Gongsun Jiuniang: A Tale of Love and Resentment in the Afterlife

Explore the enduring tale of Gongsun Jiuniang and Laiyang Sheng, where loyalty and resentment transcend the boundaries of life and death.

In the July 1st Incident, those implicated and killed were mainly from Qixia and Laiyang counties. One day, hundreds of people were captured and all of them were killed in the Yandu field. The ground was covered in blood, and the corpses piled up like mountains. Compassionate officials above donated coffins, to the point that all the coffins in the coffin shops in Jinan city were used up. Therefore, most of the unjustly executed victims from Shandong were buried in the southern outskirts of Jinan.

In the 13th year of the Kangxi reign, a man from Laiyang came to Jinan. Because he had two or three relatives who were among the executed, he bought some paper money and performed a ritual in the wilderness to pay his respects. Afterwards, he rented a room near a temple in the lower courtyard. The next day, he went into the city for some business and hadn’t returned by nightfall. Suddenly, a young man came to his room for a visit. Seeing that the man from Laiyang was not there, he took off his hat, got on the bed, and lay down with his shoes on. The servant asked him who he was, but he closed his eyes and didn’t answer. Soon, the man from Laiyang returned, and in the dim twilight, it was hard to recognize who he was. He walked up to the bed and asked the visitor who he was. The visitor stared and said, “I’m waiting for your master.” Anxiously, he kept questioning, “Am I a robber?” The man from Laiyang smiled and said, “Your master is right here.” The young man hastily got up, put on his hat, bowed, and sat down, engaging in friendly conversation. The man from Laiyang heard the visitor’s voice and felt that he had heard it before. He called for a servant to bring a lamp, and then he recognized the visitor as Zhu Sheng, a fellow townsman who had also died in the July 7th incident. The man from Laiyang was greatly shocked and turned to run away. Zhu Sheng grabbed him and said, “We had a relationship through our writings, why don’t you show some compassion? Although I am a ghost, the memories of my friends still linger in my heart, and I cannot forget them. Today, I have come to disturb you, but I hope you won’t despise me just because I am a ghost.” The man from Laiyang sat back down and asked him why he had come. Zhu Sheng said, “Your niece lives alone without a spouse. I want to marry her. I have tried to arrange a marriage through intermediaries several times, but she always refuses, citing the lack of an elder to make the decision. So, I hope you can speak on my behalf.” Earlier, the man from Laiyang had a niece who had lost her mother at a young age and was entrusted to his care. She had returned to her own family at the age of fifteen. She was captured in Jinan, heard that her father had been killed, and was filled with fear and sorrow, ultimately passing away. The man from Laiyang said, “She has her father to decide for her. Why do you request my help?” Zhu Sheng said, “Her father’s coffin has been moved away by his nephew and is not here anymore.” The man from Laiyang asked, “Who has been taking care of my niece?” Zhu Sheng replied, “She has been living with an elderly neighbor lady.” The man from Laiyang was concerned that the living cannot act as a matchmaker for the dead. Zhu Sheng said, “If you agree, you will have to make a visit.” He got up and held the man from Laiyang’s hand. The man from Laiyang repeatedly declined and asked, “Where are we going?” Zhu Sheng said, “Just follow me.” The man from Laiyang reluctantly went along with him.

After walking about a mile to the north, there was a very large village with about a hundred or so households. When they arrived at a mansion, Zhu Sheng knocked on the door, and an elderly lady came out, opening the double doors, and asked Zhu Sheng what he wanted. Zhu Sheng said, “Please tell Miss that her uncle has come.” The old lady turned and went back inside, and after a while, she came out again to invite Laiyang Sheng into the house. She looked at Zhu Sheng and said, “The two thatched huts are too narrow. I would like to ask the gentleman to wait outside for a while.” Laiyang Sheng followed the old lady into the house, and in the half-acre overgrown courtyard, there were two small houses. His niece greeted him with tears in her eyes at the door, and Laiyang Sheng also shed tears. Inside the house, the dimly lit room, his niece, with her beautiful and graceful appearance, looked just like she did when she was alive. She gazed at Laiyang Sheng with tears in her eyes and inquired about the well-being of her aunts and uncles one by one. Laiyang Sheng said, “They are all safe and sound, but my wife has passed away.” His niece sobbed and said, “When I was a child, I was cared for by my uncle and aunt. I haven’t had a chance to repay them even a bit, but unexpectedly, I ended up buried in a ditch, which is truly regrettable. Last year, my uncle from my father’s side moved my father away and left me behind, showing no concern at all. I was left hundreds of miles away, just like a lonely swallow. Now, my uncle is not abandoning me just because I am a lost soul, and he has graciously sent money and goods to me, which I have received.” So, Laiyang Sheng conveyed Zhu Sheng’s words to his niece, who lowered her head and remained silent. The old lady said, “Before, Mr. Zhu sent Yang Granny to visit three times, and I thought this matter was promising. However, Miss was unwilling to act hastily on her own. Now, with her uncle taking charge, she can finally be satisfied.”

While they were talking, a seventeen or eighteen-year-old girl, followed by a maidservant, suddenly pushed the door open and caught sight of Laiyang Sheng. She turned to leave. His niece grabbed her clothes and said, “No need for that! This is my uncle, not a stranger.” Laiyang Sheng bowed and saluted the girl, who also showed respect in return. His niece said, “This is Jiuniang, from the Gongsun family in Qixia County. Her father was originally from a wealthy family, but now they have fallen on hard times and are not well-off. However, we have been in contact with each other morning and night.” Laiyang Sheng took a discreet glance and saw that the girl had crescent-shaped eyebrows when she smiled and blushed with a rosy hue when she was shy, truly resembling a celestial being. He remarked, “At a glance, she is a young lady from an esteemed family. How can a girl from a modest background be so elegant and beautiful?” His niece laughed and said, “She is also a scholar of poetry, and her verses are exceptionally good. I have received some of her guidance in the past.” Gongsun Jiuniang smiled slightly and said, “This little girl is speaking ill of others for no reason, making your uncle laugh.” His niece laughed again and said, “Uncle, after losing your wife, haven’t you taken a new wife yet? Would you be satisfied with such a young lady?” Gongsun Jiuniang laughed and ran out of the door, saying, “The little girl must be going crazy.” And she walked away. Although it sounded like a joke, Laiyang Sheng was indeed very fond of Gongsun Jiuniang. His niece seemed to sense something and said, “Jiuniang is unparalleled in beauty and talent. If uncle doesn’t mind that she’s a departed soul and has doubts, I will ask for her hand in marriage with her mother’s consent.” Laiyang Sheng was very happy but also worried that a living person and a ghost could not marry. His niece said, “It’s okay, she and uncle have a predestined connection from a past life.” So, Laiyang Sheng walked out of the house. His niece followed and said, “Five days from now, when the moon is bright and everything is quiet, I will send someone to fetch you.”

Laiyang Sheng walked outside and didn’t see Zhu Sheng. He looked up to the west, where a half-moon hung in the sky. In the dim moonlight, he could still recognize the old path he had walked on. There was a mansion to the south, and Zhu Sheng was sitting on the stone foundation in front of the gate. He stood up to greet Laiyang Sheng, saying, “I’ve been waiting for you for a while. Please come into my humble abode.” He then took Laiyang Sheng’s hand and led him into the mansion, expressing his sincere gratitude. He presented a golden wine cup and a hundred pieces of Jin pearls, saying, “I don’t have any other valuable items, so please accept these as an engagement gift.” After a while, he added, “We do have some local wine at home, but as it’s from the underworld, I cannot offer it to an honored guest, so there’s nothing I can do about it.” Laiyang Sheng politely declined the offer to drink and took his leave. Zhu Sheng accompanied him partway, and they bid farewell. Laiyang Sheng returned to the temple, where the monks and servants gathered around, asking many questions. Laiyang Sheng concealed the truth and said, “The talk about seeing ghosts is nonsense. I just went to a friend’s place for a drink.”“`

Five days later, Zhu Sheng indeed arrived, dressed in new shoes and waving a fan, looking very happy and cheerful. As he entered the courtyard, he bowed and paid his respects to Laiyang Sheng from a distance. After a brief pause, he smiled and said, “Your wedding has been prepared, and the joyous occasion is tonight. Now, I must trouble you to set off.” Laiyang Sheng replied, “I haven’t sent the betrothal gifts yet due to the lack of a response. How can we rush into the wedding?” Zhu Sheng said, “I’ve already sent the betrothal gifts on your behalf.” Laiyang Sheng expressed deep gratitude and went along with him. They went to Zhu Sheng’s residence, where his niece was beautifully dressed and greeted them with a smile. Laiyang Sheng asked, “When did you become a part of this family?” Zhu Sheng replied, “It’s been three days since I became a part of this family.” Laiyang Sheng then took out the Jin pearls given by Zhu Sheng, allowing his niece to buy new clothes. She hesitated several times but eventually accepted them. She informed Laiyang Sheng, “I conveyed my uncle’s intentions to Mrs. Gongsun, who is very pleased. However, she mentioned that she is in her seventies and eighties, with no other close relatives left, and she doesn’t want Jiuniang to marry far away. She hopes that you, as Jiuniang’s uncle, can come to her house as a son-in-law tonight. There are no men in her family, so you can accompany Zhu Lang (Zhu Sheng) there.” Zhu Sheng then guided Laiyang Sheng on the way.“`

As they reached the end of the village, they saw a mansion with wide-open gates and went straight into the hall. After a while, someone reported, “Madam is here.” Two maids assisted an elderly lady up the steps. Laiyang Sheng prepared to bow, but the lady said, “I am of old age and have difficulty moving; there is no need for formalities.” She instructed the maids to set up a feast and held a grand wedding banquet. Zhu Sheng called for servants and brought out dishes, placing them in front of Laiyang Sheng. He also brought out a wine pot for pouring drinks for the guest. The dishes at the banquet were no different from those on earth, but the host poured and drank his wine without urging others to drink. Shortly after, the banquet concluded, and Zhu Sheng returned home. The maids guided Laiyang Sheng into the bridal chamber, where Gongsun Jiuniang had been waiting attentively in front of the splendid candles. The two of them expressed their affection for each other, exchanged tender glances, and enjoyed intimate moments of joy and closeness.

Originally, Gongsun Jiuniang and her mother were supposed to be escorted to the capital city. However, upon reaching Jinan Prefecture, her mother died due to suffering, and Gongsun Jiuniang took her own life. Gongsun Jiuniang lay on the bed, reminiscing about the past, choked with tears and unable to sleep. She casually composed two seven-character quatrains. One of them goes like this:

In the past, the robe and skirt turned into dust,

In vain, I regret the karma of my previous life.

Ten years, the moon in the cold maple forest,

Tonight, I first encounter spring in the painted pavilion.

Another poem is:

The white poplar sways in wind and rain around the solitary grave,

Who would have thought the Yangtai would become clouds once again?

Suddenly opening the golden box to look inside,

Bloodstains still taint the old silk skirt.

As dawn approached, Gongsun Jiuniang urged Laiyang Sheng, saying, “You should leave now, so as not to disturb the servants.” From that night onwards, Laiyang Sheng would visit during the night and return in the daytime, showing deep affection and infatuation for Gongsun Jiuniang.

One evening, Laiyang Sheng asked Gongsun Jiuniang, “What is the name of this village?” Gongsun Jiuniang replied, “It’s called Laixia Village. Most of the residents here are new ghosts from Laiyang and Qixia counties, which is why it’s named like this.” Laiyang Sheng sighed repeatedly upon hearing this. Gongsun Jiuniang also spoke with sadness, “As a wandering spirit a thousand miles away from home, with no place to call our own, my son and I lead a lonely and miserable life. It’s a heartbreaking situation. I hope you can remember the bonds of marriage and help me tidy up our remains, bury them next to our ancestral grave, and provide me with a resting place for eternity. This kindness I will never forget.” Laiyang Sheng agreed to her request.

Gongsun Jiuniang added, “Living in different worlds, humans and ghosts, you shouldn’t stay here for long.” She then gave Laiyang Sheng a pair of silk socks, tears in her eyes, urging him to leave quickly. Laiyang Sheng left with a heavy heart, filled with sorrow and grief. He felt reluctant to return immediately and went to knock on Zhu Sheng’s door again. Zhu Sheng came out barefoot to greet him, and his niece woke up as well, her disheveled hair looking surprised as she came to greet him. After much contemplation, Laiyang Sheng repeated Gongsun Jiuniang’s words. His niece said, “Even if Aunt didn’t mention it, I’ve been thinking about this day and night. This place is not suitable for long-term residence, indeed not like the mortal world.” Thus, they all wept together, tears streaming down their faces. Laiyang Sheng bid farewell with tears in his eyes.

He knocked on the temple gate and returned to his room, but he couldn’t sleep and tossed and turned until morning. He wanted to find Gongsun Jiuniang’s grave but had forgotten to inquire about the tombstone or grave marker. When he tried searching again at night, he saw countless graves piled on top of each other, and he couldn’t find the path back to the village. He could only sigh deeply and return in frustration.

He opened the silk socks to take a look, but as soon as the wind blew, the socks shattered into pieces, instantly turning into ashes. So he packed his belongings and returned to Donglu.

Half a year later, Laiyang Sheng still couldn’t forget Gongsun Jiuniang. He returned to Jinan in the hope of encountering her again. When he reached the southern outskirts, it was already late in the day. He tied his horse to a tree in the courtyard and hurried towards the chaotic cemetery. There, he saw countless graves one after another, overgrown with tangled weeds. Ghostly lights flickered, and the eerie sound of foxes crying sent shivers down his spine. Laiyang Sheng, filled with fear and sorrow, quickly returned to his lodgings.

Disappointed, he wandered aimlessly before finally turning his horse’s head and heading back to Donglu. After traveling about a mile, Laiyang Sheng spotted a young woman in the distance, walking alone among the graves. Her demeanor resembled Gongsun Jiuniang. He urged his horse forward, and upon getting closer, he indeed recognized her as Gongsun Jiuniang. He dismounted and was about to speak when Gongsun Jiuniang suddenly ran away, as if they were complete strangers.

He approached Gongsun Jiuniang again, but she appeared angry and covered her face with her sleeve. He stomped his foot and called out, “Jiuniang!” However, Gongsun Jiuniang disappeared as if she had never been there.

Yi Shi Shi said: Qu Yuan, who likened himself to fragrant herbs, sank into the Miluo River, with his fervent spirit still raging within his chest. Crown Prince Shen Sheng, who sought revenge on the Dongshan Gaoluo clan, wore a golden pendant, and his tears soaked the mud and sand. Throughout history, there have been examples of loyal ministers and filial sons who were not forgiven by their rulers or fathers even in death. Could it be that Gongsun Jiuniang believed Laiyang Sheng had betrayed the solemn duty of relocating the remains, and her resentment remained unquenchable? The heart within one’s chest cannot be extracted and shown to others; Laiyang Sheng was truly wronged!

















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