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.


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.



抱朴子 BaoPuZi


Episode 167: Chinese Thumbelina

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Today we will talk about a fascinating and mysteries spirit in Chinese mythology. It is 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.




In the book, it says there was a Mr. Xie 谢 from the place called WuYuan 婺源. One morning, he heard some bird twitting in the forests and saw a bird looks like a parrot. When he took a closer look, he found it was a petite beautiful girl around 5 cun 寸. Cun is a unit of length in ancient China around 18 cm today. She was named and with no feathers or hair. Her body was as white as jade. This reminds of me the story Thumbelina by Danish Hans Christian Andersen published in 1835. I don’t know if he got inspiration from this story or not since this Chinese story published earlier. But I think he did inspiration from the some stories about miniature people like the famous Tom Thumb from English folklore published in 1621, which was earlier than this Chinese story.


The girl always looked depressed though. Mr. Xie took the girl home and she didn’t look frightened at all. Mr. Xie kept her in a cage and fed her. The girl talked a lot but no one could understand a word. After many days, she was accidentally got sunlight and dried out and died. Mr. Xie’s friend heard about it and said, “this creature is called Hua Po 花魄. ” Hua means flower. Po means the soul which does not leave the body after death. In Chinese culture, there is Hun 魂 and Po 魄. Hun is the soul which goes to heave and po which goes down to the earth with the body.


I am not sure why this creature since she seemed have nothing to do with the soul of flowers. Mr. Xie explained, “if there are more than three people hung themselves on the same tree, the energy of the death became the creature. You can still save her by watering her.” Mr. Xie did so and the tiny girl came back to life. Many people came to his house to see this fascinating scene. Mr. Xie didn’t want to get too much attention. So he decided to send the girl back to the tree. The moment he placed her on the tree, a huge bird flew there and took her away.




子不语 What The Master Would Not Discuss

Episode 8: The Booze Buddy

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How do you usually make friends? Interests help. In today’s story, the two man became friends because they both like drinking. They are booze buddies and true bros. People make friends in bars but do they make friends in bars with … ghosts?

Before we start the story, I want to mention a book where this story is from. It is called LiaoZhaiZhiYi聊斋志异, strange stories from a Chinese Studio, one of my favorite books. It is weird because I don’t really read or watch any horror books or movies , however, this is a ghost book. It is a collection of stories about ghosts and immortals. I don’t think this book is really horrify to read since the purpose of book is not to scare the readers and there are a lot of love stories between a poor young intelligent man and a beautiful fox spirit. If you know one of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman books called the Dream Hunters, you know what I am talking about. Neil said his book was based on an old Japanese folktale by Ozaki. I think Ozaki definitely was inspired this Chinese book since it came out hundreds years earlier. LiaoZhai聊斋in the name LiaoZhaiZhiYi is the name of the author PuSongling蒲松龄‘s study room or studio. In the ancient Chinese, literati and scholars always named their study rooms to represent their spiritual and intelligent interests. PuSongling was a very knowledgeable and talented scholar from Qing Dynasty, between the year 1640 to 1715. However, he wasn’t very lucky in the imperial examination in his life so he couldn’t get a position in the government. He spent his life as a tutor. Some people say the reason he didn’t get a good ranking in the exam is that he was not a very good looking guy and the corruption of the society. So his stories are about ghosts and spirits but not really. He used his stories as a weapon to describe the skewed feudal system and the unfair examination system. The love stories are his fantasies for me. As a poor scholar himself, who doesn’t desire love from a beautiful and pure girl who loves him and helps him overcome difficulties? Maybe not from the reality since it is hardly possible, but a girl who is a fox may make his dream come true. Throughout history, the image of fox spirits is a mixture of good and evil just like human. I love those stories and definitely will talk about more in the future.


Today I am going to tell a cute story about a fox guy. Yeah, in this book, besides fox ladies there are fox guys, fox families, and etc.. There was a guy named CheSheng车生. He could barely support his life expanses, however, he liked drinking. He couldn’t fall asleep without having three glasses of alcohol. Maybe he was an alcoholic and he always had booze at home. One night, he awoke from sleep in the middle of night and found a person sleeping on his bed. At first, he thought it was his clothes which he used as a blanket. And then he touched it and it was very furry. He carefully looked at it under the light and found out it was a fox. He found his empty liquor bottle next to it and smiled and said, “ this is my drinking buddy!” He didn’t even get suspicous or scared but happy. So he went back to bed with the fox. During the night, the fox woke up and CheSheng said, “looks like you had a good sleep.” It turned out that the fox was a good looking young guy. In a lot of Chinese spirits stories, the spirits would change back to their original forms like fox in this story when they are drunk or in bad condition. Other times, they show up as human shapes. The fox guy keeled down and thanked CheShengthat he didn’t kill him. CheSheng said, “ I love drinking and people think I am crazy. But you understand me. If you don’t mind, let’s be drinking buddies. You can come and visit whenever you want.” Apprently, CheSheng already treated the fox guy as his friends. And they went back to sleep again.

The next morning, when Che Sheng woke up, the fox guy already left. He prepared a whole bottle of wine just to wait for the fox. When night fell, the fox guy came. They talked and drank. The fox guy had a pretty high alcohol tolerance and very humorous. They felt like they knew each other for a long time. The fox guy said,” You have been treated me with great wine couple of times. How should I pay you back?” Che Sheng said,” It was just a little bit of wine. Don’t worry about it”. The fox guy kept saying “ You are not very rich and I will help you with the money for drinking.” So the next night , the fox told Che Sheng,” Go to the Southeast direction for 7 miles, you can find money somebody lost on the road. Go and get it as soon as possible.” The next morning, Che Sheng did what he was told and found 2 grands. He bought dishes and wine for the night with the fox. The fox told him again, “ there is money in the basement in the backyard. Somebody hid it. Go and get it.” The fo guy is just like a money detector! Che Sheng never got suspicious and did it again. Of course, he found money again. This time there were thousands of money. Che Sheng was happy and said,” I have money now and don’t have to worry about drinking.” The fox said,” you will spend all of it one day. Let me think of something else.” The next night, the fox told Che Sheng, “ the price of buckwheat in the market now is pretty low. This is good stuff and go and store some.” This fox even has a knowledge of markets and business! Che Sheng bought 40 shiof buckwheat. Shi is an ancient Chinese unit of weight. 40 shi is maybe more than 2 tons of buckwheat. People in the neighbor hood laughed at him. After not too long, it was the dry season, all the wheat and beans were dead in the field. Only buckwheat survived. So Che Sheng sold the seeds of buckwheat and made 10 times of money he invested. From then on, he became a real rich man. He bought 200 acres of fertile fields and followed the fox’s advises about when and what crops he should plant. The fox is an expert of argriculture now! They had been best friends and drinking buddies. The fox had good relationship with Che Sheng’s wife and regarded Che Sheng’s children as his own. After Che Sheng died, the fox guy never came back again. What a great friend the fox is. He was smart and knowledgeable. They were never suspicious of each other and were life long friends. I can definitely imagine the author was drinking in his studio alone at night and wished there was a great booze buddy drinking along. Maybe he did see a fox outside of the window and wrote down this story.


聊斋志异LiaoZhaiZhiYi/Strange stories from a Chinese studio


Neil Gaiman’s Sandman book – Dream Hunters


清朝 Qing Dynasty