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Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio vol. II (of

If he was pu liang not virtuous

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


A man named Sun Pi-chen was crossing the river[159] when a great thunder-squall broke upon the vessel and caused her to toss about fearfully, to the great terror of all the passengers. Just then, an angel in golden armour appeared standing upon the clouds above them, holding in his hand a scroll inscribed with certain characters, also written in gold, which the people on the vessel easily made out to be three in number, namely _Sun Pi-chen_. So, turning at once to their fellow-traveller, they said to him, "You have evidently incurred the displeasure of Heaven; get into a boat by yourself, and do not involve us in your punishment." And without giving him time to reply whether he would do so or not, they hurried him over the side into a small boat and set him adrift; but when Sun Pi-chen looked back, lo! the vessel itself had capsized.[160]


[159] The Yang-tsze: sometimes spoken of as the Long River.

[160] The full point of this story can hardly be conveyed in translation. The man's surname was Sun, and his praenomen, Pi-chen, (which in Chinese _follows_ the nomen) might be rendered "Must-be-saved." However, there is another word meaning "struck," precisely similar in sound and tone, though written differently, to the above _chen_; and, as far

as the ear alone is concerned, our hero's name might have been either _Sun Must-be-saved_ or _Sun Must-be-struck_. That the merchants mistook the character _chen_, "saved," for _chen_, "struck," is evident from the catastrophe which overtook their vessel, while Mr. Sun's little boat rode safely through the storm.



A certain trader who was travelling in the province of Chih-li, being overtaken by a storm of rain and hail, took shelter among some standing crops by the way-side. There he heard a voice from heaven, saying, "These are Chang Pu-liang's fields; do not injure his crops." The trader began to wonder who this Chang Pu-liang could be, and how, if he was _pu liang_ (not virtuous), he came to be under divine protection; so when the storm was over and he had reached the neighbouring village, he made enquiries on the subject, and told the people there what he had heard. The villagers then informed him that Chang Pu-liang was a very wealthy farmer, who was accustomed every spring to make loans of grain to the poor of the district, and who was not too particular about getting back the exact amount he had lent,--taking, in fact, whatever they brought him without discussion; hence the sobriquet of _pu liang_ "no measure" (_i.e._, the man who doesn't measure the repayments of his loans).[161] After that, they all proceeded in a body to the fields, where it was discovered that vast damage had been done to the crops generally, with the exception of Chang Pu-liang's, which had escaped uninjured.


[161] Here again we have a play upon words similar to that in the last story.



Formerly, when the Dutch[162] were permitted to trade with China, the officer in command of the coast defences would not allow them, on account of their great numbers, to come ashore. The Dutch begged very hard for the grant of a piece of land such as a carpet would cover; and the officer above-mentioned, thinking that this could not be very large, acceded to their request. A carpet was accordingly laid down, big enough for about two people to stand on; but by dint of stretching, it was soon enough for four or five; and so they went on, stretching and stretching, until at last it covered about an acre, and by-and-by, with the help of their knives, they had filched a piece of ground several miles in extent.[163]

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