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Zong Dingbo Catches a Ghost

Zong Dingbo, a young man in Nanyang, met a ghost one night while walking along the road. "Who is it?" he asked. "A ghost," answered the ghost. "Who are you?" "I am a ghost, too," Zong lied. "Where are you going?" the ghost asked. "I am going to Wanshi," Zong answered. "I am also going there," the ghost said. So they went a few li together. "It is very tiresome to walk like this," said the ghost. "Why do we not carry each other on our backs by turns?" "That is an excellent idea," Zong agreed. First the ghost carried Zong for & few li. "You are so heavy!" it said. "Are you really a ghost?" Zong said, "I died quite recently, so I am heavy." Then it was his turn to carry the ghost, which was almost weightless. They went on like this, each carrying the other several times. Zong said, "Since I have just died, I do not know what a ghost fears." "A ghost fears nothing but to be spat at," the ghost told him.

They came to a river. Zong asked the ghost to cross it first. He listened and found that the ghost made no noise at all. When he waded the river, he splashed and made a lot of noise. "Why did you make so much noise?" the ghost asked. "I have not yet learned to cross a river quietly, since I am a new ghost," Zong answered, adding, "Please bear with me about that."

They were approaching Wanshi when Zong put the ghost on his shoulder and held it fast with his hands. The ghost demanded in a loud voice to be let off, but Zong turned a deaf ear to it. He walked straight to the centre of the town. When he put the ghost down on the ground, it had turned itself into a goat. He sold it and spat at it for fear that it might change people said at the time, "Zong Dingbo earned fifteen hundred coins by selling a ghost."

from Cao Pi's Lie yi zhuan (Strange Stories)



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Mr. Tan

Mr. Tan, a scholar in the Han Dynasty, was single at forty. He often read the Book of Songs, which invariably stirred his feelings. At midnight one day a girl appeared before him. She was no more than fifteen or sixteen, her clothes were resplendent, and her beauty staggering. She asked him to marry her, saying, "I am different from other women. Please do not put any light close to me, but after three years you can do that." And they became husband and wife. Then a son was born. When the child was two years old, Tan was tempted by curiosity and looked at her one night by the light of a candle while she was asleep. What he saw was a woman with human flesh above the waist but only a skeleton below it. At this moment the woman woke up. "You have failed me," she said. "Otherwise, I would soon revive. Why couldn't you have waited for another year instead of exposing me to the light now?" Tan apologized for what he had done, tears running down his cheeks. "We cannot but part for ever," she said. "But I shall try to provide for my son. Come with me and I shall give you something in case you are too poor to support yourself and him." So Tan followed her as she entered a magnificent, sumptuously furnished house. There she gave him a gown decorated with pearls and said, "With this you will always live a decent life." Then she tore off a part of his sleeve as a keepsake and disappeared.

Later Mr. Tan went to the market with the gown, which was bought by someone for a Mr. Wang of Suiyang. Tan got a large sum of money for it. When Wang saw it, he recognized it, saying, "This used to be my daughter's gown. The man who sold it must be a grave-digger." On his order, Tan was seized and interrogated. Tan told his story in detail, but Wang found it hardly believable. He went to her grave to check and found it intact. When it was opened, part of Tan's sleeve was seen inside the coffin. Wang then had Tan's son brought to him and found the boy took after his daughter. Now that he believed Tan had told the truth, he sent for him, returned the gown to him, and made him a legitimate son-in-law. Later the old man recommended Tan's son to an important post in the court.

from Cao Pi's Lie yi zhuan (Strange Stories)




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Don Yong's Wife

In the Han Dynasty in Qiancheng lived a man by the name of Dong Yong. His mother died when he was a child. While living with his father, he worked hard in the fields. Each time they went out, he would put his old father on a small cart and follow it on foot. When his father died, he was willing to sell himself into slavery for a little money for the funeral. Knowing that he was a virtuous man, his master gave him ten thousand coins and allowed him to go home.

Dong was in mourning for three years. When it was over, he decided to return to his master to work as a slave. On his way he met a woman who said to him, "I am willing to marry you." So they went together to his master. "I have given you money," the master said to him. "Thanks to your generous help," Dong said, "I was able to bury my father. Although I am a man of low birth, I know I ought to work for you to repay your kindness." Then the master asked, "What is your wife good at?" "She can weave," Dong answered. "If yOu insist on doing something for me," said the master. "please ask your wife to weave a hundred bolts of fine silk for me." Dong's wife set to work in the master's house. Ten days later the hundred bolts were ready.

When she came out, she said to Dong, "I am a weaver in Heaven. The Emperor of Heaven ordered me to help you pay your debt because he was moved by your filial piety." After saying these words she flew into the sky and vanished.

from Gan Bao's Sou shen ji (Stories of Immortals)



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The Graves of Three Kings

Gangjiang and Moye, who were husband and wife and lived in the state of Chu, were obliged to forge swords for the king. Three years had passed before they could finally produce them. Annoyed, the king intended to kill Ganjiang. The couple made two swords, one male, the other female. Just then Moye, the wife, was about to give birth to a child. The husband said to her,"Since it has taken me three long years to make the swords, the king must be angry. It is certain that he will put me to death when I go and present the swords to him. If the child turns out to be a boy, tell him this as soon as he is grown up, `Go out of the house, look at the southern mountains and search for the place where a pine tree is growing on a rock. Try to find one of the swords on its back.'" After he had said this, Ganjiang left for the palace with the female sword. The king became furious when he saw only one sword, and ordered it to be examined. When he was told that there were actually two swords, one male and the other female, and that the one he saw was female, while the male one was not there, the king flew into a rage and had Ganjiang beheaded at once.

Moye named her son Chibi. When he grew up, he asked her, "Where is my father?" "Your father once had to forget two swords for the king," Moye replied, "and it took him three years to finish them. The king killed him in a fury. Before he left home, your father asked me to give you this message, 'Go out of the house, look at the southern moun tains and search for the place where a pine tree is growing on a rock. Try to find one of the swords on its back.'" So the boy ran out of the house and looked south, but he saw no mountain at all. Then his eyes fell on a stone plinth in front of the house, with a pine pillar on its top. Chibi hurried to cleave the pillar from behind. Sure enough, there was the male sword. From that time on, Chibi planned day and night to avenge his father.

The king had a dream one night, in which he saw a boy, whose eyebrows were one foot apart from each other, swearing to take vengeance for his father's death. The king offered a reward of one-thousand taels of gold for the capture of the young lad. Chibi heard the news and had to take to the mountains. On his way he went singing sad songs, when a stranger came up and asked, "Why are you so sad, young man?" "I am the son of Ganjiang and Moye," replied the boy. "Because the king killed my father, I'm determined to take revenge." At this, the stranger said, "People say that the king has set a price of one-thousand taels of gold on your head. If you could give me your head and the sword, I would take revenge for you." "Good!" said the boy. He cut off his own head and handed it, together with the sword, to the stranger. But his body stood where it was until the man vowed, "I will not let you down!"

The king was pleased when he saw the boy's head. "Since this is a brave man's head," said the man, "it should be boiled in a cauldron to prevent further trouble." This the king did. Three days and three nights went by, but the head remained intact. And it was bobbing on the water, the eyes burning with anger. "The head will not decompose," the stranger said to the king, "would you just come over and take a close look. Then it will surely go." The king came. As soon as he bent forward, the stranger swung his sword and chopped off the king's head, which dropped into the cauldron. This done, the man killed himself, his head also falling into the broth. In no time, the three heads became mashed and were no longer recognizable. Later, the broth, with what was left of the heads, was divided into three parts and buried in three graves, which came to be called "the Graves of Three Kings." Today they can still be found in Yichun County north of Runan.

from Gan Bao's Sou shen ji (Stories of Immortals)



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The Thousand-Day Liquor

Di Xi, who lived in Zhongshan, could make a liquor one cup of which was enough to get one drunk for a thousand days. There lived in the same prefecture a man called Liu Xuanshi, who, being a heavy drinker, went to Di to ask for it. "This brew is not yet ready," said Di. "I dare not give any to you." "Just one cup, please," Liu insisted, "though it is not yet ready." Because he said this, Di could not help giving him a cup, which he finished. "Wonderful!" he said. "Do give me some more." But Di said, "Please return home now and come on another day. The one cup you have drunk will make you sleep for a thousand days." So Liu left, the colour of his face having somewhat changed. As soon as he reached home, he apparently died of intoxication. His family believed he was dead, cried and buried him.

Three years later, Di said to himself, "It is time Liu woke up. I had better go and ask about him." He went to Liu's home and asked, "Is Mr. Liu in?" Surprised, Liu's people said, "He died a long time ago. The mourning for him is already over." It was now Di's turn to be surprised. "The liquor I made was so strong that he would sleep for a thousand days after drinking a cup of it," he said. "He ought to wake up today." He urged them to open the grave and break the coffin to have a look. There was the smell of sweat on the grave. When it was opened, they saw Liu opening his eyes and mouth and heard him drawling, "How happy it is to be drunk!" Then he asked Di, "What did you brew to make me so drunk that I've woken up only today, How high is the sun now?" All those around the grave laughed. The smell of liquor from Liu's mouth got into their nostrils and put them all into a drunken sleep for three months.

Gan Bao Sou shen ji (Stories of Immortals)



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