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Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio vol. II (of

They bring themselves once more to the same horrid plight


The Terrace is situated in front of the Ten Courts, outside the six bridges. It is square, measuring ten (Chinese) feet every way, and surrounded by 108 small rooms. To the east there is a raised path, one foot four inches in breadth, and in the rooms above-mentioned are prepared cups of forgetfulness ready for the arrival of the shades. Whether they swallow much or little it matters not; but sometimes there are perverse devils who altogether refuse to drink. Then beneath their feet sharp blades start up, and a copper tube is forced down their throats, by which means they are compelled to swallow some. When they have drunk, they are raised by the attendants and escorted back by the same path. They are next pushed on to the Bitter Bamboo floating bridge, with torrents of rushing red water on either side. Half way across they perceive written in large characters on a red cliff on the opposite side the following lines:--

"To be a man is easy, but to act up to one's responsibilities as such is hard. Yet to be a man once again is harder still.

For those who would be born again in some happy state there is no great difficulty; It is only necessary to keep mouth and heart in harmony."

When the shades have read these words they try to jump on shore, but are beaten back into the water by two huge devils. One has on a black official hat and embroidered clothes; in his hand he holds a paper pencil, and over his shoulder he carries a sharp sword. Instruments of torture hang at his waist, fiercely he glares out of his large round eyes and laughs a horrid laugh. His name is _Short Life_. The other has a dirty face smeared with blood; he has on a white coat, an abacus in his hand and a rice sack over his shoulder. Round his neck hangs a string of paper money; his brow contracts hideously, and he utters long sighs. His name is _They have their reward_, and his duty is to push the shades into the red water. The wicked and foolish rejoice at the prospect of being born once more as human beings; but the better shades weep and mourn that in life they did not lay up a store of virtuous acts, and thus pass away from the state of mortals for ever.[403] Yet they all rush on to birth like an infatuated or drunken crowd; and again, in their early childhood, hanker after the forbidden flavours.[404] Then, regardless of consequences, they begin to destroy life, and thus forfeit all claims to the mercy and compassion of God. They take no thought as to the end that must overtake them; and finally, they bring themselves once more to the same horrid plight.

FOOTNOTES:

[340] The _Yue Li_ or _Divine Panorama_.

[341] The Divine Ruler, immediately below God himself.

[342] See No. XXVI., note 182.

[343] See _Author's Own Record_ (in _Introduction_), note 28.


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