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Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio vol. II (of

But men called her Mother Meng


who on the 17th of the 4th moon swear to carry out the precepts of the _Divine Panorama_, and frequently make these words the subject of your conversation, may in the life to come be born again amongst men and escape official punishments, fire, flood, and all accidents to the body.

The place where the Wheel of Fate goes round is many leagues in extent, enclosed on all sides by an iron palisade. Within are eighty-one subdivisions, each of which has its proper officers and magisterial appointments. Beyond the palisade there is a labyrinth of 108,000 paths leading by direct and circuitous routes back to earth. Inside it is as dark as pitch, and through it pass the spirits of priest and layman alike. But to one who looks from the outside everything is seen as clear as crystal, and the attendants who guard the place all have the faces and features they had at their birth. These attendants are chosen from virtuous people who in life were noted for filial piety, friendship, or respect for life, and are sent here to look after the working of the Wheel and such duties. If for a space of five years they make no mistakes they are promoted to a higher office; but if found to be lazy or careless they are reported to the Throne for punishment.

Those who in life have been unfilial or have destroyed much life, when they have been tortured in the various Courts are brought here and beaten to death with peach twigs. They then

become _chien_, and with changed heads and altered faces are turned out into the labyrinth to proceed by the path which ends in the brute creation.

Birds, beasts, fishes and insects, may after many myriads of _kalpas_ again resume their original shapes; and if there are any that during three existences do not destroy life, they may be born amongst human beings as a reward, a record being made and their names forwarded to the First Court for approval. But all shades of men and women must proceed to the Terrace of Oblivion.

Mother Meng was born in the Earlier Han Dynasty. In her childhood she studied books of the Confucian school; when she grew up she chanted the liturgies of Buddha. Of the past and the future she had no care, but occupied herself in exhorting mankind to desist from taking life and become vegetarians. At eighty-one years of age her hair was white and her complexion like a child's. She lived and died a virgin, calling herself simply Meng; but men called her Mother Meng. She retired to the hills and lived as a _religieuse_ until the Later Han. Then, because certain evil-doers, relying on their knowledge of the past, used to beguile women by pretending to have been their husbands in a former life, God commissioned Mother Meng to build the Terrace of Oblivion, and appointed her as guardian, with devils to wait upon her and execute her commands. It was arranged that all shades who had been sentenced in the Ten Courts to return in various conditions to earth should first be dosed by her with a decoction of herbs, sweet, bitter, acrid, sour or salt. Thus they forgot everything that has previously happened to them, and carry away with them to earth some slight weaknesses such as the mouth watering at the thought (of something nice), laughter inducing perspiration, fear inducing tears, anger inducing sobs, or spitting from nervousness. Good spirits who go back into the world will have their senses of sight, hearing, smell, and taste very much increased in power, and their physical strength and constitution generally will be much bettered. But evil spirits will experience the exact contrary of this, as a reward for previous sins and as a warning to others to pray and repent.

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