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Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio vol. II (of

But his spirit did not forget Erh Lang


Fang-p'ing into a house, the

door of which was standing half-open. Fang-p'ing was just going in, when suddenly the devils gave him a shove from behind, and ... there he was, born again on earth as a little girl. For three days he pined and cried, without taking any food, and then he died. But his spirit did not forget Erh Lang, and set out at once in search of that God. He had not gone far when he fell in with the retinue of some high personage, and one of the attendants seized him for getting in the way, and hurried him before his master. He was taken to a chariot, where he saw a handsome young man, sitting in great state; and thinking that now was his chance, he told the young man, who he imagined to be a high mandarin, all his sad story from beginning to end. His bonds were then loosed, and he went along with the young man until they reached a place where several officials came out to receive them; and to one of these he confided Fang-p'ing, who now learnt that the young man was no other than God himself, the officials being the nine princes of heaven, and the one to whose care he was entrusted no other than Erh Lang. This last was very tall, and had a long white beard, not at all like the popular representation of a God; and when the other princes had gone, he took Fang-p'ing into a court-room, where he saw his father and their old enemy, Yang, besides all the lictors and others who had been mixed up in the case. By-and-by, some criminals were brought in in cages, and these turned out to be the Judge,
Prefect, and Magistrate. The trial was then commenced, the three wicked officers trembling and shaking in their shoes; and when he had heard the evidence, Erh Lang proceeded to pass sentence upon the prisoners, each of whom he sentenced, after enlarging upon the enormity of their several crimes, to be roasted, boiled, and otherwise put to most excruciating tortures. As for Fang-p'ing, he accorded him three extra decades of life, as a reward for his filial piety, and a copy of the sentence was put in his pocket. Father and son journeyed along together, and at length reached their home; that is to say, Fang-p'ing was the first to recover consciousness, and then bade the servants open his father's coffin, which they immediately did, and the old man at once came back to life. But when Fang-p'ing looked for his copy of the sentence, lo! it had disappeared. As for the Yang family, poverty soon overtook them, and all their lands passed into Fang-p'ing's hands; for as sure as any one else bought them, they became sterile forthwith, and would produce nothing; but Fang-p'ing and his father lived on happily, both reaching the age of ninety and odd years.[75]

FOOTNOTES:

[72] The Infernal Regions are supposed to be pretty much a counterpart of the world above, except in the matter of light.

[73] The visitor to Canton cannot fail to observe batches of prisoners with chains on them sitting in the street outside the prisons, many of them engaged in plying their particular trades.

[74] The judge in a Chinese court is necessarily very much dependent on his secretaries; and, except in special cases, he takes his cue almost entirely from them. They take theirs from whichever party to the case knows best how to "cross the palm."

[75] The whole story is of course simply a satire upon the venality and injustice of the ruling classes in China.


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