Censored by Confucius: Ghost Stories by Yuan Mei

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Swindled by the Earth God's Wife

At the Huju Gate area there is a famous doctor by the name of Tu Qieru who happens to be a very good friend of mine. His daughter-inlaw, Madam Wu, is the younger sister of a famous personage renowned for his filial piety and honor.

In 1776 Madam Wu dreamed she met up with a Mr. Li, a local conscript who was begging for alms. Mr. Li was carrying on his person a set of Buddhist scriptures that predicted the future, and one of the events it foretold was that the Huju Gate area would soon suffer a calamitous fire.

Mr. Li claimed to be collecting alms to finance an opera in honor of the gods in the hope of preventing this fire, but Madam Wu remained only half convinced by his story. It was true that the scriptures included detailed notes on names and places, but it still seemed rather an unlikely event.

While she was hesitating, an old woman in a yellow blouse and a crimson skirt appeared and said to her: "On the third of September a blaze will occur and your family will be the first affected. My numerical calculations suggest that you will not escape.

"What you need to do to prevent this calamity is to burn spirit money and make a few animal sacrifices. That should appease the gods and with luck will ensure no one is killed in the fire."

When Madam Wu woke from her dream she inquired about Conscript Li and discovered he had died many years before. She then asked if anyone knew of the woman with the yellow blouse, but to no avail.

She grew increasingly suspicious about the information given her in the dream, so she went to the local earth god's temple. She was both astonished and fearful to find that the idol representing the earth god's wife was identical to the woman in her dream.

When she consulted her neighbors about the coincidence, they were equally fearful and hurried off to organize an extraordinary show of

-72-

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Censored by Confucius: Ghost Stories by Yuan Mei
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