Scholar Lu was enlighted after dreaming on Master Lü’s pillow
“Zhenzhong ji” 枕中記1
(Record within a Pillow)
by Shen Jiji 沈既濟
translated by Bruce J. Knickerbocker
In the seventh year (719) of the Kaiyuan 開元 era (713-742),2 there was Lü Weng 呂翁 (Old Man Lü), who was a Daoist priest who had acquired the arts of the divine immortals.3 While travelling on
1 This translation is based on the text edited by Wang Meng’ou, Tangren
xiaoshuo jiaoshi, pp. 23-25. Wang’s text is closely based on the text collected in
Wenyuan yinghua, 883.7b-10a (presented to the throne in 987; hereafter WYYH),
which is entitled “Zhenzhong ji” 枕中記. For reasons beyond our scope here, this is the preferred, authoritative text. Another text collected in the Taiping guangji,
82.526-28 (presented to the throne in 977-78; hereafter TPGJ) is entitled “Lü
Weng” 呂翁, and, rather than being attributed to Shen Jiji 沈既濟 (as it is in the WYYH), a note appended to the end of the TPGJ text alleges that it was taken
directly from the Yiwen ji 異聞集 (ca. 874). In addition to these texts, other editions which have been consulted are listed under “Texts” in the bibliography
following the “Translator’s Note.” I have carefully consulted William H.
Nienhauser, Jr.’s translation of this tale as well as the others listed in the
bibliography below. 2 Changed from the reign title Xiantian 先天 (“Preceding Heaven,” 712-13)
in the twelfth month of 713, Kaiyuan (“Opened Prime”) is the second reign title
of Emperor Xuanzong’s 玄宗 rule (r. 712-756). For unknown reasons, TPGJ has “the nineteenth year of the Kaiyuan era (731)” as the date when this dream-tale
takes place. Lei shuo, 28.5a simply reads “during the Kaiyuan era” 開元中. 3 Like Lei shuo, 28.5a, which refers to Lü as Lü Gong 呂公 (Master Lü), the
old Daoist is identified simply by his surname in this tale. As often happens in
the process of the historical evolution of a story, later writers and story-tellers
feel the need to supply the character with a name. In our case, in works such as
Tang Dynasty Tales: A Guided Reader 74
the road to Handan 邯鄲,4 he stopped at a rest-lodge. He straightened his cap, loosened his sash, and, leaning against his
sack, sat down. Presently, he saw a youth travelling along.5 It was
Scholar Lu 盧,6 who was wearing a plain-cloth jacket7 and riding a Tang Xianzu’s 湯顯祖 (1550-1617) play entitled “Handan ji” 邯鄲記 (Record of Handan), the character of the Daoist priest came to be transformed into that of
Lü Dongbin 呂洞賓 (also known as Lü Yan 呂巖), who since the Song dynasty had joined the group of the eight Daoist immortals and arguably became the
most popular among them (on the legendary figure of Lü Dongbin and the
propagation of his cult, see Farzeen Baldrian-Hussein, “Lü Dongbin in Northern
Song Literature,” Cahiers d’Extréme-Asie 2 : 133-69). 4 During the Spring and Autumn period (722-468 B.C.), the city of Handan
was first located in the state of Wei 衛 and was later part of the state of Jin 晉 (Tan Qixiang, 1.24). In the Warring States period (403-221 B.C.), it was the capital
of the state of Zhao 趙 (Tan Qixiang, 1.38). During the Tang dynasty, it was located in the southwestern part of Hebei circuit (Jiu Tang shu, 39.1498), as it is
today, at the site of the modern city bearing the same name (Tan Qixiang, 5.49). 5 TPGJ has yizhong shaonian 邑中少年, “a youth from the village,” and Lei
shuo, 28.5a paraphrastically reads 一少年, “a youth.” 6 Sheng 生, “scholar,” was commonly used to designate literate men who
did not possess degrees (see Tangren chengwei 唐人稱謂 , [Xi’an: San Qin Chubanshe, 1987] , p. 53). This echoes an early usage of the English term
“scholar” describing “one whom the speaker regards as exceptionally learned.
Often merely, one who is able to read and write” (see The Oxford English
Dictionary [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971], p. 2665). Lu 盧 was one of the great aristocratic surnames of the day (see n. 18 below).
7 Reading shu 裋 for duan 短 . Early texts often portray impoverished commoners wearing this type of clothing, and, as we can see in Shiji, 75.2353,
such clothing is usually depicted in stark contrast to the longer robes of officials
and the privileged retainers of early lords: “Now [the women of] Your
Lordship’s back palaces tread on damask silk gauze, while your knights cannot
(even) obtain plain-cloth jackets” 今君後宮蹈綺縠，而士不得裋褐 (this translation is slightly modified from William H. Nienhauser, Jr., et al., The Grand
Scribe’s Records, Volume VII: The Memoirs of Pre-Han China, p. 192). For more
information on this clothing, see Zhou Feng 周峰, ed. Zhongguo gudai fuzhuang cankao zuliao: Sui Tang Wudai bufen 中國古代服裝參考資料，隋唐五代部分 (Beijing: Beijing Yanshan Chubanshe, 1987) and the illustration on p. 117; and
Shen Congwen 沈從文, ed. Zhongguo gudai fushi yanjiu 中國古代服飾研究 (Hong
“Record within a Pillow” 75
black colt. He was on his way to reach the fields, and he also
stopped in at the rest-lodge. He sat down with the old man on the
mat, and they talked and laughed with extraordinary gusto.
After some time, Scholar Lu looked at his clothing and
baggage,8 which was worn-out and lowly, and then heaved a long
sigh, saying, “As a great man living in a world not in harmony
with him, I have come to such distressing straits as this!”
The old man said, “I observe that your body is without pain
and without illness. Just now we were talking, laughing and
reaching contentment, and yet you sigh over your straits. Why is
The Scholar said, “This life of mine is simply insignificant.
How can reaching contentment be spoken of?”
The old man said, “If this cannot be spoken of as reaching
contentment, then what can be spoken of as reaching
Kong: Shangwu Yinshuguan, 1981), which contains on p. 173 a painting from
Dunhuang that portrays this type of plain-cloth jacket. 8 By using this rare noun-compound, Shen Jiji is arguably linking this tale
with a story in the Daoist collection, the Lie Zi 列子, and he elucidates shared thematic content and parallel linguistic terms, events and concepts. The
fundamental meaning of zhuang 裝 in early Chinese sources is “to wrap,” and then it can also be used for many kinds of “wrapped bags” and those things
people wrap themselves in–i.e., clothes. The isolated usage of zhuang in the sense
of “travelling baggage” is quite common in early texts including Hou Han shu,
81:2670, Jin shu, 95:2476, and many others. Ouyang Xiu 歐陽修 (1007-72) and his team continued to use zhuang in this way in Xin Tang shu, 213:5995 and 225:6432.
The pre-Tang usage of yizhuang 衣裝 as a noun-synonym compound meaning “clothes” is very rare, and one early occurrence is in Hou Han shu, 72:2332. On the
other hand, yizhuang occurs as the noun-compound with the meaning “clothing
and baggage” in passages in the Lie Zi (see Lie Zi jishi 列子集釋, ch. 8, [Hong Kong: Taiping Shuju, 1965], p. 166), Hou Han shu 後漢書, 77.2491 as well as in Yan Shigu’s 顏師古 (581-645) commentary to the Han shu 漢書, 94:3770 and 94.3825.
Tang Dynasty Tales: A Guided Reader 76
[Lu] replied, “A gentleman living in the world ought to
establish meritorious deeds and sow a name (for himself),9 to be
out [on the battlefield] as a general and in [the palace] as a
minister,10 to have rich caldrons arranged to dine from,11 to select
9 The linking of establishing merit with enduring fame has some very
ancient roots in Chinese cultural history, and it finds its most pronounced and
mature expression in the Confucian tradition. One very early source is a well-
known story collected in the Zuo zhuan 左傳 in which Mu Bao 穆豹, while visiting the state of Jin 晉, is asked the meaning of the ancient saying, “to die but not to perish” (si er buxiu 死而不朽), to which he answers:
I have heard that uppermost there is establishing virtue; next after that
there is establishing merit; and next after that there is establishing words. If even
after a long time these are not obliterated, then this is what is meant by the
saying “not to perish” 豹聞曰，大上有立德，其次有立功，其次有立言。雖久不廢，此之謂不朽。 (Yang Bojun 楊伯峻 , Chunqiu Zuo zhuan zhu 春秋左傳注 [Taibei: Hongye Wenhua, 1993], Xiang 24, pp. 1087-8.)
10 The expression chujiang ruxiang 出將入相–“being out (on the battlefield) as a general and in (the palace) as a minister”–is found only twice in the standard
histories, both times in the Jiu Tang shu (see 106.3239-40; 174.4528). The first
passage is particularly valuable for its listing of five chief ministers, two of
whom–Zhang Yue 張說 (667-730) and Xiao Song 蕭嵩 (ca. 669-749)–Shen Jiji uses as partial models on which to base the character of Lu, as I will discuss below.
Chujiang ruxiang was hardly a rare pattern of official advancement during this
period of the mid-Tang dynasty: some twelve of the total thirty-six chief
ministers during Xuanzong’s reign had attained the highest position in the
central government by way of their successful careers as military governors on
the frontier (see E.G. Pulleyblank, The Background of the Rebellion of An Lushan
[London: Oxford University Press, 1955], Appendix V; and Pan Yihong, Son of
Heaven and Heavenly Qaghan, p. 154). Obviously, this career pattern had become
an ideal and much aspired-to recipe for success and power, for the Jiu Tang shu
passage goes on to say that, from 748 on, the powerful dictator Li Linfu 李林甫 (?–752) tried and eventually succeeded in persuading the Emperor to appoint all
non-Chinese generals as military commissioners. Lin’s goal was to halt this
pattern of official advancement by preventing military commissioners from
gaining even more power in the central court which enabled them even greater
political influence through their military success. Within three years, all frontier
commands were under the control of foreign generals, the most powerful and
famous of which was An Lushan 安祿山, setting the stage for the forthcoming rebellion (see also Twitchett, “Xuan Zong,” pp. 426-27).
“Record within a Pillow” 77
[beautiful] sounds to listen to,12 and to have the clan increasingly
prosper and the family grow increasingly rich. Only then can you
use the words “reaching contentment!” I once had my ambition
set on learning, and enriched myself by roaming in the arts,13 and I
myself believed that during those years the green and the purple
[robes of the official] were for the taking.14 Now I have already
reached my prime,15 but still I labor in the ditches and the fields. If
this is not being in straits, then what is it?” As he finished
speaking, his eyes became misty and he longed to sleep.
At the time, the host [of the rest-lodge] had just begun to
steam millet.16 The old man then groped within his sack, took out
a pillow and gave it to him (Lu), saying, “Recline yourself on my
11 According to Wang Meng’ou, the intent of the phrase lieding er shi 列鼎而食 is like that of a passage in Shiji, 112.2961, which reads: “Now if a (real) man
does not live and have the five caldrons to dine from, then he will die by being
boiled in them” 且丈夫生不五鼎食，死即當五鼎烹耳 (Wang, p. 27). 12 Tangren xiaoshuo xuanxi, p. 4 reads sheng 聲 as “beautiful music;” and Fu
Jifu translates it as “the singing of women” (p. 39). 13 The WYYH text 志於學富於遊藝 paraphrases Lunyu, 2/4: “ambition set on
learning” 志於學 and 7/6: “roaming in the arts” 遊於藝. The TPGJ text was evidently edited to more precisely replicate the maxims of the Lunyu, reading: 志於學而遊於藝.
14 As is understood from Yan Shigu’s commentary to the Han shu, 87.3566,
in the Han dynasty qingzi 青紫 referred to the colors of the ribbons attached to the seals carried by officials holding the most eminent positions. However, by the
time of the Tang dynasty the term had come to signify the color of the robes
donned by high-ranking officials, with specific colors referring to specific
positions (for more information, see JTS, 42.1785; 45.1951-53; for illustrations of
T’ang official clothing, see Zhongguo gudai fushi shi wuqian nian 中國古代服飾史五千年 [Hong Kong: Shangwu Yinshuguan, 1984], pp. 79-80 and Zhongguo gudai fushi shi 中國古代服飾史 [Shanghai: Zhongguo Xiju Chubanshe, 1984], pp. 86-7.
The TPGJ reads zhuzi 朱紫 (“vermilion and purple”) for 青紫, but, for all intents and purposes, the thrust of the meaning is the same.
15 Zhuang 壯 indicates thirty years of age (see Wang Meng’ou, p. 27). 16 For shu 黍 TPGJ reads huangliang 黃粱, another variety of millet. The
importance of this textual variant, and its role in determining the authorship and
textual history of this tale, will be discussed in the “Translator’s Note.”
Tang Dynasty Tales: A Guided Reader 78
pillow. It ought to allow you a glory and contentment like that of
This pillow was of green porcelain, and holes were at both of
its ends. As the Scholar lowered his head towards it, he
perceived17 that its holes were gradually becoming larger, brighter
and clearer, he thereupon raised up his body, entered and then
arrived at his home.
After several months, he married a girl from the Cui 崔 Clan of Qinghe 清河.18 The girl’s appearance was extremely beautiful, and the Scholar’s wealth became greater and greater.19 He was
greatly pleased. From this time on, his clothes, baggage and
equipage grew daily more attractive and magnificent.
17 The texts of both the WYYH and the TPGJ read jian 見 “seeing.” However,
immediately prior to this graph in the TPGJ text, there are the two graphs
meizhong 寐中, “while asleep” strongly suggesting that Lu is not in a waking state when he “sees” the pillow’s holes gradually becoming larger, brighter and
clearer, but rather that he is already beginning his dream at this point. 18 During the Tang dynasty, the Cui clan of Qinghe was included among the
seven powerful and prestigious clans of the old nobility. In an essay in his
Mengxi bitan 夢溪筆談 , Shen Kuo 沈括 (1031-95) enumerates these clans as follows:
Eventually, taking the registers of officials from previous generations as a
basis, the Cui 崔 Clan of Boling 博陵, the Lu 盧 Clan of Fanyang 范陽, the Li 李 Clan of Longxi 隴西, and the Zheng 鄭 clan of Yingyang 榮陽 were designated as the “Lineages of the First Class.” During the reign of Gaozong 高宗 under the Tang (r. 650-83), the Wang 王 clan of Taiyuan 太原, the Cui 崔 clan of Qinghe 清河, and the Li 李 clan of Zhaojun 趙郡 were added to them to form the “Seven Great Surnames” (translated by Denis Twitchett, “The Composition of the Tang
Ruling Class,” in Perspectives on the Tang pp. 55-6).
Qinghe was situated a few miles west of modern Qinghe in south-central
Hebei (Tan Qixiang, 5.49). 19 As Wang Meng’ou points out, Lu becomes wealthy with the dowry
which the girl brings, which must surely be very great when considering the
power and wealth of the prestigious Cui clan (p. 28). The TPGJ text confirms this
reading: “The girl’s appearance was extremely beautiful and her property was
extremely abundant” 女容甚麗而產甚殷.
“Record within a Pillow” 79
During the next year, he was elevated as a presented-scholar
examination and was entered on the list of graduates. He cast off
his plain-cloth jacket and became Palace Library Editor.20 After
taking part in the special examination established by imperial
decree,21 he was transferred to be Commandant of Weinan 渭南.22 Presently, he was promoted to Investigating Censor, 23 and
transferred to be Imperial Diarist 24 as Drafter in Charge of
20 The official position mijiao 祕校, an abbreviated form of the title jiao-shu lang 校書郎 (editor) in the mishu sheng 祕書省 (the Palace Library), entailed editorial
work on imperial documents. In the Tang dynasty, such appointments were
typically reserved for new graduates of the presented-scholar examination. There
were eight such positions which were of the ninth rank (see Hucker, pp. 375-6 and
142, entries 1575 and 742, respectively; Wang Meng’ou, p. 28; and JTS, 43.1855). 21 The WYYH text has ying zhi 應制, which is more clearly read in the TPGJ
text as ying zhiju 應制舉. Zhiju 制舉 refers to a special interview or examination given to very few choice presented-scholar graduates who are summoned by
imperial decree. This examination was intended to determine individuals of
outstanding ability for promotion to higher-ranking official positions (see XTS,
44.1159: 44.1169). The examination was sometimes personally attended by the
Emperor (as in JTS, 8.182). The translation of the term is based on Robert des
Rotours, Le Traité des examens (Paris: Librairie Ernest Leroux, 1932), p. 41. 22 Although the position of wei 尉 was a common military one of the ninth
rank which involved responsibilities more administrative than military in nature,
this transfer certainly represents a promotion. Being posted at Weinan 渭南 county was particularly prestigious since it was located in the capital region (see
Hucker, p. 564, entry 7657 and Xu, p. 30), approximately thirty miles northeast of
Chang’an, at modern Weinan in Shaanxi province (Tan Qixiang, 5.41). 23 Jiancha yushi 監察御史 was a position of the eighth rank which gave
the holder broad-ranging responsibilities in that upper-echelon government
agency, the Censorate (Yushi tai 御史臺). This agency maintained disciplinary surveillance over the whole of officialdom as well as regulated complaints and
transgressions of a legal, military, economic, or religious nature (see Hucker,
Official Titles, #795, pp. 145-46; Wang, p. 29; and Xu, p. 30). 24 The holder of the sixth-rank position of qiju sheren 起居舍人 shared the
duty of recording the daily activities of the Emperor together with other Imperial
Diarists called qiju lang 起居郎. The information which they recorded was later included in Imperial Diaries, which were used by scribes to compile official
histories (see Hucker, Official Titles, #622, p. 135; Wang, p. 29; and Xu, p. 30).
Tang Dynasty Tales: A Guided Reader 80
Imperial Edicts and Proclamations.25 After three years, he went
out [of the capital] to take charge of Tongzhou 同州,26 and [then] promoted to Shepherd of Shan 陝 [prefecture].27 By nature the Scholar was fond of construction projects, and from Shan
(prefecture) he dug a canal for eighty li westward that aided the
inaccessible [areas]. The local people profited from this and
engraved a stone (stele) commemorating his virtues. He moved to
govern Bianzhou 汴州, assuming [the position of] Investigation
25 Zhizhi gao 知制誥 was a prestigious position in the Secretariat (zhongshu sheng中書省) which an official often held together with another position. The Drafter in Charge of Imperial Edicts and Proclamations had the special duty of
presenting the edicts and proclamations to the Emperor (see XTS, 47.1211;
Hucker, Official Titles, #955, p. 156; Wang, p. 29; and Xu, p. 30). The translation is
modified from that of Robert des Rotours, Traité des fonctionnaires et traité de
l’armée (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1947), p. 182. 26 Several commentators believe that the force of this phrase, “dian
Tongzhou” 典同州, conveys the meaning of taking up the position of cishi 刺史, Prefect–the head of a prefecture–which during the Tang was a position of the
third or fourth rank, depending on the land and population size under
jurisdiction (see Hucker, Official Titles, #7567, pp. 558-59; Tan Qixiang, p. 328;
Wang, p. 29; Xu, p. 30).
Tongzhou 同州 prefecture was located just outside the capital region about forty-five miles northeast of Chang’an at modern Dali 大荔 prefecture in Shaanxi province (Tan Qixiang, 5.41).
27 The ancient title of Shepherd (mu 牧) originated in the Zhou 周 dynasty when it referred to the official who oversaw one of the kingdom’s Nine Regions
(jiu zhou 九州). By the time of the Tang, there were only a few positions which officially retained this title as it had been displaced by others such as Prefect
(Cishi 刺史) or Area Commander (Dudu 都督). As in this case, prefects, area commanders and other comparable administrative officials were still sometimes
unofficially referred to as shepherds (see Hucker, Official Titles, #4041, p. 336 and
#7110, p. 531; Wang, p. 29; Xu, p. 30). During the Tang, the prefecture of
Shanzhou 陝州 was alternatively led by prefects, area commanders and military governors (Jiedu shi 節度使) (for example, see XTS, 4.89; 38.985; 50.1332; 71.2245; 217.6119). Shanzhou was located approximately 120 miles to the east of Chang’an
at modern Shan 陝 county in the west part of Henan province (Tan Qixiang, 5.38; 5.44).
“Record within a Pillow” 81
Commissioner of Henan 河南 circuit. 28 [Thereafter] he was summoned to be Metropolitan Governor of Jingzhao 京兆.29
That year, the Spiritual and Martial Emperor 30 had just
engaged the Rong 戎 and the Di 狄 peoples31 to increase the extent of the border territories. It happened that Tufan’s 吐番32 Ximeluo
28 Investigation Commissioner (Caifang shi 採訪使) was one of several titles of the delegates of the central government who were in charge of the newly
demarcated units of land called Dao 道 (circuits), each of which had jurisdiction over several prefectures (see Hucker, Official Titles, #6826, p. 515; Xu, p. 31). In
733, the entire country was divided into fifteen such circuits. The Investigation
Commissioner of Henan 河南 circuit was posted at Bianzhou 汴州 prefecture (JTS, 38.1385), corresponding roughly with the location of modern Kaifeng 開封 in Henan circuit. From 733 on, Henan circuit included not only modern Henan
province, but also large areas of the provinces of Shandong, Anhui and Jiangsu
(Tan Qixiang, 5.44). 29 Since the Han dynasty, the title of Metropolitan Governor of Jingzhao yin 京兆尹 designated the administrative chief of the dynastic capital and its
surrounding areas. In the beginning of the Kaiyuan era in the Tang, the
Metropolitan Prefecture was renamed Jingzhao fu 京兆府, and came to include the capital, Chang’an, and its environs. The position of Metropolitan Governor,
which administered this region, was one of the third rank (see Hucker, Official
Titles, #1190-92, p. 170; JTS, 4.1915-16). Ch’ang-an and its vicinity was located at
modern Xi’an (Tan Qixiang, 5.41). 30 The Spiritual and Martial Emperor (shenwu huangdi 神武皇帝) was a title
of reverence given to Emperor Hsüan-tsung in 739 (JTS, 8.171). 31 In early texts like the Guoyu 國語 and the Zuo zhuan 左傳, the many and
various Rong 戎 and Di 狄 tribes are found scattered inside the Chou territories and around them. In this tale, however, the expression rong di 戎狄 refers to the Turks, Tibetans and Uighurs along the western frontier (Wang, p. 29; Hsü, p. 31).
This usage is found throughout the Tang official dynasties (as in JTS, 120.3462;
146.5232; XTS, 137.4606; 215.6028). For an overview of the situation regarding the
Zhou dynasty period tribes, see James Legge’s prolegomena in The Chinese
Classics: Vol. 5, The Chun Qiu with the Zuo Zhuan (rpt. Hong Kong: Hong Kong
University Press, 1960), pp. 122-35. 32 Tibet, called Tufan or Tubo 吐番 in the Chinese sources, first rose as a
unified and powerful kingdom under the Yarlung dynasty around the end of the
sixth century. Prior to that, no dates can be assigned securely (see R. A. Stein,
Tibetan Civilization, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1972, p. 45). From the
Tang Dynasty Tales: A Guided Reader 82悉抹邏 (Stagra [Konlog]) and Mangbuzhi 莽布支 (Cogro Manpoci) of Zhulong 燭龍 had attacked and captured Gua 瓜 and Sha 沙.33 end of the sixth century on, Tibet continued to expand its territory (compare Tan
Qixiang, 5.32, 5.35 and 5.36) so that, by 820, Tang China had lost large tracts of
land in modern Gansu and Ningxia circuits to Tibet, which at that time extended
up northward into modern Inner Mongolia (Tan Qixiang, 5.76-77). For more on
the kingdom of Tibet during the early middle ages, see Christopher I. Beckwith,
The Tibetan Empire in Central Asia. (New Jersey: Princeton University Press,
1987). 33 The Tang standard histories (JTS, 99.3094; 103.3191-93; 196A.5229; XTS,
101.3953; 133.4547-48; 216A.6083-84) narrate that in 727 the Tibetan generals
Ximeluo 悉抹邏 (written there as Xinuoluo 悉諾邏) and Mangbuzhi 莽布支 attacked, plundered, burned and took hostages from garrison towns in the
prefecture of Guazhou 瓜州 (which was located in the eastern part of modern Anxi 安西 county in Gansu province [Tan Qixiang, 5.61]). Shazhou 沙州, the adjacent prefecture to the west (and better known as its later name of Dunhuang 敦煌, [Tan Qixiang, 5.61]) is not mentioned explicitly; however, later in that year the Tibetans did also attack–although unsuccessfully–the county of Changle 常樂 , which was located near the border of Shazhou (Tan Qixiang, 5.61). Combined Tibetan forces then went on to raid throughout the region (JTS, 194B.
5191; XTS, 215B.6067). Perfectly mirrored in our tale, this situation continued
until the Emperor appointed Xiao Song 蕭嵩 (c. 669-749) the new military governor of Hexi. Like Scholar Lu, Xiao Song effectively organized defenses
against the Tibetan incursions.
The names for Ximeluo and Mangbuzhi have also been rendered Stag sgra
khon lod and Cog ro Manporje, respectively (see Christopher I. Beckwith, The
Tibetan Empire in Central Asia, p. 101). Ximeluo hailed from the Supi 蘇毗 area of the kingdom of Tibet (XTS, 216.6087; Tan Qixiang, 5.77), where he was
apparently a prince (JTS, 110.3316; XTS, 216A.6087). Later on, a Chinese spy
allegedly had been sent to Tibet to slander him, and this led to his execution
during the winter of 729 (JTS, 196a.5229; XTS, 216A.6083).
Mangbuzhi’s home seems to be indicated by his surname, Zhulong 燭龍. Zhulong was a Tang-controlled prefecture since 646 (previously Uighurian), and
it was located at the modern city of Cita (Chita 赤塔) in the Buryat Autonomous Republic in the southeastern part of the Russian Federation in Asia (JTS, 38.1415;
191.5196; Tan Qixiang, 5.43). This Tibetan general continued to lead the
combined Tibetan army for at least another decade (see Christopher I. Beckwith,
The Tibetan Empire in Central Asia, pp. 110, 114, 116, 118).
“Record within a Pillow” 83
Furthermore, Military Governor 34 Wang Junchuo 王君㚟 35 had recently been killed, and the He Huang 河湟36 was shaken into turmoil. The Emperor, desiring a commander of talent, con-
sequently appointed the Scholar Vice Censor-in-Chief 37 and
Military Governor of Hexi 河西 circuit.38 Lu crushed the Rong rabble, cut off seven thousand heads, and opened up the land for
34 The position of Military Governor (jiedu shi 節度使), particularly from the
Kaiyuan era on, came to supplant and militarize the functions of the position of
Area Commander (dudu 都督) in the northern, western and southwestern frontier regions where more militant policies were being implemented against non-
Chinese border peoples (see Hucker, Official Titles, #777, p. 144; Xu, p. 31). For a
capsule summary of the development of this position and its growing
importance during the post–An Lushan era, see Pan Yihong, Son of Heaven and
Heavenly Qaghan, pp. 151-66. 35 Wang Junchuo (d. 727) was a native of Changle county in Gua prefecture
(see n. 33 above). While holding a lower rank at a frontier post, he was not
treated respectfully by Uighurs and other Tiele tribes in the region. After
becoming military governor of Hexi, he adopted a bellicose policy towards the
Tibetans and these tribes, who in turn sent secret envoys to the Tang court to
complain of him. When Wang heard of this, he reported that these tribes were
planning to rebel. Emperor Xuanzong had the matter investigated, and the
Uighurs were found guilty and their chieftains were exiled. Therefore, when
Wang returned from attacking the Tibetans after their raids of 727 (during which
Wang’s father had been taken hostage), a nephew of one of the exiled chieftains
organized his people and killed Wang (JTS, 8.191; 103.3191-93; 195.5198; XTS,
5.133; 133.4547-48; 216.6083-84; 217A.6114). 36 He Huang 河湟 specifically refers to the lands lying between and around
the He 河 (Yellow River) and the Huang 湟 River in modern Gansu and Qinghai provinces (Tan Qixiang, 5.61-62), and was generally used in the Tang to refer to
“the land of the Western Rong 戎” (西戎地曰河湟; XTS, 216.6104)–that is to say, the land of the non-Chinese peoples living along the western frontier (see n. 31
above). 37 Yushi zhongcheng 御史中丞, a position of the fourth rank, was the second
highest administrative position in the Censorate during the Tang (see Hucker,
Official Titles, #8174, p. 592; Xu, p. 32). 38 Hexi 河西 circuit was west of the Yellow River and covered areas of the
modern provinces of Shaanxi, Gansu and Inner Mongolia (Tan Qixiang, 5.40-1
Tang Dynasty Tales: A Guided Reader 84
nine hundred li. He built three great walled cities to shield the
important strategic areas. The people of the frontier region erected
a stone [stele] on Juyan 居延 Mountain39 to praise him. He returned to the court, and was awarded an imperial
document commemorating his meritorious service. 40 He was
shown imperial favor and ritual treatment which was extremely
39 There is no mention of a Juyan 居延 Mountain in the historical or
geographical sources. In the Han, an outpost city called Juyan 居延 was established, and it was located near modern city of Ejin Qi in Inner Mongolia
(Tan Qixiang, 2.33-34). In the Later Han, the regions surrounding this city and
the lands extending far to the southwest were referred to as Juyan shuguo 居延 屬國 (Tan Qixiang, 2.57-58), and this entire area was included in Gan circuit 甘州 during the Tang. (JTS, 25.1641; Tan Qixiang, 5.61-2; 5.75). Xu Shinian suggests
that the Yanzhi 焉支 mountain range which was located in the southeastern part of Gan circuit (and southeast of modern Shandan 山丹) was at the time called Juyan (p. 32). I have not found any conclusive evidence which supports this
contention, however. Incidentally, the area in Tang dynasty Gan circuit called
Juyan is not to be confused with the area command bearing the same name
which was established northeast of modern Bejing (XTS, 217.6145; 219.6174; Tan
Qixiang, 5.42-43). 40 At this time, the ritual commemoration called cexun 冊勳 entailed an
imperial ceremony at which the Emperor personally conferred the official being
honored with the documents. More general imperial documents known as ce 冊 (often written as 策, as in the TPGJ text and in other Tang sources) were used to confer appointments, emoluments and enfeoffments; however, cexun specifically
bestowed honor on the meritorious servant, and seems to have followed a
celebratory drinking ritual (JTS, 11.277; 120.3460; see also XTS, 173.5212 and JTS,
121.3483 where an appointment was indeed made; also helpful is the
commentary of Wang, p. 30 and Xu, p. 32). These conditions are likewise found
in the locus classicus occurrence of the term cexun in a passage in Zuo zhuan where
Duke Huan 桓 of Lu 魯 (r. 711-694 B.C.) returns from a triumphant, peace- strengthening meeting with a Rong 戎 tribe. The passage continues:
Whenever the Duke sets out, he announces it in the ancestral temple. When
he returns, he drinks [in celebration] of that. He sets down his drinking cup, and
commemorates the merit of that on bamboo slips. This is the ritual. 凡公行，告于宗廟。反行，飲至，舍爵，策勳焉。禮也。 The reading of cexun as a verb-noun compound is confirmed by Yang Bojun
and Du Yu 杜預 (222-284; see Yang Bojun, Chunqiu Zuozhuan zhu, Huan 2, p. 91).
“Record within a Pillow” 85
magnificent. He was transferred to be Vice Director in the Board
of Civil Office,41 and was [later] promoted to be the Minister of the
Ministry of Revenue,42 as well as the Censor-in-chief.43 His renown
at that time was pure and honorable; and many wished to closely
associate [with him].
He was greatly envied by officials of the time, who employed
ungrounded rumors to strike at him. He was demoted to became
the Prefect of Duanzhou 端州 prefecture.44 After three years, he was summoned to become Policy Advisor45 and, not long after,
Joint Manager of Affairs with the Secretariat-Chancellery.46 He
joined Secretariat Director Xiao Song 蕭嵩47 and Director of the
41 During the Tang, the Board of Civil Office (li bu 吏部), one of the major agencies in the Department of State Affairs (shangshu sheng 尚書省), was in general charge of appointments, evaluations, promotions, demotions, titles and
honors of officials. The position of li bu shilang 吏部侍郎, Vice Director in the Ministry of Personnel, was one of the fourth rank (see Hucker, Official Titles,
#3630 and 5278, pp. 306 and 426-27; Wang, p. 30; Xu, p. 32). 42 Hu bu shangshu 戶部尚書, a third-rank position, was the head of the
Ministry of Revenue (shangshu 尚書 ), a major central government agency responsible for land and population censuses, tax assessment and collection, and
the storage and distribution of government revenues (see Hucker, Official Titles,
#2789, p. 258; Wang, p. 30; Xu, p. 32). 43 Yushi dafu 御史大夫, head of the Censorate, was a position of the third
rank (see Hucker, Official Titles, #8181, p. 593; Wang, p. 30-1; Xu, p. 32-3). 44 Duanzhou 端州 prefecture, very remote from the Tang political and
cultural center, was located northwest of modern Hong Kong in Gaoyao 高要 county in Guangdong province (Tan Qixiang, 5. 69-70).
45 Changshi 常侍 is an abbreviated form of sanqi changshi 散騎常侍, the title of two positions of the third rank in the Chancellery (menxia sheng 門下省), the top government agency responsible for remonstrating and advising the Emperor
about proposals and policy decisions (see Hucker, Official Titles, #3939, p. 329;
Wang Meng’ou, p. 31; and Xu, p. 33). 46 The position, also referred to by the unwieldy title tong zhongshu menxia
pingzhang shi 同中書門下平章事, was essentially that of Senior Chief Minister (see Hucker, Official Titles, # 1617, p. 193; Wang Meng’ou, p. 31; and Xu, p. 33).
47 See n. 10 above and his biographies in JTS, 99.3093-5; XTS, 101. 3949-52.
Tang Dynasty Tales: A Guided Reader 86
Chancellery Pei Guangting 裴光庭48 in together controlling major government policy for over ten years. He received [the Emperor’s]
excellent plans and secret orders three times a day; presented
revisions49 when explaining and enriching;50 and he was design-
nated as a worthy Minister.
Those of equal rank were jealous of him51 and once more
made false accusations, [claiming] he had contacts with frontier
commanders whose plans were lawless. An imperial edict
ordered his imprisonment, and functionaries from [Metropolitan]
Headquarters52 led followers to his gate and quickly detained him.
The Scholar was frightened and astounded by these unfathomable
48 The biographies of Pei Guangting 裴光庭 (676-733) are in JTS, 84.2906-8;
XTS, 108.4089-91. On the ministry of Xiao Song and Pei Guangting (729-33), see
Denis Twitchett, “Xuan Zong (Reign 712-56)” (in The Cambridge History of China,
Volume 3, Sui and Tang China, 589-906, Part 1), pp. 393-95. 49 Xianti 獻替 recalls the words of the famous minister Yan Ying 晏嬰 (d. 500
B.C.) to Duke Jing 景 of Qi 齊 (r. 547-490 B.C.): “Thus it is between rulers and ministers. When there is that which will not do in what the ruler says is to be
done, the minister presents [i.e., points out] those things which will not do so as
to correct those things which are to be done. When there is that which will do in
what the ruler says is not to be done, the minister presents those things which
will do so as to remove those things which will not do” 君臣亦然。君所謂可而有否焉，臣獻其否以成其可。君所謂否而有可焉，臣獻其可以去其否 (Yang Bojun, Chunqiu Zuo Zhuan zhu, Zhao 20, p. 1419).
50 Qiwo 啟沃 echoes a phrase in the Yin 殷 dynasty (ca. 1600-ca. 1028 B.C.) King Wuding‘s 武丁 admonition to his newly appointed minister Fu Yue 傅說 in the Shang shu 尚書: “Open your mind, and enrich my mind” 啟乃心，沃朕心 (see James Legge, The Chinese Classics, Volume 3, “Shuo ming” 說命 1, p. 252).
51 The phrase tonglie haizhi 同列害之 recalls an episode in the Shiji biography of Qu Yuan 屈原 (340?–278 B.C.), the famous poet and minister of the state of Chu 楚: “The Grand Master Shangguan held the same rank as [Qu Yuan]. He strove for favor and was secretly envious of his abilities” 上官大夫與之同列，爭寵而心害其能 (Shiji, 84.2481; the translation is that of William H. Nienhauser, Jr., et al., The Grand Scribe’s Records, Volume VII: The Memoirs of Pre-Han China, p. 295).
Much like Scholar Lu, Qu Yuan was slandered by the Grand Master and
subsequently banished. 52 Following Wang Meng’ou, p. 32.
“Record within a Pillow” 87
events. He spoke to his wife, saying, “At my home East of
the Mountains,53 there are five Qing54 of fine fields–enough to
withstand cold and hunger. Why suffer pursuing an official’s
salary? And now that it has been brought to this, I long to wear
that plain-cloth jacket and ride that black colt while travelling on
the road to Handan 邯鄲. Yet this cannot be won back.” He drew a knife to cut his own throat, but his wife came to his aid, seizing
him, and sparing [his life]. Those who were implicated [in the plot]
all died. Only the Scholar was protected by the eunuchs55 so that
his death sentence was commuted, and he was cast out to
Huanzhou 驩州.56 After several years, the Emperor learned of the injustice and once again sought him out to be Secretariat Director,
enfeoffed him as Duke of Yanguo 燕國57 with favor and purpose that was extraordinarily unusual.
53 The term Shandong 山東 refers to the area east of the Taihang 太行
Mountains and covered large parts of the modern provinces of Shandong, Henan
and Hepei (Hsü, p. 31; Fu, p. 41). 54 One qing 頃 of land is equivalent to one hundred mu 畝, which in the
Tang was roughly approximate to thirteen acres (JTS, 48.2088; Denis Twitchett,
Financial Administration under the Tang Dynasty [Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1963], p. xi). As pointed out by Uchiyama Chinari, under the Tang “equal
land allocation system” (Juntian 均田), each able-bodied adult man (dingnan丁男) is–in theory, at least–to receive one qing of arable land (Zui To shosetsu kenkyu,
p. 341; confirmed in JTS, 48.2088, where it is recorded that this system was
implemented in 624). Having five times the amount of land as the next Tang
peasant would seem to indicate the relative fortune of Lu’s original life. 55 Zhongguan 中官 (literally, “palace official”) is a generic term for eunuch
(see Hucker, Official Titles, #1574, p. 191; and Wang, p. 32.). 56 The prefecture of Huanzhou was located in the extreme southeast corner
of the Tang empire in modern Vietnam (see Tan Qixiang, 5.73). 57 Duke of Yanguo was merely a formal title unconnected with the Yan that
was located in the vicinity of modern Beijing (see, Tan Qixiang, 3.41). By this
time in the Tang, “feudal” (fengjian 封建) appointments were made to honor officials, and rarely involved the actual bestowal of territorial enfeoffments
(see Xu, pp. 34-5; The Cambridge History of China, Volume 3, Sui and Tang China,
589-906, Part 1, pp. 210-12).
Tang Dynasty Tales: A Guided Reader 88
He begot five sons. They were called Jian 儉, Chuan 傳, Wei 位, Ti 倜 and Yi 倚 . All were talented and capable. Jian was entered on the list of graduates as a presented-scholar, and
became an Auxiliary Secretary in the Bureau of Evaluations.58
Chuan became an Attendant Censor,59 Wei became an Assistant
Minister in the Court of Imperial Sacrifices, 60 and Ti became
Commandant of Wannian 萬年.61 Yi was the worthiest–at the age of twenty-eight, he became Rectifier of Omissions.62 Their marital
alliances were all with the world’s renowned clans, and he had
over ten grandsons.
Twice he was exiled to desolate borderlands, and both times
he [was recalled to] ascend as a pillar of state.63 Going out and
58 Essentially a Vice-director, the Auxiliary Secretary (Yuanwai lang 員外郎)
worked with the Director of the Board of Evaluations (Kaogong 考功 ) in maintaining personnel records of all officials whose service was being evaluated.
This position was of the sixth rank (see Xu, p. 35; Wang, p. 32; Hucker, Official
Titles, #3159, p. 278; des Rotours, Le Traité des examens, pp. 28 and 59). 59 Shi yushi 侍御史 was a position of the sixth rank in the Tang. It was the
third highest-ranking post in the Censorate and held broad-ranging surveillance
and impeachment powers (see Xu, p. 35; Hucker, Official Titles, #5350, p. 431; des
Rotours, Le Traité des examens, p. 296). 60 Taichang cheng 太常丞 was a position of the fifth rank in the Court of
Imperial Sacrifices, one of the nine courts charged with overseeing the conduct of
state sacrificial ceremonies (see Wang, p. 33, Xu, p. 35; Hucker, Official Titles,
#6145, p. 476; des Rotours, Le Traité des examens, p 318-19). 61 Wannian county was located just south of the Tang capital in modern
Shaanxi province (see Tan Qixiang, 5.41). 62 The term Zuo xiang 左襄 is not found in the standard histories.
Commentators have put forth various conflicting interpretations about its
significance here, but the most reasonable appears to be that it refers to the
position, Zuo buque 左補闕, a position of the seventh rank in the Chancellery. Although not very highly-ranked, this post was considered prestigious because
of its proximity to the Emperor (see Hsü, p. 35; Wang, p. 33; Hucker, Official
Titles, #4777, pp. 391-92; des Rotours, Le Traité des examens, p. 151). 63 Taixuan 臺鉉 (sometimes written as 台鉉) is a metaphor used to describe
an important high-ranking official, often chief ministers. Tai refers to three stars
in Ursa Major (santai 三台) as well as to the three legs of a tripod, both of which
“Record within a Pillow” 89
entering, in court and out, he wound and soared through the halls
of state 64 for over fifty years with exalted magnificence and
glorious brilliance. By nature he was inclined to extravagance and
indulgence, and he was extremely fond of comfort and pleasure.
The sounds and sights of his harem were all of the topmost beauty
and elegance. From beginning to end, he was bestowed with fine
lands, excellent mansions, beautiful women and famous horses–
innumerable beyond count.
In his later years, he gradually grew feeble and old, and
repeatedly requested his resignation,65 but this was not allowed.
He became ill, and people from the imperial palace, in inquiring
after him, followed in one another’s footsteps on the roads. There
was no famous physician or superior medicine that did not reach
are metaphors for the three highest dignitaries of state, the san gong 三公 (“three Dukes,” see n. 73 below). Xuan refers to the rings attached to tripods which are
used to raise the vessels (see Wang, p. 33; Xu, p. 35). In the Tang histories, taixuan
is used in an imperial reply to describe Guo Ziyi 郭子議 (697-781), Shen Jiji’s elder statesman (JTS, 120.3461), and in the concluding remarks of the biography
of Shen’s friend Lu Zhi 陸贄 (754-805; JTS, 139.3818). 64 Taige 臺閣 has been used throughout the official histories to designate
both the departments of state affairs and the highest ranking dignitaries who
were positioned there (see des Rotours, Le Traité des examens, p. 185 n. 2). In the
Tang histories it is used primarily to refer to the three major departments of the
central government: the Censorate (yushi tai 御史臺), the Secretariat (zhongshu sheng中書省), and the Chancellery (menxia sheng 門下省) (see, for example, XTS, 47.1211; 116.4231; 123.4372; 203.5785).
65 Qi haigu 乞骸骨 (literally, “begging for one’s skeletal bones”) is a term which has been long used by high-ranking vassals and officials to request
resignation and return to their homelands to lay their bones to rest (Wang, p. 33;
Fu, pp. 38-9). Wang Meng’ou cites the relevant example in the Shiji (112.2952) of
a memorial submitted to the throne by the Marquis of Pingjin 平津, Gongsun Hong 公孫弘 (ca. 200-121), who was of advanced age, very ill, and believed that he had warranted no merit to the Emperor as a marquis. The passage in his
The conduct and ability of Your vassal, Hong, has not been adequate of
praise . . . . I wish to return the seals of the marquisate and request my resignation
(Qi haigu 乞骸骨) so that the road will be cleared for those who are worthy.
Tang Dynasty Tales: A Guided Reader 90
him. On the verge of death, he submitted a memorial to the
throne, which read:
Your servant was originally a common scholar from East of
the Mountains, with fields and gardens as his pleasures. By
chance he encountered sagely fate, and obtained a series of
official posts in succession. Beyond measure, he has received
extraordinary rewards, special positions, and extensive favors.
While out [of court], he held caducei and imperial jing
banners;66 and on entering [court], he was elevated to be the
Chief Bulwark of the State.67 In handling affairs68 in and out [of
court], he has passed through the many seasons of many years.
He has disgraced Heavenly favor69 by not augmenting Your
sagely influence. He has been responsible for the chariot, but
has bequeathed [only] plunder; 70 treading on thin [ice] has
66 The phrase chu yong jiejing 出擁節旌 refers to Lu’s appointments outside
the capital and particularly to his appointment as Military Governor. During the
Tang, military governors were given a pair of caducei (jie 節) and a pair of banners (jing 旌) upon commission. The jing banners were often ornamented with tassels made with feathers or oxtails. For more information, see des Rotours,
Le Traité des examens, pp. 165-68; 646-48. 67 Taifu 臺輔 was an unofficial reference to one of the highest-ranking
officials in the central government, such as a chief minister (see Hucker, Official
Titles, # 6160, p. 477). 68 Zhouxuan 周旋, which can also be translated “Touring around” (see Xu,
p. 42). 69 Tianen 天恩 for which TPGJ reads enzao 恩造, “favor brought upon him.” 70 The self-depreciatory phrase fusheng yikou 負乘貽寇 derives from the
section on the “Jie” 解 hexagram in the Classic of Changes (Yijing 易經, Hexagram 40, 6/3), which reads: “Burdened and riding a chariot will cause plunder to
arrive” (負且乘，致寇至), which the TPGJ version once more matches more closely (cf. fusheng zhikou負乘致寇). The famous Han literati, Dong Zhongshu 董仲舒 (ca. 179-ca. 104 B.C.), elucidates this classical phrase as follows:
Those who ride in chariots have the position of a gentleman. Those who
bear burdens have the affairs of lesser people. This means those who occupy the
position of a gentleman and yet behave as a common person will certainly find
calamity arriving upon them.
“Record within a Pillow” 91
increased his worries;71 and each day he dreads another day so
that he does not notice that old age has arrived.72 This year he
passes eighty [holding] the position highest among the three
[in charge of] affairs. 73 But the bell and the clepsydra are
simultaneously ceasing, and his tendons and bones are all aged.
Lingering for a long time and drowning in dire straits, his time
to tarry is swiftly being spent. Looking back, he has no
successful achievement to submit to repay [Your Majesty’s]
radiant blessings, and he has fruitlessly carried Your profound
favor. [Now] he is forever taking leave of this sagely dynasty.
With unbearable feelings of attachment to the ultimate, he
respectfully offers this declaration to express his gratitude.
An imperial mandate replied:
My Excellency has with eminent virtue performed as Our
Primary Bulwark: when out [of court] you upheld Us as hedge
and pillar; when in [court] you assisted in harmony and
乘車者，君子之位也。負擔者，小人之事也。此言居君子之位，而為庶人之行者，其患禍必至也。(Han shu, 56.2521). 71 The image of treading on thin ice (lü bo 履薄) alludes to Mao, #195 and
#196, both of which close with the following admonishing couplet (although #195
does insert one more in line between):
We should be apprehensive and careful, 戰戰兢兢 As if we were treading on thin ice. 如履薄冰 The TPGJ text accords with the penultimate line of the poem by reading
lü bo zhanjing 履薄戰兢 (“treading on thin [ice], he is apprehensive and careful”) for lü bo zeng you 履薄增憂 (“treading on thin [ice] has increased his worries”) in the WYYH text.
72Bu zhi lao zhi 不知老至, an echo of a passage in Lunyu, 7/19 in which Confucius describes himself as one who “does not notice that old age is about to
arrive” 不知老之將至. TPGJ once again more closely mirrors the classical source, and in this instance does so exactly.
73 “The three (in charge of) affairs” (san shi 三事) is an expression extending back to the Classic of Poetry (Mao #194) and refers to “the three Dukes” (san gong 三公) who are traditionally regarded as the three most powerful officials in the central government.
Tang Dynasty Tales: A Guided Reader 92
prosperity. The ascending peace of [the last] two dozen years
has truly relied on My Excellency. Recently you have
contracted this illness, and We have daily spoken of your
recovery. How is it that this is such a deep-seated chronic
illness? We are very much taken up with sympathy for you.
Now We have ordered Calvary General-in-chief Gao Lishi 高力士74 to go to your mansion to inquire after and visit you. He will make efforts in contributing stone needles.75 For Our
sake, take care of yourself. We especially hope for nothing
rash,76 and look forward to your recovery.
That evening he passed away.
Scholar Lu yawned, stretched, and awakened to see that he
himself was just then lying down in the rest-lodge. Old Man Lü
was sitting by his side and the host [of the lodge] was steaming
the millet which was not yet cooked. [Everything] that he sensed
was as before. The Scholar was startled, but got up, saying,
“Could it all have been a dream in my sleep?”
The old man said to the Scholar, “The contentments of human
life are surely like that.”
The Scholar was lost in thought for a great while. [Then] he
thanked the old man and said, “Now, the ways of favor and
disgrace, the fatefulness of failure and success, the principles of
74 Gao Lishi served Hsüan-tsung as a loyal and trusted eunuch for nearly
fifty years. His biographies are in JTS, 184.4757-59 and XTS, 207.5858-61. Piaoqi da
jiangjun 驃騎大將軍 is an honorary title of the first rank for military officers (see Hucker, Official Titles, #4620, p. 380; des Rotours, Le Traité des examens, p. 99). On
Gao Lishi’s appointment as Calvary General-in-chief, see JTS, 9.222. 75 Zhenshi 鍼石 are implements used in therapeutic acupuncture. In this
context, however, the term connotes Gao Lishi’s trying to help out medically in a
broader sense and not specifically with regard to the particular medical
techniques that are indicated here (see Hsü, p. 37; Tan Qixiang, p. 328). 76 Wu wang 無妄: The allusion here is to the Classic of Changes (Yijing, 25/9/5)
which reads: “When there is illness without recklessness, there is joy without
medicine” (wu wang zhi ji, wu yao yu xi 無妄之疾，勿藥有喜).
“Record within a Pillow” 93
gain and loss, and the emotions of death and life–I have
thoroughly known them. This is how you, venerable sir, have
checked my desires.77 Dare I not accept this lesson?”
He touched his forehead to the ground, bowed twice, and left.
77 Zhi wuyu 窒吾欲: The allusion here is once again to the Classic of Changes
(Yijing, 41) once again which reads “The superior man accordingly restrains his
anger and checks his desires” (Junzi yi cheng fen zhi yu 君子以懲忿窒欲).
Chunyu Fen saw two envoys clad in purple kneeling before him
“Nanke Taishou zhuan“ 南柯太守傳
(An Account of the Governor
of the Southern Branch)1
by Li Gongzuo 李公佐 (c. 778-848)
translated by William H. Nienhauser, Jr.
Chunyu Fen淳于棼2 of Dongping 東平3 was a knight-errant who wandered about the Wu 吳 and Chu 楚 [the lower Yangzi]. He was too fond of drinking and given to impulse,4 paying little
1 The base text used for this translation is Wang Meng’ou 王夢鷗, Tangren
xiaoshuo jiaoshi 唐人小說校釋 (Taibei: Zhengzhong Shuju, 1985), 2:171-99 [hereafter “Wang Meng’ou”]. Li Jianguo’s 李劍國 text (Tang Song chuanqi pindu cidian 唐宋傳奇品讀辭典 [Beijing: Xin Shijie Chubanshe, 2007; hereafter cited as “Li Jianguo, Cidian”] and the TPGJ edition (475.3910-5) have both been consulted
regularly. For other modern critical editions and Western-language translations
of this tale, see the Bibliography following the Translator’s Note. 2 The surname of Chunyu in addition to the ancestral home in Shandong
causes the reader to think of two earlier men from the same area: Chunyu Kun 淳于髡 and Chunyu Yi 淳于意, both of whom have biographies in the Shiji 史記 (chapters 126 and 105, respectively).
3 This reference, as common in Tang tales and other fictional narratives, is
anachronistic, referring to the small State of Dongping in early Han times
(located about 35 miles northern of modern Jining City 濟寧市 in Shandong; Tan Qixiang, 2:19). Similarly Wu and Chu in the following phrase are names of states
that ceased to exist after the Qin unification, but continued to be identified with
the regions they once ruled. 4 Wang Meng’ou (2:179, n. 1) points to the similar language in the Jiu Tang
shu biography of Guo Yuanzhen 郭元振 (656-713). There are indeed parallels between Guo’s life and Chunyu Fen’s dream. As the Jiu Tang shu (9:97.3042)
Tang Dynasty Tales: A Guided Reader 132
attention to the finer points of convention. He had amassed a
great deal of property and supported a retinue of gallants.5 Once,
because of his military skills, he had been appointed a deputy
general in the Huainan 淮南 Army. 6 He drank too much, so that he gave rein to his passions and offended his commander. Thus he
relates (parallel language is italicized), “Guo Yuanzhen . . . after passing the jinshi
examination, was made Commandant of Tongquan [a Tang county in Zizhou 梓州 about eighty miles east-northeast of modern Chengdu, Sichuan]. He lived by the codes of the knights-errant and was given to impulse, paying little attention to
his duties and troubled in his thoughts; over time he captured and sold more than
one thousand people, to give [the profits?] to his retainers, so the common people
suffered with him”; 郭元振 . . . 舉進士，授通泉尉。任俠使氣，不以細務介意，前後掠賣所部千余人，以遺賓客，百姓苦之. Nevertheless, Empress Wu summoned him and sent him to fight the Tibetans. After a distinguished military career, Guo
mismanaged a military review shortly after Xuanzong took the throne and was
sentenced to death. Only the intervention of Zhang Yue 張說 (667-730) saved him. But Guo ended up dying en route to exile, an unhappy man (cf. Jiu Tang shu,
97.3049). Perhaps readers were expected to see the similarities between Chunyu
Fen’s dream and Guo Yuanzhen’s career. 5 This description of Fen as someone who had “amassed a great deal of
property and supported a retinue of gallant men” (lei ju chan 累巨產) as well as the expression shi jiu 使酒, “he indulged himself in drinking” which follows shortly in the text both resemble passages describing Guan Fu 灌夫 in the accounts of Guan in the Shiji (107.2847). Indeed, there are other parallels between
the Fen’s character and that of Guan Fu, such as the fact that slander led to each
of their downfalls.
6 Huainan (South of the Huai) was a Tang province, centered on Yangzhou 楊州 , that stretched from the seacoast in the east about 240 miles westward, with the Han 漢 River as its western border, the Huai River as its northern limit, and the Yangzi 楊子 to its south (see Tan Qixiang, 5:54). Huainan remained loyal to the Tang during the provincial upheavals under emperors Dezong (r. 779-805)
and Xianzong (r. 806-820). Du Yu 杜佑 (735-812) served there from 789-803. The Huainan Army refers to the troops under the command of the military governor
of Huainan (see Zhou Shaoliang 周紹良, “’Nanke Taishou zhuan’ jianzheng” 南柯太守傳箋證, in Zhou Shaoliang, Tang chuanqi jianzheng 唐傳奇箋證 [Beijing: Renmin Wenxue Chubanshe, 2000], p. 200).
“The Governor of the Southern Branch” 133
was dismissed and drifted about with nothing to do, spending all
his time in unrestrained drinking.
His family lived a few miles east of the seat of Guangling 廣陵 Commandery.7 To the south of the house in which they lived
was a grand, old locust tree, its branches and trunk long and
interwoven, its cool shade spreading for nearly an acre. Chunyu
and his hearties would drink profusely beneath it every day.
In the ninth month of the seventh year of the Zhenyuan 貞元 reign period (791 A.D.),8 Chunyu drank so heavily that he became
ill. The two friends who were seated with him at the time carried
him into his house and laid him in the gallery to the east of the
“You should get some sleep,” they said to him. “We’ll feed
the horses, wash our feet,9 and wait for you to recover a bit before
When Chunyu took off his headband and put his head on the
pillow,10 everything went dark and seemed to spin about, as if in a
dream. He saw two envoys clad in purple,11 kneeling before him,
7 A commandery established in 758 that approximated the eastern portion
of Huainan province. Yangzhou was also its seat. 8 Because the chronology in the text of the tale presents problems, Wang
Meng’ou (n. 5, p. 179) that qi 七 “seven” here is a scribal error for shi十 “ten” here, making the date 794. The TPGJ (475.3910) reading of Tang 唐 before the date seems to have been an addition by the TPGJ editors and is not followed in
either Wang Meng‘ou or Li Jianguo. 9 Presumably they washed their feet so that they could lie down on a couch
to wait for Chunyu to improve. 10 Pillows were a means of entry into the dream world as can be seen in
“Zhenzhong ji” 枕中記 (Record with a Pillow), translated in this volume. 11 Li Jianguo, Cidian (p. 271, n. 15) points out that although high-ranking
officials wore purple in the Tang, the reference here is to according to those
minor officials in charge of receiving and entertaining guests who dressed in a
purple coarse-silk shirts as the Tang hui yao 唐會要 (juan 31) notes.
Tang Dynasty Tales: A Guided Reader 134
who said: “The King of the Huaian Guo12 槐安國王 (The State of Locust Tranquility) has sent us to deliver his message of invitation
Chunyu got down off the couch unconsciously, straightened
his clothing, and followed the two envoys toward the gate. There
he saw a black-lacquered carriage driven by four steeds with
seven or eight attendants to the left and right.13 They helped him
up into the carriage and departed, pointing after they went out
the main gate to an opening under the old locust tree and
immediatley speeding into the opening. Chunyu found this most
strange, but he didn’t dare to ask any questions.
Suddenly he saw that the landscape, climate,14 vegetation,
and roadways were not at all15 different from those of the world
12 The huai 槐 tree, Sophora Japonica or Chinese Scholar Tree, is rendered here
as “locust.” It is not identical to the American locust tree (Robinia Pseudacacia),
but very similar, both being hardwood used for ornamentation, both having
white flowers (the huai also has yellow flowers). The huai tree is written with a
graph which, when broken into its basic components (木 and 鬼), means “tree of ghosts.” Like its Western cousin, the Bullhorn Acacia (Acacia cornigera), the tree is
often host to ant nests (cf. Caryolyn Wanger and Sharon Cybart, Touring the
Tropics, How Plants Adopt to Their Environment [Madison: Olbrich Botanical
Gardens, 1991], p. 12). On the association between the tree and death, see Carrie
Reed, “Messages from the Dead in ‘Nanke Taishou zhuan,’” CLEAR 31 (2009):
124-5. 13As Wang Meng’ou points out (p. 179, n. 6) according to Tang ritual a
black-lacquered carriage was intended for the crown prince. This foreshadows
the announcement that Chunyu Fen is to marry to king’s daughter. 14 The translation follows a number of modern Chinese translations here in
rendering feng hou 風候 as “landscape and climate” (cf., for example, Zhang Wenqian 張文潛 et al., Tang Song chuanqi xuan zhuyi ben 唐宋傳奇選注譯本 [Fuzhou: Fujian Jiaoyu Chubanshe, 1983], n. 24, p. 103 and translation on p.111).
Some modern Chinese translations understand feng hou 風候 as “customs and climate” (Zhang Youhe 張友鶴, Tang Song chuanqi xuan 唐宋傳奇選 [rpt. Beijing: Jenmin Wenxue Chubanshe, 1998 (1963)], n. 14, p. 86). André Lévy’s translation
reads “Soudain lui apparurent montagnes et rivières: vents et climats, arbres et
plantes . . .” (Histoires extraordinaires et récits fantastiques de la Chinese ancienne,
Chefs d’oeuvre de la nouvelle [Dynasties des Tang, 618-907], II [Paris: Aubier
“The Governor of the Southern Branch” 135
he knew. After they had gone a dozen or so miles they came to the
ramparts and parapets of a city wall. [There] vehicles and people
both flowed along the road. To the left and right of him those who
attended his carriage called out orders very sternly and passersby
on either side strove to give way. Farther on they entered a great
city wall with red gates and double gate-towers. On the gate-
towers “Da Huaian Guo” 大槐安國 (The Great State of Locust Tranquility) was written in golden letters. The gate guards made
haste to pay their respects and perform their attendant duties.
After a short period of time a man on horseback called out,
“Because the [future] royal son-in-law has traveled far, the king
has ordered that you rest a while in the Donghua Guan 東華館 (Eastern Flowery Lodge).” Then he went ahead to lead the way.
All of a sudden Chunyu saw a wide-open door. He descended
from the carriage and went in. There were many-colored railings
Domaine, 1993], p. 80. Lévy’s “winds and climes” is certainly a possibility. Li
Jianguo’s (Cidian, p. 271, n. 20) reading of fengwu qihou 風物氣候 “scenery and climate“ seems to make the “mountains and rivers” in the preceding phrase
redundant. The translation by Yang Xianyi and Gladys Yang (Tang Dynasty
Stories [Beijing: Panda Books, 1986], p. 57) seems to follow a similar
understanding as Li Jianguo, but tortures the syntax of the original: “The scenery
along the road–the mountains and rivers, trees and plants–looked different from
the world of men. The climate too had changed.” 15 Reading wu 無 for shen 甚 following Wang Meng’ou (pp. 179-80, n. 7;
Wang’s revision is based on Ming mss. of the Taiping guangji and Feng
Menglong’s 馮夢龍 [1574-1646] Taiping guangji chao 太平廣記鈔). André Lévy’s translation also adopts Wang’s reading (Histoires extraordinaires, p. 94, n. 7. The
rather free rendition in Elizabeth Te-chen Wang’s Ladies of the T’ang (Taipei: Mei
Ya Publications, 1973; p. 242) also follows the reading wu 無. Yang Xianyi and Gladys Yang (see the preceding note) retain the original shen 甚. Following Wang’s suggestion, the text allows Chunyu Fen to remain unclear whether he is
still in the “real world” — often confused by events such as the correspondence
with his father whom he had presumed dead — until he wakes up back in his
home in Guangling and discovers that he has been living in an ant colony in his
Tang Dynasty Tales: A Guided Reader 136
next to carved columns, flowering trees with rare fruits, row upon
row beneath a dais. Benches and tables, cushions and mats,
curtains and a feast were all arranged on the dais. In his heart
he was most pleased.16 Again someone called out, “The Chief
Minister on the Right17 is about to arrive.” Chunyu then descended
the stairs to receive him respectfully. A man wearing a purple
robe18 and holding an ivory court-tablet came forward quickly,
and they greeted each other according to all the rules of propriety
of host and guest.
“My Liege has not considered our humble land too far out of
the way to receive Milord,” the Chief Minister on the Right began,
“He is hoping to contract a formal marriage with you.”
“With such a lowly, humble body, how could this humble
person dare to hope for such a thing?” Chunyu replied.
The Chief Minister on the Right thereupon asked that
Chunyu accompany him to where the king was. After they had
gone about one hundred paces, they entered a red gate. With
spears, lances, axes, and halberds arranged [in front of the gate] to
16 Chunyu Fen’s inability to speak here recalls a like-named predecessor,
Chunyu Kun 淳于髠. Kun was an advisor to both King Wei 魏 of Qi 齊 (r. 378- 343 B.C.) and King Hui 惠 of Liang (r. 370-335 B.C.). Although Kun was known for his eloquence, he, like Fen, was silent the first two times King Hui first
granted him audience (see the two biographical sketches on Shiji, 74.2347 and
126.3197). It may also be that in this early, transitionary phase from the real
world to the dream world Fen has not yet acquired the power to speak. 17 In Tang officialdom You xiang 右相 referred to the head of the Secretariat
(Neishi sheng 內侍省) and the Zuo xiang左相 , Chief Minister of the Left, to the head of the Chancellery (Menxia sheng 門下省); cf. Robert des Rotours, Le traité des examens (Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1932), p. 266. Both held the second-degree
rank. 18 According to Tang rites officials of the third-degree (of nine levels) and
above were allowed to wear purple. Thus the reader understands both that this
is a high official and that the worlds of Locust Tranquility and the Tang empire
were strikingly similar (cf. Li Jianguo, Cidian, n. 31 on p. 271).
“The Governor of the Southern Branch” 137
the left, several hundred guards stepped back to let them pass.19
Zhou Bian 周弁 , a lifelong drinking companion of Chunyu, hastened to be among them. Chunyu was secretly pleased to see
him, but did not dare to step forward and ask him [about things].
The Chief Minister on the Right led the way up into a spacious
hall, heavily guarded as if it were the king’s. There he saw a man,
large and imposing, sitting on the throne, dressed in a white
silken gown and wearing a crimson-flowered crown. Chunyu Fen
trembled and didn’t dare to look up. The attendants to the left and
right told him to bow down.
Then the king said, “Sometime before, I received your father’s
word that he wouldn’t despise our small nation out of hand
and he agreed to allow my second daughter, Yaofang 瑶芳 (Jade Fragrance), to serve you respectfully as your wife.”
Chunyu could only bow his head and prostrate himself on the
ground, not daring to say anything.
The king went on, “For now go back to the guest lodge, we
will carry out the ceremony later!” There was also a formal edict
[to this effect].20 In addition the Chief Minister on the Right went
back with him to the guest lodge.
Chunyu thought this over. As far as he knew, his father had
commanded [troops] on the border and because of that had fallen
captive to the enemy, so that it wasn’t known whether he was
dead or alive.
[Chunyu] for the time being suspected that his father through
the friendly intervention of the the northern barbarians this matter
19 Spears, lances and other weapons were commonly arrayed before a gate
of a rich or powerful home during the Tang. 20 You zhi 有旨, translated here as “there was a formal edict,” is ignored in
the Yang’s translation (p. 18: “You may go back to the guest house and prepare
for the ceremony.’ As the minister accompanied him back, Chunyu was thinking
hard.”). Lévy offers “cette décision rendue, le minister raccompagna Chunyu,
songeur, à la hotel” (p. 82).
Tang Dynasty Tales: A Guided Reader 138
had been concluded.21 [But] he was very confused and he didn’t
really know how it had come about.
That evening everything for the ceremony was in complete
readiness: the gifts of lambs, geese, money, and silk22 were awe-
inspiring and grandiose, the female singers and musicians, wines
and savory foods, lamps and candles, carriages and riding
horses.23 There was a group of women: Huayang Gu 華陽姑 (Miss Flowery Slope), another Qingxi Gu 青溪姑 (Miss Green Stream), another Shang Xian Zi 上仙子 (Lady Higher Transcendent), and yet another Xia Xian Zi 下仙子 (Lady Lower Transcendent).24 There seemed to be a large number of them, each with several
21 Li Jianguo (Cidian, p. 271, n. 44) points out that the jiao tong 交通 in early
texts of the tale read jiao xun交遜, “friendly relations.” 22 Traditional wedding gifts provided by the groom. Lambs were
considered “humane” (ren 仁) and with good deportment; geese were supposed to keep a single mate for life. The gifts are typical of those given by upper class
gentlemen in early China. The money was for various expenses connected to the
ceremony (cf. Li Jianguo, Cidian, p. 271, n. 45). 23 The syntax here is notable. Weirong yidu 威容儀度 (here “awe-inspiring
and grandiose”) is sometimes seen to modify the entire ceremony, as in the
Yangs’ rendition (op. cit., p. 19): “That evening, amid pomp and slendour,
betrothal gifts of lambs, swans and silk were displayed . . . .” 24 Herbert Franke and Wolfgang Bauer argue that “the names [of these
women] allude to the various groups inside the ant state, to the ants with and
those without wings” (Die Goldene Truhe, p. 430, n. to p. 94; translation by
Levenson, The Golden Casket, p. 117, n. 2). Cai Shouxiang 蔡守湘 (1934-1998) points out that Huayang Gu refers to the Goddess of the Southern Slope of
Mount Hua (Huayang Shan Xiangu 華陽山仙姑; Mount Hua was a home to Daoists from at least as early as the Han dynasty), that Qingxi Gu is a variant of
Qingxi Shennü 青溪神女 , and that the other names seem to have been constructed by Li Gongzuo to suggest other goddesses [Tangren xiaoshuo xuanzhu 唐人小說選注 [3v., Taibei: Liren 里仁 Shuju, 2002], 1:278, n. 34]. Li Jianguo says these names are all yijing minghao 蟻精名號 (names which express the spirit of the ants; Cidian, p. 271, n. 48), but gives no example. The present writer can only see
such a relationship with the name ling zhi靈芝 (mithridate) which grows out of the ground especially around tree roots. See also the comments in André Lévy’s
comments in his apparatus (Histoires extraordinaires, p. 95, n. 14).
“The Governor of the Southern Branch” 139
thousand attendants. They wore kingfisher and phoenix hats,25
golden-cloud cloaks, gems of all colors, and golden jewelry, so
that they overwhelmed the eye. Roaming about and enjoying
themselves, they stopped by his door, striving to trifle with
Master Chunyu. Their manner was very bewitching, their speech
seductive, so that he did not know how to respond. One of the
girls said to him, “Once on the third day of the third lunar month26
I went along with Lingzhi Furen 靈芝夫人 (Madame Mithridate) to the Chanzhi Si 禪智寺 (Wisdom of Zen Temple). 27 In the Tianzhu Yuan 天竺院 (Hindu Courtyard) we saw Shi Yan 石延28 dance the Poluomen 婆羅門 (Brâhmana [Dance]). 29 I sat on
25 Some modern Chinese translations believe these refer to feathered hats,
others argue that phoenix and kingfisher indicate the headdresses were jade-
green color. 26 This is the spring purification festival, Shang si ri 上巳日, one of the three
major holidays of the Tang. People went out of the cities into nature, supposedly
to rid themselves of miasmas of the winter by bathing. It was therefore one of
those rare opportunities when men and women mixed in public. See also Derk
Bodde, “The Lustration Festival,” Festivals in Classical China (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1975), pp. 273-88. 27 A famous Chan (Zen) temple in Tang-dynasty Yangzhou. 28 A famous dancer from Sogdiana (Shi guo 石國, approximating modern
Uzbekistan) in Central Asia. As Li Jianguo (Cidian, p. 271, n. 51) points out the
royal house were surnamed Shi and many of those Sogdianians who came to
Chang’an during the Tang had (or adopted) that surname. As Edwin G.
Pulleyblank notes, they did not have far to come, since the Sogdian were settled
not too far north of the Tang capital and Shi was “one of the Ordos Sogdian
surnames” (see also Pulleyblank’s comments on the Jiuxing Hu 九姓胡 [Hu of the Nine Surnames] in his “A Sogdian Colony in Inner Mongolia,” TP 41 : 320-
1). The natives of Sogdiana were famed for their dancing skills.
The juxtaposition of obviously made-up names for the women with the
realistic name for the dancer is striking. Perhaps they are all meant to convey the
diversity and excitement of a spring-festival day in the Wisdom of Zen Temple. 29 Tianzhu was a transliteration of the Indian term Hinduka ~hinkdukh
employed at least as early as the Hou Han shu 後漢書 (cf. Hanyu da cidian, 2:1420). Poluomen is the transliteration of the Indian surname given to the Brahman
Tang Dynasty Tales: A Guided Reader 140
the stone bench under the north window 30 with some of my
companions. At that time you were still young, but just you
dismounted and came to watch,31 trying to force yourself on us,
teasing and flirting. My little sister Qiongying 窮英 (Hortensia Flower) and I knotted a red scarf and put it on a bamboo branch.32
How could you have just forgotten? Another time on the sixteenth
of the seventh lunar month I was in the Xiaogan Si 孝感寺 (Temple of Filial Feelings) attending Shangzhen Zi 上真子 (Lady Higher Purity) and listening to Monk Qi Xuan 契玄 (Bound to Mystery), 33 lecture on the Guanyin jing 觀音經 (Avalokiteśvara Sutra).34 I left a pair of golden-phoenix hairpins as an donation
(priest) clan or caste. The Poluomen dance was performed in the whirling style of
Central Asian dance tradition (see Zhou Shaoliang, pp. 204-5).
Li Jianguo (Cidian, p. 271, n. 52) cites Du You’s杜佑 (735-812) claim that the Poluomen 婆羅門 dance was revised by Emperor Xuanzong’s musicians to become the Nishang yuyi qu 霓裳羽衣曲 (Tune of the Feathered Rainbow Dance).
30 Presumably the most secluded part of the temple (the main doors would
have been on the south side). 31 The inference seems to be that Chunyu came to the temple with a group
(friends, family?), but he alone took notice the women. 32 This is similar to dropping a handkerchief for a gentleman to pick up in
Western society 33 Li Jianguo (Cidian, p. 271, n. 55) cites a poem by Lu Lun 盧綸 (738-798)
written to Qi Xuan. Lévy notes (Histoire extraordinaires, p. 95, n. 21) that his
‘sermons’ were popular in the final quarter of the eighth century, but this seems
to be simply an inference drawn based upon this tale and Lu Lun’s poem. These
sermons, known su jiang 俗講 (popular lectures), mixed reciting of Buddhist scriptures and storytelling and were particularly popular among women in the
early ninth century (see Zhou Shaoliang, pp. 206-7). 34 Avalokiteśvara is the bodhisattva who vowed to listen to the prayers of
all sentient beings in times of difficulty. This may resonate with Chunyu Fen’s
relationship with the ant kingdom, especially his concerns after he awakens from
his dream. Analogues of the tale also emphasize the sensitivity of the protagonist
for the ants (see the discussion of the tale of Dong Zhaozhi 董昭之 and the Lu Fen 盧汾 tales in Section II., “The Text and Its Sources” of the “Translator’s Note” below).
“The Governor of the Southern Branch” 141
beneath the podium and Lady Higher Purity left a box made of
rhinoceros horn. At the time you were also on the lecture mat and
you asked the monk for the hairpins and the box to examine
them, sighing repeatedly with appreciation and uttering cries of
admiration for some time. Turning to look at us you said,
‘Both you and your things are not the sort we have in this
world.’ [Then] whether you asked about my family or where I
lived, I would not respond. Your heart was filled with love and
you were loath to take your eyes off us. How could you not
“In my heart it’s set, how could I ever forget,”35 Chunyu
The women in one voice said, “Who would have imagined
that today we would become your guests?”
Three men, very grand in their official hats and sashes, also
came forward and bowed to the young man: “We have received a
command to serve the royal son-in-law as best men.” Among
them was a man who was also an old friend of Chunyu Fen. Fen
pointed to him and said, “Aren’t you Tian Zihua 田子華 of Pingyi 馮翊?”36 “Yes, I am,” Tian replied.
Fen came forward, took his hands, and talked over old
times for long while. Then he asked, “How have you come to live
“I was wandering about at large, when the Chief Minister on
the Right, Mr. Duan 段, the Marquis of Wucheng 武成 (Martial
35 These are the last two lines of “Xi sang” 隰桑 (The Mulberry of the Lowland), Mao No. 228 in the Shi jing 詩經. Arthur Waley (The Book of Songs (New York: Grove Press, 1960 ) classifies the poem as one of marriage and
translates the lines as “To the core of my heart I treasure him, / Could not ever
cease to love him” 中心藏之，何日忘之? 36 The seat of Tong 同 Prefecture during the Tang, some sixty miles east-
northeast of Chang’an (modern Dali 大荔 in Shaanxi province, Tan Qixiang, 5:41).
Tang Dynasty Tales: A Guided Reader 142
Completion),37 recognized my abilities, so I’ve become dependent
“Zhou Bian 周弁 is here. Did you know?” Fen went on to ask. “Mr. Zhou,” Zihua replied, “is a honored man. He is serving
as Metropolitan Commandant, 38 and great are his power and
influence. Several times I have benefited from his protection.”
And so they chatted and laughed very joyously.
In a short time a messenger called out, “The Royal Son-in-law
may go in now!” The three men then outfitted him in a sword, a
belt, a cap, and clothes.
“I never thought the day would come when I could
personally witness such a marriage,” said Zihua. “Don’t forget me
[once you’re married]!”
Then several dozen of those transcendent beauties played the
most extraordinary music for them, insinuating and subtle, bright
and pure, but with a melancholy melody, such as never had been
heard in the human world.39 There were also several dozen of
them holding candles and leading the way for him. To the left and
right appeared cloth partitions of various hues and lusters
[screening the walkway], embroidered with kingfisher feathers
and golden thread, which ran on for over a mile.40 Fen sat upright
in the carriage, his mind swirling, unable to settle down. Tian
Zihua several times offered a remark or joke to help dispel the
tension. Those women he had previously [spoken with] each rode
37 Wucheng is an honorific title, not a place name. This was the noble title of
the Chief Minister of the Right whom Chunyu Fen met above (cf. Li Jianguo,
Cidian, p. 272, n. 66). 38 Sili 司隸 was a Chou-dynasty official title (Wang Meng’ou, p. 182, n. 30). 39 After the initial depiction of mountains, rivers, climate and customs that
are the same as the human world, this is the first of several descriptions which
remind the reader, and perhaps should have alerted Chunyu Fen, to the fact that
this is a preternatural state in which he is living. 40 The partitions protected the royal procession from the eyes of the
“The Governor of the Southern Branch” 143
in phoenix-wing carriages and were also coming and going in
the palace. They came to a gate which was called “Xiuyi Gong” 修儀宮 (The Palace for Cultivating Proper Ceremony).41 Those transcendent women all gathered on either side of the gate,
allowing him to get out of the royal cart and bowing to him. [Then]
there was polite gesturing, deferring to one other, and ascending
and descending according to etiquette–all just as it is in the world
of men. When they removed the screen [from the other carriage
that had arrived] and took away the fan [carried by her attendants
to shield the princess from view],42 he saw a young woman who
was called Jinzhi Gongzhu 金枝公主 (Princess of the Golden Branch).43 She was about fourteen or fifteen and seemed just like
an immortal. All the rites for this wedding night were indeed
clearly on display.
From this time on, with each day Chunyu Fen’s affection for
her grew deeper daily as his fame and glory increased day by day.
The carriages and vestments in which he went about, the guests
and attendants with whom he went on excursions or to banquets,
were always second only to those of the king. The king ordered
Chunyu Fen and his fellow officials to ready the palace guard to
go on a grand hunt at Linggui Shan 靈龜山 (Efficacious Tortoise
41 Apparently a fictional palace. The name is probably intended as a segue
to Fen’s introduction to the proper ceremonies of court life (and the marriage)
which immediately follow. 42 Each action was part of the marriage ritual. Wang Meng’ou (p. 182-3, n.
31) cites several Tang-dynasty texts that detail this second ceremonial step of a
Tang marriage. Zhou Xianshen 周先慎 argues that shan 扇 here refers not to a “fan,” but to a silken cap which was attached to a veil covering the bride’s face
(see Zhou, “Nanke Taishou zhuan,” in Gudai xiaoshuo jianshang cidian 古代小說鑒賞辭典, v. 1 [Shanghai: Shanghai Cishu Chubanshe, 2006], p. 365, n. 40). 43 Perhaps a play on the expression Jinzhi yuye 金枝玉葉 (Jade Leaf/Leaves
of the Golden Branch) which referred to descendants of a royal house (cf.
Morohashi, 11:463, entry 49152.492).
Tang Dynasty Tales: A Guided Reader 144
Mountain)44 to the west of the capital. There were mountains and
hills steep and lofty, streams and marshes far and wide, forests of
trees in abundance and luxuriance, and of the birds that fly and
the beasts that run, there were none which were not bred there.
The soldiers had a huge catch, and only when the night was spent
did they go home.45
One day, Chunyu Fen asked the king for instruction. “On that
day not long ago when I got married, Your Majesty said he was
following my father’s orders. Not long after my father was caused
to serve as an assistant frontier commander, he was defeated in
battle and fell into Tartar hands.46 Since then I haven’t had a letter
from him in seventeen or eighteen years. As Your Majesty knows
his whereabouts, I beg to be allowed to visit him.”
“My daughter’s father-in-law,” the king quickly replied, “is
serving guard over the northern lands. We haven’t lost contact
with him. You need only prepare a letter letting him know
[of your whereabouts]. There’s no need to go to see him
He [the king] ordered his wife to prepare presents
congratulating [Fen’s father] on gaining a daughter-in-law to send
along with the letter to his father. After a few nights,47 a reply
arrived. As Fen examined the basic ideas in this letter, he found
44 This hunt, as most royal hunts in traditional China, was intended as a test
of the military capabilities of the State of Locust Tranquility. The place name
Linggui Shan is aptly chosen, since the God of War, Xuan Wu 玄武 , was supposed to have taken the form of a tortoise (or a hybrid snake-tortoise; see
Hanyu da cidian, 2:3707b). 45 There are a number of references to “nights” rather than days in this text,
perhaps suggesting the way time was measured in this darker, dream world (see
also n. 57 below). 46 E.G. Pulleybank has argued that the word hu (translated here as “Tartar”)
from the end of the sixth century on referred to “the Iranian peoples of Central
Asia, or even specifically the Sogdians” (see his “A Sogdian Colony in Inner
Mongolia”). See also n. 28 above. 47 Cf. n. 45 above.
“The Governor of the Southern Branch” 145
that they all contained traces of those [ideas] his father had held
all his life.48 In the letter his concerns and instructions were set in
indirect expressions of affection, all as in the past. He also asked
whether their relatives were still alive and about the prosperity of
their village. And he said that the road between them was
separated by some distance and blocked by winds and mists.49
The tone [of his letter] was sad and there was distress in his
language. Further, he would not allow Fen to come to visit him,
explaining, “In the dingchou 丁丑 year,50 I will meet you again.” Fen clasped the letter and choked back a sob, overcome with
Some days later, Fen’s wife said to him, “Why don’t you ever
think about serving in the government?”51
“I am a reckless sort who has no experience in governmental
affairs,” Fen replied.
“Just do it and I will support and assist you,” she said. Then
she reported [this conversation] to the king. After some time had
passed, the king said to Fen, “In our Nanke 南柯 (Southern Branch [Commandery]) governmental affairs are not well managed. The
governor has been dismissed and I’d like to rely on your talents. If
you would condescend to take such a limited position, you could
go there forthwith with our young daughter!”
48 Wang Meng’ou (p. 183, n. 35) suggests that zhi 之 could be a copyist error
for shou 手 which would then read “he found they followed closely his father’s handwriting.” But he offers no textual support for his hypothesis. An alternate
translation might read “When Fen examined the letter he found that the topics
were all those of his father’s daily habits.” 49 Feng yan 風煙 “winds and mists” in Tang texts could also refer to the fires
and disorder of rebellion. Given the instability of Dezong’s 德宗 reign (780-805) and the possibility that this tale has political overtones, this reading is also
possible (cf. Hanyu dacidian, 12:623A, gloss 4 and texts). 50 797 A.D. 51 Wei zheng 為政 “to serve in the government, exercise governmental
affairs” is the title of the second section of the Lun yu 論語 (Confucian Analects).
Tang Dynasty Tales: A Guided Reader 146
Fen respectfully accepted these instructions. The king then
ordered those in charge of such things to outfit the new governor
for his journey. For this reason they arrayed gold and jade,
brocades and silks, baskets and boxes, servants and maids,
carriages and horses along a broad thoroughfare as a way to bid
farewell to the princess on her journey.
As a youth, Fen had been a knight-errant and had never
dared to have such hopes, so when he achieved this position he
was greatly pleased. Accordingly, he submitted a memorial,
Your subject is the remaining descendant of generals, just an
ordinary man with no cultural refinement or administrative
craft. It would be improper for him to serve in such an
important position and would certainly disrupt the regulations
of the court. I would be saddened to ride in a carriage with a
burden on my back or would easily overturn the pottage [in
the cauldron].52 Now I want to search far and wide for the
52 Two allusions to the Yi ching 易經 (Book of Changes). The first, fu cheng 負乘, found in the commentary on the images (xiang 象) under hexagram 40
(Xie 解, “To Release”) reads: “If one bears a burden on his back yet also rides in a carriage, it will attract robbers to him” 負且乘, 致寇至 (Yi jing yin te 易經引得 [A Concordance to the Yi Ching; Rpt. Taibei: Chinese Materials and Research Aids
Service Center, 1966], p. 25; translation by Richard John Lynn, The Classic of
Changes [New York: Columbia University Press, 1994], p. 383). The Xi ci 繫辭 commentary expands on this: “The Master said, ‘Do you think that the makers of
the Changes did not understand what robbers were!’ The Changes says, “If one
bears a burden on his back yet also rides in a carriage, it will attract robbers to
him.” Bearing burdens on the back, this is the business of a petty man; a carriage,
this is the rig of a noble man. When one is a petty man, yet rides in the rig of a
noble man, robbers think to take his things by force. When the one above [the
sovereign] is careless and those below are harsh, enemies will indeed think to
attach it [such a state]” 子曰, 作易者其知盜賊乎.易曰：『負且乘，致寇至。』負也者，小人之事也。乘也者，君子之器也。小人而乘君子之器，盜思奪之矣。上慢下暴，盜思伐之矣 (Yi ching yin de, p. 42; Lynn, pp. 59-60). The second allusion is fu su 覆餗 which refers to hexagram 50, Ding 鼎 “The Cauldron”: “The cauldron
“The Governor of the Southern Branch” 147
worthy and the sagacious to assist me in areas I am unable
to manage. Your Subject has found that the Metropolitan
Commandant, Zhou Bian from Ying chuan 頴川 , 53 is loyal, upright, law-abiding, and has the talents to assist me. Tian
Zihua from Pingyi, a gentleman still unemployed, is honest,
prudent, and keeps in step freely with change.54 He thoroughly
comprehends the origins of governmental effectiveness. I
have been friends with these two for ten years. I completely
understand their talents and can rely on them in governmental
matters. I’d like to request that Chou be appointed Minister of
Justice of Southern Branch and Tian be appointed Minister of
Agriculture. This would allow my administration to achieve
merit and fame and our legal system to maintain order.
The king made the appointments completely in accordance
with the memorial.
That night, the king and his wife gave them a farewell
banquet in the southern part of the capital. The king said to Fen,
“Southern Branch is a large commandery in our state. Its land
filled with rich soil,55 its people and goods abundant. Without
breaks its legs and overturns all its pottage, so its form is drenched, which means
misfortune.” 鼎折足，覆公餗，其形渥，凶. The Xi ci commentary explains: “This speaks of someone who is unequal to his responsibilities” 言不勝其任也 (Yi Ching yin de, pp. 31 and 47; Lynn, pp. 455 and 84).
53 A commandery and also the seat of Xuzhou 許州 (Xu Prefecture) near modern Xuchang 許昌 in Henan (Li Jianguo, Cidian, p. 272, n. 98).
54 Another allusion, tong bian 通變, to the Xi ci 繫辭 commentary of the Yi jing: “The means to know the future through the mastery of numbers is referred
to as ‘prognostication,’ and to keep in step freely with change is referred to as
‘the way one should act’”極數知來者謂占,通變之謂事 (Yi jing yin de, p. 41; translation by Richard Lynn, p. 54).
55 Zhang Youhe believes that rang 壤 “rich soil” (which he argues is redundant following tudi 土地) is a scribal error for rang 禳 “abundant harvest” which together with feng 豐 suggests a rich harvest: “its land producing abundant harvests”; this would also parallel the following line, “its people and
goods abundant” (Tang Song chuanqi xuan, p. 89, n. 78).
Tang Dynasty Tales: A Guided Reader 148
your kindly administration, there will be no way to govern it.
Moreover, there are your two assistants, Zhou and Tian–may you
do your utmost to meet the nation’s expectations!”
[Then] his wife admonished the princess, “Mr. Chunyu is by
nature inflexible, intemperate with wine, and in addition he is
young. The way to be a proper wife is to honor a yielding and
compliant nature.56 If you can serve him well, I will not have any
worries. Although the border to Southern Branch is not that far,
mornings and nights we’ll be separated.57 [Thus] today as we part,
how could I hold back my tears?”
Chunyu Fen and his wife paid their respects and left for the
South, mounting their carriage and urging on their horses, all the
while talking and laughing in great happiness. After a few nights58
they reached the commandery. At the commandery officials,
clerks, Buddhist monks, Daoist priests, local elders, musicians,
carriages, military guards, and horses with bells pressed forward
to welcome and attend them. People clamored about them, bells
and drums sounded, without stopping for about five miles. They
could see city walls, parapets, towers, and lookouts. There was an
abundance of good auras.
As they entered the grand city-gate, it also had a large plaque
written in golden characters which read: “Nanke Jun Cheng” 南柯郡城 (The Seat of Southern Branch Commandery). The homes
56 Roushun 柔順 recalls the commentary on the judgments to the hexagram kun 坤 in the Yijing (Yijing yinde, p. 3; translation by Lynn, p. 143): “For one who is yielding and complaint, it is fitting to practice constancy here, and the noble
man who sets out to do something, if he takes the lead, will be in breach of the
Dao, but if he follows and is compliant, he will find his rightful place” 柔順利貞, 君子攸行, 先迷失道, 後順得常. 57 The queen was reminding her daughter that by traditional ritual children
were expected to call on their parents every morning and evening. 58 Both the Taiping guangji version (475.3913) and the Lei shuo 類說 text (Biji
xiaoshuo daguan 筆記小說大觀 ed. [Taibei: Xinxing Shuju, ca. 1985], p. 1854) read lei ri 累日 “days” for lei xi 累夕 “nights.” See also nn. 45 and 47 above.
“The Governor of the Southern Branch” 149
with red gates and ornamented halberd before their doors were
imposing and set back [from the streets].59
After Chunyu Fen “got out of his carriage,”60 he examined
the local customs, healed disease, and put an end to suffering.
Political matters he entrusted to Zhou and Tian and throughout
the commandery a grand order reigned. Twenty years after he
took the position of governor, morals and teaching spread widely,
the people sang his praises, erecting a Meritorious Virtue Tablet
and setting up a shrine for him.
The king greatly valued him and bestowed upon him a fief
town, conferred him with rank and position, and had him occupy
the position of Prime Minister.
Zhou and Tian both became famous because they governed
well and were successively promoted to higher positions. Chunyu
Fen had five sons and two daughters.61 The sons received official
positions through the hereditary rank system and the daughters
were all married to members of the royal clan.
59 Zhu xuan 朱軒 have been identified both as “red windows” (by Wang
Meng’ou, p. 184, n. 6, citing Li Shan’s 李善 Wen xuan 文選 commentary) and as “red doors” (Zhou Shaoliang, pp. 212-3). Whether windows or doors, it is agreed
that they indicated wealth. The ornamented halberds before the door (qi hu 棨戶), made of either painted wood (Wang Meng’ou, ibid.) or red and black silk cloth
(Zhou Shaoliang, p. 212, citing Yan Shigu’s 顏師古 [581-645] commentary to the Han shu 漢書) arranged before the door were a sign of high rank (see also Li Jianguo’s detailed discussion in n. 123, Cidian, pp. 272-3).
60 A figurative expression indicating an official arriving to take up a new
post. One of the first duties of such officials was to look into “local customs” to
determine that the moral influence of the government was in force. 61 The mention of Fen’s children completes a structure that in many ways
resembles a typical Tang-dynasty biography: name, ancestry, youth, writings,
children, death and posthumous titles (if the coda by Li Zhao can be understood
as a “posthumous titling”). Cf. Denis Twitchett, “Chinese Biographical Writing,”
in E. G. Pulleyblank and W. G. Beasley, eds., Historians of China and Japan
(London: Oxford University Press, 1961), pp. 95-114.
Tang Dynasty Tales: A Guided Reader 150
His fame and glory were radiant beyond that of all his
In that year the Tanluo Guo 檀蘿國 (State of Sandalwood Creepers) came to launch a military campaign against this
commandery. The king ordered Chunyu Fen to train his
commanders and exhort his armies so that they could overcome
the invaders. Fen submitted a memorial asking that Zhou Bian be
put in command of thirty thousand soldiers to defend against the
bandit host at Jade Tower City. Chou was bold but inflexible and
underestimated the enemy, so his troops were defeated. Under the
cover of night he returned alone on horseback, having cast off his
armor to flee the enemy. The bandits also collected the provisions
and armor his troops had abandoned and withdrew. Chunyu Fen
for these reasons imprisoned Zhou Bian and asked that he be
punished as well, but the king pardoned them both.
In the same month the Minister of Justice, Zhou Bian, got an
ulcer on his back and died.62
Chunyu Fen’s wife, the princess, became ill and after ten
days she also passed away. Chunyu Fen therefore asked to be
relieved of his governorship to escort her body back to the capital;
the king granted his request. Then [the king] entrusted the
Minister of Agriculture, Tian Zihua, with the duties of Governor
of Southern Branch. Moved by his sadness, Chunyu Fen set out,
accompanying her hearse. As they moved in a dignified manner
along the road men and women wailed, people set out offerings of
food, and those who grasped the carriage shafts or blocked the
62 Zhou Bian’s death, having been caused by an ulcer on his back (ju fa bei zu 疽發背卒) following his dismissal, recalls the similar story of Xiang Yu 項羽 and
Fan Zeng 范增 in the Shiji (7.325). After Liu Bang 劉邦 tricked Xiang Yu into believing that he had induced Fan Zeng to work in secret with him, Xiang Yu
stripped Fan of his power. Fan became enraged and asked to dismissed. After his
request was granted, an ulcer broke out on his back and he died (ju fa bei er si 疽發背而死). In Tang Xianzu’s “Nanke ji” (pp. 358-9) it is made clear that the ulcers were caused by the anger these men felt after their dismissals.
“The Governor of the Southern Branch” 151
road were too numerous to count. When they finally reached the
capital city, the king and his wife, in white mourning clothes,
were in the suburbs, weeping and awaiting the arrival of the
hearse. The princess received the posthumous title of Shunyi
Gongzhu 順儀公主 (The Princess of Compliant Bearing). An honor-guard to carry a feathered canopy and beat drums had
been prepared, and she was buried a few miles east of the capital
city at Panlong Gang 盤龍岡 (Coiled Dragon Tumulus). The same month the son of the former Minister of Justice, Zhou Rongxin 周榮信,63 also escorted his father’s remains back to the capital city.
Though Chunyu Fen guarded the outer marches for a long
time, he had close friends in the capital city, and all the noble and
prominent families were on good terms with him.64 Since he had
been dismissed from his position as governor and returned to the
capital city, he came and went constantly, going out with friends
and followed by retainers, so that his prestige and fortune
increased daily. The king began to suspect and fear him. At that
time someone from the capital city submitted a memorial, which
In the mysterious heavenly signs blame appears66; in the state67
there is great fear of a disaster. The capital will be moved, and
63 Zhou Bian’s son. 64 Readers of the early ninth century would have recognized that this kind
of relationship between powerful provincial officials and groups in the capital as
a contemporary problem (cf. Zhou Shaoliang, pp. 211-2). 65 In Tang Xianzu’s “Nanke ji” (pp. 406ff.) is is Chief Minister Duan who
uses this memorial to arouse the king’s fears further and to cause Chunyu Fen’s
downfall. 66 In “Nanke ji” this mysterious sign is explained as a ke xing 客星 (nova;
Tang Xianzu, Dream, pp. 448-9. 67 In the Lei shuo version (p. 1855) there is no guo you 國有 causing the
passage to be read: “In the mysterious heavenly signs blame appears; it is
greatly feared the capital will be moved, and the royal ancestral temple will
Tang Dynasty Tales: A Guided Reader 152
the royal ancestral temple will collapse. The cause of this strife
will come from another tribe of people, but the matter lies
within Your Majesty’s own officials.68
At the time deliberations at court [determined] that this was
an omen corresponding to Fen’s extravagance. In the end Fen’s
bodyguard was taken away, he was forbidden to see his band of
friends, and he was placed under house arrest. Fen, certain that in
his many years as governor of the commandery he had not failed
in his policies and that rumors unjustly found fault with him, was
melancholy and unhappy. The king understood this and said to
Fen, “You have been related to us by marriage for more than
twenty years. It was unfortunate that my daughter died early and
wasn’t able to accompany you in your old age. This must be
For this reason his wife, the queen, kept her grandchildren in
her charge to care for and to educate.
[On another occasion] the king also said to Fen, “You have
been separated from your family for a long time. You ought to go
home to your village for a time and see your relatives. You can
leave your children here. There is nothing you need to be
concerned about. After three years69 we shall welcome you back.”
“This is my home,” Fen replied. “Where should I return to?”
The king laughed and said, “You originally come from the
world of men. Your home is not here!”
68 Literally “within the screen of increased reverence” (xiao qiang 蕭牆), i.e.,
the screen behind which the ruler sat. Officials were expected to become more
reverential when they reached this screen. The term alludes to Lunyu, 16.1 in
which Confucius warns against advisors causing the downfall of a ruling family
(cf. James Legge, The Chinese Classics, 1:309 and notes). Xiao qiang is used here
metonymically for one of the king’s own officials, i.e., Chunyu Fen. 69 I.e., in the Dingchou 丁丑 year, 797, as Chunyu Fen’s father had predicted
in the letter cited above.
“The Governor of the Southern Branch” 153
Suddenly Fen grew groggy with sleep70 and with tears in his
eyes his sight was blurred for a long while until he became aware
of his former life again. Then he wept and asked to go back. The
king turned to his attendants indicating they should see him off.71
Bowing twice, Fen left, and again saw the two purple-clad envoys
from before following him.
Once he had gotten beyond the main palace gate, he was
astonished to see that the carriage he was to ride was dilapidated
and there were no personal attendants or palace servants [as when
he had come]. He got into the carriage and after they had gone a
few miles they again emerged from the great city walls. It seemed
to be the road along which he had in past years come [to the
capital] from the east. The mountains, streams, plains, and fields
were the same as of old. But his two attendants were not at all as
awe-inspiring, leaving him even less pleased. He asked the
envoys, “When will we arrive at Guangling Commandery?” The
two went on singing and paid him little heed, until, after a long
time, they answered, “Be there soon.”
Suddenly they emerged from a hole and he saw the lane
through his own village which had not changed from past days.
Secretly moved, he could not hold back his tears. The two envoys
helped Fen out of the carriage, into his gate, and up his stairs,
where his own body was already lying in the gallery east of the
main hall. Fen was shocked and fearful and did not dare to
advance farther. The two envoys thereupon called out his name in
a loud voice a few times and Fen then came back to his senses as
before. He saw a young household servant sweeping the
courtyard with a broom and one of his friends72 sitting on a bench
70 Hun shui 惛睡; in dream tales the dreamer is often depicted in a groggy
state entering (as above) and leaving the dream. 71 As Li Jianguo (Cidian, p. 273, n. 159) points out, this shows that the king,
and later his envoys, have begun to treat Fen with disrespect. 72 The Lei shuo version (p. 1855) reads er ke 二客 “two friends.”
Tang Dynasty Tales: A Guided Reader 154
washing his feet. The setting sun had not yet sunk behind the
western wall of his compound and the wine left in their goblets
was still clear and fresh by the eastern window. In the dream
which flashed by him it was as if he had passed an entire lifetime.
As Fen recalled [his dream], he was moved to sigh. Then he
called his two friends to him and recounted what had happened.
Amazed, they then went out with him to search for the hole
beneath the locust tree. Fen pointed to it and said, “In my dream,
this is the place where I entered.” The two friends supposed [the
place] must have been possessed by fox spirits or tree sprites.73
In the end they ordered servants to shoulder axes, cut
through the knotted roots, break off the newly sprouted
secondary branches, locate the mouth of the holes, and explore
them to their ends.74 Nearby running north to south for about ten
feet there was a hole which penetrated through to the other side
and was well lit, large enough to have accommodated a couch. On
the roots there was soil piled up in a form that one could take for
city walls, escarpments, towers, and palaces. There were several
bushels of ants hiding together among them. In their midst was a
small, raised platform, its color a kind of crimson. Two large ants
about three inches in length with white wings and red heads75
were positioned upon it. Several dozen large ants assisted them
there, and all the other ants dared not to approach them. This was
73 Mu mei木媚 (alternately mu mei木魅) were tree sprites which often did
harm to humans. They were closely associated in early texts with shan jing 山精 (mountain spirits / ghouls / wraiths).
74 The language here and in the following lines resonates clearly with Liu
Zongyuan’s (773-819 “Yongzhou baji”永州八記 (see Ni Haoshi 倪豪士 [William H. Nienhauser, Jr.], “‘Nan-k’o T’ai-shou chuan’ ‘Yung-chou pa-chi’ yü T’ang-tai
ch’uan-ch’i chi ku-wen yün-tung te kuan-hsi” 南柯太守傳,永州八記,與唐代傳記及古文運動的關係 (“Governor of Southern Branch,” “Eight Essays of Yung-chou,” and the Relationship between the Classical Tale and the Ancient-prose
Movement), Chung-wai wen-hsüeh 中外文學, 16.7 (1987) : 3-14. 75 Recalling the “crimson-flowered crown” of the king depicted above.
“The Governor of the Southern Branch” 155
their royal pair and none other than the capital city of Locust
Farther on they explored to the end another hole which ran
straight up nearly forty feet into a southern branch. Twisting and
turning until it reached the center, there were earthen walls and
small towers [there]. A colony of ants was also there. This was
none other than the Southern Branch Commandery which Fen
Farther on was another hole, going west for over twenty feet,
broad and expansive with tightly packed walls and a deep pit of
strange shape. In its midst was a rotting turtle-shell as big as a
peck measure. It was immersed in rainwater that had gradually
permeated it. Small plants growing thick and luxuriant weeds
overshadowed the old shell. This was none other than the
Efficacious Tortoise Mountain where Fen had hunted.
Farther on they explored to the end another hole which ran
east for more than ten feet: old roots twisted about, shaped like
dragons and snakes. In its midst there was a small earthen
mound, a little over a foot tall. This was none other than the grave
at Coiled Dragon Tumulus where Fen had buried his wife.
When he recalled those former affairs, he gave a heartfelt
sigh. Those places they had opened up, examined, explored, and
searched through all fit closely with those of which he had
dreamed. Not wanting his two friends to destroy them, he quickly
ordered them covered up and filled in as before.
That night a violent storm broke out. In the morning, when he
looked into the holes, the colonies of ants had thus disappeared–
no one knew where they had gone. Therefore, what had been said
earlier–“In the state there is great fear of a disaster. The capital
will be moved”76–had its fulfillment in this.
76 The Lei shuo (p. 1856) reads “In the state there is great fear that the capital
will be moved” 國有大恐, 都邑遷徙, suggesting that the omission of guo you above (see n. 55) was merely an abbreviation of the text.
Tang Dynasty Tales: A Guided Reader 156
Next Chunyu Fen remembered the events Sandalwood
Creepers’ campaign [against him] and again asked his two friends
to look for traces of it outside. Not a mile to the east of his home
was an old dried-up brook. On its bank was a huge sandalwood
tree heavily entwined with vines and creepers so that looking up
one couldn’t see the sun. There was a small hole to the side of the
trunk in which indeed a colony of ants was hiding together. Could
the state of Sandalwood Creepers be anywhere else than here?!
Alas! If even the spiritual mysteries of ants is unfathomable,
how much more are the transformations of those larger beings77
who hide in the mountains or conceal themselves in forests.
At the time Fen’s drinking companions Zhou Bian and Tian
Zihua both lived in Liuhe 六合 County,78 but had not come by to visit for ten days. Fen quickly sent his servant-boy to hurry and
ask after them. Mr. Chou had suddenly taken ill and passed away,
and Mr. T’ien was also bedridden with a disease. Feeling even
more the transience of the Southern Branch and understanding
man’s life was only a sudden moment, Fen then settled his mind
The events of this entire prediction and fulfillment seem to echo the “Jin
teng” 金縢 (Metal Coffer) chapter of the Shang shu 尚書: “In the autumn . . . Heaven sent a great storm of thunder and lightning, along with wind, by which
the grain was all beaten down, and great trees torn up. The people were greatly
terrified” 天大雷電以風，禾盡偃，大木斯拔；邦人大恐 (James Legge, The Shoo King in The Chinese Classics [rpt. Taibei: Jinxue Shuju, 1969], 3:359).
77 Echoing perhaps Zhuang Zi’s famous allegory of the butterfly dream
which concludes: “But he didn’t know if he was Zhuang Zhou who had dreamt
he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Zhuang Zhou. Between
Zhuang Zhou and a butterfly, there must be some distinction! This is called the
Transformation of Beings” (translation revised slightly from Burton Watson, The
Complete Works of Chuang Tzu (New York: Columbia University Press, 1968), p. 49;
original text from “Qi wu lun” 齊物論 in Guo Qingfan 郭慶藩 (1844-1896?), Zhuang Zi jishi 莊子集釋 (Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju, 1961), p. 112.
78 Located a little over thirty miles due west of Yangzhou near the modern
county of the same name (Tan Qixiang, 5:54). Also pronounced Lühe, this was
also the location for the tale “Zhang Lao” 張老.
“The Governor of the Southern Branch” 157
in the school of the Dao, giving up wine and women. Three years
later in the dingchou 丁丑 year Fen indeed died in his home at the age of forty-seven, just fulfilling the time limit agreed upon
In the fall of the eighth lunar month of the eighteenth year of
the Zhenyuan 貞元 reign (802), I, [Li] Gongzuo [李] 公佐, having sailed from Wu 吳80 to Luo[yang] 洛 [陽] and moored my boat for a time along the banks of the Huai 淮,81 chanced to meet Master Chunyu face to face. I inquired about and visited what remained
of these places and we went over [the story] a number of times. As
the events were all verifiable, I recorded and edited them at once
forming this account to provide material for those fond of such
things. Although it is all searching after spirits and speaking of the
strange rather than matters involving the classics, I hope it will be
an admonition82 to those young men who wish to steal their way
into an official position. 83 May later gentlemen take Southern
Branch as an example of how chance works and not because of
fame or position act in a haughty manner in this world!
79 As the king had predicted above. 80 I.e., sailing up the Grand Canal from Suzhou 蘇州 (Wu) to Luoyang (see
also the following note). 81 Huaipu 淮浦 (along the banks of the Huai) refers to the terminus of that
section of the Yunhe 運河 (Grand Canal) north of the Yangzi, known in Tang times as the Yancao Ju 沿漕渠, which extends to the Huai River (Li Jianguo, Cidian, p. 274, n. 186).
82 The term jie 戒 (admonition) here recalls Liu Zongyuan’s 柳宗元 (773-819) famous “San jie” 三戒 (Three Admonitions), fables on various animals written to comment on topical political events.
83 Qie wei 竊位 “steal the way into an official position” alludes to the “Wei Linggong” 衛靈公 section of the Lunyu 論語 (15.13): “Was not Zang Wenzhong not one who has stolen his position? He knew the worthiness of Liu Xiahui and
yet would not give him [equal] standing” 臧文仲其竊位者與？知柳下惠之賢，而不與立也 (translation revised from James Legge, The Chinese Classics, 1:298-9). The reference here is to those men who received their positions because of their
marriages to imperial princesses (see Translator’s Note).
Tang Dynasty Tales: A Guided Reader 158
Li Zhao 李肇,84 the former Military Adviser of Huazhou 華洲,85 composed a coda86:
Honor reaching a peak in emolument and position,
Power to overthrow capital cities of lands ––
The wise man regards these things
As nothing different from a colony of ants.
84 Li Zhao (ca. 780-ca. 850) probably served as Canjun shi 參軍事 (Military
Advisor) in Huazhou sometime between 812 and 819. During the 820s he held a
number of court positions, including that of Hanlin Academician. Among his
writing are the Guoshi bu 國史補 (Supplements to the History of the State) and the Hanlin zhi 翰林志 (A Record of the Hanlin [Academy]) In the Guoshi bu he alludes to “Nanke Taishou zhuan” (and a number of other chuanqi; Tang guoshi
bu 唐國史補 [rpt. Shanghai: Shanghai Guji, 1979 (1957)], p. 55). See also Zhou Shaoliang, pp. 216-9.
85 Near modern Hua County in Henan, equidistant (about thirty-five miles)
from Anyang in the north and Kaifeng in the south (Tan Qixiang, 5:40). 86 Wang Meng‘ou believes that this verse coda may not have been written
by Li Zhao and certainly was not added to the tale by Li. He believes that Chen
Han 陳翰 (fl. 874-875) added the coda to the text when he collected it in the Yiwen ji 異聞集(see Wang Meng’ou, “Chen Han Yiwen ji kaolun” 陳翰異聞集考論, Tangren xiaoshuo yanjiu, erji唐人小說研究二集 [Taibei: Yiwen Yinshuguan, 1973], pp. 17ff.). The Lei shuo version of the tale does not contain the coda.
(1) Chiang Chi's Dead Son
When Chiang Chi was General of the Garrison,1 his wife saw their dead son in a dream. In tears he said to her, "Life and death are different roads! When I was alive, I was the descendant of ministers. Now, beneath the ground, I am a petty sergeant in Mount T'ai's2 realm of the dead. Because of the lowliness of this position and the hardships it entails, I am indescribably haggard. The singer Sun A who lives west of the Imperial Temple has today received the command to become magistrate of Mount T'ai. I would like you to have the marquis, my father, enjoin Sun A on my behalf that I might obtain a happier position." When he finished speaking, his mother suddenly awoke.. The following day she told Chiang Chi what had occurred. Chiang Chi said, "Dreams are like that. You needn't think it strange."
1 Chiang Chi was a native of the state of Ch'u who came to be Grand Commandant in the state of Wei. His biography is in San-kuo chih 14, pp. 450ff.
2 Mt. T'ai is T'ai-shan, one of the five sacred mountains in China. This is the site on which the Han emperors performed major sacrifices to Heaven and Earth. With the introduction of Buddhism into China, it became confused with the T'ai-shan of the Ten Buddhist Hells and was identified as a branch of Yama's court. T'ai-shan Wang, the God of T'ai-shan, thus, became the lord of departed souls and judge of the dead (see Ku Yen-wu, Jih chih lu, 30, 28b-19a [SPPY edition]; cf. Po-wu chih, 1/20 [Peking: Chung-hua shu-chii, 1980], p. 10).--Ed.
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The Six Dynasties 57
The following night the mother again dreamt of her son who told her, saying, "I have come to greet the new magistrate, and have been stationed temporarily beneath the temple. I am able to return to see you for a while just before he departs. The new magistrate is to start on his journey by noon tomorrow, but before his departure there will be much to do, so that I won't be able to come back again. I will make my eternal farewell here and now. The marquis has a stubborn nature and is not easily prevailed upon. That is why I have voiced my plaint to you, Mother. I would like you to beseech the marquis once more. What would be the harm in putting this to a test!" Thereupon he related Sun A's physical appearance in great detail.
After the sun had risen, the mother spoke to the marquis once more, saying, "Last night I had another dream of our son's plea. Even though it is said that dreams are nothing to believe in, this is just too coincidental. What would be the harm in trying an experiment?" Chiang-chi thereupon dispatched someone to the Imperial Temple to inquire about Sun A, who, sure enough, was there. His physical appearance proved to be in every way as Chiang Chi's son had described him. Chiang Chi wept and said, "I had almost turned my back on my son!"
He then sent for Sun A and told him the whole affair. Sun did not fear his imminent death, but was instead pleased that he was to become magistrate of Mount T'ai. He feared only that Chiang Chi's words might not be reliable. Thus he said, "If it is as you say, General, it is as I wish. Yet what position does your worthy son wish to receive?" Chiang Chi answered, "Give him whatever is desirable in the underground." Sun responded, "Then it shall be done as you instruct!" The general then rewarded him amply, and having finished speaking, he sent him home.
Chiang Chi was anxious to know the outcome of his test. He had a man posted every ten paces from the gate of his garrison headquarters to the foot of the Imperial Temple, in order to pass on news of Sun A. Early the next morning the news arrived that Sun had developed a pain in his chest. By mid-morning it was reported that Sun's condition had worsened, and at noon Sun's death was announced. Chiang Chi said in tears, "Even though I am in sorrow over my son's misfortune, I am nonetheless pleased to learn that the dead retain their sentience."
A month later, Chiang Chi's son reappeared and told his mother,. "I have been made Recorder of Events!"
The Six Dynasties 65
your debt." So saying, she rose into the air and departed. Where she went no one knows.
(SSC 1/28) Tr. Michael Broschat
Note: This is an example of the adaptation of a miracle story for the purpose of propagating Confucian moralities. Derived from the "Hsiao-tzu chuan" (Story of the Filial Son) ascribed to Liu Hsiang (77-6 B.C.), this SSC version in turn became a source of adaptations by later story tellers, including a prosimetric version in the pien-wen style (see Wang Ch'ung-min et al., eds., Tun-huang pien-wen chi [Peking: Jen-min wen-hsiieh, 1957], pp. 109-13.)
(7) The Jade Maiden from Heaven
Hsien Ch'ao, styled I-ch'i, served under the Wei Dynasty [220-265] as assistant magistrate of Chi-pei Prefecture [present-day Fei-ch'eng County in Shantung Province]. One night during the Chia-p'ing reign period [249-253], while sleeping alone, he dreamt that a goddess came to offer herself to him. She explained that she was a jade maiden1 from heaven and her native place was Tung-chun.2 Her family name was Ch'eng-kung, and her given name was Chih-ch'iung. Because she lost her parents at an early age, the King of Heaven took pity on her and sent her down to marry someone.
During his dreams, Ch'ao's spirits were enlivened as he delighted in the girl's uncommon beauty. After waking, he would think back longingly on her. To him she seemed both real and unreal. All this went on for three or four nights.
1 A kind of Taoist goddess. 2 The former name of an area comprising part of northwestern Shantung and southern Hopeh. The jade girl seems to be referring to her original place of birth before her transformation into a goddess. According to religious Taoism, a person could transcend human existence and become an immortal through yoga, alchemy, or macrobiotics.
66 Classical Chinese Tales i
Then one day she appeared in person, riding in a curtained carriage followed by a retinue of eight maids. She wore a robe of embroidered silk damask, and her face and bearing were just like a celestial beauty's. She told Ch'ao she was seventy years old, but to him she looked only about fifteen or sixteen. In her carriage was a five-piece set of decanters and goblets made of blue and white porcelain, together with some rare delicacies and wine, all of which she shared with Ch'ao.
"I am a jade girl dispatched from heaven to seek a husband," she said to him. "I have come to you not as a reward for your virtue, but because it was fated that we become husband and wife. Though this match won't do you any good, it won't bring you any harm either. At least you will always have the use of light carriages, ride stout horses, feast on exotic foods, and have all the tapestries you want. Because I am a goddess, I cannot bear you a son. But since I am not the jealous type, I would not stand in the way if you were to take another wife."
They then became husband and wife. The girl gave Ch'ao a poem. It read:
Whirled and wafted, I float between the Po-hai Gulf and P'eng-lai Island3
Crashing, smashing, the "cloud stones" sound.4 The iris needs no moisture For the highest virtue has its appointed season. Would a goddess come down for no reason?-- It is fate that sends me to help you. Heed me, and your relatives, close and distant,
will all prosper Disobey me and you will bring down disaster...
This is the most important part of the poem. The entire poem contains more than two hundred words and cannot be recorded here in full.
3 P'eng-lai is one of the mythical island homes of Taoist divinities.
4 The meaning of this verse is unclear. Some commentators believe that "cloud stones" are a percussion instrument similar to the stone drum. [The term yiln (cloud) may be an abbreviation for yiin-pan (cloud-patterned clappers), while shih (stone) itself refers to a stone drum.--Ed.]
The Six Dynasties 67
The girl also wrote a seven-chuan commentary on the Book of Changes, with the trigrams and images classified according to their judgments.5 The commentary was profound and could be used for divination. It thus resembles Master Yang's Great Mystery6 and Mr. Hsiieh's Central Classic.1 Ch'ao had no difficulty in understanding the ideas in the commentary and used it to foretell the future.
He and the jade maiden had lived as husband and wife for seven or eight years when his parents matched him with another woman. Ch'ao, however, continued to meet the jade maiden, dining with her every other day and sleeping with her every other night. She came at night and left at dawn--her movements as swift as lightning. No one but Ch'ao ever saw her. They used a house that had seldom been occupied, so she went unseen. But people heard voices inside the house and became curious. They asked Ch'ao what was happening, and Ch'ao revealed the affair. The jade girl then wanted to leave.
"I am a goddess," she said to Ch'ao. "I did not want others to know about my relationship with you. Because of your carelessness, everything about me has been exposed. Now I cannot see you anymore. Since we have been together for several years, our love for each other is deep. When separated, how can I help feeling sad? But under the circumstances there is no other way out. Both of us must be strong."
She told her servant to serve them some wine. Then she opened a box and took out two silk gowns, which she gave to Ch'ao along with^ajpoem. She then held his arms and bid him a tearful farewell. After she composed herself she climbed into her carriage and departed quickly--as if on wings. Ch'ao grieved for several days and nearly fell ill.
5 The Book of Changes, or I ching, is a divination manual which may date from the eighth century B.C. It consists of short oracles or judgments arranged under sixty-four hexagrams.
6 Yang Hsiung (53 B.C.-A.D.18) wrote this book, Great Mystery or Trai hsiian, in imitation of the I ching.
1 Central Classic is Chung ching. No such work is listed in the bibliographies of the Chinese dynastic histories.
8 A city which served as capital during various periods. It was located twenty li northwest of present-day Loyang County in Honan Province.
68 Classical Chinese Tales i
Five years later Ch'ao received orders to go to Loyang8 as an emissary. On his way westward, while on a road beneath Fish Mountain [in modern Tung-o County, Shantung] north of the Chi River, he gazed toward the end of the winding road ahead and saw a carriage drawn by a team of horses. The carriage and horses looked like the jade maiden's. Ch'ao spurred his horse and dashed ahead to make sure. They were hers. She opened the curtain to her carriage, and when they saw each other they were overcome with sadness and joy.
Ch'ao then steadied the horse on the left and took the reins. Together he and the jade maiden rode to Loyang where they resumed their relationship as husband and wife. They still lived there during the T'ai-k'ang reign period [280-289].
The jade girl did not come every day. She would always come on the third day of the third month, the fifth day of the fifth month, the seventh day of the seventh month, the ninth day of the ninth month, and the fifteenth day of the eleventh month. She would spend the night and then depart. To commemorate her, Chang Min [fl. 275-280] composed a "Rhapsody on the Goddess."9
(SSC 1/31; IWLC, 79.1b-2a) Tr. Cordell D. K. Yee
Note: This story is to an extent typical of CK stories about marriage with a transcendent being, yet it shows a diverging development from what might be the original pattern (seen, for instance, in the preceding story "Tung Yung"). Although it still retains the motif of "eventual separation," an assertion of the human wish for a more permanent relationship is suggested in the atypical ending here.
9 The SSC version has "Chang Mao-hsien" (i.e., Chang Hua, 232-300) for "Chang Min;" the correction is made according to the version cited in IWLC. Chang Hua also wrote a fu with the same title, which has been lost. For Chang Min's work, see IWLC, 79.51b.--Ed.
The Six Dynasties 73
eagerness to join them. The appointed day will soon be upon us. How can we allow you to change at this late date and accept your regrets?" Shortly thereafter, the three men passed away.
(SSC 5/94) Tr. Kenneth J. DeWoskin
Note: Chiang-shan, or Mount Chiang, a famous lankmark in the suburb of Mo-ling (modern Nanking), was named after an official, Chiang Tzu-wen (late Han), who died there during a campaign against the rebels. (It was formerly known as Chung-shan.) The first five entries of chtian 5 of SSC (5/92-96) are all concerned with revelations of the god of Mount Chiang.
As pointed out by Wang Shao-ying (SSC, p. 59), the official positions of Han Po, Wang Yiin, and Liu Tan mentioned in the text were attained by these men only after Kan Pao's death or after the original compilation of the Sou-shen chi. Like many others in the 20-chuan edition, this story must have been a later addition.
(11) Kan Chiang and Mo Yeh
Kan Chiang and his wife Mo Yeh lived in the state of Ch'u.1 He once made a pair of swords--one male, one female--for the king.2 But since it had taken him three years to finish the swords, the king was angry and wanted to kill him. Kan Chiang had a talk with his wife, who was
1 A state which once covered Hunan, most of Hupeh, and parts of Anhwei, Kiangsi, Kiangsu, and Honan (740-330 B.C.).
2 In the Wu YUeh ch'un-ch'iu (Chronicles of Wu and Yiieh), the couple were said to be from the state of Wu. The King of Wu, Ho Lu (514-496 B.C.) asked Kan Chiang to make a pair of swords. The iron which the latter used for the purpose would not melt until his wife cut off her hair, clipped her finger nails, and threw both into the furnace. When the swords were forged, the yang (male) one was called Kan Chiang, and the yin (female) one, Mo Yeh. See Wu Yueh ch1un-ch'iu, (rpt. Taipei: Shih-chieh shu-chii, 1959), 4, pp. 76-78.--Ed.
74 Classical Chinese Tales i
pregnant and about to give birth. "I took three years to make the swords for the king," he
said. "The king is angry and will certainly kill me. If the baby turns out to be a boy, after he grows up tell him this: Go out the door and look toward the mountain to the south. There is a pine tree growing out of a stone. A sword has been stuck into the tree."
Kan Chiang took the female sword to the palace and presented it to the king. The king was already incensed, and upon realizing that only the female sword had been brought, and that the male was missing, grew even more furious. He had Kan Chiang killed immediately.
Mo Yeh's son was named Ch'ih. When he reached manhood he asked his mother, "Where's my father?"
"Your father made swords for the King of Ch'u," his mother answered. "it took him three years to finish them, so the king lost his temper and killed him. Before he left, he told me to tell you to go out of the house and look toward the mount in the south. There is a pine tree growing out of a stone. A sword has been stuck into the tree."
The son went out of the house and looked south. He did not see the mountain, but only a pine post on a stone base in front of the hall. He split the post with an ax and found a sword. Afterwards he thought day and night only of avenging his father's death on the King of Ch'u.
One night the king saw Mo Yeh's son in a dream: his brows were one foot apart,3 and he spoke of his desire for vengeance. After this the king offered a reward of one thousand gold pieces for the capture of Mo Yeh's son. Upon hearing of this, Ch'ih fled to the mountains where he wandered about wailing. There he met a stranger who said to him, "You are so young. Why are you wailing so bitterly?"
"I am the son of Kan Chiang and Mo Yeh," he replied. "The King of Ch'u killed my father, and I want to avenge his death."
3 Wide foreheads were believed to be characteristic of men of excellence. [The hero's one-foot wide forehead is derived from a pun that contains a riddled message to the king in his dream. The name Ch'ih (or "red") is homophonous with the word for the length measure "foot." In other versions the hero is sometimes referred to as Mei-chien-ch'ih (lit., Red-Spot-between-the-Brows).--Ed.]
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"I've heard that the king has set a price of one thousand gold pieces on your head," the stranger said. "if you give me your head and sword, I will avenge your father's death for you."
"I would be very much obliged!" said Ch'ih, who then drew his sword over this own throat. Still standing erect, he held his head and sword with both hands and presented them to the stranger.
"I won't fail you," the stranger said. Only then did the young man's corpse fall over.
The stranger took the head to the King of Ch'u. The king was delighted.
"This is the head of a brave man," the stranger told the king. "it should be boiled in a cauldron."
The king did as the stranger said. But after three days and nights, the head still did not dissolve. It leaped out of the boiling water, glaring with rage.
"The young man's head has not dissolved," the stranger said to the king. "Perhaps Your Majesty should come over here and take a look. Only then will it dissolve."
When the king went over and looked down into the cauldron, the stranger pointed the sword at him--the king's head dropped into the water. The stranger directed the sword at his own head. It too fell into the water. The three heads all dissolved so that there was no telling them apart. The liquid was drained from the cauldron, and all the bones were buried in one spot. The burial site thus became known as the "Grave of the Three Kings." It is located in what is now North I-ch'un County in Ju-nan Prefecture [in modern Honan].
(SSC 11/266) Tr. Cordell D. K. Yee
Note: A spin-off of the legend of the famous swords and their makers recorded in f/u Yiieh ch' un-ch' iu, this story consists of a complex of themes and motifs: revenge, knight-errantry, the supernatural manifestation of a severed head, etc. It appealed strongly to the Chinese imagination and was circulated widely during Chin times. Many distantly separated locations were identified as the site of the Grave of the Three Kings.
The laconic description of the young man's self-beheading is striking and effective, though the action itself is puzzling. The device of conveying a message in a riddle, while thematically functional, adds a sense of mystery and depth to the text as well.
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her cart on a bamboo staff and swore to the crowd around her, 'if I am guilty, I die willingly and my blood will flow into the ground. If I die unjustly, let my blood contrarily flow upward. ' No sooner had the ax fallen than her blood, green-yellow, streamed to the pole and flowed up, up to the highest pennant, streamed over the flags and poured down."
(SSC 11/290) Tr. Kenneth J. DeWoskin
Translator's Note: This story will be recognized as one of the sources of the celebrated Yuan play by Kuan Han-ch'ing, "injustice to Tou 0."
Editor's Note: Cf. Han shu 71, pp. 3041-42, where a similar story is recorded.
(13) Fan Shih and Chang Shao
During the Han Dynasty [206 B . C .-A. D. 220 ] there was a man. by the name of Fan Shih, styled Ssu, courtesy name Chu-ch'ing, from Chin-hsiang in Shan-yang [in modern Shantung].1 He was a friend of Chang Shao of Ju-nan [in modern Honan], whose courtesy name was Yuan-po. They both attended the Imperial Academy together. Sometime later the two took leave to return to their respective homes.
"in two years' time I should return, and will go to your place to pay my respects to your parents and see your wife," said Fan Shih to Chang Shao. They then both agreed upon the future date.
Later when the time was just about due, Yuan-po related the whole plan to his mother and asked that she prepare a meal in expectation of Fan Shih's arrival. "You've been separated for two years," said his mother, "and your agreement involves such a long distance. How can you be so trusting?" "Chu-ch'ing is a trustworthy gentleman," replied Chang Shao. "He will never go back on his word." "Then, that being so, I will make some wine for you two."
1 For his official biography, see Hou Han shu 87, pp. 2676-79.
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When the time came, Fan Shih did indeed arrive. They went into the main hall to pay their respects to Chang Shao's mother. They drank together and were extremely happy. Then they parted once more.
One night sometime thereafter, Yiian-po became seriously ill. His neighbors Chih Chun-chang and Yin Tzu-cheng watched over him from morning to night. As Chang Shao was about to expire he sighed and said, "I'm so' sorry I won't be seeing my friend-unto-death." "But Chun-chang and I have taken such good care of you," protested Yin. "If we could not be called friends-unto-death, who else could it be that you seek?" "You two are just my friends-in-life. Fan Chii-ch'ing in Shan-yang is the one I mean by friend-unto-death." Shortly thereafter he died.
Suddenly, Fan Shih, at his own home, saw Chang Shao in a dream, wearing a black headdress with a trailing strap and dragging his slippers. Chang called out to Fan Shih, "Chli-ch'ing, I died on such-and-such a day and ought to be buried soon to stay forever in the underworld. You have not forgotten me thus far, but could you possibly make it to the funeral in time?" Fan Shih woke up in a daze, and sighing mournfully began to cry.
Then he donned clothes proper for the mourning of a friend and hurried off in order to attend the funeral.
Before he could get there, however, the funeral had already begun. The procession had already reached the open grave and the bearers were about to lower the casket, but it would not go in. Chang Shao's mother held onto the casket. "Yuan-po," she said, "is it that you want something?" She then held back the casket.
Time passed, and a pure white cart with matching steeds could be seen in the distance, its driver yelling and wailing as it approached. Chang Shao's mother looked at it and said, "That must be Fan Shih."
When Fan arrived, knocking his head against the coffin, he spoke to the casket. "Go on, Yuan-po. The dead and living travel two different paths. We will be parted forever from now on." Those gathered for the burial, numbering about a thousand in all, broke into tears. Fan Shih then took the bier strap and led the casket forward. The casket now went on its way.
He stayed by the grave afterward to arrange for trees to be planted around the tomb. Only then did he leave.
(SSC 11/299; Hou Han-shu 87, 2676-77) Tr. Michael Broschat
(38) Tung Chao-chih and the King of the Ants
Tung Chao-chih, of Fu-yang County [modern Hang County, Chekiang Province] in the state of Wu, was once taking a boat across the Ch'ien-t'ang River. In midstream he saw an ant crawling on a short reed. Scurrying back and forth on the reed, it seemed fearful and anxious. Tung said, "It fears death." He thereupon took a rope and caught the reed. He wanted to bring it up onto the prow of the boat, but someone on the boat scowled, "That is a poisonous insect. You can't keep it alive. If you bring it on board, I will stomp it to death."
In his heart Tung felt great pity for the ant. It happened that the boat reached the bank just then and the ant was able to climb out along the rope. That night Tung dreamed of a man dressed in black, leading hundreds of men. The man came to thank him, and said, "I was careless and fell into the river. Thanks to you, my life was saved. I am the Insect King. If you are ever in any trouble, call on me."
Ten-odd years later, there were bandits and robbers west of the river. While passing by the mountain area of Yu-hang [east of Hang-chou], Tung was pressed into a bandit gang by their chief, and ended up bound in the Yu-yao [south of Hang-chou Bay] prison. All of a sudden he remembered his dream of the ant king. As he was tossing the idea about in his head, a fellow prisoner asked him about it. Tung said, "The ant said that when a crisis came, I should let him know. Now how can I let him know?" A prisoner said, "Take a couple of ants in your hand and pray to them."
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Tung did as he said, and that night dreamed of a man in black who said, "You should go quickly to Yii-hang Mountain. The emperor will soon declare an amnesty." He then awoke. The ants had already finished gnawing through his cangue, and thus he was able to escape from the prison. He crossed the river and took refuge on Yii-hang Mountain. In a short while amnesty was declared and he was free.
(Lu, pp. 231-32; TPKC, 473.8) Tr. Chris Connery
Note: Again "a good turn repaid" (cf. "Hsieh Yiin" ). The story here probably is motivated specifically by the Buddhist belief of retribution.
(39) Hsiieh Tao-hsiin, the Tiger-man
In the fourth year of the reign of the Emperor Hsiao Wu [r. 372-396] of the Chin Dynasty [265-420], Hsiieh Tao-hsiin of An-lu County in the Chiang-hsia Commandery [in Hupeh Province] was twenty-two. He had been brilliant from an early age, but succumbed to an epidemic disease and, following his cure, went mad. A hundred remedies could not restore his sanity. Then he took some powdered drugs and began to dash around wildly, completely unrestrainable. All of a sudden, he simply vanished. He had turned into a tiger and subsequently devoured countless people.
One day there was a girl picking mulberries beneath a tree. The tiger approached and ate her. When he finished eating, he hid her jewelry among some boulders, thinking he would remember where to find them when he became a man again.
After a year he returned home, a man once more. Later he went to the capital and became an official, serving as Palace Attendant. One night when he was talking with a group of friends, the conversation shifted to matters of mysterious metamorphoses in the universe. Hsiieh Tao-hsiin spoke up, "Long ago I was sick and went mad, and then became a tiger. For a full year I gobbled men down. He then recounted locales and names of his victims. Among those with him were men whose fathers, sons, or brothers he had eaten, and they began to wail and cry. They seized him and brought him before a judge. He later starved to death in a Chien-k'ang [modern Nanking, Kiangsu] prison.