16
Apr
10

Portraits of Thirty-three Swordsmen – 30 Zi Chuan Daoist

No. 30 Zi Chuan Daoist: the skeleton could not have been more infatuated, even sword immortals are like this.

Before Jiang Lianfu of Zi Chuan assumed office as a judge, he taught at the village school. He often went sightseeing with his pupils. One day, at the temple, he saw a statue of a woman holding a seal, and became enchanted. In jest he took his handkerchief and tied it to the arm of the statue, as if giving her a token of love.

As soon as he returned, he felt ill. The roommates thought maybe he angered the gods, so as quickly as possible they went back with animal sacrifices to atone for his offense. When they were done, the other went ahead. But he lost his way, in a trance he thought he saw a stream of white air circling in front, at the level of his horse’s head. He didn’t get home until almost daybreak. His wife came to see him, asking if he was okay.

But as soon as he got into bed, there were shouting outside. A sedan appeared by their front hall. Out comes a great beauty, who bowed to Jiang’s mother “Your son and I are destined to be together, may I see him?” Jiang Lianfu leapt out of the bed and went to greet the stranger. His wife, who led the stranger in, is now understandably embarrassed. The stranger assured her “I have not been involved in affairs of mortal for a long time, so please pardon me, for I do not wish to be source of estrangement between you and your husband.” The wife, seeing the warmth and sincerity of the stranger, felt favorable toward her. The two became like sisters. The woman was very dutiful and careful, especially toward the Jiang’s mother. So everyone in the family liked her.

On the eve of Duanwu Festival, in that one night she sewed one hundred multicolored silk purses, complete with human figures, plants, animals, calligraphy, etc. Everything, no matter how tiny and intricate, are perfectly legible, as if done by famous artists. Everyone who received the gift could not stop praising it. Everyone called her Xiangu (xian: immortal, gu: woman/aunt).

Not soon after, one day out of blue the woman said to Jiang’s mother: “Mother, I am facing great danger, I must hide out somewhere else for a while.” She bowed several times, and left. The whole family became fearful and worried, not sure what calamity she was talking about, or whether she could avoid it.

Just then a daoist priest showed up at Jiang’s house. As soon as he came in, he asked Jiang Lianfu: “Your face is completely covered by qi of bad luck. Some very unusual calamity is about to befall on you, why is that?” Lianfu then told him everything. The daoist asked him to prepare a bed in a clean room. The next day, the daoist came again, telling Lianfu to rest easy on that bed, not to get up no matter what. Furthermore, he instructed the rest of the family not to open the door for any reason until noon.

Some time passed; suddenly Jiang Lianfu felt cold air assailing his body. He could hear the sound of swords clashing. In fear for his life, he could do nothing but pull over the bed over his head. Suddenly he heard a loud sound; something heavy had dropped onto the ground and rolled under the bed. He dared not lean over the bed to see what that was.

At noon, the Jiang’s opened the door. The daoist came in, and Lianfu went to greet him. The daoist laughed, “the danger has passed”. They went to see the thing under the bed together. It turned out to be a skull about the size of 5 dou (1 dou = 6 liter) rice-measuring container. The daoist took out some powder from his medicine box, sprinkled them onto the skull, and dissolved it into water.

Lianfu asked the daoist: “what kind of monster is that?” The daoist: “The beautiful woman and I are both sword immortals. She was with someone else before, then she suddenly left him to be with you. The sword immortal she was with was very angry of course, he wanted to kill both of you. Good thing I was always good friends with her, that’s why I’m doing all I can to help out. Luckily the effort was successful. Okay, I’m out of here!”

As soon as the daoist was gone, the woman came back. She lived together with Lianfu as before. When Lianfu’s mother died, she cried and vomited blood. When Lianfu’s wife died shortly after that, she raised the wife’s son as her own. Their whereabouts were unknown after the Jing Kang Incident.

Commentary:
As in Western mythologies, the immortals in Chinese mythologies often behave exactly like human beings would if they had superpowers. The exception in this story is the daoist: seated here in a settled and relaxed manner, he seemed to be free of human vexations.

花月新聞

淄川姜廉夫祖寺丞,未第時,肄業鄉校。嘗与同舍生出游,入神祠,睹棒印女子塑容端麗,有惑志焉。戲解手帕,系其臂為定。方歸,即被疾。同舍謂其獲罪于神,使備牲酒往謝。于是力疾以行。奠享禮畢,諸生先還。姜在后,失道,恍惚見白气亙空,正當馬首。天將曉,始抵家。妻率相視,問訊勞苦。方就枕,忽聞外閃閃殿聲,一女子絕色,自輿出,上堂拜姜母啟焉:“妾与郎君有嘉約,愿得一見。”姜聞,欣然而起。姜妻引進。女清曰:“吾久棄人間事,不可以我故,間汝夫婦之情。”妻亦相撫接,讙如姊妹。女事姑甚謹。值端午節,一夕制彩絲百副,盡饗族党,其人物花草、字畫點綴,歷歷可數。自是皆以仙姑稱之。

居無何,与姑言:“新婦有大厄,乞暫适他所避之。”再拜而出門,遂不見。姜盡室惊懮。頃之,一道士來,問姜曰:“君面不祥,奇禍將至,何為而然?”姜具以曲折告之。道士令干淨室設榻。明日复來,使姜徑就榻堅臥,戒家人須正午乃啟門。久之,寒气逼人,刀劍擊戛之聲不絕,忽若一物墜榻下。日午啟門,道士已至,姜出迎。笑曰:“亡慮矣!”令觀墜物,乃一髑髏,如五斗大。出篋中刀圭藥滲之,悉化為水。姜問其怪。道士曰:“吾与此女皆劍仙,先与一人綢繆,遽舍而從汝,以故怀忿,欲殺汝二人。吾亦相与有宿契,特出力救汝。今事幸獲濟,吾去矣!”才去,女即來,同室如初。罹姜母之喪,哀哭嘔血。姜妻繼亡,撫育其子如己出、靖康之變后,不知所終。

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