Have you eaten your fill of fish?

During the Tang Dynasty, in Jinjiang County, Quanzhou, there was a county official named Zhang Zong who had a great fondness for fish. One day, he suddenly fell ill and, though appearing dead, his chest remained warm. After seven days, he unexpectedly revived. At the same time, Li E, a censor, had been demoted and appointed as the new county official of Jinjiang. He was at a colleague named Wang’s house, indulging in a fish feast.

News of someone returning from the dead spread, attracting many curious onlookers. As Li E arrived, Zhang Zong got up to welcome him, taking his hand and asking, “Have you eaten your fill of fish?” Li E was greatly shocked, and only then did Zhang Zong explain the strange events that had occurred to him.

Seven days prior, a bailiff in a yellow robe had informed Zhang Zong, “The king (the King of Hell) wants to arrest you.” Filled with fear, Zhang Zong had no choice but to follow him. Soon, they reached the king’s presence, where the king questioned the bailiff, “I ordered you to arrest Zhang Zong, not this Zhang Zong. Why did you mistakenly apprehend him? Let him go quickly.”

However, an official by the king’s side interjected, saying, “This person likes to eat fish; for now, let’s punish him by turning him into a fish.” The king then ordered Zhang Zong to transform into a fish, reassuring him, “This is a mild punishment, and you will regain your human form later.” After that, Zhang Zong was led to the riverbank by the king’s subordinate, pushed into the water, and transformed into a fish just over an inch long.

As a fish, Zhang Zong’s body grew each day, reaching a length of over two feet by the seventh day. Suddenly, he saw a fisherman casting a net into the river. Fearing capture, he tried to escape but found himself unknowingly ensnared in the net. As the fisherman pulled the net up, Zhang Zong was caught.

The fisherman placed the captured fish under the chaotic grass in the hold of his boat. Soon after, someone from Wang’s household came to collect fish, and despite the fisherman’s reluctance, he reluctantly handed over a small fish. The person was dissatisfied and even searched the fisherman’s hiding place, discovering a large carp under the messy grass. He took it back to Wang’s house.

That large carp was none other than Zhang Zong. When brought to Wang’s front hall, he saw Wang’s wife grooming herself in front of a mirror, revealing one arm. Then, he was taken to the kitchen, where a chef scaled him with a knife. Surprisingly, Zhang Zong felt no pain, only the coldness of the knife. Shortly after, the chef chopped off the fish head with one stroke, and Zhang Zong’s original form was restored.

Li E finally understood that the fish he had eaten was none other than Zhang Zong in a transformed state.

The original text:

唐泉州晉江縣尉張縱者。好啖鱠。忽被病死,心上猶煖,後七日蘇。云:初有黃衫吏告云:「王追。」縱隨行,尋見王。王問吏:「我追張縱,何故將張縱來,宜速遣去。」旁有一吏白王曰:「此人好啖膾,暫可罰為魚。」王令縱去作魚。又曰:「當還本身。」便被所白之吏引至河邊,推縱入水,化成小魚。長一寸許。日夕增長,至七日。長二尺餘。忽見罟師至河所下網,意中甚懼,不覺已入網中,為罟師所得,置之船中草下。須臾聞晉江王丞使人求魚為鱠。罟師初以小魚與之,還被杖。復至網所搜索,乃於草下得鯉,持還王家。至前堂,見丞夫人對鏡理粧,偏袒一膊。至廚中,被膾人將刀削鱗,初不覺痛,但覺鐵冷泓然。尋被剪頭,本身遂活。時殿下侍御史李萼左遷晉江尉。正在王家飡鱠。聞縱活,遽往視之。既入,縱迎接其手,謂萼曰。飡膾飽耶。萼因問何以得知,縱具言始末。方知所飡之鱗。是本身焉。出《廣異記》

Summary:

During the Tang Dynasty, a county official named Zhang Zong loved eating fish. One day, he fell ill and seemingly died, but miraculously revived after seven days. Meanwhile, Li E, a censor, took Zhang Zong’s position and was enjoying fish at a colleague’s house. Zhang Zong, now transformed into a fish, ended up on the dinner table. Li E, unaware, ate the fish and only later discovered the truth when Zhang Zong reverted to his human form.

🎨 齊白石《魚蝦歡戲圖》

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