Censored by Confucius: Ghost Stories by Yuan Mei

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

The Lady Ghost of the Western Garden

A man by the name of Zhou who hailed from Hangzhou went traveling with his friend, a Mr. Chen. During their journey they stopped at the Han River and stayed with a local gentry family.

Although it was nearly autumn, the summer heat lingered, making the rooms they were given feel rather stuffy and cramped. There were, however, several tidy little houses in the western garden of the residence. These faced the hills and a lake and generally looked a lot cooler and quieter than their present rooms. So the two men moved their beds into one of the little houses and slept very well indeed.

One evening they decided to take a walk in the cool of the evening to admire the moon, and it was about the second watch by the time they returned. Before they had completed their preparations for sleep they heard footsteps in the courtyard and then the sound of someone slowly reciting a poem: "The spring flowers have gone, and the autumn moon is here. Glancing round I see distant Mount Wu, and the hair on my temple continues to gray."

At first they thought it might be their host taking a walk. But the voice was not at all like his and so they quickly put on their clothes and peered out into the moonlight. There before them was a beautiful woman, leaning gracefully against the fence. The two men whispered their surprise, for neither had heard mention of such a woman in the household. She wore clothes that were clearly not the contemporary fashion, so they deduced that she was either a ghost or a spirit.

Chen, a youthful sort who was easily aroused, said carelessly, "She's so incredibly beautiful I really couldn't care if she's a ghost or a demon!" He then called out, "Look here, my beauty! Come in and chat with us for a while!"

From outside the courtyard came the reply, "Why should I come in? Why don't you come out?"

Chen grabbed Zhou by the arm and rushed outside. Strangely

-24-

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