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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