Episode 204: The Cricket

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Today we will talk about a story of cricket saving people from the book YouMingLu 幽明录 from the Liu Song dynasty 刘宋 around the 5th century.

In the book, it says, a person was involved in a crime and locked in the prison. He didn’t do anything outlaw just being unlucky. In the cell, he saw a cricket crawling and said, “if you have magic power, pleas help me get out.” Then he fed the cricket with his own food. The cricket ate the food and disappeared in a small hole.

After a while, the cricket came back and looked a little bigger than before. The person thought it was interesting and fed him more. Day after day, the cricket was the size of a piglet. On the day of the execution, the pig sized cricket dug a big hole on the wall and the person escaped.

It reminds me of an Italian tale from the book Pentamerone or The Tale of Tales by the author Giambattista Basile between the year 1566 to 1632 called the Flea. The beginning of the story goes like this “’The king of High Mountain was once bitten by a flea, and when he had picked it off with great dexterity and saw how beautiful and solidly built it was, it seemed a shame to him to execute it on the block of his fingernail. And so he placed it in a carafe and, feeding it daily with blood from his own arm, it grew so quickly that at the end of seven months, when he had to change its quarters, it was bigger than a lamb. On seeing this, the king had it skinned, and when the skin had been dressed he issued a proclamation: whoever was able to recognize to which animal the hide belonged would be given his daughter in marriage.”

It is interesting to see the similarities of the two stories that a cricket or a flea can grow to the size of a pig or a lamb..




幽明录 YouMingLu

Episode 203: Swapping Feet

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Today we will talk about a story of swapping feet from the book YouMingLu 幽明录 from the Liu Song dynasty 刘宋 around the 5th century.

In the book, it says, one day a person suddenly died. The god who in charge of human lives 司明神 checked his record and found out this guy died earlier than he should be. So the god let some assistants to send this guy back to the human world.

However, this guy’s feet started to hurt and couldn’t walk. The god thought for a while and said, “there is a barbarian just died and waiting outside. His feet are totally fine. How about let them change the feet.”

This guy was told his feet would be changed. He didn’t want to because he thought the barbarians’ feet were ugly. The assistants threatened him that, “if you don’t swap feet, you have to stay here for ever.” So the guy swapped feet with the barbarians’ and walked back home.

When the guy woke up, he was lying in his bed like just had a dream. But his feet were for sure from the barbarian since they were hairy and stinky. The guy liked to play with his feet and hands sometimes now he had no desire doing so. Although he came back from death, he felt worse than being dead.

The guy had a friend who knew the barbarian who he was alive and told him the barbarian hadn’t been buried yet. The guy went to see the barbarian’s dead body and saw his own feet on the body and couldn’t help crying.

The son of the barbarian really missed his father. Every festival, and special occasions, he would come to this guy’s house and hold his father’s feet crying. Even sometimes when they encountered on the street, the son would kneed down holding his father’s feet and crying. The guy had to ask people the guard the gate and in case the barbarian’s son came and cry.

The guy himself though really despised the ugly feet he had and even in the hot summer, he would wear long clothing to cover them.



幽明录 YouMingLu

Episode 202: Not here

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Today we will talk about a story from the book YouTaiXianGuanBiJi 右台仙馆笔记, from the Qing dynasty 清朝 around the 19th century. The story is from a Japanese friend of the author YuYue 俞樾 and he wrote in the book.

It says, Japanese people like to eat unagi, which is freshwater eel. However, they also are afraid of them because they think unagi have spirits. Many people wouldn’t kill unagi themselves but to buy in shops. Most izakaya, Japanese pubs would keep live unagi for customers.




One night, a few drunk guys knocked the door of an izakaya. It was midnight and the staff were already sleeping. Nobody responded. So the drunk guys asked, “hi! Do you still have unagi?” This time, they heard all the live unagi in the water answered together, “not any more.”





右台仙馆笔记 YouTaiXianGuanBiJi

Episode 201: Skeleton Talks

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Today we will tell a story about a skeleton talks from the book XuZiBuYu 续子不语 from the Qing dynasty 清朝 around the 18th century by the author YuanMei 袁枚.

In the book, it says, a person Mr. Wang 汪 stayed in a temple for a few days. He found some weird thing that he heard someone was talking underneath the stairs of this room. He told other people in the temple and they also heard the talking. They thought maybe someone was buried there and the ghost maybe asking for help or some unfilled wishes.

They told the monks in the temple and they dug underneath the stairs for a few feet. As expected, they found a coffin in which a skeleton lying. Nothing special. People asked the skeleton, “do you have some regrets or wishes?” The skeleton didn’t say a word. So they buried the coffin back to where it was.

Not too long after they buried the coffin, they heard someone talking from underground again and it was for sure from the coffin. A person suggested, “we should tell the Zen master who could understands ghost talking.”




The Zen master came and put his ears on the ground. He closed his eyes and tried to listen the words from the coffin. Then he suddenly said, “don’t bother! This ghost was in high position while he was alive and liked to hear people flattering him. Now nobody is flattering him so he just flattering himself.”



续子不语 XuZiBuYu


Episode 200: Talking Cats

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Today we will talk about a couple of stories of talking cats from the 18th century.

The first story is from the book LvYuanCongHua 履园丛话 around the 18th century during the Qing dynasty 清朝. In the book, it says, the descendants of Wang Yinzhi 王引之, a Chinese scholar between the year 1766~ 1834 still owned the old house during the reign of Emperor XianFeng 咸丰, between the year 1831~ 1861. There was a cat in the old house and could talk like people. One day, the cat was sleeping, a person walked closely and asked the cat if it could talk for real. The cat replied, “I can talk. It’s none of your business.” and disappeared.




The second story is from the same book. In the army base in the place JiangXi 江西, there were two cats talking and were found by a soldier who tried to catch them. One cat escaped and one cat got caught. The cat begged the soldier, “I’ve lived for 12 years. I tried to keep silent because I knew people would get amazed. If you can let me go, that’s great merit.” So the soldier let the cat go.




In another book QingBaiLeiChao 清稗类钞from the 19th century also during Qing dynasty 清朝, it says, during the reign of Emperor GuangXu 光绪 and Emperor XuanTong 宣统around the 19th century, a person named Guo Jiting 郭季庭 from the place TongZhou 通州 heard a family in town had an old cat that spoke. He had doubt and decided to go and check. When he arrived at the family, before he entered the door, he heard the old cat shouted at him, “Guo Jiting, you don’t believe cats can talk?” Guo Jiting was shocked and talked with the cat sincerely. According to the cat, it was more than a thousand years old. It could remember things clearly happened in the past. Guo Jiting asked, “what do you eat to live such a long time?” The cat said, “all I like in this world is liquor.” Guo Jiting bought some booze and shared with the cat. After that day, he and the cat became great friends.



履园丛话 LvYuanCongHua

清稗类钞 QingBaiLeiChao