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Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio vol. II (of

These belong specially to Taoism



Mr. Wu, Sub-prefect of Chi-nan, was an upright man, and would have no share in the bribery and corruption which was extensively carried on, and at which the higher authorities connived, and in the proceeds of which they actually shared. The Prefect tried to bully him into adopting a similar plan, and went so far as to abuse him in violent language; upon which Mr. Wu fired up and exclaimed, "Though I am but a subordinate official, you should impeach me for anything you have against me in the regular way; you have not the right to abuse me thus. Die I may, but I will never consent to degrade my office and turn aside the course of justice for the sake of filthy lucre." At this outbreak the Prefect changed his tone, and tried to soothe him.... [How dare people accuse the age of being corrupt, when it is themselves who will not walk in the straight path.] One day after this a certain fox-medium[339] came to the Prefect's yamen just as a feast was in full swing, and was thus addressed by a guest:--"You who pretend to know everything, say how many officials there are in this Prefecture." "_One_," replied the medium; at which the company laughed heartily, until the medium continued, "There are really seventy-two holders of office, but Mr. Sub-prefect Wu is the only one who can justly be called an official."


[339] Certain classes of soothsayers are believed

by the Chinese to be possessed by foxes, which animals have the power of looking into the future, &c., &c.


Visitors to Chinese temples of the Taoist persuasion usually make at once for what is popularly known amongst foreigners as the "Chamber of Horrors." These belong specially to Taoism, or the ethics of Right in the abstract, as opposed to abstract Wrong, and are not found in temples consecrated to the religion of Buddha. Modern Taoism, however, once a purely metaphysical system, is now so leavened with the superstitions of Buddhism, and has borrowed so much material from its younger rival, that an ordinary Chinaman can hardly tell one from the other, and generally regards them as to all intents and purposes the same. These rightly-named Chambers of Horrors--for Madame Tussaud has nothing more ghastly to show in the whole of her wonderful collection--represent the Ten Courts of Purgatory, through some or all of which erring souls must pass before they are suffered to be born again into the world under another form, or transferred to the eternal bliss reserved for the righteous alone. As a description of these Ten Courts may not be uninteresting to some of my readers, and as the subject has a direct bearing upon many of the stories in the previous collection, I hereto append my translation of a well-known Taoist work[340] which is circulated gratuitously all over the Chinese Empire by people who are anxious to lay up a store of good works against the day of reckoning to come. Those who are acquainted with Dante's _Divine Comedy_ will recollect that the poet's idea of a Christian Purgatory was a series of nine lessening circles arranged one above the other, so as to form a cone. The Taoist believes that his Purgatory consists of Ten Courts of Justice situated in different positions at the bottom of a great ocean which lies down in the depths of the earth. These are sub-divided into special wards, different forms of torture being inflicted in each. A perusal of this work will shew what punishments the wicked Chinaman has to expect in the unseen world, and by what means he may hope to obtain a partial or complete remission of his sins.

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