Skip to main content

The Salt Smuggler.

WANG SHIH, of Kaowan, a petty salt huckster, was inordinately fond of gambling. One night he was arrested by two men, whom he took for lictors of the Salt Gabelle; and, flinging down what salt he had with him, he tried to make his escape. He found, however, that his legs would not move with him, and he was forthwith seized and bound. “We are not sent by the Salt Commissioner,” cried his captors, in reply to an entreaty to set him free; “we are the devil constables of Purgatory.” Wang was horribly frightened at this, and begged the devils to let him bid farewell to his wife and children; but this they refused to do, saying, “You aren’t going to die; you are only wanted for a little job there is down below.” Wang asked what the job was; to which the devils replied, “A new Judge has come into office, and, finding the river and the eighteen hells choked up with the bodies of sinners, he has determined to employ three classes of mortals to clean them out. These are thieves, unlicensed founders, and unlicensed dealers in salt, and, for the dirtiest work of all, he is going to take musicians.”
Wang accompanied the devils until at length they reached a city, where he was brought before the Judge, who was sitting in his Judgment hall. On turning up his record in the books, one of the devils explained that the prisoner had been arrested for unlicensed trading; whereupon the Judge became very angry, and said, “Those who drive an illicit trade in salt, not only defraud the State of its proper revenue, but also prey upon the livelihood of the people. Those, however, whom the greedy officials and corrupt traders of today denounce as unlicensed traders, are among the most virtuous of mankind—needy unfortunates who struggle to save a few cash in the purchase of their pint of salt. Are they your unlicensed traders?” The Judge then bade the lictors buy four pecks of salt, and send it to Wang’s house for him, together with that which had been found upon him; and, at the same time, he gave Wang an iron scourge, and told him to superintend the works at the river. So Wang followed the devils, and found the river swarming with people like ants in an anthill. The water was turbid and red, the stench from it being almost unbearable, while those who were employed in cleaning it out were working there naked. Sometimes they would sink down in the horrid mass of decaying bodies: sometimes they would get lazy, and then the iron scourge was applied to their backs. The assistant superintendents had small scented balls, which they held in their mouths. Wang himself approached the bank, and saw the licensed salt merchant of Kaowan in the midst of it all, and thrashed him well with his scourge, until he was afraid he would never come up again. This went on for three days and three nights, by which time half the workmen were dead, and the work completed; whereupon the same two devils escorted him home again, and then he waked up.
As a matter of fact, Wang had gone out to sell some salt, and had not come back. Next morning, when his wife opened the house door, she found two bags of salt in the courtyard; and, as her husband did not return, she sent off some people to search for him, and they discovered him lying senseless by the wayside. He was immediately conveyed home, where, after a little time, he recovered consciousness, and related what had taken place. Strange to say, the licensed salt merchant had fallen down in a fit on the previous evening, and had only just recovered; and Wang, hearing that his body was covered with sores—the result of the beating with the iron scourge—went off to his house to see him; however, directly the wretched man set eyes on Wang, he hastily covered himself up with the bedclothes, forgetting that they were no longer at the infernal river. He did not recover from his injuries for a year, after which he retired from trade.

王十

高苑民王十,負鹽於博興。夜為二人所獲。意為土商之邏卒也,舍鹽欲遁;足苦不前,遂被縛。哀之。二人曰:「我非鹽肆中人,乃鬼卒也。」十懼,乞一至家,別妻子。不許,曰:「此去亦未便即死,不過暫役耳。」十問:「何事?」曰:「冥中新閻王到任,見奈河淤平,十八獄坑廁俱滿,故捉三種人淘河:小偷、私鑄、私鹽;又一等人使滌廁:樂戶也。」十從去,入城郭,至一官署,見閻羅在上,方稽名籍。鬼稟曰:「捉一私販王十至。」閻羅視之,怒曰:「私鹽者,上漏國稅,下蠹民生者也。若世之暴官奸商所指為私鹽者,皆天下之良民。貧人揭錙銖之本,求升斗之息,何為私哉!」罰二鬼市鹽四斗,並十所負,代運至家。留十,授以蒺藜骨朵,令隨諸鬼督河工。鬼引十去,至奈河邊,見河內人夫,繈續如蟻。又視河水渾赤,臭不可聞。淘河者皆赤體持畚鍤,出沒其中。朽骨腐尸,盈筐負舁而出;深處則滅頂求之。惰者輒以骨朵攻背股。同監者以香綿丸如巨菽,使含口中,乃近岸。見高苑肆商,亦在其中,十獨苛遇之:入河楚背,上岸敲股。商懼,常沒身水中,十乃已。經三晝夜,河夫半死,河工亦竣。前二鬼仍送至家,豁然而蘇。先是,十負鹽未歸,天明,妻啟戶,則鹽兩囊置庭中,而十久不至。使人遍覓之,則死途中。舁之而歸,奄有微息,不解其故。及醒,始言之。肆商亦於前日死,至是始蘇。骨朵擊處,皆成巨疽,渾身腐潰,臭不可近。十故詣之。望見十,猶縮首衾中,如在奈河狀。一年,始愈,不復為商矣。
  異史氏曰:「鹽之一道,朝遷之所謂私,乃不從乎公者也;官與商之所謂私,乃不從乎其私者也。近日齊、魯新規,土商隨在設肆,各限疆域。不惟此邑之民,不得去之彼邑;即此肆之民,不得去之彼肆。而肆中則潛設餌以釣他邑之民:其售於他邑,則廉其直;而售諸土人,則倍其價以昂之。而又設邏於道,使境內之人,皆不得逃吾網。其有境內冒他邑以來者,法不宥。彼此互相釣,而越肆假冒之愚民益多。一被邏獲,則先以刀杖殘其脛股,而後送諸官;官則桎梏之,是名『私鹽』。嗚呼!冤哉!漏數萬之稅非私,而負升斗之鹽則私之;本境售諸他境非私,而本境買諸本境則私之,冤矣!律中『鹽法』最嚴,而獨於貧難軍民,背負易食者,不之禁;今則一切不禁,而專殺此貧難軍民!且夫貧難軍民,妻子嗷嗷,上守法而不盜,下知恥而不倡;不得已,而揭十母而求一子。使邑盡此民,即『夜不閉戶』可也,非天下之良民乎哉!彼肆商者,不但使之淘奈河,直當使滌獄廁耳!而官於春秋節,受其斯須之潤,遂以三尺法助使殺吾良民。然則為貧民計,莫若為盜及私鑄耳:盜者白晝劫人,而官若聾;鑄者爐火亙天,而官若瞽;即異日淘河,尚不至如負販者所得無幾,而官刑立至也。嗚呼!上無慈惠之師,而聽奸商之法,日變日詭,奈何不頑民日生,而良民日死哉!」
  各邑肆商,舊例以若干石鹽貲,歲奉本縣,名曰:「食鹽」。又逢節序,具厚儀。商以事謁官,官則禮貌之,坐與語,或茶焉。送鹽販至,重懲不遑。張公石年令淄川,肆商來見,循舊規,但揖不拜。公怒曰:「前令受汝賄,故不得不隆汝禮;我市鹽而食,何物商人,敢公堂抗禮乎!」捋袴將笞。商叩頭謝過,乃釋之。後肆中獲二負販者,其一逃去,其一被執到官。公問:「販者二人,其一焉往?」販者曰:「逃去矣。」公曰:「汝腿病不能奔耶?」曰:「能奔。」公曰:「既被捉,必不能奔;果能,可起試奔,驗汝能否。」其人奔數步欲止。公曰:「奔勿止!」其人疾奔,竟出公門而去。見者皆笑。公愛民之事不一,此其閒情,邑人猶樂誦之。

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 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

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