missed his
opportunity; meanwhile they reached his house, and he himself awoke.
The sun had already set, and there he sat in the gloom thinking of
what had happened. In the evening he put out his candle, hoping to
continue his dream; but, alas! the thread was broken, and all he could
do was to pour forth his repentance in sighs. One night he was
sleeping at a friend’s house when suddenly an officer of the court
walked in and summoned him to appear before the Prince; so up he
jumped, and hurried off at once to the palace, where he prostrated
himself before the throne. The Prince raised him and made him sit
down, saying that since they had last met he had become aware that Tou
would be willing to marry his daughter, and hoped that he might be
allowed to offer her as a handmaid. Tou rose and thanked the Prince,
who thereupon gave orders for a banquet to be prepared; and when they
had finished their wine it was announced that the Princess had
completed her toilet. Immediately a bevy of young ladies came in with
the Princess in their midst, a red veil covering her head, and her
tiny footsteps sounding like rippling water as they led her up to be
introduced to Tou. When the ceremonies were concluded, Tou said to
the Princess, “In your presence, Madam, it would be easy to forget
even death itself; but, tell me, is not this all a dream?” “And how
can it be a dream,” asked the Princess, “when you and I are here
together?”

Next morning Tou amused himself by helping the Princess to paint her
face,[400] and then, seizing a girdle, began to measure the size of her
waist[401] and the length of her fingers and feet. “Are you crazy?”
cried she, laughing; to which Tou replied, “I have been deceived so
often by dreams, that I am now making a careful record. If such it
turns out to be, I shall still have something as a souvenir of you.”
While they were thus chatting a maid rushed into the room, shrieking
out, “Alas, alas! a great monster has got into the palace: the Prince
has fled into a side chamber: destruction is surely come upon us.” Tou
was in a great fright when he heard this, and rushed off to see the
Prince, who grasped his hand and, with tears in his eyes, begged him
not to desert them. “Our relationship,” cried he, “was cemented when
Heaven sent this calamity upon us; and now my kingdom will be
overthrown. What shall I do?” Tou begged to know what was the matter;
and then the Prince laid a despatch upon the table, telling Tou to
open it and make himself acquainted with its contents. This despatch
ran as follows:--“The Grand Secretary of State, Black Wings, to His
Royal Highness, announcing the arrival of an extraordinary monster,
and advising the immediate removal of the Court in order to preserve
the vitality of the empire. A report has just been received from the
officer in charge of the Yellow Gate stating that, ever since the 6th
of the 5th moon, a huge monster, 10,000 feet in length, has been lying
coiled up outside the entrance to the palace, and that it has already
devoured 13,800 and odd of your Highness’s subjects, and is spreading
desolation far and wide. On receipt of this information your servant
proceeded to make a reconnaissance, and there beheld a venomous
reptile with a head as big as a mountain and eyes like vast sheets of
water. Every time it raised its head, whole buildings disappeared down
its throat; and, on stretching itself out, walls and houses were alike
laid in ruins. In all antiquity there is no record of such a scourge.
The fate of our temples and ancestral halls is now a mere question of
hours; we therefore pray your Royal Highness to depart at once with
the Royal Family and seek somewhere else a happier abode.”[402] When
Tou had read this document his face turned ashy pale; and just then a
messenger rushed in, shrieking out, “Here is the monster!” at which
the whole Court burst into lamentations as if their last hour was at
hand. The Prince was beside himself with fear; all he could do was to
beg Tou to look to his own safety without regarding the wife through
whom he was involved in their misfortunes. The Princess, however, who
was standing by bitterly lamenting the fate that had fallen upon them,
begged Tou not to desert her; and, after a moment’s hesitation, he
said he should be only too happy to place his own poor home at their
immediate disposal if they would only deign to honour him. “How can we
talk of _deigning_,” cried the Princess, “at such a moment as this? I
pray you take us there as quickly as possible.” So Tou gave her his
arm, and in no time they had arrived at Tou’s house, which the
Princess at once pronounced to be a charming place of residence, and
better even than their former kingdom. “But I must now ask you,” said
she to Tou, “to make some arrangement for my father and mother, that
the old order of things may be continued here.” Tou at first offered
objections to this; whereupon the Princess said that a man who would
not help another in his hour of need was not much of a man, and
immediately went off into a fit of hysterics, from which Tou was
trying his best to recall her, when all of a sudden he awoke and found
that it was all a dream. However, he still heard a buzzing in his ears
which he knew was not made by any human being, and, on looking
carefully about he discovered two or three bees which had settled on
his pillow. He was very much astonished at this, and consulted with
his friend, who was also greatly amazed at his strange story; and then
the latter pointed out a number of other bees on various parts of his
dress, none of which would go away even when brushed off. His friend
now advised him to get a hive for them, which he did without delay;
and immediately it was filled by a whole swarm of bees, which came
flying from over the wall in great numbers. On tracing whence they had
come, it was found that they belonged to an old gentleman who lived
near, and who had kept bees for more than thirty years previously. Tou
thereupon went and told him the story; and when the old gentleman
examined his hive he found the bees all gone. On breaking it open he
discovered a large snake inside of about ten feet in length, which he
immediately killed, recognising in it the “huge monster” of Tou’s
adventure. As for the bees, they remained with Tou, and increased in
numbers every year.


FOOTNOTES:

[399] In this favourite pastime of the literati in China the important
point is that each word in the second line should be a due and proper
antithesis of the word in the first line to which it corresponds.

[400] See No. LXII., note 349.

[401] See No. LXIX., note 390.

[402] The language in which this fanciful document is couched is
precisely such as would be used by an officer of the Government in
announcing some national calamity; hence the value of these
tales,--models as they are of the purest possible style.



LXXI.

THE DONKEY’S REVENGE.


Chung Ch‘ing-yü was a scholar of some reputation, who lived in
Manchuria. When he went up for his master’s degree, he heard that
there was a Taoist priest at the capital who would tell people’s
fortunes, and was very anxious to see him; and at the conclusion of
the second part of the examination,[403] he accidentally met him at
Pao-t‘u-ch‘üan.[404] The priest was over sixty years of age, and had
the usual white beard, flowing down over his breast. Around him stood
a perfect wall of people inquiring their future fortunes, and to each
the old man made a brief reply: but when he saw Chung among the crowd,
he was overjoyed, and, seizing him by the hand, said, “Sir, your
virtuous intentions command my esteem.” He then led him up behind a
screen, and asked if he did not wish to know what was to come; and
when Chung replied in the affirmative, the priest informed him that
his prospects were bad. “You may succeed in passing this examination,”
continued he, “but on returning covered with honour to your home, I
fear that your mother will be no longer there.” Now Chung was a very
filial son; and as soon as he heard these words, his tears began to
flow, and he declared that he would go back without competing any
further. The priest observed that if he let this chance slip, he could
never hope for success; to which Chung replied that, on the other
hand, if his mother were to die he could never hope to have her back
again, and that even the rank of Viceroy would not repay him for her
loss. “Well,” said the priest, “you and I were connected in a former
existence, and I must do my best to help you now.” So he took out a
pill which he gave to Chung, and told him that if he sent it
post-haste by some one to his mother, it would prolong her life for
seven days, and thus he would be able to see her once again after the
examination was over. Chung took the pill, and went off in very low
spirits; but he soon reflected that the span of human life is a matter
of destiny, and that every day he could spend at home would be one
more day devoted to the service of his mother. Accordingly, he got
ready to start at once, and, hiring a donkey, actually set out on his
way back. When he had gone about half-a-mile, the donkey turned round
and ran home; and when he used his whip, the animal threw itself down
on the ground. Chung got into a great perspiration, and his servant
recommended him to remain where he was; but this he would not hear
of, and hired another donkey, which served him exactly the same trick
as the other one. The sun was now sinking behind the hills, and his
servant advised his master to stay and finish his examination while he
himself went back home before him. Chung had no alternative but to
assent, and the next day he hurried through with his papers, starting
immediately afterwards, and not stopping at all on the way either to
eat or to sleep. All night long he went on, and arrived to find his
mother in a very critical state; however, when he gave her the pill
she so far recovered that he was able to go in and see her. Grasping
his hand, she begged him not to weep, telling him that she had just
dreamt she had been down to the Infernal Regions, where the King of
Hell had informed her with a gracious smile that her record was fairly
clean, and that in view of the filial piety of her son she was to have
twelve years more of life. Chung was rejoiced at this, and his mother
was soon restored to her former health.

Before long the news arrived that Chung had passed his examination;
upon which he bade adieu to his mother, and went off to the capital,
where he bribed the eunuchs of the palace to communicate with his
friend the Taoist priest. The latter was very much pleased, and came
out to see him, whereupon Chung prostrated himself at his feet. “Ah,”
said the priest, “this success of yours, and the prolongation of your
good mother’s life, is all a reward for your virtuous conduct. What
have I done in the matter?” Chung was very much astonished that the
priest should already know what had happened; however, he now
inquired as to his own future. “You will never rise to high rank,”
replied the priest, “but you will attain the years of an octogenarian.
In a former state of existence you and I were once travelling
together, when you threw a stone at a dog, and accidentally killed a
frog. Now that frog has re-appeared in life as a donkey, and according
to all principles of destiny you ought to suffer for what you did; but
your filial piety has touched the Gods, a protecting star-influence
has passed into your nativity sheet, and you will come to no harm. On
the other hand, there is your wife; in her former state she was not as
virtuous as she might have been, and her punishment in this life was
to be widowed quite young; you, however, have secured the prolongation
of your own term of years, and therefore I fear that before long your
wife will pay the penalty of death.” Chung was much grieved at hearing
this; but after a while he asked the priest where his second wife to
be was living. “At Chung-chou,” replied the latter; “she is now
fourteen years old.” The priest then bade him adieu, telling him that
if any mischance should befall him he was to hurry off towards the
south-east. About a year after this, Chung’s wife did die; and his
mother then desiring him to go and visit his uncle, who was a
magistrate in Kiangsi, on which journey he would have to pass through
Chung-chou, it seemed like a fulfilment of the old priest’s prophecy.
As he went along, he came to a village on the banks of a river, where
a large crowd of people was gathered together round a theatrical
performance which was going on there. Chung would have passed quietly
by, had not a stray donkey followed so close behind him that he turned
round and hit it over the ears. This startled the donkey so much that
it ran off full gallop, and knocked a rich gentleman’s child, who was
sitting with its nurse on the bank, right into the water, before any
one of the servants could lend a hand to save it. Immediately there
was a great outcry against Chung, who gave his mule the rein and
dashed away, mindful of the priest’s warning, towards the south-east.
After riding about seven miles, he reached a mountain village, where
he saw an old man standing at the door of a house, and, jumping off
his mule, made him a low bow. The old man asked him in, and inquired
his name and whence he came; to which Chung replied by telling him the
whole adventure. “Never fear,” said the old man; “you can stay here,
while I send out to learn the position of affairs.” By the evening his
messenger had returned, and then they knew for the first time that the
child belonged to a wealthy family. The old man looked grave and said,
“Had it been anybody else’s child, I might have helped you; as it is I
can do nothing.” Chung was greatly alarmed at this; however, the old
man told him to remain quietly there for the night, and see what turn
matters might take. Chung was overwhelmed with anxiety, and did not
sleep a wink; and next morning he heard that the constables were after
him, and that it was death to any one who should conceal him. The old
man changed countenance at this, and went inside, leaving Chung to
his own reflections; but towards the middle of the night he came and
knocked at Chung’s door, and, sitting down, began to ask how old his
wife was. Chung replied that he was a widower; at which the old man
seemed rather pleased, and declared that in such case help would be
forthcoming; “for,” said he, “my sister’s husband has taken the vows
and become a priest,[405] and my sister herself has died, leaving an
orphan girl who has now no home; and if you would only marry her....”
Chung was delighted, more especially as this would be both the
fulfilment of the Taoist priest’s prophecy, and a means of extricating
himself from his present difficulty; at the same time, he declared he
should be sorry to implicate his future father-in-law. “Never fear
about that,” replied the old man; “my sister’s husband is pretty
skilful in the black art. He has not mixed much with the world of
late; but when you are married, you can discuss the matter with my
niece.” So Chung married the young lady, who was sixteen years of age,
and very beautiful; but whenever he looked at her he took occasion to
sigh. At last she said, “I may be ugly; but you needn’t be in such a
hurry to let me know it;” whereupon Chung begged her pardon, and said
he felt himself only too lucky to have met with such a divine
creature; adding that he sighed because he feared some misfortune was
coming on them which would separate them for ever. He then told her
his story, and the young lady was very angry that she should have been
drawn into such a difficulty without a word of warning. Chung fell on
his knees, and said he had already consulted with her uncle, who was
unable himself to do anything, much as he wished it. He continued that
he was aware of her power; and then, pointing out that his alliance
was not altogether beneath her, made all kinds of promises if she
would only help him out of this trouble. The young lady was no longer
able to refuse, but informed him that to apply to her father would
entail certain disagreeable consequences, as he had retired from the
world, and did not any more recognise her as his daughter. That night
they did not attempt to sleep, spending the interval in padding their
knees with thick felt concealed beneath their clothes; and then they
got into chairs and were carried off to the hills. After journeying
some distance, they were compelled by the nature of the road to alight
and walk; and it was only by a great effort that Chung succeeded at
last in getting his wife to the top. At the door of the temple they
sat down to rest, the powder and paint on the young lady’s face having
all mixed with the perspiration trickling down; but when Chung began
to apologize for bringing her to this pass, she replied that it was a
mere trifle compared with what was to come. By-and-by, they went
inside; and threading their way to the wall beyond, found the young
lady’s father sitting in contemplation,[406] his eyes closed, and a
servant-boy standing by with a chowry.[407] Everything was beautifully
clean and nice, but before the dais were sharp stones scattered about
as thick as the stars in the sky. The young lady did not venture to
select a favourable spot; she fell on her knees at once, and Chung did
likewise behind her. Then her father opened his eyes, shutting them
again almost instantaneously; whereupon the young lady said, “For a
long time I have not paid my respects to you. I am now married, and I
have brought my husband to see you.” A long time passed away, and then
her father opened his eyes and said, “You’re giving a great deal of
trouble,” immediately relapsing into silence again. There the husband
and wife remained until the stones seemed to pierce into their very
bones; but after a while the father cried out, “Have you brought the
donkey?” His daughter replied that they had not; whereupon they were
told to go and fetch it at once, which they did, not knowing what the
meaning of this order was. After a few more days’ kneeling, they
suddenly heard that the murderer of the child had been caught and
beheaded, and were just congratulating each other on the success of
their scheme, when a servant came in with a stick in his hand, the top
of which had been chopped off. “This stick,” said the servant, “died
instead of you. Bury it reverently, that the wrong done to the tree
may be somewhat atoned for.”[408] Then Chung saw that at the place
where the top of the stick had been chopped off there were traces of
blood; he therefore buried it with the usual ceremony, and immediately
set off with his wife, and returned to his own home.


FOOTNOTES:

[403] The examination consists of three bouts of three days each,
during which periods the candidates remain shut up in their
examination cells day and night.

[404] The name of a place.

[405] This interesting ceremony is performed by placing little conical
pastilles on a certain number of spots, varying from three to twelve,
on the candidate’s head. These are then lighted and allowed to burn
down into the flesh, while the surrounding parts are vigorously rubbed
by attendant priests in order to lessen the pain. The whole thing
lasts about twenty minutes, and is always performed on the eve of
Shâkyamuni Buddha’s birthday. The above was well described by Mr. S.
L. Baldwin in the _Foochow Herald_.

[406] There is a room in most Buddhist temples specially devoted to
this purpose.

[407] The Buddhist emblem of cleanliness; generally a yak’s tail, and
commonly used as a fly-brush.

[408] Tree-worship can hardly be said to exist in China at the present
day; though at a comparatively recent epoch this phase of religious
sentiment must have been widely spread. See _The Flower Nymphs_ and
_Mr. Willow_.



LXXII.

THE WOLF DREAM.


Mr. Pai was a native of Chi-li, and his eldest son was called Chia.
The latter had been some two years holding an appointment[409] as
magistrate in the south; but because of the great distance between
them, his family had heard nothing of him. One day a distant
connection, named Ting, called at the house; and Mr. Pai, not having
seen this gentleman for a long time, treated him with much cordiality.
Now Ting was one of those persons who are occasionally employed by the
Judge of the Infernal Regions to make arrests on earth;[410] and, as
they were chatting together, Mr. Pai questioned him about the realms
below. Ting told him all kinds of strange things, but Pai did not
believe them, answering only by a smile. Some days afterwards, he had
just lain down to sleep when Ting walked in and asked him to go for a
stroll; so they went off together, and by-and-by reached the city.
“There,” said Ting, pointing to a door, “lives your nephew,” alluding
to a son of Mr. Pai’s elder sister, who was a magistrate in Honan; and
when Pai expressed his doubts as to the accuracy of this statement,
Ting led him in, when, lo and behold! there was his nephew, sitting in
his court dressed in his official robes. Around him stood the guard,
and it was impossible to get near him; but Ting remarked that his
son’s residence was not far off, and asked Pai if he would not like to
see him too. The latter assenting, they walked along till they came to
a large building, which Ting said was the place. However, there was a
fierce wolf at the entrance,[411] and Mr. Pai was afraid to go in. Ting
bade him enter, and accordingly they walked in, when they found that
all the employés of the place, some of whom were standing about and
others lying down to sleep, were all wolves. The central pathway was
piled up with whitening bones, and Mr. Pai began to feel horribly
alarmed but Ting kept close to him all the time, and at length they
got safely in. Pai’s son, Chia, was just coming out; and when he saw
his father accompanied by Ting, he was overjoyed, and, asking them to
sit down, bade the attendants serve some refreshment. Thereupon a
great big wolf brought in in his mouth the carcase of a dead man, and
set it before them, at which Mr. Pai rose up in consternation, and
asked his son what this meant. “It’s only a little refreshment for
you, father,” replied Chia; but this did not calm Mr. Pai’s agitation,
who would have retired precipitately, had it not been for the crowd of
wolves which barred the path. Just as he was at a loss what to do,
there was a general stampede among the animals which scurried away,
some under the couches and some under the tables and chairs; and while
he was wondering what the cause of this could be, in marched two
knights in golden armour, who looked sternly at Chia, and, producing a
black rope, proceeded to bind him hand and foot. Chia fell down before
them, and was changed into a tiger with horrid fangs; and then one of
the knights drew a glittering sword and would have cut off its head,
had not the other cried out, “Not yet! not yet! that is for the fourth
month next year. Let us now only take out its teeth.” Immediately that
knight produced a huge mallet, and, with a few blows, scattered the
tiger’s teeth all over the floor, the tiger roaring so loudly with
pain as to shake the very hills, and frightening all the wits out of
Mr. Pai--who woke up with a start. He found he had been dreaming, and
at once sent off to invite Ting to come and see him; but Ting sent
back to say he must beg to be excused. Then Mr. Pai, pondering on what
he had seen in his dream, despatched his second son with a letter to
Chia, full of warnings and good advice; and lo! when his son arrived,
he found that his elder brother had lost all his front teeth, these
having been knocked out, as he averred, by a fall he had had from his
horse when tipsy; and, on comparing dates, the day of that fall was
found to coincide with the day of his father’s dream. The younger
brother was greatly amazed at this, and took out their father’s
letter, which he gave to Chia to read. The latter changed colour, but
immediately asked his brother what there was to be astonished at in
the coincidence of a dream. And just at that time he was busily
engaged in bribing his superiors to put him first on the list for
promotion, so that he soon forgot all about the circumstance; while
the younger, observing what harpies Chia’s subordinates were, taking
presents from one man and using their influence for another, in one
unbroken stream of corruption, sought out his elder brother, and, with
tears in his eyes, implored him to put some check upon their rapacity.
“My brother,” replied Chia, “your life has been passed in an obscure
village; you know nothing of our official routine. We are promoted or
degraded at the will of our superiors, and not by the voice of the
people. He, therefore, who gratifies his superiors is marked out for
success;[412] whereas he who consults the wishes of the people is
unable to gratify his superiors as well.” Chia’s brother saw that his
advice was thrown away; he accordingly returned home and told his
father all that had taken place. The old man was much affected, but
there was nothing that he could do in the matter, so he devoted
himself to assisting the poor, and such acts of charity, daily praying
the Gods that the wicked son alone might suffer for his crimes, and
not entail misery on his innocent wife and children. The next year it
was reported that Chia had been recommended for a post in the Board of
Civil Office,[413] and friends crowded the father’s door, offering
their congratulations upon the happy event. But the old man sighed and
took to his bed, pretending he was too unwell to receive visitors.
Before long another message came, informing them that Chia had fallen
in with bandits while on his way home, and that he and all his retinue
had been killed. Then his father arose and said, “Verily the Gods are
good unto me, for they have visited his sins upon himself alone;” and
he immediately proceeded to burn incense and return thanks. Some of
his friends would have persuaded him that the report was probably
untrue; but the old man had no doubts as to its correctness, and made
haste to get ready his son’s grave. But Chia was not yet dead. In the
fatal fourth moon he had started on his journey and had fallen in with
bandits, to whom he had offered all his money and valuables; upon
which the latter cried out, “We have come to avenge the cruel wrongs
of many hundreds of victims; do you imagine we want only _that_?” They
then cut off his head, and the head of his wicked secretary, and the
heads of several of his servants who had been foremost in carrying
out his shameful orders, and were now accompanying him to the capital.
They then divided the booty between them, and made off with all speed.
Chia’s soul remained near his body for some time, until at length a
high mandarin passing by asked who it was that was lying there dead.
One of his servants replied that he had been a magistrate at such and
such a place, and that his name was Pai. “What!” said the mandarin,
“the son of old Mr. Pai? It is hard that his father should live to see
such sorrow as this. Put his head on again.”[414] Then a man stepped
forward and placed Chia’s head upon his shoulders again, when the
mandarin interrupted him, saying, “A crooked-minded man should not
have a straight body: put his head on sideways.” By-and-by Chia’s soul
returned to its tenement; and when his wife and children arrived to
take away the corpse, they found that he was still breathing. Carrying
him home, they poured some nourishment down his throat, which he was
able to swallow; but there he was at an out-of-the-way place, without
the means of continuing his journey. It was some six months before his
father heard the real state of the case, and then he sent off the
second son to bring his brother home. Chia had indeed come to life
again, but he was able to see down his own back, and was regarded ever
afterwards more as a monstrosity than as a man. Subsequently the
nephew, whom old Mr. Pai had seen sitting in state surrounded by
officials, actually became an Imperial Censor, so that every detail of
the dream was thus strangely realised.[415]


FOOTNOTES:

[409] Literally, “had been allotted the post of Nan-fu magistrate,”
such appointments being always determined by drawing lots.

[410] Such is one common explanation of catalepsy (see No. I., note
40), it being further averred that the proper lictors of the Infernal
regions are unable to remain long in the _light_ of the upper world.

[411] Upon a wall at the entrance to every official residence is
painted a huge fabulous animal, called _Greed_, in such a position
that the resident mandarin must see it every time he goes out of his
front gates. It is to warn him against greed and the crimes that are
sure to flow from it.

[412] Such, indeed, is the case at the present day in China, and
elsewhere.

[413] See No. VII., note 54.

[414] The great sorrow of decapitation as opposed to strangulation is
that the body will appear in the realms below without a head. The
family of any condemned man who may have sufficient means always bribe
the executioner to sew it on again.

[415] This story is an admirable _exposé_ of Chinese official
corruption, as rampant at the present day as ever in the long history
of China.



LXXIII.

THE UNJUST SENTENCE.


Mr. Chu was a native of Yang-ku, and, as a young man, was much given
to playing tricks and talking in a loose kind of way. Having lost his
wife, he went off to ask a certain old woman to arrange another match
for him; and on the way, he chanced to fall in with a neighbour’s wife
who took his fancy very much. So he said in joke to the old woman,
“Get me that stylish-looking, handsome lady, and I shall be quite
satisfied.” “I’ll see what I can do,” replied the old woman, also
joking, “if you will manage to kill her present husband;” upon which
Chu laughed and said he certainly would do so. Now about a month
afterwards, the said husband, who had gone out to collect some money
due to him, was actually killed in a lonely spot; and the magistrate
of the district immediately summoned the neighbours and beadle[416] and
held the usual inquest, but was unable to find any clue to the
murderer. However, the old woman told the story of her conversation
with Chu, and suspicion at once fell upon him. The constables came
and arrested him; but he stoutly denied the charge; and the magistrate
now began to suspect the wife of the murdered man. Accordingly, she
was severely beaten and tortured in several ways until her strength
failed her, and she falsely acknowledged her guilt.[417] Chu was then
examined, and he said, “This delicate woman could not bear the agony
of your tortures; what she has stated is untrue; and, even should her
wrong escape the notice of the Gods, for her to die in this way with a
stain upon her name is more than I can endure. I will tell the whole
truth. I killed the husband that I might secure the wife: she knew
nothing at all about it.” And when the magistrate asked for some
proof, Chu said his bloody clothes would be evidence enough; but when
they sent to search his house, no bloody clothes were forthcoming. He
was then beaten till he fainted; yet when he came round he still stuck
to what he had said. “It is my mother,” cried he, “who will not sign
the death-warrant of her son. Let me go myself and I will get the
clothes.” So he was escorted by a guard to his home, and there he
explained to his mother that whether she gave up or withheld the
clothes, it was all the same; that in either case he would have to
die, and it was better to die early than late. Thereupon his mother
wept bitterly, and going into the bedroom, brought out, after a short
delay, the required clothes, which were taken at once to the
magistrate’s. There was now no doubt as to the truth of Chu’s story;
and as nothing occurred to change the magistrate’s opinion, Chu was
thrown into prison to await the day for his execution. Meanwhile, as
the magistrate was one day inspecting his gaol, suddenly a man
appeared in the hall, who glared at him fiercely and roared out,
“Dull-headed fool! unfit to be the guardian of the people’s
interests!”--whereupon the crowd of servants standing round rushed
forward to seize him, but with one sweep of his arms he laid them all
flat on the ground. The magistrate was frightened out of his wits, and
tried to escape, but the man cried out to him, “I am one of Kuan
Ti’s[418] lieutenants. If you move an inch you are lost.” So the
magistrate stood there, shaking from head to foot with fear, while his
visitor continued, “The murderer is Kung Piao: Chu had nothing to do
with it.”

The lieutenant then fell down on the ground, and was to all appearance
lifeless; however, after a while he recovered, his face having quite
changed, and when they asked him his name, lo! it was Kung Piao. Under
the application of the bamboo he confessed his guilt. Always an
unprincipled man, he had heard that the murdered man was going out to
collect money, and thinking he would be sure to bring it back with
him, he had killed him, but had found nothing. Then when he learnt
that Chu had acknowledged the crime as his own doing, he had rejoiced
in secret at such a stroke of luck. How he had got into the
magistrate’s hall he was quite unable to say. The magistrate now
called for some explanation of Chu’s bloody clothes, which Chu himself
was unable to give; but his mother, who was at once sent for, stated
that she had cut her own arm to stain them, and when they examined her
they found on her left arm the scar of a recent wound. The magistrate
was lost in amazement at all this; unfortunately for him the reversal
of his sentence cost him his appointment, and he died in poverty,
unable to find his way home. As for Chu, the widow of the murdered man
married him[419] in the following year, out of gratitude for his noble
behaviour.


FOOTNOTES:

[416] See No. LXIV., note 373.

[417] Such has, doubtless, been the occasional result of torture in
China; but the singular keenness of the mandarins, as a body, in
recognising the innocent and detecting the guilty,--that is, when
their own avaricious interests are not involved,--makes this
contingency so rare as to be almost unknown. A good instance came
under my own notice at Swatow in 1876. For years a Chinese servant had
been employed at the foreign Custom House to carry a certain sum of
money every week to the bank, and at length his honesty was above
suspicion. On the occasion to which I allude he had been sent as usual
with the bag of dollars, but after a short absence he rushed back with
a frightful gash on his right arm, evidently inflicted by a heavy
chopper, and laying the bone bare. The money was gone. He said he had
been invited into a tea-house by a couple of soldiers whom he could
point out; that they had tried to wrest the bag from him, and that at
length one of them seized a chopper and inflicted so severe a wound on
his arm, that in his agony he dropped the money, and the soldiers made
off with it. The latter were promptly arrested and confronted with
their accuser; but, with almost indecent haste, the police magistrate
dismissed the case against them, and declared that he believed the man
had made away with the money and inflicted the wound on himself. And
so it turned out to be, under overwhelming evidence. This servant of
proved fidelity had given way to a rash hope of making a little money
at the gaming-table; had hurried into one of these hells and lost
everything in three stakes; had wounded himself on the right arm (he
was a left-handed man), and had concocted the story of the soldiers,
all within the space of about twenty-five minutes. When he saw that he
was detected, he confessed everything, without having received a
single blow of the bamboo; but up to the moment of his confession the
foreign feeling against that police-magistrate was undeniably strong.

[418] See No. I., note 39.

[419] See No. LXVIII., note 385. The circumstances which led to this
marriage would certainly be considered “exceptional.”



LXXIV.

A RIP VAN WINKLE.[420]


[The story runs that a Mr. Chia, after obtaining, with the assistance
of a mysterious friend, his master’s degree, became alive to the
vanity of mere earthly honours, and determined to devote himself to
the practice of Taoism, in the hope of obtaining the elixir of
immortality.[421]]

So early one morning Chia and his friend, whose name was Lang, stole
away together, without letting Chia’s family know anything about it;
and by-and-by they found themselves among the hills, in a vast cave
where there was another world and another sky. An old man was sitting
there in great state, and Lang presented Chia to him as his future
master. “Why have you come so soon?” asked the old man; to which Lang
replied, “My friend’s determination is firmly fixed: I pray you
receive him amongst you.” “Since you have come,” said the old man,
turning to Chia, “you must begin by putting away from you your
earthly body.” Chia murmured his assent, and was then escorted by Lang
to sleeping-chamber where he was provided with food, after which Lang
went away. The room was beautifully clean:[422] the doors had no panels
and the windows no lattices; and all the furniture was one table and
one couch. Chia took off his shoes and lay down, with the moon shining
brightly into the room; and beginning soon to feel hungry, he tried
one of the cakes on the table, which he found sweet and very
satisfying. He thought Lang would be sure to come back, but there he
remained hour after hour by himself, never hearing a sound. He
noticed, however, that the room was fragrant with a delicious perfume;
his viscera seemed to be removed from his body, by which his
intellectual faculties were much increased; and every one of his veins
and arteries could be easily counted. Then suddenly he heard a sound
like that of a cat scratching itself; and, looking out of the window,
he beheld a tiger sitting under the verandah. He was horribly
frightened for the moment, but immediately recalling the admonition of
the old man, he collected himself and sat quietly down again. The
tiger seemed to know that there was a man inside, for it entered the
room directly afterwards, and walking straight up to the couch sniffed
at Chia’s feet. Whereupon there was a noise outside, as if a fowl were
having its legs tied, and the tiger ran away. Shortly afterwards a
beautiful young girl came in, suffusing an exquisite fragrance around;
and going up to the couch where Chia was, she bent over him and
whispered, “Here I am.” Her breath was like the sweet odour of
perfumes; but as Chia did not move, she whispered again, “Are you
sleeping?” The voice sounded to Chia remarkably like that of his wife;
however, he reflected that these were all probably nothing more than
tests of his determination, so he closed his eyes firmly for a while.
But by-and-by the young lady called him by his pet name, and then he
opened his eyes wide to discover that she was no other than his own
wife. On asking her how she had come there, she replied that Mr. Lang
was afraid her husband would be lonely, and had sent an old woman to
guide her to him. Just then they heard the old man outside in a
towering rage, and Chia’s wife, not knowing where to conceal herself,
jumped over a low wall near by and disappeared. In came the old man,
and gave Lang a severe beating before Chia’s face, bidding him at once
to get rid of his visitor; so Lang led Chia away over the low wall,
saying, “I knew how anxious you were to consummate your immortality,
and accordingly I tried to hurry things on a bit; but now I see that
your time has not yet come: hence this beating I have had. Good-by: we
shall meet again some day.” He then shewed Chia the way to his home,
and waving his hand bade him farewell. Chia looked down--for he was in
the moon--and beheld the old familiar village and recollecting that
his wife was not a good walker and would not have got very far,
hurried on to overtake her. Before long he was at his own door, but he
noticed that the place was all tumble-down and in ruins, and not as it
was when he went away. As for the people he saw, old and young alike,
he did not recognise one of them; and recollecting the story of how
Liu and Yüan came back from heaven,[423] he was afraid to go in at the
door. So he sat down and rested outside; and after a while an old man
leaning on a staff came out, whereupon Chia asked him which was the
house of Mr. Chia. “This is it,” replied the old man; “you probably
wish to hear the extraordinary story connected with the family? I know
all about it. They say that Mr. Chia ran away just after he had taken
his master’s degree, when his son was only seven or eight years old;
and that about seven years afterwards the child’s mother went into a
deep sleep from which she did not awake. As long as her son was alive
he changed his mother’s clothes for her according to the seasons, but
when he died, her grandsons fell into poverty, and had nothing but an
old shanty to put the sleeping lady into. Last month she awaked,
having been asleep for over a hundred years. People from far and near
have been coming in great numbers to hear the strange story; of late,
however, there have been rather fewer.” Chia was amazed when he heard
all this, and, turning to the old man, said, “I am Chia Fêng-chih.”
This astonished the old man very much, and off he went to make the
announcement to Chia’s family. The eldest grandson was dead; and the
second, a man of about fifty, refused to believe that such a
young-looking man was really his grandfather; but in a few moments out
came Chia’s wife, and she recognised her husband at once. They then
fell upon each other’s necks and mingled their tears together.

[After which the story is drawn out to a considerable length, but is
quite devoid of interest.][424]


FOOTNOTES:

[420] This being a long and tedious story, I have given only such part
of it as is remarkable for its similarity to Washington Irving’s
famous narrative.

[421] See No. IV., note 46.

[422] Borrowed from Buddhism.

[423] Alluding to a similar story, related in the _Record of the
Immortals_, of how these two friends lost their way while gathering
simples on the hills, and were met and entertained by two lovely young
damsels for the space of half-a-year. When, however, they subsequently
returned home, they found that ten generations had passed away.

[424] Besides the above, there is the story of a man named Wang, who,
wandering one day in the mountains, came upon some old men playing a
game of _wei-ch‘i_ (see _Appendix_); and after watching them for some
time, he found that the handle of an axe he had with him had mouldered
away into dust. Seven generations of men had passed away in the
interval. Also, a similar legend of a horseman, who, when riding over
the hills, saw several old men playing a game with rushes, and tied
his horse to a tree while he himself approached to observe them. A few
minutes afterwards he turned to depart, but found only the skeleton of
his horse and the rotten remnants of the saddle and bridle. He then
sought his home, but that was gone too; and so he laid himself down
upon the ground and died of a broken heart.



LXXV.

THE THREE STATES OF EXISTENCE.


A certain man of the province of Hunan could recall what had happened
to him in three previous lives. In the first, he was a magistrate;
and, on one occasion, when he had been nominated Assistant-Examiner,[425]
a candidate, named Hsing, was unsuccessful. Hsing went home dreadfully
mortified, and soon after died; but his spirit appeared before the
King of Purgatory, and read aloud the rejected essay, whereupon
thousands of other shades, all of whom had suffered in a similar way,
thronged around, and unanimously elected Hsing as their chief. The
Examiner was immediately summoned to take his trial, and when he
arrived the King asked him, saying, “As you are appointed to examine
the various essays, how is it that you throw out the able and admit
the worthless?” “Sire,” replied he, “the ultimate decision rests with
the Grand Examiner; I only pass them on to him.” The King then issued
a warrant for the apprehension of the Grand Examiner, and, as soon as
he appeared, he was told what had just now been said against him; to
which he answered, “I am only able to make a general estimate of the
merits of the candidates. Valuable essays may be kept back from me by
my Associate-Examiners, in which case I am powerless.”[426] But the
King cried out, “It’s all very well for you two thus to throw the
blame on each other; you are both guilty, and both of you must be
bambooed according to law.” This sentence was about to be carried into
effect, when Hsing, who was not at all satisfied with its lack of
severity, set up such a fearful screeching and howling, in which he
was well supported by all the other hundreds and thousands of shades,
that the King stopped short, and inquired what was the matter.
Thereupon Hsing informed His Majesty that the sentence was too light,
and that the Examiners should both have their eyes gouged out, so as
not to be able to read essays any more. The King would not consent to
this, explaining to the noisy rabble that the Examiners did not
purposely reject good essays, but only because they themselves were
naturally wanting in capacity. The shades then begged that, at any
rate, their hearts might be cut out, and to this the King was obliged
to yield; so the Examiners were seized by the attendants, their
garments stripped off, and their bodies ripped open with sharp knives.
The blood poured out on the ground, and the victims screamed with
pain; at which all the shades rejoiced exceedingly, and said, “Here we
have been pent up, with no one to redress our wrongs; but now Mr.
Hsing has come, our injuries are washed away.” They then dispersed
with great noise and hubbub. As for our Associate-Examiner, after his
heart had been cut out, he came to life again as the son of a poor man
in Shensi; and when he was twenty years old he fell into the hands of
the rebels, who were at that time giving great trouble to the country.
By-and-by, a certain official was sent at the head of some soldiers to
put down the insurrection, and he succeeded in capturing a large
number of the rebels, among whom was our hero. The latter reflected
that he himself was no rebel, and he was hoping that he would be able
to obtain his release in consequence, when he noticed that the officer
in charge was also a man of his own age, and, on looking more closely,
he saw that it was his old enemy, Hsing. “Alas!” cried he, “such is
destiny;” and so indeed it turned out, for all the other prisoners
were forthwith released, and he alone was beheaded. Once more his
spirit stood before the King of Purgatory, this time with an
accusation against Hsing. The King, however, would not summon Hsing at
once, but said he should be allowed to complete his term of official
life on earth; and it was not till thirty years afterwards that Hsing
appeared to answer to the charge. Then, because he had made light of
the lives of his people, he was condemned to be born again as a
brute-beast; and our hero, too, inasmuch as he had been known to beat
his father and mother, was sentenced to a similar fate. The latter,
fearing the future vengeance of Hsing, persuaded the King to give him
the advantage of size; and, accordingly, orders were issued that he
was to be born again as a big, and Hsing as a little, dog. The big dog
came to life in a shop in Shun-t‘ien Fu, and was one day lying down in
the street, when a trader from the south arrived, bringing with him a
little golden-haired dog, about the size of a wild cat, which, lo and
behold! turned out to be Hsing. The other, thinking Hsing’s size would
render him an easy prey, seized him at once; but the little one caught
him from underneath by the throat, and hung there firmly, like a bell.
The big dog tried hard to shake him off, and the people of the shop
did their best to separate them, but all was of no avail, and in a few
moments both dogs were dead. Upon their spirits presenting themselves,
as usual, before the King, each with its grievance against the other,
the King cried out, “When will ye have done with your wrongs and your
animosities? I will now settle the matter finally for you;” and
immediately commanded that Hsing should become the other’s son-in-law
in the next world. The latter was then born at Ch‘ing-yün, and when he
was twenty-eight years of age took his master’s degree. He had one
daughter, a very pretty girl, whom many of his wealthy neighbours
would have been glad to get for their sons; but he would not accept
any of their offers. On one occasion, he happened to pass through the
prefectural city just as the examination for bachelor’s degree was
over; and the candidate who had come out at the top of the list,
though named Li, was no other than Mr. Hsing. So he led this man away,
and took him to an inn, where he treated him with the utmost
cordiality, finally arranging that, as Mr. Li was still unmarried, he
should marry his pretty daughter. Everyone, of course, thought that
this was done in admiration of Li’s talents, ignorant that destiny had
already decreed the union of the young couple. No sooner were they
married than Li, proud of his own literary achievements, began to
slight his father-in-law, and often passed many months without going
near him; all of which the father-in-law bore very patiently, and
when, at length, Li had repeatedly failed to get on any farther in his
career, he even went so far as to set to work, by all manner of means,
to secure his success; after which they lived happily together as
father and son.


FOOTNOTES:

[425] See _Appendix_ A.

[426] If there is one institution in the Chinese empire which is
jealously guarded and honestly administered, it is the great system of
competitive examinations which has obtained in China now for many
centuries. And yet frauds do take place, in spite of the exceptionally
heavy penalties incurred upon detection. Friends are occasionally
smuggled through by the aid of marked essays; and dishonest candidates
avail themselves of “sleeve editions,” as they are called, of the
books in which they are to be examined. On the whole, the result is a
successful one. As a rule the best candidates pull through; while, in
exceptional cases, unquestionably good men are rejected. Of the latter
class, the author of this work is a most striking instance. Excelling
in literary attainments of the highest order, he failed more than once
to obtain his master’s degree, and finally threw up in disgust.
Thenceforward he became the enemy of the mandarinate; and how he has
lashed the corruption of his age may be read in such stories as _The
Wolf Dream_, and many others, while the policy that he himself would
have adopted, had he been fortunate enough to succeed, must remain for
ever a matter of doubt and speculation.



LXXVI.

IN THE INFERNAL REGIONS.


Hsi Fang-p‘ing was a native of Tung-an. His father’s name was Hsi
Lien--a hasty-tempered man, who had quarrelled with a neighbour named
Yang. By-and-by Yang died: and some years afterwards when Lien was on
his death-bed, he cried out that Yang was bribing the devils in hell
to torture him. His body then swelled up and turned red, and in a few
moments he had breathed his last. His son wept bitterly, and refused
all food, saying, “Alas! my poor father is now being maltreated by
cruel devils; I must go down and help to redress his wrongs.”
Thereupon he ceased speaking, and sat for a long time like one dazed,
his soul having already quitted its tenement of clay. To himself he
appeared to be outside the house, not knowing in what direction to go,
so he inquired from one of the passers-by which was the way to the
district city.[427] Before long he found himself there, and, directing
his steps towards the prison, found his father lying outside[428] in a
very shocking state. When the latter beheld his son, he burst into
tears, and declared that the gaolers had been bribed to beat him,
which they did both day and night, until they had reduced him to his
present sorry plight. Then Fang-p‘ing turned round in a great rage,
and began to curse the gaolers. “Out upon you!” cried he; “if my
father is guilty he should be punished according to law, and not at
the will of a set of scoundrels like you.” Thereupon he hurried away,
and prepared a petition, which he took with him to present at the
morning session of the City God; but his enemy, Yang, had meanwhile
set to work, and bribed so effectually, that the City God dismissed
his petition for want of corroborative evidence.[429] Fang-p‘ing was
furious, but could do nothing; so he started at once for the
prefectural city, where he managed to get his plaint received, though
it was nearly a month before it came on for hearing, and then all he
got was a reference back to the district city, where he was severely
tortured, and escorted back to the door of his own home, for fear he
should give further trouble. However, he did not go in, but stole
away and proceeded to lay his complaint before one of the ten Judges
of Purgatory; whereupon the two mandarins who had previously ill-used
him, came forward and secretly offered him a thousand ounces of silver
if he would withdraw the charge. This he positively refused to do; and
some days subsequently the landlord of the inn, where he was staying,
told him he had been a fool for his pains, and that he would now get
neither money nor justice, the Judge himself having already been
tampered with. Fang-p‘ing thought this was mere gossip, and would not
believe it; but, when his case was called, the Judge utterly refused
to hear the charge, and ordered him twenty blows with the bamboo,
which were administered in spite of all his protestations. He then
cried out, “Ah! it’s all because I have no money to give you;” which
so incensed the Judge, that he told the lictors to throw Fang-p‘ing on
the fire-bed. This was a great iron couch, with a roaring fire
underneath, which made it red-hot; and upon that the devils cast
Fang-p‘ing, having first stripped off his clothes, pressing him down
on it, until the fire ate into his very bones, though in spite of that
he could not die. After a while the devils said he had had enough, and
made him get off the iron bed, and put his clothes on again. He was
just able to walk, and when he went back into court, the Judge asked
him if he wanted to make any further complaints. “Alas!” cried he, “my
wrongs are still unredressed, and I should only be lying were I to say
I would complain no more.” The Judge then inquired what he had to
complain of; to which Fang-p‘ing replied that it was of the injustice
of his recent punishment. This enraged the Judge so much that he
ordered his attendants to saw Fang-p‘ing in two. He was then led away
by devils, to a place where he was thrust in between a couple of
wooden boards, the ground on all sides being wet and sticky with
blood. Just at that moment he was summoned to return before the Judge,
who asked him if he was still of the same mind; and, on his replying
in the affirmative, he was taken back again, and bound between the two
boards. The saw was then applied, and as it went through his brain he
experienced the most cruel agonies, which, however, he managed to
endure without uttering a cry. “He’s a tough customer,” said one of
the devils, as the saw made its way gradually through his chest; to
which the other replied, “Truly, this is filial piety; and, as the
poor fellow has done nothing, let us turn the saw a little out of the
direct line, so as to avoid injuring his heart.” Fang-p‘ing then felt
the saw make a curve inside him, which caused him even more pain than
before; and, in a few moments, he was cut through right down to the
ground, and the two halves of his body fell apart, along with the
boards to which they were tied, one on either side. The devils went
back to report progress, and were then ordered to join Fang-p‘ing
together again, and bring him in. This they accordingly did,--the cut
all down Fang-p‘ing’s body hurting him dreadfully, and feeling as if
it would re-open every minute. But, as Fang-p‘ing was unable to walk,
one of the devils took out a cord and tied it round his waist, as a
reward, he said, for his filial piety. The pain immediately ceased,
and Fang-p‘ing appeared once more before the Judge, this time
promising that he would make no more complaints. The Judge now gave
orders that he should be sent up to earth, and the devils, escorting
him out of the north gate of the city, shewed him his way home, and
went away. Fang-p‘ing now saw that there was even less chance of
securing justice in the Infernal Regions than upon the earth above;
and, having no means of getting at the Great King to plead his case,
he bethought himself of a certain upright and benevolent God, called
Erh Lang, who was a relative of the Great King’s, and him he
determined to seek. So he turned about and took his way southwards,
but was immediately seized by some devils, sent out by the Judge to
watch that he really went back to his home. These devils hurried him
again into the Judge’s presence, where he was received, contrary to
his expectation, with great affability; the Judge himself praising his
filial piety, but declaring that he need trouble no further in the
matter, as his father had already been born again in a wealthy and
illustrious family. “And upon you,” added the Judge, “I now bestow a
present of one thousand ounces of silver to take home with you, as
well as the old age of a centenarian, with which I hope you will be
satisfied.” He then shewed Fang-p‘ing the stamped record of this, and
sent him away in charge of the devils. The latter now began to abuse
him for giving them so much trouble, but Fang-p‘ing turned sharply
upon them, and threatened to take them back before the Judge. They
were then silent, and marched along for about half-a-day, until at
length they reached a village, where the devils invited Fang-p‘ing
into a house, the door of which was standing half-open. Fang-p‘ing was
just going in, when suddenly the devils gave him a shove from behind,
and ... there he was, born again on earth as a little girl. For three
days he pined and cried, without taking any food, and then he died.
But his spirit did not forget Erh Lang, and set out at once in search
of that God. He had not gone far when he fell in with the retinue of
some high personage, and one of the attendants seized him for getting
in the way, and hurried him before his master. He was taken to a
chariot, where he saw a handsome young man, sitting in great state;
and thinking that now was his chance, he told the young man, who he
imagined to be a high mandarin, all his sad story from beginning to
end. His bonds were then loosed, and he went along with the young man
until they reached a place where several officials came out to receive
them; and to one of these he confided Fang-p‘ing, who now learnt that
the young man was no other than God himself, the officials being the
nine princes of heaven, and the one to whose care he was entrusted no
other than Erh Lang. This last was very tall, and had a long white
beard, not at all like the popular representation of a God; and when
the other princes had gone, he took Fang-p‘ing into a court-room,
where he saw his father and their old enemy, Yang, besides all the
lictors and others who had been mixed up in the case. By-and-by, some
criminals were brought in in cages, and these turned out to be the
Judge, Prefect, and Magistrate. The trial was then commenced, the
three wicked officers trembling and shaking in their shoes; and when
he had heard the evidence, Erh Lang proceeded to pass sentence upon
the prisoners, each of whom he sentenced, after enlarging upon the
enormity of their several crimes, to be roasted, boiled, and otherwise
put to most excruciating tortures. As for Fang-p‘ing, he accorded him
three extra decades of life, as a reward for his filial piety, and a
copy of the sentence was put in his pocket. Father and son journeyed
along together, and at length reached their home; that is to say,
Fang-p‘ing was the first to recover consciousness, and then bade the
servants open his father’s coffin, which they immediately did, and the
old man at once came back to life. But when Fang-p‘ing looked for his
copy of the sentence, lo! it had disappeared. As for the Yang family,
poverty soon overtook them, and all their lands passed into
Fang-p‘ing’s hands; for as sure as any one else bought them, they
became sterile forthwith, and would produce nothing; but Fang-p‘ing
and his father lived on happily, both reaching the age of ninety and
odd years.[430]


FOOTNOTES:

[427] The Infernal Regions are supposed to be pretty much a counterpart
of the world above, except in the matter of light.

[428] The visitor to Canton cannot fail to observe batches of prisoners
with chains on them sitting in the street outside the prisons, many of
them engaged in plying their particular trades.

[429] The judge in a Chinese court is necessarily very much dependent
on his secretaries; and, except in special cases, he takes his cue
almost entirely from them. They take theirs from whichever party to
the case knows best how to “cross the palm.”

[430] The whole story is of course simply a satire upon the venality
and injustice of the ruling classes in China.



LXXVII.

SINGULAR CASE OF OPHTHALMIA.


A Mr. Ku, of Chiang-nan, was stopping in an inn at Chi-hsia, when he
was attacked by a very severe inflammation of the eyes. Day and night
he lay on his bed groaning, no medicines being of any avail; and when
he did get a little better, his recovery was accompanied by a singular
phenomenon. Every time he closed his eyes, he beheld in front of him a
number of large buildings, with all their doors wide open, and people
passing and repassing in the background, none of whom he recognised by
sight. One day he had just sat down to have a good look, when, all of
a sudden, he felt himself passing through the open doors. He went on
through three court-yards without meeting any one; but, on looking
into some rooms on either side, he saw a great number of young girls
sitting, lying, and kneeling about on a red carpet, which was spread
on the ground. Just then a man came out from behind the building, and,
seeing Ku, said to him, “Ah, the Prince said there was a stranger at
the door; I suppose you are the person he meant.” He then asked Ku to
walk in, which the latter was at first unwilling to do; however, he
yielded to the man’s instances, and accompanied him in, asking whose
palace it was. His guide told him it belonged to the son of the Ninth
Prince, and that he had arrived at the nick of time, for a number of
friends and relatives had chosen this very day to come and
congratulate the young gentleman on his recent recovery from a severe
illness. Meanwhile another person had come out to hurry them on, and
they soon reached a spot where there was a pavilion facing the north,
with an ornamental terrace and red balustrades, supported by nine
pillars. Ascending the steps, they found the place full of visitors,
and then espied a young man seated with his face to the north,[431]
whom they at once knew to be the Prince’s son, and thereupon they
prostrated themselves before him, the whole company rising as they did
so. The young Prince made Ku sit down to the east of him, and caused
wine to be served; after which some singing-girls came in and
performed the Hua-fêng-chu.[432] They had got to about the third scene,
when, all of a sudden, Ku heard the landlord of the inn and his
servant shouting out to him that dinner was ready, and was dreadfully
afraid that the young Prince, too, had heard. No one, however, seemed
to have noticed anything, so Ku begged to be excused a moment, as he
wished to change his clothes, and immediately ran out. He then looked
up, and saw the sun low in the west, and his servant standing by his
bedside, whereupon he knew that he had never left the inn. He was much
chagrined at this, and wished to go back as fast as he could; he,
therefore, dismissed his servant, and on shutting his eyes once more,
he found everything just as he had left it, except that where, on the
first occasion, he had observed the young girls, there were none now
to be seen, but only some dishevelled hump-backed creatures, who cried
out at him, and asked him what he meant by spying about there. Ku
didn’t dare reply, but hurried past them as quickly as he could, and
on to the pavilion of the young Prince. There he found him still
sitting, but with a black beard over a foot in length; and the Prince
was anxious to know where he had been, saying that seven scenes of the
play were already over. He then seized a big goblet of wine, and made
Ku drink it as a penalty, by which time the play was finished, and the
list was handed up for a further selection. The “Marriage of P‘êng
Tsu” was selected, and then the singing-girls began to hand round the
wine in cocoa-nuts big enough to hold about five quarts, which Ku
declined, on the ground that he was suffering from weak eyes, and was
consequently afraid to drink too much. “If your eyes are bad,” cried
the young Prince, “the Court physician is at hand, and can attend to
you.” Thereupon, one of the guests sitting to the east came forward,
and opening Ku’s eyes with his fingers, touched them with some white
ointment, which he applied from the end of a jade pin. He then bade Ku
close his eyes, and take a short nap; so the Prince had him conducted
into a sleeping-room, where he found the bed so soft, and surrounded
by such delicious perfume, that he soon fell into a deep slumber.
By-and-by he was awaked by what appeared to be the clashing of
cymbals, and fancied that the play was still going on; but on opening
his eyes, he saw that it was only the inn-dog, which was licking an
oilman’s gong.[433] His ophthalmia, however, was quite cured; and when
he shut his eyes again he could see nothing.


FOOTNOTES:

[431] In Book V. of Mencius’ works we read that Shun, the perfect man,
stood with his face to the south, while the Emperor Yao (see No.
VIII., note 63) and his nobles faced the north. This arrangement is
said to have been adopted in deference to Shun’s virtue; for in modern
times the Emperor always sits facing the south.

[432] Name of a celebrated play.

[433] These are about as big as a cheese-plate and attached to a short
stick, from which hangs suspended a small button of metal in such a
manner as to clash against the face of the gong at every turn of the
hand. The names and descriptions of various instruments employed by
costermongers in China would fill a good-sized volume.



LXXVIII.

CHOU K‘O-CH‘ANG AND HIS GHOST.


At Huai-shang there lived a graduate named Chou T‘ien-i, who, though
fifty years of age, had but one son, called K‘o-ch‘ang, whom he loved
very dearly. This boy, when about thirteen or fourteen, was a
handsome, well-favoured fellow, strangely averse to study, and often
playing truant from school, sometimes for the whole day, without any
remonstrance on the part of his father. One day he went away and did
not come back in the evening; neither, after a diligent search, could
any traces of him be discovered. His father and mother were in
despair, and hardly cared to live; but after a year and more had
passed away, lo and behold! K‘o-ch‘ang returned, saying that he had
been beguiled away by a Taoist priest, who, however, had not done him
any harm, and that he had seized a moment while the priest was absent
to escape and find his way home again. His father was delighted, and
asked him no more questions, but set to work to give him an education;
and K‘o-ch‘ang was so much cleverer and more intelligent than he had
been before, that by the following year he had taken his bachelor’s
degree and had made quite a name for himself. Immediately all the good
families of the neighbourhood wanted to secure him as a son-in-law.
Among others proposed there was an extremely nice girl, the daughter
of a gentleman named Chao, who had taken his doctor’s degree, and
K‘o-ch‘ang’s father was very anxious that he should marry the young
lady. The youth himself would not hear of it, but stuck to his books
and took his master’s degree, quite refusing to entertain any thought
of marriage; and this so exasperated his mother that one day the good
lady began to rate him soundly. K‘o-ch‘ang got up in a great rage and
cried out, “I have long been wanting to get away, and have only
remained for your sakes. I shall now say farewell, and leave Miss Chao
for any one that likes to marry her.” At this his mother tried to
detain him, but in a moment he had fallen forwards on the ground, and
there was nothing left of him but his hat and clothes. They were all
dreadfully frightened, thinking that it must have been K‘o-ch‘ang’s
ghost who had been with them, and gave themselves up to weeping and
lamentation; however, the very next day K‘o-ch‘ang arrived,
accompanied by a retinue of horses and servants, his story being that
he had formerly been kidnapped[434] and sold to a wealthy trader, who,
being then childless, had adopted him, but who, when he subsequently
had a son born to him by his own wife, sent K‘o-ch‘ang back to his old
home. And as soon as his father began to question him as to his
studies, his utter dulness and want of knowledge soon made it clear
that he was the real K‘o-ch‘ang of old; but he was already known as a
man who had got his master’s degree, (that is, the ghost of him had
got it,) so it was determined in the family to keep the whole affair
secret. This K‘o-ch‘ang was only too ready to espouse Miss Chao; and
before a year had passed over their heads his wife had presented the
old people with the much longed-for grandson.


FOOTNOTE:

[434] See No. XXIII., note 154.



LXXIX.

THE SPIRITS OF THE PO-YANG LAKE.


An official, named Chai, was appointed to a post at Jao-chou, and on
his way thither crossed the Po-yang lake. Happening to visit the
shrine of the local spirits, he noticed a carved image of the
patriotic Ting P‘u-lang,[435] and another of a namesake of his own, the
latter occupying a very inferior position. “Come! come!” said Chai,
“my patron saint shan’t be put in the background like that;” so he
moved the image into a more honourable place, and then went back on
board his boat again. Soon after, a great wind struck the vessel, and
carried away the mast and sails; at which the sailors, in great alarm,
set to work to howl and cry. However, in a few moments they saw a
small skiff come cutting through the waves, and before long they were
all safely on board. The man who rowed it was strangely like the image
in the shrine, the position of which Chai had changed; but they were
hardly out of danger when the squall had passed over, and skiff and
man had both vanished.


FOOTNOTE:

[435] A famous official who lived in the reign of Hung Wu, first
Emperor of the Ming dynasty (A.D. 1368-1399). I have not been able to
discover what was the particular act for which he has been celebrated
as “loyal to the death.”



LXXX.

THE STREAM OF CASH.


A certain gentleman’s servant was one day in his master’s garden, when
he beheld a stream of cash[436] flowing by, two or three feet in
breadth and of about the same depth. He immediately seized two large
handfuls, and then threw himself down on the top of the stream in
order to try and secure the rest. However, when he got up he found
that it had all flowed away from under him, none being left except
what he had got in his two hands.

[“Ah!” says the commentator, “money is properly a circulating medium,
and is not intended for a man to lie upon and keep all to
himself.”][437]


FOOTNOTES:

[436] See No. II., note 42.

[437] The Chinese, fond as they are of introducing water, under the
form of miniature lakes, into their gardens and pleasure-grounds, do
not approve of a running stream near the dwelling-house. I myself knew
a case of a man, provided with a pretty little house, rent free,
alongside of which ran a mountain-rill, who left the place and paid
for lodgings out of his own pocket rather than live so close to a
stream which he averred _carried all his good luck away_. Yet this man
was a fair scholar and a graduate to boot.



LXXXI.

THE INJUSTICE OF HEAVEN.


Mr. Hsü was a magistrate at Shantung. A certain upper chamber of his
house was used as a store-room; but some creature managed so
frequently to get in and make havoc among the stores, for which the
servants were always being scolded, that at length some of the latter
determined to keep watch. By-and-by they saw a huge spider as big as a
peck measure, and hurried off to tell their master, who thought it so
strange that he gave orders to the servants to feed the insect with
cakes. It thus became very tame, and would always come forth when
hungry, returning as soon as it had taken enough to eat.[438] Years
passed away, and one day Mr. Hsü was consulting his archives, when
suddenly the spider appeared and ran under the table. Thinking it was
hungry, he bade his servants give it a cake; but the next moment he
noticed two snakes, of about the thickness of a chop-stick, lying one
on each side. The spider drew in its legs as if in mortal fear, and
the snakes began to swell out until they were as big round as an egg;
at which Mr. Hsü was greatly alarmed, and would have hurried away,
when crash! went a peal of thunder, killing every person in the house.
Mr. Hsü himself recovered consciousness after a little while, but only
to see his wife and servants, seven persons in all, lying dead; and
after a month’s illness he, too, departed this life. Now Mr. Hsü was
an upright, honourable man, who really had the interests of the people
at heart. A subscription was accordingly raised to pay his funeral
expenses, and on the day of his burial the air was rent for miles
round with cries of weeping and lamentation.

[Hereon the commentator, I Shih-shih, makes the following
remark:--“That dragons play with pearls[439] I have always regarded as
an old woman’s tale. Is it possible, then, that the story is a fact? I
have heard, too, that the thunder strikes only the guilty man;[440]
and, if so, how could a virtuous official be visited with this dire
calamity?”]


FOOTNOTES:

[438] That Chinaman thinks his a hard lot who cannot “eat till he is
full.” It may be noticed here that the Chinese seem not so much to
enjoy the process of eating as the subsequent state of repletion. As a
rule, they bolt their food, and get their enjoyment out of it
afterwards.

[439] The full explanation and origin of this saying I have failed to
elucidate. Dragons are often represented with pearls before their
mouths; and these they are supposed to spit out or swallow as fancy
may take them. The pearl, too, is said to be the essence of the
dragon’s nature, without which it would be powerless; but this is all
I know about the subject.

[440] Such is the common belief in China at the present day. There is a
God of Thunder who punishes wicked people; the lightning is merely a
mirror, by the aid of which he singles out his victims.



LXXXII.

THE SEA-SERPENT.


A trader named Chia was voyaging on the south seas, when one night it
suddenly became as light as day on board his ship. Jumping up to see
what was the matter, he beheld a huge creature with its body half out
of the water, towering up like a hill. Its eyes resembled two suns,
and threw a light far and wide; and when the trader asked the boatmen
what it was, there was not one who could say. They all crouched down
and watched it; and by-and-by the monster gradually disappeared in the
water again, leaving everything in darkness as before. And when they
reached port, they found all the people talking about a strange
phenomenon of a great light that had appeared in the night, the time
of which coincided exactly with the strange scene they themselves had
witnessed.[441]


FOOTNOTE:

[441] The “sea-serpent” in this case was probably nothing more or less
than some meteoric phenomenon.



LXXXIII.

THE MAGIC MIRROR.[442]


“... But if you would really like to have something that has belonged
to me,” said she, “you shall.” Whereupon she took out a mirror and
gave it to him, saying, “Whenever you want to see me, you must look
for me in your books; otherwise I shall not be visible;”--and in a
moment she had vanished. Liu went home very melancholy at heart; but
when he looked in the mirror, there was Fêng-hsien, standing with her
back to him, gazing, as it were, at some one who was going away, and
about a hundred paces from her. He then bethought himself of her
injunctions, and settled down to his studies, refusing to receive any
visitors; and a few days subsequently, when he happened to look in the
mirror, there was Fêng-hsien, with her face turned towards him, and
smiling in every feature. After this, he was always taking out the
mirror to look at her; however, in about a month his good resolutions
began to disappear, and he once more went out to enjoy himself and
waste his time as before. When he returned home and looked in the
mirror, Fêng-hsien seemed to be crying bitterly; and the day after,
when he looked at her again, she had her back turned towards him as on
the day he received the mirror. He now knew that it was because he had
neglected his studies, and forthwith set to work again with all
diligence, until in a month’s time she had turned round once again.
Henceforward, whenever anything interrupted his progress, Fêng-hsien’s
countenance became sad; but whenever he was getting on well, her
sadness was changed to smiles. Night and morning Liu would look at the
mirror, regarding it quite in the light of a revered preceptor; and in
three years’ time he took his degree in triumph. “Now,” cried he, “I
shall be able to look Fêng-hsien in the face.” And there, sure enough,
she was, with her delicately-pencilled arched eye-brows, and her teeth
just showing between her lips, as happy-looking as she could be, when,
all of a sudden, she seemed to speak, and Liu heard her say, “A pretty
pair we make, I must allow”--and the next moment Fêng-hsien stood by
his side.


FOOTNOTE:

[442] The following is merely a single episode taken from a long and
otherwise uninteresting story. Miss Fêng-hsien was a fox; hence her
power to bestow such a singular present as the mirror here described,
the object of which was to incite her lover to success--the condition
of their future union.



LXXXIV.

COURAGE TESTED.


Mr. Tung was a Hsü-chou man, very fond of playing broad-sword, and a
light-hearted, devil-may-care fellow, who was often involving himself
in trouble. One day he fell in with a traveller who was riding on a
mule and going the same way as himself; whereupon they entered into
conversation, and began to talk to each other about feats of strength
and so on. The traveller said his name was T‘ung,[443] and that he
belonged to Liao-yang; that he had been twenty years away from home,
and had just returned from beyond the sea. “And I venture to say,”
cried Tung, “that in your wanderings on the Four Seas[444] you have
seen a great many people; but have you seen any supernaturally clever
ones?” T‘ung asked him to what he alluded; and then Tung explained
what his own particular hobby was, adding how much he would like to
learn from them any tricks in the art of broad-sword. “Supernatural,”
replied the traveller, “are to be found everywhere. It needs but that
a man should be a loyal subject and a filial son for him to know all
that the supernaturals know.” “Right you are, indeed!” cried Tung, as
he drew a short sword from his belt, and, tapping the blade with his
fingers, began to accompany it with a song. He then cut down a tree
that was by the wayside, to shew T‘ung how sharp it was; at which
T‘ung smoothed his beard and smiled, begging to be allowed to have a
look at the weapon. Tung handed it to him, and, when he had turned it
over two or three times, he said, “This is a very inferior piece of
steel; now, though I know nothing about broad-sword myself, I have a
weapon which is really of some use.” He then drew from beneath his
coat a sword of a foot or so in length, and with it he began to pare
pieces off Tung’s sword, which seemed as soft as a melon, and which he
cut quite away like a horse’s hoof. Tung was greatly astonished, and
borrowed the other’s sword to examine it, returning it after carefully
wiping the blade. He then invited T‘ung to his house, and made him
stay the night; and, after begging him to explain the mystery of his
sword, began to nurse his leg and sit listening respectfully without
saying a word. It was already pretty late, when suddenly there was a
sound of scuffling next door, where Tung’s father lived; and, on
putting his ear to the wall, he heard an angry voice saying, “Tell
your son to come here at once, and then I will spare you.” This was
followed by other sounds of beating and a continued groaning, in a
voice which Tung knew to be his father’s. He therefore seized a spear,
and was about to rush forth, but T‘ung held him back, saying, “You’ll
be killed for a certainty if you go. Let us think of some other plan.”
Tung asked what plan he could suggest; to which the other replied,
“The robbers are killing your father: there is no help for you; but as
you have no brothers, just go and tell your wife and children what
your last wishes are, while I try and rouse the servants.” Tung agreed
to this, and ran in to tell his wife, who clung to him and implored
him not to go, until at length all his courage had ebbed away, and he
went upstairs with her to get his bow and arrows ready to resist the
robbers’ attack. At that juncture he heard the voice of his friend
T‘ung, outside on the eaves of the house, saying, with a laugh, “All
right; the robbers have gone;” but on lighting a candle, he could see
nothing of him. He then stole out to the front door, where he met his
father with a lantern in his hand, coming in from a party at a
neighbour’s house; and the whole court-yard was covered with the ashes
of burnt grass, whereby he knew that T‘ung the traveller was himself a
supernatural.[445]


FOOTNOTES:

[443] Besides the all-important aspirate, this name is pronounced in a
different _tone_ from the first-mentioned “Tung;” and is moreover
expressed in writing by a totally different character. To a Chinese
ear, the two words are as unlikely to be confounded as Brown and
Jones.

[444] The Four Seas are supposed by the Chinese to bound the habitable
portions of the earth, which, by the way, they further believe to be
square. In the centre of all is China, extending far and wide in every
direction, the eye of the universe, the Middle Kingdom. Away at a
distance from her shores lie a number of small islands, wherein dwell
such barbarous nations as the English, French, Dutch, etc.

[445] The commentator, I Shih-shih, adds a note to this story which
might be summed up in our own--

   “The [wo]man that deliberates is lost.”



LXXXV.

THE DISEMBODIED FRIEND.


Mr. Ch‘ên, M.A., of Shun-t‘ien Fu, when a boy of sixteen, went to
school at a Buddhist temple.[446] There were a great many scholars
besides himself, and, among others, one named Ch‘u, who said he came
from Shantung. This Ch‘u was a very hard-working fellow; he never
seemed to be idle, and actually slept in the school-room, not going
home at all. Ch‘ên became much attached to him, and one day asked him
why he never went away. “Well, you see,” replied Ch‘u, “my people are
very poor, and can hardly afford to pay for my schooling; but, by dint
of working half the night, two of my days are equal to three of
anybody else’s.” Thereupon Ch‘ên said he would bring his own bed to
the school, and that they would sleep there together; to which Ch‘u
replied that the teaching they got wasn’t worth much, and that they
would do better by putting themselves under a certain old scholar
named Lü. This they were easily able to do, as the arrangement at the
temple was monthly, and at the end of each month anyone was free to go
or to come. So off they went to this Mr. Lü, a man of considerable
literary attainments, who had found himself in Shun-t‘ien Fu without a
cash in his pocket, and was accordingly obliged to take pupils. He was
delighted at getting two additions to his number and, Ch‘u showing
himself an apt scholar, the two soon became very great friends,
sleeping in the same room and eating at the same table. At the end of
the month Ch‘u asked for leave of absence, and, to the astonishment of
all, ten days elapsed without anything being heard of him. It then
chanced that Ch‘ên went to the T‘ien-ning temple, and there he saw
Ch‘u under one of the verandahs, occupied in cutting wood for
lucifer-matches.[447] The latter was much disconcerted by the arrival
of Ch‘ên, who asked him why he had given up his studies; so the latter
took him aside, and explained that he was so poor as to be obliged to
work half a month to scrape together funds enough for his next month’s
schooling. “You come along back with me,” cried Ch‘ên, on hearing
this, “I will arrange for the payment,” which Ch‘u immediately
consented to do on condition that Ch‘ên would keep the whole thing a
profound secret. Now Ch‘ên’s father was a wealthy tradesman, and from
his till Ch‘ên abstracted money wherewith to pay for Ch‘u; and
by-and-by, when his father found him out, he confessed why he had done
so. Thereupon Ch‘ên’s father called him a fool, and would not let him
resume his studies; at which Ch‘u was much hurt, and would have left
the school too, but that old Mr. Lü discovered what had taken place,
and gave him the money to return to Ch‘ên’s father, keeping him still
at the school, and treating him quite like his own son. So Ch‘ên
studied no more, but whenever he met Ch‘u he always asked him to join
in some refreshment at a restaurant, Ch‘u invariably refusing, but
yielding at length to his entreaties, being himself loth to break off
their old acquaintanceship.

Thus two years passed away, when Ch‘ên’s father died, and Ch‘ên went
back to his books under the guidance of old Mr. Lü, who was very glad
to see such determination. Of course Ch‘ên was now far behind Ch‘u;
and in about six months Lü’s son arrived, having begged his way in
search of his father, so Mr. Lü gave up his school and returned home
with a purse which his pupils had made up for him, Ch‘u adding nothing
thereto but his tears. At parting, Mr. Lü advised Ch‘ên to take Ch‘u
as his tutor, and this he did, establishing him comfortably in the
house with him. The examination was very shortly to commence, and
Ch‘ên felt convinced that he should not get through; but Ch‘u said he
thought he should be able to manage the matter for him. On the
appointed day he introduced Ch‘ên to a gentleman who he said was a
cousin of his, named Liu, and asked Ch‘ên to accompany this cousin,
which Ch‘ên was just proceeding to do when Ch‘u pulled him back from
behind,[448] and he would have fallen down but that the cousin pulled
him up again, and then, after having scrutinized his appearance,
carried him off to his own house. There being no ladies there, Ch‘ên
was put into the inner apartments; and a few days afterwards Liu said
to him, “A great many people will be at the gardens to-day; let us go
and amuse ourselves awhile, and afterwards I will send you home
again.” He then gave orders that a servant should proceed on ahead
with tea and wine, and by-and-by they themselves went, and were soon
in the thick of the fête. Crossing over a bridge, they saw beneath an
old willow tree a little painted skiff, and were soon on board,
engaged in freely passing round the wine. However, finding this a
little dull, Liu bade his servant go and see if Miss Li, the famous
singing-girl, was at home; and in a few minutes the servant returned
bringing Miss Li with him. Ch‘ên had met her before, and so they at
once exchanged greetings, while Liu begged her to be good enough to
favour them with a song. Miss Li, who seemed labouring under a fit of
melancholy, forthwith began a funeral dirge; at which Ch‘ên was not
much pleased, and observed that such a theme was hardly suitable to
the occasion. With a forced smile, Miss Li changed her key, and gave
them a love-song; whereupon Ch‘ên seized her hand, and said, “There’s
that song of the Huan-sha river,[449] which you sang once before; I
have read it over several times, but have quite forgotten the words.”
Then Miss Li began--

   “Eyes overflowing with tears, she sits gazing into her glass,
    Lifting the bamboo screen, one of her comrades approaches;
    She bends her head and seems intent on her bow-like slippers,
    And forces her eyebrows to arch themselves into a smile.
    With her scarlet sleeve she wipes the tears from her perfumed cheek,
    In fear and trembling lest they should guess the thoughts that
        o’erwhelm her.”[450]

Ch‘ên repeated this over several times, until at length the skiff
stopped, and they passed through a long verandah, where a great many
verses had been inscribed on the walls,[451] to which Ch‘ên at once
proceeded to add a stanza of his own. Evening was now coming on, and
Liu remarked that the candidates would be just about leaving the
examination-hall;[452] so he escorted him back to his own home, and
there left him. The room was dark, and there was no one with him; but
by-and-by the servants ushered in some one whom at first he took to be
Ch‘u. However, he soon saw that it was not Ch‘u, and in another moment
the stranger had fallen against him and knocked him down. “Master’s
fainted!” cried the servants, as they ran to pick him up; and then
Ch‘ên discovered that the one who had fallen down was really no other
than himself.[453] On getting up, he saw Ch‘u standing by his side; and
when they had sent away the servants the latter said, “Don’t be
alarmed: I am nothing more than a disembodied spirit. My time for
re-appearing on earth[454] is long overdue, but I could not forget your
great kindness to me, and accordingly I have remained under this form
in order to assist in the accomplishment of your wishes. The three
bouts[455] are over, and your ambition will be gratified.” Ch‘ên then
inquired if Ch‘u could assist him in like manner for his doctor’s
degree; to which the latter replied, “Alas! the luck descending to you
from your ancestors is not equal to that.[456] They were a niggardly
lot, and unfit for the posthumous honours you would thus confer on
them.” Ch‘ên next asked him whither he was going; and Ch‘u replied
that he hoped, through the agency of his cousin, who was a clerk in
Purgatory, to be born again in old Mr. Lü’s family. They then bade
each other adieu; and, when morning came, Ch‘ên set off to call on
Miss Li, the singing-girl; but on reaching her house he found that she
had been dead some days.[457] He walked on to the gardens, and there
he saw traces of verses that had been written on the walls, and
evidently rubbed out, so as to be hardly decipherable. In a moment it
flashed across him that the verses and their composers belonged to the
other world. Towards evening Ch‘u re-appeared in high spirits, saying
that he had succeeded in his design, and had come to wish Ch‘ên a long
farewell. Holding out his open palms, he requested Ch‘ên to write the
word _Ch‘u_ on each; and then, after refusing to take a parting cup,
he went away, telling Ch‘ên that the examination-list would soon be
out, and that they would meet again before long. Ch‘ên brushed away
his tears and escorted him to the door, where a man, who had been
waiting for him, laid his hand on Ch‘u’s head and pressed it downwards
until Ch‘u was perfectly flat. The man then put him in a sack and
carried him off on his back. A few days afterwards the list came out,
and, to his great joy, Ch‘ên found his name among the successful
candidates; whereupon he immediately started off to visit his old
tutor, Mr. Lü.[458] Now Mr. Lü’s wife had had no children for ten
years, being about fifty years of age, when suddenly she gave birth to
a son, who was born with both fists doubled up so that no one could
open them. On his arrival Ch‘ên begged to see the child, and declared
that inside its hands would be found written the word Ch‘u. Old Mr. Lü
laughed at this; but no sooner had the child set eyes on Ch‘ên than
both its fists opened spontaneously, and there was the word as Ch‘ên
had said. The story was soon told, and Ch‘ên went home, after making a
handsome present to the family; and later on, when Mr. Lü went up for
his doctor’s degree[459] and stayed at Ch‘ên’s house, his son was
thirteen years old, and had already matriculated as a candidate for
literary honours.


FOOTNOTES:

[446] Buddhist priests not unusually increase the revenue of their
monastery by taking pupils; and it is only fair to them to add that
the curriculum is strictly secular, the boys learning precisely what
they would at an ordinary school and nothing else.

[447] These consist simply of thin slips of wood dipped in brimstone,
and resemble those used in England as late as the first quarter of the
present century. They are said to have been invented by the people of
Hang-chou, the capital of Chekiang; but it is quite possible that the
hint may have first reached China from the west. They were called _yin
kuang_ “bring light,” (_cf._ _lucifer_), _fa chu_ “give forth
illumination,” and other names. Lucifer matches are now generally
spoken of as _tzŭ lai huo_ “self-come fire,” and are almost
universally employed, except in remote parts where the flint and steel
still hold sway.

[448] The whole point of the story hinges on this.

[449] Beside which lived Hsi Shih, the famous beauty of the fifth
century after Christ.

[450] I fear that the translation of this “Singing-girl’s Lament” falls
so considerably below the pathetic original as to give but a poor idea
of the real merit of the latter as a lyric gem.

[451] The Chinese have precisely the same mania as our Browns, Joneses,
and Robinsons, for scribbling and carving their names and compositions
all over the available parts of any place of public resort. The
literature of inn walls alone would fill many ponderous tomes.

[452] The examination, which lasts nine days, has been going on all
this time.

[453] That is, his own body, into which Ch‘u’s spirit had temporarily
passed, his own occupying, meanwhile, the body of his friend.

[454] That is, for being born again, the sole hope and ambition of a
disembodied shade.

[455] See No. LXXI., note 403.

[456] See No. LXI., note 346.

[457] His own spirit in Ch‘u’s body had met her in a disembodied
state.

[458] Such is the invariable custom. Large presents are usually made
by those who can afford the outlay, and the tutor’s name has ever
afterwards an honourable place in the family records.

[459] See No. XLVIII., note 274.



LXXXVI.

THE CLOTH MERCHANT.


A certain cloth merchant went to Ch‘ing-chou, where he happened to
stroll into an old temple, all tumble-down and in ruins. He was
lamenting over this sad state of things, when a priest who stood by
observed that a devout believer like himself could hardly do better
than put the place into repair, and thus obtain favour in the eyes of
Buddha. This the merchant consented to do; whereupon the priest
invited him to walk into the private quarters of the temple, and
treated him with much courtesy; but he went on to propose that our
friend the merchant should also undertake the general ornamentation of
the place both inside and out.[460] The latter declared he could not
afford the expense, and the priest began to get very angry, and urged
him so strongly that at last the merchant, in terror, promised to give
all the money he had. After this he was preparing to go away, but the
priest detained him, saying, “You haven’t given the money of your own
free will, and consequently you’ll be owing me a grudge: I can’t do
better than make an end of you at once.” Thereupon he seized a knife,
and refused to listen to all the cloth merchant’s entreaties, until at
length the latter asked to be allowed to hang himself, to which the
priest consented; and, showing him into a dark room, told him to make
haste about it.

At this juncture, a Tartar-General[461] happened to pass by the
temple; and from a distance, through a breach in the old wall, he saw
a damsel in a red dress pass into the priest’s quarters. This roused
his suspicions,[462] and dismounting from his horse, he entered the
temple and searched high and low, but without discovering anything.
The dark room above-mentioned was locked and double-barred, and the
priest refused to open it, saying the place was haunted. The General
in a rage burst open the door, and there beheld the cloth merchant
hanging from a beam. He cut him down at once, and in a short time he
was brought round and told the General the whole story. They then
searched for the damsel, but she was nowhere to be found, having been
nothing more than a divine manifestation. The General cut off the
priest’s head and restored the cloth merchant’s property to him, after
which the latter put the temple in thorough repair and kept it well
supplied with lights and incense ever afterwards.

Mr. Chao, M.A., told me this story with all its details.[463]


FOOTNOTES:

[460] The elaborate gilding and wood-work of an ordinary Chinese
temple form a very serious item in the expense of restoration. Public
subscriptions are usually the means employed for raising sufficient
funds, the names of subscribers and amount given by each being
published in some conspicuous position. Occasionally devout
priests--black swans, indeed, in China--shut themselves up in boxes
studded with nails, one of which they pull out every time a certain
donation is given, and there they remain until every nail is
withdrawn. But after all it is difficult to say whether they endure
these trials so much for the faith’s sake as for the funds from which
they derive more of the luxuries of life, and the temporary notoriety
gained by thus coming before the public. A Chinese proverb says, “The
image-maker doesn’t worship Buddha. He knows too much about the idol;”
and the application of this saying may safely be extended to the
majority of Buddhist priests in China.

[461] This is the title generally applied to the Manchu commanders of
Manchu garrisons, who are stationed at certain of the most important
points of the Chinese Empire, and whose presence is intended as a
check upon the action of the civil authorities.

[462] See No. VI., note 52.

[463] The moral being, of course, that Buddha protects those who look
after his interests on earth.



LXXXVII.

A STRANGE COMPANION.


Han Kung-fu, of Yü-ch‘êng, told me that he was one day travelling
along a road with a man of his village, named P‘êng, when all of a
sudden the latter disappeared, leaving his mule to jog along with an
empty saddle. At the same moment, Mr. Han heard his voice calling for
assistance, and apparently proceeding from inside one of the panniers
strapped across the mule’s back; and on looking closely, there indeed
he was in one of the panniers, which, however, did not seem to be at
all displaced by his weight. On trying to get him out the mouth of the
pannier closed itself tightly; and it was only when he cut it open
with a knife that he saw P‘êng curled up in it like a dog. He then
helped him out, and asked him how he managed to get in; but this he
was unable to say. It further appeared that his family was under fox
influence, many strange things of this kind having happened before.



LXXXVIII.

SPIRITUALISTIC SÉANCES.


It is customary in Shantung, when any one is sick, for the womenfolk
to engage an old sorceress or medium, who strums on a tambourine and
performs certain mysterious antics. This custom obtains even more in
the capital, where young ladies of the best families frequently
organize such _séances_ among themselves. On a table in the hall they
spread out a profusion of wine and meat, and burn huge candles which
make the place as light as day. Then the sorceress, shortening her
skirts, stands on one leg and performs the _shang-yang_,[464] while
two of the others support her, one on each side. All this time she is
chattering unintelligible sentences,[465] something between a song
and a prayer, the words being confused but uttered in a sort of tune;
while the hall resounds with the thunder of drums, enough to stun a
person, with which her vaticinations are mixed up and lost. By-and-by
her head begins to droop, and her eyes to look aslant; and but for her
two supporters she would inevitably fall to the ground. Suddenly she
stretches forth her neck and bounds several feet into the air, upon
which the other women regard her in terror, saying, “The spirits have
come to eat;” and immediately all the candles are blown out and
everything is in total darkness. Thus they remain for about a quarter
of an hour, afraid to speak a word, which in any case would not be
heard through the din, until at length the sorceress calls out the
personal name of the head of the family[466] and some others;
whereupon they immediately relight the candles and hurry up to ask if
the reply of the spirits is favourable or otherwise. They then see
that every scrap of the food and every drop of the wine has
disappeared. Meanwhile, they watch the old woman’s expression, whereby
they can tell if the spirits are well disposed; and each one asks her
some question, to which she as promptly replies. Should there be any
unbelievers among the party, the spirits are at once aware of their
presence; and the old sorceress, pointing her finger at such a one,
cries out, “Disrespectful mocker! where are your trousers?” upon which
the mocker alluded to looks down, and lo! her trousers are gone--gone
to the top of a tree in the court-yard, where they will subsequently
be found.[467]

Manchu women and girls, especially, are firm believers in
spiritualism. On the slightest provocation they consult their medium,
who comes into the room gorgeously dressed, and riding on an imitation
horse or tiger.[468] In her hand she holds a long spear, with which
she mounts the couch[469] and postures in an extraordinary manner, the
animal she rides snorting or roaring fiercely all the time. Some call
her Kuan Ti,[470] others Chang Fei, and others again Chou Kung, from
her terribly martial aspect, which strikes fear into all beholders.
And should any daring fellow try to peep in while the _séance_ is
going on, out of the window darts the spear, transfixes his hat, and
draws it off his head into the room, while women and girls, young and
old, hop round one after the other like geese, on one leg, without
seeming to get the least fatigued.


FOOTNOTES:

[464] It is related in the _Family Sayings_, an apocryphal work which
professes to give conversations of Confucius, that a number of
one-legged birds having suddenly appeared in Ch‘i, the Duke of Ch‘i
sent off to ask the Sage what was the meaning of this strange
phenomenon. Confucius replied, “The bird is the _shang-yang_, and
portends beneficial rain.” And formerly the boys and girls in Shantung
would hop about on one leg, crying, “The _shang-yang_ has come;” after
which rain would be sure to follow.

[465] Speaking in the unknown tongue, like the Irvingites and others.

[466] This is a clever hit. The “personal” name of a man may not be
uttered except by his father or mother, grandfather, grandmother,
uncles, etc. Thus, the mere use of the personal name of the _head of a
family_ proves conclusively that the spirit of someone of his
ancestors must be present.

[467] I consider the whole of the above a curious story to be found in
a Chinese work exactly 200 years old, but no part of it more so than
the forcible removal of some part of the clothing, which has been so
prominent a feature in the _séances_ of our own day. It may be added
that in many a court-yard in Peking will be found one or more trees,
which cause the view from the city wall to be very pleasing to the
eye, in spite of the filth and ruins which a closer inspection
reveals.

[468] The arrangement being that of the hobby-horse of by-gone days.

[469] The couches of the north of China are brick beds, heated by a
stove underneath, and covered with a mat. Upon one of these is
generally a dwarf table and a couple of pillows; and here it is that
the Chinaman loves to recline, his wine-kettle, opium-pipe, or teapot
within reach, and a friend at his side, with whom he may converse far
into the night.

[470] See No. LXXIII., note 418. Chang Fei was the bosom-friend of the
last, and was his associate-commander in the wars of the Three
Kingdoms. Chou Kung was the first Emperor of the Chou dynasty, and a
pattern of wisdom and virtue. He is said by the Chinese to have
invented the mariner’s compass; but the legend will not bear
investigation.



LXXXIX.

THE MYSTERIOUS HEAD.


Several traders who were lodging at an inn in Peking, occupied a room
which was divided from the adjoining apartment by a partition of
boards from which a piece was missing, leaving an aperture about as
big as a basin. Suddenly a girl’s head appeared through the opening,
with very pretty features and nicely dressed hair; and the next moment
an arm, as white as polished jade. The traders were much alarmed, and,
thinking it was the work of devils, tried to seize the head, which,
however, was quickly drawn in again out of their reach. This happened
a second time, and then, as they could see no body belonging to the
head, one of them took a knife in his hand and crept up against the
partition underneath the hole. In a little while the head re-appeared,
when he made a chop at it and cut it off, the blood spurting out all
over the floor and wall. The traders hurried off to tell the landlord,
who immediately reported the matter to the authorities, taking the
head with him, and the traders were forthwith arrested and examined;
but the magistrate could make nothing of the case, and, as no one
appeared for the prosecution, the accused, after about six months’
incarceration, were accordingly released, and orders were given for
the girl’s head to be buried.



XC.

THE SPIRIT OF THE HILLS.


A man named Li, of I-tu, was once crossing the hills when he came upon
a number of persons sitting on the ground engaged in drinking. As soon
as they saw Li they begged him to join them, and vied with each other
in filling his cup. Meanwhile, he looked about him and noticed that
the various trays and dishes contained all kinds of costly food; the
wine only seemed to him a little rough on the palate. In the middle of
their fun up came a stranger with a face about three feet long and a
very tall hat; whereupon the others were very much alarmed, and cried
out, “The hill spirit! the hill spirit!” running away in all
directions as fast as they could go. Li hid himself in a hole in the
ground; and when by-and-by he peeped out to see what had happened, the
wine and food had disappeared, and there was nothing there but a few
dirty potsherds and some pieces of broken tiles with efts and lizards
crawling over them.[471]


FOOTNOTE:

[471] Mr. Li had, doubtless, taken a “drop too much” before he started
on his mountain walk.



XCI.

INGRATITUDE PUNISHED.


K‘u Ta-yu was a native of the Yang district, and managed to get a
military appointment under the command of Tsu Shu-shun.[472] The
latter treated him most kindly, and finally sent him as Major-General
of some troops by which he was then trying to establish the dynasty of
the usurping Chows. K‘u soon perceived that the game was lost, and
immediately turned his forces upon Tsu Shu-shun, whom he succeeded in
capturing, after Tsu had been wounded in the hand, and whom he at once
forwarded as a prisoner to headquarters. That night he dreamed that
the Judge of Purgatory appeared to him, and, reproaching him with his
base ingratitude, bade the devil-lictors seize him and scald his feet
in a cauldron of boiling oil. K‘u then woke up with a start, and found
that his feet were very sore and painful; and in a short time they
swelled up, and his toes dropped off. Fever set in, and in his agony
he shrieked out, “Ungrateful wretch that I was indeed,” and fell back
and expired.


FOOTNOTE:

[472] Of whom I can learn nothing.



XCII.

SMELLING ESSAYS.[473]


Now as they wandered about the temple they came upon an old blind
priest sitting under the verandah, engaged in selling medicines and
prescribing for patients. “Ah!” cried Sung, “there is an extraordinary
man who is well versed in the arts of composition;” and immediately he
sent back to get the essay they had just been reading, in order to
obtain the old priest’s opinion as to its merits. At the same moment
up came their friend from Yü-hang, and all three went along together.
Wang began by addressing him as “Professor;” whereupon the priest, who
thought the stranger had come to consult him as a doctor, inquired
what might be the disease from which he was suffering. Wang then
explained what his mission was; upon which the priest smiled and said,
“Who’s been telling you this nonsense? How can a man with no eyes
discuss with you the merits of your compositions?” Wang replied by
asking him to let his ears do duty for his eyes; but the priest
answered that he would hardly have patience to sit out Wang’s three
sections, amounting perhaps to some two thousand and more words.
“However,” added he, “if you like to burn it, I’ll try what I can do
with my nose.” Wang complied, and burnt the first section there and
then; and the old priest, snuffing up the smoke, declared that it
wasn’t such a bad effort, and finally gave it as his opinion that Wang
would probably succeed at the examination. The young scholar from
Yü-hang didn’t believe that the old priest could really tell anything
by these means, and forthwith proceeded to burn an essay by one of the
old masters; but the priest no sooner smelt the smoke than he cried
out, “Beautiful indeed! beautiful indeed! I do enjoy this. The light
of genius and truth is evident here.” The Yü-hang scholar was greatly
astonished at this, and began to burn an essay of his own; whereupon
the priest said, “I had had but a taste of that one; why change so
soon to another?” “The first paragraph,” replied the young man, “was
by a friend; the rest is my own composition.” No sooner had he uttered
these words than the old priest began to retch violently, and begged
that he might have no more, as he was sure it would make him sick. The
Yü-hang scholar was much abashed at this, and went away; but in a few
days the list came out and his name was among the successful ones,
while Wang’s was not. He at once hurried off to tell the old priest,
who, when he heard the news, sighed and said, “I may be blind with my
eyes but I am not so with my nose, which I fear is the case with the
examiners. Besides,” added he, “I was talking to you about
composition: I said nothing about _destiny_.”[474]


FOOTNOTES:

[473] The following extract from a long and otherwise tedious story
tells its own tale. Wang is the modest man, and the young man from
Yü-hang the braggart. Sung is merely a friend of Wang’s.

[474] This is one of our author’s favourite shafts--a sneer at
examiners in general, and those who rejected him in particular.



XCIII.

HIS FATHER’S GHOST.


A man named T‘ien Tzŭ-ch‘êng, of Chiang-ning, was crossing the
Tung-t‘ing lake, when the boat was capsized, and he was drowned. His
son, Liang-ssŭ, who, towards the close of the Ming dynasty, took the
highest degree, was then a baby in arms; and his wife, hearing the bad
news, swallowed poison forthwith,[475] and left the child to the care
of his grandmother. When Liang-ssŭ grew up, he was appointed
magistrate in Hu-pei, where he remained about a year. He was then
transferred to Hu-nan, on military service; but, on reaching the
Tung-t‘ing lake, his feelings overpowered him, and he returned to
plead inability as an excuse for not taking up his post. Accordingly,
he was degraded to the rank of Assistant-Magistrate, which he at first
declined, but was finally compelled to accept; and thenceforward gave
himself up to roaming about on the lakes and streams of the
surrounding country, without paying much attention to his official
duties.

One night he had anchored his boat alongside the bank of a river, when
suddenly the cadence of a sweetly-played flageolet broke upon his ear;
so he strolled along by the light of the moon in the direction of the
music, until, after a few minutes’ walking, he reached a cottage
standing by itself, with a few citron-trees round it, and
brilliantly-lighted inside. Approaching a window, he peeped in, and
saw three persons sitting at a table, engaged in drinking. In the
place of honour was a graduate of about thirty years of age; an old
man played the host, and at the side sat a much younger man playing on
the flageolet. When he had finished, the old man clapped his hands in
admiration; but the graduate turned away with a sigh, as if he had not
heard a note. “Come now, Mr. Lu,” cried the old man, addressing the
latter, “kindly favour us with one of your songs, which, I know, must
be worth hearing.” The graduate then began to sing as follows:--

   “Over the river the wind blows cold on lonely me:
     Each flow’ret trampled under foot, all verdure gone.
    At home a thousand _li_ away, I cannot be;
     So towards the Bridge my spirit nightly wanders on.”

The above was given in such melancholy tones that the old man smiled
and said, “Mr. Lu, these must be experiences of your own,” and,
immediately filling a goblet, added, “I can do nothing like that; but
if you will let me, I will give you a song to help us on with our
wine.” He then sung a verse from “Li T‘ai-poh,”[476] and put them all
in a lively humour again; after which the young man said he would just
go outside and see how high the moon was, which he did, and observing
Liang-ssŭ outside, clapped his hands, and cried out to his companions,
“There is a man at the window, who has seen all we have been doing.”
He then led Liang-ssŭ in; whereupon the other two rose, and begged him
to be seated, and to join them in their wine. The wine, however, was
cold,[477] and he therefore declined; but the young man at once
perceived his reason, and proceeded to warm some for him. Liang-ssŭ
now ordered his servant to go and buy some more, but this his host
would not permit him to do. They next inquired Liang-ssŭ’s name, and
whence he came, and then the old man said, “Why, then, you are the
father and mother[478] of the district in which I live. My name is
River: I am an old resident here. This young man is a Mr. Tu, of
Kiang-si; and this gentleman,” added he, pointing to the graduate, “is
Mr. Rushten,[479] a fellow-provincial of yours.” Mr. Rushten looked
at Liang-ssŭ in rather a contemptuous way, and without taking much
notice of him; whereupon Liang-ssŭ asked him whereabouts he lived in
Chiang-ning, observing that it was strange he himself should never
have heard of such an accomplished gentleman. “Alas!” replied Rushten,
“it is many a long day since I left my home, and I know nothing even
of my own family. Alas, indeed!” These words were uttered in so
mournful a tone of voice that the old man broke in with, “Come, come,
now! talking like this, instead of drinking when we’re all so jolly
together; this will never do.” He then drained a bumper himself, and
said, “I propose a game of forfeits. We’ll throw with three dice; and
whoever throws so that the spots on one die[480] equal those on the
other two shall give us a verse with a corresponding classical
allusion in it.” He then threw himself, and turned up an ace, a two,
and a three; whereupon he sang the following lines:--

   “An ace and a deuce on one side, just equal a three on the other:
    For Fan a chicken was boiled, though three years had passed, by
        Chang’s mother.[481]
                               Thus friends love to meet!”

Then the young musician threw, and turned up two twos and a four;
whereupon he exclaimed, “Don’t laugh at the feeble allusion of an
unlearned fellow like me:--

   ‘Two deuces are equal to a four:
    Four men united their valour in the old city.[482]
                      Thus brothers love to meet!’”

Mr. Rushten followed with two aces and a two, and recited these
lines:--

   “Two aces are equal to a two:
    Lu-hsiang stretched out his two arms and embraced his father.[483]
                          Thus father and son love to meet!”

Liang then threw, and turned up the same as Mr. Rushten; whereupon he
said:--

   “Two aces are equal to a two:
    Mao-jung regaled Lin-tsung with two baskets.[484]
                Thus host and guest love to meet!”

When the _partie_ was over Liang-ssŭ rose to go, but Mr. Rushten
said, “Dear me! why are you in such a hurry; we haven’t had a moment
to speak of the old place. Please stay: I was just going to ask you a
few questions.” So Liang-ssŭ sat down again, and Mr. Rushten
proceeded. “I had an old friend,” said he, “who was drowned in the
Tung-t‘ing lake. He bore the same name as yourself; was he a
relative?” “He was my father,” replied Liang-ssŭ; “how did you know
him?” “We were friends as boys together; and when he was drowned, I
recovered and buried his body by the river-side.”[485] Liang-ssŭ here
burst into tears, and thanked Mr. Rushten very warmly, begging him to
point out his father’s grave. “Come again to-morrow,” said Mr.
Rushten, “and I will shew it to you. You could easily find it
yourself. It is close by here, and has ten stalks of water-rush
growing on it.” Liang-ssŭ now took his leave, and went back to his
boat, but he could not sleep for thinking of what Mr. Rushten had told
him; and at length, without waiting for the dawn, he set out to look
for the grave. To his great astonishment, the house where he had spent
the previous evening had disappeared; but hunting about in the
direction indicated by Mr. Rushten, he found a grave with ten
water-rushes growing on it, precisely as Mr. Rushten had described. It
then flashed across him that Mr. Rushten’s name had a special meaning,
and that he had been holding converse with none other than the
disembodied spirit of his own father. And, on inquiring of the people
of the place, he learnt that twenty years before a benevolent old
gentleman, named Kao, had been in the habit of collecting the bodies
of persons found drowned, and burying them in that spot. Liang then
opened the grave, and carried off his father’s remains to his own
home, where his grandmother, to whom he described Mr. Rushten’s
appearance, confirmed the suspicion he himself had formed. It also
turned out that the young musician was a cousin of his, who had been
drowned when nineteen years of age; and then he recollected that the
boy’s father had subsequently gone to Kiang-si, and that his mother
had died there, and had been buried at the Bamboo Bridge, to which Mr.
Rushten had alluded in his song. But he did not know who the old man
was.[486]


FOOTNOTES:

[475] This would be regarded as a very meritorious act by the Chinese.

[476] The Byron of China.

[477] Chinese wine--or, more correctly, _spirits_--is always taken
hot; hence the term wine-kettle, which frequently occurs in these
pages.

[478] The Magistrate; who is supposed to be towards the people what a
father is to his children.

[479] This singularly un-Chinese surname is employed to keep up a
certain play upon words which exists in the original, and which is
important to the _dénouement_ of the story. “River” is the simple
translation of a name actually in use.

[480] Chinese dice are the exact counterpart of our own, except that
the ace and the four are coloured red: the ace because the combination
of black and white would be unlucky, and the four because this number
once turned up in response to the call of an Emperor of the T‘ang
dynasty, who particularly wanted a four to win him the _partie_. All
letters, despatches, and such documents, have invariably something
_red_ about them, this being the lucky colour, and to the Chinese,
emblematic of prosperity and joy.

[481] Alluding to an ancient story of a promise by a Mr. Fan that he
would be at his friend Chang’s house that day three years. When the
time drew near, Chang’s mother ridiculed the notion of a man keeping a
three years’ appointment; but, acceding to her son’s instances,
prepared a boiled chicken, which was barely ready when Fan arrived to
eat of it.

[482] Alluding to the celebrated oath of confederation sworn in the
peach garden between Kuan Yü, or Kuan Ti (see No. I., note 39), Chang
Fei (see No. LXIII., note 357), Liu Pei, who subsequently proclaimed
himself Emperor, A.D. 221, and Chu-ko Liang, his celebrated minister,
to whose sage counsels most of the success of the undertaking was due.
The whole story is one of the best known of Chinese historical
romances, bringing about, as it did, the downfall of the famous Han
dynasty, which had endured for over 400 years.

[483] Alluding to the story of a young man who went in search of his
missing father.

[484] Lin-tsung saw his host kill a chicken which he thought was
destined for himself. However, Mao-jung served up the dainty morsel to
his mother, while he and his guest regaled themselves with two baskets
of common vegetables. At this instance of filial piety, Lin-tsung had
the good sense to be charmed.

[485] The Chinese recognise no act more worthy a virtuous man than
that of burying stray bones, covering up exposed coffins, and so
forth. By such means the favour of the Gods is most surely obtained,
to say nothing of the golden opinions of the living.

[486] This is merely our author’s way of putting the question of the
old man’s identity. He was the Spirit of the Waters--his name, it will
be recollected, was River--just, in fact, as we say Old Father Thames.



XCIV.

THE BOAT-GIRL BRIDE.


Wang Kuli-ngan was a young man of good family. It happened once when
he was travelling southwards, and had moored his boat to the bank,
that he saw in another boat close by a young boat-girl embroidering
shoes. He was much struck by her beauty, and continued gazing at her
for some time, though she took not the slightest notice of him.
By-and-by he began singing--

   “The Lo-yang lady lives over the way:
    [Fifteen years is her age I should say].”[487]

to attract her attention, and then she seemed to perceive that he was
addressing himself to her; but, after just raising her head and
glancing at him, she resumed her embroidery as before. Wang then threw
a piece of silver towards her, which fell on her skirt; however she
merely picked it up, and flung it on to the bank, as if she had not
seen what it was, so Wang put it back in his pocket again. He
followed up by throwing her a gold bracelet, to which she paid no
attention whatever, never taking her eyes off her work. A few minutes
after her father appeared, much to the dismay of Wang, who was afraid
he would see the bracelet; but the young girl quietly placed her feet
over it, and concealed it from his sight. The boatman let go the
painter, and away they went down stream, leaving Wang sitting there,
not knowing what to do next. And, having recently lost his wife, he
regretted that he had not seized this opportunity to make another
match; the more so, as when he came to ask the other boat-people of
the place, no one knew anything about them. So Wang got into his own
boat, and started off in pursuit; but evening came on, and, as he
could see nothing of them, he was obliged to turn back and proceed in
the direction where business was taking him. When he had finished
that, he returned, making inquiries all the way along, but without
hearing anything about the object of his search. On arriving at home,
he was unable either to eat or to sleep, so much did this affair
occupy his mind; and about a year afterwards he went south again,
bought a boat, and lived in it as his home, watching carefully every
single vessel that passed either up or down, until at last there was
hardly one he didn’t know by sight. But all this time the boat he was
looking for never reappeared.

Some six months passed away thus, and then, having exhausted all his
funds, he was obliged to go home, where he remained in a state of
general inaptitude for anything. One night he dreamed that he entered
a village on the river-bank, and that, after passing several houses,
he saw one with a door towards the south, and a palisade of bamboos
inside. Thinking it was a garden, he walked in and beheld a beautiful
magnolia, covered with blossoms, which reminded him of the line--

   “And Judas-tree in flower before her door.”[488]

A few steps farther on was a neat bamboo hedge, on the other side of
which, towards the north, he found a small house, with three columns,
the door of which was locked; and another, towards the south, with its
window shaded by the broad leaves of a plaintain-tree. The door was
barred by a clothes-horse,[489] on which was hanging an embroidered
petticoat; and, on seeing this, Wang stepped back, knowing that he had
got to the ladies’ quarters; but his presence had already been noticed
inside, and, in another moment, out came his heroine of the boat.
Overjoyed at seeing her, he was on the point of grasping her hand,
when suddenly the girl’s father arrived, and, in his consternation,
Wang waked up, and found that it was all a dream. Every incident of
it, however, remained clear and distinct in his mind, and he took care
to say nothing about it to anybody, for fear of destroying its
reality.

Another year passed away, and he went again to Chinkiang, where lived
an official, named Hsü, who was an old friend of the family, and who
invited Wang to come and take a cup of wine with him. On his way
thither, Wang lost his way, but at length reached a village which
seemed familiar to him, and which he soon found, by the door with the
magnolia inside, to be identical, in every particular, with the
village of his dream. He went in through the doorway, and there was
everything as he had seen it in his dream, even to the boat-girl
herself. She jumped up on his arrival, and, shutting the door in his
face, asked what his business was there. Wang inquired if she had
forgotten about the bracelet, and went on to tell her how long he had
been searching for her, and how, at last, she had been revealed to him
in a dream. The girl then begged to know his name and family; and when
she heard who he was, she asked what a gentleman like himself could
want with a poor boat-girl like her, as he must have a wife of his
own. “But for you,” replied Wang, “I should, indeed, have been married
long ago.” Upon which the girl told him if that was really the case,
he had better apply to her parents, “although,” added she, “they have
already refused a great many offers for me. The bracelet you gave me
is here, but my father and mother are just now away from home; they
will be back shortly. You go away now and engage a match-maker, when I
dare say it will be all right if the proper formalities are observed.”
Wang then retired, the girl calling after him to remember that her
name was Mêng Yün, and her father’s Mêng Chiang-li. He proceeded at
once on his way to Mr. Hsü’s, and after that sought out his intended
father-in-law, telling him who he was, and offering him at the same
time one hundred ounces of silver, as betrothal-money for his
daughter. “She is already promised,” replied the old man; upon which
Wang declared he had been making careful inquiries, and had heard, on
all sides, that the young lady was not engaged, winding up by begging
to know what objection there was to his suit. “I have just promised
her,” answered her father, “and I cannot possibly break my word;” so
Wang went away, deeply mortified, not knowing whether to believe it or
not. That night he tossed about a good deal; and next morning, braving
the ridicule with which he imagined his friend would view his
wished-for alliance with a boat-girl, he went off to Mr. Hsü, and told
him all about it. “Why didn’t you consult me before?” cried Mr. Hsü;
“her father is a connection of mine.” Wang then went on to give
fuller particulars, which his friend interrupted by saying, “Chang-li
is indeed poor, but he has never been a boatman. Are you sure you are
not making a mistake?” He then sent off his elder son to make
inquiries; and to him the girl’s father said, “Poor I am, but I don’t
_sell_ my daughter.[490] Your friend imagined that I should be tempted
by the sight of his money to forego the usual ceremonies, and so I
won’t have anything to do with him. But if your father desires this
match, and everything is in proper order, I will just go in and
consult with my daughter, and see if she is willing.” He then retired
for a few minutes, and when he came back he raised his hands in
congratulation, saying, “Everything is as you wish;” whereupon a day
was fixed, and the young man went home to report to his father. Wang
now sent off betrothal presents, with the usual formalities, and took
up his abode with his friend, Mr. Hsü, until the marriage was
solemnized, three days after which he bade adieu to his father-in-law,
and started on his way northwards. In the evening, as they were
sitting on the boat together, Wang said to his wife, “When I first met
you near this spot, I fancied you were not of the ordinary
boating-class. Where were you then going?” “I was going to visit my
uncle,” she replied. “We are not a wealthy family, you know, but we
don’t want anything through an improper channel; and I couldn’t help
smiling at the great eyes you were making at me, all the time trying
to tempt me with money. But when I heard you speak, I knew at once you
were a man of refinement, though I guessed you were a bit of a rake;
and so I hid your bracelet, and saved you from the wrath of my
father.” “And yet,” replied Wang, “you have fallen into my snare after
all;” adding, after a little pressure, “for I can’t conceal from you
much longer the fact that I have already a wife, belonging to a high
official family.” This she did not believe, until he began to affirm
it seriously; and then she jumped up and ran out of the cabin. Wang
followed at once, but, before he could reach her, she was already in
the river; whereupon he shouted out to boats to come to their
assistance, causing quite a commotion all round about; but nothing was
to be seen in the river, save only the reflection of the stars shining
brightly on the water. All night long Wang went sorrowfully up and
down, and offered a high reward for the body, which, however, was not
forthcoming. So he went home in despair, and then, fearing lest his
father-in-law should come to visit his daughter, he started on a visit
to a connection of his, who had an appointment in Honan. In the course
of a year or two, when on his homeward journey, he chanced to be
detained by bad weather at a roadside inn of rather cleaner appearance
than usual. Within he saw an old woman playing with a child, which, as
soon as he entered, held out its arms to him to be taken. Wang took
the child on his knee, and there it remained, refusing to go back to
its nurse; and, when the rain had stopped, and Wang was getting ready
to go, the child cried out, “Pa-pa gone!” The nurse told it to hold
its tongue, and, at the same moment, out from behind the screen came
Wang’s long-lost wife. “You bad fellow,” said she, “what am I to do
with this?” pointing to the child; and then Wang knew that the boy was
his own son. He was much affected, and swore by the sun[491] that the
words he had uttered had been uttered in jest, and by-and-by his
wife’s anger was soothed. She then explained how she had been picked
up by a passing boat, the occupant of which was the owner of the house
they were in, a man of sixty years of age, who had no children of his
own, and who kindly adopted her.[492] She also told him how she had
had several offers of marriage, all of which she had refused, and how
her child was born, and that she had called him Chi-shêng, and that he
was then a year old. Wang now unpacked his baggage again, and went in
to see the old gentleman and his wife, whom he treated as if they had
actually been his wife’s parents. A few days afterwards they set off
together towards Wang’s home, where they found his wife’s real father
awaiting them. He had been there more than two months, and had been
considerably disconcerted by the mysterious remarks of Wang’s
servants; but the arrival of his daughter and her husband made things
all smooth again, and when they told him what had happened, he
understood the demeanour of the servants which had seemed so strange
to him at first.


FOOTNOTES:

[487] From a poem by Wang Wei, a noted poet of the T‘ang dynasty. The
second line is not given in the text.

[488] From a poem by P‘an T‘ang-shên, which runs:--

   “Her rustic home stands by the Tung-t‘ing lake.
      Ye who would there a pure libation pour,
    Look for mud walls--a roof of rushy make--
      And Judas-tree in flower before the door.”

The Chinese believe that the Judas-tree will only bloom where
fraternal love prevails.

[489] I have already observed that men and women should not let their
hands touch when passing things to each other (see No. XL., note 233);
neither is it considered proper for persons of different sexes to hang
their clothes on the same clothes-horse. (See _Appendix_, note 736.)

With regard to shaking hands, I have omitted to mention how hateful
this custom is in the eyes of the Chinese, as in vogue among
foreigners, without reference to sex. They believe that a bad man
might easily secrete some noxious drug in the palm of his hand, and so
convey it into the system of any woman, who would then be at his
mercy.

[490] Alluding to Wang’s breach of etiquette in visiting the father
himself, instead of sending a go-between, who would have offered the
same sum in due form as the usual dowry or present to the bride’s
family.

[491] Witnesses in a Chinese court of justice take no oath, in our
sense of the term. Their written depositions, however, are always
ended with the words “the above evidence is the truth!” In ordinary
life people call heaven and earth to witness, or, as in this case, the
sun; or they declare themselves willing to forfeit their lives; and so
on, if their statements are not true. “Saucer-breaking” is one of
those pleasant inductions from probably a single instance, which may
have been the fancy of a moment; at any rate, it is quite unknown in
China as a national custom. “Cock-killing” usually has reference to
the ceremonies of initiation performed by the members of the numerous
secret societies which exist over the length and breadth of the
Empire, in spite of Government prohibitions, and the penalty of death
incurred upon detection.

[492] Adoption is common all over China, and is regulated by law. For
instance, an adopted son excludes all the daughters of the family. A
man is not allowed to marry a girl whom he has adopted until he shall
have given her away to be adopted in a family of a _different surname
from his own_; after which fictitious ceremony, his marriage with her
becomes legal (see No. XV., note 109); for the child adopted takes the
same surname as that of the family into which he is adopted, and is so
far cut off from his own relations, that he would not venture even to
put on mourning for his real parents without first obtaining the
consent of those who had adopted him. A son or daughter may be sold,
but an adopted child may not; neither may the adopted child be given
away in adoption to any one else without the specific consent of his
real parents. The general object in adopting children is to leave some
one behind at death to look after the duties of ancestral worship. For
this boys are preferred; but the _Fortunate Union_ gives an instance
in which these rites were very creditably performed by the heroine of
the tale.



XCV.

THE TWO BRIDES.[493]


Now Chi-shêng, or Wang Sun, was one of the cleverest young fellows in
the district; and his father and mother, who had foreseen his ability
from the time when, as a baby in long clothes, he distinguished them
from other people, loved him very dearly. He grew up into a handsome
lad; at eight or nine he could compose elegantly, and by fourteen he
had already entered his name as a candidate for the first degree,
after which his marriage became a question for consideration. Now his
father’s younger sister, Erh-niang, had married a gentleman named
Chêng Tzŭ-ch‘iao, and they had a daughter called Kuei-hsiu, who was
extremely pretty, and with whom Chi-shêng fell deeply in love, being
soon unable either to eat or to sleep. His parents became extremely
uneasy about him, and inquired what it was that ailed him; and when he
told them, they at once sent off a match-maker to Mr. Chêng. The
latter, however, was rather a stickler for the proprieties, and
replied that the near relationship precluded him from accepting the
offer.[494] Thereupon Chi-shêng became dangerously ill, and his
mother, not knowing what to do, secretly tried to persuade Erh-niang
to let her daughter come over to their house; but Mr. Chêng heard of
it, and was so angry that Chi-shêng’s father and mother gave up all
hope of arranging the match.

At that time there was a gentleman named Chang living near by, who had
five daughters, all very pretty, but the youngest, called Wu-k‘o, was
singularly beautiful, far surpassing her four sisters. She was not
betrothed to any one, when one day, as she was on her way to worship
at the family tombs, she chanced to see Chi-shêng, and at her return
home spoke about him to her mother. Her mother guessed what her
meaning was, and arranged with a match-maker, named Mrs. Yü, to call
upon Chi-shêng’s parents. This she did precisely at the time when
Chi-shêng was so ill, and forthwith told his mother that her son’s
complaint was one she, Mrs. Yü, was quite competent to cure; going on
to tell her about Miss Wu-k‘o and the proposed marriage, at which the
good lady was delighted, and sent her in to talk about it to Chi-shêng
himself. “Alas!” cried he, when he had heard Mrs. Yü’s story, “you are
bringing me the wrong medicine for my complaint.” “All depends upon
the efficacy of the medicine,” replied Mrs. Yü; “if the medicine is
good, it matters not what is the name of the doctor who administers
the draught; while to set your heart on a particular person, and to
lie there and die because that person doesn’t come, is surely foolish
in the extreme.” “Ah,” rejoined Chi-shêng, “there’s no medicine under
heaven that will do me any good.” Mrs. Yü told him his experience was
limited, and proceeded to expatiate by speaking and gesticulating on
the beauty and liveliness of Wu-k‘o. But all Chi-shêng said was that
she was not what he wanted, and, turning round his face to the wall,
would listen to no more about her. So Mrs. Yü was obliged to go away,
and Chi-shêng became worse and worse every day, until suddenly one of
the maids came in and informed him that the young lady herself was at
the door. Immediately he jumped up and ran out, and lo! there before
him stood a beautiful girl, whom, however he soon discovered not to be
Kuei-hsiu. She wore a light yellow robe with a fine silk jacket and an
embroidered petticoat, from beneath which her two little feet peeped
out; and altogether she more resembled a fairy than anything else.
Chi-shêng inquired her name; to which she replied that it was Wu-k‘o,
adding that she couldn’t understand his devoted attachment to
Kuei-hsiu, as if there was nobody else in the world. Chi-shêng
apologized, saying that he had never before seen any one so beautiful
as Kuei-hsiu, but that he was now aware of his mistake. He then swore
everlasting fidelity to her, and was just grasping her hand, when he
awoke and found his mother rubbing him. It was a dream, but so
accurately defined in all its details that he began to think if Wu-k‘o
was really such as he had seen her, there would be no further need to
try for his impracticable cousin. So he communicated his dream to his
mother; and she, only too delighted to notice this change of feeling,
offered to go to Wu-k‘o’s house herself; but Chi-shêng would not hear
of this, and arranged with an old woman who knew the family to find
some pretext for going there, and to report to him what Wu-k‘o was
like. When she arrived Wu-k‘o was ill in bed, and lay with her head
propped up by pillows, looking very pretty indeed. The old woman
approached the couch and asked what was the matter; to which Wu-k‘o
made no reply, her fingers fidgetting all the time with her waistband.
“She’s been behaving badly to her father and mother,” cried the
latter, who was in the room; “there’s many a one has offered to marry
her, but she says she’ll have none but Chi-shêng: and then when I
scold her a bit, she takes on and won’t touch her food for days.”
“Madam,” said the old woman, “if you could get that young man for your
daughter they would make a truly pretty pair; and as for him, if he
could only see Miss Wu-k‘o, I’m afraid it would be too much for him.
What do you think of my going there and getting them to make
proposals?” “No, thank you,” replied Wu-k‘o; “I would rather not risk
his refusal;” upon which the old woman declared she would succeed, and
hurried off to tell Chi-shêng, who was delighted to find from her
report that Wu-k‘o was exactly as he had seen her in his dream, though
he didn’t trust implicitly in all the old woman said. By-and-by, when
he began to get a little better, he consulted with the old woman as to
how he could see Wu-k‘o with his own eyes; and, after some little
difficulty, it was arranged that Chi-shêng should hide himself in a
room from which he would be able to see her as she crossed the yard
supported by a maid, which she did every day at a certain hour. This
Chi-shêng proceeded to do, and in a little while out she came,
accompanied by the old woman as well, who instantly drew her attention
either to the clouds or the trees, in order that she should walk more
leisurely. Thus Chi-shêng had a good look at her, and saw that she was
truly the young lady of his dream. He could hardly contain himself for
joy; and when the old woman arrived and asked if she would do instead
of Kuei-hsiu, he thanked her very warmly and returned to his own home.
There he told his father and mother, who sent off a match-maker to
arrange the preliminaries; but the latter came back and told them that
Wu-k‘o was already betrothed. This was a terrible blow for Chi-shêng,
who was soon as ill as ever, and offered no reply to his father and
mother when they charged him with having made a mistake. For several
months he ate nothing but a bowl of rice-gruel a-day, and he became as
emaciated as a fowl, when all of a sudden the old woman walked in and
asked him what was the matter. “Foolish boy,” said she, when he had
told her all; “before you wouldn’t have her, and do you imagine she is
bound to have you now? But I’ll see if I can’t help you; for were she
the Emperor’s own daughter, I should still find some way of getting
her.” Chi-shêng asked what he should do, and she then told him to send
a servant with a letter next day to Wu-k‘o’s house, to which his
father at first objected for fear of another repulse; but the old
woman assured him that Wu-k‘o’s parents had since repented, besides
which no written contract had as yet been made; “and you know the
proverb,” added she, “that those who are first at the fire will get
their dinner first.” So Chi-shêng’s father agreed, and two servants
were accordingly sent, their mission proving a complete success.
Chi-shêng now rapidly recovered his health, and thought no more of
Kuei-hsiu, who, when she heard of the intended match, became in her
turn very seriously ill, to the great anger of her father, who said
she might die for all he cared, but to the great sorrow of her mother,
who was extremely fond of her daughter. The latter even went so far as
to propose to Mr. Chang that Kuei-hsiu should go as second wife, at
which he was so enraged that he declared he would wash his hands of
the girl altogether. The mother then found out when Chi-shêng’s
wedding was to take place; and, borrowing a chair and attendants from
her brother under pretence of going to visit him, put Kuei-hsiu inside
and sent her off to her uncle’s house. As she arrived at the door, the
servants spread a carpet for her to walk on, and the band struck up
the wedding march. Chi-shêng went out to see what it was all about,
and there met a young lady in a bridal veil, from whom he would have
escaped had not her servants surrounded them, and, before he knew what
he was doing, he was making her the usual salutation of a bridegroom.
They then went in together, and, to his further astonishment, he found
that the young lady was Kuei-hsiu; and, being now unable to go and
meet Wu-k‘o, a message was sent to her father, telling him what had
occurred. He, too, got into a great rage, and vowed he would break off
the match; but Wu-k‘o herself said she would go all the same, her
rival having only got the start of her in point of time. And go she
did; and the two wives, instead of quarrelling, as was expected, lived
very happily together like sisters, and wore each other’s clothes and
shoes without distinction, Kuei-hsiu taking the place of an elder
sister as being somewhat older than Wu-k‘o.[495] One day, after these
events, Chi-shêng asked Wu-k‘o why she had refused his offer; to which
she replied that it was merely to pay him out for having previously
refused her father’s proposal. “Before you had seen me, your head was
full of Kuei-hsiu; but after you had seen me, your thoughts were
somewhat divided; and I wanted to know how I compared with her, and
whether you would fall ill on my account as you had on hers, that we
mightn’t quarrel about our looks.” “It was a cruel revenge,” said
Chi-shêng; “but how should I ever have got a sight of you had it not
been for the old woman?” “What had she to do with it?” replied Wu-k‘o;
“I knew you were behind the door all the time. When I was ill I dreamt
that I went to your house and saw you, but I looked upon it only as a
dream until I heard that you had dreamt that I had actually been
there, and then I knew that my spirit must have been with you.”
Chi-shêng now related to her the particulars of his vision, which
coincided exactly with her own; and thus, strangely enough, had the
matrimonial alliances of both father and son been brought about by
dreams.


FOOTNOTES:

[493] This story is a sequel to the last.

[494] The surnames would in this case be different, and no obstacle
could be offered on that score. See No. XV., note 109.

[495] The _dénouement_ of the _Yü-chiao-li_, a small novel which was
translated into French by Rémusat, and again by Julien under the title
of _Les Deux Cousines_, is effected by the hero of the tale marrying
both the heroines.



XCVI.

A SUPERNATURAL WIFE.


A certain Mr. Chao, of Ch‘ang-shan, lodged in a family of the name of
T‘ai. He was very badly off, and, falling sick, was brought almost to
death’s door. One day they moved him into the verandah, that it might
be cooler for him; and, when he awoke from a nap, lo! a beautiful girl
was standing by his side. “I am come to be your wife,” said the girl,
in answer to his question as to who she was; to which he replied that
a poor fellow like himself did not look for such luck as that; adding
that, being then on his death-bed, he would not have much occasion for
the services of a wife. The girl said she could cure him; but he told
her he very much doubted that; “And even,” continued he, “should you
have any good prescription, I have not the means of getting it made
up.” “I don’t want medicine to cure you with,” rejoined the girl,
proceeding at once to rub his back and sides with her hand, which
seemed to him like a ball of fire. He soon began to feel much better,
and asked the young lady what her name was, in order, as he said, that
he might remember her in his prayers. “I am a spirit,” replied she;
“and you, when alive under the Han dynasty as Ch‘u Sui-liang, were a
benefactor of my family. Your kindness being engraven on my heart, I
have at length succeeded in my search for you, and am able in some
measure to requite you.” Chao was dreadfully ashamed of his
poverty-stricken state, and afraid that his dirty room would spoil the
young lady’s dress; but she made him show her in, and accordingly he
took her into his apartment, where there were neither chairs to sit
upon, nor signs of anything to eat, saying, “You might, indeed, be
able to put up with all this; but you see my larder is empty, and I
have absolutely no means of supporting a wife.” “Don’t be alarmed
about that,” cried she; and in another moment he saw a couch covered
with costly robes, the walls papered with a silver-flecked paper, and
chairs and tables appear, the latter laden with all kinds of wine and
exquisite viands. They then began to enjoy themselves, and lived
together as husband and wife, many people coming to witness these
strange things, and being all cordially received by the young lady,
who in her turn always accompanied Mr. Chao when he went out to dinner
anywhere.[496] One day there was an unprincipled young graduate among
the company, which she seemed immediately to become aware of; and,
after calling him several bad names, she struck him on the side of the
head, causing his head to fly out of the window while his body
remained inside; and there he was, stuck fast, unable to move either
way, until the others interceded for him and he was released. After
some time visitors became too numerous, and if she refused to see them
they turned their anger against her husband. At length, as they were
sitting together drinking with some friends at the Tuan-yang
festival,[497] a white rabbit ran in, whereupon the girl jumped up and
said, “The doctor[498] has come for me;” then, turning to the rabbit,
she added, “You go on: I’ll follow you.” So the rabbit went away, and
then she ordered them to get a ladder and place it against a high tree
in the back yard, the top of the ladder overtopping the tree. The
young lady went up first and Chao close behind her; after which she
called out to anybody who wished to join them to make haste up. None
ventured to do so with the exception of a serving-boy belonging to the
house, who followed after Chao; and thus they went up, up, up, up,
until they disappeared in the clouds and were seen no more. However,
when the bystanders came to look at the ladder, they found it was only
an old door-frame with the panels knocked out; and when they went into
Mr. Chao’s room, it was the same old, dirty, unfurnished room as
before. So they determined to find out all about it from the
serving-boy when he came back; but this he never did.


FOOTNOTES:

[496] The sexes do not dine together. On the occasion of a
dinner-party, private or official, the ladies give a separate
entertainment to the wives of the various guests in the “inner” or
women’s apartments, as an adjunct to which a theatrical troupe is
often engaged, precisely as in the case of the opposite sex.
Singing-girls are, however, present at and share in the banquets of
the _roués_ of China.

[497] This occurs on the 5th of the 5th moon, and is commonly known as
the Dragon-Boat Festival, from a practice of racing on that day in
long, narrow boats. It is said to have been instituted in memory of a
patriotic statesman, whose identity, however, is not settled, some
writers giving Wu Yun (see _The Middle Kingdom_, Vol. II., p. 82),
others Ch‘ü Yüan (see _The Chinese Reader’s Manual_, p. 107), as the
hero of the day.

[498] A hare or rabbit is believed to sit at the foot of the
cassia-tree in the moon, pounding the drugs out of which is concocted
the elixir of immortality. An allusion to this occurs in the poems of
Tu Fu, one of the celebrated bards of the T‘ang dynasty:--

   “The frog is not drowned in the river;
    The medicine hare lives for ever.”



XCVII.

BRIBERY AND CORRUPTION.


At Pao-ting Fu there lived a young man, who having purchased the
lowest[499] degree was about to proceed to Peking, in the hope of
obtaining, by the aid of a little bribery, an appointment as District
Magistrate. His boxes were all ready packed, when he was taken
suddenly ill and was confined to his bed for more than a month. One
day the servant entered and announced a visitor; whereupon our sick
man jumped up and ran to the door as if there was nothing the matter
with him. The visitor was elegantly dressed like a man of some
position in society; and, after bowing thrice, he walked into the
house, explaining that he was Kung-sun Hsia,[500] tutor to the
Eleventh Prince, and that he had heard our Mr. So-and-so wished to
arrange for the purchase of a magistracy. “If that is really so,”
added he, “would you not do better to buy a prefecture?” So-and-so
thanked him warmly, but said his funds would not be sufficient; upon
which Mr. Kung-sun declared he should be delighted to assist him with
half the purchase-money, which he could repay after taking up the
post.[501] He went on to say that being on intimate terms with the
various provincial Governors the thing could be easily managed for
about five thousand taels; and also that at that very moment Chên-ting
Fu being vacant, it would be as well to make an early effort to get
the appointment. So-and-so pointed out that this place was in his
native province;[502] but Kung-sun only laughed at his objection, and
reminded him that money[503] could obliterate all distinctions of that
kind. This did not seem quite satisfactory; however, Kung-sun told him
not to be alarmed, as the post of which he was speaking was below in
the infernal regions. “The fact is,” said he, “that your term of life
has expired, and that your name is already on the death list; by these
means you will take your place in the world below as a man of official
position. Farewell! in three days we shall meet again.” He then went
to the door and mounted his horse and rode away. So-and-so now opened
his eyes and spoke a few parting words to his wife and children,
bidding them take money from his strong-room[504] and go buy large
quantities of paper ingots,[505] which they immediately did, quite
exhausting all the shops. This was piled in the court-yard with paper
images of men, devils, horses, &c., and burning went on day and night
until the ashes formed quite a hill. In three days Kung-sun returned,
bringing with him the money; upon which So-and-so hurried off to the
Board of Civil Office,[506] where he had an interview with the high
officials, who, after asking his name, warned him to be a pure and
upright officer, and then calling him up to the table handed him his
letter of appointment. So-and-so bowed and took his leave; but
recollecting at once that his purchased degree would not carry much
weight with it in the eyes of his subordinates,[507] he sent off to
buy elaborate chairs and a number of horses for his retinue, at the
same time despatching several devil lictors to fetch his favourite
wife in a beautifully adorned sedan-chair. All arrangements were just
completed when some of the Chên-ting staff came to meet the new
Prefect,[508] others awaiting him all along the line of road, about
half a mile in length. He was immensely gratified at this reception,
when all of a sudden the gongs before him ceased to sound and the
banners were lowered to the ground. He had hardly time to ask what was
the matter before he saw those of his servants who were on horseback
jump hastily to the ground and dwindle down to about a foot in height,
while their horses shrunk to the size of foxes or racoons. One of the
attendants near his chariot cried out in alarm, “Here’s Kuan Ti!”[509]
and then he, too, jumped out in a fright, and saw in the distance Kuan
Ti himself slowly approaching them, followed by four or five retainers
on horseback. His great beard covered the lower half of his face,
quite unlike ordinary mortals; his aspect was terrible to behold, and
his eyes reached nearly to his ears. “Who is this?” roared he to his
servants; and they immediately informed him that it was the new
Prefect of Chên-ting. “What!” cried he; “a petty fellow like that to
have a retinue like this?”[510] Whereupon So-and-so’s flesh began to
creep with fear, and in a few moments he found that he too had shrunk
to the size of a little boy of six or seven. Kuan Ti bade his
attendants bring the new Prefect with them, and went into a building
at the roadside, where he took up his seat facing the south[511] and
calling for writing materials told So-and-so to write down his name
and address. When this was handed to him he flew into a towering
passion, and said, “The scribbly scrawl of a placeman, indeed![512]
Can such a one be entrusted with the welfare of the people? Look me up
the record of his good works.” A man then advanced, and whispered
something in a low tone; upon which Kuan Ti exclaimed in a loud voice,
“The crime of the briber is comparatively trifling; the heavy guilt
lies with those who sell official posts for money.” So-and-so was now
seized by angels in golden armour, and two of them tore off his cap
and robes, and administered to him fifty blows with the bamboo until
hardly any flesh remained on his bones. He was then thrust outside the
door, and lo! his carriages and horses had disappeared, and he himself
was lying, unable to walk for pain, at no great distance from his own
house. However, his body seemed as light as a leaf, and in a day and
a night he managed to crawl home. When he arrived, he awoke as it were
from a dream, and found himself groaning upon the bed; and to the
inquiries of his family he only replied that he felt dreadfully sore.
Now he really had been dead for seven days; and when he came round
thus, he immediately asked for A-lien, which was the name of his
favourite wife. But the very day before, while chatting with the other
members of the family, A-lien had suddenly cried out that her husband
was made Prefect of Chên-ting, and that his lictors had come to escort
her thither. Accordingly she retired to dress herself in her best
clothes, and, when ready to start, she fell back and expired. Hearing
this sad story, So-and-so began to mourn and beat his breast, and he
would not allow her to be buried at once, in the hope that she might
yet come round; but this she never did. Meanwhile So-and-so got slowly
better, and by the end of six months was able to walk again. He would
often exclaim, “The ruin of my career and the punishment I
received--all this I could have endured; but the loss of my dear
A-lien is more than I can bear.”[513]


FOOTNOTES:

[499] By which he would become eligible for Government employ. The
sale of degrees has been extensively carried on under the present
dynasty, as a means of replenishing an empty Treasury.

[500] Kung-sun is an example of a Chinese double surname.

[501] Such is the common system of repaying the loan, by means of
which an indigent nominee is enabled to defray the expenses of his
journey to the post to which he has been appointed, and other calls
upon his purse. These loans are generally provided by some “western”
merchant, which term is an ellipsis for a “Shansi” banker, Shansi
being literally “west of the mountains.” Some one accompanies the
newly-made official to his post, and holds his commission in pawn
until the amount is repaid; which settlement is easily effected by the
issue of some well-understood proclamation, calling, for instance,
upon the people to close all gambling-houses within a given period.
Immediately the owners of these hells forward presents of money to the
incoming official, the Shansi banker gets his principal with interest,
perhaps at the rate of 2 per cent. _per month_, the gambling-houses
carry on as usual, and everybody is perfectly satisfied.

[502] Which fact would disqualify him from taking the post.

[503] Literally, “Square hole.” A common name for the Chinese cash.
See No. II., note 42.

[504] In the case of wealthy families these strong rooms often
contain, in addition to bullion, jewels to a very great amount
belonging to the ladies of the house; and, as a rule, the door may not
be opened unless in the presence of a certain number of the male
representatives of the house.

[505] Pieces of silver and gold paper made up to represent the
ordinary Chinese “shoes” of bullion (See No. XVIII., note 133), and
burnt for the use of the dead. Generally known to foreigners in China
as “joss-paper.”

[506] See No. VII., note 54. In this case the reference is to a
similar Board in the Infernal Regions.

[507] These would be sure to sneer at him behind his back.

[508] A compliment usually paid to an in-coming official.

[509] See No. I., note 39.

[510] The retinue of a Mandarin should be in accordance with his rank.
I have given elsewhere (See No. LVI., note 315) what would be that of
an official of the highest rank.

[511] See No. LXXVII., note 431.

[512] Good writing holds a much higher place in the estimation of the
Chinese than among western nations. The very nature of their
characters raises calligraphy almost to the rank of an art.

[513] The commentator here adds a somewhat similar case, which
actually occurred in the reign of K‘ang Hsi, of a Viceroy modestly
attended falling in with the gorgeous retinue of a Magistrate, and
being somewhat rudely treated by the servants of the latter. On
arriving at his destination, the Viceroy sent for that Magistrate, and
sternly bade him retire from office, remarking that no simple
magistrate could afford to keep such a retinue of attendants unless by
illegal exactions from the suffering people committed to his charge.



XCVIII.

A CHINESE JONAH.


A man named Sun Pi-chên was crossing the river[514] when a great
thunder-squall broke upon the vessel and caused her to toss about
fearfully, to the great terror of all the passengers. Just then, an
angel in golden armour appeared standing upon the clouds above them,
holding in his hand a scroll inscribed with certain characters, also
written in gold, which the people on the vessel easily made out to be
three in number, namely _Sun Pi-chên_. So, turning at once to their
fellow-traveller, they said to him, “You have evidently incurred the
displeasure of Heaven; get into a boat by yourself, and do not involve
us in your punishment.” And without giving him time to reply whether
he would do so or not, they hurried him over the side into a small
boat and set him adrift; but when Sun Pi-chên looked back, lo! the
vessel itself had capsized.[515]


FOOTNOTES:

[514] The Yang-tsze: sometimes spoken of as the Long River.

[515] The full point of this story can hardly be conveyed in
translation. The man’s surname was Sun, and his prænomen, Pi-chên,
(which in Chinese _follows_ the nomen) might be rendered
“Must-be-saved.” However, there is another word meaning “struck,”
precisely similar in sound and tone, though written differently, to
the above _chên_; and, as far as the ear alone is concerned, our
hero’s name might have been either _Sun Must-be-saved_ or _Sun
Must-be-struck_. That the merchants mistook the character _chên_,
“saved,” for _chên_, “struck,” is evident from the catastrophe which
overtook their vessel, while Mr. Sun’s little boat rode safely through
the storm.



XCIX.

CHANG PU-LIANG.


A certain trader who was travelling in the province of Chih-li, being
overtaken by a storm of rain and hail, took shelter among some
standing crops by the way-side. There he heard a voice from heaven,
saying, “These are Chang Pu-liang’s fields; do not injure his crops.”
The trader began to wonder who this Chang Pu-liang could be, and how,
if he was _pu liang_ (not virtuous), he came to be under divine
protection; so when the storm was over and he had reached the
neighbouring village, he made enquiries on the subject, and told the
people there what he had heard. The villagers then informed him that
Chang Pu-liang was a very wealthy farmer, who was accustomed every
spring to make loans of grain to the poor of the district, and who was
not too particular about getting back the exact amount he had
lent,--taking, in fact, whatever they brought him without discussion;
hence the sobriquet of _pu liang_ “no measure” (_i.e._, the man who
doesn’t measure the repayments of his loans).[516] After that, they
all proceeded in a body to the fields, where it was discovered that
vast damage had been done to the crops generally, with the exception
of Chang Pu-liang’s, which had escaped uninjured.


FOOTNOTE:

[516] Here again we have a play upon words similar to that in the last
story.



C.

THE DUTCH CARPET.


Formerly, when the Dutch[517] were permitted to trade with China, the
officer in command of the coast defences would not allow them, on
account of their great numbers, to come ashore. The Dutch begged very
hard for the grant of a piece of land such as a carpet would cover;
and the officer above-mentioned, thinking that this could not be very
large, acceded to their request. A carpet was accordingly laid down,
big enough for about two people to stand on; but by dint of
stretching, it was soon enough for four or five; and so they went on,
stretching and stretching, until at last it covered about an acre,
and by-and-by, with the help of their knives, they had filched a piece
of ground several miles in extent.[518]


FOOTNOTES:

[517] We read in the _History of Amoy_:--“In the year 1622 the
red-haired barbarians seized the Pescadores and attacked Amoy.” From
the Pescadores they finally retired, on a promise that trade would be
permitted, to Formosa, whence they were expelled by the famous Koxinga
in 1662. “Red-haired barbarians,” a term now commonly applied to all
foreigners, was first used in the records of the Ming dynasty to
designate the Dutch.

[518] Our author would here seem to have heard of the famous bull’s
hide which is mentioned in the first book of the _Æneid_. In any case,
the substitution of “stretching” is no improvement on the celebrated
device by which the bull’s hide was made to enclose so large a space.



CI.

CARRYING A CORPSE.


A woodsman who had been to market was returning home with his pole
across his shoulder,[519] when suddenly he felt it become very heavy
at the end behind him, and looking round he saw attached to it the
headless trunk of a man. In great alarm, he got his pole quit of the
burden and struck about him right and left, whereupon the body
disappeared. He then hurried on to the next village, and when he
arrived there in the dusk of the evening, he found several men holding
lights to the ground as if looking for something. On asking what was
the matter, they told him that while sitting together a man’s head had
fallen from the sky into their midst; that they had noticed the hair
and beard were all draggled, but in a moment the head had vanished.
The woodsman then related what had happened to himself; and thus one
whole man was accounted for, though no one could tell whence he came.
Subsequently, another man was carrying a basket when some one saw a
man’s head in it, and called out to him; whereupon he dropped the
basket in a fright, and the head rolled away and disappeared.


FOOTNOTE:

[519] The common method of porterage in China is by a bamboo pole over
the shoulder with well-balanced burdens hanging from each end. I have
often seen children carried thus, sitting in wicker baskets; sometimes
for long journeys.



CII.

A TAOIST DEVOTEE.


Chü Yao-ju was a Ch‘ing-chou man, who, when his wife died, left his
home and became a priest.[520] Some years afterwards he returned,
dressed in the Taoist garb, and carrying his praying-mat[521] over his
shoulder; and after staying one night he wanted to go away again. His
friends, however, would not give him back his cassock and staff; so at
length he pretended to take a stroll outside the village, and when
there, his clothes and other belongings came flying out of the house
after him, and he got safely away.


FOOTNOTES:

[520] It would be more usual to “renew the guitar string,” as the
Chinese idiom runs. In the paraphrase of the first maxim of the
_Sacred Edict_ we are told that “The closest of all ties is that of
husband and wife; but suppose your wife dies, why, you can marry
another. But if your brother were to die,” &c., &c.

[521] This, as well as the staff mentioned below, belongs to Buddhism.
See No. IV., note 46.



CIII.

JUSTICE FOR REBELS.


During the reign of Shun Chih,[522] of the people of T‘êng-i, seven in
ten were opposed to the Manchu dynasty. The officials dared not touch
them; and subsequently, when the country became more settled, the
magistrates used to distinguish them from the others by always
deciding any cases in their favour: for they feared lest these men
should revert to their old opposition. And thus it came about that one
litigant would begin by declaring himself to have been a “rebel,”
while his adversary would follow up by shewing such statement to be
false; so that before any case could be heard on its actual merits, it
was necessary to determine the status both of plaintiff and defendant,
whereby infinite labour was entailed upon the Registrars.

Now it chanced that the yamên of one of the officials was haunted by a
fox, and the official’s daughter was bewitched by it. Her father,
therefore, engaged the services of a magician, who succeeded in
capturing the animal and putting it into a bottle; but just as he was
going to commit it to the flames, the fox cried out from inside the
bottle, “I’m a rebel!” at which the bystanders were unable to suppress
their laughter.


FOOTNOTE:

[522] The first Manchu ruler of the empire of China. He came to the
throne in A.D. 1644.



CIV.

THEFT OF THE PEACH.


When I was a little boy I went one day to the prefectural city.[523]
It was the time of the Spring festival,[524] and the custom was that
on the day before, all the merchants of the place should proceed with
banners and drums to the judge’s yamên: this was called “bringing in
the Spring.” I went with a friend to see the fun; the crowd was
immense, and there sat the officials in crimson robes arranged right
and left in the hall; but I was small and didn’t know who they were,
my attention being attracted chiefly by the hum of voices and the
noise of the drums. In the middle of it all, a man leading a boy with
his hair unplaited and hanging down his back, walked up to the dais.
He carried a pole on his shoulder, and appeared to be saying something
which I couldn’t hear for the noise; I only saw the officials smile,
and immediately afterwards an attendant came down, and in a loud
voice ordered the man to give a performance. “What shall it be?” asked
the man in reply; whereupon, after some consultation between the
officials on the dais, the attendant inquired what he could do best.
The man said he could invert the order of nature; and then, after
another pause, he was instructed to produce some peaches; to this he
assented; and taking off his coat, laid it on his box, at the same
time observing that they had set him a hard task, the winter frost not
having broken up, and adding that he was afraid the gentlemen would be
angry with him, &c., &c. His son here reminded him that he had agreed
to the task and couldn’t well get out of it; so, after fretting and
grumbling awhile, he cried out, “I have it! with snow on the ground we
shall never get peaches here; but I guess there are some up in heaven
in the Royal Mother’s garden,[525] and there we must try.” “How are we
to get up, father?” asked the boy; whereupon the man said, “I have the
means,” and immediately proceeded to take from his box a cord some
tens of feet in length. This he carefully arranged, and then threw one
end of it high up into the air where it remained as if caught by
something. He now paid out the rope which kept going up higher and
higher until the end he had thrown up disappeared in the clouds and
only a short piece was left in his hands. Calling his son, he then
explained that he himself was too heavy, and, handing him the end of
the rope, bid him go up at once. The boy, however, made some
difficulty, objecting that the rope was too thin to bear his weight up
to such a height, and that he would surely fall down and be killed;
upon which his father said that his promise had been given and that
repentance was now too late, adding that if the peaches were obtained
they would surely be rewarded with a hundred ounces of silver, which
should be set aside to get the boy a pretty wife. So his son seized
the rope and swarmed up, like a spider running up a thread of its web;
and in a few moments he was out of sight in the clouds. By-and-by down
fell a peach as large as a basin, which the delighted father handed up
to his patrons on the dais who were some time coming to a conclusion
whether it was real or imitation. But just then down came the rope
with a run, and the affrighted father shrieked out, “Alas! alas! some
one has cut the rope: what will my boy do now?” and in another minute
down fell something else, which was found on examination to be his
son’s head. “Ah me!” said he, weeping bitterly and shewing the head;
“the gardener has caught him, and my boy is no more.” After that, his
arms, and legs, and body, all came down in like manner; and the
father, gathering them up, put them in the box and said, “This was my
only son, who accompanied me everywhere; and now what a cruel fate is
his. I must away and bury him.” He then approached the dais and said,
“Your peach, gentlemen, was obtained at the cost of my boy’s life;
help me now to pay his funeral expenses, and I will be ever grateful
to you.” The officials who had been watching the scene in horror and
amazement, forthwith collected a good purse for him; and when he had
received the money, he rapped on his box and said, “Pa-pa‘rh! why
don’t you come out and thank the gentlemen?” Thereupon, there was a
thump on the box from the inside and up came the boy himself, who
jumped out and bowed to the assembled company. I have never forgotten
this strange trick, which I subsequently heard could be done by the
White Lily sect,[526] who probably got it from this source.[527]


FOOTNOTES:

[523] It is worth noting that the author professes actually to have
witnessed the following extraordinary scene.

[524] The vernal equinox, which would fall on or about the 20th of
March.

[525] A fabulous lady, said to reside at the summit of the K‘un-lun
mountain, where, on the border of the Gem Lake, grows the peach-tree
of the angels, the fruit of which confers immortality on him who eats
it.

[526] One of the most celebrated of the numerous secret societies of
China, the origin of which dates back to about A.D. 1350. Its members
have always been credited with a knowledge of the black art.

[527] Of Chinese jugglers, Ibn Batuta writes as follows:--“They
produced a chain fifty cubits in length, and in my presence threw one
end of it towards the sky, where it remained, as if fastened to
something in the air. A dog was then brought forward, and, being
placed at the lower end of the chain, immediately ran up, and reaching
the other end immediately disappeared in the air. In the same manner a
hog, a panther, a lion, and a tiger were alternately sent up the
chain, and all equally disappeared at the upper end of it. At last
they took down the chain, and put it into a bag, no one ever
discerning in what way the different animals were made to vanish into
the air in the mysterious manner above described. This, I may venture
to affirm, was beyond measure strange and surprising.”

_Apropos_ of which passage, Mr. Maskelyne, the prince of all
black-artists, ancient or modern, says:--“These apparent effects were,
doubtless, due to the aid of concave mirrors, the use of which was
known to the ancients, especially in the East, but they could not have
been produced in the open air.”



CV.

KILLING A SERPENT.


At Ku-chi island in the eastern sea, there were camellias of all
colours which bloomed throughout the year. No one, however, lived
there, and very few people ever visited the spot. One day, a young man
of Têng-chou, named Chang, who was fond of hunting and adventure,
hearing of the beauties of the place, put together some wine and food,
and rowed himself across in a small open boat. The flowers were just
then even finer than usual, and their perfume was diffused for a mile
or so around; while many of the trees he saw were several armfuls in
circumference. So he roamed about and gave himself up to enjoyment of
the scene; and by-and-by he opened a flask of wine, regretting very
much that he had no companion to share it with him, when all of a
sudden a most beautiful young girl, with extremely bright eyes and
dressed in red, stepped down from one of the camellias before
him.[528] “Dear me!” said she on seeing Mr. Chang; “I expected to be
alone here, and was not aware that the place was already occupied.”
Chang was somewhat alarmed at this apparition, and asked the young
lady whence she came; to which she replied that her name was
Chiao-ch‘ang, and that she had accompanied thither a Mr. Hai, who had
gone off for a stroll and had left her to await his return. Thereupon
Chang begged her to join him in a cup of wine, which she very
willingly did, and they were just beginning to enjoy themselves when a
sound of rushing wind was heard and the trees and plants bent beneath
it. “Here’s Mr. Hai!” cried the young lady; and jumping quickly up,
disappeared in a moment. The horrified Chang now beheld a huge serpent
coming out of the bushes near by, and immediately ran behind a large
tree for shelter, hoping the reptile would not see him. But the
serpent advanced and enveloped both Chang and the tree in its great
folds, binding Chang’s arms down to his sides so as to prevent him
from moving them; and then raising its head, darted out its tongue and
bit the poor man’s nose, causing the blood to flow freely out. This
blood it was quietly sucking up, when Chang, who thought that his last
hour had come, remembered that he had in his pocket some fox poison;
and managing to insert a couple of fingers, he drew out the packet,
broke the paper, and let the powder lie in the palm of his hand. He
next leaned his hand over the serpent’s coils in such a way that the
blood from his nose dripped into his hand, and when it was nearly full
the serpent actually did begin to drink it. And in a few moments the
grip was relaxed; the serpent struck the ground heavily with its
tail, and dashed away up against another tree, which was broken in
half, and then stretched itself out and died. Chang was a long time
unable to rise, but at length he got up and carried the serpent off
with him. He was very ill for more than a month afterwards, and even
suspected the young lady of being a serpent, too, in disguise.


FOOTNOTE:

[528] See No. LXXI., note 408.



CVI.

THE RESUSCITATED CORPSE.


A certain old man lived at Ts‘ai-tien, in the Yang-hsin district. The
village was some miles from the district city, and he and his son kept
a roadside inn where travellers could pass the night. One day, as it
was getting dusk, four strangers presented themselves and asked for a
night’s lodging; to which the landlord replied that every bed was
already occupied. The four men declared it was impossible for them to
go back, and urged him to take them in somehow; and at length the
landlord said he could give them a place to sleep in if they were not
too particular,--which the strangers immediately assured him they were
not. The fact was that the old man’s daughter-in-law had just died,
and that her body was lying in the women’s quarters, waiting for the
coffin, which his son had gone away to buy. So the landlord led them
round thither, and walking in, placed a lamp on the table. At the
further end of the room lay the corpse, decked out with paper robes,
&c., in the usual way; and in the foremost section were
sleeping-couches for four people. The travellers were tired, and,
throwing themselves on the beds, were soon snoring loudly, with the
exception of one of them, who was not quite off when suddenly he heard
a creaking of the trestles on which the dead body was laid out, and,
opening his eyes, he saw by the light of the lamp in front of the
corpse that the girl was raising the coverings from her and preparing
to get down. In another moment she was on the floor and advancing
towards the sleepers. Her face was of a light yellow hue, and she had
a silk kerchief round her head; and when she reached the beds she blew
on the other three travellers, whereupon the fourth, in a great
fright, stealthily drew up the bed-clothes over his face, and held his
breath to listen. He heard her breathe on him as she had done on the
others, and then heard her go back again and get under the paper
robes, which rustled distinctly as she did so. He now put out his head
to take a peep, and saw that she was lying down as before; whereupon,
not daring to make any noise, he stretched forth his foot and kicked
his companions, who, however, shewed no signs of moving. He now
determined to put on his clothes and make a bolt for it; but he had
hardly begun to do so before he heard the creaking sound again, which
sent him back under the bed-clothes as fast as he could go. Again the
girl came to him, and breathing several times on him, went away to lie
down as before, as he could tell by the noise of the trestles. He then
put his hand very gently out of bed, and, seizing his trousers, got
quickly into them, jumped up with a bound, and rushed out of the place
as fast as his legs would carry him. The corpse, too, jumped up; but
by this time the traveller had already drawn the bolt, and was outside
the door, running along and shrieking at the top of his voice, with
the corpse following close behind. No one seemed to hear him, and he
was afraid to knock at the door of the inn for fear they should not
let him in in time; so he made for the highway to the city, and after
awhile he saw a monastery by the roadside, and, hearing the “wooden
fish,”[529] he ran up and thumped with all his might at the gate. The
priest, however, did not know what to make of it, and would not open
to him; and as the corpse was only a few yards off, he could do
nothing but run behind a tree which stood close by, and there shelter
himself, dodging to the right as the corpse dodged to the left, and so
on. This infuriated the dead girl to madness; and at length, as tired
and panting they stood watching each other on opposite sides of the
tree, the corpse made a rush forward with one arm on each side in the
hope of thus grabbing its victim. The traveller, however, fell
backwards and escaped, while the corpse remained rigidly embracing the
tree. By-and-by the priest, who had been listening from the inside,
hearing no sounds for some time, came out and found the traveller
lying senseless on the ground; whereupon he had him carried into the
monastery, and by morning they had got him round again. After giving
him a little broth to drink, he related the whole story; and then in
the early dawn they went out to examine the tree, where they found the
girl fixed tightly to the tree. The news being sent to the magistrate,
that functionary attended at once in person,[530] and gave orders to
remove the body; but this they were at first unable to do, the girl’s
fingers having penetrated into the bark so far that her nails were not
to be seen. At length they got her away, and then a messenger was
despatched to the inn, already in a state of great commotion over the
three travellers, who had been found dead in their beds. The old man
accordingly sent to fetch his daughter-in-law; and the surviving
traveller petitioned the magistrate, saying, “Four of us left home,
but only one will go back. Give me something that I may show to my
fellow-townsmen.” So the magistrate gave him a certificate and sent
him home again.[531]


FOOTNOTES:

[529] This instrument, used by Buddhist priests in the musical
accompaniment to their liturgies, is said to be so called because a
fish never closes its eyes, and is therefore a fit model of vigilance
to him who would walk in the paths of holiness and virtue.

[530] The duties of Coroner belong to the office of a District
Magistrate in China.

[531] Without such certificate he would be liable to be involved in
trouble and annoyance at the will of any unfriendly neighbour.



CVII.

THE FISHERMAN AND HIS FRIEND.


In the northern parts of Tzŭ-chou there lived a man named Hsü, a
fisherman by trade. Every night when he went to fish he would carry
some wine with him, and drink and fish by turns, always taking care to
pour out a libation on the ground, accompanied by the following
invocation:--“Drink too, ye drowned spirits of the river!” Such was his
regular custom; and it was also noticeable that, even on occasions
when the other fishermen caught nothing, he always got a full basket.
One night, as he was sitting drinking by himself, a young man suddenly
appeared and began walking up and down near him. Hsü offered him a cup
of wine, which was readily accepted, and they remained chatting
together throughout the night, Hsü meanwhile not catching a single
fish. However, just as he was giving up all hope of doing anything,
the young man rose and said he would go a little way down the stream
and beat them up towards Hsü, which he accordingly did, returning in a
few minutes and warning him to be on the look-out. Hsü now heard a
noise like that of a shoal coming up the stream, and, casting his net,
made a splendid haul,--all that he caught being over a foot in length.
Greatly delighted, he now prepared to go home, first offering his
companion a share of the fish, which the latter declined, saying that
he had often received kindnesses from Mr. Hsü, and that he would be
only too happy to help him regularly in the same manner if Mr. Hsü
would accept his assistance. The latter replied that he did not
recollect ever meeting him before, and that he should be much obliged
for any aid the young man might choose to afford him; regretting, at
the same time, his inability to make him any adequate return. He then
asked the young man his name and surname; and the young man said his
surname was Wang, adding that Hsü might address him when they met as
Wang Liu-lang, he having no other name. Thereupon they parted, and the
next day Hsü sold his fish and bought some more wine, with which he
repaired as usual to the river bank. There he found his companion
already awaiting him, and they spent the night together in precisely
the same way as the preceding one, the young man beating up the fish
for him as before. This went on for some months, until at length one
evening the young man, with many expressions of his thanks and his
regrets, told Hsü that they were about to part for ever. Much alarmed
by the melancholy tone in which his friend had communicated this news,
Hsü was on the point of asking for an explanation, when the young man
stopped him, and himself proceeded as follows:--“The friendship that
has grown up between us is truly surprising; and, now that we shall
meet no more, there is no harm in telling you the whole truth. I am a
disembodied spirit--the soul of one who was drowned in this river
when tipsy. I have been here many years, and your former success in
fishing was due to the fact that I used secretly to beat up the fish
towards you, in return for the libations you were accustomed to pour
out. To-morrow my time is up: my substitute will arrive, and I shall
be born again in the world of mortals.[532] We have but this one
evening left, and I therefore take advantage of it to express my
feelings to you.” On hearing these words, Hsü was at first very much
alarmed; however, he had grown so accustomed to his friend’s society,
that his fears soon passed away; and, filling up a goblet, he said,
with a sigh, “Liu-lang, old fellow, drink this up, and away with
melancholy. It’s hard to lose you; but I’m glad enough for your sake,
and won’t think of my own sorrow.” He then inquired of Liu-lang who
was to be his substitute; to which the latter replied, “Come to the
river-bank to-morrow afternoon and you’ll see a woman drowned: she is
the one.” Just then the village cocks began to crow, and, with tears
in their eyes, the two friends bade each other farewell.

Next day Hsü waited on the river bank to see if anything would happen,
and lo! a woman carrying a child in her arms came along. When close to
the edge of the river, she stumbled and fell into the water, managing,
however, to throw the child safely on to the bank, where it lay
kicking and sprawling and crying at the top of its voice. The woman
herself sank and rose several times, until at last she succeeded in
clutching hold of the bank and pulled herself, dripping, out; and
then, after resting awhile, she picked up the child and went on her
way. All this time Hsü had been in a great state of excitement, and
was on the point of running to help the woman out of the water; but he
remembered that she was to be the substitute of his friend, and
accordingly restrained himself from doing so.[533] Then when he saw
the woman get out by herself, he began to suspect that Liu-lang’s
words had not been fulfilled. That night he went to fish as usual,
and before long the young man arrived and said, “We meet once again:
there is no need now to speak of separation.” Hsü asked him how it was
so; to which he replied, “The woman you saw had already taken my
place, but I could not bear to hear the child cry, and I saw that my
one life would be purchased at the expense of their two lives,
wherefore I let her go, and now I cannot say when I shall have another
chance.[534] The union of our destinies may not yet be worked out.”
“Alas!” sighed Hsü, “this noble conduct of yours is enough to move God
Almighty.”

After this the two friends went on much as they had done before, until
one day Liu-lang again said he had come to bid Hsü farewell. Hsü
thought he had found another substitute, but Liu-lang told him that
his former behaviour had so pleased Almighty Heaven, that he had been
appointed guardian angel of Wu-chên, in the Chao-yüan district, and
that on the following morning he would start for his new post. “And if
you do not forget the days of our friendship,” added he, “I pray you
come and see me, in spite of the long journey.” “Truly,” replied Hsü,
“you well deserved to be made a God; but the paths of Gods and men
lie in different directions, and even if the distance were nothing,
how should I manage to meet you again?” “Don’t be afraid on that
score,” said Liu-lang, “but come;” and then he went away, and Hsü
returned home. The latter immediately began to prepare for the
journey, which caused his wife to laugh at him and say, “Supposing you
do find such a place at the end of that long journey, you won’t be
able to hold a conversation with a clay image.” Hsü, however, paid no
attention to her remarks, and travelled straight to Chao-yüan, where
he learned from the inhabitants that there really was a village called
Wu-chên, whither he forthwith proceeded and took up his abode at an
inn. He then inquired of the landlord where the village temple was; to
which the latter replied by asking him somewhat hurriedly if he was
speaking to Mr. Hsü. Hsü informed him that his name was Hsü, asking in
reply how he came to know it; whereupon the landlord further inquired
if his native place was not Tzŭ-chou. Hsü told him it was, and again
asked him how he knew all this; to which the landlord made no answer,
but rushed out of the room; and in a few moments the place was crowded
with old and young, men, women, and children, all come to visit Hsü.
They then told him that a few nights before they had seen their
guardian deity in a vision, and he had informed them that Mr. Hsü
would shortly arrive, and had bidden them to provide him with
travelling expenses, &c. Hsü was very much astonished at this, and
went off at once to the shrine, where he invoked his friend as
follows:--“Ever since we parted I have had you daily and nightly in
my thoughts; and now that I have fulfilled my promise of coming to see
you, I have to thank you for the orders you have issued to the people
of the place. As for me, I have nothing to offer you but a cup of
wine, which I pray you accept as though we were drinking together on
the river-bank.” He then burnt a quantity of paper money,[535] when
lo! a wind suddenly arose, which, after whirling round and round
behind the shrine, soon dropped, and all was still. That night Hsü
dreamed that his friend came to him, dressed in his official cap and
robes, and very different in appearance from what he used to be, and
thanked him, saying, “It is truly kind of you to visit me thus: I only
regret that my position makes me unable to meet you face to face, and
that though near we are still so far. The people here will give you a
trifle, which pray accept for my sake; and when you go away, I will
see you a short way on your journey.” A few days afterwards Hsü
prepared to start, in spite of the numerous invitations to stay which
poured in upon him from all sides; and then the inhabitants loaded him
with presents of all kinds, and escorted him out of the village. There
a whirlwind arose and accompanied him several miles, when he turned
round and invoked his friend thus:--“Liu-lang, take care of your valued
person. Do not trouble yourself to come any farther.[536] Your noble
heart will ensure happiness to this district, and there is no occasion
for me to give a word of advice to my old friend.” By-and-by the
whirlwind ceased, and the villagers, who were much astonished,
returned to their own homes. Hsü, too, travelled homewards, and being
now a man of some means, ceased to work any more as a fisherman. And
whenever he met a Chao-yüan man he would ask him about that guardian
angel, being always informed in reply that he was a most beneficent
God. Some say the place was Shih-k‘êng-chuang, in Chang-ch‘in: I can’t
say which it was myself.


FOOTNOTES:

[532] See No. XLV., note 267.

[533] We have in this story the keynote to the notorious and
much-to-be-deprecated dislike of the Chinese people to assist in
saving the lives of drowning strangers. Some of our readers may,
perhaps, not be aware that the Government of Hong-Kong has found it
necessary to insert a clause on the junk-clearances issued in that
colony, by which the junkmen are bound to assist to the utmost in
saving life. The apparent apathy of the Chinese in this respect comes
before us, however, in quite a different light when coupled with the
superstition that disembodied spirits of persons who have met a
violent death may return to the world of mortals if only fortunate
enough to secure a substitute. For among the crowd of shades, anxious
all to revisit their “sweet sons,” may perchance be some dear relative
or friend of the man who stands calmly by while another is drowning;
and it may be that to assist the drowning stranger would be to take
the longed-for chance away from one’s own kith or kin. Therefore, the
superstition-ridden Chinaman turns away, often perhaps, as in the
story before us, with feelings of pity and remorse. And yet this
belief has not prevented the establishment, especially on the river
Yang-tsze, of institutions provided with life-boats, for the express
purpose of saving life in those dangerous waters; so true is it that
when the Chinese people wish to move _en masse_ in any given
direction, the fragile barrier of superstition is trampled down and
scattered to the winds.

[534] As there are good and bad foxes, so may devils be beneficent or
malicious according to circumstances; and Chinese apologists for the
discourtesy of the term “foreign devils,” as applied to Europeans and
Americans alike, have gone so far as to declare that in this
particular instance the allusion is to the more virtuous among the
denizens of the Infernal Regions.

[535] See No. XCVII., note 505.

[536] A phrase constantly repeated, in other terms, by a guest to a
host who is politely escorting him to the door.



CVIII.

THE PRIEST’S WARNING.


A man named Chang died suddenly, and was escorted at once by
devil-lictors[537] into the presence of the King of Purgatory. His
Majesty turned to Chang’s record of good and evil, and then, in great
anger, told the lictors they had brought the wrong man, and bade them
take him back again. As they left the judgment-hall, Chang persuaded
his escort to let him have a look at Purgatory; and, accordingly, the
devils conducted him through the nine sections,[538] pointing out to
him the Knife Hill,[539] the Sword Tree, and other objects of
interest. By-and-by, they reached a place where there was a Buddhist
priest, hanging suspended in the air head downwards, by a rope through
a hole in his leg. He was shrieking with pain, and longing for death;
and when Chang approached, lo! he saw that it was his own brother. In
great distress, he asked his guides the reason of this punishment; and
they informed him that the priest was suffering thus for collecting
subscriptions on behalf of his order, and then privately squandering
the proceeds in gambling and debauchery.[540] “Nor,” added they, “will
he escape this torment unless he repents him of his misdeeds.” When
Chang came round,[541] he thought his brother was already dead, and
hurried off to the Hsing-fu monastery, to which the latter belonged.
As he went in at the door, he heard a loud shrieking; and, on
proceeding to his brother’s room, he found him laid up with a very bad
abscess in his leg, the leg itself being tied up above him to the
wall, this being, as his brother informed him, the only bearable
position in which he could lie. Chang now told him what he had seen in
Purgatory, at which the priest was so terrified, that he at once gave
up taking wine and meat,[542] and devoted himself entirely to
religious exercises. In a fortnight he was well, and was known ever
afterwards as a most exemplary priest.


FOOTNOTES:

[537] The spiritual lictors who are supposed to arrest the souls of
dying persons, are also believed to be armed with warrants signed and
sealed in due form as in the world above.

[538] Literally, the “nine dark places,” which will remind readers of
Dante of the nine “bolgie” of the _Inferno_.

[539] This is a cliff over which sinners are hurled, to alight upon
the upright points of knives below. The branches of the Sword Tree are
sharp blades which cut and hack all who pass within reach.

[540] A crime by no means unknown to the clergy of China.

[541] That is, when the lictors had returned his soul to its tenement.

[542] See No. VI., note 52.



CIX.

METEMPSYCHOSIS.


Mr. Lin, who took his master’s degree in the same year as the late Mr.
Wên Pi,[543] could remember what had happened to him in his previous
state of existence, and once told the whole story, as follows:--I was
originally of a good family, but, after leading a very dissolute life,
I died at the age of sixty-two. On being conducted into the presence
of the King of Purgatory, he received me civilly, bade me be seated,
and offered me a cup of tea. I noticed, however, that the tea in His
Majesty’s cup was clear and limpid, while that in my own was muddy,
like the lees of wine. It then flashed across me that this was the
potion which was given to all disembodied spirits to render them
oblivious of the past:[544] and, accordingly, when the King was looking
the other way, I seized the opportunity of pouring it under the table,
pretending afterwards that I had drunk it all up. My record of good
and evil was now presented for inspection, and when the King saw what
it was, he flew into a great passion, and ordered the attendant devils
to drag me away, and send me back to earth as a horse. I was
immediately seized and bound, and the devils carried me off to a
house, the door-sill of which was so high I could not step over it.
While I was trying to do so, the devils behind lashed me with all
their might, causing me such pain that I made a great spring, and--lo
and behold! I was a horse in a stable. “The mare has got a nice colt,”
I then heard a man call out; but, although I was perfectly aware of
all that was passing, I could say nothing myself. Hunger now came upon
me, and I was glad to be suckled by the mare; and by the end of four
or five years I had grown into a fine strong horse, dreadfully afraid
of the whip, and running away at the very sight of it. When my master
rode me, it was always with a saddle-cloth, and at a leisurely pace,
which was bearable enough; but when the servants mounted me
barebacked, and dug their heels into me, the pain struck into my
vitals; and at length I refused all food, and in three days I died.
Reappearing before the King of Purgatory, His Majesty was enraged to
find that I had thus tried to shirk working out my time; and, flaying
me forthwith, condemned me to go back again as a dog. And when I did
not move, the devils came behind me and lashed me until I ran away
from them into the open country, where, thinking I had better die
right off, I jumped over a cliff, and lay at the bottom unable to
move. I then saw that I was among a litter of puppies, and that an old
bitch was licking and suckling me by turns; whereby I knew that I was
once more among mortals. In this hateful form I continued for some
time, longing to kill myself, and yet fearing to incur the penalty of
shirking. At length, I purposely bit my master in the leg, and tore
him badly; whereupon he had me destroyed, and I was taken again into
the presence of the King, who was so displeased with my vicious
behaviour that he condemned me to become a snake, and shut me up in a
dark room, where I could see nothing. After a while I managed to climb
up the wall, bore a hole in the roof, and escape; and immediately I
found myself lying in the grass, a veritable snake. Then I registered
a vow that I would harm no living thing, and I lived for some years,
feeding upon berries and such like, ever remembering neither to take
my own life, nor by injuring any one to incite them to take it, but
longing all the while for the happy release, which did not come to me.
One day, as I was sleeping in the grass, I heard the noise of a
passing cart, and, on trying to get across the road out of its way, I
was caught by the wheel, and cut in two. The King was astonished to
see me back so soon, but I humbly told my story, and, in pity for the
innocent creature that loses its life, he pardoned me, and permitted
me to be born again at my appointed time as a human being.

Such was Mr. Lin’s story. He could speak as soon as he came into the
world; and could repeat anything he had once read. In the year 1621 he
took his master’s degree, and was never tired of telling people to put
saddle-cloths on their horses, and recollect that the pain of being
gripped by the knees is even worse than the lash itself.


FOOTNOTES:

[543] In A.D. 1621.

[544] According to the _Yü-li-ch‘ao_, this potion is administered by
an old beldame, named Mother Mêng, who sits upon the Terrace of
Oblivion. “Whether they swallow much or little it matters not; but
sometimes there are perverse devils who altogether refuse to drink.
Then beneath their feet sharp blades start up, and a copper tube is
forced down their throats, by which means they are compelled to
swallow some.”



CX.

THE FORTY STRINGS OF CASH.


Mr. Justice Wang had a steward, who was possessed of considerable
means. One night the latter dreamt that a man rushed in and said to
him, “To-day you must repay me those forty strings of cash.” The
steward asked who he was; to which the man made no answer, but hurried
past him into the women’s apartments. When the steward awoke, he found
that his wife had been delivered of a son; and, knowing at once that
retribution was at hand, he set aside forty strings of cash to be
spent solely in food, clothes, medicines, and so on, for the baby. By
the time the child was between three and four years old, the steward
found that of the forty strings only about seven hundred cash
remained; and when the wet-nurse, who happened to be standing by,
brought the child and dandled it in her arms before him, he looked at
it and said, “The forty strings are all but repaid; it is time you
were off again.” Thereupon the child changed colour; its head fell
back, and its eyes stared fixedly, and, when they tried to revive it,
lo! respiration had already ceased. The father then took the balance
of the forty strings, and with it defrayed the child’s funeral
expenses--truly a warning to people to be sure and pay their debts.

Formerly, an old childless man consulted a great many Buddhist priests
on the subject. One of them said to him, “If you owe no one anything,
and no one owes you anything, how can you expect to have children? A
good son is the repayment of a former debt; a bad son is a dunning
creditor, at whose birth there is no rejoicing, at whose death no
lamentations.”[545]


FOOTNOTE:

[545] And such is actually the prevalent belief in China to this day.



CXI.

SAVING LIFE.


A certain gentleman of Shên-yu, who had taken the highest degree,
could remember himself in a previous state of existence. He said he
had formerly been a scholar, and had died in middle life; and that
when he appeared before the Judge of Purgatory, there stood the
cauldrons, the boiling oil, and other apparatus of torture, exactly as
we read about them on earth. In the eastern corner of the hall were a
number of frames from which hung the skins of sheep, dogs, oxen,
horses, etc.; and when anybody was condemned to re-appear in life
under any one of these forms, his skin was stripped off and a skin was
taken from the proper frame and fixed on to his body. The gentleman of
whom I am writing heard himself sentenced to become a sheep; and the
attendant devils had already clothed him in a sheep’s-skin in the
manner above described, when the clerk of the record informed the
Judge that the criminal before him had once saved another man’s life.
The Judge consulted his books, and forthwith cried out, “I pardon him;
for although his sins have been many, this one act has redeemed them
all.”[546] The devils then tried to take off the sheep’s-skin, but it
was so tightly stuck on him that they couldn’t move it. However, after
great efforts, and causing the gentleman most excruciating agony, they
managed to tear it off bit by bit, though not quite so cleanly as one
might have wished. In fact, a piece as big as the palm of a man’s hand
was left near his shoulder; and when he was born again into the world,
there was a great patch of hair on his back, which grew again as fast
as it was cut off.


FOOTNOTE:

[546] Note 533 to No. CVII. should be read here. To save life is
indeed the bounden duty of every good Buddhist, for which he will be
proportionately rewarded in the world to come.



CXII.

THE SALT SMUGGLER.


Wang Shih, of Kao-wan, a petty salt huckster, was inordinately fond of
gambling. One night he was arrested by two men, whom he took for
lictors of the Salt Gabelle; and, flinging down what salt he had with
him, he tried to make his escape.[547] He found, however, that his
legs would not move with him, and he was forthwith seized and bound.
“We are not sent by the Salt Commissioner,” cried his captors, in
reply to an entreaty to set him free; “we are the devil-constables of
Purgatory.” Wang was horribly frightened at this, and begged the
devils to let him bid farewell to his wife and children; but this they
refused to do, saying, “You aren’t going to die; you are only wanted
for a little job there is down below.” Wang asked what the job was; to
which the devils replied, “A new Judge has come into office, and,
finding the river[548] and the eighteen hells choked up with the
bodies of sinners, he has determined to employ three classes of
mortals to clean them out. These are thieves, unlicensed
founders,[549] and unlicensed dealers in salt, and, for the dirtiest
work of all, he is going to take musicians.”[550]

Wang accompanied the devils until at length they reached a city, where
he was brought before the Judge, who was sitting in his Judgment-hall.
On turning up his record in the books, one of the devils explained
that the prisoner had been arrested for unlicensed trading; whereupon
the Judge became very angry, and said, “Those who drive an illicit
trade in salt, not only defraud the State of its proper revenue, but
also prey upon the livelihood of the people. Those, however, whom the
greedy officials and corrupt traders of to-day denounce as unlicensed
traders, are among the most virtuous of mankind--needy unfortunates
who struggle to save a few cash in the purchase of their pint of
salt.[551] Are they your unlicensed traders?” The Judge then bade the
lictors buy four pecks of salt, and send it to Wang’s house for him,
together with that which had been found upon him; and, at the same
time, he gave Wang an iron scourge, and told him to superintend the
works at the river. So Wang followed the devils, and found the river
swarming with people like ants in an ant-hill. The water was turbid
and red, the stench from it being almost unbearable, while those who
were employed in cleaning it out were working there naked. Sometimes
they would sink down in the horrid mass of decaying bodies: sometimes
they would get lazy, and then the iron scourge was applied to their
backs. The assistant-superintendents had small scented balls, which
they held in their mouths. Wang himself approached the bank, and saw
the licensed salt-merchant of Kao-wan[552] in the midst of it all, and
thrashed him well with his scourge, until he was afraid he would never
come up again. This went on for three days and three nights, by which
time half the workmen were dead, and the work completed; whereupon the
same two devils escorted him home again, and then he waked up.

As a matter of fact, Wang had gone out to sell some salt, and had not
come back. Next morning, when his wife opened the house door, she
found two bags of salt in the court-yard; and, as her husband did not
return, she sent off some people to search for him, and they
discovered him lying senseless by the wayside. He was immediately
conveyed home, where, after a little time, he recovered consciousness,
and related what had taken place. Strange to say, the licensed
salt-merchant had fallen down in a fit on the previous evening, and
had only just recovered; and Wang, hearing that his body was covered
with sores--the result of the beating with the iron scourge--went off
to his house to see him; however, directly the wretched man set eyes
on Wang, he hastily covered himself up with the bed-clothes,
forgetting that they were no longer at the infernal river. He did not
recover from his injuries for a year, after which he retired from
trade.[553]


FOOTNOTES:

[547] Salt is a Government monopoly in China, and its sale is only
permitted to licensed dealers. It is a contraband article of commerce,
whether for import or export, to foreign nations trading with China.
In an account of a journey from Swatow to Canton in March-April, 1877,
I wrote:--“_Apropos_ of salt, we came across a good-sized bunker of it
when stowing away our things in the space below the deck. The boatmen
could not resist the temptation of doing a little smuggling on the way
up.... At a secluded point in a bamboo-shaded bend of the river, they
ran the boat alongside the bank, and were instantly met by a number of
suspicious-looking gentlemen with baskets, who soon relieved them of
the smuggled salt and separated in different directions.” Thus do the
people of China seek to lighten the grievous pressure of this tax. A
curious custom exists in Canton. Certain blind old men and women are
allowed to hawk salt about the streets, and earn a scanty living from
the profits they are able to make.

It may interest some to know that in the cities of the north of China
_ice_ and _coal_ may only be retailed by licensed dealers, who retain
such authority on the condition of supplying the yamêns of the local
mandarins with these two necessaries, free of all charge.

[548] The Styx.

[549] These words require some explanation. Ordinarily they would be
taken in the sense of casting _cash_ of a base description; but they
might equally well signify the casting of iron articles of any kind,
and thereby hang some curious details. Iron foundries in China may
only be opened under license from the local officials, and the
articles there made, consisting chiefly of cooking utensils, may only
be sold within a given area, each district having its own particular
foundries from which alone the supplies of the neighbourhood may be
derived. Free trade in iron is much feared by the authorities, as
thereby pirates and rebels would be enabled to supply themselves with
arms. At the framing of the Treaty of Tientsin, with its accompanying
tariff and rules, iron was not specified among other prohibited
articles of commerce. Consequently, British merchants would appear to
have a full right to purchase iron in the interior and convey it to
any of the open ports under Transit-pass. But the Chinese officials
steadily refuse to acknowledge, or permit the exercise of, this right,
putting forward their own time-honoured custom with regard to iron,
and enumerating the disadvantages to China were such an innovation to
be brought about.

[550] The allusion is to women, of a not very respectable class.

[551] No Chinese magistrate would be found to pass sentence upon a man
who stole food under stress of hunger.

[552] His own village.

[553] The whole story is meant as a satire upon the iniquity of the
Salt Gabelle.



CXIII.

COLLECTING SUBSCRIPTIONS.


The Frog-God frequently employs a magician to deliver its oracles to
those who have faith. Should the magician declare that the God is
pleased, happiness is sure to follow; but if he says the God is angry,
women and children[554] sit sorrowfully about, and neglect even their
meals. Such is the customary belief, and it is probably not altogether
devoid of foundation.

There was a certain wealthy merchant, named Chou, who was a very
stingy man. Once, when some repairs were necessary to the temple of
the God of War,[555] and rich and poor were subscribing as much as
each could afford, he alone gave nothing.[556] By-and-by the works
were stopped for want of funds, and the committee of management were
at a loss what to do next. It happened that just then there was a
festival in honour of the Frog-God, at which the magician suddenly
cried out, “General Chou[557] has given orders for a further
subscription. Bring forth the books.” The people all shouting assent
to this, the magician went on to say, “Those who have already
subscribed will not be compelled to do so again; those who have not
subscribed must give according to their means.” Thereupon various
persons began to put down their names, and when this was finished,
the magician examined the books. He then asked if Mr. Chou was
present; and the latter, who was skulking behind, in dread lest he
should be detected by the God, had no alternative but to come to the
front. “Put yourself down for one hundred taels,” said the magician to
him; and when Chou hesitated, he cried out to him in anger, “You could
give two hundred for your own bad purposes: how much more should you
do so in a good cause?” alluding to a scandalous intrigue of Chou’s,
the consequences of which he had averted by payment of the sum
mentioned. This put our friend to the blush, and he was obliged to
enter his name for one hundred taels, at which his wife was very
angry, and said the magician was a rogue, and whenever he came to
collect the money he was put off with some excuse.

Shortly afterwards, Chou was one day going to sleep, when he heard a
noise outside his house, like the blowing of an ox, and beheld a huge
frog walking leisurely through the front door, which was just big
enough to let it pass. Once inside, the creature laid itself down to
sleep, with its head on the threshold, to the great horror of all the
inmates; upon which Chou observed that it had probably come to collect
his subscription, and burning some incense, he vowed that he would pay
down thirty taels on the spot, and send the balance later on. The
frog, however, did not move, so Chou promised fifty, and then there
was a slight decrease in the frog’s size. Another twenty brought it
down to the size of a peck measure; and when Chou said the full
amount should be paid on the spot, the frog became suddenly no larger
than one’s fist, and disappeared through a hole in the wall. Chou
immediately sent off fifty taels, at which all the other subscribers
were much astonished, not knowing what had taken place. A few days
afterwards the magician said Chou still owed fifty taels, and that he
had better send it in soon; so Chou forwarded ten more, hoping now to
have done with the matter. However, as he and his wife were one day
sitting down to dinner, the frog reappeared, and glaring with anger,
took up a position on the bed, which creaked under it, as though
unable to bear the weight. Putting its head on the pillow, the frog
went off to sleep, its body gradually swelling up until it was as big
as a buffalo, and nearly filled the room, causing Chou to send off the
balance of his subscription without a moment’s delay. There was now no
diminution in the size of the frog’s body; and by-and-by crowds of
small frogs came hopping in, boring through the walls, jumping on the
bed, catching flies on the cooking-stove, and dying in the saucepans,
until the place was quite unbearable. Three days passed thus, and then
Chou sought out the magician, and asked him what was to be done. The
latter said he could manage it, and began by vowing on behalf of Chou
twenty more taels’ subscription. At this the frog raised its head, and
a further increase caused it to move one foot; and by the time a
hundred taels was reached, the frog was walking out of the door. At
the door, however, it stopped, and lay down once more, which the
magician explained by saying, that immediate payment was required; so
Chou handed over the amount at once, and the frog, shrinking down to
its usual size, mingled with its companions, and departed with them.

The repairs to the temple were accordingly completed, but for
“lighting the eyes,”[558] and the attendant festivities, some further
subscriptions were wanted. Suddenly, the magician, pointing at the
managers, cried out, “There is money short; of fifteen men, two of you
are defaulters.” At this, all declared they had given what they could
afford; but the magician went on to say, “It is not a question of what
you can afford; you have misappropriated the funds[559] that should
not have been touched, and misfortune would come upon you, but that,
in return for your exertions, I shall endeavour to avert it from you.
The magician himself is not without taint.[560] Let him set you a good
example.” Thereupon, the magician rushed into his house, and brought
out all the money he had, saying, “I stole eight taels myself, which I
will now refund.” He then weighed what silver he had, and finding that
it only amounted to a little over six taels, he made one of the
bystanders take a note of the difference. Then the others came forward
and paid up, each what he had misappropriated from the public fund.
All this time the magician had been in a divine ecstasy, not knowing
what he was saying; and when he came round, and was told what had
happened, his shame knew no bounds, so he pawned some of his clothes,
and paid in the balance of his own debt. As to the two defaulters who
did not pay, one of them was ill for a month and more; while the other
had a bad attack of boils.


FOOTNOTES:

[554] The chief supporters of superstition in China.

[555] See No. I., note 39.

[556] Such is one of the most common causes of hostile demonstration
against Chinese Christians. The latter, acting under the orders of the
missionaries, frequently refuse to subscribe to the various local
celebrations and processions, the great annual festivities, and
ceremonies of all kinds, on the grounds that these are idolatrous and
forbidden by the Christian faith. Hence bad feeling, high words, blows,
and sometimes bloodshed. I say “frequently,” because I have discovered
several cases in which converts have quietly subscribed like other
people rather than risk an _émeute_.

An amusing incident came under my own special notice not very long
ago. A missionary appeared before me one day to complain that a
certain convert of his had been posted in his own village, and cut off
from his civic rights for two years, merely because he had agreed to
let a room of his house to be used as a missionary _dépôt_. I took a
copy of the placard which was handed to me in proof of this statement,
and found it to run thus:--“In consequence of ---- having entered into
an agreement with a barbarian pastor, to lease to the said barbarian
pastor a room in his house to be used as a missionary chapel, we, the
elders of this village, do hereby debar ---- from the privilege of
worshipping in our ancestral hall for the space of two years.” It is
needless, of course, to mention that Ancestral Worship is prohibited
by all sects of missionaries in China alike; or that, when I pointed
this out to the individual in question, who could not have understood
the import of the Chinese placard, the charge was promptly withdrawn.

[557] An historical character who was formerly among the ranks of the
Yellow Turban rebels, but subsequently entered the service of Kuan Yü
(see No. I., note 39), and was canonized by an Emperor of the last
dynasty.

[558] This curious ceremony is the final touch to a newly-built or
newly-restored temple, and consists in giving expression to the eyes
of the freshly-painted idols, which have been purposely left blank by
the painter. Up to that time these blocks of clay or wood are not
supposed to have been animated by the spiritual presence of the deity
in question; but no sooner are the eyes lighted than the gratified God
smiles down upon the handsome decorations thus provided by devout and
trusting suppliants.

There is a cognate custom belonging to the ceremonies of ancestral
worship, of great importance in the eyes of the Chinese. On a certain
day after the death of a parent, the surviving head of the family
proceeds with much solemnity to dab a spot of ink upon the memorial
tablet of the deceased. This is believed to give to the departed
spirit the power of remaining near to, and watching over the fortunes
of, those left behind.

[559] Such indeed is the fate of a per-centage of all public
subscriptions raised and handled by Chinese of no matter what class. A
year or two ago an application was made to me for a donation to a
native foundling hospital at Swatow, on the ground that I was known as
a “read (Chinese) book man,” and that consequently other persons, both
Chinese and foreigners, might be induced to follow my example. On my
declining to do so, the manager of the concern informed me that if I
would only put down my name for fifty dollars, say £10, no call should
be made upon me for the money! Even in the matter of the funds
collected for the famine-stricken people of 1878, it is whispered that
peculation has been rife.

[560] The reader must recollect that these are the words of the God,
speaking from the magician’s body.



CXIV.

TAOIST MIRACLES.


At Chi-nan Fu there lived a certain priest: I cannot say whence he
came, or what was his name. Winter and summer alike he wore but one
unlined robe, and a yellow girdle about his waist, with neither shirt
nor trousers. He combed his hair with a broken comb, holding the ends
in his mouth, like the strings of a hat. By day he wandered about the
market-place; at night he slept in the street, and to a distance of
several feet round where he lay, the ice and snow would melt. When he
first arrived at Chi-nan he used to perform miracles, and the people
vied with each other in making him presents. One day a disreputable
young fellow gave him a quantity of wine, and begged him in return to
divulge the secret of his power; and when the priest refused, the
young man watched him get into the river to bathe, and then ran off
with his clothes. The priest called out to him to bring them back,
promising that he would do as the young man required; but the latter,
distrusting the priest’s good faith, refused to do so; whereupon the
priest’s girdle was forthwith changed into a snake, several spans in
circumference, which coiled itself round its master’s head, and glared
and hissed terribly. The young man now fell on his knees, and humbly
prayed the priest to save his life; at which the priest put his girdle
on again, and a snake that had appeared to be his girdle, wriggled
away and disappeared. The priest’s fame was thus firmly established,
and the gentry and officials of the place were constantly inviting him
to join them in their festive parties. By-and-by the priest said he
was going to invite his entertainers to a return feast;[561] and at
the appointed time each one of them found on his table a formal
invitation to a banquet at the Water Pavilion, but no one knew who had
brought the letters. However, they all went, and were met at the door
by the priest, in his usual garb; and when they got inside, the place
was all desolate and bare, with no banquet ready. “I’m afraid I shall
be obliged to ask you gentlemen to let me use your attendants,” said
the priest to his guests; “I am a poor man, and keep no servants
myself.” To this all readily consented; whereupon the priest drew a
double door upon the wall, and rapped upon it with his knuckles.
Somebody answered from within, and immediately the door was thrown
open, and a splendid array of handsome chairs, and tables loaded with
exquisite viands and costly wines, burst upon the gaze of the
astonished guests. The priest bade the attendants receive all these
things from the door, and bring them outside, cautioning them on no
account to speak with the people inside; and thus a most luxurious
entertainment was provided to the great amazement of all present.

Now this Pavilion stood upon the bank of a small lake, and every year,
at the proper season, it was literally covered with lilies; but, at
the time of this feast, the weather was cold, and the surface of the
lake was of a smoky green colour. “It’s a pity,” said one of the
guests, “that the lilies are not out”--a sentiment in which the others
very cordially agreed, when suddenly a servant came running in to say
that, at that moment, the lake was a perfect mass of lilies. Every one
jumped up directly, and ran to look out of the window, and, lo! it was
so; and in another minute the fragrant perfume of the flowers was
borne towards them by the breeze. Hardly knowing what to make of this
strange sight, they sent off some servants, in a boat, to gather a few
of the lilies, but they soon returned empty-handed, saying, that the
flowers seemed to shift their position as fast as they rowed towards
them; at which the priest laughed, and said, “These are but the lilies
of your imagination, and have no real existence.” And later on, when
the wine was finished, the flowers began to droop and fade; and
by-and-by a breeze from the north carried off every sign of them,
leaving the lake as it had been before.

A certain Taot‘ai,[562] at Chi-nan, was much taken with this priest,
and gave him rooms at his yamên. One day, he had some friends to
dinner, and set before them some very choice old wine that he had, and
of which he only brought out a small quantity at a time, not wishing
to get through it too rapidly. The guests, however, liked it so much
that they asked for more; upon which the Taot‘ai said, “he was very
sorry, but it was all finished.” The priest smiled at this, and said,
“I can give the gentlemen some, if they will oblige me by accepting
it;” and immediately inserted the wine-kettle[563] in his sleeve,
bringing it out again directly, and pouring out for the guests. This
wine tasted exactly like the choice wine they had just been drinking,
and the priest gave them all as much of it as they wanted, which made
the Taot‘ai suspect that something was wrong; so, after the dinner, he
went into his cellar to look at his own stock, when he found the jars
closely tied down, with unbroken seals, but one and all empty. In a
great rage, he caused the priest to be arrested for sorcery, and
proceeded to have him bambooed; but no sooner had the bamboo touched
the priest than the Taot‘ai himself felt a sting of pain, which
increased at every blow; and, in a few moments, there was the priest
writhing and shrieking under every cut,[564] while the Taot‘ai was
sitting in a pool of blood. Accordingly, the punishment was soon
stopped, and the priest was commanded to leave Chi-nan, which he did,
and I know not whither he went. He was subsequently seen at Nanking,
dressed precisely as of old; but on being spoken to, he only smiled
and made no reply.


FOOTNOTES:

[561] It is considered a serious breach of Chinese etiquette to accept
invitations without returning the compliment at an early date.

[562] A high Chinese official, known to foreigners as Intendant of
Circuit; the circuit being a circuit of Prefectures, over which he has
full control, subject only to the approval of the highest provincial
authorities. It is with this functionary that foreign Consuls rank.

[563] See No. XCIII., note 477.

[564] Of course only pretending to be hurt, the pain of the blows
being transferred by his magical art to the back of the Taot‘ai.



CXV.

ARRIVAL OF BUDDHIST PRIESTS.


Two Buddhist priests having arrived from the West,[565] one went to
the Wu-t‘ai hill, while the other hung up his staff[566] at T‘ai-shan.
Their clothes, complexions, language, and features, were very
different from those of our country. They further said they had
crossed the Fiery Mountains, from the peaks of which smoke was always
issuing as from the chimney of a furnace; that they could only travel
after rain, and that excessive caution was necessary to avoid
displacing any stone and thus giving a vent to the flames. They also
stated that they had passed through the River of Sand, in the middle
of which was a crystal hill with perpendicular sides and perfectly
transparent; and that there was a defile just broad enough to admit a
single cart, its entrance guarded by two dragons with crossed horns.
Those who wished to pass prostrated themselves before these dragons,
and on receiving permission to enter, the horns opened and let them
through. The dragons were of a white colour, and their scales and
bristles seemed to be of crystal. Eighteen winters and summers these
priests had been on the road; and of twelve who started from the west
together, only two reached China.[567] These two said that in their
country four of our mountains are held in great esteem, namely, T‘ai,
Hua, Wu-t‘ai, and Lo-chia. The people there also think that China[568]
is paved with yellow gold, that Kuan-yin and Wên-shu[569] are still
alive, and that they have only come here to be sure of their
Buddhahood and of immortal life. Hearing these words it struck me that
this was precisely what our own people say and think about the West;
and that if travellers from each country could only meet half way and
tell each other the true state of affairs, there would be some hearty
laughter on both sides, and a saving of much unnecessary trouble.


FOOTNOTES:

[565] That is, missionaries from India.

[566] See No. LVI., note 320.

[567] Much of the above recalls Fa Hsien’s narrative of his celebrated
journey from China to India in the early years of the fifth century of
our era, with which our author was evidently well acquainted. That
courageous traveller complained that of those who had set out with him
some had stopped on the way and others had died, leaving him only his
own shadow as a companion.

[568] This may almost be said to have been the belief of the Arabs at
the date of the composition of “The Arabian Nights.”

[569] For Kuan-yin, see No. XXXIII., note 208. Wên-shu, or Manjusiri,
is the God of Wisdom, and is generally represented as riding on a
lion, in attendance, together with P‘u-hsien, the God of Action, who
rides an elephant, upon Shâkyamuni Buddha.



CXVI.

THE STOLEN EYES.


When His Excellency Mr. T‘ang, of our village, was quite a child, a
relative of his took him to a temple to see the usual theatrical
performances.[570] He was a clever little fellow, afraid of nothing
and nobody; and when he saw one of the clay images in the vestibule
staring at him with its great glass[571] eyes, the temptation was
irresistible; and, secretly gouging them out with his finger, he
carried them off with him. When they reached home, his relative was
taken suddenly ill and remained for a long time speechless; at length,
jumping up he cried out several times in a voice of thunder, “Why did
you gouge out my eyes?” His family did not know what to make of this,
until little T‘ang told them what he had done; they then immediately
began to pray to the possessed man, saying, “A mere child,
unconscious of the wickedness of his act, took away in his fun thy
sacred eyes. They shall be reverently replaced.” Thereupon the voice
exclaimed, “In that case, I shall go away;” and he had hardly spoken
before T‘ang’s relative fell flat upon the ground and lay there in a
state of insensibility for some time. When he recovered, they asked
him concerning what he had said; but he remembered nothing of it. The
eyes were then forthwith restored to their original sockets.


FOOTNOTES:

[570] See No. XLVIII., note 277.

[571] The term here used stands for a vitreous composition that has
long been prepared by the Chinese. Glass, properly so called, is said
to have been introduced into China from the west, by a eunuch, during
the Ming dynasty.



CXVII.

THE INVISIBLE PRIEST.


Mr. Han was a gentleman of good family, on very intimate terms with a
skilful Taoist priest and magician named Tan, who, when sitting
amongst other guests, would suddenly become invisible. Mr. Han was
extremely anxious to learn this art, but Tan refused all his
entreaties, “Not,” as he said, “because I want to keep the secret for
myself, but simply as a matter of principle. To teach the superior
man[572] would be well enough; others, however, would avail themselves
of such knowledge to plunder their neighbours. There is no fear that
you would do this, though even you might be tempted in certain ways.”
Mr. Han, finding all his efforts unavailing, flew into a great
passion, and secretly arranged with his servants that they should give
the magician a sound beating; and, in order to prevent his escape
through the power of making himself invisible, he had his
threshing-floor[573] covered with a fine ash-dust, so that at any rate
his footsteps would be seen and the servants could strike just above
them.[574] He then inveigled Tan to the appointed spot, which he had
no sooner reached than Han’s servants began to belabour him on all
sides with leathern thongs. Tan immediately became invisible, but his
footprints were clearly seen as he moved about hither and thither to
avoid the blows, and the servants went on striking above them until
finally he succeeded in getting away. Mr. Han then went home, and
subsequently Tan reappeared and told the servants that he could stay
there no longer, adding that before he went he intended to give them
all a feast in return for many things they had done for him. And
diving into his sleeve he brought forth a quantity of delicious meats
and wines which he spread out upon the table, begging them to sit down
and enjoy themselves. The servants did so, and one and all of them got
drunk and insensible; upon which Tan picked each of them up and stowed
them away in his sleeve. When Mr. Han heard of this, he begged Tan to
perform some other trick; so Tan drew upon the wall a city, and
knocking at the gate with his hand it was instantly thrown open. He
then put inside it his wallet and clothes, and stepping through the
gateway himself, waved his hand and bade Mr. Han farewell. The city
gates were now closed, and Tan vanished from their sight. It was said
that he appeared again in Ch‘ing-chou, where he taught little boys to
paint a circle on their hands, and, by dabbing this on to another
person’s face or clothes, to imprint the circle on the place thus
struck without a trace of it being left behind upon the hand.


FOOTNOTES:

[572] The perfect man, according to the Confucian standard.

[573] A large, smooth, area of concrete, to be seen outside all
country houses of any size, and used for preparing the various kinds
of grain.

[574] Compare--“The not uncommon practice of strewing ashes to show
the footprints of ghosts or demons takes for granted that they are
substantial bodies.”--Tylor’s _Primitive Culture_, Vol. I., p. 455.



CXVIII.

THE CENSOR IN PURGATORY.


Just beyond Fêng-tu[575] there is a fathomless cave which is reputed
to be the entrance to Purgatory. All the implements of torture
employed therein are of human manufacture; old, worn-out gyves and
fetters being occasionally found at the mouth of the cave, and as
regularly replaced by new ones, which disappear the same night, and
for which the magistrate of the district makes a formal charge[576] in
his accounts.

Under the Ming dynasty, there was a certain Censor,[577] named Hua,
whose duties brought him to this place; and hearing the story of the
cave, he said he did not believe it, but would penetrate into it and
see for himself. People tried to dissuade him from such an enterprise;
however, he paid no heed to their remonstrances, and entered the cave
with a lighted candle in his hand, followed by two attendants. They
had proceeded about half a mile, when suddenly the candle was
violently extinguished, and Mr. Hua saw before him a broad flight of
steps leading up to the Ten Courts, or Judgment-halls, in each of
which a judge was sitting with his robes and tablets all complete. On
the eastern side there was one vacant place; and when the judges saw
Mr. Hua, they hastened down the steps to meet him, and each one cried
out, “So you have come at last, have you? I hope you have been quite
well since last we met.” Mr. Hua asked what the place was; to which
they replied that it was the Court of Purgatory, and then Mr. Hua in a
great fright was about to take his leave, when the judges stopped him,
saying, “No, no, Sir! that is your seat there; how can you imagine you
are to go back again?” Thereupon Mr. Hua was overwhelmed with fear,
and begged and implored the judges to forgive him; but the latter
declared they could not interfere with the decrees of fate, and taking
down the register of Life and Death they showed him that it had been
ordained that on such a day of such a month his living body would pass
into the realms of darkness. When Mr. Hua read these words he shivered
and shook as if iced water was being poured down his back, and
thinking of his old mother and his young children, his tears began to
flow. At that juncture an angel in golden armour appeared, holding in
his hand a document written on yellow silk,[578] before which the
judges all performed a respectful obeisance. They then unfolded and
read the document, which was nothing more or less than a general
pardon from the Almighty for the suffering sinners in Purgatory, by
virtue of which Mr. Hua’s fate would be set aside, and he would be
enabled to return once more to the light of day. Thereupon the judges
congratulated him upon his release, and started him on his way home;
but he had not got more than a few steps of the way before he found
himself plunged in total darkness. He was just beginning to despair,
when forth from the gloom came a God with a red face and a long beard,
rays of light shooting out from his body and illuminating the darkness
around. Mr. Hua made up to him at once, and begged to know how he
could get out of the cave; to which the God curtly replied, “Repeat
the _sûtras_ of Buddha!” and vanished instantly from his sight. Now
Mr. Hua had forgotten almost all the _sûtras_ he had ever known;
however, he remembered a little of the diamond _sûtra_, and, clasping
his hands in an attitude of prayer, he began to repeat it aloud. No
sooner had he done this than a faint streak of light glimmered through
the darkness, and revealed to him the direction of the path; but the
next moment he was at a loss how to go on and the light forthwith
disappeared. He then set himself to think hard what the next verse
was, and as fast as he recollected and could go on repeating, so fast
did the light reappear to guide him on his way, until at length he
emerged once more from the mouth of the cave. As to the fate of the
two servants who accompanied him it is needless to inquire.


FOOTNOTES:

[575] Fêng-tu is a district city in the province of Szechuen, and near
it are said to be fire-wells (see Williams’ _Syllabic Dictionary_,
s.v.), otherwise known as the entrance to Purgatory, the capital city
of which is also called Fêng-tu.

[576] To the Imperial Treasury. From what I know of the barefacedness
of similar official impostures, I should say that this statement is
quite within the bounds of truth. For instance, at Amoy one per cent.
is collected by the local mandarins on all imports, ostensibly for the
purpose of providing the Imperial table with a delicious kind of
bird’s-nest said to be found in the neighbourhood! Seven-tenths of the
sum thus collected is pocketed by the various officials of the place,
and with the remaining three-tenths a certain quantity of the ordinary
article of commerce is imported from the Straits and forwarded to
Peking.

[577] See No. XXXII., note 197.

[578] An Imperial mandate is always written on yellow silk, and the
ceremony of opening and perusing it is accompanied by prostrations and
other acts of reverential submission.



CXIX.

MR. WILLOW AND THE LOCUSTS.


During the Ming dynasty a plague of locusts[579] visited Ch‘ing-yen,
and was advancing rapidly towards the I district, when the magistrate
of that place, in great tribulation at the pending disaster, retired
one day to sleep behind the screen in his office. There he dreamt that
a young graduate, named Willow, wearing a tall hat and a green robe,
and of very commanding stature, came to see him, and declared that he
could tell the magistrate how to get rid of the locusts. “To-morrow,”
said he, “on the south-west road, you will see a woman riding[580] on
a large jennet: she is the Spirit of the Locusts; ask her, and she
will help you.” The magistrate thought this strange advice; however,
he got everything ready, and waited, as he had been told, at the
roadside. By-and-by, along came a woman with her hair tied up in a
knot, and a serge cape over her shoulders, riding slowly northwards on
an old mule; whereupon the magistrate burned some sticks of incense,
and, seizing the mule’s bridle, humbly presented a goblet of wine. The
woman asked him what he wanted; to which he replied, “Lady, I implore
you to save my small magistracy from the dreadful ravages of your
locusts.” “Oho!” said the woman, “that scoundrel, Willow, has been
letting the cat out of the bag, has he? He shall suffer for it: I
won’t touch your crops.” She then drank three cups of wine, and
vanished out of sight. Subsequently, when the locusts did come, they
flew high in the air, and did not settle on the crops; but they
stripped the leaves off every willow-tree far and wide; and then the
magistrate awaked to the fact that the graduate of his dream was the
Spirit of the Willows. Some said that this happy result was owing to
the magistrate’s care for the welfare of his people.


FOOTNOTES:

[579] Innumerable pamphlets have been published in China on the best
methods of getting rid of these destructive insects, but none to my
knowledge contain much sound or practical advice.

[580] See No. LII., note 286. The mules of the north of China are
marvels of beauty and strength; and the price of a fine animal often
goes as high as £100.



CXX.

MR. TUNG; OR, VIRTUE REWARDED.


At Ch‘ing-chow there lived a Mr. Tung, President of one of the Six
Boards, whose domestic regulations were so strict that the men and
women servants were not allowed to speak to each other.[581] One day
he caught a slave-girl laughing and talking with one of his
attendants, and gave them both a sound rating. That night he retired
to sleep, accompanied by his _valet-de-chambre_, in his library, the
door of which, as it was very hot weather, was left wide open. When
the night was far advanced, the valet was awaked by a noise at his
master’s bed: and, opening his eyes, he saw, by the light of the moon,
the attendant above-mentioned pass out of the door with something in
his hand. Recognizing the man as one of the family, he thought nothing
of the occurrence, but turned round and went to sleep again. Soon
after, however, he was again aroused by the noise of footsteps
tramping heavily across the room, and, looking up, he beheld a huge
being with a red face and a long beard, very like the God of
War,[582] carrying a man’s head. Horribly frightened, he crawled under
the bed, and then he heard sounds above him as of clothes being shaken
out, and as if some one was being shampooed.[583] In a few moments,
the boots tramped once more across the room and went away; and then he
gradually put out his head, and, seeing the dawn beginning to peep
through the window, he stretched out his hand to reach his clothes.
These he found to be soaked through and through, and, on applying his
hand to his nose, he smelt the smell of blood. He now called out
loudly to his master, who jumped up at once; and, by the light of a
candle, they saw that the bed clothes and pillows were alike steeped
in blood. Just then some constables knocked at the door, and when Mr.
Tung went out to see who it was, the constables were all astonishment;
“for,” said they, “a few minutes ago a man rushed wildly up to our
yamên, and said he had killed his master; and, as he himself was
covered with blood, he was arrested, and turned out to be a servant of
yours. He also declared that he had buried your head alongside the
temple of the God of War; and when we went to look, there, indeed, was
a freshly-dug hole, but the head was gone.” Mr. Tung was amazed at all
this story, and, on proceeding to the magistrate’s yamên, he
discovered that the man in charge was the attendant whom he had
scolded the day before. Thereupon, the criminal was severely bambooed
and released; and then Mr. Tung, who was unwilling to make an enemy of
a man of this stamp, gave him the girl to wife. However, a few nights
afterwards the people who lived next door to the newly-married couple
heard a terrific crash in their house, and, rushing in to see what was
the matter, found that husband and wife, and the bedstead as well, had
been cut clean in two as if by a sword. The ways of the God are many,
indeed, but few more extraordinary than this.[584]


FOOTNOTES:

[581] See No. XL., note 233, and No. XCIV., note 489.

[582] See No. I., note 39.

[583] See No. LXIX., note 38.

[584] It was the God of War who replaced Mr. Tung’s head after it had
actually been cut off and buried.



CXXI.

THE DEAD PRIEST.


A certain Taoist priest, overtaken in his wanderings by the shades of
evening, sought refuge in a small Buddhist monastery. The monk’s
apartment was, however, locked; so he threw his mat down in the
vestibule of the shrine, and seated himself upon it. In the middle of
the night, when all was still, he heard a sound of some one opening
the door behind him; and looking round, he saw a Buddhist priest,
covered with blood from head to foot, who did not seem to notice that
anybody else was present. Accordingly, he himself pretended not to be
aware of what was going on; and then he saw the other priest enter the
shrine, mount the altar, and remain there some time embracing Buddha’s
head, and laughing by turns. When morning came, he found the monk’s
room still locked; and, suspecting something was wrong, he walked to a
neighbouring village, where he told the people what he had seen.
Thereupon the villagers went back with him, and broke open the door,
and there before them lay the priest weltering in his blood, having
evidently been killed by robbers, who had stripped the place bare.
Anxious now to find out what had made the disembodied spirit of the
priest laugh in the way it had been seen to do, they proceeded to
inspect the head of the Buddha on the altar; and, at the back of it,
they noticed a small mark, scraping through which they discovered a
sum of over thirty ounces of silver. This sum was forthwith used for
defraying the funeral expenses of the murdered man.



CXXII.

THE FLYING COW.


A certain man, who had bought a fine cow, dreamt the same night that
wings grew out of the animal’s back, and that it had flown away.
Regarding this as an omen of some pending misfortune, he led the cow
off to market again, and sold it at a ruinous loss. Wrapping up in a
cloth the silver he received, he slung it over his back, and was half
way home, when he saw a falcon eating part of a hare.[585] Approaching
the bird, he found it was quite tame, and accordingly tied it by the
leg to one of the corners of the cloth, in which his money was. The
falcon fluttered about a good deal, trying to escape; and, by-and-by,
the man’s hold being for a moment relaxed, away went the bird, cloth,
money, and all. “It was destiny,” said the man every time he told the
story; ignorant as he was, first, that no faith should be put in
dreams;[586] and, secondly, that people shouldn’t take things they see
by the wayside.[587] Quadrupeds don’t usually fly.


FOOTNOTES:

[585] See No. VI., note 51.

[586] The highly educated Confucianist rises above the superstition
that darkens the lives of his less fortunate fellow countrymen. Had
such a dream as the above received an inauspicious interpretation at
the hands of some local soothsayer, the owner of the animal would in
nine cases out of ten have taken an early opportunity of getting rid
of it.

[587] The Chinese love to refer to the “good old time” of their
forefathers, when a man who dropped anything on the highway would have
no cause to hurry back for fear of its being carried off by a
stranger.



CXXIII.

THE “MIRROR AND LISTEN” TRICK.


At I-tu there lived a family of the name of Chêng. The two sons were
both distinguished scholars, but the elder was early known to fame,
and, consequently, the favourite with his parents, who also extended
their preference to his wife. The younger brother was a trifle wild,
which displeased his father and mother very much, and made them regard
his wife, too, with anything but a friendly eye. The latter reproached
her husband for being the cause of this, and asked him why he, being a
man like his brother, could not vindicate the slights that were put
upon her. This piqued him; and, setting to work in good earnest, he
soon gained a fair reputation, though still not equal to his
brother’s. That year the two went up for the highest degree; and, on
New Year’s Eve, the wife of the younger, very anxious for the success
of her husband, secretly tried the “mirror and listen” trick.[588] She
saw two men pushing each other in jest, and heard them say, “You go
and get cool,” which remark she was quite unable to interpret for good
or for bad, so she thought no more about the matter. After the
examination, the two brothers returned home; and one day, when the
weather was extremely hot, and their two wives were hard at work in
the cook-house, preparing food for their field-labourers, a messenger
rode up in hot haste[589] to announce that the elder brother had
passed. Thereupon his mother went into the cook-house, and, calling to
her daughter-in-law, said, “Your husband has passed; _you go and get
cool_.” Rage and grief now filled the breast of the second son’s wife,
who, with tears in her eyes, continued her task of cooking, when
suddenly another messenger rushed in to say, that the second son had
passed, too. At this, his wife flung down her frying-pan, and cried
out, “Now I’ll _go and get cool_;” and as in the heat of her
excitement she uttered these words, the recollection of her trial of
the “mirror and listen” trick flashed upon her, and she knew that the
words of that evening had been fulfilled.


FOOTNOTES:

[588] One method is to wrap an old mirror (formerly a polished metal
disc) in a handkerchief, and then, no one being present, to bow seven
times towards the Spirit of the Hearth: after which the first words
heard spoken by any one will give a clue to the issue under
investigation. Another method is to close the eyes and take seven
paces, opening them at the seventh and getting some hint from the
objects first seen in a mirror held in the hand, coupled with the
words first spoken within the experimenter’s hearing.

[589] In former days, these messengers of good tidings to candidates
whose homes were in distant parts used to earn handsome sums if first
to announce the news; but now, at any rate along the coast, steamers
and the telegraph have taken their occupation from them.



CXXIV.

THE CATTLE PLAGUE.


Ch‘ên Hua-fêng, of Mêng-shan, overpowered by the great heat, went and
lay down under a tree, when suddenly up came a man with a thick
comforter round his neck, who also sat down on a stone in the shade,
and began fanning himself as hard as he could, the perspiration all
the time running off him like a waterfall. Ch‘ên rose and said to him
with a smile, “If Sir, you were to remove that comforter, you would be
cool enough without the help of a fan.” “It would be easy enough,”
replied the stranger, “to take off my comforter; but the difficulty
would be in getting it on again.” He then went on to converse
generally upon other matters, in a manner which betokened considerable
refinement; and by-and-by he exclaimed, “What I should like now is
just a draught of iced wine to cool the twelve joints of my
œsophagus.”[590] “Come along, then,” cried Ch‘ên, “my house is close
by, and I shall be happy to give you what you want.” So off they went
together; and Ch‘ên set before them some capital wine, which he
produced from a cave, cold enough to numb their teeth. The stranger
was delighted, and remained there drinking until late in the evening,
when, all at once, it began to rain. Ch‘ên lighted a lamp; and he and
his guest, who now took off the comforter, sat talking together in
_dishabille_. Every now and again the former thought he saw a light
coming from the back of the stranger’s head; and when at length he had
gone off into a tipsy sleep, Ch‘ên took the light to examine more
closely. He found behind the ears a large cavity, partitioned by a
number of membranes, and looking like a lattice, with a thin skin
hanging down in front of each, the spaces being apparently empty. In
great astonishment Ch‘ên took a hair-pin, and inserted it into one of
these places, when pff! out flew something like a tiny cow, which
broke through the window,[591] and was gone. This frightened Ch‘ên,
and he determined to play no more tricks; just then, however, the
stranger waked up. “Alas!” cried he, “you have been at my head, and
have let out the Cattle Plague. What is to be done, now?” Ch‘ên asked
what he meant: upon which the stranger said, “There is no object in
further concealment. I will tell you all. I am the Angel of
Pestilence for the six kinds of domestic animals. That form which you
have let out attacks oxen, and I fear that, for miles round, few will
escape alive.” Now Ch‘ên himself was a cattle-farmer, and when he
heard this was dreadfully alarmed, and implored the stranger to tell
him what to do. “What to do!” replied he; “why, I shall not escape
punishment myself; how can I tell you what to do. However, you will
find powdered _K‘u-ts‘an_[592] an efficacious remedy, that is if you
don’t keep it a secret for your private use.”[593] The stranger then
departed, first of all piling up a quantity of earth in a niche in the
wall, a handful of which, he told Ch‘ên, given to each animal, might
prove of some avail. Before long the plague did break out; and Ch‘ên,
who was desirous of making a little money by it, told the remedy to no
one, with the exception of his younger brother. The latter tried it on
his own beasts with great success; while, on the other hand, those
belonging to Ch‘ên himself died off, to the number of fifty head,[594]
leaving him only four or five old cows, which shewed every sign of
soon sharing the same fate. In his distress, Ch‘ên suddenly bethought
himself of the earth in the niche; and, as a last resource, gave some
to the sick animals. By the next morning they were quite well, and
then he knew that his secrecy about the remedy had caused it to have
no effect. From that moment his stock went on increasing, and in a few
years he had as many as ever.


FOOTNOTES:

[590] Accurate anatomical descriptions must not be looked for in
Chinese literature. “Man has three hundred and sixty-five bones,
corresponding to the number of days it takes the heavens to revolve.”
From the _Hsi-yüan-lu_, or _Institutions to Coroners_, Book I., ch.
12. [See No. XIV., note 100.]

[591] See No. X., note 79.

[592] _Radix robiniæ amaræ._

[593] As the Chinese invariably do whenever they get hold of a useful
prescription or remedy. Master workmen also invariably try to withhold
something of their art from the apprentices they engage to teach.

[594] The text has “of two hundred hoofs.”



CXXV.

THE MARRIAGE OF THE VIRGIN GODDESS.


At Kuei-chi there is a shrine to the Plum Virgin, who was formerly a
young lady named Ma, and lived at Tung-wan. Her betrothed husband
dying before the wedding, she swore she would never marry, and at
thirty years of age she died. Her kinsfolk built a shrine to her
memory, and gave her the title of the Plum Virgin. Some years
afterwards, a Mr. Chin, on his way to the examination, happened to
pass by the shrine; and entering in, he walked up and down thinking
very much of the young lady in whose honour it had been erected. That
night he dreamt that a servant came to summon him into the presence of
the Goddess; and that, in obedience to her command, he went and found
her waiting for him just outside the shrine. “I am deeply grateful to
you, Sir