AT Ling-yang there lived a man named Chu Erh-tan, whose literary designation was Hsiao-ming. He was a fine manly fellow, but an egregious dunce, though he tried hard to learn. One day he was taking wine with a number of fellow-students, when one of them said to him, by way of a joke, "People credit you with plenty of pluck. Now, if you will go in the middle of the night to the Chamber of Horrors, and bring back the Infernal Judge from the left-hand porch, we'll all stand you a dinner." For at Ling-yang there was a representation of the Ten Courts of Purgatory, with the Gods and devils carved in wood, and almost life-like in appearance; and in the eastern vestibule there was a full-length image of the Judge with a green face, and a red beard, and a hideous expression in his features. Sometimes sounds of examination under the whip were heard to issue during the night from both porches, and persons who went in found their hair standing on end from fear; so the other young men thought it would be a capital test for Mr. Chu. Thereupon Chu smiled; and rising from his seat went straight off to the temple; and before many minutes had elapsed they heard him shouting outside, "His Excellency has arrived!" At this they all got up, and in came Chu with the image on his back, which he proceeded to deposit on the table, and then poured out a triple libation in its honour. His comrades who were watching what he did, felt ill at ease, and did not like to resume their seats; so they begged him to carry the Judge back again. But he first poured some wine upon the ground, in-voking the image as follows: "I am only a fool-hardy, illiterate fellow: I pray Your Excellency excuse me. My house is close by, and whenever Your Excellency feels so disposed I shall be glad to take a cup of wine with you in a friendly way." He then carried the Judge back, and the next day his friends gave him the promised dinner, from which he went home half-tipsy in the evening. But not feeling that he had had enough, he brightened up his lamp, and helped himself to another cup of wine, when suddenly the bamboo curtain was drawn aside, and in walked the Judge. Mr. Chu got up and said, "Oh, dear! Your Excellency has come to cut off my head for my rudeness the other night." The Judge parted his thick beard, and smiling, replied, "Nothing of the kind. You kindly invited me last night to visit you; and as I have leisure this evening, here I am." Chu was delighted at this, and made his guest sit down, while he himself wiped the cups and lighted a fire. "It's warm weather," said the Judge; "let's drink the wine cold." Chu obeyed, and putting the bottle on the table, went out to tell his servants to get some supper. His wife was much alarmed when she heard who was there, and begged him not to go back; but he only waited until the things were ready, and then returned with them. They drank out of each other's cups, and by-and-by Chu asked the name of his guest " My name is Lu," replied the Judge; "I have no other names." They then conversed on literary subjects, one capping the other's quotation as echo responds to sound. The Judge then asked Chu if he understood composition; to which he answered that he could just tell good from bad; whereupon the former repeated a little infernal poetry which was not very different from that of mortals. He was a deep drinker, and took off ten goblets at a draught; but Chu who had been at it all day, soon got dead drunk and fell fast asleep with his head on the table. When he waked up the candle had burnt out and day was beginning to break, his guest having already departed; and from this time the Judge was in the habit of dropping in pretty often, until a close friendship sprang up between them. Sometimes the latter would pass the night at the house, and Chu would show him his essays, all of which the Judge scored and underlined as being good for nothing. One night Chu got tipsy and went to bed first, leaving the Judge drinking by himself. In his drunken sleep he seemed to feel a pain in his stomach, and waking up he saw that the Judge, who was standing by the side of the bed, had opened him, and was carefully arranging his inside. "What harm have I done you?" cried Chu, "that you should thus seek to destroy me?" "Don't be afraid," replied the Judge, laughing, "I am only providing you with a more intelligent heart." He then quietly put frack Chu's viscera, and closed up the opening, securing it with a bandage tied tightly round his waist. There was no blood on the bed, and all Chu felt was a slight numbness in his inside. Here he observed the Judge place a piece of flesh upon the table, and asked him what it was. "Your heart," said the latter, "which wasn't at all good at composition, the proper orifice being stuffed up. I have now provided you with a better one, which I procured from Hades, and I am keeping yours to put in its place." He then opened the door and took his leave. In the morning Chu undid the bandage, and looked at his waist, the wound on which had quite healed up, leaving only a red seam. From that moment he became an apt scholar, and found his memory much improved; so much so, that a few days afterwards he showed an essay to the Judge for which he was very much commended. "However," said the latter, "your success will be limited to the master's degree. You won't get beyond that." "When shall I take it?" asked Chu. "This year," replied the Judge. And so it turned out. Chu passed first on the list for the bachelor's degree, and then among the first five for the master's degree. His old comrades, who had been accustomed to make a laughing-stock of him, were now astonished to find him a full blown M.A., and when they learned how it had come about, they begged Chu to speak to the Judge on their behalf. The Judge promised to assist them, and they made all ready to receive him; but when in the evening he did come, they were so frightened at his red beard and flashing eyes that their teeth chattered in their heads, and one by one they stole away. Chu then took the Judge home with him to have a cup together, and when the wine had mounted well into his head, he said, "I am deeply grateful to Your Excellency's former kindness in arranging my inside; but there is still another favour I venture to ask which possibly may be granted." The Judge asked him what it was; and Chu replied, "If you can change a person's inside, you surely could also change his face. Now my wife is not at all a bad figure, but she is very ugly. I pray Your Excellency try the knife upon her." The Judge laughed, and said he would do so, only it would be necessary to give him a little time. Some days subsequently, the Judge knocked at Chu's door towards the middle of the night; whereupon the latter jumped up and invited him in. Lighting a candle, it was evident that the Judge had something under his coat, and in answer to Chu's inquiries, he said, "It's what you asked me for. I have had great trouble in procuring it." He then produced the head of a nice-looking young girl, and presented it to Chu, who found the blood on the neck was still warm. "We must make haste," said the Judge, "and take care not to wake the fowls or dogs." Chu was afraid his wife's door might be bolted; but the Judge laid his hand on it and it opened at once. Chu then led him to the bed where his wife was lying asleep on her side; and the Judge, giving Chu the head to hold, drew from his boot a steel blade shaped like the handle of a spoon. He laid this across the lady's neck, which he cut through as if it had been a melon, and the head fell over the back of the pillow. Seizing the head he had brought with him, he now fitted it on carefully and accurately, and pressing it down to make it stick, bolstered the lady up with pillows placed on either side. When all was finished, he bade Chu put his wife's old head away, and then took his leave. Soon after Mrs. Chu waked up, and perceived a curious sensation about her neck, and a scaly feeling about the jaws. Putting her hand to her face, she found flakes of dry blood; and much frightened called a maid-servant to bring water to wash it off. The maid-servant was also greatly alarmed at the appearance of her face, and proceeded to wash off the blood, which coloured a whole basin of water; but when she saw her mistress's new face she was almost frightened to death. Mrs. Chu took a mirror to look at herself, and was staring at herself in utter astonishment, when her husband came in and explained what had taken place. On examining her more closely, Chu saw that she had a well-featured pleasant face, of a medium order of beauty; and when he came to look at her neck, he found a red seam all round, with the parts above and below of a different coloured flesh. Now the daughter of an official named Wu was a very nice-looking girl who, though nineteen years of age, had not yet been married, two gentlemen who were engaged to her having died before the day. At the Feast of Lanterns, this young lady happened to visit the Chamber of Horrors, whence she was followed home by a burglar, who that night broke into the house and killed her. Hearing a noise, her mother told the servant to go and see what was the matter; and the murder being thus discovered, every member of the family got up. They placed the body in the hall, with the head alongside, and gave themselves up to weeping and wailing the livelong night, Next morning, when they removed the coverings, the corpse was there but the head had disappeared. The waiting-maids were accordingly flogged for neglect of duty, and consequent loss of the head, and Mr. Wu brought the matter to the notice of the Prefect. This officer took very energetic measures, but for three days no clue could be obtained; and then the story of the changed head in the Chu family gradually reached Mr. Wu's ears. Suspecting something, he sent an old woman to make inquiries; and she at once recognised her late young mistress's features, and went back and reported to her master. Thereupon Mr. Wu, unable to make out why the body should have been left, imagined that Chu had slain his daughter by magical arts, and at once proceeded to the house to find out the truth of the matter; but Chu told him that his wife's head had been changed in her sleep, and that he knew nothing about it, adding that it was unjust to accuse him of the murder. Mr. Wu refused to believe this, and took proceedings against him; but as all the servants told the same story, the Prefect was unable to convict him. Chu returned home and took counsel with the Judge, who told him there would be no difficulty, it being merely necessary to make the murdered girl herself speak. That night Mr. Wu dreamt that his daughter came and said to him, "I was killed by Yang Ta-nien, of Su-ch'i. Mr. Chu had nothing to do with it; but desiring a better-looking face for his wife, Judge Lu gave him mine, and thus my body is dead while my head still lives. Bear Chu no malice." When he awaked, he told his wife, who had dreamt the same dream; and thereupon he communicated these facts to the officials. Subsequently, a man of that name was captured, who confessed under the bamboo that he had committed the crime; so Mr. Wu went off to Chu's house, and asked to be allowed to see his wife, regarding Chu from that time as his son-in-law. Mrs. Chu's old head was fitted on to the young lady's body, and the two parts were buried together.
Subsequent to these events Mr. Chu tried three times for his doctor's degree, but each time without success, and at last he gave up the idea of entering into official life. Then when thirty years had passed away, Judge Lu appeared to him one night, and said, "My friend, you cannot live for ever. Your hour will come in five days' time." Chu asked the Judge if he could not save him; to which he replied, "The decrees of Heaven cannot be altered to suit the purposes of mortals. Besides, to an intelligent man life and death are much the same. Why necessarily regard life as a boon and death as a misfortune?" Chu could make no reply to this, and forthwith proceeded to order his coffin and shroud; and then, dressing himself in his grave-clothes, yielded up the ghost. Next day, as his wife was weeping over his bier, in he walked at the front door, to her very great alarm. "I am now a disembodied spirit," said Chu to her, "though not different from what I was in life; and I have been thinking much of the widow and orphan I left behind." His wife, hearing this, wept till the tears ran down her face, Chu all the time doing his best to comfort her. "I have heard tell," said she, "of dead bodies returning to life; and since your vital spark is not extinct, why does it not resume the flesh?" "The ordinances of Heaven," replied her husband, "may not be disobeyed." His wife here asked him what he was doing in the infernal regions; and he said that Judge Lu had got him an appointment as Registrar, with a certain rank attached, and that he was not at all uncomfortable. Mrs. Chu was proceeding to inquire further, when he interrupted her, saying, "The Judge has come with me; get some wine ready and something to eat." He then hurried out, and his wife did as he had told her, hearing them laughing and drinking in the guest chamber just like old times come back again. About midnight she peeped in, and found that they had both disappeared; but they came back once in every two or three days, often spending the night, and managing the family affairs as usual. Chu's son was named Wei, and was about five years old; and whenever his father came he would take the little boy upon his knee. When he was about eight years of age, Chu began to teach him to read; and the boy was so clever that by the time he was nine he could actually compose. At fifteen he took his bachelor's degree, without knowing all this time that he had no father. From that date Chu's visits became less frequent, occurring not more than once or so in a month; until one night he told his wife that they were never to meet again. In reply to her inquiry as to whither he was going, he said he had been appointed to a far-off post, where press of business and distance would combine to prevent him from visiting them any more. The mother and son clung to him, sobbing bitterly; but he said, "Do not act thus. The boy is now a man, and can look after your affairs. The dearest friends must part some day." Then, turning to his son, he added, "Be an honourable man, and take care of the property. Ten years hence we shall meet again." With this he bade them farewell, and went away.
Later on, when Wei was twenty-two years of age, he took his doctor's degree, and was appointed to conduct the sacrifices at the Imperial tombs. On his way thither he fell in with a retinue of an official, proceeding along with all the proper insignia, and, looking carefully at the individual sitting in the carriage, he was astonished to find that it was his own father. Alighting from his horse, he prostrated himself with tears at the side of the road; whereupon his father stopped and said, "You are well spoken of. I now take leave of this world." Wei remained on the ground, not daring to rise; and his father, urging on his carriage, hurried away without saying any more. But when he had gone a short distance, he looked back, and unloosing a sword from his waist, sent it as a present to his son, shouting out to him, "Wear this and you will succeed." Wei tried to follow him; but, in an instant, carriage, retinue, and horses, had vanished with the speed of wind. For a long time his son gave himself up to grief, and then seizing the sword began to examine it closely. It was of exquisite workmanship, and on the blade was engraved this legend: "Be bold, but cautious; round in disposition, square in action." Wei subsequently rose to high honours, and had five sons named Ch'en, Ch'ien, Wu, Hun, and Shen. One night he dreamt that his father told him to give the sword to Hun, which he accordingly did; and Hun rose to be a Viceroy of great administrative ability.