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》:

呂蓍,建寧人,讀書武夷山北麓古寺中。方晝陰晦,見階砌上石盡人立。寒風一過,窗紙樹葉飛脫著石,黏掛不下,簷瓦亦飛著石上。石皆旋轉化為人,窗紙樹葉化為衣服,瓦化冠幘,頎然丈夫十餘人,坐踞佛殿間,清談雅論,娓娓可聽。呂怖駭,掩窗而睡。

明日起視,毫無蹤跡。午後,石又立如昨。數日以後,竟成泛常,了不為害,呂遂出與接談。問其姓氏,多復姓,自言皆漢、魏人,有二老者則秦時人也。所談事,與漢、魏史書所載頗有異同。呂甚以為樂,午食後,靜待其來。詢以託物幻形之故,不答;問何以不常住寺中,亦不答;但答語曰:「呂君雅士,今夕月明,我共來角武,以廣君所未見。」是夜,各攜刀劍來,有古兵器,不似戈戟,而不能強加名者。就月起舞,或只或雙,飄瞥神妙,呂再拜而謝。

又一日,告呂曰:「我輩與君周旋日久,情不忍別,今夕我輩皆託生海外,完前生未了之事,當與君別矣。」呂送出戶,從此闃寂,呂悽然如喪良友。取所談古事,筆之於書,號曰《石言》,欲梓以傳世,貧不能辦,至今猶藏其子大延處。

🎨《龍宿郊民圖》董源

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