Some Chinese Ghosts

Lafcadio Hearn

Some Chinese Ghosts

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Title: Some Chinese Ghosts
Author: Lafcadio Hearn
Release Date: July 11, 2005 [EBook #16261]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1
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[Transcriber's Note: The letter o with a caron is indicated as [)o] in this text version.]

SOME CHINESE GHOSTS
BY LAFCADIO HEARN

Copyright, 1887, by ROBERTS BROTHERS
* * * * *
To my friend HENRY EDWARD KREHBIEL
THE MUSICIAN WHO, SPEAKING THE SPEECH OF MELODY UNTO THE CHILDREN OF TIEN-HIA,-- UNTO THE WANDERING TSING-JIN, WHOSE SKINS HAVE THE COLOR OF GOLD,-- MOVED THEM TO MAKE STRANGE SOUNDS UPON THE SERPENT-BELLIED SAN-HIEN; PERSUADED THEM TO PLAY FOR ME UPON THE SHRIEKING YA-HIEN; PREVAILED ON THEM TO SING ME A SONG OF THEIR NATIVE LAND,-- THE SONG OF MOHL®™-HWA, THE SONG OF THE JASMINE-FLOWER
[Illustration: Line drawing of a man's head]
* * * * *

PREFACE
I think that my best apology for the insignificant size of this volume is the very character of the material composing it. In preparing the legends I sought especially for _weird beauty_; and I could not forget this striking observation in Sir Walter Scott's "Essay on Imitations of the Ancient Ballad": "The supernatural, though appealing to certain powerful emotions very widely and deeply sown amongst the human race, is, nevertheless, a spring which is peculiarly apt to lose its elasticity by being too much pressed upon."
Those desirous to familiarize themselves with Chinese literature as a whole have had the way made smooth for them by the labors of linguists like Julien, Pavie, R®¶musat, De Rosny, Schlegel, Legge, Hervey-Saint-Denys, Williams, Biot, Giles, Wylie, Beal, and many other Sinologists. To such great explorers, indeed, the realm of Cathayan story belongs by right of discovery and conquest; yet the humbler traveller who follows wonderingly after them into the vast and mysterious pleasure-grounds of Chinese fancy may surely be permitted to cull a few of the marvellous flowers there growing,--a self-luminous _hwa-wang_, a black lily, a phosphoric rose or two,--as souvenirs of his curious voyage.
L.H.
NEW ORLEANS, March 15, 1886.

CONTENTS
THE SOUL OF THE GREAT BELL
THE STORY OF MING-Y
THE LEGEND OF TCHI-NIU
THE RETURN OF YEN-TCHIN-KING
THE TRADITION OF THE TEA-PLANT
THE TALE OF THE PORCELAIN-GOD
* * * * *
NOTES
GLOSSARY

[Illustration: Decorative motif]
[Illustration: Line drawing of a head]

The Soul of the Great Bell
_She hath spoken, and her words still resound in his ears._
HAO-KHIEOU-TCHOUAN: c. ix.

THE SOUL OF THE GREAT BELL
The water-clock marks the hour in the _Ta-chung sz'_,--in the Tower of the Great Bell: now the mallet is lifted to smite the lips of the metal monster,--the vast lips inscribed with Buddhist texts from the sacred _Fa-hwa-King_, from the chapters of the holy _Ling-yen-King_! Hear the great bell responding!--how mighty her voice, though tongueless!--_KO-NGAI!_ All the little dragons on the high-tilted eaves of the green roofs shiver to the tips of their gilded tails under that deep wave of sound; all the porcelain gargoyles tremble on their carven perches; all the hundred little bells of the pagodas quiver with desire to speak. _KO-NGAI!_--all the green-and-gold tiles of the temple are vibrating; the wooden goldfish above them are writhing against the sky; the uplifted finger of Fo shakes high over the heads of the worshippers through the blue fog of incense! _KO-NGAI!_--What a thunder tone was that! All the lacquered goblins on the palace cornices wriggle their fire-colored tongues! And after each huge shock, how wondrous the multiple echo and the great golden moan and, at last, the sudden sibilant sobbing in the ears when the immense tone faints away in broken whispers of silver,--as though a woman should whisper, "_Hiai!_" Even so the great bell hath sounded every day for well-nigh five hundred years,--_Ko-Ngai_: first with stupendous clang, then with immeasurable moan of gold, then with silver murmuring of "_Hiai!_" And there is not a child in all the many-colored ways of the old Chinese city who does not know the story of the great bell,--who cannot tell you why the great bell says _Ko-Ngai_ and Hiai!
* * * * *
Now, this is the story of the great bell in the Ta-chung sz', as the same is related in the _Pe-Hiao-Tou-Choue_, written by the learned Yu-Pao-Tchen, of the City of Kwang-tchau-fu.
Nearly five hundred years ago the Celestially August, the Son of Heaven, Yong-Lo, of the "Illustrious," or Ming, dynasty, commanded the worthy official Kouan-Yu that he should have a bell made of such size that the sound thereof might be heard for one hundred li. And he further ordained
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