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Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio vol. II (of

256 He did the same with another uncle


[250]

On this day, annually dedicated to kite-flying, picnics, and good cheer, everybody tries to get up to as great an elevation as possible, in the hope, as some say, of thereby prolonging life. It was this day--4th October, 1878--which was fixed for the total extermination of foreigners in Foochow.

[251] See No. XXVI., note 180.

[252] One of the _pretas_, or the fourth of the six paths (gati) of existence; the other five being (1) angels, (2) men, (3) demons, (5) brute beasts, and (6) sinners in hell. The term is often used colloquially for a self-invited guest.

[253] An imaginary building in the Infernal Regions.

[254] Mencius reckoned "to play _wei-ch'i_ for money" among the five unfilial acts.

CXXXII.

THE FORTUNE-HUNTER PUNISHED.

A certain man's uncle had no children, and the nephew, with an eye to his uncle's property, volunteered to become his adopted son.[255] When the uncle died all the property passed accordingly to his nephew, who thereupon broke faith as to his part of the contract.[256] He did the same with another uncle, and thus united three properties in his own person, whereby he became the richest man of the neighbourhood. Suddenly he fell ill, and seemed to go out of his mind; for he cried

out, "So you wish to live in wealth, do you?" and immediately seizing a sharp knife, he began hacking away at his own body until he had strewed the floor with pieces of flesh. He then exclaimed, "You cut off other people's posterity and expect to have posterity yourself, do you?" and forthwith he ripped himself open and died. Shortly afterwards his son, too, died, and the property fell into the hands of strangers. Is not this a retribution to be dreaded?

FOOTNOTES:

[255] See No. LV., note 310; and No. XCIV., note 137.

[256] That is, in carrying out the obligations he had entered into, such as conducting the ceremonies of ancestral worship, repairing the family tombs, &c.

CXXXIII.

LIFE PROLONGED.

A certain cloth merchant of Ch'ang-ch'ing was stopping at T'ai-ngan, when he heard of a magician who was said to be very skilled in casting nativities. So he went off at once to consult him; but the magician would not undertake the task, saying, "Your destiny is bad: you had better hurry home." At this the merchant was dreadfully frightened, and, packing up his wares, set off towards Ch'ang-ch'ing. On the way he fell in with a man in short clothes,[257] like a constable; and the two soon struck up a friendly intimacy, taking their meals together. By-and-by the merchant asked the stranger what his business was; and the latter told him he was going to Ch'ang-ch'ing to serve summonses, producing at the same time a


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