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.

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.





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