Censored by Confucius: Ghost Stories by Yuan Mei

By Kam Louie; Louise Edwards et al. | Go to book overview

Ghosts Have Only Three Tricks

Mr. Cai Wei was often heard to say, "Ghosts have three tricks. Initially they will attempt to enchant. Failing that, they will venture to block, and finally they will resort to terrorizing."

When asked to expound upon his theory he would reply, "I have a cousin by the name of who is a scholarship student at Songjiang. He has a very open and direct personality, and indeed his self-styled nickname is Mr. Direct.

"One evening he passed through a village west of Lake Liu. Dusk had just fallen when he saw a woman, her face powdered and rouged, hurrying along with a rope in her hands. When she saw Lü, she tried to avoid him by hastening to the shelter of a large tree. In doing so she dropped her rope. picked it up. It proved to be a straw rope exuding the sweet, sickly smell of blood. He quickly concluded that the woman was a ghost and had died from hanging. He hid the rope under his clothing and walked on ahead.

"The woman came out from behind the tree and tried to block Lü's path. When he walked to the left she would move to the left; when he walked to the right she would move to the right. recognized this ploy as 'playing the ghostly wall.' So, he rushed directly towards her. The ghost was caught unawares, but then with one long shrill cry she transformed herself into a blood-soaked figure covered by long hair. She poked out her tongue and skipped towards Lü.

"Lü said, 'At first you tried to enchant me with your rouge and powder. Then you ventured to block my path. Now you have adopted this gruesome form in an attempt to scare me. Your three tricks are used up, and I am still not scared. I know you have no other ploys. Didn't you realize that my name was Mr. Direct?'

"The ghost then resumed her original form and knelt on the ground before Lü, confessing, 'I am a city woman by the name of Shi. In a fit of anger after an argument with my husband I hanged myself. I have

-18-

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