A student from Anqing by the name of Chen Shuning lived in a dormitory in Huaining. On the Double Ninth Festival, when all the locals celebrate by climbing the nearby mountain, Chen went out for a stroll on his own. His wanderings took him out the south gate of the town and past a graveyard.
He noticed a pillar of black smoke coming from somewhere in the cemetery. His curiosity aroused, he wandered in among the tombs. Suddenly he felt a chill wind blow up. With his hair standing on end from both fear and cold, he hurried on his way.
At sleep that night, back in the supposed safety of his dormitory, he dreamed he was walking in a monastery. Everything was quite clean and serene. A mural painted on the eastern wall depicted a river flanked by pines.
The poem above the painting was titled "The Peony" and the first line read: "When the east wind blows, a streak of red will appear." Alongside the poem was the signature Zhang Youhua.
Chen was pondering the meaning of such a beautiful and cryptic line when a man pushed open a nearby door and entered the dormitory room. The man, who seemed to be about forty, was short with a red nose and piercing eyes.
He then addressed young Chen, saying, I am Zhang Youhua and the poem you are reading was written by me. Do you sneer at my talent?"
Chen hastily replied, "Oh no, not at all! I would never presume to sneer."
Chen tried to explain himself but his words became thoroughly tangled.
The red-nosed man pointed straight at him and demanded: "Tell me, am I a man or a ghost?"
"I felt a chill wind when you came in, so I would say you are a ghost," Chen replied.