Skip to main content

Joining the Immortals

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

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


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

成仙

文登周生,與成生少共筆硯,遂訂為杵臼交。而成貧,故終歲常依周。以齒則周為長,呼周妻以嫂。節序登堂,如一家焉。周妻生子,產後暴卒。繼聘王氏,成以少故,未嘗請見之也。一日,王氏弟來省姊,宴于內寢。成適至。家人通白,周坐命邀之。成不入,辭去。周移席外舍,追之而還。甫坐,即有人白別業之仆,為邑宰重笞者。先是,黃吏部家牧佣,牛蹊周田,以是相詬。牧佣奔告主,捉仆送官,遂被笞責。周詰得其故,大怒曰:「黃家牧豬奴,何敢爾!其先世為大父服役;促得志,乃無人耶!」氣填吭臆,忿而起,欲往尋黃。成捺而止之,曰:「強梁世界,原無皂白。況今日官宰半強寇不操矛弧者耶?」周不聽。成諫止再三,至泣下,周乃止。怒終不釋,轉側達旦。謂家人曰:「黃家欺我,我仇也,姑置之。邑令為朝遷官,非勢家官,縱有互爭,亦須兩造,何至如狗之隨嗾者?我亦呈治其佣,視彼將何處份。」家人悉慫恿之,計遂決。具狀赴宰,宰裂而擲之。周怒,語侵宰。宰慚恚,因逮系之。
  辰後,成往訪周,始知入城訟理。急奔勸止,則已在囹圄矣。頓足無所為計。時獲海寇三名,宰與黃賂囑之,使捏周同黨。據詞申黜頂衣,搒掠酷慘。成入獄,相顧淒酸。謀叩闕。周曰:「身系重犴,如鳥在籠;雖有弱弟,止足供囚飯耳。」成銳身自任,曰:「是予責也。難而不急,烏用友也!」乃行。周弟贐之,則去已久矣。至都,無門入控。相傳駕將出獵,成預隱木市中;俄駕過,伏舞哀號,遂得准。驛送而下,著部院審奏。時閱十月余,周已誣服論闢。院接御批,大駭,復提躬讞。黃亦駭,謀殺周。因賂監者,絕其食飲;弟來饋問,苦禁拒之。成又為赴院聲屈,始蒙提問,業已飢餓不起。院臺怒,杖斃監者。黃大怖,納數千金,囑為營脫,以是得朦朧題免。宰以枉法擬流。周放歸,益肝膽成。
  成自經訟系,世情盡灰,招周偕隱。周溺少婦,輒迂笑之。成雖不言,而意甚決。別後,數日不至。周使探諸其家,家人方疑其在周所;兩無所見,始疑。周心知其異,遣人蹤跡之,寺觀壑谷,物色殆遍。時以金帛恤其子。又八九年,成忽自至,黃巾氅服,岸然道貌。周喜把臂曰:「君何往,使我尋欲遍?」笑曰:「孤雲野鶴,棲無定所。別後幸復頑健。」周命置酒,略道間闊,欲為變易道裝。成笑不語。周曰:「愚哉!何棄妻孥猶敝履也?」成笑曰:「不然。人將棄予,其何人之能棄。」問所棲止,答在勞山之上清宮。既而抵足寢,夢成裸伏胸上,氣不得息。訝問何為,殊不答。忽驚而寤,呼成不應;坐而索之,杳然不知所往。定移時,始覺在成榻,駭曰:「昨不醉,何顛倒至此耶!」乃呼家人。家人火之,儼然成也。周固多髭,以手自捋,則疏無幾莖。取鏡自照,訝曰:「成生在此,我何往!」已而大悟,知成以幻術招隱。意欲歸內,弟以其貌異,禁不聽前。周亦無以自明。即命仆馬往尋成。數日,入勞山。馬行疾,仆不能及。休止樹下,見羽客往來甚眾。內一道人目周,周因以成問。道士笑曰:「耳其名矣,似在上清。」言已,徑去。周目送之,見一矢之外,又與一人語,亦不數言而去。與言者漸至,乃同社生。見周,愕曰:「數年不晤,人以君學道名山,今尚游戲人間耶?」周述其異。生驚曰:「我適遇之,而以為君也。去無幾時,或當不遠。」周大異,曰:「怪哉!何自己面目覿面而不之識?」仆尋至,急馳之,竟無蹤兆。一望寥闊,進退難以自主。自念無家可歸,遂決意窮追。而怪險不復可騎,遂以馬付仆歸,迤邐自往。遙見一童獨坐,趨近問程,且告以故。童自言為成弟子,代荷衣糧,導與俱行。星飯露宿,逴行殊遠,三日始至,又非世之所謂上清。時十月中,山花滿路,不類初冬。童入報客,成即遽出,始認己形。執手入,置酒宴語。見異彩之禽,馴人不驚,聲如笙簧,時來鳴于座上。心甚異之。然塵俗念切,無意留連。地下有蒲團二,曳與並坐。至二更後,萬慮俱寂,忽似瞥然一盹,身覺與成易位。疑之,自捋頷下,則于思者如故矣。既曙,浩然思返。成固留之。越三日,乃曰:「乞少寐息,早送君行。」甫交睫,聞成呼曰:「行裝已具矣。」遂起從之。
  所行殊非舊途,覺無幾時,裡居已在望中。成坐候路側,俾自歸。周強之不得,因踽踽至家門。叩不能應,思欲越牆,覺身飄似葉,一躍已過。凡逾數重垣,始抵臥室,燈燭熒然,內人未寢,噥噥與人語。舐窗以窺,則妻與一廝仆同杯飲,狀甚狎褻。於是怒火如焚;計將掩執,又恐孤力難勝。遂潛身脫扃而出,奔告成,且乞為助。成慨然從之,直抵內寢。周舉石撾門,內張皇甚;擂愈急,內閉益堅。成撥以劍,劃然頓闢。周奔入,仆沖戶而走。成在門外,以劍擊之,斷其肩臂。周執妻拷訊,乃知被收時即與仆私。周借劍決其首,罥腸庭樹間。乃從成出,尋途而返。驀然忽醒,則身在臥榻,驚而言曰:「怪夢參差,使人駭懼!」成笑曰:「夢者兄以為真,真者乃以為夢。」周愕而問之。成出劍示之,濺血猶存。周驚怛欲絕,竊疑成譸張為幻。成知其意,乃促裝送之歸。荏苒至裡門,乃曰:「疇昔之夜,倚劍而相待者,非此處耶!吾厭見惡濁,請還待君于此;如過晡不來,予自去。」周至家,門戶蕭索,似無居人。還入弟家。弟見兄,雙淚遽墮,曰:「兄去後,盜夜殺嫂,刳腸去,酷慘可悼。于今官捕未獲。」周如夢醒,因以情告,戒勿究。弟錯愕良久。周問其子,乃命老媼抱至。周曰:「此襁褓物,宗緒所關,弟好視之。兄欲辭人世矣。」遂起,徑出。弟涕泗追挽,笑行不顧。至野外,見成,與俱行。遙回顧曰:「忍事最樂。」弟欲有言,成闊袖一舉,即不可見。悵立移時,痛哭而返。
  周弟朴拙,不善治家人生產,居數年,家益貧。周子漸長,不能延師,因自教讀。一日,早至齋,見案頭有函書,緘封甚固,簽題「仲氏啟」。審之,為兄跡;開視,則虛無所有,只見爪甲一枚,長二指許。心怪之。以甲置研上,出問家人所自來,並無知者。回視,則研石燦燦,化為黃金。大驚。以試銅鐵,皆然。由此大富。以千金賜成氏子,因相傳兩家有點金術雲。

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The wonderful pear-tree

Once upon a time a countryman came into the town on market-day, and brought a load of very special pears with him to sell. He set up his barrow in a good corner, and soon had a great crowd round him ; for everyone knew he always sold extra fine pears, though he did also ask an extra high price. Now, while he was crying up his fruit, a poor, old, ragged, hungry-looking priest stopped just in front of the barrow, and very humbly begged him to give him one of the pears. But the countryman, who was very mean and very nasty-tempered, wouldn't hear of giving him any, and as the priest didn't seem inclined to move on, he began calling him all the bad names he could think of. " Good sir," said the priest, " you have got hundreds of pears on your barrow. I only ask you for one. You would never even know you had lost one. Really, you needn't get angry." "Give him a pear that is going bad ; that will make him happy," said one of the crowd. "The o

The Fox and The Tiger

ONE day a fox encountered a tiger. The tiger showed his fangs and waved his claws and wanted to eat him up. But the fox said: 'Good sir, you must not think that you alone are the king of beasts. Your courage is no match for mine. Let us go together and you keep behind me. If the humans are not afraid of me when they see me, then you may eat me up.' The tiger agreed and so the fox led him to a big high-way. As soon as the travellers saw the tiger in the distance they were seized with fear and ran away. Then the said: 'You see? I was walking in front; they saw me before they could See you.' Then the tiger put his tail between his legs and ran away. The tiger had seen that the humans were afraid of the fox but he had not realized that the fox had merely borrowed his own terrible appearance. [This story was translated by Ewald Osers from German, published by George Bell & Sons, in the book 'Chinese Folktales'.  Osers noted that this story was

The Legend of The Three-Life Stone

The Buddhist believe metempsychosis, or the migration of the souls of animated beings, people's relationships are predestined through three states of life: the past, present, and future life. Legend has it that there's a road called Yellow Spring Road, which leads to Fogotten River. Over the river there's a bridge called Helpless Bridge (Naihe Bridge), at one end of the bridge sits a crimson stone called Three-life Stone. When two people die, they take this route to reincarnation. if they carve their name on the Three-life Stone together while they pass the stone, they are to be predestined to be together in their future life. Although before their rebirth they will be given a MengPo Soup to drink and thereby their memory of past life are obliterated. In reality, San-Sheng Shi (三生石), or Three-Life Stone is located beside Flying Mountain near the West Lake, Hangzhou. On the stone, there is seal with three Chinese characters that say "The Three-life Stone," and a