Episode 212: Chicken Master

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Today we will tell a story from the book called YouMingLu 幽明录 from the Southern dynasty 南朝 between the year 420 ~ 479. It is written by the same author named Liu Yiqing 刘义庆of the book A New Account of the Talks of the World 世说 新语 that we also talked about before. I found it interesting the latter book is about historical mostly fictional anecdotes of people lived in the Han dynasty 汉朝 and Wei-Jin periods 魏晋, while the first book contains stories of a total different world of absurd that build on the real. And the whole book of YouMingLu is lost. We can only find some pieces from the book from quotations from other books, which makes it more absurd.

We have talked about a few stories from this book like the swapping feet story from episode 203 and the big cricket story from episode 204.

Today we will talk about a story about chicken master. In the book, it says, there was an official named Song Chuzong 宋处宗 who bought a rooster that crowed. Zong Chuzong loved it so much and raised it as a pet. He put the cage right next to his window and talked with rooster. Day after day, the rooster could talk and have conversations with Song Zhuzong. They talked everyday from day to night about Taoism, and debate on philosophy and the universe. Thanks to the rooster, Song Chuzong’s talking and debating skills improved a lot.




There is a Chinese word not used very often today called JiTan 鸡谈, literally means chicken talk or TanJi 谈鸡, talking chicken, which refer to people that are inspiring in terms of wisdom. Since during the Wei-Jin periods 魏晋 where the story took place, Qingtan 清谈, meaning witty conversations or debates about metaphysics, philosophy and Taoism were popular especially among the scholars. This happened between the rooster and the person. So the words JiTan 鸡谈 chicken talk or TanJi 谈鸡 also refer to those kinds of conversations like Qingtan.




I found this story really interesting that I don’t know what the original intentions of the author. The person was improved and inspired by the rooster instead of the other way around. He taught the rooster to talk, but got much more from the rooster.



幽明录 YouMingLu

世说新语 A New Account of the Talks of the World

Episode 211: Ancient Chinese Jokes 8 – Flatter And Humbleness

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Laugh is a world language. People from different cultures all have jokes and today we will continue the series in our podcast about ancient Chinese jokes and hope you can laugh or smile about it.

One of the most famous book of jokes is called XiaoFu 笑府 by the author Feng Menglong 冯梦龙, who was a Chinese writer and poet of the Ming dynasty, between the year 1574 ~ 1646. Today we will tell two jokes about flatter and being humble.




The first joke says, two people met on the road. Person A like to flatter people and person is always being humble. Person B accidentally fell on the slippery rainy ground. Person A helped him get up and said, “the way you fell was so graceful. Nobody else could do it.” Person B replied, “thank you! I am not as good felling on the ground as you are.”

The second joke is always about two people. Person A like to flatter people and person is always being humble. Person A asked, “what’s your last name?” Person B was being humble, “no no. I am too naive and young to deserve a last name.” Person A said, “everyone has a last name.” Person B said, “the most tiny unremarkable last name of all. ” “What is it?” “Zhang” Person B finally replied. Person A said, “oh so your dad’s last name is also Zhang?” Person B said, “yes also Zhang.” Person A said, “wonderful! Wonderful! What an coincidence that the whole family all have the last name Zhang! ”



笑府 XiaoFu

Episode 210: Ancient Chinese Jokes 7 – The Year Of The Rat

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Laugh is a world language. People from different cultures all have jokes and today we will continue the series in our podcast about ancient Chinese jokes and hope you can laugh or smile about it.

One of the most famous book of jokes is called XiaoFu 笑府 by the author Feng Menglong 冯梦龙, who was a Chinese writer and poet of the Ming dynasty, between the year 1574 ~ 1646. This book was introduced in Japan during the Edo period 江户时期, between the year 1603~ 1868 and has been a great influence on Japanese humorous literature. Today we will tell a couple of Japanese jokes originating from a Chinese joke about being born in the year of rat.




The first joke is from the book XiaoFu. In the book, it says, an official had birthday. All the people who worked for him collected money and bought a life sized rat made of gold as a gift. The official received the gift and was really happy and said, “you know my grandma’s birthday is coming soon. And she was born in the year of ox.”




In the Japanese book Hanashibon taikei 噺本大系 from the year 1772, there is a similar joke. It says, a samurai and his servant were walking on the road and saw a dead rat. The samurai asked the servant, “please go and pick up the poor rat.” The servant replied, “but the rat is dead.” The samurai said, “of course I know that. But I am born in the year of rat and I feel pity for the rat.” The servant said, “I am so lucky sir that you were not born in the year of ox.”




From the same book 噺本大系, there is another joke says, a state lord got a crane as a grant from the general. To celebrate this grant, he invited the locale officials for a feast. Everyone came to congratulate the state lord , “this is such a honor for your family.” When the feast started, people were only offered vegetable soup with tiny bit of oil in the soup. The state lord even said, “such a rare and great feast right?” Someone asked the state lord, “did you give the general a lot of money to get this grant?” The state lord said, “more than 1000 bucks.” The person replied sincerely, “it is great that you weren’t granted a turtle.” Both the crane and the turtle represent longevity in Chinese mythology and Japanese mythology. There is a saying in Japanese 鶴は千年亀は万年, literally means cranes live for thousands of years and turtles live for ten thousands of years. The meaning behind the person’s words is that “I am glad you are not blessed to live longer.”



笑府 XiaoFu

噺本大系 Hanashibon taikei

Episode 209: Ghost Tenant

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I like stories in Chinese mythology about people interact with ghosts or the unknown spirits and we have talked about some before like in Ep16. how to sell a ghost. Today we will talk about a story of having a ghost tenant.

The story is from the book JiShengLu 稽神录from the Norther Song dynasty 北宋, around the year 955. In the book, it says in the place called LuLin 庐陵 there was a businessman called Tian Dacheng 田达诚. He had some fortune and was generous.




One night, he heard someone knocking on the gate. He opened the gate and found nothing. He went back. The knocking started again. He opened again and still nothing. This went on for a few times until Mr. Tian got annoyed and shouted, “is it a human or a ghost?”

After quite a while, there was sound answering, “I am not a human. I used to live in LongQuan 龙泉, but the house recently got flooded. Please let me stay here for a few days until my house is mended. ” Mr. Tian refused, “how can human live with ghosts?” The sound replied, “just temporary and it would do no harm to you. I am asking because I heard you are very generous and helpful.” It sounds like the ghost could just sneaked in the house without telling him. Mr. Tian agreed them. The sound asked, “where do you want me to stay?” Mr. Tian said, “only in the living room. ” The sound thanked him and left.

After a few days, the sound suddenly talked to Mr. Tian, “my families are settled in the living room and wouldn’t bother you or your guests. But please be careful of fire. Otherwise, if it happens, people would blame on us.” Mr. Tian was generous that he emptied the living room and just for the ghost family use.

Mr. Tian sometimes wrote poems and suddenly he heard the sound from the air, “you could write poems? I am also interested in poetry. We have something to talk about and write together.” So Mr. Tian prepared wine, paper, writing brushes and had conversations with the ghost. Mr. Tian’s family saw the wine bottle, paper, writing brushes stayed where they were while the wine was gone and the poems were written on the paper. There were more than 10 poems and they were all well written and beautifully written. Someone asked the ghost’s name, he said, “it would harm to you if I tell. But I can convey more information in my poems. ” He wrote another one, while no one could guessed the meaning.

One day, the ghost said, “I have a son who will get married to the goddess of camphor tree 樟树神女. Can we use the back yard for three days?” Mrs Tian agreed and let people to block the area with curtains. After the three days, the ghost came to thank Mr. Tian and said, “we are done and I don’t know how to thank you. Just please practice the punishment of canning on the old maid. Mr. Tian found the maid and started to punish her. The ghost said, “you can stop now. She knows she was doing something wrong.” The maid told Mr. Tian that she peaked through the curtains during the wedding and saw the guests, decorations, dishes, nothing different from normal people’s wedding.

After a few years, the ghost thanked Mr. Tian and left the house forever. For a period of time, Mr. Tian had some businesses in the place of GuangLin 广陵, and didn’t return home for a long time. His family blamed him. The ghost came and told Mr. Tian’s family, “are you blaming on him? I will go to check on him.” The next day, the ghost came back and told the family, “Mr. Tian is in Yang Zhou 扬州 and doing fine. He will be back soon. He married a new concubine there. I fired their bed when they were sleeping.” Then, the ghost left laughing.

After a few days, Mr. Tian came back and told the family what happened just like what the ghost said. Mr. Tian tried to find the ghost in Long Quan where he lived but nothing could be found.



稽神录 JiShengLu

Episode 208: Tai Sui – Part 2

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Why the slang talks about remove the soil on top of the head of Tai Sui? It is related another belief of Chinese folklore from Tang dynasty 唐朝, around the 9th century, which interestingly is about a lump of meat creature called also called Tai Sui 太岁 from underground. How can this auspicious star god ended up showing up from underground. It is probably related with the ancient Chinese idea that the sky or heaven, human and earth are connect. 天垂象, 地涌兆, literally means the sky or heaven and the earth show us omens. The star in the sky must shows in other form on earth.

This Tai Sui from underground is a lump of meat like creature with thousands of eyes or in some versions it has no eyes or nose. In the book Miscellaneous Morsels from Youyang 酉阳杂 俎from the Tang dynasty 唐朝, it says, in the place called Lai Zhou, which is in the province ShanDong 山东 today, there was a peasant named Wang Feng 王丰 didn’t believe the ritual and tradition of avoiding the position of Tai Sui, and dug a hole at the Tai Sui location. He found a huge lump of meat as big as a dou 斗, a tool to get water in ancient China, which can hole 10 liters. The lump squirmed like alive. He got scared and filled the hole while the lump still squirmed out of the hole. He ran away. The lump kept growing overnight and filled the whole yard. Wang Feng’s brothers and maids all died in the next few days except one woman.




In the book XuYiJianZhi 续夷坚志 from the Jin dynasty 金朝, between the year 1115 ~ 1234, it says, the meat lump from the ground is called Tai Sui. The person who sees it would have bad luck and it shouldn’t be dug out.

I think this belief is not hard to understand. In Taoism, the earth is respected as the mother earth and in many culture as well. This Tai Sui underground story in a way protects the use of earth.




Actually this meat lump is based on a real thing in life. In Chinese, it is called RouLinZhi 肉灵芝, meaning meaty LinZhi mushrooms. The existence, function of it is still in debate in biology. It is a lump of slime molds. It could be classified as fungi or not is not confirmed. In some ancient Chinese medical books including Compendium of Materia Medica 本草纲目, a Chinese herbology book from the year 1578, it says, eating RouLinZhi will let your body lighter and live longer. But since we still don’t know much about it, some scientists don’t recommend consuming it.



酉阳杂俎 Miscellaneous Morsels from Youyang

续夷坚志 XuYiJianZhi

本草纲目 Compendium of Materia Medica