In the south of Dali County(大理縣)), Yunnan Province(雲南), there was a villager named Li Shigui(李士桂), whose family had been engaged in farming for generations and also raised two water buffaloes.
One day, it was already dark and the two water buffaloes hadn’t returned yet. Li Shigui went out to search for them. In the night, aided by the moonlight, he saw an animal lying in the field sleeping, making snoring sounds like thunder. Li Shigui thought this animal was one of his buffaloes and scolded, ‘You darn beast! Why haven’t you come home yet?’ Saying this, he climbed onto the back of the animal, trying to grab its two horns. However, the animal had no horns, only two erect ears covered in fur. Looking closely, he found it had stripes like a yellow lynx all over its body. Only then did Li Shigui realize he was on the back of a tiger, feeling extremely frightened but unable to get down.
The tiger was in deep sleep and suddenly felt someone riding on its back, immediately waking up. It leaped up, roaring loudly while thrashing about. Li Shigui thought to himself: ‘If I get down from the tiger’s back, I won’t survive!’ So, he used all his strength, tightly grabbing onto the tiger’s two ears, even piercing the ear cartilages with his fingers, gripping tighter and refusing to let go.
The tiger, naturally fierce, leaped through mountains and rivers, getting injured all over by thorns and thistles. By the early hours of the next day, it finally succumbed to exhaustion and died. Li Shigui lay stiff on the tiger’s back, barely alive. His family found him and saved his life. His legs were mangled by the tiger’s claws, with some areas exposing bones. After over a year of treatment, he eventually recovered his health.
Translated from《執虎耳》in 《子不語》: