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Some Chinese Ghosts by Lafcadio Hearn


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Some Chinese Ghosts by Lafcadio Hearn

HOA-TCHAO.--The "Birthday of a Hundred Flowers" falls upon the fifteenth of the second spring-moon.

JADE.--Jade, or nephrite, a variety of jasper,--called by the Chinese _yuh_,--has always been highly valued by them as artistic material.... In the "Book of Rewards and Punishments," there is a curious legend to the effect that Confucius, after the completion of his _Hiao-King_ ("Book of Filial Piety"), having addressed himself to Heaven, a crimson rainbow fell from the sky, and changed itself at his feet into a piece of yellow jade. See Stanislas Julien's translation, p. 495.

KABIT.--A poetical form much in favor with composers of Hindoo religious chants: the _kabit_ always consists of four verses.

KAO-LING.--Literally, "the High Ridge," and originally the name of a hilly range which furnished the best quality of clay to the porcelain-makers. Subsequently the term applied by long custom to designate the material itself became corrupted into the word now familiar in all countries,--kaolin. In the language of the Chinese potters, the _kaolin_, or clay, was poetically termed the "bones," and the _tun_, or quartz, the "flesh" of the porcelain; while the prepared bricks of the combined substances were known as _pe-tun-tse_. Both substances, the infusible and the fusible, are productions of the same geological formation,--decomposed feldspathic rock.

KAS═ (_or_ VARANASI).--Ancient name of Benares, the "Sacred City," believed to have been founded by the gods. It is also called "The Lotos of the World." Barth terms it "the Jerusalem of all the sects both of ancient and modern India." It still boasts two thousand shrines, and half a million images of divinities. See also Sherring's "Sacred City of the Hindoos."

KIANG-KOU-JIN.--Literally, the "tell-old-story-men." For a brief account of Chinese professional story-tellers, the reader may consult Schlegel's entertaining introduction to the _Mai-yu-lang-to˙-tchen-hoa-koue´_.

KIN.--The most perfect of Chinese musical instruments, also called "the Scholar's Lute." The word _kin_ also means "to prohibit"; and this name is said to have been given to the instrument because music, according to Chinese belief, "_restrains evil passions, and corrects the human heart_." See Williams's "Middle Kingdom."

KOUEI.--Kouei, musician to the Emperor Yao, must have held his office between 2357 and 2277 B.C. The extract selected from one of his songs, which I have given at the beginning of the "Story of Ming-Y," is therefore more than four thousand years old. The same chant contains another remarkable fancy, evidencing Chinese faith in musical magic:--

"When I smite my [_musical_] stone,--
Be it gently, be it strongly,--
Then do the fiercest beasts of prey leap high for joy.
And the chiefs among the public officials do agree among themselves."

KWANG-CHAU-FU.--Literally, "The Broad City,"--the name of Canton. It is also called "The City of Genii."

L═.--A measure of distance. The length of the _li_ has varied considerably in ancient and in modern times. The present is given by Williams as ten _li_ to a league.

LI-SAO.--"The Dissipation of Grief," one of the most celebrated Chinese poems of the classic period. It is said to have been written about 314 B.C., by Kiu-ping-youen, minister to the King of Tsou. Finding himself the victim of a base court-intrigue, Kiu-ping wrote the _Li-Sao_ as a vindication of his character, and as a rebuke to the malice of his enemies, after which he committed suicide by drowning.... A fine French translation of the _Li-Sao_ has been made by the Marquis Hervey de Saint-Denys (Paris, 1870).

LI-SHU.--The second of the six styles of Chinese writing, for an account of which see Williams's "Middle Kingdom." ... According to various Taoist legends, the decrees of Heaven are recorded in the "Seal-character," the oldest of all; and marks upon the bodies of persons killed by lightning have been interpreted as judgments written in it. The following extraordinary tale from the _Kan-ing-p'ien_ affords a good example of the superstition in question:--