- A Ghost Story An Excerpt from Kuunmong
Yang Shao-yu had many official duties in court, but that still left him with an abundance of free time and many days of leisure, which he spent visiting friends or enjoying the flowers and foliage of the countryside in spring.
One day, his friend Shih-san1 said to him, “There is a quiet and beautiful place south of the city. Let us go there together sometime soon for an outing.”
“That is just what I wanted,” Yang replied.
They had food and wine prepared for them, and leaving the servants they rode their donkeys several miles to a place where the mountains were high and the streams were clear. They were alone, far from the world of dust, and the fragrance of myriad flowers and grassy meadows cleared their thoughts. They dismounted on the bank of a stream, countless flowers and trees blooming around them, and sat to compose some verses together to celebrate the onset of summer. [End Page 364]
Suddenly, Yang noticed some fallen petals drifting toward them on the water. “Spring, fully come, peach petals floating,” he said, reciting the lines from Wang Wei.2 “There must be a place like the Peach Blossom Paradise3 of Wu Ling4 upstream.”
“This stream flows down from Tzŭ-ko Peak,”5 said Shih-san. “They say, ‘When the flowers bloom and the moon is full, one hears the music of the immortals among the clouds.’ I myself have no affinity for the world of fairies, and I have never been among them. But today, with you, I have entered that world and I would like just once to drink their wine and taste their enchanted food.”
Yang was delighted. “If there are such things as fairies in this world,” he said, “then surely they must be here on this mountain.”
Just then one of Shih-san’s servants came running, sweat streaming from him, and panting for breath, he said, “I’ve come to tell you that the lady has suddenly taken sick.”
Shih-san quickly stood up. “Hearing now that my wife is ill is just another reminder that I have no affinity for the world of fairies,” he said. He mounted his donkey and rode away.
Yang grew bored after Shih-san’s departure. He followed the stream up the valley, looking for something more to see. The waters were crystal clear over the rocks, with no speck of dust, and his mind was tranquil as he continued slowly on.
Soon he noticed a cinnamon leaf floating on the water, and when he had the servant boy pick it up for him, he saw that two lines of verse had been written on it. [End Page 365]
The fairy’s watch dog barks among the clouds,Knowing that Master Yang is on the way.
Yang was amazed. “How could anyone possibly be living in these mountains?” he said. “And who could possibly have written this verse?”
As he walked on, the servant boy said, “Sir, it will soon be dark and it will be too late to get back into the city before they shut the gates.”
Yang paid no attention and continued for another seven or eight li up the steep mountain path, where he could see the moon rising in the east. By its light, he passed through the shadow of the pine woods and crossed the stream. He heard the cries of startled birds and the forlorn howl of monkeys. Stars sparkled beyond the mountain peaks and dewdrops hung from the pine needles. He realized that night had fallen, and he grew uneasy.
At that moment he saw a young girl dressed in green, like a fairy, washing clothes in the stream. “My lady!” she called out, rising up in alarm. “The Master is coming!”
Yang was puzzled by what he heard. He continued another dozen steps until the mountain path ended and he saw the small pavilion rising up by the side of the stream. It seemed to be floating above the water.
In the moonlight there appeared a woman dressed in red standing...