A Chinese Metamorphosis

The family spied a big soft-shelled turtle in the water of the bath tub through a hole in the wall.

The mother of Song Shizong, a native of Qinghe in the State of Wei, was bathing in her bathroom in the summer. She told her children in the family to close the door. The family spied a big soft-shelled turtle in the water of the bath tub through a hole in the wall.

So they opened the door and the family went in, but the big soft-shelled turtle didn’t bother them at all. The silver hairpin that the old lady had worn earlier was still on the soft-shelled turtle’s head.

The family cried and wept over the soft-shelled turtle, but there was nothing they could do. The soft-shelled turtle climbed out of the door and ran so fast that they couldn’t catch up with it and watched it jump into the water.

After a few days, the turtle suddenly came back and paraded around the residence, as it usually did, and left without saying a word.

People at that time told Song Shizong that he should hold a funeral service for his mother, but Song Shizong did not hold a funeral service because he thought that his mother was still alive in the world even though her appearance had changed.

Original text in 《續搜神記》:

魏清河宋士宗母,以黃初中,夏天於浴室裏浴,遣家中子女闔戶。家人於壁穿中,窺見沐盆水中。有一大黿。遂開戶,大小悉入,了不與人相承。嘗先著銀釵,猶在頭上。相與守之啼泣,無可奈何。出外,去甚駛,逐之不可及,便入水。後數日忽還,巡行舍宅如平生,了無所言而去。時人謂士宗應行喪,士宗以母形雖變,而生理尚存,竟不治喪。與江夏黃母相似。

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