The Expulsion of the White Sea Hare

In the Baihou(白鱟) Cave of Mount Bian in Wuxing(吳興卞山), every spring and summer, a white vapor drifted out of the cave. It resembled a piece of white silk, floating aimlessly in the air. Wherever this vapor passed, silkworm cocoons were destroyed completely. Hence, during silkworm cultivation, people dreaded this white vapor. However, this vapor was particularly afraid of the sound of gongs and drums. During the Ming Dynasty, Han Shao(韓紹), the Minister of Rites(明太常卿), once ordered officials to use poisoned arrows to drive it away, documenting the process in the ‘Expulsion of the White Sea Hare’ found in the ‘Annals of Wuxing Prefecture.'(《驅鱟文》載郡志) In recent years, the harm caused by this white vapor has intensified.

In the forty-eighth year of Qianlong (1783), a person surnamed Fan(范姓者) wrote a complaint and submitted it to the City God Temple. That night, he dreamt of an old man who said to him, ‘Your complaint has been approved. Tonight, I will command the Taoist Xuan Yi(玄衣真人) to expel the sea hare. However, the sea hare manages the dew and has some merit. Not many people have been harmed by it. But due to its greed, it should be punished. Prepare sulfur and tobacco and wait at the entrance of the mountain cave.’

Fan gathered several dozen people and arrived as scheduled. Around two in the morning, under the faint moonlight, a wind arose in the sky. They saw a bat, ten feet in size, flying towards the cave followed by several dozen smaller bats. Each bat had a light in front, seemingly guiding the way. Fan realized, ‘Could this be the Xuan Yi mentioned by the City God?’ He immediately lit the sulfur and tobacco. Soon, there were sounds from the cave, resembling a rising tide and strong winds. A stream of white light, like a piece of silk, flew out. The bats surrounded it, engaging in what seemed like a battle formation, fighting for a long time. The villagers cheered, banging drums and setting off firecrackers. After about an hour, the white light dispersed like cotton, followed by a trail of blue vapor flying northeast. The bats also scattered and flew away. The next morning, they found over a thousand catties of cotton-like substance in the woods, some blue and some green, emitting a foul odor. They dared not touch it. From then on, the harm caused by the sea hare ceased.

Notes on the translation:

The term “鱟” is a bit tricky to translate directly because it refers to a mythical creature in Chinese folklore rather than a specific animal. It’s often interpreted as a sea creature due to the “魚” character included in the phrase “鱟魚,” which adds to the confusion.

“Sea Hare” seems a better translation for “鱟” because it’s one of the interpretations of this mythical creature based on its appearance or characteristics. In the text, the “鱟” was described as a creature associated with harmful vapors or mists that affected silkworms and was repelled by sounds like drums and gongs.

Translated from《驱鲎》in 《子不語》:


Leave a Comment