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Old Man Zhu

In Zhu Village of Jiyang there was an old man named Zhu, who died of illness in his fifties. His family entered his rooms to arrange the mourning garments and suddenly heard the old man yelling desperately. All of them rushed to the funeral hall to find that he had come back to life. They all expressed their delight, but the old man merely told his wife, “I’d already gone, with no intention of coming back, but on the way I kept thinking about you, this old bag of bones, left behind in the hands of our children, relying on them all the time and with nothing more to live for. You’d be better off going with me. So I came back home to let us leave together.”

   Everyone took these words for the ravings of a recently revived man and didn’t set any store by them at all, but then the old man repeated them. His wife said, “Well, that would be really lovely, but you’ve only just come to life – how could we die just like that?”

   “That’s no problem,” said the old man, with a wave. “The routine family matters you can swiftly deal with.”

   The wife smiled but didn’t leave. Again the old man urged her on, so she went out of the door, waited for a few moments and went back in, pretending all had been properly arranged. The old man told her to quickly make herself up. When she didn’t go, he pressed her impatiently. She couldn’t bear to go against his wishes, so soon she appeared in skirt and make up. The daughters-in-law all laughed up their sleeves.

   The old man shifted his head on the pillow and patted the bed to tell his wife to lie down. The wife said, “Our sons and daughters are all here. What sort of spectacle would it make, the pair of us lying stiff?”

   Pounding the bed, the old man said, “What’s so funny about dying side by side!”

   Seeing he was losing his temper, the sons and daughters together urged their mother to go along with what he said. The wife did as she was told and lay down stiff beside him on the pillow. Again all the family laughed at them.

   After a short time, the woman’s smiling face suddenly became serious, then slowly both eyes closed completely, and there was a long silence, just as if she was sleeping. When everyone took a close look, they found her skin already cold and no breath from her nostrils. They checked the old man and he was the same. All were shocked and distressed.

   In the twenty-first year of Kangxi, the old man’s sister-in-law was serving in the home of Magistrate Bi and related this in great detail.


The Cryptohistorian says: Had the old man always been so eccentric? Freely coming and going on the pathless road to the underworld – that’s odd! And when the grey-haired gentleman wanted to go and called his wife to go with him, she obeyed him so calmly! When a man is at the point of death, the one he can least bear to part with is none other than his dear bed-fellow. If this method were spread widely, there’d be no need to worry about making provision for one’s widow.

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