Thunder God Vine: A Tale of Love, Sacrifice, and the Supernatural

Explore the story of Water Mimosa, a plant with deadly poison, and the extraordinary events that unfold as it connects the lives of two families.

Water mimosa belongs to poisonous plants, spreads like vines, and its flowers are purple, similar to flat bean flowers. If people accidentally eat it, they will immediately become poisoned and die, becoming water mimosa ghosts. According to folklore, these water mimosa ghosts cannot reincarnate and must wait for someone else to die from poisoning before they can be replaced. That’s why there are so many water mimosa ghosts in the Taohuajiang area of Chu region.

In the Chu region, people refer to those born in the same year as “tongnian” (同年). When exchanging name cards during visits, they address each other as “Geng Xiong” (庚兄) or “Geng Di” (庚弟) for men of the same age, and for younger generations, they use “Geng Bo” (庚伯). This is the traditional custom. Once, there was a man named Zhu who went to visit a family of the same year. On the way, he became hot and thirsty, so he wanted to have some water. Suddenly, he saw an old lady by the roadside with a canopy selling water, so he hurried over. The old lady welcomed him into the canopy and served tea and water very hospitably. Zhu smelled something strange about the tea, unlike regular tea, so he placed it aside without drinking and got up to leave. The old lady quickly grabbed Zhu and called out, “Third Lady, quickly bring a cup of good tea.” In no time, a young girl came from behind the canopy carrying a tea cup. She appeared to be around fourteen or fifteen years old, with exceptionally beautiful features. She wore rings and bracelets that were sparkling and transparent, radiating a dazzling charm. Zhu took the tea cup and was already mesmerized. After smelling the tea, he found it incredibly fragrant and asked for more. Seeing that the old lady was not around, Zhu playfully grabbed the slender wrist of the young girl and took off one of her rings. Blushing, the young girl smiled, and Zhu’s heart was even more shaken. He hastily asked the young girl where she lived, and she replied, “If you come back here tonight, I’ll still be here.” Zhu took a small amount of tea leaves, carefully kept the ring, and then left.

When Zhu arrived at the house of the person born in the same year, he felt nauseous and suspected that it was due to the tea he had drunk. He then recounted the incident to the person born in the same year. The person born in the same year was greatly alarmed and said, “This is bad! It’s a water mimosa ghost. My father died at the hands of a water mimosa ghost. This is irreparable. What can we do?” Zhu was very afraid, so he took out the tea leaves for examination, and indeed, they were water mimosa leaves. He also showed the ring and described the situation with the young girl. The person born in the same year speculated, saying, “This young girl must be Kou Sanniang.” When Zhu heard the name he mentioned, it indeed matched, so he asked how he knew. The person born in the same year said, “There is a wealthy family named Kou in the southern village, and they have a daughter who has always had a reputation for her beauty. A few years ago, she died due to mistakenly consuming water mimosa, so she must have become a bewitching spirit.” Some people said that those ensnared by the water mimosa ghost, if they know the ghost’s surname and can find the pants she passed through, boiling water with it can cure the affliction. The person born in the same year hurriedly went to Kou’s house, told them the truth, and begged on his knees for a long time. Kou’s family, considering that he was dying in place of their daughter, refused to cooperate. The person born in the same year returned with resentment and informed Zhu. Zhu, filled with anger, said, “Even if I die, I won’t let his daughter escape!”

The person born in the same year carried Zhu back and as soon as they reached the doorstep, Zhu died. Zhu’s mother wailed loudly and buried her son. Zhu left behind a son who had just turned one year old. His wife couldn’t bear the situation and remarried six months later. Zhu’s mother kept the orphaned child with her, raising him herself. It was a laborious and unbearable task, and she spent her days in tears.

One day, while Zhu’s mother was holding her grandson and crying in the house, Zhu quietly entered. Zhu’s mother was very frightened and wiped away her tears as she asked how her son had come. Zhu replied, “I heard my mother crying underground, and my heart was filled with sorrow, so I came to attend to my mother. Although I have passed away, I have already established a family in the underworld. I immediately asked my wife to join me in sharing the burden of my mother’s hardships, so my mother shouldn’t grieve anymore.” Zhu’s mother asked, “Who is your daughter-in-law?” Zhu said, “The Kou family allowed our son to die, which angered me greatly. After my death, I wanted to find Sanniang, but I didn’t know where she was. Recently, I met a person born in the same year who told me her whereabouts. I went to find her, and she had been reborn into the family of an assistant minister. I quickly pursued and brought her here. Now she has become my wife, and we get along well without any hardships.” After a while, a woman entered from outside, dressed in gorgeous clothes and extremely beautiful. She knelt down to greet Zhu’s mother. Zhu said, “This is Kou Sanniang.” Zhu’s mother, upon seeing her, felt somewhat comforted, even though she wasn’t among the living. Zhu then asked Sanniang to handle the household chores. Sanniang wasn’t accustomed to doing household work, but she complied with Zhu’s mother’s wishes, and people found her pleasing. From that point on, they lived in the same house as before and didn’t leave.

Sanniang asked Zhu’s mother to tell her about her family. Zhu didn’t want his mother to reveal it, but eventually, following Sanniang’s wishes, Zhu’s mother told her about the family. The elderly couple from the Kou family were shocked when they heard the news. They immediately took a carriage and rushed over. As soon as they saw Sanniang, they cried out in disbelief. Sanniang comforted the elderly couple and stopped their tears. When the elderly lady from the Kou family saw that Zhu’s family was very poor, she felt uncomfortable. Sanniang said, “Once a person becomes a ghost, why should they dislike poverty? Besides, Zhu’s mother and son have shown me great kindness, and that’s enough for me.” She then asked, “Who is that old lady selling tea?” Sanniang replied, “Her last name is Ni. She knew she couldn’t deceive travelers, so she asked for my help. Now she has been reborn in the county town, selling tea to another family.” Then, Sanniang looked at Zhu and said, “Since you’ve become my son-in-law, shouldn’t you go and pay respects to your in-laws? What do you think?” So Zhu finally went to pay his respects to his father-in-law and mother-in-law. Sanniang went to the kitchen and cooked, taking care of her own parents. The elderly lady from the Kou family found this situation difficult to bear and immediately sent two maids to help with the chores. She also sent a hundred pounds of silver, dozens of pieces of cloth, and regularly sent wine and meat to make Zhu’s mother slightly more prosperous. The Kou family also often invited Sanniang to return home. After staying at her family’s home for a few days, Sanniang would say, “There’s no one at home; I should send our daughter back early.” Sometimes, the Kou family wanted to keep her for a few more days, but Sanniang would quietly leave. The Kou family’s patriarch even had a large house built for Zhu, making sure everything was well-prepared. However, Zhu never went to visit the Kou family.

One day, in the village, someone fell victim to the poison of water mimosa, died, and then miraculously revived. People found this incident very strange as they shared the news. Zhu said, “I brought him back to life. He was harmed by Li Jiu, and I helped him drive away the ghost.” Zhu’s mother asked, “Why didn’t you find a replacement for yourself?” Zhu replied, “I detest such people and want to drive them all away. How could I willingly do such a thing? Besides, I find joy in taking care of my mother and have no desire for reincarnation.” As a result, those who fell victim to the poison of water mimosa often prepared abundant food and wine, and offered prayers for help at Zhu’s house, and it proved to be very effective.

After more than ten years, Zhu’s mother passed away. Zhu and his wife mourned and observed the mourning period, but they didn’t receive visitors. They only instructed their son to wear mourning clothes and follow proper funeral etiquette. Two years after burying his mother, Zhu arranged for his son to get married. The bride was the granddaughter of Assistant Minister Ren. Before this, Assistant Minister Ren’s concubine had given birth to a daughter who sadly passed away after only a few months. Later, upon hearing about Zhu’s extraordinary experiences with Sanniang, they sent someone to Zhu’s home, and Zhu and Assistant Minister Ren established a father-in-law and son-in-law relationship. At this point, Assistant Minister Ren also married his granddaughter to Zhu’s son, and the connections between the families continued.

One day, Zhu told his son, “Because of my merits in the human world, God has appointed me as the ‘Lord of the Four Rivers and Dragon Shepherd.’ Now, I must go to take up my duty.” Before long, they saw four horses in the courtyard, hitched to a carriage with yellow curtains. The horses had scales covering their four legs. Zhu and his wife came out in their finest attire, boarded the carriage, and their son and daughter-in-law tearfully bid them farewell. In the blink of an eye, they disappeared. On the same day, the Kou family’s daughter also came to bid farewell to her parents and spoke the same words as Zhu did. The elderly lady cried and tried to keep her daughter, but she said, “Zhu Lang has already left ahead of me.” She walked out and also disappeared. Zhu’s son was named Zhu E, with the courtesy name Lichen. With the Kou family’s consent, he buried Sanniang’s remains together with Zhu’s.

《水莽草》

水莽,毒草也,蔓生似葛,花紫类扁豆。误食之,立死,即为水莽鬼。俗传此鬼不得轮回,必再有毒死者,始代之。以故楚中桃花江一带,此鬼尤多云。

楚人以同岁生者为同年,投刺相谒,呼庚兄庚弟,子侄呼庚伯,习俗然也。有祝生造其同年某,中途燥渴思饮。俄见道旁一媪,张棚施饮,趋之。媪承迎入棚,给奉甚殷。嗅之有异味,不类茶茗,置不饮,起而出。媪急止客,便唤:“三娘,可将好茶一杯来。”俄有少女,捧茶自棚后出。年约十四五,姿容艳绝,指环臂钏,晶莹鉴影。生受盏神驰,嗅其茶,芳烈无伦。吸尽再索。觑媪出,戏捉纤腕,脱指环一枚。女赪颊微笑,生益惑。略诘门户,女曰:“郎暮来,妾犹在此也。”生求茶叶一撮,并藏指环而去。

至同年家,觉心头作恶,疑茶为患,以情告某。某骇曰:“殆矣!此水莽鬼也。先君死于是。是不可救,且为奈何?”生大惧,出茶叶验之,真水莽草也。又出指环,兼述女子情状。某悬想曰:“此必寇三娘也。”生以其名确符,问何故知。曰:“南村富室寇氏女,夙有艳名。数年前,误食水莽而死,必此为魅。”或言受魅者,若知鬼姓氏,求其故裆,煮服可痊。某急诣寇所,实告以情,长跪哀恳。寇以其将代女死故,靳不与。某忿而返,以告生。生亦切齿恨之,曰:“我死,必不令彼女脱生!”

某舁送之,将至家门而卒,母号涕葬之。遗一子,甫周岁。妻不能守柏舟节,半年改醮去。母留孤自哺,劬瘁不堪,朝夕悲啼。

一日,方抱儿哭室中,生悄然忽入。母大骇,挥涕问之。答云:“儿地下闻母哭,甚怆于怀,故来奉晨昏耳。儿虽死,已有家室,即同来分母劳,母其勿悲。”母问:“儿妇何人?”曰:“寇氏坐听儿死,儿甚恨之。死后欲寻三娘,而不知其处,近遇某庚伯,始相指示。儿往,则三娘已投生任侍郎家,儿驰去,强捉之来。今为儿妇,亦相得,颇无苦。”移时,门外一女子入,华妆艳丽,伏地拜母。生曰:“此寇三娘也。”虽非生人,母视之,情怀差慰。生便遣三娘操作。三娘雅不习惯,然承顺殊怜人。由此居故室,遂留不去。

女请母告诸家。生意勿告,而母承女意,卒告之。寇家翁媪,闻而大骇。命车疾至,视之,果三娘,相向哭失声,女劝止之。媪视生家良贫,意甚忧悼。女曰:“人已鬼,又何厌贫?祝郎母子,情义拳拳,儿固已安之矣。”因问:“茶媪谁也?”曰:“彼倪姓。自惭不能惑行人,故求儿助之耳。今已生于郡城卖浆者之家。”因顾生曰:“既婿矣,而不拜岳,妾复何心?”生乃投拜。女便入厨下,代母执炊,供翁媪。媪视之凄心,既归,即遣两婢来,为之服役,金百斤,布帛数十匹,酒胾不时馈送,小阜祝母矣。寇亦时招归宁。居数日,辄曰:“家中无人,宜早送儿还。”或故稽之,则飘然自归。翁乃代生起夏屋,营备臻至。然生终未尝至翁家。

一日,村中有中水莽毒者,死而复苏,相传为异。生曰:“是我活之也。彼为李九所害,我为之驱其鬼而去之。”母曰:“汝何不取人以自代?”曰:“儿深恨此等辈,方将尽驱除之,何屑此为!且儿事母最乐,不愿生也。”由是中毒者,往往具丰筵,祷诸其庭,辄有效。

积十馀年,母死。生夫妇亦哀毁,但不对客,惟命儿缞麻擗踊,教以礼仪而已。葬母后,又二年馀,为儿娶妇。妇,任侍郎之孙女也。先是,任公妾生女数月而殇。后闻祝生之异,遂命驾其家,订翁婿焉。至是,遂以孙又妻其子,往来不绝矣。

一日,谓子曰:“上帝以我有功人世,策为‘四渎牧龙君’。今行矣。”俄见庭下有四马,驾黄幨车,马四股皆鳞甲。夫妻盛装出,同登一舆,子及妇皆泣拜,瞬息而渺。是日,寇家见女来,拜别翁媪,亦如生言。媪泣挽留。女曰:“祝郎先去矣。”出门遂不复见。其子名鹗,字离尘,请诸寇翁,以三娘骸骨与生合葬焉。

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