After Huan Xuan usurped the throne and entered the Vermilion Bird Gate (朱雀門) (Note: The Vermilion Bird Gate is an entrance to the imperial palace), he suddenly encountered two small children. Their entire bodies were as black as ink, harmoniously singing a song called “Caged Song.” On the roadside, numerous other children joined in the chorus. The lyrics lamented, “Bound in a thorny cage, ropes tightly wrapped around the belly. The chariot has no axle, leaning against a solitary tree.” Their voices were profoundly mournful. The meaning of their song was elusive.
As night fell, the two children entered the county of Jiankang (建康縣), arriving at a place called HeXia (合下). There, they transformed into a pair of lacquer drumsticks. Officials commented, “These drumsticks have accumulated for a long time. They are often lost but somehow recovered. Unexpectedly, they have taken on human form.” The following spring, Huan Xuan suffered defeat. The phrase “the chariot has no axle, leaning against a solitary tree” contains the character “Huan” (桓). Jingzhou sent Xuan’s head, encased in a cage made from thorny mats and bound with rope, sinking it into the river, precisely as described in the song.
Original story in 《齊諧記》桓玄篡位後來朱雀門中，忽見兩小兒，通身如墨，相和作《籠歌》，路邊小兒從而和之者數十人。歌云：「芒籠茵，繩縛腹。車無軸，倚孤木。」聲甚哀。無歸。曰既夕，二小兒入建康縣，至合下，遂成雙漆鼓槌。吏列云：「槌積久，比恒失之，而復得之，不意作人也。」明年春，而桓敗。車無軸，倚孤木，桓字也。荊州送玄首，用敗籠茵包之，又芒繩束縛其屍沈諸江中，悉如所歌焉。