Mr. Zhang, the Old Gentleman: A Tale of Revenge and the Water Demon

Read the captivating story of Mr. Zhang, a Shanxi native who seeks revenge against a malevolent water demon after a tragic incident involving his daughter's dowry, and how he becomes revered as a water deity.

Mr. Zhang, the old gentleman, was from Shanxi. When he wanted to marry off his daughter, he took his family to Jiangnan and personally arranged for the purchase of dowry for his daughter. When the boat reached Jinshan in Zhenjiang, Mr. Zhang crossed the river first and instructed the people at home to stay in the boat and not cook any strong-smelling food. This was because there was a water demon, a giant turtle, in the river that would emerge when it smelled delicious food, damaging boats and devouring people. It had been causing harm for a long time.

After Mr. Zhang left, the people at home forgot his instructions and started grilling meat in the boat. Suddenly, a huge wave flipped the boat upside down, and his wife and daughter sank into the water. Mr. Zhang returned on his boat, overwhelmed with grief and anger, not wanting to live anymore. He climbed up Jinshan and met with the monks in the temple, inquiring about the strange events related to the giant turtle. He was prepared to seek revenge against the water demon.

Upon hearing Mr. Zhang’s story, the monks were afraid and said, “We guard this creature every day, fearing to provoke disaster. We treat it like a deity, praying that it does not become angry. We regularly sacrifice livestock, cutting them in half and throwing them into the river. When we do this, the giant turtle emerges from the water to devour the offerings. Who dares to oppose it?”

After listening to their words, Mr. Zhang suddenly had an idea. He hired a blacksmith and built a furnace halfway up the mountain, where he smelted iron and forged a large piece of red-hot iron, weighing over a hundred pounds. He also determined the regular whereabouts of the giant turtle and had two or three strong men use large tongs to lift it and throw it into the river. The giant turtle leaped out of the water, quickly swallowed the large piece of iron, and then sank back into the river.

In no time, the river’s surface churned with waves as high as mountains. After a while, the waves subsided, and the dead giant turtle had floated to the water’s surface. Passersby and the monks of Jinshan Temple were delighted to hear that the giant turtle had been killed. They built a shrine for Mr. Zhang by the river and placed a statue of him inside, worshiping him as a water deity. Whenever people had requests, a simple prayer to him would grant their wishes.

《张老相公》

张老相公,晋人。适将嫁女,携眷至江南,躬市奁妆。舟抵金山,张先渡江,嘱家人在舟,勿煿羶腥。盖江中有鼋怪,闻香辄出,坏舟吞行人,为害已久。张去,家人忘之,炙肉舟中。忽巨浪覆舟,妻女皆没。张回棹,悼恨欲死。因登金山谒寺僧,询鼋之异,将以仇鼋。僧闻之,骇言:“吾侪日与习近,惧为祸殃,惟神明奉之,祈勿怒。时斩牲牢,投以半体,则跃吞而去。谁复能相仇哉!”张闻,顿思得计。便招铁工,起炉山半,冶赤铁,重百馀斤。审知所常伏处,使二三健男子,以大钳举投之。鼋跃出,疾吞而下。少时,波涌如山。顷之,浪息,则鼋死已浮水上矣。行旅寺僧并快之,建张老相公祠,肖像其中,以为水神,祷之辄应。

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