Appendix to Chapter One

Cathy Silber

The Carp Spirit

Ever since Pangu clove heaven and earth,

The three emperors and five sovereigns set qian and kun.

Taizu and Taizong are now everywhere,

Everywhere soldiers kill folk by the thousands.

On the fifteenth day of the eighth month, Mid-autumn Festival,

Miss dressed up and went out for a stroll.

She strolled to the riverside for a look around,

She saw a fish swimming in the water.

It ate [a glob of] her clear phlegm,

And turned into Miss herself.

First the rouge changed, next the powder,

And third the clothes, all just the same.

This carp spirit truly had gall,

Its head knocked and hands knocked and feet kicked the door.

Young Master heard the bang bang bang

And opened the door to see who was there.

“I am Miss Jin of the house of Jin,

I see you reciting night and day.”

She came inside and sat down in a chair,

And Young Master began to speak these words:

“Why have you come to the study,

What are you doing coming to the study at night?”

Miss answered and said to Young Master:

“I have come to watch you recite texts.

By day, it’s poems and classics to get a post,

At night, poems and classics make hullabaloo.”

Young Master answered and said to Miss:

“Miss, you listen to what I say:

At night it’s poems and classics to get a post,

By day, for poems and classics, people are always underfoot.”

They sat until the fifth watch, the night so still,

And Miss got up to make her way back.

Young Master got up to see her out,

And once through the door, she disappeared.

Young Master turned and closed the door to sleep,

A gold hairpin was left at the study door.

He picked up the hairpin to give it a look,

Weighing in his mind, eight or nine parts sure [he didn’t want her].

He picked up the hairpin and took it home,

To tell his parents and talk it over.

The next day he went to her parents house,

And yelled at His Honor: “You’re subhuman.

Your household head is a fatcat official,

But just how thick can your shameless face be?

Cows and horses go back to the pen,

But you don’t keep your daughter in at night.

Marry her elsewhere, Jin, for I don’t want her,

She came to my study seven nights running.”

When Mr. Jin heard such talk,

He summoned a maid to call his daughter.

“I’ve got an upstairs for you to sit in,

What’s the big idea wandering out at night?”

“Miss answered and said to Dad:

Father above, listen to my words.

By day I sit at Mother’s side,

At night I sleep in Mother’s bed.

Also Big Brother and his wife

Would hear anyone going up or down the stairs.

If I get up to pee in the night,

A maid goes with me, never leaves my side.

Night and day by Mother’s side upstairs,

Not one wrong step out of Mother’s room.

If I went down to the study,

Then I’ll wear fur and horns and be an ox.”

“If what Young Master told was the truth,

Finding the hairpin is certainly proof.

You say you didn’t go down to the study,

But the hairpin was dropped at the study door.”

“The hairpin was part of my engagement gift,

How was it left at the study door?

The hairpin came from the groom’s side first,

What foe is out to get me?

I ask Father, do you give up?

Let’s ask Judge Bao to right this wrong.”

Mr. and Mrs. Jin talked it over together,

And decided to get Judge Bao to crack the case.

They told the servants to get the sedan chair,

And they all went together, women by palanquin, men on horseback.

The whole way there they made good time,

And came to Judge Bao’s yamen gate.

Mr. Jin then took the brief

And handed it up for Judge Bao to read:

“Here I have a case where wrong’s been done,

I ask Judge Bao to figure it out.”

Miss came forth and got down on her knees

And beseeched Judge Bao to right this wrong.

“I am the daughter of Mr. Jin,

Not one wrong step out of Mother’s room.

Night and day I sit at Mother’s side,

At night I sleep in Mother’s bed.

Also Big Brother and his wife

Would hear anyone going up or down the stairs.

If I get up to pee in the night,

Two maids never leave my side.

The hairpin came from the groom’s side first,

What foe is out to get me?

Night and day by Mother’s side upstairs,

I don’t know where this foe is coming from.

My father and mother taught me well:

You can’t go down to the study at night.”

Young Master came forth and said these words:

“I beseech Judge Bao to listen clear.

If Miss did not go down to the study,

Then how was the hairpin left behind?

The hairpin was my engagement gift,

How did that hairpin get where I found it?

What I say here you wouldn’t believe,

She came to my study seven nights running.

She came in and sat down in a chair,

And I began to speak these words:

‘Why have you come to the study?’

‘I have come to watch you recite texts.

By day, it’s poems and classics to get a post,

At night, poems and classics make hullabaloo.’

‘At night it’s poems and classics to get a post,

By day, for poems and classics, people are always underfoot.’

[We] sat until the fifth watch, the night so still,

And Miss got up to make her way back.

I got up to see her out,

And once through the door, she disappeared.

Having seen her out, I closed the door to sleep,

A gold hairpin was left at the study door.

I picked up the hairpin to give it a look,

Weighing in my mind, eight or nine parts sure.

I picked up the hairpin and took it home,

To tell my parents and talk it over.

The next day I went to her parent’s house,

To ask His Honor if he was perhaps subhuman.

‘Your household head is a fatcat official,

But just how thick can your shameless face be?

Cows and horses go back to the pen,

But you don’t keep your daughter in at night.

Marry her elsewhere, Jin, for I don’t want her,

She came to my study seven nights running.’

When Mr. Jin heard such talk,

He summoned a maid to call his daughter.

‘I’ve got an upstairs for you to sit in,

What’s the big idea going to the study at night?’

Miss answered and said to Dad:

‘Father above, listen to my words.

By day I sit at Mother’s side,

At night I sleep in Mother’s bed.

Also Big Brother and his wife

Would hear anyone going up or down the stairs.

If I get up to pee in the night,

Two maids never leave my side.

If I went down to the study,

Then I’ll wear fur and horns and be an ox.'”

When Judge Bao had heard all this talk,

He got out his precious mirror to show things clearly.

It showed out a carp spirit,

And when they went to grab the carp spirit,

The carp spirit sucked [Young Master’s] blood,

And Young Master’s face turned chrysanthemum yellow.

If the world had no Judge Bao to save the situation,

How could wrongs among the people be made right?

Miss came forth to kowtow in thanks,

To thank in reverence Bao the Great.

Young Master came forth and dropped to his knees,

To kowtow thanks to Bao the Great of South Yamen.

The two pair of parents reverently gave thanks,

Reverently thanked Judge Bao for cracking the case.

The whole family reunited, hearts so glad,

Never to forget Judge Bao’s kindness.

In modern times and yore, this brilliance in the world,

Years ago and years to come, his name spreads far and wide.

The Goldfish1

The story goes that in Yangzhou there lived a Confucian named Liu Zhen and self-styled Tianran, who was clever from childhood, loved to read poems and classics, had yet to marry, and was so dedicated to study he didn’t mind being poor. In the third year of Song Emperor Renzong’s reign [1051], Liu was held up by lack of travel funds on his way to the eastern capital [Kaifeng] to take the imperial exams and arrived too late. He sighed, “I’ll never make it with a fate this scanty.” With his remaining funds, he rented lodging in a monastery to pursue his studies.

Time flew like an arrow to the Lantern Festival. Thirty li outside town was a grain-transport station called Biyoutan; in its deep waters lived a thousand-year-old goldfish spirit that was wont to take female form and bewitch and befuddle traveling salesmen. That night, it transformed itself and left the pool. Having heard about the lanterns in town, it spit a small pearl which suddenly became a seven-or-eight-year-old maid carrying a lantern. Following the maid, she ambled through town and no one who saw her failed to be taken with her. As the fifth watch drew nigh, seeing some lanterns still out and fearing her true form would show, the demon took cover in the pond in the back garden of Prime Minister Jin. Though the lantern festival had ended, the demon fish had no desire to return to its pool. It just so happened that the prime minister had a daughter named Miss Jin Xian who was out in the garden with her maids-in-waiting admiring the flowers. Catching sight of a charming clump of red and white peonies in the earthenware pot on the eastern stand, she asked her maid to pick her some as she leant against the pond railing sipping wine. When she saw a goldfish making fish lips and swimming in the pond, she dumped the remains of her wine into the water, and the demon fish swallowed it up. Miss laughed for a long time before returning to her chamber. The demon fish, knowing how much Miss liked the peonies, adorned them with its breath each night, which made their colors ever more brilliant and drew Miss to come daily to enjoy them.

Spring turned to summer. Candidate Liu, nearly broke, his soulmates all departed, decided he had no choice but to write up some calligraphy and take these scrolls into town to sell to bureaucrat households. One day he came before the house of Prime Minister Jin just as the latter was returning from a visit to an old friend. When Prime Minister Jin saw Liu’s calligraphy, he praised it unceasingly, invited him inside, and inquired into his background. Seeing him to be a man of uncommon talent, he set him up in the western wing as a tutor and had a servant go to the monastery to bring his baggage. These new quarters abutted the eastern veranda of the back garden. Under the prime minister’s wing, Liu Zhen had food and clothing, which was beneficial to his studies, and he handled all the prime minister’s official correspondence, which made the prime minister like him all the more. One night, Liu happened into the garden just as Miss and two or three maids were toying with blossoms beneath the trellis. Upon seeing her, Liu Zhen exclaimed in awe, “I’d long heard the prime minister had a beautiful daughter, and sure enough it’s true. If in the future this student has the luck to make a name, getting this beauty for a mate would be plenty!” Having spoken and fearing he would be discovered, he turned and went inside, where he began reciting Du Fu’s poetry over and over again as a demonstration of his dedication.

It is often said that once the desiring heart gets started, evil is sure to invade. The demon had been hankering to bewitch and befuddle a good fellow, but hadn’t found the chance. That night, noticing Liu Zhen still up, it turned into the image of Miss, went to Liu’s study, and knocked politely on the door. When Liu opened the door to find the young lady he had seen that day, he was stunned. The demon said seductively, “Candidate, fear not, for Father and Mother have gone to bed. Hearing your resonant recitation, I have come to ask for instruction.” Only then did Liu Zhen calm down. They sat talking on the bed for a long time, and then took off their clothes and went to sleep. At the brink of dawn, the demon rose first and said, “I’ll be back tonight.” And left. From then on, she left each dawn and returned each night, and affection intensified. Each time she came, the demon treated him with delicacies, and Liu considered himself the luckiest, happiest man alive. One night, she said to him over wine, “It’s great that you live here, but how disgraced we will be if the maids find out and tell my parents. It would be better if I packed my things and eloped with you to your hometown, where we could live as husband and wife.” Liu said, “If the prime minister finds out, how could we get away with such a crime?” The demon said, “My mother loves me best of all, and even though we are not engaged, even if they find out they won’t be able to stop it.” Liu took her word for it and the next night booked a boat for the fourteenth. Miss gathered up her spare silver and went to Yangzhou with Liu. When the prime minister learned he had gone, he didn’t look into it further.

After the demon left, those peonies shriveled up and died. Day and night Miss Jin longed for them so much she fell ill. The best doctors couldn’t treat her, and when her mother asked what had made her sick, Miss told her it was on account of the peonies. Her mother told the prime minister, who said, “Only Yangzhou has this flower.” Forthwith he sent a servant bearing gold and treasure to Yangzhou with the instructions to spare no household and no expense in buying and bringing the peonies home. So the servant went to Yangzhou, asked around about this type of peony, and found that only Candidate Liu had several bushes of them growing in his yard. When the servant went to Liu’s, Liu was out, and all he saw was a young woman standing behind the curtain. “Who is it?” she asked, and the servant thought, “That sounds like our Miss.” He came forward for a closer look, and sure enough it was. Just then Liu returned, and the servant recognized him too. They stood there dumbfounded for a few moments, not knowing what to do. Liu asked the servant why he had come, and the servant told him how he had come to buy peonies because Miss was sick with longing for them. Liu laughed and said, “Miss came with me when I left and has been here six months. How could there be another one of her?” The servant couldn’t figure it out, and so returned to the eastern capital without delay to tell the prime minister. The prime minister didn’t believe it and sent a messenger to Yangzhou to bring the young lady back. Oddly enough, she did not refuse, and returned with Liu to the eastern capital. Upon arrival, they went inside to see the prime minister. He was shocked nearly senseless at the sight of her, when her mother came out and said, “Miss is upstairs in bed, how could there be another one of her here?” The prime minister asked Liu what was going on. Liu kept nothing back, and told of their meetings in the eastern veranda. The prime minister said, “You’ve surely been bewitched by a demon.” Thereupon they took a palanquin into Kaifeng to see Judge Bao and tell him these goings-on. Judge Bao had Zhang Long take the two misses as well as Liu Zhen into custody, and upon close examination in his chambers, sure enough the two were just the same. He had the demon-revealing mirror cast in the yamen brought out to tell them apart, and when his attendants hung the mirror in the courtroom, the demon fish suddenly belched out black fog, the whole place went dark, and you just heard a sound, and when the black fog dispersed, both young ladies were gone. The prime minister and Judge Bao were equally stunned, and everybody in the room paled. Judge Bao said, “If you’ll go back and wait a few days, Prime Minister, we’re bound to find her.” The prime minister thanked him and left. Judge Bao had Liu wait outside court, and Bao put up this notice: “Anyone who knows the whereabouts of the demon spirit or the young lady will be rewarded with five thousand strings of cash.” The next morning, he went to the temple of the city god to burn the notice in supplication. The city god dispatched the underworld troops to investigate everywhere to determine the demon responsible. They reported immediately: the thousand-year-old goldfish of Biyoutan is the demon. The city god then notified the dragon lords of the five lakes and four seas, assigning them the task of apprehending the demon fish and reporting back. When the dragon lords received this information, they dispatched the water troops to patrol the rivers and lakes and catch the fish. But the water troops were wiped out, and what could be done? The dragon lords appealed to the Lord on High, who dispatched the heavenly troops to catch it, but the demon continue to evade them, so how could they catch it? Judge Bao was day and night at the temple of the city god pushing him on, and all the city god could do was contact the dragon lords again. The dragon lords closed off the four gates of the sea to catch it, and the demon fish, now in a tight spot indeed, went to the south lake.

At this time there lived in the capital a simple and virtuous fellow named Zheng who had hanging in his house a watercolor portrait of a Guanyin dressed in white, to which he daily made offerings. That night he dreamt a woman in white said to him, “Come to the riverbank tomorrow and take me to see Judge Bao and you will be handsomely rewarded.” When Zheng awoke the next morning, he went to the riverbank, and sure enough he saw a middle-aged woman, carrying a wicker basket which held a tiny goldfish, standing under a willow tree. When Zheng approached, she said, “Yesterday, the dragon lords cornered the goldfish of Biyoutan in the south lake, where it took cover in a lotus calyx. I have coaxed it into this basket and covered it so it can’t get away. The day before yesterday Judge Bao put up a notice offering a reward to anyone who knows the whereabouts of the demon fish. You can take me there, we’ll watch him crack the case, and when he offers the reward I’ll give it all to you.” Overjoyed, Zheng hastened with the woman to the yamen, where Judge Bao and the prime minister were discussing this matter. When they were announced, Judge Bao asked why they had come, and Zheng told him everything the woman had told him. Judge Bao said, “It must be this demon.” He ordered the fish basket set down and interrogated it then and there. Prostrated by Buddha’s power, the demon fish confessed everything from its basket, including the fact that the young lady was now in a cave at Biyoutan. Judge Bao wanted to take this fish and cook it up, but the woman said, “This spirit has been around a thousand years; you can cook it but it won’t die. Leave it to me.” Judge Bao assented, and ordered the treasurer to reward her with five thousand strings of cash. As they were leaving, the woman gave the reward to Zheng, saying, “This is to repay you for your three years of sincere offerings to me. You must tell the whole world about this.” So saying, she disappeared. Only then did Zheng realize that she was the Guanyin he had made offerings to at home. He took the money and hired an artisan to paint a picture of Guanyin holding a fish basket. This was copied by people all over the capital. This is where the Fish Basket Guanyin we know today comes from.

Meanwhile, Judge Bao had dispatched people to the cave to get Miss Jin and bring her back to the yamen. She was already dead, but still her heart retained a little warmth. The doctors who examined her all said she could be saved by the breath of the person she was fated to. Judge Bao suddenly said to the prime minister, “Could it be that she is fated to Candidate Liu? I’ll be the go-between and settle this marriage right here.” They called in Candidate Liu to breathe on the young lady, who predictably enough revived, and all who saw it knew it was meant to be. Happy too, Judge Bao had the couple sent back to the prime minister’s house. That night Liu Zhen and the young lady were married. The following year, Liu passed the exams, and before many years had passed was made an official and had two successful sons.

1This is a translation of the story Jinli in Bao gong’an, Feng Buyi, ed. (Beijing: Baowentang shudian, 1985), juan 6, pp. 181-185. This modern punctuated edition is based on a popular 1808 edition derived from a text dating to at least as early as 1597 entitled Longtu gongan.

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