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The Sea Lord

The title of this account in Chinese is 'Hai Gongzi'. 'Gongzi' refers to a young aristocrat, while 'Hai' is a family name and also means sea, so this could be translated as either Lord Hai or Sea Lord.

The Isle of Ancient Remains in the East Sea has flowers of many colours that are winter hardy and bloom in all seasons. However, the island has never been inhabited and people rarely travel there.

   Scholar Zhang of Dengzhou was inquisitive and loved taking hunting trips. Hearing of the island’s beautiful scenery, he prepared food and drink and rowed himself there in a skiff. When he reached it, the flowers were in full bloom and their scent could be smelt a mile away. There were trees with trunks as big as ten arm spans around. Lingering here and there, all his wishes were satisfied.

   Opening a flask of wine to drink by himself, he regretted having no travel companion. Suddenly a lady appeared among the flowers, in a red dress and with dazzling eyes, an absolutely unrivalled beauty. Seeing Zhang, she said with a laugh, “I thought my interest was out of the ordinary. I didn’t imagine there would be another here before me of the same bent.”

   Shocked, Zhang asked, “Who are you?”

   She said, “I’m a Jiaozhou courtesan. I happened to follow the Sea Lord here. He’s flying around in search of scenery, but because I find walking far hard, I just stayed here.”

   As he had just been feeling lonely, Zhang was overjoyed to find a beautiful lady and invited her to sit down and drink together. Her speech was gentle and elegant, stirring to a man’s senses. Zhang felt an ardent interest in her. Fearing the Sea Lord would come before he could fully enjoy himself, Zhang pulled her close to have his way with her. She gladly complied. They were still in flagrante when they suddenly heard the whistling of the wind and the sound of the undergrowth being flattened. The girl hurriedly pushed Zhang off, saying, “The Sea Lord’s coming.”

   As Zhang tied his robe and looked round in shock, the girl was already lost and gone. He turned back to see a great serpent emerge from among a grove of trees, as thick as a barrel. Terrified, Zhang hid himself behind a big tree and hoped the serpent wouldn’t spot him, but the snake came up close and wound its body around both man and tree, ensnaring them in several coils. With both arms bound tight to his waist, Zhang couldn’t bend them at all. The snake raised its head and jabbed at Zhang’s nose with its tongue. Blood poured down from his nose to the ground, where it formed a pool, which the serpent bowed down to drink.

   Zhang considered his death certain, but suddenly remembered the bag he was wearing at his waist had foxbane poison in it, so, using two fingers to pull it out, he tore off the wrapping and heaped it in his palm; then he bent his neck to overlook his palm and let the blood drip onto the poison, which instantly filled his hand. The snake as planned began to drink from his palm. Before it had finished drinking, it abruptly stretched its body and shook its tail with a sound like thunder. It struck a tree, which collapsed in half, and then the snake lay like a roof beam on the ground and died.

   Zhang was also too dizzy to stand, but after a while he revived. Carrying the snake with him, he returned home. He was seriously ill for more than a month. It’s suspected the girl was also a snake demon.

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