Zhiguai

A Student Out of Time by Su Yi

My classmate shared the following experience with me. It occurred in 2016 when we were in eighth grade, shortly before we took our senior high school entrance examinations. We had just temporarily moved to a room in another building for class because our usual eighth-grade classroom was being used as a test site. Our classrooms served multiple purposes. One of these purposes was as a study area at night. After one such night study session, just as everyone was getting …

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An Early Chinese Alien Abduction Tale

*a nonfiction account as recorded by Ji Yun (1724-1805), Imperial Librarian and Investigator of the Strange, and translated by John Yu Branscum and Yi Izzy Yu; notes on Chinese alien abduction and fairy lore are at the bottom of the piece: One day I received a letter that was written in my language but seemed to be written in a foreign one. The thoughts it expressed were odd, confused, and almost impossible to decipher. The letter’s poor quality especially surprised …

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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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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

  At T’ai-yuan there lived a man named Wang. One morning he was out walking when he met a young lady carrying a bundle and hurrying along by herself. As she moved along with some difficulty, Wang quickened his pace and caught her up, and found she was a pretty girl of about sixteen. Much smitten, he inquired whither she was going so early, and no one with her. “A traveller like you,” replied the girl, “cannot alleviate my distress …

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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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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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