Checkpoints by Ji Yun (1724-1805), Imperial Librarian and Investigator of the Strange

In the early days of my assignment in Urumqi, one afternoon an army clerk came to me with a brush and ink, along with a pile of papers that he requested I sign. “What are these papers?” I asked. “Passports,” he replied. “You see, most of the soldiers here are from far away. So, if they die, we have to ship their bodies back home for burial and funeral rites. Living people must pass through many border checkpoints when travelling. …

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Meat Vegetables by Ji Yun (1724-1805), The Emperor’s Librarian

When I was boy, I went on a journey with our family servant Shi Xiang. While we were passing a village outside of Jing Cheng, Shi Xiang pointed at some mounds in a field to the west. “Those are graves,” he said. “Zhou graves. Long ago, one of their ancestors did a good deed that allowed their family line to persist three generations longer than it would have otherwise.” I asked Shi Xiang what kind of deed. He said that …

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Aurora by Sarax11

They were different dreams but for some reason, her distinct face and name always ended up in them. It got to the point where I would wake up frustrated and confused, trying to google her name or find out how I was connected to her. After a few months, she stopped showing up and I dismissed it. Fast forward a few years later, Halloween 2009, I’m in the car with a friend stopped at a gas station. I’m about to …

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One Day Off by Jared Swansboro

It seemed as if time had decided to move a day back, alluding to my own possible mistakes. The first birthday that I spent with my significant other, I wrote her a poem. September 26th. For three years straight, I read her that poem. She’d laugh, smile, and say how grateful she was. But this past year, that didn’t happen. I was in my dorm, waking up from a long night of essay writing, when I decided to call her …

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Snake Girl by Dao Fei, Yantai

Recently in China, a snake girl was reported in a village in the far north – about three flying or twenty driving hours from my hometown in Yantai.  It’s very cold in this part of China, a Canadian kind of cold. The snake girl who lived in the village was about thirteen years old. Before she became a snake girl, she was just this typical Chinese girl – with two ponytails in the back of her head and with skin …

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The Painted Skin by Pu Songling (1640-1715); Translated by H.A. Giles

Note by Yi Izzy Yu: Classical zhiguai included both true weird tales and strange fictions–both of which were meant to induce in the reader a sense of horror and uncanny awe. Pu Songling, the original author of this tale wrote both types of zhiguai, but he was ultimately more interested in the second kind of zhiguai—which as the following famous story shows is quite effective at stirring up some of the same feelings as its nonfiction sibling.       …

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The Ringing of the Western Beast by Ji Yun (1724-1805), The Emperor’s Librarian

About 150 years ago, in the fourteenth year of Emperor Kangxi’s reign, a Western nation gave him a mysterious creature called a “lion.” No one in his circle had ever seen such a creature before, and it immediately featured prominently in the poetry and paintings produced by members of the court. It also featured in many tall tales. For example, one story that made the rounds detailed how the lion escaped the palace one morning by snapping its chains in …

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A Shift Glitch

A long time ago I had a conversation with an old workmate who described [the following]: The detail is hazy, but he said one day he was in his house when he felt a sudden need to go outside and stand on his lawn. He claimed it was the strongest, clearest feeling ever, and on doing so he experienced a sort of “wobble”; he just said everything was screwed up for moment, and he experienced a feeling of detachment/outside-ness. When …

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Old Trees by Mei Lin, Shanghai

I don’t remember all the details, but my roommate in college, Liaoyang, who comes from the city next to mine, once told me about a strange occurrence in her high school. At this high school, because of increasing enrollment, the administration decided to build a new building in an empty part of the school grounds. There was one big problem, however. A thousand-year-old tree stood in the way. Students quickly heard about the plan for the new building and also …

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Twice Goodbye by Ji Yun, The Emperor’s Librarian (1724-1805)

Lady Zhao, the wife of my second son, Ruchuan, was a sensitive and enchanting young woman—one of those people who make you glad to be near them. My wife, Mistress Ma, continually boasted to others about Lady Zhao’s character and literary talent, as well as her needlework. She said that Lady Zhao talked with such charm that one could happily listen to her for a whole day. This was all true. We could not have hoped for a better daughter-in-law. …

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