Censored by Confucius: Ghost Stories by Yuan Mei

By Kam Louie; Louise Edwards et al. | Go to book overview
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Tricking the Thunder God

Zhao Licun, a demobilized soldier from Nanfeng County, once told me of a strange event that occurred during the Ming dynasty. The story had been passed down from one of his ancestors, a man of exceptional talent who lived in the village in question.

At one point, when the anarchy and chaos of the Ming had reached its peak, the village was repeatedly terrorized by bandits who would extort money from the locals during festivals and the like. It wasn't long before the villagers' suffering became intolerable, so Zhao took it upon himself to report these criminals to the law. The bandits were forthwith officially banned from entering the village and this left them without their primary source of income. Naturally, they were furious.

Because Zhao had official backing, the bandits couldn't personally take revenge on him, so they decided to invoke a higher authority. Whenever thunder clouds banked up on the horizon, the bandits would gather together with all their wives and children and pray to the thunder god for assistance, chanting: "Please strike down that evil Mr. Zhao."

Their prayers were accompanied by ritual sacrifices of pigs and the like, and were not without results.

One day, Mr. Zhao was pottering around in his garden when suddenly there was a great crashing boom. A sulfureous smell filled the garden and down from the sky came a hairy fellow with a mouth like a beak. Zhao recognized this to be the thunder god and deduced that he must have been tricked by the bandits.

He quickly threw the nearby chamber pot at the thunder god, shouting: "Thunder god! In all the fifty years I've been alive, I've never seen you dare to strike a tiger! You always pick on the humble water buffalo! What is it that makes you victimize the weak and gentle? How can you be such a bully? What's your purpose in coming here? Go on, then, you can destroy me or simply ruin me, but you know, I won't hate you, I'll just pity you!"

-13-

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