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Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio vol. II (of

And the priest was commanded to leave Chi nan


A

certain Taot'ai,[207] at Chi-nan, was much taken with this priest, and gave him rooms at his yamen. One day, he had some friends to dinner, and set before them some very choice old wine that he had, and of which he only brought out a small quantity at a time, not wishing to get through it too rapidly. The guests, however, liked it so much that they asked for more; upon which the Taot'ai said, "he was very sorry, but it was all finished." The priest smiled at this, and said, "I can give the gentlemen some, if they will oblige me by accepting it;" and immediately inserted the wine-kettle[208] in his sleeve, bringing it out again directly, and pouring out for the guests. This wine tasted exactly like the choice wine they had just been drinking, and the priest gave them all as much of it as they wanted, which made the Taot'ai suspect that something was wrong; so, after the dinner, he went into his cellar to look at his own stock, when he found the jars closely tied down, with unbroken seals, but one and all empty. In a great rage, he caused the priest to be arrested for sorcery, and proceeded to have him bambooed; but no sooner had the bamboo touched the priest than the Taot'ai himself felt a sting of pain, which increased at every blow; and, in a few moments, there was the priest writhing and shrieking under every cut,[209] while the Taot'ai was sitting in a pool of blood. Accordingly, the punishment was soon stopped, and the priest was commanded to leave Chi-nan, which he did, and
I know not whither he went. He was subsequently seen at Nanking, dressed precisely as of old; but on being spoken to, he only smiled and made no reply.

FOOTNOTES:

[206] It is considered a serious breach of Chinese etiquette to accept invitations without returning the compliment at an early date.

[207] A high Chinese official, known to foreigners as Intendant of Circuit; the circuit being a circuit of Prefectures, over which he has full control, subject only to the approval of the highest provincial authorities. It is with this functionary that foreign Consuls rank.

[208] See No. XCIII., note 122.

[209] Of course only pretending to be hurt, the pain of the blows being transferred by his magical art to the back of the Taot'ai.

CXV.

ARRIVAL OF BUDDHIST PRIESTS.

Two Buddhist priests having arrived from the West,[210] one went to the Wu-t'ai hill, while the other hung up his staff[211] at T'ai-shan. Their clothes, complexions, language, and features, were very different from those of our country. They further said they had crossed the Fiery Mountains, from the peaks of which smoke was always issuing as from the chimney of a furnace; that they could only travel after rain, and that excessive caution was necessary to avoid displacing any stone and thus giving a vent to the flames. They also stated that they had passed through the River of Sand, in the middle of which was a crystal hill with perpendicular sides and perfectly transparent; and that there was a defile just broad enough to admit a single cart, its entrance guarded by two dragons with crossed horns. Those who wished to pass prostrated themselves before these dragons, and on receiving permission to enter, the horns opened and let them through. The dragons were of a white colour, and their scales and bristles seemed to be of crystal. Eighteen winters and summers these priests had been on the road; and of twelve who started from the west together, only two reached China.[212] These two said that in their country four of our mountains are held in great esteem, namely, T'ai, Hua, Wu-t'ai, and Lo-chia. The people there also think that China[213] is paved with yellow gold, that Kuan-yin and Wen-shu[214] are still alive, and that they have only come here to be sure of their Buddhahood and of immortal life. Hearing these words it struck me that this was precisely what our own people say and think about the West; and that if travellers from each country could only meet half way and tell each other the true state of affairs, there would be some hearty laughter on both sides, and a saving of much unnecessary trouble.


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