The Old Man Who Makes Barrels

During the Tang Dynasty, Wei Xinggui(韋行規) recounted an incident from his youth. Once, while traveling in the western capital, he arrived at a shop when it was getting dark. Despite that, he intended to continue his journey forward.

There was an old man working in the shop who advised him. “It’s late. It’s not safe to travel at night; there are many bandits around here.”

“I have prepared my bow and arrows. I am not afraid.” Replied Wei Xinggui.

He proceeded for several tens of miles more, and the night became exceptionally dark. Someone was following him from the bushes, and he shouted loudly, but there was no response. He shot several arrows, hitting the person, yet the person didn’t retreat. After exhausting his arrows, Wei Xinggui became frightened and hurriedly ran forward.

Soon after, a strong wind accompanied by thunder and lightning emerged.

Wei Xinggui dismounted, leaned against a big tree, and watched as lightning streaked across the sky amid thunderous sounds, seemingly chasing each other like countless, unending massive wooden staffs, nearing the treetops. He felt things falling around him; looking closer, they were wooden splinters. After a while, the splinters piled up to his knees.

Fearful, Wei Xinggui threw away his bow and arrows, looked up, and cried for help, repeatedly kneeling and bowing.

Gradually, the lightning and wind receded, the thunder ceased, and Wei Xinggui saw that the tree had lost all its branches. His saddle and pack were also gone, so he had no choice but to return to the previous inn.

Upon reaching the inn, he saw the old man making barrels.

Wei Xinggui thought the old man was peculiar and thanked him. The old man chuckled and said, “Guest, don’t rely solely on your bow and arrows; you should also learn some swordsmanship.”

He led Wei Xinggui to the backyard, pointed at the saddle and pack, and told him to take them back. “I was just testing you,” he said, showing a board with all the arrows Wei Xinggui had shot the previous night embedded in it.

Wei Xinggui offered to do something for the old man, but he declined. Instead, he imparted a bit of swordsmanship, from which Wei Xinggui learned a move or two.

Original text in 《酉陽雜俎》:


illust: 張路《山水人物冊頁》, in the Ming Dynasty

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