Hu Si Xianggong: A Tale of Friendship and Mysteries

Explore the intriguing story of Zhang Xuyi and his enigmatic friend Hu Si Xianggong, filled with friendship, mysteries, and a touch of the supernatural.

Zhang Xuyi, a man from Laiwu, was the younger brother of Zhang Daoyi, the education commissioner of Shanxi. He had a bold and unrestrained nature. When he heard that someone in the county had a fox living in their residence, he respectfully brought his name card and went to visit, hoping to catch a glimpse. He slipped the name card through the door crack, and after a while, the door opened by itself. The servant was greatly shocked and stepped back in fear, while Zhang Xuyi straightened his clothes and respectfully walked inside.

Inside the hall, Zhang Xuyi saw tables and couches placed there as if someone was truly present, but it was eerily quiet without a soul in sight. So, he bowed and prayed, saying, “I have come here after fasting and purifying myself. Since the immortal did not reject me at the door, why not allow me to see your esteemed presence?” Suddenly, a voice echoed in the empty room, “Thank you for your visit. You may consider it an auspicious sign that you’ve arrived. Please have a seat and let’s talk.” Two seats automatically moved to face each other.

As soon as he sat down, a beautifully carved red lacquer tray appeared, holding two teacups in front of him. They each took a cup of tea and drank it while making audible sounds, yet the person remained invisible. After tea, they continued with wine. Zhang Xuyi inquired about the other’s background, and the person said, “My surname is Hu, and I am the fourth in line, commonly known as ‘Xianggong’ (Honorable Sir), following the people’s address.” They toasted each other, engaged in conversation, and shared similar interests.

They enjoyed exquisite dishes made from turtle and deer meat, seasoned with spices and chili. It seemed like many little servants were serving wine and dishes. After wine, Zhang Xuyi felt like having tea, and as soon as the thought crossed his mind, fragrant tea appeared on the table. Whatever he wished for, it was instantly provided. Zhang Xuyi was overjoyed and only returned home after getting thoroughly drunk. Since then, Zhang Xuyi visited Hu Xianggong every three to five days, and Hu Xianggong also frequently came to Zhang’s house, following the customs of their host-guest interactions.

One day, Zhang Xuyi asked Hu Si Xianggong, “In the southern part of the city, there is a witch who claims to use a fox spirit to cure illnesses and profit from the sick. Do you happen to know about the fox in her family?” Hu Si Xianggong replied, “She is speaking falsely; in reality, there is no fox in her family.”

After a brief pause, Zhang Xuyi stood up to relieve himself and heard someone whispering, “The fox witch in the southern part of the city, I’m not sure who she is. I’d like to go and take a look with the gentleman. Please inform your master.” Zhang Xuyi knew it was the little fox speaking and agreed, saying, “Alright.” He then requested Hu Si Xianggong at the table, “I would like to take one or two of your servants with me to investigate the truth about the fox witch. Kindly give your permission.” Hu Si Xianggong initially resisted but eventually agreed after Zhang Xuyi’s repeated requests.

Soon after, as Zhang Xuyi stepped out of the door, a horse came to him automatically, as if someone were leading it. While riding on the road, the little fox talked with Zhang Xuyi and said, “In the future, sir, if you feel fine sand falling on your clothes while on the road, it means we are following you.”

While speaking, they entered the city and arrived at the witch’s house. When the witch saw Zhang Xuyi coming, she greeted him with a smile and said, “Sir, what brings you here all of a sudden?” Zhang Xuyi asked, “I heard that your fox is very efficacious. Is that true?” The witch’s expression turned serious as she replied, “Such frivolous talk should not be uttered by a nobleman! How can you call it a ‘fox’? I’m afraid my flower sister won’t be pleased to hear it!” Before she could finish her words, a brick flew through the air, hitting the witch’s arm. She staggered and almost fell. Shocked, she said to Zhang Xuyi, “Sir, how can you use a brick to strike an old woman?”

Zhang Xuyi chuckled and said, “Old lady, you must be blind! When did you see your own forehead bleeding and accuse innocent bystanders?” The witch was bewildered, not knowing where the brick had come from. In her confusion, another stone fell, hitting her and causing her to fall to the ground. Then, mud began to rain down, painting her face like a ghost’s. She could only wail and beg for mercy. Zhang Xuyi pleaded for her, and the onslaught ceased. The witch hurriedly fled into her house, locking the door and not daring to come out.

Zhang Xuyi loudly asked the witch, “Is your fox comparable to mine?” The witch could only apologize and admit her mistake. Zhang Xuyi looked up at the sky, cautioning his own fox not to harm the witch any further. Only then did the witch timidly emerge from her house. Zhang Xuyi comforted her with a smile and then left.

From then on, whenever Zhang Xuyi walked alone on the road and heard the soft sound of fine sand falling, he would call out to the fox and engage in conversation. The fox would always respond, never failing him. He no longer feared tigers, wolves, or bandits. This went on for over a year, and the friendship between Zhang Xuyi and Hu Si Xianggong deepened. Zhang Xuyi once asked Hu Si Xianggong about his age, but Hu Si Xianggong couldn’t remember and simply said, “I recall seeing Huang Chao’s rebellion as if it happened just yesterday.”

One evening, while Zhang Xuyi and Hu Si Xianggong were having a conversation, suddenly there was a loud noise from the wall. Zhang Xuyi was surprised, and Hu Si Xianggong said, “That must be my elder brother.” Zhang Xuyi suggested, “Why don’t we invite him in for a chat?” Hu Si Xianggong replied, “His spiritual attainment is shallow; catching a chicken to eat satisfies him.” Zhang Xuyi said to Hu Si Xianggong, “Our friendship is as strong as ours, but I regret that we’ve never met face to face.” Hu Si Xianggong responded, “As long as our friendship is strong, why do we need to meet in person?”

One day, Hu Si Xianggong prepared a feast for Zhang Xuyi and bid him farewell. Zhang Xuyi asked, “Where are you planning to go?” Hu Si Xianggong said, “I was born in Shaanxi, and now I’m returning home. You’ve often expressed regret about not being able to see me in person. So, allow me to introduce you to a friend you’ve known for several years. In the future, you can recognize each other.” Zhang Xuyi looked around but saw nothing. Hu Si Xianggong said, “You can open the door to the bedroom; I’ll be there.” Zhang Xuyi followed his instructions, pushed open the door, and saw a handsome young man smiling at him, dressed neatly with a pleasant appearance. In the blink of an eye, the young man disappeared.

Reluctantly, Zhang Xuyi didn’t want to part ways, but Hu Si Xianggong said, “Gatherings and partings are destined; there’s no need to carry it in your heart.” He then offered a large cup of wine and they drank until midnight before Hu Si Xianggong sent Zhang Xuyi home with a silk lantern. When Zhang Xuyi returned the next day, he found only a cold, empty room.

Later, when Mr. Zhang Daoyi took on the position of Education Commissioner in Sichuan, Zhang Xuyi remained as modest as ever. He visited his younger brother, holding hopes of receiving generous gifts. However, when he returned home after more than a month, his initial wishes had not been fulfilled. He rode on his horse, sighing and feeling disheartened, as if he were a puppet. Suddenly, a young man on a green horse appeared, following him.

Zhang Xuyi turned to look and saw the young man, well-dressed and riding a fine horse, displaying elegance and opulence. He engaged in casual conversation with him. The young man noticed Zhang Xuyi’s unhappiness and inquired about the reason. Zhang Xuyi sighed deeply and shared his disappointment with the young man. The two of them walked together for over a mile and reached a crossroads. The young man bid farewell, saying, “There’s someone up ahead who wants to give you a gift from an old friend. Please accept it with a smile.”

Zhang Xuyi was puzzled but continued on his way. After walking for another two or three miles, he encountered an old servant holding a small bamboo box, which he presented to Zhang Xuyi, saying, “A gift from Hu Si Xianggong, presented to you, sir.” Zhang Xuyi suddenly understood. He accepted the bamboo box and, upon opening it, found it filled with silver. When he looked back to thank the old servant, the servant had already disappeared.

《胡四相公》

莱芜张虚一者,学使张道一之仲兄也,性豪放自纵。闻邑中某氏宅为狐狸所居,敬怀刺往谒,冀一见之。投刺隙中,移时,扉自辟。仆者大愕,却退,张肃衣敬入。见堂中几榻宛然,而阒寂无人,遂揖而祝曰:“小生斋宿而来,仙人既不以门外见斥,何不竟赐光霁?”忽闻虚室中有人言曰:“劳君枉驾,可谓跫然足音矣。请坐赐教。”即见两座自移相向。甫坐,即有镂漆朱盘,贮双茗盏,悬目前。各取对饮,吸沥有声,而终不见其人。茶已,继之以酒。细审官阀,曰:“弟姓胡氏,于行为四,曰相公,从人所呼也。”于是酬酢议论,意气颇洽。鳖羞鹿脯,杂以芗蓼。进酒行炙者,似小辈甚夥。酒后颇思茶,意才少动,香茗已置几上。凡有所思,无不应念而至。张大悦,尽醉始归。自是三数日必一访胡,胡亦时至张家,并如主客往来礼。

一日,张问胡曰:“南城中巫媪,日托狐神,渔病家利。不知其家狐,君识之否?”胡曰:“彼妄耳,实无狐。”少间,张起溲溺,闻小语曰:“适所言南城狐巫,未知何如人。小人欲从先生往观之,烦一言请于主人。”张知为小狐,乃应曰:“诺。”即席而请于胡曰:“我欲得足下服役者一二辈,往探狐巫,敬请君命。”胡固言不必。张言之再三,乃许之。既而张出,马自至,如有控者。既骑而行,狐相语于途,谓张曰:“后先生于道途间,觉有细沙散落衣襟上,便是吾辈从也。”

语次进城,至巫家。巫见张至,笑逆曰:“贵人何忽得临?”张曰:“闻尔家狐子大灵应,果否?”巫正容曰:“若个蹀躞语,不宜贵人出得!何便言狐子?恐吾家花姊不欢!”言未已,空中发半砖来,中巫臂,踉蹡欲跌。惊谓张曰:“官人何得抛击老身也!”张笑曰:“婆子盲也!几曾见自己额颅破,冤诬袖手者?”巫错愕不知所出。正回惑间,又一石子落,中巫,颠蹶,秽泥乱堕,涂巫面如鬼,惟哀号乞命。张请恕之,乃止。巫急起奔遁房中,阖户不敢出。张呼与语曰:“尔狐如我狐否?”巫惟谢过。张仰首望空中,戒勿复伤巫,巫始惕惕而出。张笑谕之,乃还。

由是每独行于途,觉尘沙淅淅然,则呼狐语,辄应不讹。虎狼暴客,恃以无恐。如是年馀,愈与胡莫逆。尝问其甲子,殊不自记忆,但言:“见黄巢反,犹如昨日。”一夕共话,忽墙头苏然作响,其声甚厉,张异之。胡曰:“此必家兄。”张言:“何不邀来共坐?”曰:“伊道颇浅,只好攫鸡啖便了足耳。”张谓胡曰:“交情之好,如吾两人,可云无憾。终未一见颜色,殊属恨事。”胡曰:“但得交好足矣,见面何为?”一日,置酒邀张,且告别。问:“将何往?”曰:“弟陕中产,将归去矣。君每以对面不觌为恨,今请一识数岁之友,他日可相认耳。”张四顾都无所见。胡曰:“君试开寝室门,则弟在焉。”张如其言,推扉一觑,则内有美少年,相视而笑,衣裳楚楚,眉目如画,转瞬之间,不复睹矣。张反身而行,即有履声藉藉随其后,曰:“今日释君憾矣。”张依恋不忍别,胡曰:“离合自有数,何容介介。”乃以巨觥劝酒,饮至中夜,始以纱烛导张归。及明往探,则空房冷落而已。

后道一先生为西川学使,张清贫犹昔,因往视弟,愿望颇奢。月馀而归,甚违初意,咨嗟马上,嗒丧若偶。忽一少年骑青驹,蹑其后。张回顾,见裘马甚丽,意甚骚雅,遂与语间。少年察张不豫,诘之,张因欷歔而告以故,少年亦为慰藉。同行里许,至歧路中,少年乃拱手别曰:“前途有一人,寄君故人一物,乞笑纳也。”复欲询之,驰马径去。张莫解所由。又二三里许,见一苍头,持小簏子,献于马前,曰:“胡四相公敬致先生。”张豁然顿悟。受而开视,则白镪满中。及顾苍头,已不知所之矣。

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