Portraits of Thirty-three Swordsmen – 27 Hongzhou Scholar

No. 27 Hongzhou Scholar: I cannot tolerate this, [such is this] scholar’s heart.

Cheng Youwen worked at a staff position in the military in Hongzhou (modern day Jiangxi Nanchang). His house was next to the street. One day, siting by the window, he was looking out to the streets. It just rained, so the road was muddy. There’s a child on the street selling shoes; his clothing quite ragged. Suddenly a vicious youth walked by, he slammed into the child at high speed, and knocked all the new shoes into the mud. The child started to cry, he wanted the youth to pay for them. The vicious youth became enraged, and started shouting at the child. Said the child “no one in my family had eaten all day, they’re all waiting for me to sell some shoes so we can buy some rice to boil. Now that you dirtied them, how can I sell them?” The vicious youth showed no sympathy, and kept on swearing.

A scholar passed by just now, seeing the poor child, he asked about the price, and gave the child the money. The vicious youth thought the scholar was doing this humiliate him, so he turned his anger to the scholar: “This little brat is begging me for money, what is that to you, mind your own business!” Then out comes endless streams of profanities. Anger flashed across the face of the scholar, but he said nothing.

Cheng Youwen thought the scholar’s actions commendable, so he invite him in. As they talked, he grew even more impressed. So he invited the scholar for dinner, then stay over so they can talk at night. At one point Cheng Youwen went into another room. When he returned, the scholar is gone. All the doors and windows are locked. He searched everywhere. There is no trace of the scholar. Cheng was very surprised.

Not soon after, the scholar returned, saying “that youth during the day is so vicious, I cannot abide him. I already cut off his head.” With a wave of his hand, he threw the head of the vicious youth onto the ground.

Shocked, Cheng Youwen said “This person did offend the gentleman. But cutting off his head, with blood everywhere, won’t this lead to trouble?” “Not to worry”, said the scholar. He took out some powder and sprinkled them on the head. He pulled on the hair, and rubbed them together a couple of times. In a few moments, hair and the entire head dissolved into clear liquid. He said to Cheng Youwen, “I have nothing to thank you for, I’m willing to teach this technique to you.” Cheng Youwen replied “I am of this conventional world*, I dare not receive the such teaching.” The scholar bowed to him with hands clasp, and then was gone. All of the doors and windows were still locked, there’s no hint as to where he went.

* The original text is “I am not one that travels outside of the square (from Zhuangzi). In feudal times, Buddhist and Daoist priests, and other people believed to have extraordinary or paranormal abilities (eg. xia) were considered not to be part of normal society (outside of the square). When someone became a Buddhist or Daoist priest, he is said to have “exited society”.





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