The Shapeshifting Ghost and the Flies

In Huizhou(徽州), there was a top scholar named Dai Youqi(戴有祺). He and his friends, having drunk too much, strolled outside the city to admire the moon, reaching the Hui Long Bridge(回龍橋). A person in blue, carrying an umbrella, approached from the west side. Upon seeing Dai, he hesitated to cross the bridge, appearing fearful. Suspecting him to be a thief, Dai stepped forward to interrogate him. The person in blue claimed, ‘I am an officer from the yamen, sent to apprehend someone.’ Dai countered, ‘You speak a big lie; it’s unheard of for city officers to venture outside and apprehend people. There’s no logic for officers from outside to enter the city to arrest individuals.’ Helpless, the person in blue knelt and confessed, ‘I am not human; I’m a ghost. I’ve been commanded by the underworld’s officials to enter the city and seize people.’ Dai asked, ‘Do you have a warrant?’ The blue ghost replied, ‘Yes.’ Dai glanced at it and saw his cousin’s name listed as the third person. Wanting to save his cousin’s life but also doubting the truth of the blue ghost’s words, he let him pass but stayed on the bridge, waiting.

At four in the morning, the blue ghost indeed returned. Dai asked, ‘Have you caught all the people?’ The blue ghost replied, ‘All captured.’ Dai inquired about the captured individuals’ whereabouts, and the blue ghost said, ‘They are on this umbrella I’m holding.’ Dai looked at the umbrella, seeing five flies tied with threads on it, emitting a buzzing sound. Dai laughed heartily, took the umbrella, and released the five flies. The blue ghost, fearful and anxious, staggered away.

As the day slowly brightened, Dai entered the city and went to his cousin’s house to inquire about the situation. The cousin’s family said, ‘Our master has been ill for a long time. Last night, at three in the morning, he passed away, briefly revived at four, and passed away again at dawn.’

In Jiangning County(江寧), there was a seven-year-old boy named Liu suffering from swollen testicles. Despite seeking medical help, no remedy proved effective. A neighbor, Mrs. Rao, often acted as a yamen officer for the underworld. When it was her turn for duty in the underworld, she slept separately from her husband, abstaining from food and drink, appearing almost like a mad person. Liu’s mother asked Mrs. Rao to inquire about her son’s fortune in the underworld. After three days, Mrs. Rao visited Liu’s house and said, ‘There’s no problem. Your son in his previous life had a liking for eating frogs, slaughtered far too many, hence in this life, groups of frogs seek revenge by biting him. However, these creatures are meant for human consumption. Insects and fishes are under the jurisdiction of the Eight Waxes God. You just need to go to General Liu Meng’s temple, burn incense, and pray for peace.’ Following her advice, Liu’s son recovered.

Once, Mrs. Rao slept for two days and nights, waking up sweating profusely and panting. Her sister-in-law asked why she was in such a state. Mrs. Rao said, ‘There’s a fierce and difficult woman in the neighborhood whom I couldn’t apprehend. Yama (the ruler of the underworld) sent me to capture her. Unexpectedly, even at the brink of death, she had great strength and struggled with me for a long time. Fortunately, I untied the cloth from my legs and bound her hands, finally leading her out.’ The sister-in-law asked, ‘Where have you placed the woman now?’ Mrs. Rao replied, ‘She’s on the wutong tree outside the window.’ The sister-in-law checked but saw nothing except a strand of hair tied to a fly on the tree. Amused, she took the fly and placed it in a sewing box.

Not long after, Mrs. Rao began shouting in bed, only regaining consciousness after a while, saying, ‘Sister-in-law, this joke is too cruel! The underworld officials blame me for not capturing that woman and punished me severely with thirty strikes, demanding me to capture her by a certain deadline. Quickly return the fly to me to avoid further punishment.’ Seeing the bruises on Mrs. Rao’s buttocks, the sister-in-law regretted her actions and returned the fly. Mrs. Rao took the fly, held it in her mouth, and fell asleep, appearing calm again. However, from that point on, Mrs. Rao refused to inquire about the fortunes of the living in the underworld.

Translated from 《鬼多變蒼蠅》 in 《子不語》:


🎨 唐寅

2 thoughts on “The Shapeshifting Ghost and the Flies”

  1. Thank you for your sharing. I am worried that I lack creative ideas. It is your article that makes me full of hope. Thank you. But, I have a question, can you help me?

Leave a Comment