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Scholar Dong

This account mentions a medical man employing the art of Taisu pulse reading. This was a form of fortune-telling that developed in the Song dynasty from the medical skill of pulse diagnosis.

Scholar Dong, whose taken name was Xiasi, came from the remote west of Qingzhou. In the winter months, approaching sunset, he laid out a quilt on his couch and ignited some coal. Just as he was about to set up a lantern, a friend happened to invite him to drink, so he shut the door and left.

   When he arrived at his friend’s place, a medical man was seated there, who, being skilled at Taisu pulse reading, was examining each of the guests in turn. Finally turning to the scholars Wang Jiusi and Dong, he said, “I have inspected many men and none of them had a pulse as strange as you two gentlemen have: the vein of fortune has despicable portents, the vein of longevity shows urgent signs. This is not what my humble self wished to find. However, it’s especially true for Scholar Dong.”

   In shock everyone questioned him, and he said, “This is as much as my skill can tell – I daren’t make any subjective judgments. I hope the two gentlemen will take care of themselves.” At first when the two men heard this they were extremely scared, but then they took it for standard patter and forgot about it.

   At midnight Dong returned home and found the door to his study unlocked, which was very suspicious. In his intoxicated state he recalled that when he left he was in a hurry and so must have forgotten to draw the bolt. Entering the room, there was no time to light a fire, so first he slipped his hand under the quilt to check if it was warm or not. As soon as he put his hand in, he felt the smoothness of a sleeping person. Astounded, he withdrew his hand.

   Quickly fetching a lamp, he found it was actually a beautiful girl, delicate and young, no less than an angel. He was over the moon. Feeling her lower parts for fun, he found a long bushy tail. Terrified, he was about to flee, but the girl was already awake and, stretching out her hand to hold the scholar’s arm, she asked, “Where are you going?”

   Dong was even more frightened and, trembling, implored, “Please, goddess, have pity on me!”

   The girl laughed and said, “How come you’re scared at the sight of me?”

   “I don’t fear your head,” said Dong, “I fear your tail.”

   The girl laughed again and said, “You’re mistaken. How could I have a tail?”

   Taking Dong’s hand, she forced him to feel again and her thighs were like wax, her coccyx bare and hairless. Laughing, she said, “How about that? In your drunken state, you don’t know what your blurred eyes saw, so you slandered me like that.”

   Dong was strongly attracted by her beauty and, now ever more bewitched, he blamed himself for committing an error. However, he still wondered about her reasons for coming. The girl said, “Don’t you remember a golden-haired girl who was your eastern neighbour? You can count on your fingers, it’s been ten years since I moved. At that time I was still young and you were a child too.”

   Suddenly realizing, Dong said, “You’re Ah Suo from the Zhou family?”

   “I am,” said the girl.

   “Now you say it, I seem to remember,” said Dong. “Ten years I haven’t seen you and you’ve become so slender! But why have you suddenly come here?”

   The girl said, “I was married to an idiot for four or five years. His father and mother in turn passed away, and then unfortunately I became a widow. Left all by myself, I was alone with no one to rely on. As the only person I could remember knowing from childhood was you, I came looking for you. When I arrived it was already dusk and you happened to be invited to drink, so I hid here and waited for you to return. Having waited for a long time, my feet were frozen and my flesh was trembling, so I warmed myself up in your quilt – I hope you don’t mind.”

   Delighted, Dong undressed and got in bed with her and completely satisfied his desires. After a month or so, he gradually became emaciated – when his family asked him why, he always said he didn’t know. Later his features became even more broken, so in fear he again went to have his pulse checked. The doctor said, “This is an evil pulse. The signs of death from before have come true – there’s nothing that can be done for your illness.”

   Dong broke down in tears and wouldn’t leave. The doctor had no choice but to inject his arm, cauterize his navel and send him off with some medicine. He warned him, “If you meet any temptation, firmly refuse it.”

   Dong himself knew the danger he was in. As soon as he got home, the girl sought him with a smile. Seething, he said, “Don’t pester me anymore! I’m close to death.” And he walked off, ignoring her.

   Ashamed and furious, the girl said, “You still wish to live?”

   That night Dong took the medicine and slept alone, but as soon as he closed his eyes, he dreamt he was having intercourse with the girl and when he woke it was already too late. Utterly terrified, he moved his bed to the inner quarters, where his wife lit a lamp to guard him. He had the same dream as before. When they glimpsed the girl, she was already gone.

   After several days Dong spat up a cupful of blood and died.


   Wang Jiusi was in his study when he saw a girl coming – delighting in her beauty, he took her in. Asked where she was from, she said, “I’m a neighbour of Xiasi. He’s long been friendly with me, but who would have guessed he would be fatally seduced by a fox? Their kind are demonically charming – scholars should be on their guard against them.”

   Wang admired her all the more and thereupon had her stay for their mutual pleasure. After a number of days, he became confused and emaciated. Suddenly he dreamt Wang said to him, “The one you’re friendly with is a fox. She killed me and now she wants to kill my friends. To assuage my inner fury, I’ve already accused her to the courts in Hell. On the night of the seventh, place a burning incense stick outside your room. Don’t forget!”

   He awoke in a state of wonder. He told the girl, “My illness is serious – I’m afraid I’ll soon be dead in a ditch. Someone’s urged me not to cohabit.”

   The girl said, “If you’re destined for a long life, cohabit and you’ll still live; if you’re not, don’t cohabit and you’ll still die.”

   She sat with him and made fun of him. Wang couldn’t control himself and fooled around with her again. Having done it, he regretted it, but he couldn’t resist. That evening he inserted an incense stick in the door. When the girl came, she pulled it out and threw it away. That night he again dreamt Wang came and reproached him for not heeding his warning. The following night he stealthily warned his family, who waited until he had gone to bed before secretly lighting incense. On the bed, the girl suddenly said in shock, “You’ve set up incense again?”

   Wang professed his ignorance. The girl hurriedly got up to take the incense and again she snapped it and put it out. Entering the room, she asked: “Who told you to do this?”

   Wang said: “Maybe my wife is worried about my illness and has trusted a shaman to pray for deliverance.”

   The girl paced back and forth unhappily. Wang’s family secretly spied that the incense had been put out and lit another one. Suddenly the girl sighed, “You’re blessed with good fortune. I harmed Xiasi by mistake and fled – that’s truly my fault. I’m about to face questioning with him from the judges of Hell. If you remember our friendship, don’t destroy my body.”

   She slunk under the bed, lay on the ground and died. Candlelight showed she was a fox. Still terrified she would come back to life, Wang hastily called his servants, who skinned the hide and hung it up.

   Wang’s illness worsened and he saw the fox come to say, “I was summoned by the judges. The judges declared Dong had acted out of lust and his sin deserved death; they only censured me for seducing him. If I can trace a pill of immortality, I can be brought back to life. Where’s my body?”

   He said, “My servants didn’t know and they’ve already got rid of it.”

   Pitifully, the fox lamented, “I’ve killed a lot of men – my death today is overdue; but how cruel you are!”

   In deep regret, she left. Wang almost died of his illness, but after half a year he recovered.

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