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The Censor In Purgatory.

JUST beyond Fêngtu there is a fathomless cave which is reputed to be the entrance to Purgatory. All the implements of torture employed therein are of human manufacture; old, worn-out gyves and fetters being occasionally found at the mouth of the cave, and as regularly replaced by new ones, which disappear the same night, and for which the magistrate of the district makes a formal charge in his accounts.
Under the Ming dynasty, there was a certain Censor, named Hua, whose duties brought him to this place; and hearing the story of the cave, he said he did not believe it, but would penetrate into it and see for himself. People tried to dissuade him from such an enterprise; however, he paid no heed to their remonstrances, and entered the cave with a lighted candle in his hand, followed by two attendants. They had proceeded about half a mile, when suddenly the candle was violently extinguished, and Mr. Hua saw before him a broad flight of steps leading up to the Ten Courts, or Judgment halls, in each of which a judge was sitting with his robes and tablets all complete. On the eastern side there was one vacant place; and when the judges saw Mr. Hua, they hastened down the steps to meet him, and each one cried out, “So you have come at last, have you? I hope you have been quite well since last we met.” Mr. Hua asked what the place was; to which they replied that it was the Court of Purgatory, and then Mr. Hua in a great fright was about to take his leave, when the judges stopped him, saying, “No, no, Sir! that is your seat there; how can you imagine you are to go back again?” Thereupon Mr. Hua was overwhelmed with fear, and begged and implored the judges to forgive him; but the latter declared they could not interfere with the decrees of fate, and taking down the register of Life and Death they showed him that it had been ordained that on such a day of such a month his living body would pass into the realms of darkness. When Mr. Hua read these words he shivered and shook as if iced water was being poured down his back, and thinking of his old mother and his young children, his tears began to flow. At that juncture an angel in golden armour appeared, holding in his hand a document written on yellow silk, before which the judges all performed a respectful obeisance. They then unfolded and read the document, which was nothing more or less than a general pardon from the Almighty for the suffering sinners in Purgatory, by virtue of which Mr. Hua’s fate would be set aside, and he would be enabled to return once more to the light of day. Thereupon the judges congratulated him upon his release, and started him on his way home; but he had not got more than a few steps of the way before he found himself plunged in total darkness. He was just beginning to despair, when forth from the gloom came a God with a red face and a long beard, rays of light shooting out from his body and illuminating the darkness around. Mr. Hua made up to him at once, and begged to know how he could get out of the cave; to which the God curtly replied, “Repeat the sûtras of Buddha!” and vanished instantly from his sight. Now Mr. Hua had forgotten almost all the sûtras he had ever known; however, he remembered a little of the diamond sûtra, and, clasping his hands in an attitude of prayer, he began to repeat it aloud. No sooner had he done this than a faint streak of light glimmered through the darkness, and revealed to him the direction of the path; but the next moment he was at a loss how to go on and the light forthwith disappeared. He then set himself to think hard what the next verse was, and as fast as he recollected and could go on repeating, so fast did the light reappear to guide him on his way, until at length he emerged once more from the mouth of the cave. As to the fate of the two servants who accompanied him it is needless to inquire.

酆都御史

酆都縣外有洞,深不可測,相傳閻羅署。其中一切獄具,皆借人工。桎梏朽敗,輒擲洞口,邑宰即以新者易之,經宿失所在。供應度支,載之經制。
  明有御史行臺華公,按臨酆都,聞之不以為信,欲入洞以決其惑,眾云不可。公弗聽,乃秉燭入,以二役從。入里許,燭暴滅。視之,階道闊朗,有廣殿十余間,列坐尊官,袍笏儼然。惟東首虛一座。尊官見公至,降階而迎,笑問曰:「至矣乎?別來無恙否?」公問:「此何處所?」尊官曰:「此冥府也。」公愕然告退。尊官指虛座曰:「此為君坐,那可復還。」公益懼,固請寬宥,尊官曰:「定數何可逃也!」遂檢一卷示公,上注云:「某月日,某以肉身歸陰。」公覽之,戰栗如濯冰水,念母老子幼,泫然流涕。
  俄有金甲神人,捧黃帛書至,群拜舞啟讀已,乃賀公曰:「君有回陽之機矣。」公喜致問。曰:「適接帝詔,大赦幽冥,可為君委折原例耳。」乃示公途而出,數武之外,冥黑如漆,不辨行路,公甚窘苦。忽一神將,軒然而入,赤面長髯,光射數尺。公迎拜而哀之,神人曰:「誦佛經可出。」言已而去。公自計經咒多不記憶,惟《金剛經》頗曾習之,乃合掌而誦,頓覺一線光明,映照前路。偶有遺忘,則目前頓黑,定想移時,復誦復明;乃始得出。其二役,則不可問矣。

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