A tale of an unexpected feast in a ruined temple with a Taoist priest, beautiful women, and a surprising twist.
Han Sheng is a descendant of a wealthy family and is very hospitable. There is a man named Xu in the same village who often comes to his house to drink. One day, while Han Sheng was hosting guests, a Taoist priest came to his door to beg for alms. The family tried to give money or grain in the alms bowl, but the Taoist priest refused and refused to leave. In anger, the family turned away from him. Han Sheng heard the sound of the alms bowl being knocked for a long time and asked the family what was going on. The family told him about the situation just now. Before they could finish speaking, the Taoist priest walked into the door. Han Sheng invited him to sit down, and the Taoist priest greeted the host and guests with a wave of his hand before sitting down. After chatting with him for a while, Han Sheng learned that he had just arrived and settled in the ruined temple to the east of the village. Han Sheng said, “Master, when did you come to reside in the Daoist temple to the east of the village? I haven’t heard about it. I really haven’t fulfilled my duty as the landlord.” The Taoist priest replied, “I am a wandering hermit who has just arrived in this blessed place and haven’t made many acquaintances. I heard that you, sir, are very generous and hospitable, so I specially wanted to come and ask for a drink.” Han Sheng then invited the Taoist priest to drink. The Taoist priest had a good tolerance for alcohol and drank heartily. Xu, seeing that his Taoist robe was dirty and torn, treated him very rudely, and Han Sheng also regarded the Taoist priest as an ordinary vagabond. The Taoist priest had downed more than twenty cups before taking his leave.
From then on, every time the Han family hosted a banquet, the Taoist priest would come, eat if there was food, and drink if there was wine. Han Sheng was starting to feel a bit annoyed by the frequent visits of the Taoist priest. One time, while they were drinking, Xu mocked and said, “Master, you come as a guest every day. Don’t you want to be the host for once?” The Taoist priest chuckled and replied, “The Taoist and you, sir, are the same, both just carrying a mouth on your shoulders.” Xu felt ashamed and had no words to reply. The Taoist priest said, “Although it’s said that way, the humble Daoist has been harboring the intention to express gratitude to all of you for a long time. When the time comes, I will definitely prepare some humble wine to show my appreciation.” After finishing the wine, the Taoist priest instructed, “Tomorrow at noon, I hope you all will come to visit my humble abode.”
The next day, Han and Xu invited each other to the ruined temple for the banquet, both suspecting whether the Taoist priest would arrange a feast. As they walked towards the temple, the Taoist priest was already waiting on the way, and the three of them chatted as they walked, unconsciously arriving at the temple’s gate. Upon entering, they saw that the courtyard had been completely renovated, with continuous towers and pavilions that seemed endless. Both of them were very surprised and asked, “We haven’t been here in a while. When were these buildings constructed?” The Taoist priest replied, “They were just completed recently.” When they entered the inner chamber, they found the furnishings even more luxurious, surpassing even those of prestigious families. They couldn’t help but feel a sense of reverence. As soon as they sat down, dishes and wine were served by beautiful young boys and girls, all around sixteen years old, dressed in exquisite long robes and crimson satin shoes. The food was delicious and abundant. After the meal, they were served some desserts, many of which they couldn’t even name, displayed on crystal and jade plates that illuminated the table. The wine was poured into glass cups, more than a foot thick. The Taoist priest then instructed the young attendants, “Call the Shi sisters.” After a short while, the two beautiful women entered. One had a slender and graceful figure, like a delicate willow, while the other was shorter and slightly younger. Both were incredibly charming and unmatched in beauty. The Taoist priest had them sing to enhance the festive atmosphere. The younger one sang while clapping, and the older one played a flute in accompaniment, their voices soft and melodious. After the song, the Taoist priest raised his wine cup and encouraged everyone to drink, while the two sisters poured wine for the guests. He then looked at them and asked, “Beautiful ladies, it’s been a while since you danced. Can you still dance?” Several servants came forward and spread a carpet in front of the table, and the two women danced facing each other, their long sleeves fluttering, filling the air with fragrance. After the dance, they leaned against a folding screen. Xu and Han were completely enchanted, and before they knew it, they were already drunk.
The Taoist priest no longer attended to the guests, drained his cup in one gulp, stood up, and said to the guests, “Please help yourselves to the wine; I’ll take a short rest and be back shortly.” After saying that, he left. In the south room, there was a wooden bed adorned with seashells, and the two beautiful women spread silk bedding and helped the Taoist priest lie down. The Taoist priest had the older of the two women share the bed with him, while the younger one stood by the bed to scratch him. Seeing this situation, Xu and Han were deeply displeased. Xu shouted, “Taoist, such behavior is unacceptable!” He wanted to step in and stop him, but the Taoist priest hurriedly got up and fled. Xu saw the younger beauty still standing by the bed and took advantage of his drunken state to pull her onto the bed to lie beside him boldly. When he looked at the beauty on the south bed, she was still lying on the embroidered couch, so he said to Han Sheng, “Why be too prudish?” Han Sheng went straight to the south bed. He wanted to get close to the beauty, but she was already asleep, and he couldn’t wake her up. He ended up falling asleep while holding her from behind. When dawn broke, Han Sheng woke up, his alcohol-induced haze clearing, only to feel something cold and hard in his arms. He looked and realized he was holding a long stone slab, lying beneath a staircase. He hastily checked on Xu, who was still asleep, resting his head on a rock in an old outhouse, snoring loudly. Han Sheng kicked him awake, and both of them were in a state of extreme panic. They looked around and saw nothing but a courtyard overgrown with weeds and two dilapidated temples.