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》》:

东晋阳羡许彦许绥安山行。遇一书生,年十七八,卧路侧,云:脚痛,求寄彦鹅笼中。彦以为戏言,书生便入笼。笼亦不更广,书生亦不更小。宛然与双鹅并坐,鹅亦不惊。彦负笼而去,都不觉重。前息树下,书生乃出笼。谓彦曰。欲为君薄设。彦曰。甚善。乃于口中吐一铜盘奁子,奁子中具诸馔淆,海陆珍羞方丈,其器皿皆是铜物,气味芳美,世所罕见。酒数行,乃谓彦曰。向将一妇人自随,今欲暂要之。彦曰。甚善。又于口中吐一女子。年可十五六,衣服绮丽,容貌绝伦,共坐宴。俄而书生醉卧。此女谓彦曰。虽与书生结好,好原作妻。据明钞本改。而实怀外心,向亦窃将一男子同来,书生既眠,暂唤之,愿君勿言。彦曰。甚善。女人于口中吐出一男子,年可二十三四。亦頴悟可爱。仍与彦敍寒温。书生卧欲觉。女子吐一锦行障。书生仍留女子共卧。男子谓彦曰。此女子虽有情,心亦不尽,向复窃将女人同行。今欲蹔见之。愿君勿泄言。彦曰。善。男子又于口中吐一女子,年二十许,共宴酌。戏调甚久,闻书生动声,男曰。二人眠已觉。因取所吐女子,还内口中。须臾,书生处女子乃出,谓彦曰。书生欲起。更吞向男子,独对彦坐。书生然后谓彦曰。蹔眠遂久。君独坐。当悒悒耶。日已晚,便与君别。还复吞此女子,诸铜器悉内口中。留大铜盘。可广二尺馀。与彦别曰。无以藉君。与君相忆也。彦大元中。彦为兰台令史,以盘饷侍中张散,散看其题,云是汉永平三年所作也。

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