Follow Mr. Tang's extraordinary journey of redemption and healing, guided by Confucius and Guanyin Bodhisattva, after his soul's departure from his decaying body.
In the Xinchou era, a scholar named Tang Ping, who was seriously ill and nearing death, suddenly felt a heat rising from the lower part of his body. As it ascended to his thighs, his lower legs died; when it reached his abdomen, his thighs also died. When it rose to his chest, his heart, however, struggled the most to die. Memories from his childhood and many forgotten, trivial things came rushing along with his blood, floating in his mind like a tide. Every time he recalled a good deed, he felt a sense of purity and tranquility in his heart. But when he remembered a misdeed, his heart was filled with remorse and restlessness, as if it were being fried in hot oil—a pain that could not be expressed in words.
Thinking about when he was seven or eight years old, he once dug out and killed young birds from their nest for amusement. Just this one incident made the hot blood in his heart surge like a tide, taking about the time it took to have a meal to gradually calm down. It was only when all his actions and deeds throughout his life swept through his mind like a tide that he felt the heat gradually pass through his throat, enter his brain, and rise from the top of his head, just like smoke rising from a stove. After about an hour, his soul finally left his body, forgetting about the physical shell.
The wandering soul, with no place to go, drifted along the road outside the city. At this moment, a giant, several zhang tall, passed by and picked up Tang Ping’s soul, placing it in his sleeve. As the soul entered the sleeve, it found it already crowded with people, shoulders and legs pressing against each other, the air foul, and the atmosphere unbearable. Tang Ping suddenly remembered that only the Buddha could rescue him from this plight, so he began to recite “Amitabha Buddha.” After chanting only three or four times, his soul floated out of the giant’s sleeve and fell to the ground. The giant immediately picked him up again. This happened three times, with the soul falling out of the sleeve three times, and finally, the giant walked away.
Tang Ping’s soul was left all alone, not knowing where to go. Thinking of the Buddha in the Western Land, he headed westward. Before long, he saw a monk meditating by the roadside and went up to bow and ask for directions. The monk said, “The life and death records of scholars are managed by the God of Literature, Lord Wenchang, and the Confucius, who oversees moral education. You must first go to them to have your name cleared before you can leave the underworld and go elsewhere.” Tang Ping inquired about the whereabouts of Lord Wenchang and Confucius, and the monk told him one by one. Tang Ping then headed in the direction indicated by the monk.
Before long, Tang Ping arrived at the Temple of Confucius and saw Confucius sitting at the southern end, just as he did in life. Tang Ping knelt and paid his respects to Confucius as if he were still alive. Confucius said, “Changes in the roster of life and death still fall under the jurisdiction of Lord Wenchang.” He then pointed out the way for Tang Ping to find Lord Wenchang. Tang Ping hurriedly set out and came across a magnificent palace-like building. He entered it humbly, and inside, he found a divine figure who looked exactly like Lord Wenchang as seen in the mortal world. Tang Ping prostrated himself and prayed devoutly. Lord Wenchang, aware of Tang Ping’s purpose, checked the roster while saying, “You are an honest and upright person, deserving of a return to the mortal world. However, your body has already decayed, and no one except Guanyin Bodhisattva can help you.” He then pointed out another path and instructed Tang Ping to hurry and see Guanyin Bodhisattva. Tang Ping obeyed and proceeded on his way.
As he continued, he suddenly came across lush trees and bamboo groves, concealing a magnificent temple. Upon entering, he beheld Guanyin Bodhisattva with her hair coiled like a snail’s shell, a dignified demeanor, and a golden face as beautiful as a full moon. In front of her, a precious vase held willow branches, gently drooping, lush and green like smoke. Tang Ping paid his respects with utmost reverence and recounted Lord Wenchang’s words. Guanyin Bodhisattva appeared troubled. Tang Ping kept pleading earnestly. A nearby Arhat spoke, “Bodhisattva can perform great miracles. We can use the earth as flesh and willow branches as bones.” Guanyin Bodhisattva agreed to the Arhat’s request and personally broke off a willow branch, poured out the water from the vase, mixed it with the pure land, and applied both the willow branch and the mud onto Tang Ping’s body. She then had an immortal child escort him back to where his coffin was stored and pushed his soul back into his body. At this moment, sounds of moaning and movement came from Tang Ping’s coffin, and his family gathered around in astonishment. They opened the coffin and helped him out. Tang Ping had miraculously recovered. He had been lifeless for forty-nine days.