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Showing posts from September, 2016

A Clever Lawyer.

Once there was a lawyer who was a putter-through of yamun cases, and for excessive cheating was sent to the lower regions to receive fitting retribution. The King of Hades having enumerated his vile deeds, commanded two demons to take a certain amount of oil and boil him in it."
On his way to the cauldron the lawyer said to the two demons, ' I am very thin, you know. Why use all that oil? Half will be plenty. I know you are fond of oil; keep the rest yourselves.' They accordingly appropriated half the prescribed quantity. Whereupon the lawyer said that he had an important communication to make to the King of Hades, and they could come with him, if they liked, to see that he did not escape.
Being ushered into the presence of his judge, he asked if offences such as those for which he was condemned were never practised in Hades itself. The question called forth an emphatic denial. ' But,' urged he, ' I know better. How much oil did you order these demons to take…

A Chinese Fairy Tale.

There were once two youths living in adjoining huts on the same hill, whereon was a cave haunted by sprites, who used to come forth and help themselves to the crops, and were even said to carry men away to the cavern. One day a girl's shoe dropped down at the door of one of the huts. The lad, named Wang Er, who lived there, picked it up, and saw that it belonged to no mean damsel. Before long, Imperial proclamations were issued, promising high office to the man who should bring back a missing princess. The shoe must belong to her; and, having consulted with his friend, Wang Er set off with him to explore the goblin cave.
" They let themselves down by a rope, and wandered ten li in semi-darkness, when they came to a stone door, whereon was written, ' None but Wang Er can open me.' At the approach of the wondering youth, the door opened of itself, and there was the princess inside, whose sorrow now turned to gratitude. When they had reached the mouth of the cave, Wang …

The Dragon King.

A carp could transform into a dragon if it successfully jumps over the Dragon Gate. On day, the carp-turned dragon was hovering over a pool, he missed his former life as a fish, and he thought that a bath in its cool waters would be delicious, so he changed himself back into a carp. The result was delightful, until he found himself hooked up by a fisherman on to the bank. His spirit flew straightway to the Supreme God, and demanded a redress of grievances. The Supreme Deity merely remarked that fishermen would catch fish; and if he valued his dragonship so lightly as to return to the carp condition, he must expect to be caught.

Retribution.

There was once a mandarin at Ichang [a thousand or so li up the Yangtse] whose father gave into his son's hands a number of silver ingots [fifty- three ounces each] to take to his native place. Fearing the youth would get into mischief at Hankow, the father covered the silver with molten tin, and called them ingots of tin. The young man reached Hankow, and wishing to see a bit of life, determined to sell his tin. The tinsmith having found out the secret, bought up the whole boat-load at 200 cash a catty [say, 6d. per lb.]. Before long the young scape- grace had spent all, and died in want. The enriched tinsmith soon after had an infant son. He had some forebodings that the spirit of the deceased prodigal had entered the babe. The child cried and cried until something was smashed, when it smiled. Thus it grew up. Its only pleasure was in destruction and waste.
" When grown up, the lad was challenged to spend three hundred taels [ounces of silver] at a meal. This he accomplish…

Punning Propensities of the Fates.

" One of the underlings of a yamun, on the last night of a year, left his hat on an empty coffin he had extorted from a dealer. In the early morning, the mandarin went out as usual to worship the god of riches. ' Where's my hat? ' exclaimed the yamun runner when the time came for him to accompany his official master. ' On the coffin ' [Kwan ts'ai], replied his wife, to his great horror. He would surely need the coffin that year. But snatching up his hat, he had to go out without relieving his pent-up feelings. He was only just in time.
" That year he prospered wonderfully. The word Kwan had meant official recognition, and ts'ai riches. [The gods had given him the benefit of the pun.].
" A comrade of his, hearing of his good luck, resolved to try the experiment. ' Where's my hat ? ' he cried as the moment came. ' On the " longevity chest " ' [seu ch'i], replied his well-instructed wife. But that year he did n…

Fanning Grave.

" Better luck to you, Seng-teh. You have the advantage of age," laughed the irrepressible. Nieh Shen-seng then related the somewhat familiar  legend of the wife the of Chwang-tsz, the Taoist sage. It may be given in a condensed form. Chwang-tsz (cir. B.C. 330), whose writings rose to high repute in the reign of the Lustrous Emperor (son of the historical Li Tan), was out walking by a certain hill, where he saw a woman fanning the grave. He inquired the reason of the strange procedure. She answered that her husband, who was buried there, had ordered her not to quit his grave until the clay was dry. As she wished to go home as soon as possible, she was fanning it to accelerate the tardy process of drying. The philosopher fanned it dry at once with his magical fan, returned home, and related the story to his wife, who vehemently condemned the widow's scanty respect for the dead.
After a while, Chwang-tsz was taken ill and died. His widow had promised that she would never m…

Hen-pecked.

" There were two friends in adversity who consulted how they could escape therefrom. And what was their adversity? The old woman! So they agreed to go upon a trading expedition. Li Kai-tai, no relative of Seng-teh's or mine either, was the name of one; Sen Tin-hwa that of the other."
" The latter went home, and, with many a conciliatory smile, acquainted his lady of his intention. ' You are going off because you are afraid I shall make you kneel down again.'
" ' N-not s-so! I-I-I w-w-wish to g-g-go and d-do b-b-busi- ness, and b-b-bring you a whole l-l-lot of m-m-money.'
" ' Nonsense. Kneel down at once.'
" ' Oh, please '
"'Kneel down.'"
" Li Kai-tai, his ' sympathetic friend ' [with a nod to Nieh Shen-seng] arrived at the door, which had been closed, pushed it open and entered. ' How is this? '
" ' I am l-lookiug for a c-cash which I have d-dropped.'
" ' Ne…

A Blind Man Crossing a Bridge.

There was once a blind man crossing a plank bridge over a dry stream. His foot slipped. He caught hold of the boards with his hands, crying, ' What shall I do? I shall surely be drowned.' A passer-by told him there was nothing to fear if he jumped down. But he still hung there, shouting his throat dry. By and by his hands gave way. He dropped a foot on to dry ground. Then he laughed, saying, ' What a fool I was to hang on there so long.'

The Tiger and the Buddhist Monk.

The Buddhist monks with their subscription books for their temple, their own private ' five-viscera temple,' as everybody knows. Have you ever heard of the monk who went into the country with his mass-book and a pair of small cymbals? A tiger met him. The monk clashed his cymbals in his face, and he swallowed them. Having nothing left besides, the monk threw his mass-book at the beast, who ran off to his den.
The little cubs asked if he had brought anything for them to eat. " No, " he replied, " but I am glad to have got home without paying anything. "
" Without paying anything, father? "
"Yes, my sons. I met a monk, and only swallowed a couple of thin cymbals, when he brought out his subscription book! I had to run hard, or he would have got a donation out of me."

Demon Scare Demon.

There is a story of a seller of pictures portraits of a celebrated Taoist going along the street, when a woman asked the vendor, ' What use are they for sticking about the house? The door gods have swords and hatchets, and so frighten demons away. These portraits have good-natured faces.' Her husband replied, ' Yes, but the man's deeds were all the more frightful and villainous. Buy one.

A Temperance Tale.

A stupid yamun underling was once taking a rascally Buddhist monk to prison. As he started with his prisoner, he was afraid of forgetting his things and his errand, so he began mumbling, ' Bundle, umbrella, cangue, warrant, monk, and myself! ' At every two or three steps he repeated the list, until the monk, seeing the sort of man he had to deal with, treated him at an inn on the way until he was so drunk that he wanted to sit down by the wayside and sleep. When he had gone off, the monk took off his cangue, shaved the man's head, put the wooden collar upon him, and fled. On coming to, the man exclaimed, ' Let me wait until I have counted everything. Let me see. Bundle and umbrella are here.' Then feeling his neck, he cried, ' And the cangue, too; and here beside me is the warrant.' Then half-scared, ' Hai Ya! I don't see the monk,' but, rubbing his itching pate, he gleefully added, ' The monk is still here. But where am I? Bundle, umbrella…

An Idol Apprentice.

There was once a man who went off to the E-Mei mountain, a celebrated place in Szchwan for temples. He went in order to learn how to lead a lazy life, with plenty to eat and to spend, and so apprenticed himself to one of the great idols of the place, who told him to carry water for the temple for a year.
"The year over, the idol told him he must work yet another year. Now, what the man ought to have done was to have got a fellow-apprentice. The proverb says, ' One monk carries two buckets of water; two monks carry a pail of water between them; three monks have no water at all because each leaves it to the other.' He carried for a second year and a third, then refused to do so any more.
'What! after only three years? Such folk as you must go on for thirty, before their store of merit is complete.' At which he realised that the idol was making game of him. He then pleaded that he was short of cash.
" ' Well, take the two handles of the temple doors and go!…

A Book for Daughter’s Rouge Money.

Once upon a time, there was a very talented writer, who had two daughters, to the elder of which he gave every cash he could afford on the occasion of her marriage. Her younger sister complaining, he promised her a far better marriage portion if she would only wait in patient faith. The time came, and not a single silver ingot! Instead, a large packet of written paper. " Father's old essays, I suppose. ' One character worth thousands of gold,' and suchlike. All very well, but some-what provoking when a girl wants ' rouge-money.'  Father is a little unpractical nowadays; sits up half the night writing. He is getting old." But the sheets were examined, were sent to the printer, were published; there was a rush for them. Another edition boards worn out with much use, had to be recut. There's your wedding portion! Happiness that is plenty of money ever after! Such was the origin of the Taoist's book The Maker the Gods.

An Historical Romance.

" When Heaven is about to confer a great office on any man, it first exercises his mind with suffering, and his sinews and bones with toil. It exposes his body to hunger, and subjects him to extreme poverty. It confounds his undertakings. By all these methods it stimulates his mind, hardens his nature, and supplies his incompetencies." -- MENCIUS.

Story of Li Tan.  In T’ang dynasty, in the tenth year of Tai Chung's reign his Empress died. She was a woman of no ordinary talent and virtue. He built her a splendid mausoleum, but the next year consoled himself by collecting beautiful damsels for the imperial seraglio. Among these was a young girl of fifteen, named Wu Chow [martial radiance]. She was of low parentage, but soon procured great favour for herself, and high official posts for her near relatives, by her exceptional beauty and wit.
" An imperial censor, however, predicted calamity to the realm in connection with her name. A test prophecy on another subject the…

The Second Emperor of the T'ang Dynasty

Tai Chung’ was the second Emperor of the T’ang dynasty, his reign extended from 627 to 650.
He was ever on the outlook for literary counsellors and heroic statesmen. " Heroic men have come within my bow-shot," was a characteristic exclamation of his. As a monarch he lived up to the ideal embodied in his words: " I look upon myself in my empire as a father in his family. I love my subjects as my children. An emperor who oppresses the people to enrich himself is like a man who cuts off his own flesh to satisfy the cravings of hunger. These may be satisfied, but in a short time his whole body must perish."
On one occasion he allowed a number of prisoners under sentence of death to return to their homes to celebrate the New Year, on the condition that they should come back at a stated time. They all returned according to their promise, which so pleased the Emperor that he permitted them all to go free.
One day, being out in a pleasure boat with his family, he said, &q…

Peh-ya and his sympathetic listener.

In the old days described in the Spring and Autumn Annals, when China consisted of a host of rival States hard to amalgamate, there lived a celebrated statesman of the name of Yü Peh-ya.  His birthplace was the capital of the kingdom of Ch'u, which is now the present Kingchow (the " island of thorn bushes " to which Ts'ao Ts'ao sent his cynical adviser Ti'ao Hen), to the west of the modern Wuchang. But his star of good fortune led him into an official post in the kingdom of Tsin, which occupied what is now the southern half of Shensi, and the north-west of Honan.
The King of Tsin, wishing to send an embassy of friendly congratulation to the King of Ch'u, Peh-ya sought and obtained the commission. Having reached the capital, he was granted a royal interview, and was entertained in sumptuous style. He naturally wished to visit his ancestral graves, and call upon such of his relatives and friends as the great change-worker Time had spared as yet.
Public busi…