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In Yedo there dwelt a samurai called Hagiwara. He was a samurai of the hatamoto, which is of all the ranks of samurai the most honourable. He possessed a noble figure and a very beautiful face, and was beloved of many a lady of Yedo, both openly and in secret. For himself, being yet very young, his thoughts turned to pleasure rather than to love, and morning, noon and night he was wont to disport himself with the gay youth of the city. He was the prince and leader of joyous revels within doors and without, and would often parade the streets for long together with bands of his boon companions.

One bright and wintry day during the Festival of the New Year he found himself with a company of laughing youths and maidens playing at battledore and shuttlecock. He had wandered far away from his own quarter of the city, and was now in a suburb quite the other side of Yedo, where the streets were empty, more or less, and the quiet houses stood in gardens. Hagiwara wielded his heavy battledore with great skill and grace, catching the gilded shuttlecock and tossing it lightly into the air; but at length with a careless or an ill-judged stroke, he sent it flying over the heads of the players, and over the bamboo fence of a garden near by. Immediately he started after it. Then his companions cried, “Stay, Hagiwara; here we have more than a dozen shuttlecocks.”

“Nay,” he said, “but this was dove-coloured and gilded.”

“Foolish one!” answered his friends; “here we have six shuttlecocks all dove-coloured and gilded.”

But he paid them no heed, for he had become full of a very strange desire for the shuttlecock he had lost. He scaled the bamboo fence and dropped into the garden which was upon the farther side. Now he had marked the very spot where the shuttlecock should have fallen, but it was not there; so he searched along the foot of the bamboo fence—but no, he could not find it. Up and down he went, beating the bushes with his battledore, his eyes on the ground, drawing breath heavily as if he had lost his dearest treasure. His friends called him, but he did not come, and they grew tired and went to their own homes. The light of day began to fail. Hagiwara, the samurai, looked up and saw a girl standing a few yards away from him. She beckoned him with her right hand, and in her left she held a gilded shuttlecock with dove-coloured feathers.

The samurai shouted joyfully and ran forward. Then the girl drew away from him, still beckoning him with the right hand. The shuttlecock lured him, and he followed. So they went, the two of them, till they came to the house that was in the garden, and three stone steps that led up to it. Beside the lowest step there grew a plum tree in blossom, and upon the highest step there stood a fair and very young lady. She was most splendidly attired in robes of high festival. Her kimono was of water-blue silk, with sleeves of ceremony so long that they touched the ground; her under-dress was scarlet, and her great girdle of brocade was stiff and heavy with gold. In her hair were pins of gold and tortoiseshell and coral.

When Hagiwara saw the lady, he knelt down forthwith and made her due obeisance, till his forehead touched the ground.

Then the lady spoke, smiling with pleasure like a child. “Come into my house, Hagiwara Sama, samurai of the hatamoto. I am O’Tsuyu, the Lady of the Morning Dew. My dear handmaiden, O’Yoné, has brought you to me. Come in, Hagiwara Sama, samurai of the hatamoto; for indeed I am glad to see you, and happy is this hour.”

So the samurai went in, and they brought him to a room of ten mats, where they entertained him; for the Lady of the Morning Dew danced before him in the ancient manner, whilst O’Yoné, the handmaiden, beat upon a small scarlet-tasselled drum.

Afterwards they set food before him, the red rice of the festival and sweet warm wine, and he ate and drank of the food they gave him.

It was dark night when Hagiwara took his leave. “Come again, honourable lord, come again,” said O’Yoné the handmaiden.

“Yea, lord, you needs must come,” whispered the Lady of the Morning Dew.

The samurai laughed. “And if I do not come?” he said mockingly. “What if I do not come?”

The lady stiffened, and her child’s face grew grey, but she laid her hand upon Hagiwara’s shoulder.

“Then,” she said, “it will be death, lord. Death it will be for you and for me. There is no other way.” O’Yoné shuddered and hid her eyes with her sleeve.

The samurai went out into the night, being very much afraid.

Long, long he sought for his home and could not find it, wandering in the black darkness from end to end of the sleeping city. When at last he reached his familiar door the late dawn was almost come, and wearily he threw himself upon his bed. Then he laughed. “After all, I have left behind me my shuttlecock,” said Hagiwara the samurai.

The next day Hagiwara sat alone in his house from morning till evening. He had his hands before him; and he thought, but did nothing more. At the end of the time he said, “It is a joke that a couple of geisha have sought to play on me. Excellent, in faith, but they shall not have me!” So he dressed himself in his best and went forth to join his friends. For five or six days he was at joustings and junketings, the gayest of the gay. His wit was ready, his spirits were wild.

Then he said, “By the gods, I am deathly sick of this,” and took to walking the streets of Yedo alone. From end to end of the great city he went. He wandered by day and he wandered by night, by street and alley he went, by hill and moat and castle wall, but he found not what he sought. He could not come upon the garden where his shuttlecock was lost, nor yet upon the Lady of the Morning Dew. His spirit had no rest. He fell sick and took to his bed, where he neither ate nor slept, but grew spectre-thin. This was about the third month. In the sixth month, at the time of niubai, the hot and rainy season, he rose up, and, in spite of all his faithful servant could say or do to dissuade him, he wrapped a loose summer robe about him and at once went forth.

“Alack! Alack!” cried the servant, “the youth has the fever, or he is perchance mad.”

Hagiwara faltered not at all. He looked neither to the right nor to the left. Straight forward he went, for he said to himself, “All roads lead past my love’s house.” Soon he came to a quiet suburb, and to a certain house whose garden had a split bamboo fence. Hagiwara laughed softly and scaled the fence.

“The same, the very same shall be the manner of our meeting,” he said. He found the garden wild and overgrown. Moss covered the three stone steps. The plum tree that grew there fluttered its green leaves disconsolate. The house was still, its shutters were all closed, it was forlorn and deserted.

The samurai grew cold as he stood and wondered. A soaking rain fell.

There came an old man into the garden. He said to Hagiwara:

“Sir, what do you do here?”

“The white flower has fallen from the plum tree,” said the samurai. “Where is the Lady of the Morning Dew?”

“She is dead,” answered the old man; “dead these five or six moons, of a strange and sudden sickness. She lies in the graveyard on the hill, and O’Yoné, her handmaid, lies by her side. She could not suffer her mistress to wander alone through the long night of Yomi. For their sweet spirits’ sake I would still tend this garden, but I am old and it is little that I can do. Oh, sir, they are dead indeed. The grass grows on their graves.”

Hagiwara went to his own home. He took a slip of pure white wood and he wrote upon it, in large fair characters, the dear name of his lady. This he set up, and burned before it incense and sweet odours, and made every offering that was meet, and did due observance, and all for the welfare of her departed spirit.

Then drew near the Festival of Bon, the time of returning souls. The good folk of Yedo took lanterns and visited their graves. Bringing food and flowers, they cared for their beloved dead. On the thirteenth day of the seventh month, which, in the Bon, is the day of days, Hagiwara the samurai walked in his garden by night for the sake of the coolness. It was windless and dark. A cicada hidden in the heart of a pomegranate flower sang shrilly now and again. Now and again a carp leaped in the round pond. For the rest it was still, and never a leaf stirred.

About the hour of the Ox, Hagiwara heard the sound of footsteps in the lane that lay beyond his garden hedge. Nearer and nearer they came.

“Women’s geta,” said the samurai. He knew them by the hollow echoing noise. Looking over his rose hedge, he saw two slender women come out of the dimness hand in hand. One of them carried a lantern with a bunch of peony flowers tied to the handle. It was such a lantern as is used at the time of the Bon in the service of the dead. It swung as the two women walked, casting an uncertain light. As they came abreast of the samurai upon the other side of the hedge, they turned their faces to him. He knew them at once, and gave one great cry.

The girl with the peony lantern held it up so that the light fell upon him.

“Hagiwara Sama,” she cried, “by all that is most wonderful! Why, lord, we were told that you were dead. We have daily recited the Nembutsu for your soul these many moons!”

“Come in, come in, O’Yoné,” he said; “and is it indeed your mistress that you hold by the hand? Can it be my lady?… Oh, my love!”

O’Yoné answered, “Who else should it be?” and the two came in at the garden gate.

But the Lady of the Morning Dew held up her sleeve to hide her face.

“How was it I lost you?” said the samurai; “how was it I lost you, O’Yoné?”

“Lord,” she said, “we have moved to a little house, a very little house, in the quarter of the city which is called the Green Hill. We were suffered to take nothing with us there, and we are grown very poor. With grief and want my mistress is become pale.”

Then Hagiwara took his lady’s sleeve to draw it gently from her face.

“Lord,” she sobbed, “you will not love me, I am not fair.”

But when he looked upon her his love flamed up within him like a consuming fire, and shook him from head to foot. He said never a word.

She drooped. “Lord,” she murmured, “shall I go or stay?”

And he said, “Stay.”

A little before daybreak the samurai fell into a deep sleep, and awoke to find himself alone in the clear light of the morning. He lost not an instant, but rose and went forth, and immediately made his way through Yedo to the quarter of the city which is called the Green Hill. Here he inquired for the house of the Lady of the Morning Dew, but no one could direct him. High and low he searched fruitlessly. It seemed to him that for the second time he had lost his dear lady, and he turned homewards in bitter despair. His way led him through the grounds of a certain temple, and as he went he marked two graves that were side by side. One was little and obscure, but the other was marked by a fair monument, like the tomb of some great one. Before the monument there hung a lantern with a bunch of peony flowers tied to its handle. It was such a lantern as is used at the time of Bon in the service of the dead.

Long, long did the samurai stand as one in a dream. Then he smiled a little and said:

“‘We have moved to a little house … a very little house … upon the Green Hill … we were suffered to take nothing with us there and we are grown very poor … with grief and want my mistress is become pale….’ A little house, a dark house, yet you will make room for me, oh, my beloved, pale one of my desires. We have loved for the space of ten existences, leave me not now … my dear.” Then he went home.

His faithful servant met him and cried:

“Now what ails you, master?”

He said, “Why, nothing at all…. I was never merrier.”

But the servant departed weeping, and saying, “The mark of death is on his face … and I, whither shall I go that bore him as a child in these arms?”

Every night, for seven nights, the maidens with the peony lantern came to Hagiwara’s dwelling. Fair weather or foul was the same to them. They came at the hour of the Ox. There was mystic wooing. By the strong bond of illusion the living and the dead were bound together.

On the seventh night the servant of the samurai, wakeful with fear and sorrow, made bold to peer into his lord’s room through a crack in the wooden shutters. His hair stood on end and his blood ran cold to see Hagiwara in the arms of a fearful thing, smiling up at the horror that was its face, stroking its dank green robe with languid fingers. With daylight the servant made his way to a holy man of his acquaintance. When he had told his tale he asked, “Is there any hope for Hagiwara Sama?”

“Alack,” said the holy man, “who can withstand the power of Karma? Nevertheless, there is a little hope.” So he told the servant what he must do. Before nightfall, this one had set a sacred text above every door and window-place of his master’s house, and he had rolled in the silk of his master’s girdle a golden emblem of the Tathagata. When these things were done, Hagiwara being drawn two ways became himself as weak as water. And his servant took him in his arms, laid him upon his bed and covered him lightly, and saw him fall into a deep sleep.

At the hour of the Ox there was heard the sound of footsteps in the lane, without the garden hedge. Nearer and nearer they came. They grew slow and stopped.

“What means this, O’Yoné, O’Yoné?” said a piteous voice. “The house is asleep, and I do not see my lord.”

“Come home, sweet lady, Hagiwara’s heart is changed.”

“That I will not, O’Yoné, O’Yoné … you must find a way to bring me to my lord.”

“Lady, we cannot enter here. See the Holy Writing over every door and window-place … we may not enter here.”

There was a sound of bitter weeping and a long wail.

“Lord, I have loved thee through the space of ten existences.” Then the footsteps retreated and their echo died away.

The next night it was quite the same. Hagiwara slept in his weakness; his servant watched; the wraiths came and departed in sobbing despair.

The third day, when Hagiwara went to the bath, a thief stole the emblem, the golden emblem of the Tathagata, from his girdle. Hagiwara did not mark it. But that night he lay awake. It was his servant that slept, worn out with watching. Presently a great rain fell and Hagiwara, waking, heard the sound of it upon the roof. The heavens were opened and for hours the rain fell. And it tore the holy text from over the round window in Hagiwara’s chamber.

At the hour of the Ox there was heard the sound of footsteps in the lane without the garden hedge. Nearer and nearer they came. They grew slow and stopped.

“This is the last time, O’Yoné, O’Yoné, therefore bring me to my lord. Think of the love of ten existences. Great is the power of Karma. There must be a way….”

“Come, my beloved,” called Hagiwara with a great voice.

“Open, lord … open and I come.”

But Hagiwara could not move from his couch.

“Come, my beloved,” he called for the second time.

“I cannot come, though the separation wounds me like a sharp sword. Thus we suffer for the sins of a former life.” So the lady spoke and moaned like the lost soul that she was. But O’Yoné took her hand.

“See the round window,” she said.

Hand in hand the two rose lightly from the earth. Like vapour they passed through the unguarded window. The samurai called, “Come to me, beloved,” for the third time.

He was answered, “Lord, I come.”

In the grey morning Hagiwara’s servant found his master cold and dead. At his feet stood the peony lantern burning with a weird yellow flame. The servant shivered, took up the lantern and blew out the light; for “I cannot bear it,” he said.

(ack:world of tales.com)

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Wang Zifu lived with his mother, a widow. He was clever and obeying his mothers wise counsel he worked hard, neither did he neglect his studies nor his mother who had enough troubles already.

During the lantern festival his cousin Wu Sheng came visiting and asked him to take a break. With his mother’s permission he accompanied his cousin. (continued)

Author of the story:Pu Songling (1640-1715)

art: Shen Qipong

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In the northern parts of Tzu-chou there lived a man named Hsu, a fisherman by trade. Every night when he went to fish he would carry some wine with him, and drink and fish by turns, always taking care to pour out a libation on the ground, accompanied by the following invocation — “Drink too, ye drowned spirits of the river !” Such was his regular custom; and it was also noticeable that, even on occasions when the other fishermen caught nothing, he always got a full basket.

One night, as he was sitting drinking by himself, a young man suddenly appeared and began walking up and down near him. Hsu offered him a cup of wine, which was readily accepted, and they remained chatting together throughout the night, Hsu mean- while not catching a single fish. However, just as he was giving up all hope of doing anything, the young man rose and said he would go a little way down the stream and beat them up towards Hsu, which he accordingly did, returning in a few minutes and warning him to be on the lookout. Hsu now heard a noise like that of a shoal coming up the stream, and, casting his net, made a splendid haul, — all that he caught being over a foot in length.

Greatly delighted, he now prepared to go home, first offering his companion a share of the fish, which the latter declined, saying that he had often received kindnesses from Mr. Hsu, and that he would be only too happy to help him regularly in the same manner if Mr. Hsu would accept his assistance. The latter replied that he did not recollect ever meeting him before, and that he should be much obliged for any aid the young man might choose to afford him; regretting, at the same time, his inability to make him any adequate return. He then asked the young man his name and surname; and the young man said his surname was Wang, adding that Hsu might address him when they met as Wang Liu-lang, he having no other name. Thereupon they parted, and the next day Hsu sold his fish and bought some more wine, with which he repaired as usual to the riverbank. There he found his companion already awaiting him, and they spent the night together in precisely the same way as the preceding one, the young man beating up the fish for him as before.

This went on for some months, until at length one evening the young man, with many expressions of his thanks and his regrets, told Hsu that they were about to part for ever. Much alarmed by the melancholy tone in which his friend had communicated this news, Hsu was on the point of asking for an explanation, when the young man stopped him, and himself proceeded as follows : — “The friendship that has grown up between us is truly surprising; and, now that we shall meet no more, there is no harm in telling you the whole truth. I am a disembodied spirit — the soul of one who was drowned in this river when tipsy. I have been here many years, and your former success in fishing was due to the fact that I used secretly to beat up the fish towards you, in return for the libations you were accustomed to pour out. Tomorrow my time is up : my substitute will arrive, and I shall be born again in the world of mortals. We have but this one evening left, and I therefore take advantage of it to express my feelings to you.”

On hearing these words, Hsu was at first very much alarmed; however, he had grown so accustomed to his friend’s society, that his fears soon passed away; and, filling up a goblet, he said, with a sigh, “Liu-lang, old fellow, drink this up, and away with melancholy. It’s hard to lose you; but I’m glad enough for your sake, and won’t think of my own sorrow.” He then inquired of Liu-lang who was to be his substitute; to which the latter replied, “Come to the riverbank tomorrow afternoon and you’ll see a woman drowned : she is the one.” Just then the village cocks began to crow, and, with tears in their eyes, the two friends bade each other farewell.

Next day Hsu waited on the riverbank to see if anything would happen, and a woman carrying a child in her arms came along. When close to the edge of the river, she stumbled and fell into the water, managing, however, to throw the child safely on to the bank, where it lay kicking and sprawling and crying at the top of its voice. The woman herself sank and rose several times, until at last she succeeded in clutching hold of the bank and pulled herself, dripping, out; and then, after resting awhile, she picked up the child and went on her way.

All this time Hsu had been in a great state of excitement, and was on the point of running to help the woman out of the water; but he remembered that she was to be the substitute of his friend, and accordingly restrained himself from doing so. Then when he saw the woman get out by herself, he began to suspect that Liu-lang’s words had not been fulfilled.

That night he went to fish as usual, and before long the young man arrived and said, “We meet once again: there is no need now to speak of separation.” Hsu asked him how it was so; to which he replied, “The woman you saw had already taken my place, but I could not bear to hear the child cry, and I saw that my one life would be purchased at the expense of their two lives, where- fore I let her go, and now I cannot say when I shall have another chance. The union of our destinies may not yet be worked out.”

“Alas!” sighed Hsu, “this noble conduct of yours is enough to move God Almighty.”

After this the two friends went on much as they had done before, until one day Liu-lang again said he had come to bid Hsu farewell. Hsu thought he had found another substitute, but Liu-lang told him that his former behavior had so pleased Almighty Heaven, that he had been appointed guardian angel of Wu-chen, in the Chao-yuan district, and that on the following morning he would start for his new post. “And if you do not forget the days of our friendship,” added he, “I pray you come and see me, in spite of the long journey.”

“Truly,” replied Hsu, “you well deserved to be made a God; but the paths of Gods and men lie in different directions, and even if the distance were nothing, how should I manage to meet you again?”

“Don’t be afraid on that score,” said Liu-lang, “but come;” and then he went away, and Hsu returned home. The latter immediately began to prepare for the journey, which caused his wife to laugh at him and say, “Supposing you do find such a place at the end of that long journey, you won’t be able to hold a conversation with a clay image.” Hsu, however, paid no attention to her remarks, and travelled straight to Chao-yuan, where he learned from the inhabitants that there really was a village called Wu-chen, whither he forthwith proceeded and took up his abode at an inn.

He then inquired of the landlord where the village temple was; to which the latter replied by asking him somewhat hurriedly if he was speaking to Mr. Hsu. Hsu informed him that his name was Hsu, asking in reply how he came to know it; whereupon the landlord further inquired if his native place was not Tzu-chou. Hsu told him it was, and again asked him how he knew all this; to which the landlord made no answer, but rushed out of the room. Soon the place was crowded with old and young, men, women, and children, all come to visit Hsu. They then told him that a few nights before they had seen their guardian deity in a vision, and he had informed them that Mr. Hsu would shortly arrive, and had bidden them to provide him with traveling expenses.

Hsu was very much astonished at this, and went off at once to the shrine, where he invoked his friend as follows : – “Ever since we parted I have had you daily and nightly in my thoughts; and now that I have fulfilled my promise of coming to see you, I have to thank you for the orders you have issued to the people of the place. As for me, I have nothing to offer you but a cup of wine, which I pray you accept as though we were drinking together on the river-bank.” He then burnt a quantity of paper money, when a wind suddenly arose, which, after whirling round and round behind the shrine, soon dropped, and all was still.

That night Hsu dreamed that his friend came to him, dressed in his official cap and robes, and very different in appearance from what he used to be, and thanked him, saying, “It is truly kind of you to visit me thus: I only regret that my position makes me unable to meet you face to face, and that though near we are still so far. The people here will give you a trifle, which pray accept for my sake; and when you go away, I will see you a short way on your journey.”

A few days afterwards Hsu prepared to start, in spite of the numerous invitations to stay which poured in upon him from all sides; and then the inhabitants loaded him with presents of all kinds, and escorted him out of the village. There a whirlwind arose and accompanied him several miles, when he turned round and invoked his friend thus : – “Liu-lang, take care of your valued person. Do not trouble yourself to come any farther. Your noble heart will ensure happiness to this district, and there is no occasion for me to give a word of advice to my old friend.” By-and-by the whirlwind ceased, and the villagers, who were much astonished, returned to their own homes.

Hsu, too, traveled homewards, and being now a man of some means, ceased to work any more as a fisherman. And whenever he met a Chao-yuan man he would ask him about that guardian angel, being always informed in reply that he was a most beneficent God. Some say the place was Shih-keng-chuang, in Chang-chin : I can’t really vouch for it.

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