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Young scholar Ch'ang Ta-yung,a native of Loyang,had long heard of the beauty of the peonies in Ts'ao chou and traveled more than a thousand miles to see them.It was February when he arrived in the city.The flowers were not yet in bloom,so he stayed in the house of a local gentleman.In the garden,he wandered about in front of a peony plant all day long and composed poems praising its beauty.
One day,he saw a young lady and an old woman in front of the peony.Taking them to be the gentleman's family,he did not approach them.That evening,they appeared again,and Ch'ang got a closer look at the young woman;she was exquisitely beautiful.He went up to her and kowtowed,saying:" Lady,I believe that you must be a fairy."The old woman scolded him for being so impolite,but the young lady smiled at him tenderly before she was led away.
From then on,Ch'ang thought of the young lady day and night,and could not eat or sleep.One evening,the old woman suddenly appeared before his bed with a bowl in her hand and said:" This is poisonous medicine made by my lady Ke Chin,please drink it immediately!" Ch'ang was terrified and asked:" There has never been any grudge between your lady and me.Why does she want to kill me?" But then he thought to himself:" I'd rather die than bear the pain of thinking of her." So he drank all the medicine at once.
To his amazement,the medicine was very fragrant.He felt much better after taking it and fell soundly asleep.When he awoke, Ch'ang found himself entirely recovered.He was then certain that Ke chin was a fairy and often went to pray at the place where she had stood and sat.
Soon after that, Ch'ang saw Ke Chin again.Overjoyed, he kowtowed to her,but Ke Chin helped him to stand up.As she was just about to speak,the old woman appeared. Ke Chin hid herself behind a stone and said to Ch'ang:"Climb over the wall and down the ladder at the other side of it tonight.You will find a house with red windows.That's where I live."
That night,Ch'ang climbed over the wall,and down the ladder.As he neared the red windows,he heard women's voices.He looked through the window and saw Ke Chin playing chess with another beautiful lady dressed in simple style.He dared not to enter and waited till midnight,but the chess playing continued,so he returned home disappointed.
Ch'ang went again the next night.Fortunately Ke Chin was there alone,so he went into the room.Just as she was about to talk to him,they heard somebody coming."That's my sister Yu pan coming.Please hide yourself under the bed."There was nothing Ch'ang could do but to obey.
Yu pan invited Ke Chin to play chess in her room,and Ke Chin was forced to go with her.Ch'ang came out from underneath the bed and returned to his house greatly disappointed.
Two nights later,Ke Chin came to see Ch'ang and made love with him till dawn broke.From then on,she came every other night,her extraordinary scent lingering long after she left.Ch'ang was astonished and delighted and gave up any idea of going home again.
After a few weeks, Ke Chin said to Ch'ang:"I think we had better get married soon; otherwise,people will gossip."She told Ch'ang to return to Loyang first and she would follow him there,so Ch'ang went back home as quickly as he could,and Ke Chin arrived soon after.
Chang's family was very happy to see Ke Chin,and their neighbours all came to congratulate them.However, Ch'ang began to wonder about Ke Chin's mysterious backgroud.
Ke Chin saw that Ch'ang's younger brother Ta-ch'i was a talented youth,so she said to Ta-yung:"It seems to me that my sister Yu pan and Ta-ch'i are well matched;they would be an ideal couple." Therefore,the old woman was sent to Ts'aochou and Yu pan was brought to Loyang.Ta-ch'i went as far as the outskirts of the city to welcome Yu pan,and they soon married.Hence,both brothers ended up with beautiful wives and the family prospered.
The two sisters each gave birth to a son.Eventually it came out that their family name was Wei,and their mother had been given the honourable title "Lady of the Ts'ao Kingdom." Ta-yung had never heard of such a family in Ts'aochou.And if they did exist,why didn't they look for their daughters?He suspected,but dared not ask.So,he invented an excuse to return to Ts'aochou to look into the matter.
In Ts'aochou, Ta-yung stayed at the house of the same gentleman.There,he chanced to see a poem title"To the Lady of the Ts'ao Kingdom" on the wall and anxiously asked who she was.The gentleman laughed and led him to see "Lady Ts'ao,"but Ta-yung saw only a peony as tall as a man.The gentleman told him that the plant had been given the title because it was the best specimen in Ts'aochou;it was one of the variety called "Ke Chin Violet."
Ta-yung was stupefied.He realized Ke Chin must be a flower spirit.He dared not speak his mind when he got home,but instead,he recited the poem he had found to see what Ke Chin would do.As she listened,Ke Chin turned pale,and then she called her sister to bring the two babies.With tears in her eyes,she said to Ta-yung:"Three years ago I was deeply moved by your love for me,and I married you.Now that you have become suspicious,how can I stay any longer?"
Ke Chin and Yu pan threw the babies to Ta-yung,but they fell dead on the ground and the two women disappeared.It was too late for Ta-yung to repent.
A few days later,two peonies appeared at the place where the babies had fallen,growing more than one foot in a single night.They bloomed that year,one violet and the other white,with flowers unusually large and well formed.The two plants flourished and were later bred to create new varieties.Since that time,the peonies of Loyang have been known as the most beautiful under heaven.
Hsi Fang p'ing,a native of Tung An,spent his life farming and learning.His father was a sincere and honest man,but had been on bad terms with a rich man called Yang who lived in the same district.Old Hsi became ill several years after the death of Yang.One day,he cried out:"Yang has bribed the devils to beat me."Then he gave out a terrible scream and died.
Certain that his father had been killed by evil spirits,Hsi Fang p'ing determined to go to the nether world and redress the injustice.He stopped eating and drinking,and did not speak a single word to anyone.He looked like a lunatic,and in the end,his soul left his body.It drifted and floated until it arrived in the nether world.
Once in the nether world,Hsi Fang p'ing found a town and went in search of a prison.There he saw his father lying in a yoke looking very miserable.When the old man looked up and saw his son,he wept bitterly and told Hsi Fang p'ing that the jailers had been bribed to beat him brutally and he was a mass of bruises.Hsi Fang p'ing cursed the jailers loudly.He took out a writing brush and wrote a complaint,and went straight to the town government to lodge an accusation.
When Yang heard the news,he bought off all the officers in the town high and low,so the Town God paid no attention to Hsi Fang p'ing on the pretext that he had no evidence.Therefore, Hsi went to the prefecture government to protest.But his complaint was kept there for half a month and then sent back to the Town God.The Town God beat Hsi Fang p'ing and sent him back under escort to his own home.
Hsi Fang p'ing refused to enter his home.He freed himself from his guards,and ran to the capital of Hell,and cried loudly about his grievance in front of the Palace of Hell.The Town God and prefecture magistrate sent him a messenger,who promised to give him a thousand ounces of silver if he would withdraw his complaint,but Hsi refused.
When Hsi entered the Palace Hall,he saw that the Yama was angry,and for no reason,he was flogged.Hsi cried:"What have I done wrong?"but the Yama turned a deaf ear to him.Flustered and exasperated,Hsi Fang p'ing shouted:"It's because I haven't got the money to bribe you!"This infuriated the Yama,and he ordered that Hsi be scalded on a hot iron bed.
Hsi's flesh was burned till it was black,and the Yama asked him whether he still wished to complain.Hsi replied:"Yes,my grievance is not yet redressed."Enraged,the Yama gave orders to cut Hsi's body in half with a saw.
Two goblins seized Hsi Fang p'ing and began to saw him in half.Unable to stand the pain,Hsi promised the Yama that he would withdraw his complaint.
The Yama ordered two goblins to sent Hsi Fang p'ing back to the earth.Hsi had learnt that the nether world was even more unjust than the world of man,and he could not appeal to the Jade Emperor.Yet,he knew the Second God in Kuan-k'o was both wise and just,so why not go to him?On his way to Kuan-k'o,he was set upon,by devils and thrown into a cottage where,he was reincarnated as a baby.
Hsi Fang-p'ing cried and cried and would not take any milk,and finally died three days after his birth.His soul then went in search of Kuan-k'o.He had walked a few doZen miles,when suddenly he saw a group of men of horseback accompanying a God.It was the Second God returning from his tour of inspection.Hsi Fang p'ing hastened to kneel down before him and told him his story.
The Second God questioned Hsi and then ordered him to follow them to Kuan-k'o and wait outside the government office for trial.Once in Kuan-k'o,Hsi Fang-p'ing was called into a courtroom,where he saw the Yama,the prefecture magistrate,the Town God and the goblins in cages.His father and Yang were standing before the Second God.
The Second God announced his judgement:"The Yama and the officers have violated the law and accepted bribes,and they will all be punished.Yang was rich and heartless.He used his wealth and power to buy off gods,goblins and others to do evil for his own aim.The stink of his money has fouled the whole nether world and filled the Palace of Hell with darkness.Therefor,his house shall be searched and his property confiscated and given to Hsi Fang p'ing to reward him for his bravery and determination."
Thus,the wrong done to old Hsi and his son Hsi Fang-p'ing was redressed.The Second God ordered the father and son back to earth,and the Hsi family lived happily ever after.
Once there was a young scholar named Wang Ch'i who was a fervent Taoist.He had heard that there were many immortals on Mount Laoshan,so he journeyed there.When he reached the peak of the mountain,he saw a secluded monastery in which sat a Taoist priest on a rush cushion with white hair hanging down to his shoulders.Wang kowtowed and asked the priest to be his teacher.The priest believed that Wang was too pampered to bear all the hardships,but Wang said emphatically that he could,so he remained in the monastery.
Early in the morning,the priest sent for Wang,gave him an ax and told him to go with the other disciples to cut firewood in the forest.Wang obeyed.After more than a month of cutting wood,Wang's hands and feet were covered with thick calluses.Unable to stand the suffering,he began to think of returning home.
One evening,when he returned from work,he found two guests drinking wine with his master.It was already dark,so the priest cut a piece of white paper in the shape of a round mirror and stuck it on the wall.Instantly,it turned into a brilliant white moon which lit up the room.
The disciples came in to wait for their master and the guests,but one of the guests took a jug of wine and gave it to the disciples to drink.The disciples were astonished to see that the wine in the jar did not diminish even after several rounds.The other guest said:"It is rather dull drinking by ourselves.Why not ask the moon goddess to join us?" Then he threw a chopstick at the moon on the wall and a beautiful girl appeared.Less than a foot tall at first,she stepped down from the wall and grew to human size.She then proceeded to sing and dance gracefully.
When she finished singing,she jumped onto the table and turned back into a chopstick.The three men laughed heartily.One of the guests said:"It has been a very pleasant evening.Will you drink another glass with me in the Moon Palace?"The three men then moved their table up into the moon.
Wang rubbed his eyes and stared;he saw the three men drinking in the moon,their images as clear as if they were reflected in a mirror.
After a while,the moon slowly dimmed.One of the disciples brought a lighted candle,and they saw the priest sitting there alone and the two guests gone.The remains of the meal were still on the table and the mirror like paper was still on the wall."Have you all had enough to drink?"The priest asked his disciples."Yes." they answered.The priest told them to go to bed early,so they wouldn't be late for their wood-cutting the next day.Full of wonder,Wang thought no more of leaving.
Another month passed.Wang could not stand the hardship any longer,but the priest still hadn't taught him any magic.Wang said to the priest:"I have been here for several months already.All I do is get up at daybreak to cut firewood and return at sunset.I never bore such hardship when I was at home.""I predicted you wouldn't be able to stand it,"said the priest smiling,"You may go home tomorrow morning."
Wang pleaded with the priest to teach him some small trick."Which one then?"Asked the priest.Wang had noticed that the priest could walk through walls and said that he would be content to know how to do that.The priest smiled and agreed.He taught Wang a spell and bade him to repeat it so he could walk through the wall.At first,Wang dared not.The priest encouraged him to try,and Wang passed through the wall unhindered.Turning round,he found himself outside the wall.
Overjoyed,Wang went in to thank the priest.The priest told him to be serious and not misuse the spell when he got home;otherwise,it wouldn't work.Wang promised and went back down the mountain.
When he got home,Wang boasted that he had met an immortal and learnt the art of passing through walls.His wife refused to believe him,so Wang repeated the spell the priest had taught him,backed away a few feet from the wall and ran at it.
To Wang's surprise,the spell had lost its magic.He banged his head against the wall and collapsed on the ground.A big bump,the size of an egg,swelled up on his forehead.His wife laughed at him,and Wang,consumed by shame and rage,cursed the old priest for his ingratitude.
Ma Tzu-ts'ai of HeBei Province was a virtuous man and detested money and politics.His only love was chrysanthemums.One year he went to Nanking to buy some new specimens as his own flowers were dying.On the way he made friends with T'ao San-lang and Huang Ying,his sister.Ma discovered they were skilled chrysanthemum growers and wanted to move to a quiet place in the North,so he offered,"Though I am poor,I do have a few rooms in my house you could live in if you don't find them too humble."
Several days later,the brother and sister arrived at Ma's house.They appreciated there and decided to stay.Every day T'ao went to the north yard where Ma lived,and helped him care for the chrysanthemums.In T'ao's hands,the withered flowers came to life again.
T'ao seemed to be very poor,and ate his meals at Ma's house every day.One day,he said to Ma,"You are not rich,either.Let's sell some chrysanthemums and make a living out of it."Ma disdained money so much that he replied sulkily,"Aren't your words an insult to the chrysanthemums?" T'ao smiled,"It is not greedy to earn one's bread.It is not vulgar to sell flowers for a living.Though one should not prostitute himself to get rich,why choose proverty?"After that day,T'ao no longer dined with Ma.
Time passed.One day,Ma went to the south yard where T'ao lived and found the once desolate garden overflowing with chrysanthemums.Ma examined the plants carefully and saw they had been grown from plants he had discarded.Amazed,Ma implored T'ao to teach him the art of horticulture,but T'ao replied,"It cannot be taught.Besides,why do you ask?You don't make your living from selling flowers!"
T'ao kept busy growing and selling flowers and became richer and richer.A year later,he built a new house.After another year,he added a new story to the house and bought a piece of land,enclosed it with high walls and planted chrysanthemums within.The following year the chrysanthemums were ready for market,so T'ao set off with several wagons of flowers to sell in the South.
The following year,Ma's wife Lu died,and Ma took a fancy to T'ao's sister,Huang Ying.Coincidentally,T'ao sent him a letter,asking him to marry Huang Ying.Happy and surprised,Ma showed the letter to Huang Ying.She merely smiled and nodded her head,so Ma chose a propitious day for marriage,and brought her to the north yard.
After their marriage,Huang combined their two yards into one.They had more luxuries than the officials.Ma said unhappily,"My thirty years of asceticism have been ruined by you.I am not a real man,for I live off a woman.Others want to be rich,but I long for poverty."Huang told him that she wanted them to be richer so that they wouldn't be laughed at by their descendants.Ma was convinced and felt ashamed of himself.
T'ao came home,covered with dust and dirt.Huang seemed to be expecting him,for she had prepared a house for him.Huang wanted T'ao to marry,but he refused,so she sent a maidservant to take care of him.Several years later,the maidservant gave birth to a girl.
T'ao drank and played chess with Ma all day long.One day,he got drunk,stumbled over a flower bed,and fell to the ground.Suddenly,he changed into a mansized chrysanthemum with ten flowers,each as large as a fist.Huang came rushing out and pulled up the chrysanthemum,saying softly,"Why have you gotten so drunk?"Then she covered the chrysanthemum with clothing and told Ma not to look underneath.By daybreak,the chrysanthemum had disappeared and T'ao lay in its place.Ma now realized that the brother and the sister were chrysanthemum genii.
The 15th of February in the lunar calender is the Day of Flowers.That day T'ao again got drunk.fell to the ground,and changed into a chrysanthemum,but this time Ma was not unprepared.Remembering what Huang had done,he pulled the plant up and waited for the transformation.To his horror,the leaves began to droop.Ma became alarmed and ran to Huang for help.
By the time she arrived,the plant had died and she cried,"You killed my brother!"Overwhelmed with grief,she pinched a section from the withered stalk,planted it in a flower pot which she put in her room,and watered it every day.Ma was full of remorse.
The withered stalk in the flower pot suddenly shot out buds and blossomed in September.It smelt of wine and was named "Drunken T'ao." Years later,T'ao's daughter grew up and married into a family of officials.As for Huang Ying,she herself never suffered any transformations.
In the reign of Hsuan Te in the Ming Dynasty,cricket fighting was a popular entertainment in the court.
At that time a poor scholar,Ch'eng Ming,was given the task of procuring crickets for the court.Ch'eng had no money to buy crickets from his neighbors,and he didn't want to beg,so he became very anxious.His wife advised him,"It's useless to worry.Why don't you go out and hunt for the crickets yourself?"
So Ch'eng went out with a copper-wired cage,and from morning to night,he searched among the rugged rocks and the weeds.Sometimes he would catch two or three crickets,but they were always too weak to submit to the local goverment.
When the date for submitting the crickets arrived,Ch'eng had none,and the magistrate gave him a sound whipping.Ch'eng's legs were so sore that he wanted to die.
Meanwhile,Ch'eng's wife went to a fortuneteller who told her to hunt for crickets at a temple near the village,so she urged Ch'eng to get out of bed and resume his search.Ch'eng, leaning on a cane,went to the temple and at last he caught a fine cricket.He brought it home and waited for the magistrate to call for a cricket.
Ch'eng had a nine-year-old son.One day he opened the cage when Ch'eng was away and the cricket jumped out.The boy tried to catch it,but broke one of its legs and soon it died.
Ch'eng's wife turned ashen when she saw it.She cried,"Beast! Trouble-maker!Your father will finish you when he comes back!"The child rushed out of the door in tears.
When Ch'eng returned home and found out what had happened,he flew into a rage,but the boy was nowhere to be found.
Ch'eng searched for half a day,and finally found his son's body at the bottom of a well.His anger turned to grief,and his wife prepared to bury the child.But that evening,as they undressed the body,they found it warm to the touch.The boy was alive!They put him to bed,but he remained unconscious.
Ch'eng was very anxious,staying awake the rest of the night to take care of the sick child.At dawn,he heard the chirp of a cricket outdoors.He went out and there was a cricket that looked very much like the one he had lost.
The little insect hopped away from him,and then he found it crouching on the wall.Very small and brownish black,it seemed so feeble that Ch'eng lost interest,but suddenly the insect jumped on his sleeve,and he saw it was actually a very fine insect.
To test its abilities,Ch'eng decided to let it fight with a champion cricket raised by his neighbour.
They put the two insects into a bowl,and Ch'eng's cricket stayed motionless.Then,the neighbour burst into laughter and tickled it with a hog's hair.
This aroused the little cricket,and it rushed ferociously at the champion and would have destroyed it if the owner had not removed it.Ch'eng was delighted and didn't notice as the little cricket leapt out of the bowl.Suddenly,a rooster came along and snapped up the cricket.
Ch'eng turned pale,but the rooster stretched its neck,screamed and fell to the ground,for the cricket had bitten its comb.
Ch'eng was overjoyed,and quickly put the little insect back into its cage.
The next day Ch'eng gave the cricket to the local government.The magistrate saw the size of it and bitterly scolded Ch'eng,but Ch'eng told him about the rooster,and then the cricket displayed its ferocity.Impressed,the magistrate sent it on to the governor.
The governor put the insect in a golden cage,and sent it to the Emperor along with a report on its unusual quality.The Emperor was doubtful but let it fight with various specimens from other places,all of which were defeated.
The Emperor was pleased,and rewarded the governor with horses and silk clothing.The magistrate was also rewarded and in gratitude,he released Ch'eng from his duties.
Ch'eng's son did not regain consciousness until a year later.When he awoke,he told them he had dreamt he was a cricket,and that he had fought in the Emperor's palace with many famous champions and defeated them all.
Magistrate Wang had a son,Yuan-feng who was retarded.All the parents in the neighborhood were unwilling to let their daughters marry him.The magistrate and his wife were deeply distraught because of this.One day,a mother appeared with her daughters,and she was willing to let her daughter marry Yuan-feng without a dowry.Seeing the angelic beauty of the daughter,the magistrate was extremely pleased.The mother said she would return in three days and left behind her daughter,Hsiao-ts'ui.
Several days passed.There was no sign of the woman.The Wangs asked the daughter where she lived,but all the daughter would do was return an empty smile.So the Wangs selected an auspicious date for their son's wedding.Hsiao-ts'ui did not seem to mind the retarded Yuan-feng.She would joke and do silly things with him.The Wangs didn't have the heart to rebuke them and simply let them be.
Living on the same lane was Censor Wang who had always been on bad terms with Magistrate Wang and attempted to undermine him anyway he could in the imperial court.Having found out about this situation,Hsiao-ts'ui one night disguised herself as a well-known ministry official and dressed up two maidservants in green robes.They left the house,and Hsiao-ts'ui said jokingly,"I want to visit Mr.Wang." As they arrived in front of Censor Wang's house,she said angrily,"I want to visit Magistrate Wang,not the censor!"and turned around.
When they arrived home,the door-keeper mistakenly thought a distinguished guest had arrived and hastily went in to notify the magistrate.Magistrate Wang hurried out.Realizing that it was Hsiao-ts'ui's prank,he said angrily,"The censor has been waiting to find an excuse to frame me.Now I'm doomed."Hsiao-ts'ui only smiled and didn't say a word.
It turned out that Censor Wang believed the real ministry official had visited Magistrate Wang and thought they were close friends,so he ceased to undermine the magistrate and began to fawn on him instead.Realizing what Hsiao-ts'ui had done,Magistrate Wang praised her for her cleverness.
A year later,the real ministry official was discharged.A private letter addressed to Magistrate Wang was misdelivered to Censor Wang.Censor Wang took the chance to blackmail the magistrate for ten thousand pieces of silver.The magistrate was ignorant of the misdelivered letter and refused to pay him the silver.
Having been denied the money,Censor Wang went out of the door angrily.Suddenly,around the corner he saw a woman pushing Yuan-feng out of the side door.Taking a closer look,he was both surprised and overjoyed,because unmistakably Yuan-feng was dressed up in the imperial cap and gown.Immediately he placated Yuan-feng and removed his cap and gown and quickly took them home with him.
The same night,Censor Wang filed suit to the emperor accusing the magistrate and his son of mutiny against the throne.The emperor personally reviewed the evidence,only to discover that the cap was made of sorghum stems and the gown a dirty yellow rag.Upon summoning Yuan-feng,the emperor saw that he was retarded,and determined that Censor Wang had falsely accused the magistrate.The emperor declared Censor Wang guilty of libel and sent him to do military service in YunNan.
The Wangs realized by this time that Hsiao-ts'ui was not an ordinary person.Hsiao-ts'ui would only smile and say,"I'm the emperor's daughter." Further interrogation would not elicit any more response from her.
One day in the summer,Yuan-feng was about to take a bath.Hsiao-ts'ui prepared the bath and helped him into the tub.Feeling the heat and the steam,Yuan-feng tried to escape.But Hsiao-ts'ui took a quilt and covered the tub with it.Moments later when the quilt was removed,Yuan-feng was dead.
Upon discovering what had happened,Mrs.Wang screamed hysterically,"You lunatic!You murdered my son!"Hsiao-ts'ui responded calmly,"It's just as well;no son at all it better than having a retarded boy."Amidst all the confusion,Yuan-feng opened up his eyes and let out a moan.He began to recall the past and said it felt like a dream.From that day on,Yuan-feng was retarded no longer.His behavior was that of a normal person.
Later,Magistrate Wang was accused of witchcraft by members of Censor Wang's coterie and was discharged.The Wangs dug out the family treasure,an expensive vase,and were prepared to send it as a gift to the local official.One day while Hsiao-ts'ui was admiring the vase,she dropped it on the floor and shattered it.Still not over the chagrin of being discharged,and now seeing the vase in pieces,the Wangs flew into a rage.
Tears in her eyes,Hsiao-ts'ui went to Yuan-feng and said,"The things I have done for your family are more valuable than a vase.Yet,time and again I have been scolded.I have endured all this in silence.After all,the reason I am here is to express my mother's gratitude.She is actually a fox spirit.Twenty years ago she was struck by lightning and was cared by your father.But today with things as they are,how are we to be husband and wife?"
When she finished,she dashed out of the door.Yuan-feng chased after her,but she was nowhere to be seen.After that day, Yuan-feng thought of her day and night.In deep despair,he wept on and on.Even his parents' sincerest apologies were in vain.
Two years later,when Yuan-feng was passing by a garden belonging to his family outside of the city,he heard laughter coming from inside.Climbing up on his saddle and peering over the wall,he found himself looking at none other than Hsiao-ts'ui.Quickly he scaled the wall and rushed up to her.Holding their hands together and tears welling up in their eyes,the couple poured out their stories of longing for each other.Hsiao-ts'ui's heart broke seeing the disheveled state that Yuan-feng was in.But still she refused to go home with him.So under the pretense of convalescing from illness,Yuan-feng moved to the garden to live with Hsiao-ts'ui.
A year later,because Hsiao-ts'ui was unable to bear him a child,she advised Yuan-feng to marry someone else.Yuan-feng refused at first,but Hsiao-ts'ui was adamant,so Yuan-feng reluctantly agreed,and decided to marry the daughter of Minister Chung.During the days before the wedding.Hsiao-ts'ui sewed a hand-made wedding dress for the bride-to-be.
On the wedding day,the bride entered the house.Yuan-feng and his family were flabbergasted to find her resembling Hsiao-ts'ui in every way.Yuan-feng rushed over to the garden.Hsiao-ts'ui was nowhere to be found.Left behind was a red handkerchief with a jade pendant tied onto it.
Chu Erh-tan,who lived in Lingyang,was an easy going friendly young man who was studying diligently for the local exams.But due to his slow wit,he had never attained any academic distinction.Once a studymate dared him to sneak into the Ten Kings Temple in the middle of the night and carry out the statue of the menacing looking judgement god,Judge Lu Pan.Having successfully completed the dare,Chu Erh-tan won a feast from his friend,got very drunk and went home.
The next day,while Chu was having a drink in the pagoda,a gust of wind suddenly broke open the door and in came Judge Lu.Chu jumped up and exclaimed,"I deserve death.I committed a great sacrilege last night.You are here to take my life,aren't you?"The judgement god smiled and said,"Thanks for your invitation.I was feeling a bit restless tonight,so I came to have a drink with you."Chu felt relieved and prepared some drinks and drank happily with the judgement god.
From then on,Judge Lu visited Chu frequently.One night in his sleep,Chu felt a slight pain in his gut.Upon opening his eyes,he was shocked to find Judge Lu rearranging his internal organs and became hysterical.Judge Lu smiled and said,"You don't write your essays very well.That's because there is a blind spot in your heart.I've replaced it with a good one which I found in the world of the living."
From then on,Chu made tremendous progress in his studies and not long afterwards attained first place in the local exam.In autumn he also passed the national exam.His studymates were all very surprised and learned that it was due to Judge Lu.They all wanted to meet him.Without any hesitation,Chu agreed.
However,upon seeing the green-faced,red-bearded Judge Lu and looking into his blazing eyes,everyone ran away in great fear.Chu took Judge Lu home and said,"My wife isn't very attractive.Can you do anything about it?"Judge Lu smiled and said,"Of course,I will honor your request."
Several days later,Judge Lu brought back the decapitated head of a beautiful woman,and Chu brought him to his wife's chamber.Judge Lu took out a sharp knife and severed her head from her body and put the beautiful woman's head in its place.After careful alignment,he mended the cut with his fingers and placed the head back on the pillow.
In the morning,Chu's wife got up and was about to comb her hair but found herself looking at a stranger in the mirror.Chu told her the whole story of how Judge Lu had changed her head.Chu then took a closer look at his wife.Ah,she was like a beauty in a painting!
The local magistrate's daughter was found murdered and decapitated.Magistrate Wu suspected that his daughter had been murdered by Chu's black magic,so he filed suit against Chu,and Chu was captured and interrogated.
But due to lack of evidence,the court couldn't pass a sentence and released Chu temporarily.Chu asked Judge Lu what to do."It's quite simple,"said Judge Lu."Tonight I'll have the magistrate's daughter explain everything to him to clear away his suspicion."
That night,the magistrate had a dream.In it his daughter appeared before him and said,"I was murdered by Yang Ta-nien of Suhsi.It had nothing to do with Chu.Chu was dissatisfied with his wife's looks,so Judge Lu used my head to replace hers.Therefore my body is dead,but my head is still alive.Please don't hold anything against Chu."
Sure enough,there was a Yang Ta-nien in Suhsi.After being captured and interrogated,Yang Ta-nien admitted to the crime of murdering Miss Wu.With the case solved,Magistrate Wu brought gifts to Chu's house to apologize and found Chu's wife identical to his deceased daughter.He immediately adopted her as his own daughter,and Chu acknowledged the magistrate as his father-in-law.
Thirty years passed.One night,Judge Lu told Chu,"Your life is almost over.You have five more days to live.""Is there a way out?"Chu responded." One's life is predetermined.How can I,out of personal favor,save someone who is destined to die?Besides,an intelligent person should feel natural to death.Why do people celebrate life only and fear death?"Chu thought that made a lot of sense,so he went and prepared for his own funeral. Young scholar Ch'ang Ta-yung,a native of Loyang,had long heard of the beauty of the peonies in Ts'ao chou and traveled more than a thousand miles to see them.It was February when he arrived in the city.The flowers were not yet in bloom,so he stayed in the house of a local gentleman.In the garden,he wandered about in front of a peony plant all day long and composed poems praising its beauty.

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