Stealing Peaches: A Day of Celebration and Astonishing Magic

Experience a magical tale of a father and son's daring adventure to steal peaches with extraordinary skills, raising questions about their connection to the White Lotus Sect.

When I didn’t pass the provincial examination, I went to Jinan to participate in the county examination, coincidentally during the Spring Festival. According to the old customs, on the day before the beginning of spring, businesses of all kinds would put up colorful archways, beat gongs and drums, and go to the local government office to offer congratulations. This was called “Yan Chun.” I also went along with my friends to join in the festivities.

On that day, there were many tourists, and they surrounded us like walls. I saw four officials in red official robes sitting facing each other in the main hall of the government office. At that time, I was still young and didn’t know what kind of officials they were. I only felt the noise of the crowd around me, with drums and gongs deafening my ears. Suddenly, a man with a child whose hair was disheveled came forward carrying a burden, and he knelt down as if he had said a few words. At that moment, amidst the clamor, I couldn’t hear what was said, but I saw the officials in the hall laughing. Then, a man in blue clothing loudly ordered him to perform a magic trick. The man agreed and stood up, asking, “What magic trick should I perform?” The officials in the hall discussed for a moment and sent an underling to ask him what kind of magic trick he was good at. He replied, “I can make things appear that don’t grow in accordance with the seasons.” The underling reported his words to the hall, and after a while, he came down from the hall and ordered the man to transform peaches.

The magician agreed to do it. He took off his clothes and covered a square bamboo basket, intentionally looking annoyed as he said, “Sir, you really don’t understand the situation. The thick ice hasn’t even melted yet, so where can I find peaches? If I don’t find any, I’m afraid I’ll upset the official. What should I do?” His son said, “Dad, you’ve already agreed, how can you refuse now?” The magician worried for a moment and then said, “I’ve been thinking for a long time. It’s early spring, and the world is covered in ice and snow. Where can we find peaches on earth? Only in the Peach Garden of the Queen Mother of Heaven, where the fruit trees never wither throughout the year. Perhaps we can find some there. We must go up to the heavens to steal them, that’s the only way.” His son asked, “Can we climb to the heavens?” His father replied, “I have a spell.” So, he opened the bamboo basket and took out a bundle of rope, probably dozens of yards long. He unraveled one end of the rope and threw it into the sky. The rope immediately hung in the air as if it were hanging on something. After a while, the rope was thrown higher and higher, gradually extending into the ethereal clouds, reaching its end. At this point, the man called his son and said, “Come here, my child! I’m old and feeble, and my body is not agile anymore. I can’t climb up there. You’ll have to go.” After saying that, he handed the rope to his son and said, “Just pull on it, and you’ll be able to climb up.” The son took the rope, looking hesitant, and complained, “Dad, you’re being too careless. You want me to climb thousands of feet high with this thin thread-like rope. What if the rope breaks halfway? Where will they find my remains?” The father tried to comfort and persuade him, saying, “I’ve already given my word, and there’s no turning back now. Please, my child, don’t complain. If we can steal the peaches, the official will reward us with over a hundred taels of silver, and I’ll find you a beautiful wife.” Only then did the son grasp the rope and begin to climb. With his hands moving and his feet following suit, he climbed like a spider on its silk thread, gradually ascending higher and higher until he disappeared into the sky.

After a long time, a peach fell from the sky, as big as a bowl. The magician was very happy and presented it in the courtroom. The officials in the hall examined it for a long time, unsure if it was real or fake. Suddenly, the rope fell to the ground, and the magician was shocked, saying, “Dangerous! Someone above must have broken my rope. How can my child come down now?” After a while, something else fell, and it turned out to be his son’s head. The man held the head and cried out, “It must be the guards who discovered us while stealing the peaches. My son is done for this time!” After some time, one of his feet also fell. Then, piece by piece, his limbs and torso all fell down, and there was nothing left. The magician was in great sorrow. He picked up the body parts one by one and placed them in a bamboo box, covering it. He said, “I only had this one son, who followed me every day as we traveled. He obeyed the official’s command to fetch the peaches, but I never expected him to die so tragically! I must carry him back and bury him.” So he knelt down in the courtroom and said, “Because of the peaches, my son was harmed! If you gentlemen have pity on me, help me bury him. In my next life, I will repay you all.” Several officials sitting in the hall were greatly horrified and gave him silver rewards. The magician took the money and tied it to his waist, then patted the bamboo basket and said, “Eight-eight, if you don’t come out to thank the officials for their rewards, what are you waiting for?” Suddenly, a disheveled child crawled out from under the bamboo basket lid, knelt before the officials in the northern hall, and bowed – it was none other than the magician’s son.

Because of the magician’s extraordinary skills, I still remember this incident to this day. Later, I heard people say that the White Lotus Sect could also perform such magic tricks. I wondered if the father and son were descendants of the White Lotus Sect.

《偷桃》

童时赴郡试,值春节。旧例,先一日,各行商贾,彩楼鼓吹赴藩司,名曰“演春”。余从友人戏瞩。

是日,游人如堵。堂上四官皆赤衣,东西相向坐。时方稚,亦不解其何官,但闻人语哜嘈,鼓吹聒耳。忽有一人,率披发童,荷担而上,似有所白。万声汹动,亦不闻为何语,但视堂上作笑声。即有青衣人大声命作剧。其人应命方兴,问:“作何剧?”堂上相顾数语。吏下,宣问所长。答言:“能颠倒生物。”吏以白官。少顷复下,命取桃子。

术人声诺。解衣覆笥上,故作怨状,曰:“官长殊不了了!坚冰未解,安所得桃?不取,又恐为南面者所怒。奈何!”其子曰:“父已诺之,又焉辞?”术人惆怅良久,乃云:“我筹之烂熟。春初雪积,人间何处可觅?唯王母园中,四时常不凋谢,或有之。必窃之天上,乃可。”子曰:“嘻!天可阶而升乎?”曰:“有术在。”乃启笥,出绳一团,约数十丈,理其端,望空中掷去,绳即悬立空际,若有物以挂之。未几,愈掷愈高,渺入云中,手中绳亦尽。乃呼子曰:“儿来!余老惫,体重拙,不能行,得汝一往。”遂以绳授子,曰:“持此可登。”子受绳有难色,怨曰:“阿翁亦大愦愦!如此一线之绳,欲我附之,以登万仞之高天。倘中道断绝,骸骨何存矣!”父又强呜拍之,曰:“我已失口,悔无及。烦儿一行。儿勿苦,倘窃得来,必有百金赏,当为儿娶一美妇。”子乃持索,盘旋而上,手移足随,如蛛趁丝,渐入云霄,不可复见。

久之,坠一桃,如碗大。术人喜,持献公堂。堂上传视良久,亦不知其真伪。忽而绳落地上,术人惊曰:“殆矣!上有人断吾绳,儿将焉托!”移时,一物堕,视之,其子首也。捧而泣曰:“是必偷桃为监者所觉。吾儿休矣!”又移时,一足落。无何,肢体纷堕,无复存者。术人大悲。一一拾置笥中而阖之,曰:“老夫止此儿,日从我南北游。今承严命,不意罹此奇惨!当负去瘗之。”乃升堂而跪,曰:“为桃故,杀吾子矣!如怜小人而助之葬,当结草以图报耳。”坐官骇诧,各有赐金。术人受而缠诸腰,乃扣笥而呼曰:“八八儿,不出谢赏,将何待?”忽一蓬头僮首抵笥盖而出,望北稽首,则其子也。

以其术奇,故至今犹记之。后闻白莲教能为此术,意此其苗裔耶?

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