The Cherry Ghost

Hanlin(翰林) Xiong Ben(熊本) lived in a half-cut alley in the capital city, adjacent to the residence of Zhuang Lingyu(莊令輿), the compiler of the Imperial Academy. The two were close friends, often drinking together late into the night. On the night of August 12th, Zhuang Lingyu had prepared food and wine, inviting Xiong Ben over for a drink. As they were about to start, suddenly an envoy from the Tongcheng Duke arrived, summoning Zhuang Lingyu to his house. Thinking his friend would return soon, Xiong decided to drink alone and wait. However, just as he poured himself a drink and placed it on the table, before taking a sip, the cup was already empty. Suspecting he had forgotten to pour the drink, he poured another cup and covertly watched for any movement. He witnessed a large blue hand extending from under the table toward the cup. Xiong stood up, and the blue ghost also stood up, revealing its form. The ghost’s head and facial hair were entirely blue. Xiong Ben shouted loudly, and two servants from the house rushed in with candles, but they found nothing.

Upon Zhuang Lingyu’s return, hearing Xiong Ben’s account of what had just happened, he joked, ‘Would you dare to live here alone?’ At that time, Xiong Ben was young and bold, immediately instructing a servant to bring a pillow to his bed and then dismissing the servant, deciding to stay alone, wielding a sword. This sword was a gift from General Nian Gengyao and had been stained with the blood of countless people during the pacification of Qinghai.

At that moment, the autumn wind howled, a sliver of cold moonlight shone through the window. A green canopy covered the bed, allowing a view of everything outside through the moonlight. The streets outside had struck three in the night, and at that moment, Xiong Ben began feeling a bit afraid of the ghost, although lying in bed, he couldn’t fall asleep. Suddenly, he heard the clinking of a cup being thrown on the table, each toss producing a sound. Xiong Ben chuckled and said, ‘The ghost that steals wine has indeed arrived!’ Before long, one leg of the ghost extended through the eastern window, accompanied by an eye, an ear, a hand, half a nose, and half a mouth; simultaneously, the other leg extended through the western window, accompanied by another eye, ear, hand, half a nose, and half a mouth. It looked as though a person’s body had been sawn in half down the middle, all of it blue. Once the two halves of the blue ghost entered the room, they immediately merged into one, glaring angrily at Xiong Ben. He felt a chill creeping closer and saw the canopy door open on its own. Suddenly, Xiong Ben stood up, drew his sword, and struck at the blue ghost, hitting its arm, but it made no sound, as if he had struck an old cotton wad. The blue ghost fled through the window. Xiong Ben chased after it, but under the cherry tree in the courtyard, there was no trace of the blue ghost.

The next morning, Zhuang Lingyu, upon seeing bloodstains outside the window, hurriedly asked Xiong Ben what had happened. Xiong Ben told him the reason for the bloodstains. Zhuang Lingyu ordered the cherry tree to be chopped down, and as it burned, a scent of wine emanated from the tree. In truth, there was an old servant guarding the house at the window, who was both deaf and blind due to old age. He slept on the bed that was the passage for the blue ghost to enter and exit, yet the old servant knew nothing, snoring like thunder.

Later, Xiong Ben lived to be over eighty years old. His eldest son became the governor of Zhejiang, and his second son served as an official in Hubei. He often joked with people about this incident, saying, ‘Though I overcame the ghost with my courage and luck, I am still not as ignorant as the old servant in Zhuang’s house, who was deaf and blind and knew nothing.’

Translated from 《櫻桃鬼》 in 《子不語》:

熊太史本,僦居京師之半截衚衕,與莊編修令輿居相鄰,每夜置酒,互相過從。
八月十二日夜,莊具酒飲熊,賓主共坐。忽桐城相公遣人來招莊去,熊知其即歸,獨酌待之。自斟一杯置几上,未及飲,杯已空矣。初猶疑己之忘之也,又斟一杯伺之。見有巨手藍色從几下伸出探杯,熊起立,藍手者亦起立,其人頭、目、面、髮,無一不藍。熊大呼,兩家奴悉至,燭照,無一物。莊歸聞之,戲熊曰:「君敢宿此乎?」熊年少氣豪,即命童奴取被枕置榻上而麾童出,獨持一劍坐。劍者,大將軍年羹堯所贈,平青海血人無算者也。時秋風怒號,斜月冷照,榻施綠紗帳,空明澄澈。街鼓鳴三更,心怯此怪,終不能寐。忽几上鏗然擲一酒杯,再鏗然擲一酒杯。熊笑曰:「偷酒者來矣。」俄而一腿自東窗進,一目、一耳、一手、半鼻、半口;一腿自西窗進,一目、一耳、一手、半鼻、半口,似將人身當中分鋸作兩半者,皆作藍色。俄合為一,睒睒然怒睨帳中,冷氣漸逼,帳忽自開。熊起拔劍砍之,中鬼臂,如著敝絮,了無聲響。奔窗逃去,熊追至櫻桃樹下而滅。
次早,主人起,見窗外有血痕,急來詢問,熊告所以。乃斬櫻桃樹焚之,尚帶酒氣。窗外有司閽奴,老矣,既聾且瞽,所臥窗榻乃鬼出入經過處,杳無聞見,鼾聲如雷。
熊後年登八旬,長子巡撫浙江,次子監司湖南,常笑謂人曰:「余以膽氣、福氣勝妖,終不如司閽奴之聾且瞽尤勝妖也。」

🎨《仿張僧繇山水圖》藍瑛

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