In Tianchang County(天長), there was a magistrate named Lin who served in the capital city’s district. In his home, there was a spirit-writing altar occupied by a monster. This monster claimed to be the ‘True Man of the White Stone(白石真人)’ and accurately foretold fortunes and misfortunes for those who sought its advice.
The monster often persuaded Magistrate Lin to cultivate the Dao and practice immortal arts, claiming that by opening a third eye on his face, he could see the palace where the Heavenly Emperor resided and the immortals frolicking in the clouds. Enchanted by the monster’s words, Lin started obsessively carving between his own eyes with a small knife. If anyone tried to take away his knife, he would fly into a rage and curse incessantly.
One day, the spirit-writing board conveyed: ‘I am the land god here. The entity troubling your master is a spirit from the White Stone on the western mountain. This powerful spirit lacks literacy skills. I am forced by it; the words on the spirit-writing board are all compelled by this monster. Today, the monster has gone to the Western Heaven to pay respects to Buddha. Therefore, I’m informing you specifically—hurry and dismantle the spirit-writing board, compose a report detailing the mischief caused by the monster, and submit it to the city god of our county for punishment. This way, you’ll be free from the harm caused by the monster. But do not let the monster know that it was I, the land god, who leaked this secret.’
Coincidentally, Jiang Shiquan(蔣士銓), an editor from the Hanlin Academy(翰林院編修), arrived in Tianchang(天長) from Jinling(金陵). Hearing about the situation at his relative Lin’s house, he immediately dismantled the spirit-writing board. He then spent thirty taels of silver to purchase a Daoist charm from Zhang, hanging it in Lin’s residence. After this, indeed, the monster ceased its visitations.
Ten years later, Lin passed away, yet Zhang’s Daoist charm still hung in his residence. One day, the incense burning in the censer accidentally fell, burning away the cinnabar characters and drawings on the charm, but the backing paper remained unscathed and continued to hang. At that time, Jiang was in the capital and unaware of Lin’s passing. Zhang, meeting Jiang in the capital, said, ‘Your relative, Mr. Lin, has passed away.’ Surprised, Jiang inquired how Zhang knew, and Zhang replied, ‘On a certain month and day, the divine generals I dispatched on the charm have all returned, indicating that Mr. Lin is no longer in this world and no longer needs protection.’ Later, upon learning about the burning of the charm at Lin’s house, Jiang confirmed Zhang’s words, feeling deep regret.
Initially, whenever the spirit writing was conducted, as long as Jiang was present, the sand plate remained still. When Mr. Jiang left, someone asked the spirit writer, who wrote, ‘This old gentleman emits a radiant aura that troubles me upon sight.’ According to the land god, ‘The Spirit of the White Stone was causing mischief in the Lin household, intending to consume Lin’s soul to serve and speak on its behalf.
Translated from《白石精》in 《子不語》: