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Some Chinese Ghosts by Lafcadio Hearn


page 1 of 2 | Some Chinese Ghosts by Lafcadio Hearn

Some Chinese Ghosts by Lafcadio Hearn

"_The Soul of the Great Bell._"--The story of Ko-Ngai is one of the collection entitled _Pe-Hiao-Tou-Choue_, or "A Hundred Examples of Filial Piety." It is very simply told by the Chinese narrator. The scholarly French consul, P. Dabry de Thiersant, translated and published in 1877 a portion of the book, including the legend of the Bell. His translation is enriched with a number of Chinese drawings; and there is a quaint little picture of Ko-Ngai leaping into the molten metal.

"_The Story of Ming-Y._"--The singular phantom-tale upon which my work is based forms the thirty-fourth story of the famous collection _Kin-Kou-Ki-Koan_, and was first translated under the title, "La Bachelière du Pays de Chu," by the learned Gustave Schlegel, as an introduction to his publication (accompanied by a French version) of the curious and obscene _Mai-yu-lang-toú-tchen-hoa-koueï_ (Leyden, 1877), which itself forms the seventh recital of the same work. Schlegel, Julien, Gardner, Birch, D'Entrecolles, Rémusat, Pavie, Olyphant, Grisebach, Hervey-Saint-Denys, and others, have given the Occidental world translations of eighteen stories from the _Kin-Kou-Ki-Koan_; namely, Nos. 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 14, 19, 20, 26, 27, 29, 30, 31, 34, 35, and 39. The Chinese work itself dates back to the thirteenth century; but as it forms only a collection of the most popular tales of that epoch, many of the stories selected by the Chinese editor may have had a much more ancient origin. There are forty tales in the _Kin-Kou-Ki-Koan_.

"_The Legend of Tchi-Niu._"--My authority for this tale is the following legend from the thirty-fourth chapter of the _Kan-ing-p'ien_, or "Book of Rewards and Punishments,"--a work attributed to Lao-tseu, which contains some four hundred anecdotes and traditions of the most curious kind:--

Tong-yong, who lived under the Han dynasty, was reduced to a state of extreme poverty. Having lost his father, he sold himself in order to obtain ... the wherewithal to bury him and to build him a tomb. The Master of Heaven took pity on him, and sent the Goddess Tchi-Niu to him to become his wife. She wove a piece of silk for him every day until she was able to buy his freedom, after which she gave him a son, and went back to heaven.--_Julien's French Translation_, p. 119.

Lest the reader should suppose, however, that I have drawn wholly upon my own imagination for the details of the apparition, the cure, the marriage ceremony, etc., I refer him to No. XCVI. of Giles's "Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio," entitled, "A Supernatural Wife," in which he will find that my narrative is at least conformable to Chinese ideas. (This story first appeared in "Harper's Bazaar," and is republished here by permission.)

"_The Return of Yen-Tchin-King._"--There may be an involuntary anachronism in my version of this legend, which is very pithily narrated in the _Kan-ing-p'ien_. No emperor's name is cited by the homilist; and the date of the revolt seems to have been left wholly to conjecture.--Baber, in his "Memoirs," mentions one of his Mongol archers as able to bend a two-hundred-pound bow until the ears met.

"_The Tradition of the Tea-Plant._"--My authority for this bit of folklore is the brief statement published by Bretschneider in the "Chinese Recorder" for 1871:--

"A Japanese legend says that about A.D. 519, a Buddhist priest came to China, and, in order to dedicate his soul entirely to God, he made a vow to pass the day and night in an uninterrupted and unbroken meditation. After many years of this continual watching, he was at length so tired that he fell asleep. On awaking the following morning, he was so sorry he had broken his vow that he cut off both his eyelids and threw them upon the ground. Returning to the same place the following day he observed that each eyelid had become a shrub. This was the _tea-shrub_, unknown until that time."