The Horizontal Inscribed Board Yaoguai

In Hangzhou, there was a scholar named Sun who, on a summer night, was reading in his study. He felt something crawling on his forehead and, upon brushing it with his hand, saw countless strands of white beard hanging down from the plaque on the ceiling. On the plaque was a large face, about the size of a seven-stone jar, with eyebrows and eyes like an ordinary person, smiling and looking down. Sun, being a brave man, tried to touch the white beard, but as he touched and pulled, it shrank until only a large face remained on the plaque. When he climbed on a stool to get a closer look, he saw nothing there.

He continued reading, but the white beard hung down again like before. After several nights, the large face descended and stopped on the table, using its long beard to cover Sun’s eyes, preventing him from reading. Sun threw his inkstone at the face, making a sound like knocking on a wooden fish, and the face immediately disappeared.

A few nights later, as Sun was about to sleep, the large face appeared again, this time beside his pillow, using its beard to scratch his body. Unable to sleep, Sun grabbed his pillow and threw it at the face. The face rolled on the ground, making a “swooshing” sound, and then ascended to the horizontal inscribed board and disappeared. The family was furious, quickly threw the board into the fire, and the strange creature vanished. Sun later succeeded in the imperial examination.

Translated from《匾怪》in 《子不語》:

杭州孫秀才,夏夜讀書齋中,覺頂額間蠕蠕有物。拂之,見白鬚萬莖出屋梁匾上,有人面大如七石缸,眉目宛然,視下而笑。秀才素有膽,以手捋其鬚,隨捋隨縮,但存大面端居匾上。秀才加杌于几視之,了無一物。復就讀書,鬚又拖下如初。如是數夕,大面忽下几案間,布長鬚遮秀才眼,書不可讀。擊以硯,響若木魚,去。又數夕,秀才方寢,大面來枕旁,以鬚搔其體。秀才不能睡,持枕擲之。大面繞地滾,鬚颯颯有聲,復上匾而沒。合家大怒,急為去匾,投之火,怪遂絕,秀才亦登第。

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