Episode 169: Jinhua Cats

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In most cultures, people see cats as a mysterious animals. We love cats and sometimes are afraid of them cause they are so unpredictable. There are many stories in Chinese mythology and today we will talk about one kind of cats called Jinhua Cats 金华猫.



Jinhua is a place in China. In the book MaoYuan 猫苑, a book about cats from the Qing dynasties 清朝, around 19th century. It says, after a Jinhua cat has been kept in the house for three years, every midnight, the cat would jump on the roof of the house and open its mouth towards the moon. So the cat can obtain the essence of the moon.



Day after day, the cat can become a spirit. It would go back to the deep mountains and valleys. It stays in during the day and when the sun set, it would come out to seduce people. It transforms to a handsome man if it meets a woman and to a beautiful woman if it meets a man. Sometimes, the cat would sneak into some people’s houses. The first thing the cat does is to pee into the water bottle. If people drink the water, the cat would be invisible to them. Moreover, the people who drank the water would be sick. Once this happened, the family of the person covered a green clothes on the him at night and after a while, some cat hair showed on the clothes. The family then found a hunter to help. The hunter came with a few dogs to catch the cat in the house. After the cat was caught, the hunter pealed the cat’s skin and cooked its meat. The patience soon recovered after having the cat meat. However this doesn’t work if the cat’s gender is the same with the patience.



In the book YiJianZhi 夷坚志from the Southern Song dynasty 南宋, around the 12th century, it says in the place called LinAn 临安, there was a girl was haunted by some evil spirit. She met a young and handsome man. Whatever the man asks for she would do for him. The young man could sing and speak like a normal person however nobody else could see him except the girl. In the end, an old man figured it was the cat spirit and also is known as the Jinhua cat and killed it.





猫苑 MaoYuan

夷坚志 YiJianZhi

Episode 168: Mushroom Of Immortality

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People in different cultures have been searching for the elixir or immortality for thousands of years. Today we will talk about the most famous Ling Zhi 灵芝.



Ling Zhi literally means magical mushroom in Chinese. Ling Zhi is actually a real plant in nature, which is Ganoderma, a genus of fungi and it is used in traditional Chinese medicines. But I don’t think it has the effects of immortality in real life.



The word Ling Zhi appeared earliest in the book XiJingFu 西京赋 from the Eastern Han dynasty,between the year 25 ~ 220. There was even a book called TaiShangLingBaoZhiCaoPin 太上灵宝芝草品, from around the 5th century with details about how to get and eat this magic mushroom. This book was a part of a series of Taoism books, so Ling Zhi was the magic plant in Taoism.



Some scholars think the reason people treat Ganoderma as the magic mushroom is due to the shape and patterns on them which look like clouds and clouds is a good omen in Chinese mythology since gods and immortals always come with.



There are many stories in Chinese mythology that you can find people are searching for Ling Zhi. In some version of the story Madame White Snake 白蛇传, we talked about from Ep 59 ~ Ep. 62, Madame White Snake stole the magic mushroom Ling Zhi on the Mountain EMei 峨眉山 to bring back the life of her husband Xu Xian 许仙.




In the book Journey to the West 西游记, the God of Longevity in Chinese mythology that we have talked about in Ep. 64 brought Ling Zhi to the Buddha as gifts.



In Chinese ancient palaces, temples, clothing, paintings, sculptures and etc, you can also find the images of Ling Zhi and the good omen clouds based on the shape of Ling Zhi. For example in the Wall Painting ChaoYuanTu 朝元图 from the Ming dynasty 明朝, there are maids holding Ling Zhi that are gifts to the emperors.





西京赋 XiJingFu

西游记 Journey to the West

太上灵宝芝草品 TaiShangLingBaoZhiCaoPin

Episode 167: Chinese Thumbelina

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Today we will talk about a fascinating and mysteries spirit in Chinese mythology. It is from the book What The Master Would Not Discuss 子不语, a collection of supernatural stories compiled by Yuan Mei 袁枚 during the Qing dynasty 清朝 published in 1788.




In the book, it says there was a Mr. Xie 谢 from the place called WuYuan 婺源. One morning, he heard some bird twitting in the forests and saw a bird looks like a parrot. When he took a closer look, he found it was a petite beautiful girl around 5 cun 寸. Cun is a unit of length in ancient China around 18 cm today. She was named and with no feathers or hair. Her body was as white as jade. This reminds of me the story Thumbelina by Danish Hans Christian Andersen published in 1835. I don’t know if he got inspiration from this story or not since this Chinese story published earlier. But I think he did inspiration from the some stories about miniature people like the famous Tom Thumb from English folklore published in 1621, which was earlier than this Chinese story.


The girl always looked depressed though. Mr. Xie took the girl home and she didn’t look frightened at all. Mr. Xie kept her in a cage and fed her. The girl talked a lot but no one could understand a word. After many days, she was accidentally got sunlight and dried out and died. Mr. Xie’s friend heard about it and said, “this creature is called Hua Po 花魄. ” Hua means flower. Po means the soul which does not leave the body after death. In Chinese culture, there is Hun 魂 and Po 魄. Hun is the soul which goes to heave and po which goes down to the earth with the body.


I am not sure why this creature since she seemed have nothing to do with the soul of flowers. Mr. Xie explained, “if there are more than three people hung themselves on the same tree, the energy of the death became the creature. You can still save her by watering her.” Mr. Xie did so and the tiny girl came back to life. Many people came to his house to see this fascinating scene. Mr. Xie didn’t want to get too much attention. So he decided to send the girl back to the tree. The moment he placed her on the tree, a huge bird flew there and took her away.




子不语 What The Master Would Not Discuss

Episode 166: Ghosts’ Methods

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Some people believe the existence of ghosts and some people are afraid of ghosts. Today we will tell a story about the three tricks of ghosts usually use and maybe after it you won’t be scared away by them.

The story is from the book What The Master Would Not Discuss 子不语, a collection of supernatural stories compiled by Yuan Mei 袁枚 during the Qing dyansty 清朝 published in 1788.

The story says Lord CaiWei 蔡魏公 always told people ghosts only have three tricks : the first is seducing people; the second is blocking people; the third is scaring people. People asked, “what does that mean?”

Lord Caiwei said, “for example, my cousin Mr. Lv 吕. One day he was walking on the street during the night. He saw a beautiful woman with make up walking really fast with a rope in her hands. The woman saw Mr. Lv and hid among the trees along the road.


However her rope left on the road. Mr. Lv picked up the rope and smelt it. It smelt weird and he realized the woman was a ghost who died by hanging herself. ” This is the first trick – confusing people. Mr. Lv put the rope in his pocket and kept walking. The woman walked out of the trees and blocked his way. If he walked to the left, she blocked her on the left and if he walked to the right, she blocked him on the right. This is the second trick – blocking people. Mr Lv didn’t care and walked straightforward.


The woman shouted and transformed to a long hair bloody ghost with her tough hanging out of her mouth and jumped towards him. Mr. Lv smiled and said, “you already did two of your tricks – seducing and blocking me. Now you are just trying to scare me away. I am not afraid you. What else can you do? ”


The ghost transformed back to a woman and knelled down in front of him, “I used to live in the city and after an argument with my husband I hung up. Today I heard a woman is having a conflict her husband and I am on my way to replace her so I can reincarnate. Now you got my rope I can’t reincarnate any more. Please help me sir. ” Mr. Lv asked “how can I help you?” The woman replied, “please read the Buddhism reincarnation script.” Mr. Lv read loudly, “what a beautiful world. No limit. Come and go. Why bother to find a replacement. If you want to go, why not just leave.” The ghost heard and understood something and disappeared.



子不语 What The Master Would Not Discuss

Episode 165: Bottled Moonlight

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Today I want to share a romantic story I adore. Not a love story. In my opinion it is a Romanticism story.

The story is from the book SongBeiLeiChao 宋稗类钞, a book from the Qing dynasty 清朝around 17th century, a collection of stories and anecdotes from the Song dynasty 宋朝, around 10th ~ 13th century.

The story says in the place GuiLin 桂林, there was a man Mr. Han 韩. He loved drinking and he knew some tricks from Taoism. One day, Mr. Han and two other people traveled to another place. They stayed in a Buddhism temple in the suburb for the night. Mr. Han carried a basket and walked out of the room. He stood in the yard and it seemed like he was using a wooden ladle to obtain something in the air and put it into the basket. The other people were curious and asked, “what are you doing?”

Mr. Han replied, “it is such a nice night with beautiful moon. I am collecting the moonlight just in case in the future we can use it if it was cloudy or rainy at night.” The other two people laughed and thought he was joking.

The next few days, they were still on the trip. One day, their boat arrived at the place ShaoPing 邵平. They sat in the pavilion in the middle of the lake at night tasting food and wine. Not too long, wind started to blow, candles couldn’t be lit. It was cloudy at night and nobody could see anything. Everyone was upset that the weather ruined their party.



Mr. Han got his basket. He poured something with his ladle in the air, a splash of bright light appeared in the pavilion. He poured ten times, it was as bright as a bright moon night in the fall. Everyone was amazed and drank wine until late at night. Mr. Han used the ladle to collect back the moonlight into his basket. The night went back to silent darkness.

The reason I share this story was the other night Eric looking at light bulbs and asked me, “electricity is weird. It is originated the energy from the Sun” The light bulbs are basically small suns that brightened the night. It is interesting that how pragmatism sometimes is related to Romanticism.

The story also reminds me of an ancient Chinese article called Qian ChiBiFu 前赤壁赋 by the author Su Shi 苏轼 from the Song dynasty, the same dynasty when this story is set. Su Shi was a famous Chinese writer, poet, painter and calligrapher between the year 1037 ~ 1101. The article is a classic in Chinese literature. I want to share a small part from it with you. 且夫天地之间, 物各有主, 苟非吾之所有, 虽一毫而莫取。惟江上之清风与山间之明月。 耳得之而为声, 目遇之而成色。取之无禁, 用之不竭, 是造物者之无尽藏也, 而吾与子之所共适。It means, in this universe, everything has its rightful owner. If something does not belong to you, then you shall not even have a bit of it. However, the fresh breeze over the rivers and the bright moon above the mountains are exceptions. If you can hear it, it is a sound to you. If you can see it, it is a view to you. It never ends and is never exhausted. It is the infinite treasure that nature has for both of us to enjoy.



宋稗类钞 SongBeiLeiChao

前赤壁赋 Qian ChiBiFu