Episode 177: Remote Nations Of The World 6 – Kingdom Of Long Beard

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It has been a while since the last time we talked about the remote nations of the world. Today will be the sixth episode of this series of stories.

The story today is from the book Miscellaneous Morsels from Youyang 酉阳杂俎 from the Tang dynasty 唐朝 around the 9th century. The story says, in the year 701, a scholar got on a ship with the a group of government officials to the Kingdom XinLuo 新罗, which was a kingdom on the Korean island. On the way, the ship got lost and landed on a small island. Everyone on the island had long beard and called their land the Kingdom of Long Beard 长须国.

 

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The language they spoke wasn’t much different what people spoke during the Tang dynasty and the kingdom was pretty prosperous. The buildings and clothes were a little different. The scholar walked around on the island and everyone was really respectful.

One day, tens of horses and carts stopped at the hotel the scholar stayed and he was informed that the king would like to meet with him. He was a little anxious but still followed them for two days to a magnificent palace. He was welcomed by the king and even offered the marriage of a princess. The princess was really beautiful but the only thing was that she also had long and thick beard like everyone else in the kingdom.

 

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The scholar became one of the royal family. He got a high position in the palace and a lot money. The only thing that bothered him was his bearded wife. Time flies! The scholar lived in the kingdom for more than 10 years and had three kids. One day, when the scholar visited his father in law, the king, and saw him and other ministers all looked sorrowful. The king wept and explained, “our country is in danger. Nobody but you can save us.” The scholar said, “I would sacrifice my life to save the country.”

 

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The king asked people prepared the ship and sent two people to go with the scholar and said, “please visit the dragon king in the Sea and tell him the Kingdom of Long beard on the tenth island in the third region of the East Sea 东海 is in danger. Our kingdom is too tiny. Please don’t give up until they agreed to help.” The king held the scholar’s hands for so long before letting him go.

The scholar got on the ship. Not too long, the ship landed on the coast. The sand on the coast was made of treasures. He didn’t stop or was afraid but walked to see the dragon king directly. The dragon king couldn’t believe that a human came here and met with him. The scholar repeated everything he was told. The dragon king immediately asked people to see what was going on in the kingdom. After a while, a servant came back and replied, “there isn’t such a kingdom in our region of the sea.” The scholar begged the dragon king to search more and repeated the exact location again. After a meal’s time, the servant was back and said, “the shrimps from this island are feast for your Majesty. They were sent here the day before. ” The dragon king laughed, “oh I see. My dear guest was bewitched by those shrimps. Although I am the dragon king, but I can’t eat whatever I want. But today for your sake, I can eat less. ”

The scholar was taken to tens of iron pots as large as a room and they are all filled with shrimps. In one of the pots, there were five or six huge red shrimps with the size of a human’s arm. They jumped around when they saw the scholar like asking for help. “This is the shrimp king.” The scholar was told. His memories all came back of the past 10 years on the island and started to weep.

The dragon king freed the shrimps from the pot of the shrimp king and asked two people to sent the scholar back to the Tang dynasty. After a night, he was back to his hometown and the two people transformed to two dragons and flew away.

 

Mentioned:

酉阳杂俎 Miscellaneous Morsels from Youyang

 

Episode 176: Ancient Chinese Jokes 6 – Rob The Poor

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Laugh is a world language. People from different cultures all have jokes and today we will start a new 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. We will tell two jokes about burglary today.

The first story says, there was a poor person who was “too generous”. He paid for people’s meals to make himself think he had a good life. One night, a burglar sneaked into his house and found nothing valuable. The burglar left and said, “what the heck. Nothing is here.” The poor person heard it and got some money under his bed sheet. He caught the burglar and gave him the money said, “I am sorry I didn’t know you came. Please don’t tell people I am poor.”

The second story says, a burglar sneaked into a poor family. He found nothing valuable but only some rice. The burglar put his nice clothes on the ground to wrap the rice. The poor person on the bed saw it and took the burglar’s clothes away and shouted “help! Thief!” The burglar replied, ” yeah. There is a thief. Where is my clothes?”

 

Mentioned:

笑府 XiaoFu

Episode 175: Ancient Chinese Jokes 5 – Dedicated Readers

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

Before I start the story, I need to explain the two people mentioned in the story. First is a person called Che Yin 车胤, a minister from the Eastern Jin dynasty 东晋, around the year 333~ 401. The most famous anecdote of him is that he was from a poor family that they could even hardly pay for candles at night. However, he loved reading and what he did was to catch fire flies and wrapped them into a cloth so he could read at night.

 

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Another person is called Sun Kang 孙康, from the similar time period, around the 4th century. His situation was similar to Che Yin that he wanted to read at night but with no money to pay for candles. He found out that snow can reflect light. He would rather read outside in a freezing winter night.

 

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Both of these two people were the models of learning knowledge in Chinese culture that they weren’t limited by their life conditions and later became famous scholar.

Today we will tell a joke from the book 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. In the book, it says, Sun Kang visited Che Yin during the day and he wasn’t at home. The family replied, “oh he is out catching fireflies. ” Another day, Che Yin visited Sun Kang during the day and saw him standing in the yard. When he was asked why he wasn’t reading, Sun Kang replied, “it doesn’t look like it would snow today.”

 

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Mentioned:

笑府 XiaoFu

 

Episode 174: Neck Stretcher

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Today we will talk about a spirit in Chinese mythology. The story is from the book BaoPuZi 抱朴子, a Taoism classic from the Easter Jin dynasty 东晋, between the year 317 to the year 420.

In the book, it says, a person named Zhuang Yiyuan 庄怡园 once saw a hunter in the north China. The hunter’s neck was stabilized by wood planks. Zhuang Yiyuan was curious and asked the hunter what happened to his neck. This is what the hunter said, “earlier today my brother and I went for hunting. We ride our horses to an empty field in the middle of nowhere when somebody suddenly appeared in front of our horses. He was around 1 meter tall, around 3 feet 2 inches with grey beard and a headscarf. The creature made a bow to us. My brother asked, “who are you?” The creature shook his head without responding. He blew air to the horses which made the horse shocked and stopped moving forward. My brother got angry and took out his bow and arrow. The creature ran away while my brother chased behind.

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After a while, my brother still didn’t come back. I was worried and looked for him. I found my brother lying under a tree. His neck became really long maybe was a meter or longer. No matter how much I shouted and shook him, he didn’t move at all. Oh crap! I was thinking. Before I could take a second to think about what was going on, the creature jumped out of the woods and blew air to me. My neck felt itchy and I scratched and scratched as my neck grew longer and longer like a snake. I jumped onto my horse and ran away. Now I am using these wood planks to support my long neck.” Some people say this 1 meter tall creature is the spirits from the water and woods in the field. The only way to be not harmed by them is to call their names.

I am not sure the meaning behind the story. But I always think of this story when the season changes, I sometimes get allergies of some plants or bug bites in the nature. When I start sneezing or scratching my skin, I am worried to have a neck body parts like a snake.

 

Mentioned:

抱朴子 BaoPuZi

 

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.

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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.

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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.

 

Mentioned:

大唐瞽言 DaTangGuYan