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》: