The Monster in the Study Room

He turned around and saw a monster, about five feet tall, with tiger teeth and wolf eyes, fur like a monkey, and claws like an eagle or hawk, wearing leopard-skin pants.

During the Zhenguan period of the Tang Dynasty, Xu Jing and Zhang Xian studied together in the Yanyue Mountains. The study room had two rooms, one for each person, with a distance of one zhang between them. Xu Jing was in the west, Zhang Xian was in the east, and each had their own doors and windows. At first, the two of them respected each other and encouraged each other, and their feelings were very close. From spring to winter, they each studied by candlelight.

One night at two o’clock in the evening, suddenly something pushed open Xu Jing’s door and walked in. He thought it was Zhang Xian at first, so he didn’t pay attention. The thing had already stood by the desk. When Xu Jing finished reading, he turned around and saw a monster, about five feet tall, with tiger teeth and wolf eyes, fur like a monkey, and claws like an eagle or hawk, wearing leopard-skin pants. When the monster saw Xu Jing turn to look at it, it crossed its arms and stood with its eyes straight and its feet together.

Xu Jing was so scared that he couldn’t speak. He shouted for Zhang Xian to come and save him. He shouted for hundreds of times, but Zhang Xian turned off the lamp, shut the door, and pretended to be asleep. He didn’t even answer him.

The monster suddenly backed away to the fireplace near the north wall, then squatted there and looked at him. Xu Jing kept shouting for Zhang Xian. The monster stood up again, picked up Xu Jing’s axe from under the bed, and sat back down, guarding the fireplace as before.

After a long time, Xu Jing calmed down and said, “My name is Xu Jing. I came here to study with Zhang Xian. We didn’t visit the mountain gods soon enough. That was wrong. But I’m ignorant and inexperienced. Please don’t blame me.”

After Xu Jing finished speaking, the monster stood up and bowed with its hands clasped together. It then backed out of the room.

Xu Jing was angry with Zhang Xian for being so unkind. The next day, he packed up his books and went home. Zhang Xian also packed up his books and went home. In the end, their studies were not completed.

Original text in 《傳信志》:

唐貞元中,許敬、張閑同讀書於偃月山。書堂兩間,人據其一,中隔有丈。許西而張東,各開戶牖。初敬遽相勗勵,情地甚狎。自春徂冬,各秉燭而學。一夜二更,忽有一物,推許生戶而入。初意其張生,而不之意。其物已在案側立。及讀書徧。乃廻視。方見一物。長可五尺餘。虎牙狼目,毛如猿玃。爪如鷹鸇。服豹皮褌。見許生顧盻。乃叉手端目,並足而立。許生恐甚,遂失聲,連叫張生相救。如是數百聲。張生滅燭,柱戶佯寢,竟不應之。其物忽倒行,就北壁火爐所,乃蹲踞視。許生呼張生不已。其物又起。於牀下取生所用伐薪斧。却廻而坐。附火復如初。良久,許生乃安心定氣而言曰。余姓許名敬。辭家慕學,與張閑同到此。不早謁諸山神,深為罪耳。然浮俗淺識,幸勿責之。言已,其物奮起,叉手鞠躬,唯唯而出。敬恨張生之甚也,翌日,乃撤書而歸。於是張生亦相與俱罷,業竟不成。

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