The Garlic Seller

In Nanyang County(南陽縣), there was a man named Yang, skilled in martial arts, capable of lifting grain boats with his shoulders. Hundreds of Green Banner soldiers escorted the grain boats, attempting to pierce him with bamboo poles. As the poles struck his body, they broke inch by inch. His fame spread because of this. Yang took his disciples to Changzhou(常州) to teach martial arts. Every time he went to the martial arts arena to teach spear and staff techniques, crowds gathered, forming a human wall.

One day, while Yang was teaching, an old garlic seller, hunched over and constantly coughing, sneered at him. People were shocked and went to inform Yang. Enraged, Yang called the old man over and punched the wall, sinking his fist about a foot deep, arrogantly asking, “Can you do this?” The old man replied, “You can punch a wall, but can’t punch a person.”

Yang grew angrier, taunting, “Old man, can you endure my blows? If I kill you, don’t complain!” “I’m already near death. If my death can enhance your reputation, what’s there to complain about?” said the old man.

So, with many witnesses and a written oath, Yang was asked to rest for three days. The old man had himself tied to a tree, bared his stomach, and told Yang to strike. Yang positioned himself ten paces away and charged, hitting with all his might. The old man remained silent, while Yang fell to his knees, begging for forgiveness. He couldn’t pull his fist out from the old man’s belly.

After much pleading, the old man let him go, and Yang fell under a stone bridge. The old man slowly carried his garlic away and never revealed his surname to anyone.

Translated from 《賣蒜叟》 in 《子不語》:

南陽縣有楊二相公者,精于拳勇,能以兩肩負糧船而起。旗丁數百以篙刺之,篙所觸處,寸寸折裂,以此名重一時。率其徒行教常州,每至演武場傳授槍棒,觀者如堵。
忽一日,有賣蒜叟龍鍾傴僂,咳嗽不絕聲,旁睨而揶揄之,眾大駭,走告楊。楊大怒,招叟至前,以拳打磚墻,陷入尺許,傲之曰:「叟能如是乎!」叟曰:「君能打墻,不能打人。」楊愈怒,罵曰:「老奴能受我打乎?打死勿怨!」叟笑曰:「老人垂死之年,能以一死成君之名,死亦何怨!」乃廣約眾人,寫立誓券,令楊養息三日。
老人自縛於樹,解衣露腹,楊故取勢於十步外奮拳擊之。老人寂然無聲,但見楊雙膝跪地叩頭曰:「晚生知罪了。」拔其拳,已夾入老人腹中,堅不可出。哀求良久,老人鼓腹縱之,已跌出一石橋外矣。老人徐徐負蒜而歸,卒不肯告人姓氏。

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