Stories Old and New
A Ming Dynasty Collection
Publication Year: 2000
Published by: University of Washington Press
Title Page, Copyright
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List of Illustrations
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This translation benefited greatly from the help of Prof. Robert E. Hegel and Prof. David Rolston, to whom we wish to express our profound gratitude. Prof. Hegel has, from the very conception of this project, given us enthusiastic encouragement and unfailing support. ...
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In Chinese literary studies, the second half of the Ming dynasty (1368–1644) is customarily regarded as the golden age of vernacular fiction, an age that witnessed the emergence of the well-known “four masterworks of the Chinese novel”: The Romance of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguo zhi yanyi), Outlaws of the Marsh (Shuihu zhuan), ...
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Chronology of Chinese Dynasties
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Stories Old and New
Preface to the 1620 Edition
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Fiction began to rise when the tradition of historiography showed signs of decline. With Han Fei [ca. 280–233 B.C.E.] and Lie Yukou [ca. 450 –375 B.C.E.] as its progenitors, it started to take shape toward the end of the Zhou dynasty [ca. 1027–256 B.C.E.], flourished in the Tang dynasty [C.E. 618–907], and became widespread in the Song dynasty [960–1279]. ...
1. Jiang Xingge Reencounters His Pearl Shirt
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The above lyric poem to the tune of “The Moon over the West River” advises all to take life as it comes, to find delight in whatever lies in your lot, and not to let “drink,” “lust,” “wealth,” and “wrath” consume your energies and compromise your integrity. Joy may turn out to be sorrow, and a gain may turn out to be a loss. ...
2. Censor Chen Ingeniously Solves the Case of the Gold Hairpins and Brooches
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I have heard elders in my story-telling profession tell the tale of a man by the name of Jin Xiao [Gold Filiality], whose native place has slipped my memory. A middle-aged bachelor who lived alone with his mother, he peddled oil for a living. One day, carrying his load of oil on a pole across his shoulders, he was walking down the road ...
3. Han the Fifth Sells Her Charms in New Bridge Town
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This quatrain, quoted from Poems on Historical Events by Hu Zeng,1 relates how King You [r. 781–771 B.C.E.] of the Zhou dynasty showered favors on his favorite concubine, Baosi, and how he tried by every conceivable means to please her. In order to win a smile from her, he lit the beacon fires on Mount Li that were signals of distress to the feudal lords. ...
4. Ruan San Redeems His Debt in Leisurely Clouds Nunnery
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The above quatrain exhorts parents to settle their debts with their children early. As the saying goes, “A grown son should take a wife; a grown daughter should have a husband. If no marriage takes place, scandals will bring you disgrace.” Goodness knows how many parents have unduly delayed their daughter’s matrimony by being too fastidious ...
5. Penniless Ma Zhou Meets His Opportunity through a Woman Selling Pancakes
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Our story takes place after Emperor Taizong of the great Tang dynasty ascended the throne and changed the reign title to Zhenguan [627– 49]. The emperor, a benevolent and enlightened ruler, enlisted worthy men to serve in his imperial court. A veritable galaxy of talents it was, with the eighteen academicians ...
6. Lord Ge Gives Away Pearl Maiden
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During the Spring and Autumn Period [770–476 B.C.E.], there was a King Zhuang, Mi Lü by name, of the state of Chu, who was one of the five great leaders of the time. Once, he treated his ministers to a grand banquet in the private quarters of his palace, with court ladies in attendance. ...
7. Yang Jiao’ai Lays Down His Life for the Sake of Friendship
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In olden times, there lived in the state of Qi two men, Guan Zhong, courtesy name Yiwu, and Bao Shu, courtesy name Xuanzi, who fostered a friendship from an early age, when both were in straitened and humble circumstances. Later in their lives, Bao Shu preceded Guan Zhong in rising to prominence in the service of Duke Huan of Qi. ...
8. Wu Bao’an Abandons His Family to Ransom His Friend
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The above lyric poem, titled “On Friendship,” laments modern men’s treachery and the lack of the true spirit of friendship. When passing around the wine cups, they can be as cordial as brothers, but, at the slightest conflict of interests, they turn their backs on each other. Truly, wine-and-meat brothers are to be had in the thousands; ...
9. Duke Pei of Jin Returns a Concubine to Her Rightful Husband
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Back in the days of Emperor Wen [r. 179–156 B.C.E.] of the Han dynasty, there was a court minister named Deng Tong who stood high in the emperor’s favor. Such was the emperor’s fondness for him that he was always at the emperor’s side, in the traveling retinue as well as on the royal bed. ...
10. Magistrate Teng Settles the Case of Inheritance with Ghostly Cleverness
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The above lyric poem to the tune of “The Moon over the West River” urges brothers to live in harmony. All of the classics and scriptures of the three teachings of our time serve the same purpose of exhorting people to virtue. Confucianism has the Thirteen Classics, the Six Classics, and the Five Classics; ...
11. Zhao Bosheng Meets with Emperor Renzong in a Teahouse
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The story goes that during the reign of Song Emperor Renzong [1023–63], there lived a scholar by the name of Zhao Xu, courtesy name Bosheng, in the prefecture of Chengdu in Sichuan. He started studying classical texts at an early age and, after only one glance at The Book of Songs [Shijing ], The Book of History [Shujing], The Book of Rites [Liji], ...
12. The Courtesans Mourn Liu the Seventh in the Spring Breeze
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The above poem is by Meng Haoran3 of the Tang dynasty, the most famous poet from the region of Xiangyang. During a sojourn in the Eastern Capital,4 he developed a close friendship with Zhang Yue, the prime minister, who was an ardent admirer of his talent. ...
13. Zhang Daoling Tests Zhao Sheng Seven Times
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The above light-hearted quatrain should not be taken seriously, for it was written by Scholar Tang1 of the present dynasty [Ming] in playful derision of immortal beings. Ever since the beginning of the universe, three religions have been in existence: the Supreme Ultimate Lord Lao [Lao Zi] founded Taoism [Daoism], Sakyamuni founded Buddhism, and Confucius Confucianism. ...
14. Chen Xiyi Rejects Four Appointments from the Imperial Court
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The written character for “leisure” is so structured that the “moon” is contained within a “door.” Busy as the moon is going through doors and windows, its light stays as serene and dispassionate as ever in its place in the sky. Only if one learns to be like the moon and find tranquility amidst the hustle and bustle of life can one attain true leisure. ...
15. The Dragon-and-Tiger Reunion of Shi Hongzhao the Minister and His Friend the King
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This poem was written by Liu Jisun, a literati official of the Song dynasty, on the occasion of the departure of Su Shi [Su Dongpo] from the Hanlin Academy to assume his post as prefect of Hangzhou.2 As it happened, Su Dongpo, academician of the Hanlin Academy, had been to Hangzhou twice, the first time as controller general of Hangzhou ...
16. The Chicken-and-Millet Dinner for Fan Juqing, Friend in Life and Death
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The above poem, titled “On Friendship,” laments the difficulties in forming friendships. I shall now tell of a scholar named Zhang Shao, courtesy name Yuanbo, who lived in Nancheng of Ruzhou at the time of Emperor Ming [r. 58–75] of the Han dynasty. Son of a farmer, he educated himself through assiduous studies but remained unmarried at the age of thirty-five. ...
17. Shan Fulang’s Happy Marriage in Quanzhou
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What is described in the above quatrain is the Western Capital [Xijing],2 the seat of government of nine emperors of the Song dynasty and a city of unsurpassed prosperity, with the cities of Chenggao on its left, Mianchi on its right, and Yijue before it and the Yellow River behind it. I shall now tell of a County Magistrate Xing and a Judge Shan, ...
18. Yang Balao’s Extraordinary Family Reunion in the Land of Yue
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The above ancient-style poem makes the point that fortune or the lack of it is something preordained. Wealth may well come first, only to be followed by a decline into poverty. By the same token, a lowly and humble man may well rise to eminence. The vicissitudes of life are no less capricious than the clouds, and just as unpredictable. ...
19. Yang Qianzhi Meets a Monk Knight-Errant on a Journey by Boat
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Yang Yi, courtesy name Qianzhi, was a native of Yongjia of Zhejiang. Ever since childhood, his was a carefree soul that rose above petty concerns. An erudite scholar who wrote in a grand and exuberant style, he was appointed to be magistrate of Anzhuang County in Guizhou. Anzhuang County reached beyond the Five Ridges and shared a border with Sichuan to the south.1 ..
20. Chen Congshan Loses His Wife on Mei Ridge
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Our story takes place in early spring of the third year of the Xuanhe reign period  under Emperor Huizong of the Song dynasty, when imperial examinations were widely held to recruit worthy men. In the Huyiying district in the city of Bianliang, the Eastern Capital, there lived a twenty-yearold scholar, Chen Xin, courtesy name Congshan, ...
21. Qian Poliu Begins His Career in Lin’an
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These eight lines were written by Guanxiu [832–912], a famous poet-monk who lived late in the Tang dynasty. He fled from the chaos wrought by Huang Chao’s rebellion4 and made his way to the Yue region south of the Yangzi River. When he dedicated this poem to King Qian5 to ask for an audience, the latter showed much delight upon reading it, ..
22. Zheng Huchen Seeks Revenge in Mumian Temple
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The above poem is by Zhang Zhiyuan.6 After the Song dynasty moved its capital to the south, the years of the Shaoxing [1131–62] and Chunxi [1174–89] reign periods knew no warfare. Hence, the emperor and the ministers considered themselves to be in the midst of peaceful times and indulged in every pleasure to their hearts’ content. ...
23. Zhang Shunmei Finds a Fair Lady during the Lantern Festival
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In Bianliang, the Eastern Capital, Lantern Festivals were celebrated in grand style under the aegis of Emperor Huizong [r. 1101–25] of the Song dynasty. As our story goes, there lived in the city a certain Zhang Sheng, son of an eminent official. At eighteen years of age, he was a most handsome and bright young man and not yet betrothed. ...
24. Yang Siwen Meets an Old Acquaintance in Yanshan
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The above lyric poem to the tune of “The Jade Maiden Messenger” was written by Hu Haoran.1 Lantern Festivals were celebrated with the most jubilation during the Xuanhe reign period [1119–25] under Emperor Huizong of the Song dynasty. Every year on the fourteenth of the first month, the eve of the Lantern Festival, ...
25. Yan Pingzhong Kills Three Men with Two Peaches
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The above quatrain is by Hu Zeng.1 In olden times, the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors2 yielded their thrones to their successors. In the time of Shun, a great flood wreaked havoc on people’s livelihood. Shun charged Gun with the task of controlling the flood, but Gun failed at the job. The flood surged on. ...
26. Shen Xiu Causes Seven Deaths with One Bird
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As the story goes, in the third year of the Xuanhe reign period  under Emperor Huizong of the Song dynasty, there lived, by New North Bridge outside Wulin Gate in the prefecture of Ninghai,1 a weaver named Shen Yu, courtesy name Bixian. A man of quite some means, he took himself a wife whose maiden name was Yan. ...
27. Jin Yunu Beats the Heartless Man
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The above quatrain, titled “The Abandoned Wife,” was written by a poet of olden times. It compares married women to flowers on branches. Branches bereft of flowers will blossom again in the spring, but once o the branches, the flowers will never be able to make their way back. ...
28. Li Xiuqing Marries the Virgin Huang with Honor
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It is often said that intelligent women are worthier than men. Since ancient times, there has been no lack of such women. I propose not to speak of the Empress Dowager Lü [d. 180 B.C.E.] of the Han dynasty, the Tang empress Wu Zetian, and others like them whose viciousness led to momentous consequences; nor shall I tell of Zhuang Jiang of Wei, ...
29. Monk Moon Bright Redeems Willow Green
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The above quatrain makes the point that it is by no account easy for Chan Buddhist monks to attain enlightenment through meditation. Goodness knows how many monks have tried to do so through good works before turning to spiritual devotion, or practiced spiritual cultivation before turning to good works. ...
30. Abbot Mingwu Redeems Abbot Wujie
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Our tale begins in the days of Li Yuan [566–635], first emperor of the Tang dynasty, who, taking over the empire from the Sui dynasty, made Chang’an, Shaanxi, capital of the new dynasty and promulgated a new set of laws. With his second son, Li Shimin, leading the troops, he crushed all enemies at the seventy-two border posts ...
31. Sima Mao Disrupts Order in the Underworld and Sits in Judgment
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This lyric to the tune of “Full River Red,” written by Monk Hui’an,1 exhorts people to be content with their lot. Everything that ever happens to every mortal being is determined by fate. What is predestined comes to you of its own accord. What is not meant for you cannot be had, do what you may. You are not Scholar Sima Chongxiang. ...
32. Humu Di Intones Poems and Visits the Netherworld
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It is said that the most treacherous court minister of the Song dynasty was Qin Hui [1090–1155],1 courtesy name Huizi, a native of Jiangning. He was born with a peculiarity: his feet measured one foot four inches from heel to toe. He was therefore nicknamed the Long-Foot Scholar when he was a student in the National University. ...
33. Old Man Zhang Grows Melons and Marries Wennü
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The above eight lines describe falling snow, which resembles three things: salt, willow catkins, and pear blossoms. Why do I say snow is like salt? Xie Lingyun1 had a line about snow that says, “Could it be salt sprinkling down from the sky?” There is a lyric poem by Su Dongpo2 to the tune of “River God”: ...
34. Mr. Li Saves a Snake and Wins Chenxin
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The above eight lines, written by Xu the Divine Taoist of the Song dynasty, mean that good deeds will be duly rewarded and evildoing will be punished. The ancients said, “If you amass wealth for your o spring, they might not be able to keep it; if you collect books for your o spring, they might not be able to read them. ...
35. The Monk with a Note Cleverly Tricks Huangfu’s Wife
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Forty-five li to the north of the capital at Chang’an was a certain Xianyang County, in which lived a man with the two-character surname Yuwen and the given name Shou. He left Xianyang for the imperial examinations in Chang’an but failed time and again. Upon his return bearing no news of success, his wife, Wang-shi, ...
36. Song the Fourth Greatly Torments Tightwad Zhang
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Our story relates that during the Jin dynasty there lived a man named Shi Chong, courtesy name Jilun. Before he gained fame and fortune, he made a living by plying his small boat up and do wn the Yangzi River, catching fish with a bow and arrows. ...
37. Emperor Wudi of the Liang Dynasty Goes to the Land of Extreme Bliss through Ceaseless Cultivation
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This poem was written by an acolyte by the surname of Fan, with the Buddhist name Puneng, who cultivated his inner nature in Guanghua Monastery in Xuyi County during the reign of Emperor Ming [r. 494–98] of the Qi dynasty [479–502]. In his previous existence, he was a white-necked earthworm born in the front yard ...
38. Ren the Filial Son with a Fiery Disposition Becomes a God
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The story goes that in the first year of the Shaoxi reign period  under Emperor Guangzong of the Southern Song dynasty, there lived, in front of a government wine storage house at the southern end of Clear River District in the prefectural city of Lin’an, an immensely rich man named Squire Zhang, ...
39. Wang Xinzhi Dies to Save the Entire Family
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Our story takes place in the Qiandao [1165–73] and Chunxi [1174–89] reign periods of the great Song dynasty. After ascending the throne, Emperor Xiaozong honored his father, Emperor Gaozong, as the Imperial Patriarch. Good relations with the Jurchen state had been restored, and all was calm on the four frontiers. ...
40. Shen Xiaoxia Encounters the Expedition Memorials
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As the story goes, with a saintly emperor on the throne in the Jiajing reign period [1522–66] in the present dynasty [Ming], crops thrived in favorable weather and the empire and its people enjoyed peace and prosperity. However, the unfortunate appointment of an evil minister compromised the integrity of imperial rule and brought the empire to the brink of chaos. ...
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Publication Year: 2000