Censored by Confucius: Ghost Stories by Yuan Mei

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

In May of 1760, during the reign of the Qianlong emperor, the head prefect of Feng County, Lu Shichang, set about revising the local gazetteer. He hired a scholar from Suzhou by the name of Wu as the project's chief scribe.

It was customary with these sorts of projects that all involved would live at the work site. So Wu left home to take up residence and employment in Feng County.

One morning, before work had begun for the day, Wu bowed deeply to his colleagues and said, "I will die soon and I am afraid that all the work I have started will be left to you."

His colleagues were puzzled at this strange declaration and asked how on earth he knew he was about to die.

He told them rather sadly, "On my way here I passed through Pei County, where I was approached by a woman who asked if she could share my carriage. I told her I was not in a position to invite her in because my carriage was already rather cramped.

"I continued on my way, and to my great surprise, each time I looked back at the road we had just traveled, this same woman was running along behind. She followed the carriage for more than twenty miles. When I asked the driver what he thought of this strange woman he didn't know which woman I meant. Then I knew she was a ghost.

"That night we stopped at an inn, and just as I was dozing off, the same woman appeared out of nowhere and sat on my bed.

"She said, 'Why don't we get married? We're both twenty-nine years old so it would be a perfect match.'

"I was absolutely stupefied by her presence as well as her suggestion, but all I could do was throw a pillow at her. She vanished in a flash, and although I saw nothing of her for the rest of the night, a voice demanding marriage whispered ceaselessly in my ear. She never used my name. Instead she called me by the name of a famous calligrapher.

-66-

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