Experience a hauntingly beautiful love story in 'Lian Suo,' where love transcends death, bringing together a man and a ghostly woman in an unforgettable tale of romance and sacrifice.
Yang Yuwei moved from out of town to live by the side of the Si River. His study faced an expansive wilderness, and outside the courtyard walls, there were many ancient graves. Every night, he could hear the sound of poplar trees rustling, like the surging waves, constantly in his ears. One night, deep in the night, he sat alone with a candle, listening to the sounds of the trees and the wind outside the window, feeling infinitely desolate. Suddenly, someone outside the wall began reciting a sorrowful poem: “In the dark night, the chilly wind blows back, fireflies disturb the grass and touch the curtains.” This mournful and desolate verse repeated over and over again. He listened carefully, and the voice was soft and melodious, like that of a woman. Yang was filled with suspicion.
The next day, he went outside the wall, but there was no one in sight. Only a purple ribbon was left among the thorns, so he picked up the ribbon and placed it on the windowsill. At midnight, the same mournful verses echoed from outside again. Yang stood on a stool to look outside, and the recitation immediately stopped. Yang suddenly understood that this must be a ghost, but despite that, he admired her deeply.
The next evening, Yang Sheng lay quietly on the wall, waiting. When the first watch was about to pass, he saw a woman slowly emerging from the grass. She held onto a small tree, lowered her head, and sadly recited the mournful poem. Yang Sheng cleared his throat lightly, and the woman immediately disappeared into the tall grass. Yang Sheng then hid under the wall, waiting until the woman finished her recitation. Then, from behind the wall, he continued with the next two lines of the poem, saying, “Hidden feelings, who can see? When the moon rises, her jade sleeves turn cold.” After reciting, there was a long silence, and Yang Sheng returned to his room feeling disappointed.
Just as he had sat down, he suddenly saw a beautiful woman walking in from outside. She adjusted her clothing and approached him with a polite gesture, saying, “You are indeed a cultured scholar, while I am so timid, hiding from you like this.” Yang Sheng was delighted and invited her to sit down. He noticed that she was thin and fragile, carrying a chill about her, as if her clothing couldn’t provide enough warmth. Yang Sheng asked her, “Where is your hometown? Have you been staying here for a long time?” The woman replied, “I am from Longxi, and I have been drifting with my father all over. I fell seriously ill and passed away at the age of seventeen. It has been over twenty years now. Beneath the earth, in the desolate wilderness, I am as lonely as a lost duck. Those two lines of poetry I was reciting were my own creation, a way to express my sorrow and resentment. I have been trying to continue them for a long time but couldn’t. Thank you for continuing them for me, bringing me comfort even in the afterlife.”
Yang Sheng wanted to make love to her, but the woman furrowed her brows and said, “I am the bones in the grave, not a living person. If you and I come together, it will shorten your lifespan. I cannot bear to bring you trouble!” So, Yang Sheng refrained. He then reached out to touch the woman’s chest and found that her breasts were still as firm as a virgin’s. He also wanted to see her small feet under her skirt, and the woman laughed and said, “You are quite persistent!” Yang Sheng held her small feet in his hands and saw that she was wearing moon-white silk stockings. One foot had a thread tied around it, and the other had a purple garter. Yang Sheng asked her, “Why aren’t both feet tied with garters?” The woman replied, “Last night, when I was avoiding you out of fear, I don’t know where I lost one.” Yang Sheng said, “Let me help you put it on!” He then took the garter from the windowsill and handed it to the woman. She was surprised and asked where it came from, so Yang Sheng told her the whole story of the previous night. The woman removed the thread and replaced it with the garter. Later, she casually browsed through the books on the table. When she saw “Lian Chang Palace Lyrics” written by the Tang Dynasty poet Yuan Zhen, she exclaimed, “This was my favorite poem when I was alive, and today I see it again, it feels like a dream.” Yang Sheng talked to her about poetry and found her to be intelligent and lovely. They sat by the window, talking late into the night under the lamplight, as if they had found a good friend.
From then on, every evening, as long as he heard her soft recitations, she would come without delay. The woman repeatedly urged Yang Sheng, “Please, you must keep this secret, do not tell anyone else. I have been timid since childhood, afraid of being bullied by unscrupulous visitors.” Yang Sheng promised to keep the secret. Their feelings grew harmonious, like fish in water. Although they didn’t share a bed, their intimacy was akin to that of a married couple. The woman often copied books for Yang Sheng by the lamplight, her handwriting was elegant and graceful. She even selected a hundred palace lyrics and copied them herself to recite. She also had Yang Sheng purchase a Go board and a pipa. Every evening, she taught Yang Sheng how to play Go, and if they didn’t play Go, she would play the pipa. Her rendition of songs like “Jiaochuang Lingyu” had a melancholic tone that touched the depths of Yang Sheng’s heart, making it difficult for him to continue listening. But when she played songs like “Xiaoyuan Yingsheng,” Yang Sheng instantly felt a sense of relief.
The two of them enjoyed themselves under the lamplight, often becoming so engrossed that they forgot the dawn had already broken. Whenever a ray of morning light appeared through the window, the woman would hurriedly leave.
One day, a man named Xue came to visit, and he arrived just when Yang Sheng was napping during the day. Xue noticed the pipa and the chessboard in his room and knew that Yang Sheng wasn’t skilled in these. While flipping through books, he saw the handwritten palace lyrics with exceptionally neat and elegant handwriting, which raised further suspicions. When Yang Sheng woke up, Xue asked, “What are the pipa and chessboard for?” Yang Sheng replied, “I wanted to learn.” Xue also asked about the origin of those lyrics and songs, and Yang Sheng lied, claiming they were written by another friend. Xue examined the handwriting repeatedly and found a small line at the end that read, “Copied on a certain month and day by Lian Suo.” He chuckled and said, “This is a woman’s nickname. Why are you deceiving me like this?” Yang Sheng felt extremely embarrassed and didn’t know how to respond. Xue continued to press him with questions, but Yang Sheng remained silent.
Xue picked up the copied lyrics and was about to leave. Yang Sheng grew even more anxious and had no choice but to tell him the truth. Xue insisted on meeting Lian Suo, and Yang Sheng told him the message Lian Suo had entrusted him with, emphasizing the need for absolute secrecy. However, Xue’s longing to meet Lian Suo was too strong, and Yang Sheng reluctantly agreed.
During the night, Lian Suo came, and Yang Sheng conveyed Xue’s intentions to her. Lian Suo became especially angry, saying, “What did I warn you about? I never expected you would blabber everywhere!” Yang Sheng explained the situation, repeatedly trying to justify himself, but Lian Suo could not forgive him. She left, saying, “Our fate has come to an end!” Yang Sheng tried to console and explain, but Lian Suo couldn’t let go of her anger and left, saying, “I’ll hide from him for a while.”
The next day, Xue came again, but Yang Sheng told him that Lian Suo had no intention of meeting him. Xue suspected that Yang Sheng was deliberately avoiding and deceiving him. That evening, Xue, along with two other fellow students, came to Yang Sheng’s house. It was very late, and they pretended to have reasons to stay, intentionally causing disruption, making noise throughout the night. Yang Sheng was furious but helpless against them.
These individuals disrupted for several nights in a row, but there was no sign of Lian Suo. Feeling bored, they considered leaving, and the noise gradually subsided. Suddenly, a recitation came from outside, and everyone present listened intently. The voice was poignant and heartbreaking. Xue was fully engrossed in listening when one of his friends, a martial artist named Wang, picked up a large stone and threw it towards the wall outside. He even shouted, “Hiding and not meeting guests, reciting some pretentious poetry, crying and wailing, it’s truly annoying!” The recitation immediately stopped. Everyone blamed Wang, and Yang Sheng was particularly angry, rebuking him loudly.
The next day, these people finally left Yang Sheng’s home. That night, Yang Sheng was alone in the empty room, hoping for Lian Suo to return, but he never saw her again. After waiting for over a month, Yang Sheng realized that Lian Suo would never come back. He yearned for her day and night, lost his appetite, and eventually became emaciated. He deeply regretted his actions.
One evening, Yang Sheng was drinking alone when Lian Suo suddenly lifted the door curtain and entered. Yang Sheng was overjoyed and said, “Have you forgiven me?” Lian Suo couldn’t stop her tears, soaking her clothes, and remained silent without uttering a word. Yang Sheng anxiously asked her what was wrong, but Lian Suo hesitated to speak. Finally, she said, “I left in anger, but now there’s an urgent matter, and I had to seek help. I can’t help feeling ashamed.” After repeated inquiries from Yang Sheng, Lian Suo finally explained, “From somewhere, a vile and dirty bailiff has come, forcing me to be his concubine. But I come from an honorable family, how can I bow down and endure the humiliation of this wretched creature? Unfortunately, I am a fragile woman, how can I resist? If you are willing to treat me as your wife, you must not allow this to happen.”
Yang Sheng was furious upon hearing this, ready to confront the bailiff, but he hesitated, realizing that humans and spirits did not inhabit the same world, and he feared he might not have the power to intervene. Lian Suo said, “Tomorrow night, go to sleep early, and I will meet you in your dreams.” So, they talked intimately as they used to, sitting together until dawn. Before leaving, Lian Suo instructed Yang Sheng not to sleep during the day and to wait for their rendezvous in the dream world at night. Yang Sheng agreed.
Because he had consumed a bit of alcohol in the afternoon, Yang Sheng felt a bit tipsy and ended up lying down on the bed, falling asleep unknowingly. Suddenly, he saw Lian Suo, who handed him a dagger and pulled his hand, urging him to follow. They arrived at a courtyard, and just as they closed the courtyard gate, they heard someone using a large stone to pound the door. Lian Suo, filled with fear, said, “My enemies have come!” Yang Sheng, in anger, rushed out and saw a bailiff wearing a red hat and black clothes, with a prickly beard around his mouth like a hedgehog’s quills. Yang Sheng angrily rebuked the man, who responded with hostility and venomous words. Yang Sheng charged at him, and the man threw stones at him like rain. One stone struck Yang Sheng’s wrist, causing him to drop the dagger in pain. In this dire situation, he noticed someone in the distance, armed with a bow and hunting. Upon closer inspection, it was none other than Wang, the martial artist. Yang Sheng desperately cried for help, and Wang quickly shot an arrow, hitting the bailiff’s thigh. Another arrow followed, and the man fell to the ground and died. Yang Sheng thanked Wang profusely for his timely intervention. Wang asked Yang Sheng about the situation, and Yang Sheng explained the whole incident. Wang secretly congratulated himself for turning a potential wrongdoing into a heroic act. Together with Yang Sheng, they went to Lian Suo’s house.
Lian Suo was trembling with fear and embarrassment, shrinking away from them in silence. Wang noticed a small dagger on the table, just over a foot long, with a handle adorned with gold and jade. He drew the dagger from its sheath, and it gleamed brightly, casting shadows. Wang praised the dagger and admired it greatly. After some casual conversation, seeing Lian Suo’s timid and pitiable state, they took their leave. Yang Sheng returned home by himself, but as he climbed over the wall, he fell to the ground, only then realizing that it was a dream. It was already dawn, with the village roosters crowing. He felt a throbbing pain in his wrist, and when he examined it, he saw that his skin was swollen and red.
At noon, Wang came over and mentioned a strange dream he had during the night. Yang Sheng asked, “Did you dream about shooting arrows?” Wang was surprised that Yang Sheng knew about his dream in advance. Yang Sheng showed him his wrist and told him the whole story. Wang recalled seeing Lian Suo’s face in his dream, regretting that he couldn’t meet her in reality. He was thankful for his role in helping Lian Suo and asked Yang Sheng to convey his wish to meet her. That night, Lian Suo came to express her gratitude. Yang Sheng attributed the rescue to Wang and conveyed Wang’s sincere desire to meet her. Lian Suo said, “I dare not forget Mr. Wang’s kindness in saving me. However, he is a strong martial artist, and he makes me quite nervous.” She continued, “I noticed that Mr. Wang admires my dagger. This dagger was purchased by my father for one hundred taels of silver when he went on a mission to Nan Yue. I cherish it dearly, so I adorned it with gold thread and set it with pearls. My dear father pitied my untimely death at a young age and chose to be buried with this dagger. Today, I am willing to part with it and gift it to Mr. Wang. When he sees the dagger, it will be as if he has seen me.” The next day, Yang Sheng conveyed Lian Suo’s message to Wang, who was thrilled. That evening, Lian Suo indeed delivered the dagger, saying, “Please instruct Mr. Wang to treasure it. This is not something produced in China.” From that point on, Lian Suo and Yang Sheng resumed their close relationship, just as before.
After a few months, one evening, Lian Suo sat under the lamp, looking up at Yang Sheng as if she wanted to say something. Her face turned bright red, and she hesitated several times. Yang Sheng held her and asked her what she wanted to say. Lian Suo said, “I have enjoyed your affection for such a long time. I have embraced the vitality of the living, indulged in earthly pleasures, and felt like my dry bones suddenly came to life. But I still need the essence of the living to fully revive.” Yang Sheng smiled and said, “You were the one who refused. Do you think I care about that bit of essence?” Lian Suo continued, “After our union, you will definitely fall seriously ill for over twenty days, but it can be cured with medicine.” So they undressed and shared their pleasures in bed. Afterward, Lian Suo got up, dressed, and said, “I still need a bit of fresh human blood. Can you endure the pain to love me once more?” Yang Sheng took a sharp blade and cut his own arm to let blood flow. Lian Suo lay on the bed, allowing the fresh blood to drip into her navel. Then she got up and said, “I won’t come back anymore. Remember, after a hundred days, if you see a green bird singing in the tree near my grave, immediately dig up the grave to rescue me.” Yang Sheng solemnly accepted Lian Suo’s instructions. As she was leaving, Lian Suo reminded him once again, “Remember, don’t forget, whether it’s early or late!” After that, she left.
After about ten days, Yang Sheng indeed fell seriously ill, his abdomen swelling painfully. The doctor gave him medicine, and he passed some thick, muddy excrement. After another ten days or so, his illness completely subsided. Yang Sheng calculated that the hundred-day period had passed and instructed his family to wait at Lian Suo’s grave with shovels. At sunset, they indeed saw two green birds chirping. Yang Sheng joyfully said, “Alright, let’s begin.” They cleared away the thorns and dug up the grave. They found that the coffin had long rotted away, but Lian Suo’s face appeared lifelike, and when they touched her, she still had some warmth. They covered her with clothing and carried her back home. Once at home, they placed her in a warm spot. At this point, Lian Suo slowly regained her breath, breathing weakly like a fine thread. Her family gradually fed her some thin porridge, and it wasn’t until midnight that she fully regained consciousness. Later, she often said to Yang Sheng, “Over twenty years felt like a dream!”