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The young lady of the tung-t'ing lake.

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

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

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

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

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

織成

洞庭湖中,往往有水神借舟。遇有空船,纜忽自解,飄然遊行。但聞空中音樂並作,舟人蹲伏一隅,瞑目聽之,莫敢仰視,任所往。遊畢,仍泊舊處。有柳生,落第歸,醉臥舟上。笙樂忽作。舟人搖生不得醒,急匿艎下。俄有人捽生。生醉甚,隨手墮地,眠如故,即亦置之。少間,鼓吹鳴聒。生微醒,聞蘭麝充盈,睨之,見滿船皆佳麗。心知其異,目若瞑。少間,傳呼織成。即有侍兒來,立近頰際,翠襪紫舄,細瘦如指。心好之,隱以齒齧其襪。少間,女子移動,牽曳傾踣。上問之,因白其故。在上者怒,命即行誅。遂有武士入,捉縛而起。見南面一人,冠類王者,因行且語,曰:「聞洞庭君為柳氏,臣亦柳氏;昔洞庭落第,今臣亦落第;洞庭得遇龍女而仙,今臣醉戲一姬而死:何幸不幸之懸殊也!」王者聞之,喚回,問:「汝秀才下第者乎?」生諾。便授筆札,令賦「風鬟霧鬢」。生固襄陽名士,而搆思頗遲,捉筆良久。上誚讓曰:「名士何得爾?」生釋筆自白:「昔『三都賦』十稔而成,以是知文貴工、不貴速也。」王者笑聽之。自辰至午,稿始脫。王者覽之,大悅曰:「真名士也!」遂賜以酒。頃刻,異饌紛綸。方問對間,一吏捧簿進白:「溺籍告成矣。」問:「人數幾何?」曰:「一百二十八人。」問:「簽差何人矣?」答云:「毛、南二尉。」生起拜辭,王者贈黃金十斤,又水晶界方一握,曰:「湖中小有劫數,持此可免。」忽見羽葆人馬,紛立水面,王者下舟登輿,遂不復見,久之,寂然。舟人始自艎下出,蕩舟北渡,風逆不得前。忽見水中有鐵貓浮出。舟人駭曰:「毛將軍出現矣!」各舟商人俱伏。又無何,湖中一木直立,築築搖動。益懼曰:「南將軍又出矣!」少時,波浪大作,上翳天日,四顧湖舟,一時盡覆。生舉界方危坐舟中,萬丈洪濤,至舟頓滅,以是得全。既歸,每向人語其異。言舟中侍兒,雖未悉其容貌,而裙下雙鉤,亦人世所無。後以故至武昌,有崔媼賣女,千金不售;蓄一水晶界方,言有能配此者,嫁之。生異之,懷界方而往。媼忻然承接,呼女出見,年十五六已來,媚曼風流,更無倫比,略一展拜,返身入幃。生一見,魂魄動搖,曰:「小生亦蓄一物,不知與老姥家藏頗相稱否?」因各出相較,長短不爽毫釐。媼喜,便問寓所,請生即歸命輿,界方留作信。生不肯留,媼笑曰:「官人亦太小心!老身豈為一界方抽身竄去耶?」生不得已,留之。出則賃輿急返,而媼室已空,大駭。遍問居人,迄無知者。日已向西,形神懊喪,邑邑而返。中途,值一輿過,忽搴簾曰:「柳郎何遲也?」視之,則崔媼。喜問:「何之?」媼笑曰:「必將疑老身拐騙者矣。別後,適有便輿,頃念官人亦僑寓,措辦良艱,故遂送女歸舟耳。」生邀回車,媼必不可。生倉皇不能確信,急奔入舟,女果及一婢在焉。見生入,含笑承迎。見翠襪紫履,與舟中侍兒妝飾,更無少別。心異之,徘徊凝注。女笑曰:「眈耽注目,生平所未見耶?」生益俯窺之,則襪後齒痕宛然,驚曰:「卿織成耶?」女掩口微哂。生長揖曰:「卿果神人,早請直言,以祛煩惑。」女曰:「實告君:前舟中所遇,即洞庭君也。仰慕鴻才,便欲以妾相贈;因妾過為王妃所愛,故歸謀之。妾之來,從妃命也。」生喜,沐手焚香,望湖朝拜,乃歸。後詣武昌,女求同去,將便歸寧。既至洞庭,女拔釵擲水,忽見一小舟自湖中出,女躍登,如飛鳥集,轉瞬已杳。生坐船頭,於沒處凝盼之。遙遙一樓船至,既近窗開,忽如一彩禽翔過,則織成至矣。一人自窗中遞擲金珠珍物甚多,皆妃賜也。自是,歲一兩覲以為常。故生家富有珠寶,每出一物,世家所不識焉。
  相傳唐柳毅遇龍女,洞庭君以為婿。後遜位於毅。又以毅貌文,不能攝服水怪,付以鬼面,晝戴夜除;久之漸習忘除,遂與面合而為一。毅覽鏡自慚。故行人泛湖,或以手指物,則疑為指己也;以手覆額,則疑其窺己也;風波輒起,舟多覆。故初登舟,舟人必以此告戒之。不則設牲牢祭享,乃得渡。許真君偶至湖,浪阻不得行。真君怒,執毅付郡獄。獄吏檢囚,恆多一人,莫測其故。一夕,毅示夢郡伯,哀求拔救。伯以幽明異路,謝辭之。毅云:「真君於某日臨境,但為求懇,必合有濟。」既而真君果至,因代求之,遂得釋。嗣後湖禁稍平。

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Publisher's Notes

  • In original Chinese text, the person's name is Mr. Liu, instead of Lin.
  • The register of people to be drowned had been one hundred and twenty-eight, instead of "Two hundred and twenty-eight." I don't know why Giles made these changes, it really doesn't matter though, or he might have used different version of Liaozhai. 
  • General Mao and Nan were translated into "Iron Cat" and "a great wooden beam" by Giles, those seem to be the lake monsters.


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