Episode 154: Nie Xiaoqian – part2

Click here to listen

Today we will continue one of most famous stories from the book Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio 聊斋志异 from the Qing dynasty 清朝 published in 1740. The name of the story is Nie Xiaoqian 聂小倩, which has been adapted into numerous films and TV series.

Last time we talked about a man called Ning Caichen stayed in an abandoned temple on his way to Imperial Exam and during the night a young girl walked into his room.


Ning Caichen was shocked and asked her what she was doing here. The girl replied, “I can’t fall asleep and would like to share a bed with you.” What a simple and straightforward excuse. What would you do then with the straightforward request from a beautiful young girl at the middle of the night? Ning Caichen replied seriously, “you should prevent rumors. ” The first thing he said was to tell her not to do something she would regret for her life. “I don’t want to have rumors too. If we aren’t principled, we would dishonor ourselves.” The girl replied, “nobody would know.” Ning Caichen shouted, “go away now! Otherwise, I would call the person living in the room next door.” The girl looked afraid and walked away. As soon as she walked out of door, she walked back and put down some gold. Ning Caichen threw the gold out of the yard and said, “the filthy money would stain my pocket!” The girl was embarrassed and left. She said to herself, “what a man with a heart of stone!”


The next morning, Ning Caichen heard there was a person staying in the east room died. There was a small hole on one of his feet like being stabbed by a drill with traces of blodd around it. Nobody knew what happened. The next day, his assistant died the same way. Ning Caichen asked Yan Chixia, who said it looked like they were killed by some evil spirits.

After a couple days, one night, the girl came back to Ning Caichen’s room again. She said, “I have seen so many people but on one is as upright as you. You have the virtues of a saint and I can’t deceive you anymore. My name is Xiaoqian and my last name is Nie Xiaoqian. I died when I was 18 and was buried near the temple. I have been controlled by some evil monster and sent to seduce people and kill them when they gave into my charms. This is not my intentions. Now there are not many people in the temple, they are coming for you. ” Ning Caishen was scared and asked her to save him. Xiaoqian suggested, “ stay with Mr. Yan and you will be fine.” Ning Caishen asked the reason. Xiaoqian said, “he is something else. I can’t get close to him.” Ning Caishen asked, “how do you seduce and kill people?” “When I make out with them, I would stab their feet with a drill and collect their blood for the monster or trick them with gold which is actually the bone of demons. Once the person takes the gold, it will deprive him hearts and guts.” explained Xiaoqian. Ning Canchen thanked her for the honesty and asked her when he should be prepared for the monster. Xiaoqian replied, “tomorrow night.” Before she left, she started to cry, “I have no one but you. You are such a upright man who saves the ones needed help. If you can collect my bones and buried in a quite cemetery, I will never forget you.” Ning Canchen confirmed the location she wanted to be buried. Xiaoqian said, “under the aspen tree where there is a crow nest. ”


The next day, Ning Canchen was afraid Mr. Yan would leave the temple and invited to him early for dinner and asked him to stay for the night. Mr. Yan said he liked to be alone and quiet. Ning Canchen didn’t care and moved his luggage to his room. Mr. Yan finally agreed and said, “I know you are a real man and admire you. However, please don’t open my box for reasons I can’t tell. Otherwise, bad things would happen to both of us.” Mr. Yan put his luggage near the windows and went to bed. While Mr. Yan was in deep sleep, the poor Ning Caichen had no way to fall asleep. Around midnight, he saw there are shadows outside the window. The shadow moved towards the window and looked inside. Ning Canchen was too frightened to breathe. He was about the wake up Mr. Yan when suddenly a bright object flew out of the box and cut through the stone window frame, shooting towards the shadow. Mr. Yan wake up and checked his box. He took out something and checked and smelt under the moonlight and then wrapped it before putting it back to his box. Ning Caichen heard him talking to himself ,“ how dare that big old monster bread my box.” Ning Caichen was amazed and told Mr. Yan what he saw. Mr. Yan said, “I am a swordsman. If it wasn’t for the stone window frame, the monster would be dead by now. The monster must be hurt pretty bad now.” Ning Caichen asked, “what is in your box?” Mr. Yan said, “a sword. It smells like demon now.”


The next morning, Ning found some blood outside the windows. He walked north and found many tombs around. As Xiaoqian said, he found an aspen tree with a crow nest. He dug out her bones from the grave and planned to take them back home.

On the day he left the temple, Mr. Yan came to see him with an old sword bag to protect him in the future. Ning Caichen expressed his wish to learn to use sword with him, Mr. Yan said, “you are an honest and upright man which would make a great swordsman. But I can tell you will have a peaceful life not a life of mine.”



聊斋志异 Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio

Episode 152: LuoSha Bird

Click here to listen

We have talked about Guhuo Bird 姑获鸟 ,a kind of evil bird in Chinese mythology in our episode 27. Today we will talk about another evil bird in Chinese mythology called LuoSha Bird 罗刹鸟.

The word LuoSha 罗刹 comes from the word Rakshasa, which is rākṣasa in Sanskrit word. It is a mythological being in Hindu mythology and later was incorporated into Buddhism. Rakshasas are mostly ugly, fierce-looking creatures that eat people.


In Chinese mythology, there is a kind of evil bird called LuoSha Bird that eat people’s eyes. It is said they were formed by the energy of corpse, which was probably based on the origin of Rakshasa that they are believed to have been created from the breath of Brahma, the creator god when he was asleep in Hindu mythology. Both LuoSha bird and Rakshasa were filled with blood lust when they were created. LuoSha Bird in Chinese mythology looks like a grey crane with white beak and claws. It is also believed that LuoSha Bird can transform into beautiful women to hunt for the food, which was probably based on Hindu mythology as well that there are female Rakshasas and they can be in human form.



There are many stories about the bird and today we will talk one story. In 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, it says during the reign of Emperor YongZheng 雍正, between the year 1722 ~ 1735, in the capital a royal family was having a wedding. The bride’s family was also prestigious, while living outside the gate of ShaHe 沙河. After the bride got on the litter, a kind of vehicle carried by people, they started head to the groom’s family. On the way, they passed a cemetery, a weird wind came from the tombs and stayed around the litter for a while. People couldn’t open their eyes because sand and dirt were blown in the air. After a while, the wind stopped and they kept walking until they arrived.

They put down the litter in the middle of the hallway, and the maids served the bride to walk out of the litter. Surprisingly, there was another bride walking out of the litter and stood next to the the bride. People were amazed to see the two brides wearing the exact same clothes and accessories and couldn’t tell any differences. They looked the faces underneath the veil, they were exactly the same as well. Nobody could explain the reason.

The groom was happy because he could marry two women now. The wedding ceremony went on as usual. At night, the groom couldn’t wait to spend the first night with two wives looking the same. Suddenly, people heard a scream from the newly married room. At first, they thought maybe the two brides were jealous of each other and were fighting and later they knocked on the door, however, nobody answered. The families worried and broke in, there was blood everywhere. The groom was lying on the floor and one bride was lying on the bed. The second bride disappeared.


People lit up more candles and looked around, a huge bird standing on the ceiling. Everyone tried to find some tools to hit the bird while the bird escaped from the door. Some of the people checked the groom and the bride, both of their eyes were gone. Luckily the couple survived in the end.



子不语What The Master Would Not Discuss

Episode 150: Tiger’s Ghosts

Click here to listen

Today we will talk about a kind of ghost in Chinese mythology who works for the tigers. The name of the ghost is 伥Chang.

In the book Taiping Guangji 太平广记, a collection of stories complied in the early Song dynasty 宋朝 around the 10th century, it says Chang are the ghosts that were eaten by tigers and they work for the tigers. It kind of similar to zombies or vampires that when you are killed by them, you become them. The difference is that Chang are not tigers but help the tigers to hurt more people.


In the book KuiCheZhi 睽车 志from the Song dynasty 宋朝, around the 12th century, it says, before the tiger arrived, the ghosts Chang would arrive first and broke hunter’s traps. The solution is to put plums on the ground since the ghosts Chang like to eat sour food and forget their missions. In this way, the tiger can be caught.

There are many stories about the ghosts Chang in Chinese mythology and when I was a kid I always felt creeped out of them. We will tell a couple of these stories.

The first story is from the book YiWenZongLu 异闻总录. It says, during the reign of Temur Khan in the Yuan dynasty 元朝, around the 13th century, there was a doctor from the province Jiangxi called Lin Xingke 林行可. Since he was a very skillful doctor, people always invited him to their him for appointments. One night, an old lady asked him to come with her for an appointment, Dr. Lin followed the old lady for miles and came to a forest. The old lady said, “please wait here for a moment. I will go and tell the patient to meet with you.” Dr. Lin was confused and thought, “who would live in the forests?” Under the dim moonlight, he barely could see the old lady but he saw her walking into a tomb in the woods and disappeared. Dr. Lin was more confused and started to worry. Coincidentally there was a temple not far away, he ran into the temple and closed the gate. Meanwhile, he saw the old lady came out with a tiger. They walked around and looked for him. The old lady sighed and said, “what a pity. I have been planning this for three years but you ran away.” Dr.Lin was too scared too breathe and waited in the temple until the sunrise. After that, he refused any appointments in other people’s houses.


The second story is the nightmare of my childhood and it is from the book JianChanBiJi 廛笔记 from the Qing dynasty 清朝 around the 19th century. It says, there was an old man. His wife, first son and daughter in law were eaten by tigers one by one. One night, his second son had a dream that his past mother told him there was gold under a tree on the mountain. He should go to dig the gold out and wouldn’t worry about money for the rest of his life. Later they found out his mother became a ghost Chang after being killed by the tiger and she was helping the tiger to trick the son to go to the place so the tiger could eat him although it was her son. Luckily, the son survived and the tiger was caught by the father. The mother regretted afterwards and went to the hell to work for the King of hell.




太平广记 Taiping Guangji

睽车志 KuiCheZhi

异闻总录 YiWenZongLu

趼廛笔记 JianChanBiJi

Episode 149: The Five Gentlemen With One Eye

Click here to listen

Today we will talk about a kind of ghost in Chinese mythology called The Five Gentlemen with One Eye 一目五先生 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.


We actually mentioned this book a few times but in Chinese name. The title of the book is appealing in which the master refers to Confucius. Because in the book Analects 论语, it says “Confucius did not speak of strange events, violence, riots and supernatural things.”, yet this book is about the supernaturals.

In the book, it says, there were a group of five ghosts in Zhejiang Province 浙江, of whom four were blind and only one had one eye. All relying on this one eye, the ghosts were able to see, so they were called “The Five gentlemen with One Eye.” A pandemic struck one year in the region and the five ghosts decided to take advantage of this. They always waited until people were in deep sleep and draw their noses close to sniff them. Maybe it is like sucking people’s souls. If one ghost sniffed the person, he or she would be ill. And if all five ghosts sniffed a person, he or she would die. Since four of the ghosts were totally blind, they were always aimlessly wandered around. They staggered about and all they did was to wait for the one-eyed ghost to give orders and they would comply.

There was a Mr. Qian 钱 once stayed in an inn. At night, everyone fell asleep except him. Suddenly, the candlelight went dim and he saw the five ghosts jumped into the room. The four blind ghosts were about to sniff one guest, the ghost with one eye said, “that is a very kind man. We can’t hurt him.” The four blind ghosts were about to sniff another person, but the one-eyed ghost said, “that is a very lucky man. We can’t hurt him.” Then the four blind ghosts asked, “sir please tell us who can we eat? ” The one-eyed ghost pointed two people and said, “they are neither kind nor evil, lucky or unlucky. Why not eat them? ” The five ghosts went ahead and sniffed them. In a moment, the breathe of the two people grew weaker while the belly of the five ghosts grew bigger.


Some people say this story is a sarcasm of the Doctrine of the Mean 中庸, which is a doctrine of Confucianism. Zhong means towards to neither one way or another and yong means unchanging. Part of Zhongyong is about maintaining balance and harmony and otherwise it for sure affects people’s behaviors and ways of thinking like people should obey order and follow the principles. The negative side is just like the story shows most people don’t have their own judgement like having no eyes wondering in the world and accept and follow what other people tell them to do.



子不语 What The Master Would Not Discuss

Episode 147: Sunbathe Books

Click here to listen

In many countries in the world including Asia and Europe, people still dry their clothes under the sun. Although in the U.S., most people dry their clothes with laundry dryer due to its convenience and some laws. In the ancient time, before the washing machine and dryer were invented, people use the sun as a “natural sanitizer.”

In ancient China, people not only dried their clothes under the sun but also books as a way of maintenance and protection. I am talking about after the paper is invented. Because before the paper was invented, Chines people used Bamboo and wooden slips 简牍 for writing documents and there were other ways to protect them including waxing and sealing with mud.

Paper-making was documented in China during the Eastern Han period, between 2 ~ 220 CE attributed to Cai Lun 蔡伦and spread to Islamic world then Europe. After paper was invented, paper books came out. How to protect them especially bookworms were a huge problem. Chinese people had this idea to give books a sunbathe to prevent bookworms and these tradition has been around for more than 2000 years. In the book SiMinYueLing 四民月令, it says on the 7th day of the 7th month in the lunar calendar, put books and clothes under the sun to prevent worms. During the Song dynasty 宋朝, this tradition became a get together of scholars. They put out their books under the sun and talk about poems and articles just like a book club.


Today we will tell an anecdotes from the book A New Account of the Tales of the World 世说新语, complied and edited during the year 420 ~ 479 of the Northern and Southern dynasties 南北朝. The book has more than 1000 historical mostly fictional anecdotes of people lived in the Han dynasty 汉朝and Wei-Jin periods 魏晋.

This story is about a scholar called Hao Long 郝隆 from the Easter Jin dynasty东晋, who is famous for his knowledge and humor. It says, on the 7th day of the 7th month when people take their clothes and books under the sun except Hao Long. He was having a sunbathe himself lying on his back. People asked him what’s going on. He replied, “I am sunbathing books.”




四民月令 SiMinYueLing

世说 新语A New Account of the Tales of the World