Stone Words

Lü Shi(呂蓍) was from Jianning(建寧) and studied in an ancient temple at the foot of the northern slope of Wuyi Mountain(武夷山). One bright day, the sky suddenly darkened, and Lü Shi saw the stones on the stone steps standing up as if they were people. Then, a chilling wind arose, blowing window paper and tree leaves all over, sticking firmly to the stones. Roof tiles from the eaves also flew onto the stones. Soon, these stones started to spin, transforming into human forms. Window paper and tree leaves turned into clothes, while roof tiles became hats and headscarves, instantly creating over a dozen tall men. Some sat, some crouched, engaging in lively conversations in front of the Buddhist hall. Lü Shi was frightened, so he closed the windows and covered his head to sleep.

The next day, when Lü Shi got up to check, there was no trace of them. In the afternoon, the stones stood up just like the day before. Over the next few days, this became a regular occurrence, yet these stone-created figures didn’t cause any harm or disturbance. So, Lü Shi went out to chat with them, asking their names. Most had compound surnames, claiming to be people from the Han and Wei dynasties, with two elderly men even claiming to be from the Qin dynasty. Their discussions differed from what was recorded in the history books of the Han and Wei periods, which Lü Shi found intriguing.

One day, after finishing lunch, Lü Shi waited for them quietly. When these people arrived, he asked why they manifested through objects, revealing their true forms, but they remained silent. He asked why they didn’t often reside in the temple, and again, they didn’t answer. However, they said to Lü Shi, “Mr. Lü, as a scholar, tonight under the bright moonlight, we’ll have a martial arts contest to broaden your horizons.” That night, they came with swords and knives, demonstrating ancient weaponry, different from swords or spears, unnamed yet remarkable. They danced and dueled in the moonlight, solo performances and paired movements, mysterious and ethereal. Lü Shi watched and thanked them graciously.

On another day, they told Lü Shi, “We’ve been with Mr. Lü for so long, but we can’t bear to part. Tonight, we’re all going overseas to be reborn, to fulfill unfinished matters from our past lives. We have to bid you farewell.” Lü Shi saw them off, and from then on, the temple grew quiet. Lü Shi felt increasingly lonely, as if he had lost good friends. So, he wrote the stories they told into a book titled “Stone Words.” He intended to publish and share this book, but due to his impoverished family, he never fulfilled this wish. The manuscript of this book remains with his son, Lü Dayan(呂大延), to this day.

Translated from 《石言》 in 《子不語》:





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