A Tale of Courage, Compassion, and Unlikely Bonds in the Mystical Land of the Yakshas
In Jiaozhou, there was a merchant named Xu, who traveled overseas for business. Suddenly, he encountered a storm at sea, and the merchant ship lost control and was blown away by the wind. When he opened his eyes, the ship had drifted to a shore, surrounded by vast deep mountains and forests. Xu hoped to encounter indigenous residents, so he anchored the ship on the shore and carried dry food and dried meat ashore. As he entered the deep forest, he saw numerous caves of various sizes on both sides of the cliffs, densely packed like beehives, with faint voices of people talking coming from inside the caves. Xu arrived at one of the caves, stopped and looked inside. He saw two Yakshas with teeth as irregular as arranged javelins, bulging eyes that flickered like lanterns. They were using their claws to tear apart a live deer and then devouring it alive. Xu was terrified and ran frantically downhill, but the Yakshas had already seen him and quickly grabbed him and pulled him into the cave.
The two Yakshas spoke in a language that sounded like bird cries and animal roars. They fought over tearing Xu’s clothes, as if they were about to swallow him whole. Xu was terrified and quickly took out the dry food from his pocket, along with some dried beef, and offered it to them. The two Yakshas shared the food and ate it deliciously. After finishing, they searched Xu’s pockets again. Xu shook his hand to indicate that there was nothing left. The Yakshas became very angry and came to grab Xu again. Xu pleaded with them, saying, “Please let me go. There’s a pot on my ship, and I can cook meat and dishes for you.” The two Yakshas didn’t understand what Xu was saying and were still angry. Xu had to make gestures and gestures for a while, and the Yakshas seemed to understand a little. So, the two Yakshas followed Xu back to the ship, took out the cooking utensils, and returned to the cave. Xu gathered some firewood, lit a fire, and cooked the deer meat that the two Yakshas hadn’t finished eating and offered it to them. The two Yakshas were extremely delighted. At night, the Yakshas blocked the cave entrance with a large stone, as if they were afraid Xu would escape. Xu curled up far away from the Yakshas, extremely afraid that he would eventually die.
After daybreak, the two Yakshas left the cave and blocked the entrance again before leaving. After a while, the Yakshas returned, carrying a deer in their hands, which they handed over to Xu. Xu peeled off the deer’s skin, scooped clear water from a stream deep in the cave, and cooked the deer meat in several pots. Soon, more Yakshas arrived, and they gathered together to enjoy the cooked deer meat. After finishing their meal, they pointed at the pots with their fingers, as if they found them too small.
Three or four days later, one Yaksha came back carrying a large pot, similar to the ones used by humans. From that point on, this group of Yakshas hunted wild wolves or deer from various places and gave them to Xu to cook. After the meat was cooked, the Yakshas would invite Xu to join them for a meal. Over time, the Yakshas gradually became familiar with Xu, and they no longer blocked the door when they went out. They treated Xu as if he were a family member.
As time passed, Xu began to understand the meaning of their words by listening to the Yakshas’ tone and voice, and he often imitated the way they spoke their language. The Yakshas were delighted by this and brought a female Yaksha to become Xu’s wife. At first, Xu was afraid and hesitant to approach the female Yaksha, but she made advances towards him, and eventually, Xu and the female Yaksha shared a bed. The female Yaksha was overjoyed. She often saved some meat for Xu to eat, and they lived together like a happy and harmonious couple.
One day, the Yakshas woke up exceptionally early, and each of them had a string of pearls hanging around their necks as they left the cave, as if they were welcoming a distinguished guest. The Yakshas asked Xu to cook more meat. Xu asked the female Yaksha what was going on, and she said, “Today is the Day of Longevity, which is the birthday of the Yaksha king.” The female Yaksha went out and told the other Yakshas, “Xu Lang still doesn’t have a bone ornament.” So, the Yakshas each took five pearls from their own string of pearls and handed them to the female Yaksha. The female Yaksha also took ten pearls from her own string, making a total of fifty pearls. She twisted them into a rope with wild mulberry bark and then hung the string of pearls around Xu’s neck. Xu looked at each pearl, and each one was worth a hundred or so pieces of silver.
After a while, all the Yakshas left the cave. Xu had just finished cooking the meat when the female Yaksha came to invite him, saying, “Quickly go and meet the Celestial King.” Xu followed the female Yaksha to a large cave, which was as wide as several acres. In the cave, there was a large stone, smooth and flat like a table, surrounded by stone benches. The stone seat at the head was covered with a leopard skin, while the other stone benches were covered with deer skin. Two or three dozen Yakshas sat in a circle. After a short while, a strong wind suddenly blew, and the Yakshas hurriedly ran out in panic. Following the wind, a giant monster appeared, similar in appearance to the Yakshas, and walked straight into the cave. The monster sat cross-legged on the leopard skin seat, with eagle-like eyes scanning around. The Yakshas followed him into the cave, forming two rows on the east and west, standing with their heads up, and their arms crossed in front of their chests.
The giant monster called out names and asked, “Are all the people from Womei Mountain here?” The Yakshas answered loudly in affirmation. The giant monster saw Xu and asked, “Where is he from?” The female Yaksha said he was her husband. Other Yakshas praised Xu’s cooking skills, and while they were talking, two or three Yakshas ran out and brought back the cooked meat that Xu had prepared and placed it on the large stone table. The giant monster reached out and grabbed the meat, eating to his heart’s content. He praised the taste of the cooked meat and ordered Xu to provide it regularly. The giant monster then said to Xu, “Why is your bone ornament so short?” The Yakshas answered on his behalf, “He’s new here and hasn’t prepared one yet.” The giant monster took off a string of pearls from his own neck and gave Xu ten pearls. These ten pearls were extraordinary, each as big as a fingernail and perfectly round, like marbles. The female Yaksha quickly took the pearls and threaded them onto Xu’s string of pearls and hung them around his neck. Xu crossed his arms over his chest in the Yaksha’s gesture of gratitude.
The giant monster stood up and left, moving as fast as the wind. After the giant monster left, the Yakshas rushed to finish the leftover cooked meat he had left and then scattered in all directions.
Xu spent more than four years in the land of the Yakshas. Suddenly, the female Yaksha gave birth to three children in one birth: two boys and one girl, all of them had a human appearance, unlike their mother. The Yakshas were especially fond of these children and often gathered around to fondle them. One day, while the Yakshas were all out hunting for food, Xu was alone in the cave. Suddenly, another female Yaksha from a different cave approached him, seeking an illicit affair, but Xu rejected her advances. The female Yaksha became furious and knocked Xu to the ground. At that moment, Xu’s female Yaksha returned from outside, saw the situation, and flew into a rage. She confronted the other female Yaksha and engaged in a fight, biting off one of the intruder’s ears.
After a while, the husband of the other female Yaksha arrived, and once the situation was explained, Xu’s female Yaksha allowed them to leave. From that day on, Xu’s female Yaksha watched over him tirelessly, never leaving his side. Three years later, their children had learned to walk. Xu often taught them to speak the human language, and gradually, they all learned some. In their innocent words, the essence of humanity shone through. Despite still being young children, they could traverse mountains and hills as if walking on flat ground. They had a close bond with Xu and often displayed deep fatherly and filial affection.
One day, the female Yaksha went out with her son and daughter and didn’t return for half a day. At that time, a strong north wind was blowing outside the cave. Xu couldn’t help but feel a deep longing for his distant homeland. He took his son and came to the coast, where he saw the ship he had arrived in still on the shore. So, he decided to return to his old hometown with his son. His son wanted to inform his mother, but Xu didn’t allow him to do so. Thus, father and son boarded the ship and after a day and a night, they returned to Jiaozhou. When Xu arrived home, he found that his wife had already remarried. Xu took out two pearls and sold them for a considerable amount of money, making him quite wealthy. He named his son Xu Biao, and by the age of fourteen or fifteen, the boy could lift weights as heavy as a thousand catties. He had a rough and combative nature.
The military commander of Jiaozhou, upon seeing Xu Biao, recognized his talent and made him a general in the army. At that time, there were conflicts on the border, and every time Xu Biao participated in battle, he achieved great feats. At the age of eighteen, Xu Biao became a deputy general in charge of military affairs in a region.
At that time, another merchant set sail for business and also encountered a storm that drifted him to the coast of Womei Mountain. As soon as the merchant landed, he saw a young man, which surprised him. The young man, aware that the merchant was Chinese, asked about his hometown. The merchant truthfully shared his story with the young man. The young man pulled him into a small stone cave hidden in a secluded valley, where thorns grew outside the cave entrance. He sternly instructed the merchant not to leave the cave. After a while, the young man returned with some deer meat for the merchant to eat. He informed the merchant, “My father is also from Jiaozhou.” When the merchant inquired further, he learned that the young man’s father was Xu, someone the merchant had known from his business dealings. So he said to the young man, “Your father is an old friend of mine. His son is now a deputy general.” The young man didn’t understand the term “deputy general,” so the merchant explained, “This is an official title in China.” Curious, the young man asked, “What is an official?” The merchant replied, “An official is someone who rides in a carriage or sedan chair when going out, with people sounding gongs and clearing the way. When they enter a building, they sit on a high platform. When they shout from above, a hundred people below respond in unison. Nobody dares to look directly at them or stand up straight when they’re present. Such a person is called an official.” The young man listened with great admiration.
The merchant then asked, “Since your father is in Jiaozhou, why have you stayed here for so long?” So, the young man explained in detail what had happened. The merchant advised him to travel south to his hometown in Jiaozhou. The young man replied, “I often think about it, but my mother is not Chinese, and her language and appearance are different from the Chinese. Besides, if I’m discovered by my own kind, I’ll surely be harmed. So, after careful consideration, I’m still uncertain.” Before leaving, the young man said to the merchant, “When the north wind blows, I’ll come to see you off. Please deliver my message to my father and brothers.” The merchant spent nearly half a year in the cave. Sometimes, he secretly peered through the thorns at the cave entrance and saw many Yakshas moving about in the mountains. He felt extremely fearful and didn’t dare to make any rash moves. One day, when the north wind howled, the young man suddenly appeared in the cave, pulled the merchant, and hurriedly ran to the seashore. Before setting sail, the young man reminded the merchant once more, “Don’t forget the task I entrusted to you.” The merchant promised, and the young man placed some meat on the table in the boat. The merchant then sailed away from the coast.
After the merchant’s ship reached Jiaozhou, he went to the residence of Deputy General Xu Biao and recounted everything he had seen and heard. Upon hearing this, Xu Biao was filled with grief and determined to search for his family. His father, Xu, was concerned about the dangers of the treacherous seas and the presence of demons in the mountains, and strongly advised against taking such a risky journey. However, Xu Biao remained inconsolable, pounding his chest and crying in anguish, and his father could not dissuade him. So, Xu Biao reported the matter to the commander of Jiaozhou and set out to sea with two personal guards.
Unfortunately, the contrary winds hindered the ship’s progress, and the vessel lost its course, drifting aimlessly at sea for over half a month. Xu Biao looked around from the ship and saw boundless waters in every direction, with no land in sight, and the near surroundings were shrouded in confusion, making it impossible to discern east from south or west from north. Suddenly, a monstrous wave surged, and the ship was capsized in an instant. Xu Biao fell into the sea and was tossed up and down by the rolling waves. After an unknown period of time, Xu Biao felt as though something had grabbed him and pulled him to a place where there were actually some structures.
Upon closer inspection, Xu Biao realized that the one who had saved him was a creature with a striking resemblance to a Yaksha. Xu Biao engaged in conversation with the Yaksha using their language, and the Yaksha was both amazed and surprised. It asked him where he intended to go, and Xu Biao replied that he wanted to go to Womei Mountain. The Yaksha joyfully exclaimed, “Womei Mountain is my hometown! It was a grave offense for me to confront you earlier! But now, you are already eight thousand miles away from the original route to Womei Mountain. If you continue down this path, you will reach the Poison Dragon Kingdom, which is not the way to Womei Mountain.” The Yaksha then found a boat and sent Xu Biao on his way.
The Yaksha pushed the boat in the water, and the boat sped forward like an arrow. In the blink of an eye, it had covered a thousand miles. After a night had passed, the boat arrived at the northern shore of Womei Mountain. From a distance, Xu Biao saw a young man gazing out toward the sea. He knew that there were no humans on Womei Mountain, and suspected that this young man might be his younger brother. As he approached, he confirmed that indeed it was his brother. The two brothers held hands and wept. After a while, Xu Biao asked about the well-being of their mother and sister. His brother assured him that they were both healthy and safe.
Xu Biao expressed his desire to go with his brother to see their mother and sister, but his brother stopped him and hastily departed. It was only then that Xu Biao turned around to express his gratitude to the Yaksha who had seen him off, but the Yaksha had already disappeared.
Before long, their mother and sister arrived, and upon seeing Xu Biao, they also burst into tears. Xu Biao shared his plans with his mother, who expressed concerns, saying, “I’m afraid you may face mistreatment over there.” Xu Biao reassured her, saying, “In China, I hold a high and honorable position, and no one would dare to mistreat you.” Thus, the family’s decision to return to China was solidified. However, they soon found themselves struggling against the contrary winds, making it impossible to sail across the sea.
As the mother and her three children were in a dilemma, they suddenly noticed the ship’s sails blowing southward, rustling as they moved. Xu Biao exclaimed with joy, “It’s as if heaven is helping me!” One by one, the family boarded the ship, and it sailed on the sea, raising countless white foamy waves like an arrow. Three days later, the ship carrying Xu Biao and his family arrived at the coast of Jiaozhou. People who saw them were so frightened that they scattered in all directions. So, Xu Biao took off his own clothes and gave them to his mother, brother, and sister to wear.
Upon reaching home, the mother Yaksha saw Xu, and she angrily scolded him, regretting that he didn’t consult her before leaving. Xu repeatedly apologized to her. The household servants of the Xu family approached to pay their respects to the main mistress, trembling with fear. Xu Biao encouraged his mother to learn Chinese, wear fine silk and satin, and adapt to Chinese cuisine, which brought great joy to everyone.
The mother Yaksha and her daughter usually wore male attire, similar to the style of the Manchu clothing. After a few months, the mother Yaksha began to understand some Chinese words, and her brother and sister’s skin gradually became fairer.
The younger brother was named Xu Bao, and the younger sister was named Yeer; both of them possessed exceptional strength. Xu Biao, feeling ashamed of his lack of scholarly knowledge and manners, decided to send his younger brother to study. Among the three siblings, Xu Bao was the most intelligent, with an impeccable memory for historical texts and classics. However, Xu Bao had no interest in becoming a scholar. Instead, Xu Biao had him learn archery, horsemanship, and martial arts, excelling in these skills. Xu Bao passed the military examinations and became a jinshi, even marrying the daughter of a military officer named Ayouji.
As for Xu Yeer, due to her mother being a Yaksha, no one was willing to marry her. Xu Biao, who had previously marked Yuan Shoubei’s wife’s death, compelled him to marry Xu Yeer. Xu Yeer could draw a bow that weighed hundreds of stones and shoot small birds from over a hundred paces away with unerring accuracy. Whenever Yuan Shoubei went on military campaigns, he often brought his wife, Xu Yeer, along. Over time, Yuan Shoubei’s rank rose to the level of a general, and many of his achievements were attributed to Xu Yeer’s assistance.
At the age of thirty-four, Xu Bao received the official seal of a general and led troops into battle, becoming the commanding general of the provincial militia. His mother, the Yaksha, also accompanied Xu Bao on his southern campaigns. In the face of formidable enemies, she would don armor, wield a blade, and charge into the enemy ranks to assist her son. Upon witnessing this, the enemy would panic and flee. The Emperor issued a decree to bestow upon her the title of baron. Xu Bao submitted a petition to decline the honor on behalf of his mother, leading to her title being changed to “Madam.”
The chronicler of strange tales said, “The affair of the Yaksha Lady is truly an unheard-of wonder, but upon closer consideration, there is nothing particularly unusual about it: in every household, there is a Yaksha by the bedside!”