Episode 199: Are You A Ghost?

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Today we will talk about a story of who is the ghost. The story is from the book ErShiLu 耳食录 from the Qing dynasty 清朝 around the 18th century.

In the book, it says, in the place called YunYang 云阳, there was a forest where it was believed that many ghosts and spirits wondering around and scare people away even during the day time.

One day, a strong young man let’s call him Mr. A walked passed the forest. He was so scared to encounter a ghost. Suddenly, another young man let’s call him Mr. B started to chase after him. Mr. A was so afraid and shouted, “ghosts! Ghosts” as he was running away. However, he was tripped over by grass and almost hurt his feet. Meanwhile, Mr. B caught him and helped him get up. He said, “don’t be scared.” Mr. A didn’t hear what he said and start punching him thinking he was a ghost. Mr. B then shouted, “ghost! Ghosts!” and fought back.

While they were fighting, a man wearing headband came and asked what they were fight for. Mr. A and Mr. B both pointed the other and said, “ghost! Ghost!” The man with headband smiled and said, “you are both tricked. There are no ghosts.” Mr. A and Mr. B explained themselves what happened and apologized. Then Mr. A and Mr. B said, “now we have three people. Let’s be companions and walked together. We won’t be scared this time.”

They didn’t walk very far when they heard the man with headband laughed behind them, “you guys are so magnanimous! You aren’t afraid a ugly man like me. ” Mr. A and Mr. B turned around and saw the man with headband became a giant and half black and half white. Both of them crawled on the ground and yelled again, “ghosts! Ghosts!” Then the ghost disappeared.





耳食录 ErShiLu

Episode 198: Shadowless

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Today we will talk about a story of a person with no shadow. The story is from the book ErShiLu 耳食录 from the Qing dynasty around the 18th century.

In the book, it says there was a scholar called Deng Yi 邓乙in his 30s but his had no wife. Every night, they sat in his room alone with a single night felling lonely and depressed.

One night, he was sitting under the light and saw his shadow on the wall. He started to murmur, “we have been together from so long, how can you not make me happy?”

After the words, the shadow jumped out of the wall and said, “yes sir!” Deng Yi was shocked. The shadow smiled and said, “you want me to make you happy but you can’t say how.” After a long pause, Deng Yi tried to keep calm and asked slowly, “I don’t know what you can do.” The shadow said, “anything you wish.”

Deng Yi said, “I have been by myself all these years. I have no friends. I want a great young friend who can talk with me to spend the long dark night. Can you do that?” The shadow said, “a piece of cake.” So the shadow transformed into an outstanding young gentleman. Deng Yi was pleased.




They talked a while. Deng Yi asked the shadow to transform to an official. The shadow did so. Deng Yi pretended to be polite and made a bow. They had fun doing such a cosplay.

After a while, Deng Yi asked, “can you be a beautiful lady?” The shadow nodded and became a gorgeous girl. Deng Yi stared at the girl for a while and lay on the bed with the girl for a whole night.

Since then, when the sun set, the light was on, the shadow would show up and transformed to anything Deng Yi wanted and played and spent time with him. Day after day, the shadow could leave Deng Yi during the daytime also and be his companion. Deng Yi started to become a little maniac since he lived the the illusions his shadow made for him. He was the only person that could see his shadow’s transformations so people were curious. Deng Yi finally told people what was going on with his shadow.

People saw his shadow and found the shadow wasn’t matching Deng Yi’s body. It sometimes sat sometimes stood. The shape of the shadow sometimes looked like a male sometimes looked like a female. When they asked Deng Yi, his answer was different from the shadow they saw. People thought it must be an evil spirit.

After many many years, one day, the shadow came to say goodbye to Deng Yi. Deng Yi asked the shadow where it was going. The shadow said, “the Mountain YuCi 寓次之山 thousands of thousands miles away”. I don’t know where this mountain is. But the character Yu 寓 means residency or place of living. Ci 次 means places to stay when traveling. So the destination could be the place for shadows to live or stay. Deng Yi cried and sent his shadow to the door. The shadow flew away with the wind and disappeared. After that moment, Deng Yi became a shadowless man.



耳食录 ErShiLu


Episode 197: Oil Dealer

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Today we will talk about a story of a mysterious oil seller. The story is from the book Miscellaneous Morsels from Youyang 酉阳杂俎 from the Tang dynasty 唐朝 around the 9th century.

In the book, it says one night an official got off work and walked back home. While he was walking in a narrow path, he saw a person selling oil walking towards him. The person was wearing a big straw hat and led a donkey carrying two big oil bottles. It seemed like the person didn’t see him and walked right towards him. The assistant of the official saw it and pushed the person a little bit. Oops! The head of the oil seller fell off. This headless oil seller ran away in a hurry with the donkey into a mansion.




The official thought what’s going on! So the assistant ran after this oil seller and until he disappeared in front of a pagoda tree in the yard. They told the owner of the mansion what happened. The family decided to dig down the tree to find out the truth.

They dug a few feet underneath the tree. Under some dried roots, they found a huge toad with the size of a plate. On both of the toad’s body, there attached two caps of brush pens filled with the juice from the tree. They also from a big white mushroom with the size of a doornail. The cap of the mushroom was missing.




Now they released the toad was the donkey, the caps of the brush pens were the two oil bottles that the donkey was carrying and the white mushroom was the oil seller. The family said many people in this neighborhood recently bought oil from this oil seller and were curies why the oil was cheap and tasty. So clearly the oil was the juice from the tree.

However, after the fact was revealed, everyone who ate the oil all vomited.





酉阳杂俎 Miscellaneous Morsels from Youyang

Episode 196: Ostrich

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In Chinese ostrich is called TuoNiao 鸵鸟. I am always curious about the name because Tuo 驼 means camels and Niao means birds. I though maybe ostrich kind of look like camels. But I am not convinced.




Until I saw a mythical animal recorded in the book TaiPingYuLan 太平御览, a book complied from the year 977 to 983 during the Song dynasty 宋朝. In the book, it says during the reign of Emperor GaoZong of Tang 唐高宗 around the year 650, the Kingdom of Tocharians 吐火罗gifted the emperor a big bird. Tocharians were Indo-European people who inhabited in the area of Xinjiang, the west-northern China today in ancient times. XinJiang is in the northeastern of Afghanistan today if you don’t know. The big bird was more than 2 meters tall and its feet looked like the feet of camel. I guess this is where the name is from. I checked the pictures of the feet of ostriches and camels and they do look alike. The bird has wings and can fly. They can run 300 miles per day and eats bronze and iron. Some people call it TuoNiao. The emperor considered his father Emperor TaiZong of Tang cared about the people from far away, he let people carved the bird in his cemetery.



Although this description is a little bit off the fact, it is pretty obvious it is about ostrich. Another earlier record about ostrich is from the book Book of the Later Han 后汉书covering the history from the year 25 to 220 compiled around the year 400. In the book, it also mentioned the bird has camel feet. It is amazing to see the trading in the ancient time since ostriches only live in Africa.



太平御览 TaiPingYuLan

后汉书 Book of the Later Han

Episode 195: Eggxtrapolation

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Today we will talk about a story of where a family’s fortune is from. The story is from the book XueTaoXiaoShuo 雪涛小说 from the Ming dynasty around the 16th century.

In the book, it says a tradesman was so poor that he barely scraped a living. One day he picked up an egg and excitedly told his wife, “here is the family’s fortune!”

“Where?” asked the wife.

“Right here,” said the man, showing her the egg, “but it will be ten years before we become rich. I’ll take this egg and have the neighbor’s setting hen hatch it. Out of that brood I will bring a female chick home to lay eggs. In one month we can have 15 chickens. In two years as the chickens give birth to chickens, we can have 300. They should fetch ten pieces of silver in the market and with the money I’ll get five calves. In three years when the calves reproduce, I’ll have 25. When the calves’ offspring give birth in another three years, I’ll have 150. This should bring in 300 pieces of silver. If I use the money to make loans, in three years more I’ll have 500 pieces of silver. Two thirds of this to buy a house, one third to buy servants and another wife- and you and I can enjoy our remaining years to the end. Won’t that be wonderful?”




All the wife heard was that her husband was thinking of buying another wife. Angrily she flung the egg away, smashing it and crying, “let’s not harbor the seed of disaster!” Enraged, the husband took her before the magistrate. “This wretched women has ruined the family’s fortune at a single stroke. She should be executed.” The magistrate asked the location of the fortune and the circumstances of the loss. The husband began with the egg and described all that had happened.

The magistrate said, “an evil woman has destroyed a great family fortune in one blow. She deserves to be executed.”

The wife protested loudly, “everything my husband has told you concerns things yet to come. Why should I suffer for that?”

“The concubine that your husband spoke of buying was also something yet to come. Why should you have became so jealous?” said the magistrate.

“True enough”, said the wife, “but one cannot move too soon in taking precautions against disaster.” The magistrate smiled and released her.

Alas! The man schemed from greed, and his wife smashed the egg from jealousy. Both were minds under delusion. The wise man, free of desire, recognized that even what exists is delusion; how much more so is that which has yet to come!



雪涛小说 XueTaoXiaoShuo