The Scholar in A Goose Cage

In the mystical Eastern Jin Dynasty, a chance encounter with a footsore scholar leads Xu Yan into a bizarre realm of wonders. As gratitude, the scholar hosts a feast like no other, spewing forth a bronze tray filled with tantalizing delicacies. Yet, the strangeness doesn't end there—geese, mysterious guests, and a peculiar screen unfold in this extraordinary tale of a feast that defies reality and leaves Xu Yan questioning the limits of the ordinary.

In the Eastern Jin Dynasty, in the east of Yangxian County, there was a man named Xu Yan walking in the Sui’an Mountains. He encountered a young scholar of about seventeen or eighteen lying on the side of the road, claiming to have a sore foot. The scholar requested Xu Yan to open the goose cage he was carrying so that he could crawl inside. At first, Xu Yan thought he was joking, but he opened the cage nonetheless. To his surprise, the scholar indeed crawled inside. Strangely, the cage did not enlarge, and the scholar did not shrink. They sat together with a pair of geese, and the geese remained unfazed.

Xu Yan lifted the cage effortlessly and, when resting under a large tree, the scholar finally emerged, thanking Xu Yan. He expressed his desire to host a modest feast as a token of gratitude. Xu Yan agreed, and the scholar spat out a bronze tray from his mouth, containing various delicacies displayed together. The dishes were all made of bronze and emitted a delightful fragrance, a rare sight indeed. After a few rounds of drinking, the scholar said to Xu Yan, “For the past few days, a woman has been following me; today, I’d like to summon her temporarily.” Xu Yan agreed, and the scholar spat out a girl of around fifteen or sixteen years old, with exquisite beauty and luxurious clothing. They all sat together to drink.

After a while, the scholar fell asleep. The girl confided in Xu Yan, saying, “Although I am in a relationship with the scholar, I have a wandering heart and secretly brought another man with me. Since the scholar is asleep, I want to summon him temporarily, and I hope you won’t tell him.” Xu Yan agreed, and the girl spat out a man of about twenty-three or twenty-four years old, intelligent and charming, and they chatted with Xu Yan. When the scholar was about to wake up, the girl spat out a vibrant and beautiful movable screen and lay with him. The man said to Xu Yan, “Although I have feelings for this girl, it’s not exclusive. Just now, I secretly arranged to meet another girl. I want to take this opportunity to see her. I hope you won’t reveal this.” Xu Yan agreed, and the man spat out a girl of around twenty years old, and they all enjoyed the banquet together.

After joking and laughing for a long time, hearing movement from the scholar behind the screen, the man said, “They have already woken up.” He then sucked back all the girls he spat out into his mouth. In a short while, the small girl from where the scholar was emerged and told Xu Yan, “The scholar is about to wake up!” She then swallowed the man back into her mouth, leaving Xu Yan sitting alone. When the scholar woke up, he said to Xu Yan, “I’ve slept for quite a while, making you sit alone. It must have been uncomfortable. It’s already late; I have to bid you farewell.” After saying this, he swallowed the small girl and all the bronze utensils, leaving only a large bronze plate over two feet in size for Xu Yan. He bid farewell, saying, “In the future, we have nothing to rely on, only memories of each other!”

During the Taiyuan era, Xu Yan served as the historian of the Lantai and presented the large bronze plate to Zhang San, the attendant. Zhang San examined the inscriptions on it, saying it was made in the third year of Yongping in the Eastern Han Dynasty.

Original text in 《续《齐谐记》》:


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