In 1646, Xie Qian, a native of Gaoyuan, led a peasant uprising. In June 1647, his force overran Zichuan and set up its base there. The next month, government troops sent to Shandong defeated the uprising. On taking the city, the Qing troops massacred countless people.
During the Xie Qian rebellion, officials’ mansions all became bandits’ lairs. A particularly large number of thieves gathered in the residence of Minister of Education, Wang Qixiang. When the city fell and the troops entered, mopping up the bands of rebels, corpses littered the stairways and blood flowed through the doorways.
His lordship came to the city, had the corpses removed, the blood washed away, and moved in. Often in broad daylight ghosts would be seen. By night there were will-o’-the-wisps under the beds and ghosts crying in the corners.
One day, a scholar Wang Haodi lodged at his lordship’s home. At the foot of the bed he heard a small voice continually crying out, “Haodi! Haodi!” The voice gradually got louder, saying, “I died a cruel death!” Weeping followed, coming from every part of the hall.
His lordship heard and came in, holding a sword. In a loud voice, he said, “Don’t you know I’m Minister of Education Wang?”
All they could hear were hundreds of voices tittering, laughing through the nose. So his lordship set up ceremonial altars and asked Buddhist monks and Taoists to redeem their lost souls. That night he scattered rice for the ghosts and will-o’-the-wisps appeared everywhere, twinkling away.
Prior to this, a gatekeeper named Wang had been critically ill and had lapsed into a coma for several days. That night, he suddenly stretched and came round. His wife brought in some food. Wang said, “I don’t know why but just now the master handed out rice in the hall and I followed the crowd to eat. As soon as it was finished I came back, so I’m not hungry.”
From then on the ghosts and apparitions stopped. Aren't gongs and cymbals, bells and drums, food offerings and recitations indeed effective?
The Cryptohistorian says: Only virtue can subdue evil spirits. At the time the city fell, Lord Wang really wielded great power and influence and all those who heard his voice would tremble. But the ghosts still derided him. Do you suppose the ghosts could foresee he wouldn’t come to a good end? I’d like to universally inform all the high and mighty: just as wearing a human face can’t frighten ghosts, so I hope they won’t put on ghost faces to frighten the people!