One autumn a scholar by the name of Li Haizhong made his way to the capital to sit the national examinations. Upon reaching Suzhou, he hired a boat to travel up the River Huai.
As he was standing at the stern, a man on the bank waved to him and asked if he could hitch a ride. Recognizing the man to be an old neighbor, a Mr. Wang, Li didn't see any reason to refuse, so he invited him on board.
That evening as they were moored along the riverbank Wang asked Li with a little laugh, "Are you a courageous sort of person?"
Scholar Li was a bit surprised by this question, but he calmly replied, "Yes, I consider myself a man of courage."
Wang then explained, "I was a little worried you might be fainthearted, and I wanted to reassure myself that this wasn't the case before I told you that I am a ghost and not a man.
"Since you are a brave sort, it's all right to tell you. We haven't seen each other for six years or so, you'll recall.
"Last year a famine swept our region and I resorted to robbing graves to survive. I was apprehended by the police, tried in court, and sentenced to immediate execution. Even though I am now a ghost I'm still living a life of hunger, so I have decided to go to the capital to reclaim a debt. Luckily I ran into you. Would you help me get there?"
"Who's in debt to you?" Li asked.
"An official at the Board of Punishment by the name of Wang," came the reply. "When he was processing my execution documents I gave him five hundred pieces of gold in the hope that he could reduce my sentence. How was I to know that he would just pocket the money and leave me to die? I've decided to get my revenge by haunting him."
Li was shocked at this revelation because the official in question was a relative of his, and so he said, "You committed a crime that is