Geng Shiba: A Tale of Life and Afterlife

Read the intriguing story of Geng Shiba, who, after a mysterious journey to the afterlife, returns to the living with a thirst for water and a newfound distance from his wife.

In Xincheng, Geng Shiba’s condition deteriorated, and he knew he wouldn’t get better. He said to his wife, “Our permanent separation is only a matter of time. After I die, whether you remarry or remain a widow is entirely up to you. Please tell me your plans.” His wife remained silent. Geng Shiba insisted on asking her, saying, “Remaining a widow is understandable, but remarrying is also common. How would it harm me? When we part ways, if you remain a widow, I will be comforted. If you remarry, I won’t have any concerns.” His wife then sadly replied, “There’s not even a small jar of rice left at home. When you were alive, we couldn’t make ends meet. How can I remain a widow on my own?” Geng Shiba, upon hearing this, tightly grasped his wife’s arm and said with resentment, “You’re so heartless!” After saying that, he passed away, still holding onto her hand tightly. His wife cried out, and family members came. They struggled to pry Geng Shiba’s fingers open.

Geng Shiba didn’t realize he was dead. He walked out of the door and saw over a dozen small carts, each carrying ten people. There was a square piece of paper on each cart with people’s names written on it. The cart drivers saw Geng Shiba and urged him to get on quickly. Geng Shiba noticed that there were already nine people on the cart, and with himself, there were exactly ten. He also saw that his name was listed last on the paper. The cart creaked as it moved, making a deafening noise, and he had no idea where they were going. After a while, the cart arrived at a place where someone said, “This is the place of longing.” Hearing this place name, Geng Shiba felt very puzzled. He overheard one of the cart drivers whisper, “Today, three people were beheaded.” Geng Shiba was once again shocked. As he listened closely to their conversations, he realized they were all talking about underworld matters and suddenly understood, “Am I not a ghost now!” He immediately thought of his family—there was nothing for him to worry about, but his elderly mother was still alive, and there was no one to care for her after his wife had remarried. Thinking of this, tears welled up in his eyes.

Some time passed, and Geng Shiba saw a platform several zhang high with many tourists. These people wore wooden collars on their heads and leg irons on their feet, crying as they climbed up and down the platform. It was said that this platform was called the “Longing-for-Home Platform.” When the people from the cart arrived here, they got off the cart by stepping on the yoke and eagerly climbed up to the high platform. The cart drivers treated them differently; some whipped them, and others obstructed them, but when it came to Geng Shiba, they urged him to go up. Geng Shiba climbed dozens of steps until he reached the highest point. Looking ahead, he could see the courtyard of his home right in front of him, but the interior was hazy, as if shrouded in smoke. Geng Shiba felt extremely sad and heartbroken.

Occasionally, he turned around and saw a person in a short robe standing behind him. That person asked Geng Shiba his surname, and Geng Shiba truthfully replied. The person introduced himself as an East Sea craftsman and, upon seeing Geng Shiba crying, asked, “Is there something on your mind?” Geng Shiba also told him the truth. The craftsman suggested that they jump together from the platform to escape. Geng Shiba was afraid of being pursued in the underworld, but the craftsman assured him there would be no problem. Geng Shiba also worried about damaging the platform, so the craftsman told him to follow closely.

So, the craftsman jumped first, and Geng Shiba followed suit. When they reached the ground, they were miraculously unharmed. They were relieved that no one had noticed. They saw the small cart they had traveled in was still below the platform. The two of them hurriedly ran a few steps but suddenly realized that their names were still attached to the cart. They were afraid that the underworld would pursue them based on their names, so they turned back, ran to the cart, and used their saliva-dampened fingers to erase their names before continuing their escape. They ran panting and out of breath, not daring to take a moment’s rest.

Not long after, they arrived at the doorstep of Geng Shiba’s home, and the craftsman escorted him inside. At this moment, Geng Shiba suddenly saw his own lifeless body and immediately regained consciousness. He felt extremely fatigued and thirsty, urgently demanding water. The family members were shocked and quickly brought him water. He drank more than a stone’s worth of water in one gulp. After quenching his thirst, he suddenly stood up, bowed and thanked everyone, then went out again to express his gratitude. When he returned to the house, he became motionless. The family members found his behavior strange and suspected that he hadn’t truly come back to life. However, after observing him carefully, they noticed nothing unusual. When they asked him about his condition, he explained everything clearly. They inquired, “Why did you go out just now?” He replied, “To bid farewell to the craftsman.” They further asked, “Why did you drink so much water?” He said, “I drank some initially, and then the craftsman drank the rest.” The family provided him with rice porridge, and after a few days, he fully recovered.

From that day on, Geng Shiba became distant and cold toward his wife, no longer sharing the same bed with her.



耿不自知其死,出门,见小车十馀两,两各十人,即以方幅书名字,粘车上。御人见耿,促登车。耿视车中已有九人,并己而十,又视粘单上,己名最后。车行咋咋,响震耳际,亦不自知何往。俄至一处,闻人言曰:“此思乡地也。”闻其名,疑之。又闻御人偶语云:“今日 三人。”耿又骇。及细听其言,悉阴间事,乃自悟曰:“我岂不作鬼物耶!”顿念家中,无复可悬念,惟老母腊高,妻嫁后,缺于奉养,念之,不觉涕涟。



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