LODGE OF LEISURES
TRANSLATED FROM THE CHINESE BY
OF THE FRENCH CONSULAR SERVICE IN CHINA
BOSTON AND NEW YORK
HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY
HAZELL, WATSON AND VINEY, LD.,
LONDON AND AYLESBURY,
The first European students who undertook
to give the Western world an
idea of Chinese literature were misled by
the outward and profound respect affected
by the Chinese towards their ancient
classics. They have worked from generation
to generation in order to translate
more and more accurately the thirteen
classics, Confucius, Mengtsz, and the others.
They did not notice that, once out of
school, the Chinese did not pay more attention
to their classics than we do to ours: if
you see a book in their hands, it will never
be the "Great Study" or the "Analects,"
but much more likely a novel like the
"History of the Three Kingdoms," or a
selection of ghost-stories. These works that
everybody, young or old, reads and reads
again, have on the Chinese mind an influence
much greater than the whole bulk
of the classics. Notwithstanding their great
importance for those who study Chinese
thought, they have been completely left
aside. In fact, the whole of real Chinese
literature is still unknown to the Westerners.
It is a pity that it should be so. The
novels and stories throw an extraordinary
light on Chinese everyday life that foreigners
have been very seldom, and now will
never be, able to witness, and they illustrate
in a striking way the idea the
Chinese have formed of the other world.
One is able at last to understand what is
the meaning of the huen or superior soul,
which leaves the body after death or during
sleep, but keeps its outward appearance and
ordinary clothes; the p'aï or inferior soul
which remains in the decaying body, and
sometimes is strong enough to prevent it
from decaying, and to give it all the appearances
of life. The magicians of the Tao
religion, or Taoist priests, play a great
part in these stories, and the Buddhist
ideas of metempsychosis give the opportunity
of more complicated situations than we
Among the most celebrated works, I
have chosen the "Strange Stories from
the Lodge of Leisures," Leao chai Chi yi.
It was written in the second half of the
eighteenth century by P'ou Song-lin (P'ou
Lieou-hsien), of Tsy-cheou, in the Chantong
The whole work is composed of more
than three hundred stories. I have selected
twenty-five among the most characteristic.
This being a literary work, and having
nothing scientific to boast of, I have tried
to give my English readers the same
literary impression that the Chinese has.
Tradutore traditore, say the Italians; I hope
I have not been too much of a traitor.
A translation is always a most difficult
work; if it is materially exact, word for
word and sentence by sentence, the so-called
scientific men are satisfied, but all
the charm, beauty, and interest of the
original are lost. Very often, too, such
translation is obscure and unintelligible.
Each nation has an heirloom of traditions,
customs, or religion to which its literature
constantly refers. If the reader is
not acquainted with that literature, these
references will convey no meaning to his
mind, or they may even convey a false one.
In Chinese, this difficulty is greater than
in any other language; the Far Eastern
civilisation has had a development of its
own, and its legends and superstitions have
nothing in common with the Western folklore.
The Chinese mind is radically different
from ours, and has grown, in every generation,
more different by reason of a different
training and a different ideal in life. The
Chinese writing, moreover, has strengthened
those differences; it represents the ideas
themselves, instead of representing the
words; each Chinese sign may be rightly
translated by either of the three or more
words by which our language analytically
describes every aspect of one same idea.
The sign which is read Tao, for instance,
must be, according to the sentence, translated
by any of the words: direction, rule,
doctrine, religion, way, road, word, verb;
all of them being the different forms of the
same idea of direction, moral or physical.
Some French sinologists, aware of this
difficulty, now translate the texts literally,
and try to explain the meaning by a number
of notes, which sometimes leave only
one or two lines of text in a page. This
method seems at first more scientific; it
explains everything in the most careful way,
and is very useful for the translation of
inscriptions or of certain obscure passages
in historical books. But for real literature,
it is the greatest possible error, leaving
out, as it does, all the impression and
illusion the author intended to convey.
Besides, the necessity of going, at every
word, down the page in order to find the
meaning in a note, tires the reader and
takes away all the pleasure he should derive
from the book.
One may even say that a materially
exact translation is, in reality, a false one;
the words we use in writing and speaking
being mere technical signs by which we
represent our ideas. For instance, the word
"cathedral" will certainly not convey the
same idea to two men, one of whom has
only seen St. Paul's, and the other only
Notre-Dame de Paris; for the first, cathedral
means a dome; for the other it means
two towers and a long ogival nave. Below
the outward appearance of the words
there lie so many different images that it
is absolutely necessary to know the mentality
of a nation in order to master its
language. In fact, a true translation will
be the one that, though sometimes materially
inexact, will give the reader the same
impression he would have if he were reading
the original text.
Since I first went to China, in 1901, I have
had many opportunities of acquainting myself
with all the superstitions of the lower
classes, with all the splendid mental and
intellectual training of the learned. My
experience has helped me to perceive what
was hidden beneath the words; and in my
translation I have sometimes supplied what
the author only thought necessary to imply.
In many places the translation is literal;
in other places it is literary, it being impossible
for a Western writer to retain all
the long and useless talking, all the repetitions
that Chinese writing and Chinese
taste are equally fond of.
THE GHOST IN LOVE
THE DWARF HUNTERS
THE CORPSE THE BLOOD-DRINKER
THE WOMAN IN GREEN
THE FAULT AND ITS CONSEQUENCES
HONG THE CURRIER
THE PRINCESS NELUMBO
THE TWO BROTHERS
THE MARBLE ARCH
THE DUTIFUL SON
THROUGH MANY LIVES
THE RIVER OF SORROWS
THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
THE SPIRIT OF THE RIVER
THE PATCH OF LAMB'S SKIN
THE LAUGHING GHOST
Strange Stories from the Lodge of Leisures
THE GHOST IN LOVE
On the 15th day of the First Moon, in the
second year of the period of "Renewed
Principles," the streets of the town
of the Eastern Lake were thronged with
people who were strolling about.
At the setting of the sun every shop was
brightly lit up; processions of people moved
hither and thither; strings of boys were
carrying lanterns of every form and colour;
whole families passed, every member of
whom, young or old, small or big, was
holding at the end of a thin bamboo the
lighted image of a bird, an animal, or a
Richer ones, several together, were carrying
enormous dragons whose luminous wings
waved at every motion and whose glaring
eyes rolled from right to left. It was the
Fête of the Lanterns.
A young man, clothed in a long pale green
dress, allowed himself to be pushed about by
the crowd; the passers-by bowed to him:
"How is my Lord Li The-peaceful?"
"The humble student thanks you; and
you, how are you?"
"Very well, thanks to your happy influence."
"Does the precious student soon pass his
second literary examination?"
"In two months; ignorant that I am.
I am idling instead of working."
The fête was drawing to a close when The-peaceful
quitted the main street, and went
towards the East Gate, where the house was
to be found in which he lived alone.
He went farther and farther: the moving
lights were rarer; ere long he only saw before
him the fire of a white lantern decorated
with two red peonies. The paper globe
was swinging to the steps of a tiny girl
clothed in the blue linen that only slaves
wore. The light, behind, showed the elegant
silhouette of another woman, this one
covered with a long jacket made in a rich pink
silk edged with purple.
As the student drew nearer, the belated
walker turned round, showing an oval
face and big long eyes, wherein shone a
bright speck, cruel and mysterious.
Li The-peaceful slackened his pace,
following the two strangers, whose small
feet glided silently on the shining flagstones
of the street.
He was asking himself how he could
begin a conversation, when the mistress
turned round again, softly smiled, and in a
low, rich voice, said to him:
"Is it not strange that in the advancing
night we are following the same road?"
"I owe it to the favour of Heaven," he
at once replied; "for I am returning to
the East Gate; otherwise I should never
have dared to follow you."
The conversation, once begun, continued
as they walked side by side. The student
learned that the pretty walker was called
"Double-peony," that she was the daughter
of Judge Siu, that she lived out of the city
in a garden planted with big trees, on the
road to the lake.
On arriving at his house The-peaceful
insisted that his new friend should enter
and take a cup of tea. She hesitated; then
the two young people pushed the door,
crossed the small yard bordered right and
left with walls covered with tiles, and disappeared
in the house....
The servant remained under the portal.
Daylight was breaking when the young
girl came out again, calling the servant,
who was asleep. The next evening she
came again, always accompanied by the
slave bearing the white lantern with two
red peonies. It was the same each day
A neighbour who had watched these
nocturnal visits was inquisitive enough to
climb the wall which separated his yard
from that of the lovers, and to wait,
hidden in the shade of the house.
At the accustomed hour the street-door,
left ajar, opened to let in the visitors.
Once in the courtyard, they were suddenly
transformed, their eyes became flaming
and red; their faces grew pale; their
teeth seemed to lengthen; an icy mist
escaped from their lips.
The neighbour did not see any more:
terrified, he let himself slide to the ground
and ran to his inner room.
The next morning he went to the student
and told him what he had seen. The lover
was paralysed with fear: in order to reassure
himself he resolved to find out everything
he could about his mistress.
He at once went outside the ramparts,
on the road to the lake, hoping to find the
house of Judge Siu. But at the place
he had been told of there was no habitation;
on the left, a fallow plain, sown
with tombs, went up to the hills; on the
right, cultivated fields extended as far as
However, a small temple was hidden
there under big trees. The student had
given up all hope; he entered, notwithstanding,
into the sacred enclosure, knowing
that travellers stayed there sometimes
for several weeks.
In the first yard a bonze was passing
in his red dress and shaven head; he stopped
"Do you know Judge Siu? He has a
"Judge Siu's daughter?" asked the
priest, astonished. "Well—yes—but wait,
I will show her to you."
The-peaceful felt his heart overflowing
with joy; his beloved one was living; he
was going to see her by the light of day.
He quickly followed his companion.
Passing the first court, they crossed a
threshold and found themselves in a yard
planted with high pine-trees and bordered by
a low pavilion. The bonze, passing in first,
pushed a door, and, turning round, said:
"Here is Judge Siu's daughter!"
The other stopped, terrified; on a trestle
a heavy black lacquered coffin bore this
inscription in golden letters: "Coffin of
Double-peony, Judge Siu's daughter."
On the wall was an unfolded painting
representing the little maid; a white
lantern decorated with two red peonies was
hung over it.
"Yes, she has been there for the last
two years; her parents, according to the
rite, are waiting for a favourable day to
The student silently turned on his heel
and went back, not deigning to reply to
the mocking bow of the priest.
Evening arrived; he locked himself in,
and, covering his head with his blankets, he
waited; sleep came to him only at daybreak.
But he could not cease to think of her
whom he no longer saw; his heart beat as
if to burst, when in the street he perceived
the silhouette of a woman which reminded
him of his friend.
At last he was incapable of containing
himself any longer; one evening he stationed
himself behind the door. After a
few minutes there was a knock; he opened
the door; it was only the little maid:
"My mistress is in tears; why do you
never open the door? I come every evening.
If you will follow me, perhaps she
will forgive you."
The-peaceful, blinded by love, started at
once, walking by the light of the white
The next day the neighbours, seeing
that the student's door was open, and
that his house was empty, made a declaration
to the governor of the town.
The police made an inquest; they collected
the evidence of several people who
had been watching the nightly visitors
the student had received. The bonze of
the temple outside the city walls came to
say what he knew. The chief of the police
went to the road leading to the lake; he
crossed the threshold of the little edifice,
passed the first yard and at last opened the
door of the pavilion.
Everything was in order, but under the
lid of the heavy coffin one could see the
corner of the long green dress of the student.
In order to do away with evil influences
there was a solemn funeral.
Ever since this time, on light clear nights,
the passers-by often meet the two lovers
entwined together, slowly walking on the
road which leads to the lake.
In the Great Highway of Eternal
Fixity, Mong Flowing-spring and his
friend Choo Little-lotus were slowly walking,
clothed in the long light green dress of
They had both just passed with success
their third literary examination, and were
enjoying the pleasures of the capital before
returning to their distant province.
As they were both of small means, they
were looking now (and at the same time
filling their eyes with the movement of the
street) for a lodging less expensive than the
inn where they had put up on arriving at
Leaving the Great Highway, they strolled
far into a labyrinth of lanes more and
more silent. They soon lost themselves.
Undecided, they had stopped, when they
spied out the red lacquered portal of a
temple of the Mysterious-way.
Pushing the heavy sides of the door,
they entered; an old man with his hair
tightly drawn together in a black cap,
majestic in his grey dress, stood behind the
door and appeared to be waiting for them.
"Your coming lightens my humble dwelling,"
he said in bowing. "I beg you will
"I do not dare! I do not dare!" murmured
the two students, bowing in their
They nevertheless entered, crossing the
yard on which the portal opened, which
was closed, at the end, by the little
temple in open woodwork close under the
mass of roofs of green tiles.
They went up three steps, then, pushing
a narrow and straight door, they entered.
In the half-shadow they distinguished on
the white altar a statue of Tche Kong The-Supreme-Lord,
with a golden face and
griffins' feet like the claws of an eagle.
The walls on each side of the altar were
painted in frescoes; on the wall on the
right you saw goddesses in the midst of
flowers. One of these young girls, with a
low chignon, was gathering a peony and
was slightly smiling. Her mouth, like a
cherry, seemed as if it were really opening;
one would have sworn that her eyelids
Mong Flowing-spring, his eyes fixed on
the painting, remained a long time without
moving, absorbed in his admiration of the
work of art, and disturbed beyond expression
by the beauty of the goddess with
the low chignon.
"Why is she not living?" said he. "I
would willingly give my life for a moment
of her love!"
Suddenly he started; the young goddess
raised herself upright, bursting with laughter,
and got down from the wall. She crossed the
door, went down the staircase, stepped over
the yard and left the place.
Flowing-spring followed her without reflecting.
He saw her going away with a
light step, and turn down the first lane;
the young student ran behind her.
As he turned the corner, he saw her
stop at the entrance of a small house.
She was gracefully waving her hand, and,
with sly glances, made him signs to come.
He hastened forward and entered in his
turn. In the silent house there was nobody,
no one but the goddess standing in
her long mauve dress and nibbling the
flower that she had picked and that she
still held in her hand.
"I bow down," said the student, who
knelt to salute her.
"Rise! you exceed the rites prescribed,"
"I bend my head, not being able to bear
the splendour of your beauty."
As she did not seem to be discontented
he continued telling her his admiration
and his desire. He approached, touched
her hand; she started, but did not draw
back. He then took her in his arms; she
did not make much resistance.
The moments passed rapidly. They spoke
to each other in a low voice, when, suddenly
in the street, a noise of heavy boots resounded;
steps stopped before the door;
the lock was shaken; oaths were heard.
The young girl grew pale; she told
Flowing-spring to hide himself under the
bed. The student felt his heart become
quite small; he crouched down in the
shadow, not even being able to breathe.
From the depth of his hiding-place, he
saw an officer enter, his face in black lacquer,
covered with a golden cuirass and surrounded
by a troop of young girls in long dresses of
"I smell an odour of human flesh!"
grumbled the officer, walking heavily and
going round the room.
"Hide yourself well!" the goddess
murmured to her lover, raising herself
from the bed and white with terror. "If
you can escape from him, wait till we have
left, and open the little door at the end of
the garden; then run away quickly!"
"There is a man here! I smell him!
He must be delivered to me! If not, I
shall punish the person who has hidden
"We know nothing!" all the young
women said together.
"Very well! Let us go out."
Then, following the gracious troop which
the goddess had joined, he crossed the
Flowing-spring, hidden under the bed,
waited till the noise of the boots had gone
away. Then he glided with caution from
Half bent, listening with anxiety in fear
of being surprised, he flew from the room
and crossed the garden.
During this time Choo Little-lotus,
having remained in the temple, had not
remarked the departure of his friend.
But, turning round and not any longer
seeing him, he questioned the old magician.
"Your friend is not far off," he replied.
Then, showing him the wall, he said:
"Look! here he is!"
And, indeed, in the centre of the fresco,
the image of Flowing-spring was painted;
he was crouched in among the flowers,
straining his ear. The image moved, and,
suddenly, the student separated himself
from the wall and advanced, looking sad
Choo Little-lotus, terrified, was looking
at him. The other told him his adventure.
As he spoke a terrible clap of thunder was
heard. The two friends instinctively shut
their eyes; when they opened them, their
glance fell on the fresco: the goddesses
had taken their places there again, in
the midst of the flowers; but the young
girl with the low chignon was no longer
The magician smiled at Flowing-spring:
"Love has touched her. She has become
a woman and is waiting for you in your
THE DWARF HUNTERS
The heavy summer in the South is
particularly hard to bear for those
who are ill. The damp heat keeps them
awake, and thousands of insects trouble
Wang Little-third-one, stretched on his
bed made of bamboo laths, where a low
fever kept him, complained of it to all
those who came to see him, especially to his
friend the magician officiating priest of the
little temple situated in the neighbouring
The magician knew something of medicine;
he prescribed a calming potion and
When Little-third-one had drunk the
potion, his fever fell and he was able to
enjoy a little sleep. He was awakened by
a slight noise; night had come on; the
room was lighted by the full moon, which
threw a bright gleam by the open door.
All the insects were moving and flying
hither and thither; white ants who gnaw
wood, bad-smelling bugs, enormous cockroaches,
mosquitoes, innumerable and various
As Little-third-one was looking, his attention
was drawn by a movement on the
threshold: a small man, not bigger than
a thumb, advanced with precautious steps;
in his hand he held a bow; a sword was
hanging at his side.
Little-third-one, on looking closer, saw
two dogs as big as shirt-buttons running
before the man with the bow; they suddenly
stopped: the archer approached,
held out his weapon, and discharged the
arrow. A cockroach who was crawling
before the dogs made a bound, fell on its
back, moved again, then remained motionless;
the arrow had run through it.
Behind the first huntsman others had
come; some were on horseback, armed
with swords; some on foot.
From that time it was a pursuit without
intermission; hundreds of insects were
shot. At first the mosquitoes escaped;
but as they cannot fly for long, every time
that one remained still it was transpierced
by the huntsmen.
Soon nothing was left of all the insects
who broke the silence with their buzzing,
their gnashing of teeth, or their falling.
A horseman then was seen galloping over
the room, looking from right to left. He
then gave the signal; all the huntsmen
called their dogs, went towards the door,
Little-third-one had not moved, in order
not to disturb the hunt. At last he
peacefully went to sleep, henceforth sure
of not being awakened by a sting or a
bite. He awoke late the next day almost
When his friend the magician came to
see him, he told him his experience: the
other smiled. Wang understood that the
mysterious hunters came from the little
THE CORPSE THE BLOOD-DRINKER
Night was slowly falling in the narrow
valley. On the winding path cut
in the side of the hill about twenty mules
were following each other, bending under
their heavy load; the muleteers, being
tired, did not cease to hurry forward their
animals, abusing them with coarse voices.
Comfortably seated on mules with large
pack-saddles, three men were going along
at the same pace as the caravan of which
they were the masters. Their thick dresses,
their fur boots, and their red woollen hoods
protected them from the cold wind of the
In the darkness, rendered thicker by a
slight fog, the lights of a village were shining,
and soon the mules, hurrying all together,
jostling their loads, crowded before the
only inn of the place.
The three travellers, happy to be able
to rest, got down from their saddles when
the innkeeper came out on the step of
his door and excused himself, saying all his
rooms were taken.
"I have still, it is true, a large hall the
other side of the street, but it is only a
barn, badly shut. I will show it to you."
The merchants, disappointed, consulted
each other with a look; but it was too
late to continue their way; they followed
The hall that was shown to them was big
enough and closed at the end by a curtain.
Their luggage was brought; the bed-clothes
rolled on the pack-saddles were spread out,
as usual, on planks and trestles.
The meal was served in the general
sitting-room, in the midst of noise, laughing,
and movement—smoking rice, vegetables
preserved in vinegar, and lukewarm wine
served in small cups. Then every one went
to bed; the lights were put out and profound
silence prevailed in the sleeping village.
However, towards the hour of the Rat,
a sensation of cold and uneasiness awoke
one of the three travellers named Wang
Fou, Happiness-of-the-kings. He turned
in his bed, but the snoring of his two companions
annoyed him; he could not get
to sleep. Again, seeing that his rest was
finished, he got up, relit the lamp which
was out, took a book from his baggage, and
stretched himself out again. But if he
could not sleep, it was just as impossible
to read. In spite of himself, his eyes
quitted the columns of letters laid out in
lines and searched into the darkness that
the feeble light did not contrive to break
A growing terror froze him. He would
have liked to awaken his companions, but
the fear of being made fun of prevented
By dint of looking, he at last saw a slight
movement shake the big curtain which
closed the room. There came from behind
a crackling of wood being broken. Then a
long, painful threatening silence began again.
The merchant felt his flesh thrill; he
was filled with horror, in spite of his efforts
to be reasonable.
He had put aside his book, and, the coverlet
drawn up to his nose, he fixed his enlarged
eyes on the shadowy corners at the end
of the room.
The side of the curtain was lifted; a
pale hand held the folds. The stuff, thus
raised, permitted a being to pass, whose
form, hardly distinct, seemed penetrated
by the shadow.
Happiness-of-kings would have liked to
scream; his contracted throat allowed no
sound to escape. Motionless and speechless,
he followed with his horrified look the
slow movement of the apparition which
He, little by little, recognised the silhouette
of a female, seen by her short
quilted dress and her long narrow jacket.
Behind the body he perceived the curtain
The spectre, in the meantime bending
over the bed of one of the sleeping travellers,
appeared to give him a long kiss.
Then it went towards the couch of the
second merchant. Happiness-of-kings distinctly
saw the pale figure, the eyes, from
which a red flame was shining, and sharp
teeth, half-exposed in a ferocious smile,
which opened and shut by turns on the
throat of the sleeper.
A start disturbed the body under the
cover, then all stopped: the spectre was
drinking in long draughts.
Happiness-of-kings, seeing that his turn
was coming, had just strength enough to
pull the coverlet over his head. He heard
grumblings; a freezing breath penetrated
through the wadded material.
The paroxysm of terror gave the merchant
full possession of his strength; with a
convulsive movement he threw his coverlet
on the apparition, jumped out of his bed,
and, yelling like a wild beast, he ran as
far as the door and flew away in the night.
Still running, he felt the freezing breath
in his back, he heard the furious growlings
of the spectre.
The prolonged howling of the unhappy
man filled the narrow street and awoke
all the sleepers in their beds, but none of
them moved; they hid themselves farther
and farther under their coverlets. These
inhuman cries meant nothing good for
those who should have been bold enough
to go outside.
The bewildered fugitive crossed the village,
going faster and faster. Arriving at
the last houses, he was only a few feet in
advance and felt himself fainting.
The road at the extremity of the village
was bordered with narrow fields shaded with
big trees. The instinct of a hunted animal
drove on the distracted merchant; he
made a brisk turn to the right, then to the
left, and threw himself behind the knotted
trunk of a huge chestnut-tree. The freezing
hand already touched his shoulder; he
In the morning, in broad daylight, two
men who came to plough in this same field
were surprised to perceive against the
tree a white form, and, on the ground, a
man stretched out. This fact coming after
the howling in the night appeared strange
to them; they turned back and went to
find the Chief of the Elders. When they
returned, the greater part of the inhabitants
of the village followed them.
They approached and found that the
form against the tree was the corpse of a
young woman, her nails buried in the
bark; from her mouth a stream of blood
had flowed and stained her white silk
jacket. A shudder of horror shook the
lookers-on: the Chief of the Elders recognised
his daughter dead for the last six
months whose coffin was placed in a barn,
waiting for the burial, a favourable day
to be fixed by the astrologers.
The innkeeper recognised one of his
guests in the man stretched on the ground,
whom no care could revive.
They returned in haste to find out in
what condition the coffin was: the door
of the barn was still open. They went
in; a coverlet was thrown on the ground
near the entrance; on two beds the great
sun lit up the hollow and greenish aspect
of the corpses whose blood had been emptied.
Behind the drawn curtain the coffin
was found open. The corpse of the young
woman evidently had not lost its inferior
soul, the vital breath. Like all beings
deprived of conscience and reason, her
ferocity was eager for blood.
Lost in the heart of Peking, in one
of the most peaceful neighbourhoods
of the Yellow City, the street of Glowing-happiness
was sleeping in the silence and
in the light.
On the right and left of the dusty road
was some waste ground, where several red
mangy, and surly dogs were sleeping. Five
or six low houses, their white walls forming
a line not well defined, whose low roofs
were covered with grey tiles, bordered the
In the first year of the Glorious-Strength,
four hundred years ago, a young man with
long hair tied together under the black
gauze cap of the scholars, clothed in a pink
dress with purple flowers, was walking in
the setting sun, stepping cautiously in
order not to cover with dust his shoes with
thick felt soles.
When the first stars began to shine in
the darkening sky, he entered one of the
houses. A wick in a saucer, soaking in
oil, burning and smoking, vaguely lighted
an open book on the table: one could
only guess, in the shadow, the form of a
chair, a bed in a corner, and a few
inscriptions hanging on the whitewashed
The scholar seated himself before his
table and resumed, as he did every evening,
his reading of the Classics, of which
he sought to penetrate the entire meaning.
Late passers-by in this lonely thoroughfare
still saw his lamp shining across the trellises
of the windows far into the night.
Golden-dragon lived alone. Now, on that
evening an inexplicable languor made him
dreamy; his eyes followed in vain the text;
his rebellious thoughts were scattered.
Impatiently at last he was just going
to put out his lamp and go to bed, when he
heard some one knocking at the door.
"Come in!" he cried.
The door grinding on its hinges, a young
woman appeared clothed in a long gown
of bright green silk, gracefully lifting her
foot to cross the threshold, and bowing with
her two hands united. Golden-dragon, hurriedly
rising to reply, waved in his turn his
fists joined together at the same height
as his visage and said, according to the
ritual: "Be kind enough to be seated!
What is your noble name?" The visitor
did not pronounce a word; her large black
eyes, shadowed by long eyelashes, were
fixed on the face of her host, while she
tried to regain her panting breath.
As she advanced, Golden-dragon felt a
strange feeling of admiration and love.
He did not think such a perfect beauty
could exist. As he remained speechless,
she smiled, and her smile had on him the
effect of a strong drink on a hungry man;
troubled and dazed, he lost the conscience
of his personality and his acts.
The next morning the sun was shining
when he awoke, asking himself if he had
not been dreaming. He thought all day
long of his strange visitor, making thousands
Evening coming on, she suddenly entered,
and it was as it had been the night before.
Two months passed; then the young
girl's visits abruptly ceased. The night
covered everything with its black veil, but
nobody appeared at the door. Golden-dragon
the first night, waited for her till
the hour of the Rat; at last he went to his
couch and fell asleep. Almost immediately
he saw her carried away by two horny yecha;
she was calling him:
"My beloved, I am drawn away towards
the inferior regions. I shall never be able
to get away if prayers are not said for
me. My body lies in the next house."
He started out of sleep in the efforts he
made to fly to her, and could not rest
again in his impatience to assert what she
As soon as the sun was up, he ran towards
the only house that was next to his. He
knocked; no one replied. Pushing the
door, he entered. The house seemed to be
recently abandoned, the rooms were empty,
but in a side hall a black lacquered coffin
rested on trestles; on a table the "Book
of Liberation" was open at the chapter
of "The great recall."
Golden-dragon doubted no longer; he
sang in a high voice the entire chapter, shut
the book, and returned home full of a strange
Every evening from that time, at the
hour when she had appeared to him, he
lit a lantern, went to the house next door
and read a chapter of the holy text.
Years passed by; he got beyond his
fiftieth year, grew bent, and walked with
difficulty, but he never missed performing
the duty he had imposed on himself for
his unknown friend.
The house where the coffin was placed
had successively been let to several families;
but he had arranged that the funereal room
should never be touched. The lodgers
bowed to the scholar when he came, and
talked to him; the whole town was entertained
with this touching example of such
"So much constancy and such fidelity
cannot remain without reward," they
But time slipped by and nothing came
to change the regular life of the old man.
On his seventieth birthday, as he went
to his neighbours, he remarked a violent
"My wife has just had a child," said the
chief of the family, going to meet him.
"Come and wish her happiness; she does
not cease to ask for you."
"Is it a boy?"
"No, unhappily, a girl, but such a pretty
Followed by the happy father, the scholar
with white hair penetrated into the room;
the mother smiled, holding out the baby
to him. Golden-dragon suddenly started;
the child held out her arms to him and on
her little lips, hardly formed, hovered the
shadow of a disappeared smile, the smile
of the unknown woman.
And as he looked an extraordinary
sensation troubled him; he felt he was
growing younger, more vigorous. Soon,
in the midst of the cries of admiration of
the whole family, the bent old man grew
straight again; his grey hair turned
black, and the change continued; he became
a young man, a boy, and soon a child.
When the Bell of the great Tower struck
the hour of the Rat, he was a fat pink baby
playing and laughing with the little girl.
The governor of the town, being informed,
personally directed an inquiry. It was
discovered that the coffin had disappeared
at the same hour when the transformation
The Emperor, on the report of the governor,
ordered the two children to receive
a handsome dowry.
As to them, they grew up, loved each
other, and lived happy and well as far as
the limits of human longevity.
THE WOMAN IN GREEN
At this time, in the Pavilion-of-the-guests,
in the Monastery-of-the-healing-springs,
the most celebrated of the
Fo-kien province, lived a young scholar
whose name was Little-cypress.
As soon as the sun rose he was at his
work, seated near the trellised window.
When night fell, his lamp still lit the outline
of the wooden trellis.
One morning a shadow darkened his
book; he raised his eyes: a young woman
with a long green skirt, her face of matchless
beauty, was standing outside the window
and was looking at him.
"You are then always working, Lord
Little-cypress?" she said.
She was so bewitching that he knew her
immediately for a goddess; but all the
same he asked her where she lived and
what was her name.
"Your lordship has looked on his humble
wife; he has known her as a goddess.
What is the use of so many questions?"
Little-cypress, satisfied with this reply,
invited her to enter the house. She came
in; her waist was so small, one would almost
have thought that her body was divided
He invited her to sit down; they talked
and laughed together a long time.
He asked her to sing, and, with a low
voice, which filled her friend with rapture,
"On the trees the bird pursues his companion;
Oppressed slaves free themselves with love.
How has my Lord lived alone,
Without enjoying all the pleasures of married life?"
The sound vibrated like a thread of silk;
it penetrated the ear and troubled the
heart. As she finished, she suddenly arose.
"A man is standing near the window,
he is listening to us ... he is going round
... he is trying to see."
"Since when does a goddess fear a
man?" replied Little-cypress, laughing.
"I am troubled without knowing why;
my heart beats. I wish to go."
She went to open the door, but abruptly
"I do not know why I am thus upset.
Will you accompany me as far as the
Little-cypress held her up till they got
to the gate; he had just left her and
turned his head, when he heard her call
for help in a voice full of anguish. He
hurriedly turned round; no one was to
As he was looking for her with stupefaction
his eyes fell on a big cobweb,
stretched in the corner of the wall. The
ugly and gigantic insect held in its claws a
dragon-fly who was struggling and dolefully
crying. Affected by this sight, he
hastened to deliver it.
The pretty insect immediately flew in
the direction of the Pavilion-of-the-guests.
Little-cypress saw it go in at the window
and alight on the stone for grinding the ink.
Then it arose again and alighted on the
paper which was placed on the table;
there it oddly crawled, retracing its steps,
returning, advancing, and stopping. After
a moment it took its flight and disappeared
in the sky.
Little-cypress, much puzzled, approached
and looked; on the paper was written in
big strokes the word "Thanks."
THE FAULT AND ITS CONSEQUENCES
When Dawning-colour was on the
point of dying, he called his mother
"Mother," he said, "I am going to die.
I do not wish White-orchid, my young
wife, to feel herself bound to keep the
widowhood. When her mourning will be
finished, she will marry again: our son is
only three years old; you will keep him
Now, the mourning was not yet finished
and the coffin was still in the house waiting
for a favourable day, when the young widow
began to find the solitude weigh upon her.
A rich sluggard of the village, named
Adolescent, had several times sent proposals
to her through a neighbour; she at last
was unwise enough to agree to an interview
with him. When evening came,
Adolescent jumped over the neighbour's
wall and went to her room.
He had not been there half an hour
when there arose a great noise in the hall
where the coffin was; it seemed as if the
cover was violently thrown to the ground.
A little slave who was called afterwards as
a witness told how she ran into the yard
and saw her master's corpse brandishing
a sword and jumping towards the room
where the lovers were to be found.
A few instants after, she saw the young
widow come out screaming and run to the
garden. Adolescent followed her, covered
with blood; he crossed the threshold and
disappeared in the night.
Now, Adolescent, flying from danger,
pushed the first door that he came across
in the street; it was that of a young couple;
the husband, named Wang, was absent
and only expected to return the next day.
The young wife, hearing a noise, thought
it was her husband returning.
"Is that you?" she asked, without
quite waking up.
Adolescent, who knew Madame Wang
was pretty, answered "Yes" in a low
voice, taking advantage of her error.
A short time after, at Wang's turn to
enter, he struck a light, saw a man in
his room, and, furious, seized a pike.
Adolescent tried to hide himself under the
bed, but the husband transpierced him
several times. He wished to kill his wife,
but she so much begged him not to that he
The cries and supplications which came
from the room had, however, awoke the
neighbours, who came in; they pulled
Adolescent's body from under the bed; he
died almost directly.
There was a silence; the affair was
serious. Then one of the assistants said:
"The judges won't believe that you
were in your right of outraged husband;
you ought to have killed your wife also.
As it is, you will be condemned."
Thereupon, Wang killed the unhappy
During this time Dawning-colour's
mother, having heard the screams of her
daughter-in-law, thought there was a burglar
in the house; she cried for help and
tried to light a lamp, but she was trembling,
and her curtains caught fire.
Some neighbours arrived in haste; while
a few of them extinguished the fire, the
others, armed with crossbows, ran through
the house and garden in search of the
At the bottom of the orchard they saw
a white mass moving at the foot of the
wall. Without waiting to ascertain what
it was, they shot several arrows; everything
was still. The archers approached
and lit a torch; they saw the body of
White-orchid transpierced in the head
Horrified by what they had done, they
informed the old woman, who said nothing.
But this was not all. The elder brother
of White-orchid, furious at the tragic
death of his sister, had a lawsuit with the
archers and the old woman.
As usual, the judges ruined both parties;
they condemned Dawning-colour's mother
and the archers to receive five hundred
bamboo strokes. The latter were not strong
enough to bear this punishment, and died
under the stick. And thus the affair
Night was falling when the horseshoes
of the mules of my caravan
resounded on the slippery flagstones of the
Tired by a long day of walking, I directed
my steps towards the large hall of the
inn, with the intention of resting a moment
while my repast was being prepared.
In the darkened room the glimmer of a
small opium-lamp lit up the pale and
hollow face of an old man, occupied in
holding over the flame a small ball of the
black drug, which would soon be transformed
into smoke, source of forgetfulness and
The old man returned my greeting, and
invited me to lie down on the couch opposite
to him. He handed me a pipe already
prepared and we began talking together.
As ordered by the laws of politeness, I
remarked to my neighbour that he seemed
robust for his age.
"My age? Do you, then, think I am so
"But, as you are so wise, you must have
seen sixty harvests?"
"Sixty! I am not yet thirty years
old! But you must have come from a
long way off, not to know who I am."
And while rolling the balls with dexterity
in the palm of his hand, and making them
puff out to the heat of the lamp, he told
me his story.
His name was Liu Favour-of-heaven.
Born and brought up in the capital, he had
been promoted six years before to the
post of sub-prefect in the town on which
our refuge was dependent.
When coming to take his post, he stopped
at the inn, the same one where we were.
The house was full; but he had remarked,
on entering, a long pavilion which seemed
uninhabited. The landlord, being asked,
looked perplexed; he ended by saying
that the pavilion had been shut for the last
two years; all the travellers had complained
of noises and strange visions;
probably mischievous spirits lived there.
Favour-of-heaven, having lived in the
capital, but little believed in phantoms.
He found the occasion excellent to establish
his reputation in braving imaginary
His wife and his children implored him
in vain; he persisted in his intention of
remaining the night alone in the haunted
He had lights brought; installed himself
in a big armchair, and placed across his
knees a long and heavy sword.
Hours passed by; the sonorous noise
of the gong struck by the watchman announced
successively the hours, first of the
Pig, then of the Rat. He grew drowsy.
Suddenly, he was awakened by the gnashing
of teeth. All the lights were out; the
darkness, however, was not deep enough
to prevent his being able to distinguish
everything confusedly. Anguish seized him;
his heart beat with violence; his staring
eyes were fixed on the door.
By the half-opened door he perceived
a round white mass, the deformed head of
a monster, who, appearing little by little,
stretched long hands with twisted fingers
Favour-of-heaven mechanically raised his
weapon; his blood frozen in his veins, he
tried to strike the head, whose indistinct
features were certainly dreadful. Without
doubt the blow had struck, for a frightful cry
was heard; all the demons of the inferior
regions seemed let loose with this yell; calls
were heard from all sides. The trellised
frames of the windows were shaken with
violence. The monster gained the door.
Favour-of-heaven pursued him and threw
His terror was such that he felt he must
strike and kill. Hardly had he finished
than there entered, rolling from side to
side, a little being, quite round, brandishing
unknown weapons at the end of innumerable
small hands. The prefect, with
one blow, cut him in two like a watermelon.
However, the windows were shaken with
growing rage; unknown beings entered
by the door without interruption; the
prefect threw them down one after another:
a black shadow first, then a head balancing
itself at the end of a huge neck, then the
jaw of a crocodile, then a big bird with
the chest and feet of a donkey.
Trembling all over, the man struck right
and left, exhausted and panting; a cold
perspiration overwhelmed him; he felt his
strength gradually giving way, when the
cock crowed at last the coming of the day.
Little by little, grey dawn designed the
trellis of the windows, then the sun suddenly
appeared above the horizon and
darted its rays across the rents in the
Favour-of-heaven felt his heart stand
still; on the floor inundated with blood,
the bodies lying there had human forms,
forms that he knew: this one looked like
his second wife, and this one, this little
head that had rolled against the foot of
the table, he would have sworn that it was
his last son.
With a mad cry he threw away his
weapon and ran to open the door, through
which the sun poured in.
An armed crowd was moving in the yard.
"My family! my family! where is my
"They are all with you in the pavilion!"
But as they were speaking they saw
with stupor the hair of the young man
becoming white, and the wrinkles of age
cover his face, while he remained motionless
as well as insensible.
They drew near; he rolled fainting on
the ground. "And thus," ended the sub-prefect
in the silence of the dark hall,
where only the little light of the opium-lamp
was shining, "I remained several days
without knowledge of anything. When I
came to myself, I had to bear the sorrow
of having killed my whole family in these
atrocious circumstances. I resigned my
post: I had magnificent tombs built for
all those who were killed this fatal night,
and, since then, I smoke without ceasing the
agreeable drug, in order to fly away from
the remembrance, which will haunt me until
my last day."
In the time when the Shining Dynasty
had just conquered the throne, the
eastern coasts of the Empire were ravaged
by the rapid junks commanded by the
cruel inhabitants of the Japanese islands,
the irresistible Wo tsz.
Now, it happened that the Wo tsz Emperor
lost his first wife; knowing the beauty of
Chinese women, he charged one of his
officers to bring back some of them.
The officer, at the head of a numerous
troop, landed not far from the town of
The-Smoky-wall. No resistance was possible;
the population was given the example
of flight by the functionaries, at least it
was thus said in the Annals of the prefecture.
The country being far from the big centres,
the women were not great coquettes; only
one, named Peaceful-light, had always
been careful, since childhood, not to allow
her feet to become naturally large; they
were constantly bound up, so much so that
she could hardly walk.
Her large soft eyes were shaded with
heavy eyelashes; one of the literati of
the place took delight in quoting the poets
of antiquity on them:
Under the willow of her eyelashes
The tranquil river of her eyes shines forth.
I bend and see my image reflected in them.
Could she be deceitful like the deep water?
When the pirates were coming, she
begged her family to leave her, and to fly
without the risk of being delayed by
"It is the just punishment for my coquetry,"
she told them. "Fear nothing for
me, however. I am going to take a strong
dose of the paste extracted from the flowers
of Nao-yang which makes one sleep. The
pirates will think I am dead, and will leave
The family allowed themselves to be
persuaded, and departed. As to Peaceful-light,
she was asleep almost directly after
taking the drug, and she remained motionless
on her bed.
The pirates, entering everywhere, at
last arrived in the house and remained
struck with admiration by her beauty. The
officer who was called, at first thought
her dead and was much grieved, but,
touching her hand and finding it warm
and limp, he resolved to carry her away.
When the ravishers were re-embarked,
the strong sea-air and the motion of the
boat revived the young girl; she awoke, and
was horrified to find herself surrounded
by strangers. The one who seemed the
chief spoke to her in Chinese language
in order to reassure her:
"Fear nothing. No harm will come to
you. On the contrary, the highest destiny
awaits you; my Lord The Emperor designs
you to the honour of his couch."
Seeing that no one troubled her, Peaceful-light
was reassured; she resolved to wait,
confident in her destiny, and knowing that
she had still, ready in her sleeve, in case
of necessity, a narcotic dose strong enough
to kill her.
As soon as she landed, she was taken in
great haste to the Palace. The Emperor,
greatly satisfied with her beauty, conferred
on her at once the rank of first favourite.
But all the luxury and love which surrounded
her could not make her forget
her family and her country; she resolved
to run away.
In order to manage it, she complained
to her master how sad it was for her never
to be able to speak her own language with
companions from her country. The Emperor,
happy to be able to please her, gave
orders to fit out a sea-junk, in order to go
to the Chinese coast.
The day when all was ready the young
girl found means of pouring into her master's
drink a dose of her narcotic. Then, when
he was asleep, she took his private seal and,
going out of the room, she called the intendant
of the Palace and said to him:
"The Emperor has ordered me to go to
China to fetch a magician, a member of
my family, who has great power on water
and wind. Here is the seal, proof of my
mission. The ship must be almost ready."
The intendant knew that a junk had
been specially prepared to go to China; he
saw the seal; what suspicion could he
have? He had a palanquin brought as
quickly as possible; two hours after, the
wood of the junk groaned under the blows
of the unfurling waves.
Arriving in sight of the coast, on the
pretext of not frightening the population,
the young girl begged the officer who accompanied
her to send a messenger to the
prefect of the town, bearing a letter that
she had prepared. The officer, without
distrust, sent one of his men.
The letter of Peaceful-light showed a
whole scheme to which the prefect could
but give his consent. The messenger returned,
bringing to the officer and to the
men an invitation to take part in the
feast that was being prepared for them,
their intentions not being bad.
Peaceful-light retired into her family,
who welcomed her with a thousand demonstrations
In the wine that was freely poured out
for the strangers they had dissolved the
flowers of Nao-yang. The effects were not
long in being felt; a torpor that they
attributed to the table excesses seized
them one after another. They were soon
all sleeping deeply. Men arrived with
swords, glided near them, and, a signal
being given, cut off their heads.
While these events were passing in China,
others still more serious were happening
in Japan. Soon after the departure of
Peaceful-light, the Emperor's brother penetrated
into the room where the sovereign
was left sleeping. This brother was ambitious;
he profited by the occasion,
killed the unhappy Mikado, took possession
of the seals of the State, and, calling
his partisans in haste, proclaimed himself
Chief of the State. Only a part of the
princes followed him; the others, filled with
indignation by the crime that had been
accomplished, united their troops to crush
the usurper; civil war tore the whole of
Japan to pieces.
As to Peaceful-light, by order of the
authorities she received public congratulations
and gifts of land which allowed her
to marry and be happy, as she merited.
HONG THE CURRIER
"In the time when the Justice of
Heaven was actively employed with
the affairs of the earth, one of my ancestors
had an adventure to which we owe our
present fortune, and of which few men of
to-day have seen the equal."
Thus began my friend Hong; reclining
on the red cushions of the big couch, he
fanned himself gracefully with an ivory
fan painted all over.
"Our family, as you know, originally
came from the town of The-Black-chain in
the province of The-Foaming-rivers. Our
ancestor Hong The-just was a currier by
trade; he cut and scraped the skins that
were entrusted to him. His family was
composed only of his wife, who helped him
as well as she could.
"Notwithstanding this persistent labour,
they were very poor; no furniture ornamented
the three rooms in the small
house that they hired in the Street-of-the-golden-flowers.
"When the last days of the twelfth moon
in that year arrived, they found they were
owing six strings of copper cash to ten
different creditors. With all they possessed,
there only remained 400 cash. What were
they to do? They reflected for a long
time. Hong The-just at last said to his
"'Take these 400 cash; you will be able
to buy rice to live on. As to me, as I
cannot pay my debts before the first day of
the first moon, I am going to leave the
town and hide myself in the mountain.
My creditors, not seeing me, will believe
you when you tell them that I have been
to find money in the neighbouring town.
Once the first day of the first moon passed,
as law ordains to wait till the following term,
I shall then come back, and we shall continue
to live as well as we can.'
"It was indeed the wisest thing to do. His
wife made him a parcel of a blanket and a
few dry biscuits. She wept at seeing him
go away quite bent, walking with difficulty
on the slippery flagstones of the street.
"The snow was falling in thick flakes and
already covered the grey tiled roofs, when
Hong The-just left the city gate and directed
his steps to a cave that he knew of in a lonely
"He arrived at last, and, throwing his
heavy load on the ground, he glanced around
him in order to choose the place where he
"An exclamation of stupor escaped from
him when he saw, seated motionless on a
stone, a man clothed in a long sable cloak,
with a cap of the same fur, looking at him
in a mournful, indifferent way.
"'How strange!' at last said Hong,
laughing. 'Dare I ask your noble name
and the reason that brings you to this
remote refuge? How is it that you are
not with your friends, drinking hot wine
and rejoicing in the midst of the luxuriance
of the tables covered with various eatables
and brilliant lights?'
"'My name is Yang Glow-of-dawn. And
you, what is your precious name?' replied
mechanically the first occupant.
"'I am called Hong The-just, and I am
here to escape from my creditors.'
"'You, also?' sneered Glow-of-dawn.
'The strokes of Fate do not vary much.
As for me, I deal in European goods; my
correspondents have not settled my accounts
and I am in want of nearly a hundred
thousand ounces of silver to close the year.
None of my friends could advance me the
sum, and here I am, obliged to fly away from
"'A hundred thousand ounces!' cried
The-just. 'With a sum like that I should
pass the rest of my days in plenty. Anyhow,
struck by the same misfortune, we
are thus united; let us try to pass cheerfully
the last day of the year, and attempt
to imagine that these humble cakes are
"When they were eating their pastry
and drinking water from the near torrent,
Glow-of-dawn suddenly said:
"'But you, how much do you owe? I
have here a few ounces of silver; maybe you
could balance your accounts with them.'
"'My debts do not exceed six strings of
copper cash. But how could I dare accept
"'Not at all! take these ten ounces;
you will pay your debts and bring me here
food and wine; that will help me to wait
till the end of the festivals.'
"The-just, reiterating his thanks, took the
ingots that were offered him and went
down as quickly as possible towards the
"His wife, on seeing him and hearing
his story, could not restrain her joy. She
hurried to go and buy provisions of all
kinds. Her husband tried to light the
stove, but they had not lit a fire for a
long time; he found the chimney filled with
soot and dust.
"Hong tried to sweep it with a big broom,
but the masonry gave way, filling the room
with the bricks and rubbish.
"'How very annoying!' grumbled the
currier. 'Now the stove is destroyed let us
take away what remains, and we will make
the fire beneath the opening in the roof!'
"When his wife returned, he was still
working. She put down her basket and
helped to raise a huge stone that formed
the bottom of the hearth. What was their
astonishment in seeing a chest, half-broken,
from which big ingots of gold were falling!
"'What are we to do with this?' said
his wife. 'If we sell this gold, everybody
will think that we have stolen it, and we
shall be put in prison.'
"'We have only one thing to do,' replied
Hong. 'Let us entrust our fortune to my
companion in the cave; he is a good man.
We shall save him, and he will make our
money prosper; I will hurry and tell him.'
"When Hong arrived, it was nearly nightfall;
Yang was standing under flakes of
snow at the entrance of the grotto; he
received him with reproaches:
"'You have come so late that my eyes
are sore in looking out for you in vain!'
"'Do not abuse me, Old Uncle; drink
this wine and eat these cakes that are still
warm, and I will tell you what delayed me.'
"And while Glow-of-dawn ate and drank,
the other told him of his adventure and of
his intentions about the treasure.
"Surprised and touched, the merchant did
not know how to express his wonder and
gratitude. They talked over the best way
of proceeding to bring the gold and settle
"Then, by the glimmer of a bad lantern,
they returned to the town and entered the
merchant's house. There the currier washed
himself, did his hair, and clothed himself
in rich garments. A sedan-chair was
waiting for him, followed by sturdy servants;
he went away....
"The next day Glow-of-dawn's creditors
presented themselves at the house of their
debtor. He was standing at the entrance,
and bowed in wishing them a thousand
times happiness. They entered; tea was
brought in by busy servants. They at last
discussed the settlement of their yearly
accounts. The master of the house found
out that he owed 180,000 ounces of silver.
"'We have been informed that larger
sums of silver are due to you, but you know
the custom; you must settle everything
to-day. In order to save you, we are
content to make an estimate of your wealth,
your goods and lands.'
"'Do not give yourselves such a trouble,'
replied the merchant, laughing and waving
his hand. 'I thought you would be relentless,
so I have been to speak to my elder
brother, who has an immense fortune; he
has put at my disposal several hundred
thousand ounces. But here! I hear the
cry of the bearers; it must be him with
the chests of white metal.'
"The major domo came hurrying in, carrying
high in the air the huge red card with
the names and surnames written in black.
"'The venerable Old Great Uncle The-just
"'Allow me?' said Yang, getting up,
and going towards the door, of which both
sides were open. Hong entered. They
made each other a thousand affectionate
greetings, as all brothers do who are animated
with right feelings.
"'Dear elder brother! here are the gentlemen
who have come for the settlement of
my accounts about which I spoke to you.'
"'Gentlemen!' and the currier bowed,
not without a certain grace that his new
fortune had already given him. 'Well!
how much is the total amount? I have
brought you ten thousand ounces of gold,
which is nearly 350,000 ounces of silver.
Will you have enough?'
"While he was speaking, bearers were
trooping in, and laid down on the ground
heavy chests, the lids of which being raised,
one could see the bars of precious metal.
"The merchants, thunderstruck by all
these riches and generosity, remained silent
for a moment; then they bowed low and
bade the currier sit in the place of honour.
"Many delicate and exquisite dishes were
brought in of which The-just did not even
know the names; sweet wines were handed
round in small transparent china cups.
"At last the secretaries counted the ingots,
and they all returned home paid. When
every one had retired, Glow-of-dawn knelt
before the currier and, striking the earth
with his forehead, he said:
"'Now you are my elder brother. You
have rescued me, and I henceforth wish you
to live here. My house, my properties,
everything I possess belongs to you. Your
wife is my sister-in-law.'
"The currier hurried to raise him up and,
much moved, said:
"'I do not forget that it is you who saved
me when you were still in misfortune.
Your good genius has rewarded you. I am
only the instrument of Fate.'"
In the town of Sou-tcheou a young
man lived called Lake-of-the-Immortals;
he was wise and generous. His
business consisted in going to fetch goods
from neighbouring towns, which he afterwards
brought back to his native city. He
was thus obliged to be absent for lengthy
periods, during which he left his house to
the care of an elder brother, a celebrated
scholar, who was married, and whom he
Once he had been by the Grand Canal
as far as Chen-kiang; the goods he was
going to take not being ready, he waited,
and to while away the time he visited the
Golden Island, whose temples with yellow-tiled
roofs show in the verdure above the
yellow water of the river, nearly opposite
to the town; he passed the night there, as
visitors did usually.
When he had just fallen asleep, he saw in
a dream a young girl, fourteen or fifteen
years old, her visage regular and pure.
On the second night he had the same
dream. Surprised, he awoke; it was no
dream; the young girl was there, near to
him. At a glance he saw she was no human
being; he hastened to get up and, saluting,
to ask her the ordinary questions.
"My name is Autumn-moon," she replied.
"My father was a celebrated magician.
When I died, he worked out my
future destiny and wrote it down with
powerful incantations; this charm has been
put into my coffin, so that the inferior
authorities should not make any mistake.
It was written that, thirty years after my
death, I should be called again to life and
marry Lake-of-the-Immortals. There you
are, and I have come to know my husband."
As she said the last words she slowly
vanished in the night. The next day, as
the young man, disturbed and preoccupied
by this strange adventure, was sitting in
his room, thinking of her, she appeared
suddenly before his eyes and said:
"Come quickly! something important
for you is going to happen at the prefect's
palace. We have not a minute to lose."
Lake-of-the-Immortals questioned her,
but she would not answer. Then they both
crossed the river and walked as fast as they
could up to the yamen.
As they arrived at the gate, four soldiers,
dragging a prisoner, were on the point of
entering. Lake-of-the-Immortals recognised
his elder brother in the person of the prisoner;
he drew near, threw himself on his neck, and
pressed him to his heart.
"How is it that you are here? why this
arrest? And you, soldiers, where do you
"We have orders: what means this interference?"
And they pushed the young
man aside. Lake-of-the-Immortals was of a
violent temper and had a strong affection for
his brother; he could not let him go, and
answered to the brutality of the soldiers by
such a tempest of thumping and kicking
that these honest but prudent soldiers asked
no more and fled.
"What have you done?" said Autumn-moon.
"Hitting soldiers is serious; we
And all three, running, arrived at the
beach, jumped into a small boat, and rowed
with all their strength.
When day appeared, they were safely
lodged in a small inn, several lis from Chen-kiang.
went to sleep immediately. When he awoke,
his two companions had disappeared. He
asked the innkeeper; nobody had seen them
Distressed and sad, the young man did
not dare to show himself outside. He
remained solitary in his room. When twilight
came, his door opened and a woman
"I bring you a message from Autumn-moon;
she has been arrested. If you wish
to see her, you must follow me; I will
show you the way."
"And my brother? do you know anything?"
"Your brother is safe in Sou-tcheou now.
But come and follow me."
They started and soon arrived before a
wall, which they got over by helping one
another. Through a window giving on the
yard they fell in, the lover perceived
Autumn-moon on a bed. Two soldiers
were trying to tease her, saying:
"What is the use of resisting us, as you
will be executed to-morrow morning?"
Lake-of-the-Immortals did not hear any
more; he rushed into the room, threw
himself on the soldiers, tore a sword from
them, and laid them on the ground. Before
the wretched men had time to make a
gesture of defence, he carried away the girl
At this moment he started violently, and
found himself in his same room in the
Golden Island. A servant entered, bringing
the breakfast he had ordered when arriving
for the first time, the night before, on the
As he was asking himself the meaning of
such a vivid dream, he heard a noise in
the courtyard. Going out, he saw several
men surrounding the body of a girl stretched
before his door.
"Where does she come from?" asked
"We have never seen her!" said another.
Lake-of-the-Immortals came nearer; it was
the body, seemingly senseless, of Autumn-moon.
He had her brought immediately
into his room. A doctor who had been
called declared she was still alive, but
needed very careful nursing.
When she awoke at last she smiled feebly
to the young man.
"No, it is no dream," she replied to his
questions. "Your brother was called before
the King of Hells; you saved him. You
have saved me also from eternal disappearance,
and I am called again to life; the
prediction of my father was true."
A fortnight later she was able to get up;
they started together and arrived safely
at Sou-tcheou. When they got to his
brother's house, his sister-in-law told them
there had been illness in the house; her
husband had been in grave danger of
death; he was quite well now.
When they were all together, Lake-of-the-Immortals
told what he had seen and done.
They all listened to him in silence. The
family henceforth lived united and happy.
THE PRINCESS NELUMBO
Gleam-of-day was sleeping; his
round face and high forehead denoted
the scholar's right intelligence.
All of a sudden he saw a man standing
before his bed who appeared to be
"What is it?" inquired the sleeper,
"The prince is asking for you."
"The prince of the neighbouring territory."
Gleam-of-day, grumbling, got up, put on
his court dress and followed his guide.
Palanquins were waiting; they started
rapidly, and their retinue was soon passing
in the midst of innumerable pavilions and
towers with pointed roofs.
They at last stopped in the courtyard
of the palace; young girls with bright
clothing were seen, and looked inquiringly
at the new-comer, who was announced with
At last Gleam-of-day reached the audience
hall. The prince was seated on the throne;
he descended the steps and welcomed his
guest according to the rites.
"You perfume this neighbourhood," he
said. "Your reputation has come to me,
and I wished to know you."
The servants brought wine; they began
to converse nobly and brilliantly. At last
the prince asked:
"Among the flowers, tell me which one
"The nelumbo," he replied, without
"The nelumbo? it is precisely my
daughter's surname. What a curious coincidence!
The princess must absolutely
And he made a sign to one of the attendants,
who at once went out. A few minutes
after, the princess appeared. She was between
sixteen and seventeen years old.
Nothing could equal her admirable beauty.
Her father ordered her to bow to the
scholar and said:
"Here is my daughter Nelumbo."
Gleam-of-day, looking at her, felt troubled
to the depth of his soul. The prince spoke
to him; he hardly heard, and replied awkwardly.
When the princess had retired,
the conversation languished; the prince at
last rose and put an end to the interview.
During all the way back the young man
was ashamed at the same time with his
emotion before the girl, as well as his
rudeness towards the prince. He was so
much troubled that he ordered his
retinue to go back to the palace.
When he entered the audience hall, he
threw himself to the ground before the prince
and begged to be excused for his rudeness.
"You need not excuse yourself; the
sentiment that I read in your eyes is powerful
and the thought of it is not unpleasant
While Gleam-of-day, happy with this
encouragement, was still excusing himself,
twenty young girls came running:
"A monster has entered the palace; it is
a python ten thousand feet long. It has
already devoured thirteen hundred persons;
its head is like a mountain peak."
Every one got up; the frightened guard
and the courtiers ran hither and thither,
looking where they could hide themselves.
The princess and her maids-in-waiting were
crying for help.
Gleam-of-day at last said to the prince:
"I have only three miserable rooms in
a cottage, but you will be safe in them.
Will you fly there with your daughter?"
"Let us go as quickly as possible,"
replied the prince, seizing the princess by
They all three ran across the deserted
streets. When they arrived, Nelumbo threw
herself on the bed, without being able to
Gleam-of-day was so moved that he
suddenly awoke: everything was a dream.
Just then he heard a scream in the next
room, where his father slept; there was a
struggle, blows, and at last a sigh of satisfaction.
The door opened, and the old man was
seen pushing an enormous serpent at the
end of a stick. When Gleam-of-day turned
back to his bed, he found it covered with
bees; on the pillow the queen had alighted.
THE TWO BROTHERS
In the town of Sou-tcheou there lived
two brothers. The elder, surnamed
Merchant, was very rich; the younger,
named Deceived-hope, very poor. They
lived side by side, and their houses, the
paternal inheritance, were only separated
by a low wall. They were both married.
This year, the harvest having been bad,
Deceived-hope could not afford the necessary
rice for his family to live upon. His
wife said to him:
"Let us send our son to your brother:
he will be touched and will give us something,
without any doubt."
Deceived-hope hesitated, but at last
decided to take this step which hurt his
pride. When the child returned from his
uncle's, his hands were empty. They questioned
"I told my uncle that you were without
rice; he hesitated and looked at my aunt.
She then said to me: 'The two brothers live
separately; their food also is separate.'"
Deceived-hope and his wife did not say
a word; they fetched the bale of rice that
was still in their corn-loft and lived thus.
Now, in the town, two or three vagabonds
who knew the riches of Merchant
broke open his door one night, and tied
him up as well as his wife. As he would
not show his treasure, they began burning
his hands and feet. Merchant and his
wife screamed for help. Deceived-hope
heard them and got up in order to run to
their house, but his wife held him back,
and, approaching the wall which separated
"The two brothers live separately; their
food also is separate."
However, as their cries increased, Deceived-hope
could not contain himself, and,
seizing a weapon, leapt over the wall, fell
on the thieves, and dispersed them. Then,
when his brother and his sister-in-law were
delivered and quieted, he returned home,
saying to his wife:
"They are certain to give us a present."
But, the next day and the days following,
they waited in vain! Deceived-hope could
not resist the temptation to relate everything
to his friends. The same thieves heard
of it and, thinking that he would not interfere
any more, broke open the door of Merchant
the same evening and began again to
torture him as well as his wife.
Deceived-hope, indeed, did not wish to
interfere. However, his heart and his liver
were upset by the painful cries of his brother.
He could not forbear running to his help.
The brigands, disconcerted, flew again,
but this time Merchant and his wife were
severely burnt; they lost the use of their
hands and feet.
The next day Merchant said to his wife:
"My brother has saved our lives; without
him we should be ruined; I am going
to give him a part of what we have."
"Do nothing of the kind," replied his
wife; "if he had come sooner, he would have
saved our hands and feet; now, thanks to
him, we are infirm."
And they did nothing. Deceived-hope,
however, wanting money, made an act of
sale of his house and sent it to his brother,
hoping that he would be touched by his
misery and would send back the deed with
In fact Merchant was going to send him
some silver ingots, but his wife stopped
"Let us take his house; we shall be
able to make ours bigger, and it will be
much more convenient."
Merchant hesitated a little, but he ended
by accepting the act, and sent the price
agreed on. Deceived-hope went and settled
in another part of the town; with his
small capital, he opened a vegetable-shop,
which soon prospered.
The brigands, having heard that Merchant
was now living alone, broke open his door
very quietly, tortured him, and then killed
him, taking away all he had. In leaving the
place, they cried all over the town:
"Merchant's corn-loft is open! Let all
the poor go and take the rice!"
They thus went, one by one, silently,
all the poor of the neighbourhood, taking
away as much of the heaped-up rice as
they could. Soon there was nothing left.
Deceived-hope being informed, wished
to revenge his brother; he pursued the
brigands and killed two of them.
From this time it was he who every day
attended to the needs of his sister-in-law,
now in misery. Some months afterwards,
exhausted, she died.
Deceived-hope came back and was soon
settled in the patrimony that he had recovered.
One night he was soundly sleeping,
when he saw his brother.
"You have saved us twice, and we have
been ungrateful. I should not be dead if
I had not acted badly with you. I wish to
make amends. Under the stone of the
hearth you will find five hundred ounces of
gold that I had hidden, and of the existence
of which my wife was ignorant."
Deceived-hope started from his sleep; he
told his dream to his wife. She at once
got up, drew out the stone of the hearth,
and found the mass of gold. Henceforth,
happy and rich, they lived long and were
charitable and friendly with every one.
THE MARBLE ARCH
When the troubles began to break out
in Hankow, many families were
alarmed. Those who were not ignorant of
the powerful organisation of the revolutionists
left the town as soon as possible,
anticipating that it would soon be plundered
The retired prefect, Kiun, was amongst
the first to embark in order to go down
the river. His house was situated at
several lis from the river, on the confines
of the suburbs, outside the fortified
enclosure. He had only been married a
short time, and was living with his father
When the baggage at last was ready,
the bearers fixed it in the middle of
their long bamboos and set off two by
two, grumbling under the heavy load.
The two old people followed; Kiun and
his young wife, the charming Seaweed,
helped them as well as they could.
In order to avoid crossing the centre of
the town, they followed the crenellated wall
by an almost deserted road. A young
man and woman alone were sauntering in
the same direction, carrying parcels on their
"Where are you going to?" they asked,
as it is the custom to do between travellers.
"As far as the river," replied Kiun.
"We also," said the young man. "What
is your precious name?"
"My contemptible name is Kiun. But
you, deign to inform me about your
"My name is Wang The-king. We are
flying from the insurrection."
They thus talked while walking in company.
Seaweed took the advantage of a moment
when the new-comers were a little in front
to bend towards her husband.
"Do not let us get in the same junk
with these strangers. The man has looked
at me several times in a rude way; his eyes
are unsteady and fickle; I am afraid of
Kiun made a sign of assent. But when
they had arrived on the quay, Wang The-king
gave himself so much trouble to find
a junk and help to embark the luggage
that the prefect, bound by the rites, could
not avoid asking him to get on board the
boat with him.
They unmoored; Wang The-king established
himself on the prow with his wife,
near the mariners; he spoke a long time
with them while they were passing the last
houses of the large city.
When night fell, they were in a part of
the river where it got broader to such an
extent that you could no longer distinguish
the banks. The wind was blowing rather
violently and the unfurling waves projected
heavy showers on the mats which covered
Kiun, uneasy, went to the prow of the
boat in order to question the master. The
bright moon was rising, lighting the dark
line of the bank. They approached in
order to throw the anchor.
Wang The-king was on the narrow bridge;
when Kiun came to his side, he coolly
pushed the poor prefect overboard. Kiun's
father was two paces behind; Wang ran to
him and threw him also into the tumultuous
waters of the rapid current. Kiun's mother,
hearing a cry and a struggle, went to see
what was happening, and she also was
precipitated into the foaming river.
Seaweed, from the cabin, had seen all;
but she took good care not to go outside;
"Alas! my father-in-law and my mother-in-law
are dead! My husband has been
killed! I am going to die, too!"
While she was crying, Wang The-king
entered the cabin.
"Fear nothing," said he; "forget those
people who are no more and won't come
back. I am going to take you home to
the city of The-Golden-tombs. There I
have fields and houses belonging to me; I
will give them to you."
The young woman kept back her sobs
and said nothing; she thought it wise
not to provoke the murderer.
Wang The-king, very satisfied with his
prospects, went back to the mariners, gave
them the greater part of what his victims
had brought in silver and luggage; then he
quietly took his dinner and retired to his
cabin with his wife. The woman had a
strange look, but she did not say anything,
and they went to sleep.
Towards the hour of the Rat, the woman
began to groan; then she started out of her
sleep and cried to her husband:
"Kill me, repudiate me! I can no
longer stay with you! Thunder and lightning
will strike you! I have dreamt it;
I will no longer be the wife of a murderer
and a thief!"
Wang, furious, struck her. But as she
continued, he took her in his arms and
threw her into the river.
On the second day the boat arrived at
The-Golden-tombs. Wang took Seaweed
to his family. When his old mother asked
what he had done with his first wife, he
"She fell in the river, and I will marry
They were soon settled in the house.
Wang wished to take liberties with Seaweed,
who gently drove him back.
"We must not neglect the rites. Do not
let us forget to empty first the marriage
Wang joyously accepted; and soon,
seated opposite each other, they began
exchanging cups of wine in the ritual
Seaweed, however, pretended to drink,
and tried to make her lover tipsy; she
contrived this little by little.
Wang, rendered sleepy by the wine, undressed
himself, got on the bed, and ordered
the young woman to put out the lamps and
come to him.
She carefully blew the lamps and said:
"I will come in a minute!"
Then she quickly went to her luggage,
took out a sword she had hidden there, and
came back. Feeling with her hands in the
darkness, she found the throat of the man
and struck him as hard as she could: the
man screamed and tried to get up; she
struck again and again: there was a
moaning, a gurgle, and then silence.
However, Wang's mother, having heard
some noise, came with a lantern. Seaweed
killed her before the old woman could
even say a word.
Then the young woman, having avenged
her family, tried to cut her own throat, in
order to join her husband. The sword was
blunt and she was only able to scratch
herself. She then remembered that, outside
the house, there was a fairly big
pond; she ran out and threw herself into the
Some neighbours saw her and ran to her
help; other people came; lanterns were
brought forth; the poor girl at last was
taken out of the pond, and brought back
to her house. But, when the new-comers
entered the room, they saw the bodies and
"Murder! Murder!" cried they.
And they immediately sent a boy to call
the police. The constables came and looked
all over the room; they soon found in Seaweed's
luggage a note prepared by the
unfortunate woman and stating the truth
about her family's death. The assistants
were loud in their praise of her act:
"She avenged her husband; she has
been witty enough to beguile the murderer;
and now she has killed herself! Such an act
of courage and virtue has not been heard
of for centuries. We must ask the authorities
to build her a marble arch to
commemorate her history, and be an
example to future generations."
While all this was going on, they tried
to revive the woman; everything was done,
but in vain. A coffin was then brought in,
and the girl transferred to it, covered with
her best garments and jewels. The lid
was screwed on, and everybody left the
We must now come back to the evening
when Wang pushed into the water Seaweed's
husband. Kiun was a strong man and a
very good swimmer; surprised by this
sudden attack, all he could do at first was
to keep his head out of the tumultuous
water. He then thought to go back to the
boat, but, on the foaming expanse nothing
was to be seen; the rapid current had
driven him too far. At last the water
brought him to a curving beach, where he
was able to land.
Walking disconsolately on the sand, he
saw a human body rolled by the surge;
he approached, and recognised his father;
farther on he saw his mother; both he
dragged out of the water. Most uneasy
about his wife, he walked on the river's
edge, straining his eyes; the moon was
shining; he saw at last a human being
holding a big piece of wood. He swam to
her, pushed her to the beach, and took her
he thought was his wife to the dry sand.
He undid the upper garment in order to
rub her members; when he saw she was
not so cold, he wiped her hair out of her
face. His stupor was immense in recognising
The sun rose at last and warmed them.
The young woman sighed, opened her eyes,
and, completely herself again, told Kiun
what she had seen:
"My husband is a murderer. In a
dream I saw the King-of-Shadows himself
sitting behind his tribunal and writing his
name on the death-list. Besides, he is
in love with your wife. If you wish it, we
will go together straight to The Golden-tombs
and do what we can to avenge
Kiun, seeing a man coming to work in a
field not far from there, went to him and
told him in a few words what had happened;
the man led them to his landlord, a rich
man, who gave them food and warm dresses,
sent men to bring the drowned bodies to a
side house and have them properly buried.
Then he advanced a certain sum of money
to Kiun, who agreed to send it back when he
should get to a place where he could find
a correspondent of his bankers.
Then Kiun and his companion engaged a
small boat and went down the river. When
they got to The Golden-tombs, they questioned
the people in the street about Wang.
A month had elapsed since the events we
have told of; the first man they questioned
looked at them in wonder:
"How is it you don't know what
happened? Wang is dead; he has been
killed by a virtuous woman whose family
he had murdered and who killed herself
afterwards. You have only to go on; in
the first street to your right you will see a
new marble arch which has just been erected
to commemorate virtuous Seaweed's courageous
Kiun thought his heart would burst; he
dragged his companion to the marble arch
and read the inscription. Then he bought
a bundle of those imitations of gold and
silver ingots made with paper which people
burn on the tombs in order to send some
money to the dead; he went to the tomb
in the place indicated by the inscription.
There he reverently knelt, and, after
having knocked the ground with his forehead,
he burnt the paper-ingots, rose, and
went away with Wang's wife.
When they were back in their boat, they
discussed their plans and resolved to go
down the river to Shanghai.
They were leaving the harbour, when a
small boat crossed their way; two women
sat on the bench. One of them reminded
Kiun strangely of his late wife. The woman
had looked up at him and seemed surprised.
The retired prefect, moved by a mysterious
strength, pronounced aloud a sentence which
used to make his wife laugh when they
were together happy in Hankow:
"I see wild geese flying high in the
Seaweed, when she was alive, used to
answer by a phrase which had nothing to do
with the first sentence, and had made them
laugh very often by its stupidity. The
woman in the boat said it too:
"The dog wants the cat's biscuit; you
quickly shut it in the house."
Kiun, wondering whether it was Seaweed's
ghost, asked the mariners to go
alongside the other boat; he jumped in it;
the woman threw her arms round his neck,
and they wept together.
"Are you alive? or is it only your ghost
I hold in my arms?" asked he.
"I am alive!"
Then she told him her adventures; when
she was put into the coffin, she had some
jewels on. One of the assistants resolved
to steal them; he waited till everybody
was gone and the house empty; then he
deliberately unscrewed the coffin's lid and
rifled what he could. He was trying to
take a ring off her hand, when the supposed
corpse rose and screamed.
The poor man thought his last hour had
come and did not move. Seaweed, seeing
her jewels in his hands, and seeing the coffin
she was in, grasped the situation at a glance.
"You want my jewels! Have them if
you like; you saved my life, and without
you I would have been stifled in this gruesome
The man at first dared not accept; then
"In exchange for your kindness, I will
tell you something. In the third house in
the first street lives a rich widow; she is
alone and would like to adopt a girl; go
to her and tell her everything. She will be
happy to give you a home."
Then he helped her to get out of the coffin,
screwed the lid again, and disappeared.
Seaweed went straight to the house. The
widow received her with the greatest kindness,
and asked of her to let everybody
believe she was dead; if not, there would
have been a lawsuit.
Both women, now united by the closest
affection, had been out on the river for
pleasure's sake when they saw Kiun's
bark. The widow, when the explanations
were finished, opened her arms to Kiun;
she called him her son-in-law. Seaweed
asked Wang's wife to be the second wife
of her husband. And they all lived long
THE DUTIFUL SON
At the foot of the Oriental-Perfume-Mountain,
in one of the most beautiful
places of this celebrated district, the
passers-by could see a small lodge. Chou
The-favourable lived there with his mother.
He was still young, being only thirty years
old, and earned his living in the way so
highly praised by the ancient Classics; he
cultivated a small field by his house, and
every week went to the next market to
exchange what he had for what he wanted.
Both were very happy, when a calamity
befell them; the old mother one morning
felt a pain in her right leg. Two or three
days afterwards she had there an ulcer that
no remedies could cure; everything was
tried and everything failed. Day and
night she was moaning, turning over in her
hard wooden bed.
The-favourable forgot to drink and eat,
in his anxiety to give his mother the
medicines the doctor advised.
Several months wore on; the ulcer did
not heal. The despair of the son was
greater every day; at last, overcome by
his fatigue, he fell asleep and dreamt that
he saw his father. The old man told
"You have been a dutiful son. But I
must tell you that your mother will not
recover if you can't apply to her ulcer a
piece of man's fat."
Then everything was dissolved like a
smoke in the wind.
The-favourable awoke and, thinking over
his dream, he found it very strange.
"What can I do?" thought he. "Man's
fat is not easily found in the market. My
father would not have appeared to me if
this extraordinary medicine was not really
the only thing that will cure my mother.
Well, I will take a piece of fat of my own
body; I have nothing else to do."
Then, rising from his bed, he took a
sharp knife, and, pulling the skin of his side,
he cut a large piece off. His pain was not
so great as he had expected it to be, and,
what seemed more extraordinary to him,
no blood flowed from the wound.
He could not see that, from the heaven
above, a messenger had come on a cloud,
was recording this noble feat on his life's
register, and helped him by averting all
The-favourable hastened to put the piece
of flesh on his mother's ulcer; the pain
disappeared immediately, and a few days
after the old woman could walk as she
used to do; on her leg there remained only
a red scar.
When she asked what medicine had been
employed, The-favourable eluded the
answer. But somehow the truth was known
in the neighbourhood; the prefect sent a
report to the Throne and came himself
with a decree of the Emperor, giving a title
and an allowance to the dutiful son.
THROUGH MANY LIVES
Some people remember every incident
of their former existences; it is a
fact which many examples can prove.
Other people do not forget what they
learned before they died and were born
again, but remember only confusedly what
they were in a precedent life.
Wang The-acceptable, of the Yellow-peach-blossom
city, when people discussed
such questions before him, used to narrate
the experience he had had with his first son.
The boy, at the time he spoke of, was
three or four years old. He did not say
many words, and some people thought he
was dumb. One day, The-acceptable was
writing a letter, when he was disturbed by a
friend. He put his writing-brush down on
the table and left the room. When he
came back, his letter was finished, and
written much more correctly than he
would have believed himself able to do.
Besides, he did not remember having
finished it. The puzzle did not trouble him
Another day the same thing occurred;
he left the room, leaving a letter unfinished
on the table; when he came back, the
letter was nearly ended. Nobody but the
boy had been in the room. Troubled and
suspicious, he rose and feigned to go away;
but he came back immediately and noiselessly.
From the door, he saw his boy
kneeling on the stool and writing the letter.
The little man suddenly saw his father
and asked to be forgiven. The father of
"We all thought you were dumb; if
you are such a learned man, the family
happiness will be great! How could we
From that date he had good lessons
given to the boy, who very early passed
successfully his third degree examination
and became one of the most celebrated
"Entered among the learned" of his time.
When his father asked him whether he
remembered what he had been before being
what he now was, the boy said that the
first life he could remember was that of
a young student; he lived in a monastery
to save as much as he could of his income.
When he died, the King-of-the-Darkness
punished him for his stinginess and condemned
him to become a donkey in the
same monastery he had lived in.
He wanted to die, but did not know
what to do; the priests loved him and
were very careful. One day he was on a
mountain road and was tempted to throw
himself downhill; but he had a man on his
back and was afraid of the punishment
the King-of-the-Darkness would inflict upon
him if he killed that man. So he went on.
Many years passed; he died at last, and
was born again as a peasant. But, as he
had forgotten nothing of his former lives,
he was able to speak a few days after his
birth. His father and mother judged the
thing highly suspicious and killed him.
After that, he was born in the family of
Wang The-acceptable. Appreciating the
surroundings, and bearing in mind that he
had last been killed because he spoke too
early, he was very careful this time not
to utter a single word. But when he saw
the paper and ink he could not resist his
love of literature and finished the letter.
THE RIVER OF SORROWS
Along the path leading to the city
of All-virtues, in the obscure night,
a poor coolie, grumbling under a heavy
load of salt, was trudging on as fast as he
"I shall never get there before the hour
of the Rat, and my wife will say again;
'Wang The-tenth has drunk too many cups
of wine.' She does not know the weight
of that stuff!"
As he was thus thinking, two men suddenly
jumped from either side of the road
and held him by the arms.
"What do you want?" cried the poor
man. "I am only an unhappy carrier,
and my load is only salt, very common
"We don't want your salt, and you had
better throw it down. We are sent from
the Regions below and we want you to
come down with us."
"Am I dead already?" asked The-tenth.
"I did not know. I must tell my
wife. Can't you come again to-morrow
"Impossible to wait. You must come
immediately. But I don't think you are
dead. It is only to work for a few days
"This is rather strange," replied The-tenth.
"With all the people who have died
since the world has been the world you still
want living men? We don't go and ask
you to do our work, do we?"
While thus arguing, he felt himself suffocated
by a heavy smell and lost consciousness.
When he awoke, he was on the bank of a
fairly large river. Hundreds of men were
standing in the water; some of them
carried baskets; others, with spades and
different utensils, were dragging out what
they could from the bottom. Soldiers with
heavy sticks struck those who stopped
even for a second.
On the bank several men were standing,
and a number of others came from time to
time. A magistrate was sitting behind a
big red table, turning over the pages of a
book. At last, he called "Wang The-tenth."
"Wang The-tenth!" repeated the soldiers.
And they threw the poor man down
in a kneeling position in front of the magistrate,
who looked on the book and said:
"You have been an undutiful son; do
you remember the day when you told your
father he was a fool?"
Then speaking to the soldiers, he said:
"To the river!"
The guards pushed the man, gave him a
basket, and ordered him to help in the cleaning
of the river.
The water was red and thick; its stench
was abominable; the bodies of the workmen
were all red, and The-tenth discovered it
was blood. He looked at the first basket
he took to the bank; it was only putrid
flesh and broken bones.
Thus he worked day by day without
stopping. When he was not going fast
enough, the guards struck him with their
sticks, and their sticks were bones. In
the deep places he had to put his head into
the water and felt the filthy stuff fill his
nostrils and mouth.
Among the workers he recognised many
people he used to know. A great number
died and were carried away by the stream.
At last two guards called his name, helped
him to the bank, and suddenly he found
himself again on the path leading to the
city of All-virtues.
Now, on the night when The-tenth was
taken away, his wife waited for him.
Troubled not to see him, she started as
soon as the sun beamed, and looked for
him on the road. She soon found his body
lying unconscious. Trying in vain to revive
him, she thought him dead, and wept
Not being strong enough to bring home
his body, she came back to town in order
to ask the help of her family. In the afternoon,
clad in the white dress of mourning,
and accompanied by her four brothers, she
What was her astonishment and fear
when, approaching the place where she
had found the body, she saw her husband
walking towards her. He was all covered
with blood, and the stench was so strong
that everybody pinched his nose.
When he had explained what had happened,
they all returned to the village.
The-tenth knelt reverently before his ancestors'
tablet, offered butter and rice, and
This very day he asked a Taoist priest
what was the river he had worked in.
The priest explained to him it was called
the River-of-sorrows. It took its source
in the outer world in every tear that was
shed. The people that killed themselves
out of despair were floated down its stream
to the kingdom of shadows.
Sometimes the sorrows on earth were so
great that people killed themselves by
thousands and did not shed any tears; the
blood then was too thick to wash away the
decayed remains, and the river-bed had to
be cleaned lest it should overflow and drown
the whole world. Living men alone were
employed in this work, for only living men
can cure living men's sorrows.
THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
In the beautiful Chu-san archipelago
there is a small island where the
flowers never cease blooming, and where
the trees grow thick and high. From the
most remote antiquity nobody has been
known to live in the shade of this virgin
forest; the ferns, the creepers, are so entangled
that it is impossible for a man to
cross this wilderness without clearing his
way with a hatchet.
A young student named Chang, who
lived in the City-over-the-sea, used to rest
himself from his daily labour by going out
to sea in a small junk he managed himself.
Having heard of the mysterious island, he
resolved to explore it, prepared wine and
food, and sailed out on a beautiful summer's
Towards midday he neared the place
where the island was supposed to be.
Soon a delicious perfume of flowers was
brought to him by the hot breeze. He
saw the dark green of the trees over the
light green of the sea, and, when still nearer,
the yellow sand of the beach, where he
resolved to disembark.
The junk touched the shore; he tied it
to a large fallen tree whose end dipped into
the gentle waves, and proceeded at once to
a hearty meal.
While he was storing again in the boat
what remained of his provisions, he was
suddenly startled by a subdued laugh.
Turning his head, he saw among the wild
roses of the shore, a young girl covered with
a long blue dress, who looked at him with
dark eyes full of flame.
"Your servant is most happy to see you
here. I did not suppose I should ever have
the pleasure of meeting you."
"Who are you?" asked Chang, forgetting,
in his astonishment, the proper forms of
"I am only a poor singer who has been
brought here by The-Duke-of-the-sea."
Chang, hearing these words, was afraid
in his heart; The-Duke-of-the-sea was a
renowned pirate who used to plunder every
village of the coast, and was reputed to be
cruel and vindictive. But the girl was so
attractive that he soon forgot everything
in the pleasure of her chatter.
Seated at the foot of a big tree, they were
laughing, when a noise came from the forest.
"It is The-Duke-of-the-sea! It is The-Duke-of-the-sea!"
murmured the girl. "I
must be off at once."
And she disappeared behind the foliage.
While Chang was asking himself what he
should do, he suddenly saw a huge snake
coming straight to him. Its body was as
thick as a cask, and so long that the end
was still hidden in the forest, while the head
was balancing over the frightened student.
Chang could not say a word and dared
not move: the snake entwined himself
round a tree and round the man, holding
fast its prisoner's arms. Then, lowering
its head, it threw out its tongue, and,
pricking the student's nose, began to suck
the blood which came out and fell on the
Chang saw that, if he did not immediately
free himself, he would certainly die. Feeling
cautiously with his hand round his waist, he
took from his purse a certain poisoned pill
that he kept there and intended to try on
wolves and foxes. With two fingers he
took the pill and threw it into the red pool
at his feet.
The snake, of course, sucked it with the
blood; it immediately stopped drinking,
straightened its body, and rocked its head
to and fro, knocking the tree-trunks and
Chang, feeble and hardly able to stand,
dragged himself as fast as he could out of
reach on to the beach and quickly untied
his boat. Nevertheless, before going out
to sea, he fetched a sword and went cautiously
into the wood again. The snake
did not move. Chang flourished his sword,
and with a mighty stroke cut the head off
and ran to his boat.
He returned to the City-over-the-sea,
went to bed and was ill for a month.
When he spoke of his experience, he always
said that, to his mind, it was the beautiful
girl he had seen at first who had come
again in the form of a snake.
THE SPIRIT OF THE RIVER
In a small village along the river Tsz
lived a fisherman named Siu. He
started every night with his nets, and took
very great care not to forget to bring with
him a small jar of spirits. Before throwing
his cast-net, he drank a small cup of the
fragrant liquor and poured some drops into
the slow current, praying aloud:
"O Spirit-of-the-river, please accept these
offerings and favour your humble servant.
I am poor and I must take some of the
fishes that live in your cold kingdom.
Don't be angry against me and don't
prevent the eels and trouts coming to
When every fisherman on the river
brought back only one basket of fishes, he
always proudly bore home a heavy charge
of two or three baskets full to the
Once, on a rosy dawn of early spring,
when the sun, still below the horizon, began
to eat with its golden teeth the vanishing
darkness, he said aloud:
"O Spirit-of-the-river! For many years,
every night I have drunk with you
a good number of wine-cups; but I never
saw your face; won't you favour me with
your presence? We could sit together, and
the pleasure of drinking would be much
Hardly had he finished these words when,
from the middle of the stream, emerged a
beautiful young man clothed in pink, who
slowly walked on the smooth surface of
the limpid water, and sat on the boat's end,
"Here I am."
The fisherman, being half-drunk, was
not troubled in any way; he bowed to the
young man, offered him, with his two hands,
a cup of the strong wine, and said:
"Well! I long wished to receive your
instructions, and I am very glad to see
you. You must be mighty tired of living
in that water; the few drops of wine I
pour every night are quite lost in such a
quantity of tasteless liquid. You had better
come up every night; we will drink together
and enjoy each other's company."
From this day, when darkness closed in,
the Spirit waited for the fisherman and
partook of his provisions. As soon as the
sun rose above the horizon he suddenly
disappeared. The fisherman did not find
that very convenient; he asked his companion
if he could not arrange to stay with
him sometimes in the daytime.
"Impossible; we can't do such a thing,
we spirits and ghosts. We belong to the
kingdom of shadows. When the shadows,
fighting the daylight, bring with them the
Night, we are free to go and wander about.
But as soon as the herald of the morn,
the cock, has proclaimed the daily victory
of the sun, we are powerless and must
On the same day the fisherman was sitting
on the bank, smoking a pipe before going
home with his baskets, when he saw a
woman holding a child in her arms and
hastening along the river towards a ford
some hundred yards up stream. She was
already in the water, when she missed her
footing, fell into the river, and was rolled
away by the stream. The child, by some
happy chance, had fallen on the bank and
lay there, crying.
The fisherman could easily have gone in
his boat and saved the woman, who was
still struggling to regain the bank, but he
was a prudent man:
"This woman, whom I don't know, seems
to be beautiful," thought he. "Maybe it
is my friend The-Spirit-of-the-river who
has arranged all this, and chosen the girl
to be his wife. If I prevent her going down
to his cold lodgings, he will be angry and
ruin my fishing. All I could do is to adopt
this boy until somebody comes and asks
And he did not move, until the poor
woman had disappeared in the yellow
stream; then he took the child. Once
back in the village, he inquired about the
mother; nobody could tell who she was.
The days passed and nobody asked for
the boy. This was strange enough, but,
stranger still, from this day the fisherman
never saw The-Spirit-of-the-river again.
He offered him many cups of wine, and his
fishing was as good as ever, but though he
prayed heartily, his companion of so many
nights did not appear any more.
When the boy was three years old he
insisted on accompanying his adopted father
in his night fishing. Summer had come;
the cold was no more to be feared.
The man consented to take his adopted son
with him; they started together in the
As soon as the darkness closed, the boy's
voice changed; his appearance was different.
"What a silly man you are!" said he.
"Don't you know me now? For more
than two years I waited for an opportunity
to tell you who I was. But you always
went out at night and you never came back
before the sun was high in the sky. You
had never failed to present your offerings;
so I could not resist your prayer when you
asked me to stay with you in the daytime.
Now, here I am, till your death; when
the sun is up I shall only be your son,
but when the night closes I shall be your
companion, and we will enjoy together what
longevity the Fate allows you."
In the twenty-second year of the period
Eternal-happiness, the population of
Chao-cheou's harbour, awaking on a bright
summer's morning, were extremely surprised
and frightened to see, swaying on the blue
water of the bay, a strange and abnormally
huge ship. The three high masts were
heavily loaded with transversal pieces of
wood, from some of which sails were still
hanging; another mast projected horizontally
from the prow, and three sails
were tightened from this to the foremast.
A small boat was lowered from the ship's
side and rowed to the quay. Several hundreds
of people were watching the proceedings,
asking one another if it was a
human invention or a ship coming from the
depths of hell.
The small boat stopped at a short distance
from the bank; one could see that, beside
the rowers, there were three men seated in
the stern; their heads were covered with
extraordinarily long and fluffy grey hair;
they wore big hats with feathers of many
colours. A Chinaman was in the boat and
hailed the people:
"Ha! Please tell the local authorities
that high mandarins from the ocean want
to speak to them. We are peaceful. But
if you do any harm to our men or ships,
our wrath will be such that we will destroy
in one day the whole town and kill everybody
within ten miles' distance."
Three or four men belonging to the Yamen
had heard these words; they ran to the
prefect's palace and came back with an
answer they delivered to the new-comers:
"His Excellency the prefect consents to
receive your visit. If you are peaceful,
no harm will be done to you. But if you
steal anything, or wound or kill anybody,
the laws of our country will be enforced
upon you without mercy."
Then the boat slowly accosted the quay;
two of the men with feathered hats disembarked
with the Chinaman, while six of the
rowers, leaving their oars in the boat,
shouldered heavy muskets, and cleared the
way, three walking in front of the feathered
hats and three behind. The rowers wore
small caps and had long blue trousers and
very short blue coats.
The prefect, in his embroidered dress,
awaited them on the threshold of his
reception-room. He bade the new-comers
be seated and asked their names and their
business; the Chinaman translated the questions
and the answers.
"We come from the other side of the
"Well," thought the prefect. "I was
sure of it, the earth being square and flat,
the other side of it is certainly hell. What
am I to do?"
"We only want to trade with your
countrymen. We will sell you what goods
we have brought; we will buy your country's
productions, and if no harm is done we will
sail away in a few days."
"Our humble country is very poor,"
answered the prefect. "The people are not
rich enough to buy any of the splendid goods
you may have brought. Besides, this country's
products are not worth your giving
any money for them. If I can give you
good advice, you had better sail away to-day
and get to the first harbour of the
northern province; there they are very
"We have just come from it; they told
us the very reverse. Here, according to
them, we should be able to find everything
we want. Besides, our mind is settled;
we will remain here long enough to buy
what we want and to sell what we can. We
are very peaceful people as long as one
deals justly with us. But if you try to
beguile us, we will employ all our strength
in the defence of our rights. All we want
is a place on shore where we can store and
show our goods."
"Well, well; I never intended to do anything
of the sort," said the prefect. "But
the Emperor is the only possessor of the soil.
How could I give you a place even on the
"We don't want very much, and the
Emperor won't know anything. Give us
only the surface of ground covered by a
carpet, and we will be satisfied."
Chinese carpets are not more than two
or three feet broad and five or six feet wide.
The prefect thought he could not be blamed
to authorise the foreigners to settle on
such a small piece of ground; on the other
hand, if he refused, there would ensue
trouble and he would certainly be cashiered.
"It is only as a special arrangement
and by greatly compromising with the law
that I can give you this authorisation."
And the prefect wrote a few words on
one of his big red visiting-cards. The
interpreter carefully perused the document.
Then the foreigners went back to their
ship. The same day a proclamation was
issued and pasted on the walls of the public
edifices, explaining to the people that The-Devils-of-the-ocean
had been authorised
to settle on a piece of ground not bigger
than a carpet and that no harm should be
done to them.
In compliance with these orders, nobody
dared oppose the foreigners when they
began unrolling on the shore a carpet
ten yards broad and thirty yards long.
When the carpet was unrolled, The-Devils-of-the-ocean
put themselves in ranks with
muskets and swords on the carpet; nearly
five hundred men stood there close to one
The prefect, who had personally watched
the proceeding, was so angry against the
foreigners for their cunningness that he
immediately ordered troops to drive them
out into the water. But the foreigners had a
devilish energy nobody could resist; they
killed a great many of our people, burned
the greater part of the city, and occupied
for several years all the northern part of
the bay, where they erected a sort of bazaar
and a fortress, which still exist to this
Suen Pure-whiteness was privileged
with the possibility of seeing distinctly
all the creatures of the other world,
who, for the greater part of humanity,
remain always mysterious and invisible.
One night he slept in a mountain monastery;
he had closed and barred the door;
the full moon illuminated the window;
everything was quiet. He had slept an
hour, when he was awakened by the hissing
of the wind; the gate of the monastery
seemed to be thrown open; after a while
the door of his room was shaken, the bar
dropped down, and the heavy wood turned
on its hinges.
Pure-whiteness thought at first that it
would be better to close his eyes and to
wait; but his curiosity was aroused, he
looked intently; after a few seconds he
could see a big devil, so big that he was
obliged to stoop in order not to break his head
against the ceiling, and who was coming
slowly towards the bed. His face had the
colour and general appearance of an old
melon. His eyes were full of lightning
and his mouth was bigger than a tub. His
teeth were at least three inches long and
his tongue kept moving incessantly, while
he uttered a sound like "Ha-la."
Pure-whiteness was much afraid; but,
seeing he had no way of escape, he took a
short sword from under his pillow and, with
all his might, thrust it into the devil's breast;
it sounded as if he had struck a stone.
The devil hissed in a fearful way; he
extended his claws to catch the man.
Pure-whiteness jumped on the right side;
the devil could only catch his dress and
started; the man hastened to unfasten his
dress; he dropped and remained there on
all fours, motionless and mute. When the
devil's steps ceased to be heard he screamed
for help; the priests came with lamps;
everything was in order, but in the bed
Pure-witeness was yelling as in a
On another day Pure-whiteness was in
the country enjoying the pleasures of
harvest. The golden rice was piled high
and everybody was busy. Some armed men
had been posted here and there, according
to the custom; everybody knows that
when the rice is ripened in a place, people
of the neighbouring villages are always
looking for an opportunity to make the
harvest themselves or to take away what
has been cut by the owners.
Pure-whiteness, tired by the heat, laid
down behind a rice-stack; after a while
he heard stealthy steps; raising his head, he
saw a big devil more than ten feet high,
with hair and beard of a fierce reddish
colour, who was approaching. Pure-whiteness
yelled for help: men with spears
came to the rescue. The devil bellowed like
the thunder and flew away. Pure-whiteness
told them what he had seen; nobody would
believe him, but they nevertheless started
in pursuit; people working in the fields
all round had not seen anything, so everybody
The second day Pure-whiteness was
among four or five men, when he saw the
"He has come back!" cried he, flying
The other people ran away too. When
they came back, everything was quiet. But
they always kept by their side some spears,
bows and arrows, and swords.
For two or three days, they had no
trouble; the rice was being stored in the
granaries, when Pure-whiteness, looking up,
"The devil has come back!"
Everybody ran to his arms. Pure-whiteness
fell down; the devil picked him up,
bit his head, threw him down, and went
When the man came back, Pure-whiteness
bore the marks of teeth on his head;
he did not know anybody. Taken home
and nursed, he remained unconscious for a
few days and died.
In the city of The-Great-name lived
a rich idler named Tuan Correct-happiness.
He had then attained the age
of forty and still he had no son. His wife,
Peaceful-union, was extremely jealous, so
that he dared not openly buy a concubine,
as law authorised him, to continue his
When he saw that, at forty, he had no
son, he secretly bought a young girl, whom
he carefully left outside his own house.
A woman is not easily deceived—a
jealous woman especially; Peaceful-union
soon discovered the whole truth. She had
the girl brought before her and took advantage
of an impertinent answer to have her
beaten a hundred blows; after that, she
turned on her husband and drove him nearly
mad with reproaches. What could the
poor man do? He sold his concubine to
a neighbouring family named Liu, and peace
was restored in the house.
The days and years passed on without
any change in the situation; the nephews
of Correct-happiness, seeing that he was
old already and had no son, began to fawn
upon him, each of them trying to be the
one that would be elected as an adopted
son to continue the family cult, as is the
Peaceful-union at last began to see her
error and regretted bitterly what she had
"You are only sixty years old," said
she to her husband. "Is it too late? Let
us buy two chosen girls who will be your
second wives; maybe one of them will
give you a son."
The old man smiled sadly; he did not
entertain any great hope; nevertheless,
the concubines were bought. After a year,
to the great surprise and joy of everybody,
both gave birth—one to a girl, the other
to a boy. But both children died a few
Correct-happiness, when winter set in,
caught a cold and was soon in a desperate
state of health. His nephews were always
beside him; but, seeing he would adopt
neither of them, they began looting the
house; they found at last the treasure and
took it away openly.
The moribund was too ill even to know
what they did. Peaceful-union tried in
vain to stop them.
"Will you leave me to die of hunger?
I am the wife of your uncle. I am entitled
to a part of his riches."
But they would not hear her.
"If you had borne a son to our uncle,
or if he had adopted one of us, we would
not have touched a single copper cash of
his treasure; but, through your own fault,
he has nobody to maintain his rights; we
take what is our own."
When the day ended, the widow found
herself alone in the deserted and emptied
house, crying over the body of her dead
Suddenly she heard steps outside the
door; a young man appeared on the
threshold, his eyes full of tears, covered
with the white dress of mourning. He
entered, kneeled beside the corpse, and,
knocking the ground with his forehead, he
began the ritual lamentations.
Peaceful-union stopped crying and looked
at him with astonishment; she did not
"May I ask your noble name? Who
are you to cry over my husband's
"I am the deceased's only son."
The widow started with surprise and a
pang of her old jealousy; would her husband
have had a son without her knowing it?
But the next words of the young man
Twenty years ago, when she had beaten
and sold away the first concubine of her
husband, she did not know the girl bore
already the fruit of this short union. Six
months later she had a son, to whom she
gave the name of Correct-sadness; but,
bearing in mind the bad treatment she had
received, she asked the Liu family to keep
the child as one of their own. They consented
and sent the boy to school with their
When Correct-sadness was eighteen, the
chief of the Liu family died; the family
dispersed, and only a small legacy was left
to the young man. Believing he was a
member of the family, he could not understand
what happened, and asked his mother;
she told him the truth. Resenting the
hard treatment inflicted on his mother, he
awaited the death of his father to make
his own identity known.
Peaceful-union was very happy to hear
"I am no more without a son," said she.
"All that my nephews have taken away,
treasure and furniture, they must bring
back again. If not, the magistrate will
send them to die in jail."
In fact, the nephews refused to give back
anything. The widow began a lawsuit;
everything at last was restored to the
Peaceful-union hastened to choose him
a wife, and as soon as the matrimonial
festivities were ended she told her daughter-in-law:
"My dear child, if I were you, I would
ask Correct-sadness to buy immediately one
or two good concubines; if you have a son
and they have also, so much the better, but
you can't realise how difficult to bear it
is to be childless."
THE PATCH OF LAMB'S SKIN
In the twenty-fourth year K'ang-hsi
lived in a remote district of the
western provinces, a man who could remember
his former lives. He was now a "tsin-shi,"
and much considered by his
When speaking of the existences he had
gone through, he used to say:
"As far as I remember, I was first a
soldier—it was in the last days of the Ming
dynasty; my regiment was encamped at
The-Divided-roads on the Ten-thousand-miles-great-wall.
My remembrances are not
very clear as to whom we fought with,
but I remember the joy of striking the
enemy, the hissing of the arrows, the yelling
of the charging troops.
"I was still young when I was killed.
After death, of course I was called before
the tribunal of The-King-of-shadows. Closing
my eyes, I can still see the big caldrons
full of boiling oil for the trying of criminals;
the Judge in embroidered dress seated
behind a red table; the satellites everywhere,
ready to act on the first word,—in
fact, everything exactly the same as in the
worldly tribunals, excepting that, in the
eastern part of the hall, there were huge
wooden stands from which hung skins of
every description—horse-skins, lambs' skins,
dogs' skins, and human skins of every age
and condition; skins of old men, of fat and
important people, of lean and shrivelled
men, of boys and girls.
"The trial began; the souls, according
to their deeds, were condemned to put on
one of the skins and to come up again to
the Lighted World in this new shape.
"When my turn came I was sentenced
to put a dog's skin on; and in this low
shape I was thrown again in the stream
of life. But as I had not forgotten my
former condition, I was so ashamed, that the
first day I came on earth I threw myself
under the wheels of a heavy carriage and
"The-King-of-shadows was extremely
surprised to see me again so soon; the dogs,
as a rule, having no conscience, he could
not suppose I had killed myself, and did
not hold me responsible for it.
"This time, I was born again as a pig.
Pigs are valuable, and there are always
people to look after them; so I could not
kill myself. I tried to starve myself to
death, but hunger was the strongest, and
I had to endure such a life. Happily, the
butcher soon put a speedy end to it.
"When my name was called to the
tribunal of Darkness, the King-of-shadows
looked over the pages of the Book and said:
"'He must be a lamb now.'
"The runners took a white lamb's skin,
brought it, and began putting it over my
body. While this was going on, the secretary,
who was writing the sentence in the
Book, started and said to the Judge:
"'Your Honour, there is a mistake.
Please Your Honour read over again; this
soul has to be a man now.'
"You know that, on the Big Book of
Shadows, all our past deeds are recorded as
well as our future destiny.
"The Judge looked at it over again and
"'True! Happily, you saw the mistake.'
"Then, turning to the runners, he ordered
them to take off the skin, which already
covered more than half my body. They
had to exert all their strength, and even
so, they tore it off into pieces. It hurt me
so much that I thought I could not stand
it and I should die; but I was dead, and
I could not die more than that.
"At last they left me bleeding and
panting, and I was born again in my present
condition. But they had forgotten a piece
of lamb's skin on my right shoulder, and
I still have it now."
And he uncovered his arm and shoulder
to show a piece of white woollen hair on
his right shoulder.
In the City-between-the-rivers lived a
young student named Lan. He had
just passed successfully his second literary
examination, and, walking in the Street-of-the-precious-stones,
asked himself what
he would now do in life.
While he was going, looking vacantly
at the passers-by, he saw an old friend of
his father, and hastened to join his closed
fists and to salute him very low, as politeness
"My best congratulations!" answered
the old man. "What are you doing in this
"Nothing at all; I was asking myself
what profession I am now to pursue."
"What profession? Which one would
be more honourable than that of teacher?
It is the only one an 'elevated man'
Kiu-jen of the second degree, can pursue.
By the by, would you honour my house
with your presence? My son is nearly
eighteen. He is not half as learned as he
should be, and, besides, he has a very bad
temper. I feel very old; if I knew you
would consent to give him the right direction
and be a second father to him, I would
not dread so much to die and leave him
Lan bowed and said:
"I am much honoured by your proposition,
and I accept it readily. I will go to-morrow
to your palace."
Two hours after, a messenger brought
to the young man a packet containing one
hundred ounces of silver, with a note stating
that this comparatively great sum represented
his first year's salary.
In the evening he knocked at his pupil's
door and was ushered into the sitting-room.
The old man introduced him to the whole
family: first his son, a lad with a decided
look boding no good; then a young and
beautiful girl of seventeen, his daughter,
called Love's-slave. Lan was struck by
the sweet and refined appearance of his
"The sight of her will greatly help me to
stay here," thought he.
The next morning, when his first lesson
was ended, he strolled out into the garden,
admiring here a flower and there an artificial
little waterfall among diminutive
mountain-rocks. Behind a bamboo-bush
he suddenly saw Love's-slave and was discreetly
turning back, when she stopped him
by a few words of greeting.
Every day they thus met in the solitude
of the flowers and trees and grew to love
each other. Lan's task with his pupil
was greater and harder than he had supposed;
but for Love's-slave's sake, he
would never have remained in the house.
After three months the old man fell
ill; the doctors were unable to cure him;
he died, and was buried in the family ground,
behind the house.
When Lan, after the funeral, told his
pupil to resume his lessons, he met with such
a reception that he went immediately to his
room and packed his belongings. Love's-slave,
hearing from a servant what had
happened, went straight to her lover's
room and tried to induce him to stay.
"How can you ask that from me?"
said he. "After such an insult, I would
consider myself as the basest of men if I
stayed. I have 'lost face'; I must go."
The girl, seeing that nothing could prevail
upon his resolution, went out of the
room, but silently closed and locked the
Lan left on a table what remained of the
silver given him by the old man, and wrote
a note to inform his pupil of his departure.
When he tried the gate and found it
locked, he did not know at first what to
do. Then he remembered a place where he
could easily climb over the enclosure,
went there, threw his luggage over the wall,
and let himself out in this somewhat undignified
Before going back to his house, he went
round to the tomb of the old man and
burnt some sticks of perfume. Kneeling
down, he explained respectfully to the dead
what had happened and excused himself for
having left unfinished the task he had undertaken.
Rising at last, he went away.
The next morning Love's-slave, pleased
with her little trick, came to the student's
room and looked for him; he was nowhere
to be found. She saw the silver on the
table, and, reading the note he had left, she
understood that he would never come back.
Her grief stifled her; heavy tears at
last began running down her rosy cheeks.
She took the silver, went straight to her
father's tomb, fastened the heavy metal to
her feet, and unrolled a sash from her
waist. Then, making a knot with the sash
round her neck, she climbed up the lower
branches of a big fir-tree, fastened the other
end of the coloured silk as high as she
could and threw herself down. A few
minutes afterwards she was dead. She
was discovered by a member of the family,
and quietly buried in the same enclosure.
Lan, who did not know anything, came
back two or three days after to see her.
The servants told him the truth. Silently
and sullenly, he went to the tomb, and long
remained absorbed in his thoughts; dusk
was gathering; the first star shone in the
sky. All of a sudden, hearing a sound as
of somebody laughing, he turned round.
Love's-slave was before his eyes.
"I was waiting for you, my love," she
said in a strange and muffled voice. "Why
are you coming so late?"
As he wanted to kiss her, she stopped
"Oh dear! I am dead. But it is decreed
that I will come again to life if a magician
performs the ceremony prescribed in the
Immaterial like an evening fog, she
disappeared in the growing darkness.
Lan returned immediately to the town,
and, entering the first Taoist temple he saw,
he explained to the priest what he wanted.
"If she has said it is decreed she should
come back to life, we have only to go and
open her tomb, while here my disciples
will sing the proper chapters of the Book.
Let us go now."
Giving some directions to his companions,
he took a spade and started with
Lan. The moon was shining, so that
without any lantern they were able to perform
their gloomy task.
Once the heavy lid of the coffin was unscrewed
and taken off, the body of the
young girl appeared as fresh as if she had
When the cold night-air bathed her face,
she raised her head, sneezed, and sat up;
looking at Lan, she said in a low voice:
"At last, you have come! I am recalled
to life by your love. But now I
am feeble; don't speak harshly to me; I
could not bear it."
Lan, kissing her lovingly, took her in
his arms and brought her to his house.
After some days she was able to walk and
live like ordinary people do.
They married and lived happily together
for a year. Then, one day, Lan, having
come back half-drunk from a friend's
house, was rebuked by her, and, incensed,
pushed her back. She did not say a word
but, fainting, she fell down. Blood ran
from her nostrils and mouth; nothing could
recall her departing spirit.
THE LAUGHING GHOST
Siu Long-mountain was one of the
most celebrated students of the district
of Perfect-flowers. Having mastered
the mysterious theories of the ancient
Classics, he took a fancy in the researches
of the Taoist magicians, whose temples
may be found in the smallest villages of
the Empire. He soon discovered that, for
the greater number, they were impostors;
and, being proud of his newly acquired
science, he concluded that none of them
possessed any occult power.
When he came to this somewhat hasty
conclusion, he was seated alone in his
library; the night was already advancing;
a small oil lamp hardly illuminated his
books on the table he was sitting at.
"Yes, there is no doubt; nothing exists
outside the material appearances. There
is nothing occult in the world, and nothing
can come out of nothingness."
As he was saying these words half aloud,
he was startled by an unearthly laugh which
seemed to come from behind his back. He
turned quickly round; but nothing was to
His heart beating, he was listening intently;
the laugh came from another
part of the room.
Long-mountain was brave, but as people
are brave who have only met the ordinary
dangers of civilised life, such as barking
dogs, insulting coolies, or angry dealers
presenting a long-deferred bill. He tried
in vain to believe it was only a joke imposed
on him by some friend; nothing could
prevail upon his growing terror.
Straining his eyes, he looked at the part
of the room the laugh seemed to come
from. At first he could not see anything,
but by degrees he perceived a black shadow
moving in a corner, then a strange form
with a horse's head and a man's body, all
covered with long black hair; the teeth
were big and sharp as so many mountain-peaks.
The eyes of this dreadful creature
began shining so much that the whole room
was illuminated. Then it began moving
towards the man.
This was too much; the student screamed
like a dying donkey, and, bursting the door
open, he ran out into the courtyard.
From an open door in the western pavilion
a ray of light crossed the darkness; four
or five men were playing cards, drinking,
and swearing. Long-mountain ran into
their room, and, panting, explained his
The men, being drunk, wanted to see the
Thing; holding lanterns and lamps, they
accompanied their visitor back to his
studio. When they passed the doorway,
Long-mountain screamed again; the Thing
was still there. He would have run away
had not the men, laughing and jesting,
shown him what the Ghost in reality was—a
long dress hung in a corner to a big hook,
on which sat a black cat mewing desperately.
When the men closed the door and left
him alone, the student was deeply ashamed
of his terror; shaken by his emotion, he
went to bed and tried to sleep. Sleep would
not come; his nervousness seemed to increase.
Starting at the smallest noise, he
remained a long time wide awake; then he
In the silence one only heard the cries
of the night-birds and the buzzing of the
autumn's insects; the lamp was out, but
a brilliant moon began to pour its silver
light through the window.
The door suddenly creaked; Long-mountain
awoke and sat up on his bed; the door
slowly opened, and the same Thing he had
seen and heard entered the room and advanced
towards the bed, while the same
unearthly laugh came from the long and
unshapely head; the flaming eyes were
fixed on the student.
When the Thing was near the bed, Long-mountain
fell heavily and did not move
The Ghost stopped, put his hand on the
breast of the man, remained in that position
a moment, then went quickly and silently
out of the room.
A man was standing outside.
"What did he say?" asked he.
"Be quiet!" said the Ghost, taking off
his horse's head and discovering a man's very
serious face. "The joke was good. But we
have done it too well. I think he is dead of
terror; we had better be as silent as a
tomb about all this. The magistrate would
never believe in a joke; we would be held
responsible for this death and pay a heavy
Printed by Hazell, Watson, & Viney, Ld., London and Aylesbury, England.