Elder Brother Ding

During the Kangxi era, in the countryside near Yangzhou(揚州), there was a man named Yu Er(俞二) who made a living as a farmer. One day, Yu Er went into the city to collect the payment for the wheat he had sold. The owner of the grain store insisted on treating him to some drinks. By the time Yu Er was on his way back, it was already dark. As he reached Hongqiao(紅橋), a dozen or so small figures appeared and approached him, pulling and tugging at him.

Yu Er knew that this place was often haunted, but being bold and having consumed some alcohol, he threw punches and scattered the little ghosts. However, as soon as the ghosts dispersed, they quickly regrouped and attacked him again. This cycle repeated several times. Yu Er overheard the little ghosts saying, “This person is very fierce, we can’t handle him; we must get Elder Brother Ding to subdue him.” With that, they scattered in a hurry.

Yu Er wondered, “Who is this Elder Brother Ding? What kind of evil spirit is he?” Since he was already in this place, he had no choice but to continue forward. Just as he stepped off the bridge, he saw a ghost over ten feet tall blocking his way. In the darkness, he could barely make out the ghost’s bluish face, which looked fierce and terrifying. Yu Er thought, “I must strike first, or it will be difficult to escape later.” Without waiting for the ghost to approach, he swiftly took a bag containing two thousand wen(metal coins) from his waist and hurled it at the ghost. The tall ghost instantly collapsed with a thud, falling onto the stone steps of the bridge, making a loud noise. Yu Er rushed forward, stepping on the ghost’s body. The ghost immediately began to shrink. Yu Er grabbed the ghost and felt a substantial weight.

Holding the ghost tightly, Yu Er returned home. When he examined the ghost under the lamp, it turned out to be a large iron nail from an ancient coffin! The nail was two feet long and as thick as a thumb. Yu Er melted the nail in the fire, and to his surprise, faint blood veins oozed out. Yu Er called some friends, smiling as he said, “It seems that Elder Brother Ding’s strength is not as great as mine, Yu Er!”

Translated from《丁大哥》in 《子不語》:


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