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Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio vol. II (of

Hsing went home dreadfully mortified


style="text-align: justify;"> LXXV.

THE THREE STATES OF EXISTENCE.

A certain man of the province of Hunan could recall what had happened to him in three previous lives. In the first, he was a magistrate; and, on one occasion, when he had been nominated Assistant-Examiner,[70] a candidate, named Hsing, was unsuccessful. Hsing went home dreadfully mortified, and soon after died; but his spirit appeared before the King of Purgatory, and read aloud the rejected essay, whereupon thousands of other shades, all of whom had suffered in a similar way, thronged around, and unanimously elected Hsing as their chief. The Examiner was immediately summoned to take his trial, and when he arrived the King asked him, saying, "As you are appointed to examine the various essays, how is it that you throw out the able and admit the worthless?" "Sire," replied he, "the ultimate decision rests with the Grand Examiner; I only pass them on to him." The King then issued a warrant for the apprehension of the Grand Examiner, and, as soon as he appeared, he was told what had just now been said against him; to which he answered, "I am only able to make a general estimate of the merits of the candidates. Valuable essays may be kept back from me by my Associate-Examiners, in which case I am powerless."[71] But the King cried out, "It's all very well for you two thus to throw the blame on each other; you are both guilty, and both of you must

be bambooed according to law." This sentence was about to be carried into effect, when Hsing, who was not at all satisfied with its lack of severity, set up such a fearful screeching and howling, in which he was well supported by all the other hundreds and thousands of shades, that the King stopped short, and inquired what was the matter. Thereupon Hsing informed His Majesty that the sentence was too light, and that the Examiners should both have their eyes gouged out, so as not to be able to read essays any more. The King would not consent to this, explaining to the noisy rabble that the Examiners did not purposely reject good essays, but only because they themselves were naturally wanting in capacity. The shades then begged that, at any rate, their hearts might be cut out, and to this the King was obliged to yield; so the Examiners were seized by the attendants, their garments stripped off, and their bodies ripped open with sharp knives. The blood poured out on the ground, and the victims screamed with pain; at which all the shades rejoiced exceedingly, and said, "Here we have been pent up, with no one to redress our wrongs; but now Mr. Hsing has come, our injuries are washed away." They then dispersed with great noise and hubbub. As for our Associate-Examiner, after his heart had been cut out, he came to life again as the son of a poor man in Shensi; and when he was twenty years old he fell into the hands of the rebels, who were at that time giving great trouble to the country. By-and-by, a certain official was sent at the head of some soldiers to put down the insurrection, and he succeeded in capturing a large number of the rebels, among whom was our hero. The latter reflected that he himself was no rebel, and he was hoping that he would be able to obtain his release in consequence, when he noticed that the officer in charge was also a man of his own age, and, on looking more closely, he saw that it was his old enemy, Hsing. "Alas!" cried he, "such is destiny;" and so indeed it turned out, for all the other prisoners were forthwith released, and he alone was beheaded. Once more his spirit stood before the King of Purgatory, this time with an accusation against Hsing. The King, however, would not summon Hsing at once, but said he should be allowed to complete his term of official life on earth; and it


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