Experience the intriguing story of a scholar from Fengyang and his wife, where dreams, deception, and a mysterious encounter unfold, leading to a surprising family reunion.
In Fengyang, there was a scholar who went on a journey for his studies. When he left, he said to his wife, “I’ll be back in six months.” However, ten months passed without any word from him. His wife eagerly awaited his return, anxiously hoping for his arrival.
One night, as the wife had just laid down to sleep, she saw the moonlight flickering outside the window, and her thoughts of longing and separation filled her heart. Unable to sleep and tossing in bed, a beautiful woman suddenly appeared. She had pearl flowers in her hair, and she was dressed in a bright red shawl. She lifted the curtain and entered with a smile, asking, “Sister, do you perhaps miss your husband?” The wife quickly got up and replied. The beautiful woman invited her to go together. The wife was worried about the long journey, but the beautiful woman assured her not to be concerned. She took her hand, and they walked forward in the moonlight.
After walking for a while, the wife felt that the beautiful woman was walking very fast, and she was having trouble keeping up. She asked the beautiful woman to wait a moment while she returned home to change her shoes. The beautiful woman pulled her to sit by the roadside, took off her own shoes, and lent them to the wife. The wife joyfully put on the shoes, which luckily fit perfectly. They stood up again and this time walked with swift strides.
After some time, they saw the scholar riding a white mule approaching. The scholar was shocked to see his wife and asked, “Where are you going?” The wife replied, “I was going to visit you.” The scholar looked at the beautiful woman and asked who she was. Before the wife could answer, the beautiful woman covered her mouth and laughed, saying, “Don’t inquire further. Madam has traveled a difficult journey, and her husband is riding a mule in the middle of the night. Both people and animals must be exhausted. My house is not far from here; please come and rest. You can continue your journey in the morning.” Just a few steps away, there was a village, so they all went there together.
Upon entering the courtyard, the beautiful woman woke up her maidservant, who had already fallen asleep, and instructed her to serve the guests. She said, “The moonlight is bright tonight; there’s no need to light candles. We can all sit on the small stone platform bed.” The scholar tied his mule to a pillar in front of the house and then sat down. The beautiful woman said to the wife, “Your shoes must not be very comfortable, and you must be tired from the journey. Since you have a mount for the way back, please return my shoes.” The wife expressed her gratitude and returned the shoes to the beautiful woman.
Before long, the wine and dishes were already set, and the beautiful woman poured wine while saying, “After a long separation, tonight we are reunited as husband and wife. Let’s share a toast to celebrate.” The scholar also raised his wine cup in response. The host and the guest chatted and laughed, exchanging banter, with no distinction between them. The scholar kept gazing at the beautiful woman and repeatedly used flirtatious words to tease her. Although the husband and wife had just reunited, they didn’t exchange any words of concern or inquiry. The beautiful woman also conveyed affection with her eyes, speaking in suggestive and alluring tones. The wife simply sat there silently, pretending to be oblivious.
As time passed, the two of them gradually became drunk, and their words became even more intimate. The beautiful woman brought out a large wine cup to persuade the guest, while the scholar used drunkenness as an excuse to decline. However, the beautiful woman persisted in her persuasion. The scholar smiled and said, “Sing a little song for me, and then I’ll drink.” The beautiful woman didn’t refuse and immediately used her teeth to pluck the strings of a zither, singing, “At dusk, I remove my leftover makeup, and the cold west wind outside the window pierces through the gauze. Listening to the banana leaves rustling, the rain falls in fine drizzles. Where is there leisure to chew betel nuts with someone else? Gazing through the autumn waters, no sign of my husband’s return; tears flow like threads. I miss him again, I resent him again, holding these red embroidered shoes, consulting the ghostly oracle.”
After singing, she laughed and said, “This is a folk song that circulates in the streets and alleys, not worthy of your appreciation. However, due to prevailing customs, I’ll imitate the style.” Her voice was soft and tender, her demeanor affectionate, and she behaved without restraint. The scholar’s heartstrings were swayed, as if he couldn’t control his own emotions.
After a while, the beautiful woman pretended to be drunk and left the table, and the scholar also got up and followed her. They didn’t return for a long time. The maidservant, tired, fell asleep in the corridor. The wife sat alone, lonely without companions, filled with anger that was hard to bear. She thought about sneaking back, but the night was dark, and she couldn’t remember the way. Restless and indecisive, she stood up to check on them.
As she approached the window, she faintly heard the sounds of their amorous activities. On closer listening, she even heard her husband sharing with the beautiful woman the affectionate moments that were usually reserved for her. The wife, overwhelmed with anger, her hands trembling, and her heart unable to bear it any longer, thought it might be better to go out and jump into a ravine to die.
As the wife was about to leave, she suddenly saw her younger brother Sanlang riding up on a horse in a hurry, dismounting and asking for an explanation. The wife narrated the entire incident to him. Sanlang, furious, immediately followed his sister back to the house, forcefully breaking into the bedroom. At that moment, the bedroom door was tightly closed, and the two of them were still whispering sweet nothings on the bed.
Sanlang raised a big stone like a weight and threw it at the window frame, breaking several pieces. Suddenly, a loud cry was heard from inside the room, “My husband’s head is injured! What should we do?” The wife, upon hearing this, burst into tears and said to her brother, “I didn’t ask you to kill him! What have you done now?” Sanlang, with widened eyes, said, “You continuously cried for my help, and just as I managed to relieve my anger, you protected him and scolded your own brother. I’m not accustomed to being bossed around by you, little sister!” With that, he turned and left.
The wife grabbed his clothes and said, “If you don’t take me with you, what am I to do?” Sanlang pushed his sister to the ground and walked away. The wife suddenly woke up, realizing that it was all a dream.
The next day, the scholar indeed returned home, riding a white mule. The wife was very surprised but didn’t say anything. The scholar had also had a dream that night, and when he recounted what he had seen and heard in the dream, it matched exactly with his wife’s dream. Both of them were equally astonished and frightened.
Before long, Sanlang heard that his brother-in-law had returned from his distant journey and came to greet him. In their conversation, he said to his brother-in-law, “Last night, I dreamt of your return, and today, seeing you back for real, it’s truly a strange occurrence.” The scholar chuckled and replied, “Thankfully, I wasn’t crushed to death by a big stone.” Sanlang, taken aback, asked for an explanation, and the scholar shared the details of his dream. Sanlang was even more astonished.
As it turned out, that same night, Sanlang had also dreamt of his sister crying and had angrily thrown a stone. The dreams of all three of them perfectly matched, but they still didn’t know who the beautiful woman truly was.