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Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio vol. II (of

194 and unlicensed dealers in salt


an old childless man consulted a great many Buddhist priests on the subject. One of them said to him, "If you owe no one anything, and no one owes you anything, how can you expect to have children? A good son is the repayment of a former debt; a bad son is a dunning creditor, at whose birth there is no rejoicing, at whose death no lamentations."[190]


[190] And such is actually the prevalent belief in China to this day.



A certain gentleman of Shen-yu, who had taken the highest degree, could remember himself in a previous state of existence. He said he had formerly been a scholar, and had died in middle life; and that when he appeared before the Judge of Purgatory, there stood the cauldrons, the boiling oil, and other apparatus of torture, exactly as we read about them on earth. In the eastern corner of the hall were a number of frames from which hung the skins of sheep, dogs, oxen, horses, etc.; and when anybody was condemned to re-appear in life under any one of these forms, his skin was stripped off and a skin was taken from the proper frame and fixed on to his body. The gentleman of whom I am writing heard himself sentenced to become a sheep; and the attendant devils had already clothed him in a sheep's-skin in the manner above described,

when the clerk of the record informed the Judge that the criminal before him had once saved another man's life. The Judge consulted his books, and forthwith cried out, "I pardon him; for although his sins have been many, this one act has redeemed them all."[191] The devils then tried to take off the sheep's-skin, but it was so tightly stuck on him that they couldn't move it. However, after great efforts, and causing the gentleman most excruciating agony, they managed to tear it off bit by bit, though not quite so cleanly as one might have wished. In fact, a piece as big as the palm of a man's hand was left near his shoulder; and when he was born again into the world, there was a great patch of hair on his back, which grew again as fast as it was cut off.


[191] Note 178 to No. CVII. should be read here. To save life is indeed the bounden duty of every good Buddhist, for which he will be proportionately rewarded in the world to come.



Wang Shih, of Kao-wan, a petty salt huckster, was inordinately fond of gambling. One night he was arrested by two men, whom he took for lictors of the Salt Gabelle; and, flinging down what salt he had with him, he tried to make his escape.[192] He found, however, that his legs would not move with him, and he was forthwith seized and bound. "We are not sent by the Salt Commissioner," cried his captors, in reply to an entreaty to set him free; "we are the devil-constables of Purgatory." Wang was horribly frightened at this, and begged the devils to let him bid farewell to his wife and children; but this they refused to do, saying, "You aren't going to die; you are only wanted for a little job there is down below." Wang asked what the job was; to which the devils replied, "A new Judge has come into office, and, finding the river[193] and the eighteen hells choked up with the bodies of sinners, he has determined to employ three classes of mortals to clean them out. These are thieves, unlicensed founders,[194] and unlicensed dealers in salt, and, for the dirtiest work of all, he is going to take musicians."[195]

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