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The False Concubine
Cheng Yumen [Cheng Jinfang] also told of a certain traveller who
took a concubine in Guangling [present-day Yangzhou, Jiangsu]. She
was rather refined, being an adept at literary pursuits. The two,
being extremely close to one another, enjoyed nuptial harmony in
the boudoir. One day the traveller returned from a drinking bout,
only to find the maids and servants already asleep, with not a candle
lit in the darkness. There was a deep silence in the inner chambers,
and he found a letter on the table, which read:
"I was originally a vixen leading a solitary life amidst mountains
and forests. For half a year I stayed with you to repay a debt I
owed you previously. My karmic destiny having been fulfilled, I
would not dare to linger any further. At first I intended to stay
behind temporarily to take care of you, and to reveal why we were
parting for good. Fearing, however, that our intense mutual devotion
would make separation extremely difficult, in excruciating pain
I decided to depart, rather than see you one more time. I looked
back, bracing the wind; a thousand emotions beset me. who knows
if, with such thoughts, I will not find my destiny further intertwined
with yours on the Rock-of-Three-Lives?"* You should take good
care of yourself, and not let your pure spirit be tarnished for
the sake of one woman. If so, though I have to leave, I will feel
On reading the letter, the traveller was much distressed. When
shown the letter, friends and old acquaintances all sighed with
emotion. As similar events could be seen in ancient books and records,
no one cast any doubt on the incident.
A month or so later, the concubine and her lover showed their identities
as they went north in a boat and were robbed. They reported the
matter to government officials and waited for the robbers to be
caught. When the two were detained for months inthis way in the
Huai River area, the truth came out: The concubine's mother had
sold her off at a high price, and so the concubine had to extricate
herself by claiming to be a vixen.
Zhou Shuchang [Zhou Yongnian] noted: "She was a vixen;
how could there be talk of her being disguised as one? Many
stories of the strange tell of human encounters with female fairies
and immortals who eventually took their leave. I suspect that some
of these might have belonged to the same category as this incident."
* This alludes to a Tang tale about the monk Yuan Guan, who arranges
to meet his younger friend, Li Yuan, after his death at a temple
at Hangzhou. He appears as a shepherd boy singing the line: "The
spiritual essence returns to the Rock-of-Three-Lives."
This 18th-century story appears in Ji Yun's Random Jottings
at the Cottage of Close Scrutiny.
Translation: Leo Tak-hung Chan, The Discourse on Foxes and Ghosts:
Ji Yun and Eighteenth-Century Literati Storytelling. Honolulu:
University of Hawai-i Press, 1998. Pp. 57-8.