Explore the Shu Kingdom's era, marked by immense wealth and the mystical arts of divination, shaping its distinct historical narrative.
Empress Gan, the consort of Liu Bei, was born in Pei and came from a humble family of low social status. When Empress Gan was a child, a person skilled in physiognomy in her neighborhood said, “This little girl, when she grows up, will have a noble status and become a noblewoman in the imperial palace.” As Empress Gan grew older, her physical appearance distinguished her from others. By the age of eighteen, she had fair and delicate skin, a stunning countenance, and a dignified demeanor. Liu Bei summoned her to the palace, where she resided in a chamber with gossamer curtains. When one looked at her from outside the room, Empress Gan’s skin was as fair as snow under moonlight. A three-foot-tall jade figure was presented from Henan, and Liu Bei placed it beside Empress Gan. During the day, he would discuss military strategies with his courtiers, but at night, he would enjoy the company of Empress Gan and the jade figure. It was often said that the distinction of fine jade lay in its virtue, equating it with the moral character of a noble person. Moreover, since this jade figure was sculpted into human form, was it not suitable for admiration? Both Empress Gan and the jade figure possessed pure and radiant whiteness. Some who saw them even found themselves perplexed, unable to distinguish between Empress Gan and the jade figure. The other concubines who sought favor and affection not only envied Empress Gan but also became jealous of the jade figure. Empress Gan often contemplated destroying the jade figure and cautioned Liu Bei, saying, “In the past, the virtuous Subian did not treat fine jade as a treasure, as praised in the ‘Spring and Autumn Annals of Left Qi.’ Currently, the states of Wu and Wei have not been vanquished, so how can we embrace such an unconventional indulgence? Any behavior that indulges in excess and sensuality will give rise to suspicions. Please, let us discontinue this practice.” Liu Bei then removed the jade figure, and the concubines who sought favor were accommodated within the palace. At this time, those with insight and virtue acknowledged Empress Gan as a clever and wise woman.
Mi Zhu employed the financial strategy of Tao Zhu Gong and Fan Li to amass wealth, earning billions in daily profits. His household possessions rivaled those of emperors, with a warehouse storing thousands of items. Mi Zhu had a compassionate nature, often providing relief to the impoverished and assisting widows and orphans. Adjacent to his stable, there was an ancient tomb, housing a set of skeletal remains. One night, Mi Zhu heard weeping coming from the tomb. He followed the source of the cries and saw a woman walking toward him, her back exposed. She implored, “In the waning years of the Han Dynasty, I was killed by the Red Eyebrow Army. They opened my coffin and stripped my clothes. For nearly two hundred years now, I have roamed the afterlife unclothed, ashamed to face others. Today, I come before you, General, to beg you for a proper burial and a tattered garment to cover my body.” Mi Zhu agreed and immediately had a coffin made for her, along with clothing fashioned from green fabric. He buried her deeply in the tomb and performed the necessary rituals. A year later, while walking on a rugged road, Mi Zhu encountered the same woman, now dressed in clothes made of green fabric. She said to him, “You possess enough wealth to last a lifetime, but beware of a future fire disaster. I shall reward your kindness for providing me with a coffin and clothing by giving you this nine-foot-long green reed staff.” Mi Zhu took the green reed staff back home. Since then, his neighbors often saw a green aura hovering above his house, resembling the shape of a dragon or serpent. Some found this phenomenon quite unusual and asked Mi Zhu about it. Only then did he begin to suspect something strange and questioned his household servants. They confessed, “We have often seen the green reed staff emerge from the room by itself, and we suspected it was a supernatural object, so we dared not report it to you.” Mi Zhu was superstitious and believed in avoiding unfavorable occurrences. If anything contradicted his beliefs, he would resort to violence. As a result, his household servants refrained from speaking up.
Mi Zhu’s wealth had accumulated into mountains of riches, too numerous to count. He filled vessels with precious pearls the size of bird eggs and scattered them throughout his courtyard, which he named the “Treasure Courtyard.” Outsiders couldn’t see this display. After a few days, dozens of children dressed in blue clothes suddenly arrived. They said, “A fire disaster will soon strike Mi Zhu’s residence. Originally, not a single item of his vast wealth would have survived the fire. However, thanks to Mi Zhu’s compassion for the departed souls and the collection of skeletal remains, heaven will not let his virtue go unrewarded. Therefore, we have come to avert this impending fire disaster, ensuring that his wealth remains intact. Furthermore, he should strengthen his defenses from now on.” Mi Zhu instructed his people to dig a trench around the storerooms. Ten days later, a large fire erupted from the storerooms, consuming one-tenth of all his pearls and jewels. The fire had been ignited by a fire mirror due to the prevailing dry and hot weather. While the fire raged, people saw dozens of children in blue clothing rushing to extinguish it, accompanied by a cloud-like green aura that covered the flames, causing them to be instantly snuffed out. These children also advised, “Keep more water birds, like storks, as they store water in their nests and can help combat fires.” Subsequently, Mi Zhu’s household collected thousands of waterfowl and housed them in ponds and canals to act as a safeguard against fires. Mi Zhu sighed, “A person’s fate with wealth has its limits in life; it should not become excessive. I fear that this abundance of wealth will become my downfall.” At that time, the Three Kingdoms were in the midst of intense warfare, and the demand for military supplies had increased exponentially. Mi Zhu loaded his riches onto wagons and sent them to aid Liu Bei, the warlord. This included one hundred million catties of gold, heaps of brocades, and felts that resembled small mountains, as well as ten thousand fine horses. After the fall of Shu, Mi Zhu was left with nothing and passed away in sorrow.
Zhou Qun was well-versed in the arts of divination, astrology, and other mystical sciences. On one occasion, while he was collecting medicinal herbs in the Min Mountains, he encountered a white ape. This ape descended rapidly from the mountain’s highest peak and stood before Zhou Qun. Quick to react, Zhou Qun drew his book knife and threw it at the white ape, which astonishingly transformed into an old man. The old man held a jade tablet inscribed with characters, which he handed to Zhou Qun. Zhou Qun inquired, “Sir, in which year were you born?” The old man replied, “I am already advanced in age and have forgotten my exact birthdate. I recall that during the time of the Yellow Emperor, I began studying astronomy and calendar calculations. At that time, Feng Hou and Rong Cheng Gong served as historians to the Yellow Emperor and imparted their knowledge of astronomy and calendars to me. During the reign of Zhuan Xu, people began to examine and verify the movements of the sun, moon, stars, and constellations, leading to various interpretations. In the Spring and Autumn Period, individuals like Zi Wei, Zi Ye, and Bi Zao had keen insights into political events, although they were not well-versed in astronomy and calendars. In recent times, with the rise and fall of dynasties, there is little more to recount. Knowledge of astronomy and calendars has been passed down through the ages. During the Western Han Dynasty, there was a recluse named Luo Xia Hong who deeply understood the essence of astronomy and calendars.” Impressed by the old man’s words, Zhou Qun became even more devoted to studying the art of divination. He revised and verified changes in the calendar and found validation in diagram oracles and star books, even predicting the downfall of the Shu Kingdom. The following year, Zhou Qun left the Shu Kingdom and came to Wu. People hailed him as a master of the intricate arts of yin and yang and the five elements. The people of Shu referred to him as the “Later Sage.” As for the supernatural story of the white ape, it bears resemblance to the tale in the “Annals of Wu and Yue” about the Yue maiden who dueled Yuan Gong and caused him to transform into a white ape. However, both of these stories are far-fetched and fantastical, lacking in credibility, and appear to be more fiction than reality.
Xiao Qilu said: “Sun He, Sun Liang, and Liu Bei, as emperors, all indulged in lives of debauchery and forgot their strategies for warfare. They even deluded themselves into thinking they could contend with the mighty Wei kingdom. Their military campaigns were futile, which is truly lamentable! Zhou Qun’s knowledge extends to the divine, and the auspicious nature of the white ape story resembles the account in the ‘Annals of Wu and Yue’ where a Yue maiden dueled Yuan Gong and caused him to transform into a white ape. These events are extravagant and fantastical, seeming more like fiction than reality. Speaking of the interchange between yin and yang and the cyclic use of the five elements, it’s like water and fire mutually supporting and countering each other. ‘The Huainanzi’ mentions using Fang Zhu under the moonlight to collect water droplets to quell fires, which doesn’t make logical sense. Mizi’s art of sympathy (‘xuqin’) being mistaken for Fang Zhu is likely a pronunciation error. It’s implausible that feathered birds can be used to combat intense fires, as it contradicts the characteristics of birds. Ancient texts like the ‘Sanfen’ and ‘Wufen’ have detailed explanations of these matters.”