Xu Yake

Xu Yake(徐崖客), a man from Huzhou(湖州), was the son of a concubine. His father, misled by Yake’s stepmother, sought to put him to death. He fled and wandered the world. Every famous mountain, great river, deep cave, he endeavored to ascend, believing himself already doomed and therefore fearing nothing.

Once, while climbing Mount Yandang, Xu Yake couldn’t make it to the top. With nowhere to stay for the night, a monk nearby asked, “Do you enjoy traveling?” Yake replied affirmatively. The monk said, “In my youth, I too had this penchant and met a strange man. He gave me a leather pouch. Sleeping inside it at night, wind, rain, tigers, leopards, snakes, none could harm me. He also gave me a five-zhang-long strip of cloth. If a mountain was too steep, I’d throw the cloth up and climb along it. Even if I fell, as long as I held onto the cloth, I’d suffer no injury. Thus, I traveled far and wide. Now old, I yearn to return home like a weary bird to its nest. I bestow these two items upon you.” Xu Yake thanked the monk and bid farewell. From then on, crossing mountains and valleys became easier for him.

He traveled to southern Yunnan, straying over a thousand miles beyond the Qingling River(青蛉河). Lost in a land of sand and rocks, he slept inside his pouch in the wilderness. In the moonlight, he heard someone urinating on the pouch, sounding like the rising tide. Peeking, he saw a giant, square-eyed, hooked-nosed man, with teeth protruding several feet from his cheeks, towering several times taller than an ordinary person. He then heard chaotic sounds of hooves on the sand, as if tens of thousands of deer and rabbits were being chased. Shortly after, a strong wind blew from the southwest, carrying an unbearable stench. It turned out to be a python passing through the air, driving the animals. The snake was dozens of zhang long, its head as big as a cartwheel. Xu Yake held his breath, cowering silently. When morning came and he emerged from the pouch, the vegetation around where the snake passed was scorched, but he remained unharmed. Starving, he spotted smoke rising from a nearby village and hurried there. Two hairy men sat side by side, cooking delicious taro in a pot. Xu Yake suspected they were the ones from the urination incident. He knelt and kowtowed, but the men didn’t understand his intentions. He pleaded for food, but they didn’t comprehend. Yet, their demeanor was gentle, and they chuckled at Yake’s gestures. Using hand signs and pointing to his belly, Yake made his plea clearer. The men laughed heartily, their sounds reverberating through the forest, seemingly understanding. They gave him two taro roots. Xu Yake ate until full, keeping half a root to show others, which turned out to be a white stone.

Having traveled the world, Xu Yake returned to Huzhou. He often told people, “The inherent nature of the world values humans. Wherever wilderness and remote places untouched by human presence exist, spirits and monsters do not venture. Where there are spirits and monsters, there are people.

Note:

The interesting aspect of this story lies in its nature as a strange and fictional narrative by the author Yuan Mei, about the Chinese traveler Xu Xiake(徐霞客). It’s filled with various satirical and playful elements, poking fun at and parodying Xu Xiake’s personal experiences.

Xu Xiake was a renowned Chinese explorer, geographer, and traveler from the Ming Dynasty, known for his extensive travelogues and writings about his journeys throughout China.

Translated from 《徐崖客》in 《子不語》:

湖州徐崖客者,孽子也,其父惑繼母言,欲置之死。崖客逃,雲遊四方,凡名山大川,深岩絕澗,必攀援而上,以為本當死之人,無所畏。
登鴈蕩山,不得上,晚無投宿處,旁一僧目之曰:「子好遊乎?」崖客曰:「然。」僧曰:「吾少時亦有此癖,遇異人授一皮囊,夜寢其中,風雨虎豹蛇虺俱不能害。又與纏足布一匹,長五丈,或山過高,投以布,便攀援而上。即或傾跌,但手不釋布,緊握之,墜亦無傷。以此遊遍海內。今老矣,倦鳥知還,請以二物贈公。」徐拜謝別去。嗣後,登高臨深,頗得如意。
入滇南,出青蛉河外千餘里,迷道,砂礫渺茫,投囊野宿。月下聞有人溲於皮囊上者,聲如潮湧。偷目之,則大毛人,方目鉤鼻,兩牙出頤外數尺,長倍數人。又聞沙上獸蹄雜沓,如萬群獐兔被逐狂奔者。俄而,大風自西南起,腥不可耐,乃蟒蛇從空中過,驅群獸而行,長數十丈,頭若車輪。徐惕息噤聲而伏,天明出囊,見蛇過處兩旁草木皆焦,己獨無恙。饑無乞食處,望前村有若煙起者,奔往,見二毛人並坐,旁置鑊,爇芋甚香。徐疑即月下遺溲者,跪而再拜,毛人不知;哀乞救饑,亦不知;然色態甚和,睨徐而笑。徐乃以手指口,又指其腹,毛人笑愈甚,啞啞有聲,響震林谷,若解意者,賜以二芋。徐得果腹,留半芋,歸視諸人,乃白石也。
徐遊遍四海,仍歸湖州。嘗告人曰:「天地之性人為貴。凡荒莽幽絕之所,人不到者,鬼神怪物亦不到。有鬼神怪物處,便有人矣。」

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