Censored by Confucius: Ghost Stories by Yuan Mei

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

A Ghost Borrows an Official Title for a
Daughter's Marriage

In Xinjian there was a scholar by the name of Zhang Yacheng who from the time he was a child loved to make his own toys and costumes. His attic was filled with helmets, beautiful dresses, and a variety of precious bits of shiny patterned paper. He would play with his treasures by himself in the attic, and as an adult he kept his toys. But their existence remained a secret from his family.

One day he opened the door to a woman of about thirty who asked Zhang if he would make her several items of clothing and numerous pieces of jewelry. She offered to pay, so Zhang agreed. He then inquired as to her plans for the garments and jewelry.

"I'll be using these as my wedding clothes," she replied.

Zhang was sure she was pulling his leg, but he didn't think it worth persisting with the question so he let it rest.

The next day the woman returned and told him, "You have a neighbor of official rank by the name of Tang. My husband's surname is also Tang and I would like him to have the same rank as your neighbor.

"Could you write down his name and title for me? Put the surname at the top in the position of honor, if you wouldn't mind."

Zhang was sure she was joking, but it seemed a harmless enough request, so he took a piece of paper and wrote down the name and title for her.

The next evening, just after Zhang had prepared the package of clothing and jewelry, the woman arrived with cakes and money to thank him for his trouble. But the next morning, when Zhang looked more closely at the gifts, he saw that the cakes were made of mud and the cash was ghost money. It was then that he realized the woman was a ghost.

Several days later the mountains around the village were lit up with lights and filled with music. The puzzled villagers gathered outside

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