The festival of Qingming, otherwise known as Tomb-Sweeping Day, falls around April 5th each year. During this period, people return to their hometown to visit the tombs of their ancestors, sweeping them clean and making offerings to the souls of the departed.
Fang Dong, a gentleman of Chang’an, was well-known for his literary talent, but lewdly ignored good manners. Whenever he saw a girl out travelling along country lanes, he would wantonly follow her. The day before Qingming, he happened to be walking in the outskirts of the city. He saw a small carriage with vermilion curtains and an embroidered canopy. A train of black-clothed servant girls was riding slowly behind. One of the girls, on a small horse, was particularly attractive.
Edging closer for a look, he saw the canopy was wide open, and sitting inside a sixteen-year-old girl in gorgeous red clothes, the most striking beauty he’d seen in his whole life. Dazzled and distracted, he was overcome by lust. Sometimes in front and sometimes behind, he gave chase for several miles. Suddenly he heard the young lady call her servant up to the carriage, and say, “Let the curtain down for me. There’s some maniac who keeps coming and gawping at me!”
So the servant girl let down the curtain, turned to Fang in a rage and said, “This is the bride of Master Seven of Lotus City visiting her parents, not some peasant girl that scholars can freely leer at!” When she’d finished, she scooped up some wheel dust and flung it at him.
Fang couldn’t open his eyes for the dust. After he’d wiped them, he looked up, but the carriage and horses were already out of sight. Bewildered, he went back. His eyes still felt uncomfortable, so he asked a man to examine under the eyelids – in fact, there were small cataracts growing on his eyeballs. During the night the pain worsened and tears constantly streamed down. The cataracts gradually expanded and after several days were as thick as coins; the right eye began to screw up and no medicine proved effective. Depressed and in despair, he genuinely repented.
He heard that the Golden Light Sutra could dispel disaster. Getting hold of a copy, he engaged someone to teach him to recite it. At first the irritation only increased, but after a while it slowly settled down. Whenever he was free, all he would do was sit cross-legged, hold his rosary and recite. He kept this up for a year and all his carnal thoughts were purified. Suddenly he heard a small voice in his left eye like a fly, which said, “This pitch-blackness is utterly intolerable!”
A reply came from inside his right eye, “We could go for a short stroll together and get out of this stuffiness.”
Gradually he felt a wriggling in his nostrils that tickled him, and it seemed that some objects came down and out of his nose. After a long time they returned and came back up his nose and into his eye sockets. Then they said, “Quite a while we haven’t seen the pavilion – the pearl orchids will soon be all withered up!”
Fang Dong had always loved fragrant orchids and had planted many in his garden, which he himself watered frequently. Since he lost his sight, he had long neglected them. Suddenly hearing these words, he asked his wife abruptly, “Why have you let the orchids wither up and die?”
His wife challenged him how he knew that, so he told her. She hurried to check, and in fact the flowers had faded. She was amazed. Silently lying in wait in the room, she saw coming out from her husband’s nose two small men no bigger than beans, who buzzed right out of the door, getting further away until they were out of sight. Soon, arm in arm they returned, flew up to his face and plunged like winged ants into the nostrils. This went on for two or three days. Then he heard the left voice say, “The tunnel’s too roundabout – coming and going is really inconvenient. It’s not as good as opening our own doors.”
The right replied, “My wall’s so thick. It’s really not easy.”
The left said, “I’ll try and pierce mine, then we can be together.” Following that, he felt something like a scratching in his left eye socket.
After a short while, when he opened his eye, he could see the objects on the table through a slit. Overjoyed, he told his wife. She examined him, and in fact a small hole had pierced the membrane, with a black eyeball twinkling through, just like a split peppercorn. After one night, the cataract had completely disappeared. Looking carefully, they found the pupils together, but the right eye was still screwed up, so they knew the two pupils would coexist in one eye socket.
Although Fang was blind in one eye, still compared to people with two eyes, he could really see more clearly. From then on he was more self-restrained and in his hometown he was praised as being highly virtuous.
The Cryptohistorian says: In my hometown there was a scholar in the street with two friends. Ahead of them in the distance he saw a young woman out leading a donkey, and for fun he shouted, “Lo, a maiden fair!” Turning to his two pals, he said, “Chase her!” Laughing, they all galloped after her. They soon caught up with her, and it turned out to be his daughter-in-law. Ashamed and crestfallen, he went completely silent. His friends pretended not to know and rated her most indecently. Blushing, the scholar mumbled, “This is my eldest son’s wife.” The others secretly laughed at him and stopped.
Philanderers more often than not humiliate themselves, which is very funny. As for being blinded by dust in their eyes, that’s also the merciless revenge of the spirits. I don’t know what deity the Lord of Lotus City is, but he’s hardly a living Buddha, is he? However, seeing as the little men opened their door, though the spirit was cruel, still he was good enough to let the man turn over a new leaf!