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Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio vol. II (of

When the lictors had returned his soul to its tenement


[182] The spiritual lictors who are supposed to arrest the souls of dying persons, are also believed to be armed with warrants signed and sealed in due form as in the world above.

[183] Literally, the "nine dark places," which will remind readers of Dante of the nine "bolgie" of the _Inferno_.

[184] This is a cliff over which sinners are hurled, to alight upon the upright points of knives below. The branches of the Sword Tree are sharp blades which cut and hack all who pass within reach.

[185] A crime by no means unknown to the clergy of China.

[186] That is, when the lictors had returned his soul to its tenement.

[187] See No. VI., note 52.



Mr. Lin, who took his master's degree in the same year as the late Mr. Wen Pi,[188] could remember what had happened to him in his previous state of existence, and once told the whole story, as follows:--I was originally of a good family, but, after leading a very dissolute life, I died at the age of sixty-two. On being conducted into the presence of the King of Purgatory, he received me civilly, bade me be seated, and offered me a cup of tea. I noticed, however,

that the tea in His Majesty's cup was clear and limpid, while that in my own was muddy, like the lees of wine. It then flashed across me that this was the potion which was given to all disembodied spirits to render them oblivious of the past:[189] and, accordingly, when the King was looking the other way, I seized the opportunity of pouring it under the table, pretending afterwards that I had drunk it all up. My record of good and evil was now presented for inspection, and when the King saw what it was, he flew into a great passion, and ordered the attendant devils to drag me away, and send me back to earth as a horse. I was immediately seized and bound, and the devils carried me off to a house, the door-sill of which was so high I could not step over it. While I was trying to do so, the devils behind lashed me with all their might, causing me such pain that I made a great spring, and--lo and behold! I was a horse in a stable. "The mare has got a nice colt," I then heard a man call out; but, although I was perfectly aware of all that was passing, I could say nothing myself. Hunger now came upon me, and I was glad to be suckled by the mare; and by the end of four or five years I had grown into a fine strong horse, dreadfully afraid of the whip, and running away at the very sight of it. When my master rode me, it was always with a saddle-cloth, and at a leisurely pace, which was bearable enough; but when the servants mounted me barebacked, and dug their heels into me, the pain struck into my vitals; and at length I refused all food, and in three days I died. Reappearing before the King of Purgatory, His Majesty was enraged to find that I had thus tried to shirk working out my time; and, flaying me forthwith, condemned me to go back again as a dog. And when I did not move, the devils came behind me and lashed me until I ran away from

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