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The Cloth Merchant

A CERTAIN cloth merchant went to Ch‘ingchou, where he happened to stroll into an old temple, all tumbledown and in ruins. He was lamenting over this sad state of things, when a priest who stood by observed that a devout believer like himself could hardly do better than put the place into repair, and thus obtain favour in the eyes of Buddha. This the merchant consented to do; whereupon the priest invited him to walk into the private quarters of the temple, and treated him with much courtesy; but he went on to propose that our friend the merchant should also undertake the general ornamentation of the place both inside and out. The latter declared he could not afford the expense, and the priest began to get very angry, and urged him so strongly that at last the merchant, in terror, promised to give all the money he had. After this he was preparing to go away, but the priest detained him, saying, “You haven’t given the money of your own free will, and consequently you’ll be owing me a grudge: I can’t do better than make an end of you at once.” Thereupon he seized a knife, and refused to listen to all the cloth merchant’s entreaties, until at length the latter asked to be allowed to hang himself, to which the priest consented; and, showing him into a dark room, told him to make haste about it.
At this juncture, a Tartar General happened to pass by the temple; and from a distance, through a breach in the old wall, he saw a damsel in a red dress pass into the priest’s quarters. This roused his suspicions, and dismounting from his horse, he entered the temple and searched high and low, but without discovering anything. The dark room abovementioned was locked and double barred, and the priest refused to open it, saying the place was haunted. The General in a rage burst open the door, and there beheld the cloth merchant hanging from a beam. He cut him down at once, and in a short time he was brought round and told the General the whole story. They then searched for the damsel, but she was nowhere to be found, having been nothing more than a divine manifestation. The General cut off the priest’s head and restored the cloth merchant’s property to him, after which the latter put the temple in thorough repair and kept it well supplied with lights and incense ever afterwards.
Mr. Chao, M.A., told me this story with all its details.

布商

布商某,至青州境,偶入廢寺,見其院宇零落,歎悼不已。僧在側曰:「今如有善信,暫起山門,亦佛面之光。」客慨然自任。僧喜,邀入方丈,款待殷勤。即而舉內外殿閣,並請裝修;客辭以不能。僧固強之,詞色悍怒。客懼,請即傾囊,於是倒裝而出,悉授僧。將行,僧止之曰:「君竭貲實非所願,得毋甘心於我乎?不如先之。」遂握刀相向。客哀求切,弗聽;請自經,許之。逼置暗室而迫促之。適有防海將軍經寺外,遙自缺牆外望見一紅裳女子入僧舍,疑之。下馬入寺,前後冥搜,竟不得。至暗室所,嚴扃雙扉,僧不肯開,託以妖異。將軍怒,斬關入,則見客縊梁上。救之,片時復甦,詰得其情。又械問女子所在,實則烏有,蓋神佛現化也。殺僧,財物仍以歸客。客益募修廟宇,由此香火大盛。趙孝廉豐原言之最悉。

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