Episode 173: Fish Oil

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Last time we talked about LanFuYu 懒妇鱼, a mythical fish in Chinese mythology. The fish oil can be used for lanterns or candles which light when you play musical instruments or play chess but not the light would be gone if you use it when spinning loom.


The fish oil from LanFuYu was forbidden to use during the reign of Wu of Tang 唐武宗, between the year 814 to 846. Maybe there was a reason and there is a story from the book DaTangGuYan 大唐瞽言 that we might find the answer.

In the book, it says, in the year 825, there were two people Mr. Zhao 赵 and Mr. Li 李 from the place called JiangLing 江陵. They went to attend the Imperial Examination together. On the way, they stayed in a hotel and lived in the same room. There were many other people staying in the same hotel were also on their way to attend the exam.

One day, people gathered together to have dinner. Mr. Zhao said, there was a famous fish oil from his hometown that if you light it at night while studying, you would get extra energetic and better memory like coffee today. He gave some to each of them in small cans. The fish oil is ivory and smelled nice. People thanked Mr. Zhao for his generosity.

Mr. Zhao also went to other hotels and gave the oil to more people needed to study for the examination. At night, Mr. Li used the fish oil to light the candles. Not after too long, he felt extremely tired and sleepy and fell asleep on the table. Night after night, he fell asleep right after he started to study. So did other people except Mr. Zhao. He looked fine.

After the examination, Mr. Zhao got one of the top rankings. This should be the start of his successful life. Weirdly, the next day, Mr. Zhao was found dead in his room in the hotel. It was in the morning, someone knocked at his door but nobody answered. The owner of the hotel opened the door and what he saw was a room full of water like an aquarium. I think it probably looked like the room in the movie Shape of Water. The table, chairs, beds, books everything were floating in the water. The door and the windows were open but the water was like frozen in an invisible box and stayed in the room. Mr. Zhao was floating in the water, naked. His face was deadly purple and some grayish white colored fish scales were clearly growing from his skin.



People standing out of the room were shocked. Mr. Zhao’s roommate Mr. Li touched the water. In a sudden, the water was unfrozen and flew everywhere. Everything floating including the dead body all fell on the floor.

Some people said Mr. Zhao was an evil fish spirit and wanted to get a high position in the palace to manipulate the emperor and killed by a Taoism priest. And some people think the fish oil was from the fish LanFuYu that made other people sleepy and failed the exam. But since he killed the fish, he got the revenge.

Of course, you might have a confusion like the author that Mr. Li was sleeping in the same room with Mr. Zhao and how could he not be in the room when it was filled with water? Nobody knew.



大唐瞽言 DaTangGuYan

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