The Painter of Zombies

Liu Yixian(劉以賢) from Hangzhou(杭州) was skilled at painting portraits. He lived next door to a father and son. When the father passed away, the son went to buy a coffin. Before leaving, he asked the neighbor to request Liu Yixian to paint a portrait of his deceased father. When Liu Yixian arrived at their home, he found it empty. Assuming the deceased must be upstairs, he quietly ascended the stairs, approached the bed of the deceased, sat down, took out his brush, and prepared to paint the portrait. Unexpectedly, the dead body suddenly leaped up from the bed. Liu Yixian realized it was the wandering soul of the deceased and decided to sit still. The corpse remained motionless, only slightly moving its mouth and wrinkling its brow and face.

Liu Yixian thought, ‘If I leave now, the corpse will surely follow. I might as well just paint the portrait.’ So, he picked up his brush, spread out the paper, and began to sketch the corpse. He moved his arm and fingers, and the corpse mimicked the actions. Liu Yixian shouted several times, but no one responded.

Shortly after, the deceased’s son came upstairs. Upon seeing his father’s body standing up, he was so terrified that he collapsed on the spot. A neighbor who came upstairs also saw the standing corpse and was so frightened that they fell downstairs. Seeing this scene, Liu Yixian felt both anxious and helpless, but he had to endure and wait for an opportunity to escape.

After a while, the people carrying the coffin arrived. Liu Yixian remembered that corpses fear being swept with a broom during their episodes, so he called out, ‘Someone downstairs, quickly bring a broom upstairs!’ Hearing this shout, the coffin bearers understood that a zombie was causing trouble upstairs. They took a broom, went upstairs, and swept the corpse, causing it to fall. Then they used ginger soup to revive the people who had fainted, and finally, they placed the corpse into the coffin.

Translated from 《畫工畫僵尸》 in 《子不語》:

杭州劉以賢,善寫照。鄰人有一子一父而居室者。其父死,子外出買棺,囑鄰人代請以賢為其父傳形。以賢往,入其室,虛無人焉。意死者必居樓上,乃躡梯登樓,就死人之牀,坐而抽筆。尸忽蹷然起,以賢知為走尸,坐而不動。尸亦不動,但閉目張口,翕翕然眉撐肉皺而已。以賢念身走則尸必追,不如竟畫,乃取筆申紙,依尸樣描摹。每臂動指運,尸亦如之。以賢大呼,無人答應。俄而其子上樓,見父尸起,驚而仆。又一鄰上樓,見尸起,亦驚滾落樓下。以賢窘甚,強忍待之。俄而,抬棺者來。以賢徐記尸走畏苕帚,乃呼曰:「汝等持苕帚來!」抬棺者心知有走尸之事,持帚上樓,拂之,倒。乃取薑湯灌醒仆者,而納尸入棺。

🎨《鸜鵒梅雀圖》王淵 元

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