The Strange Experience of Lu Chong

“Soushenji” (搜神記) is a book of stories about ghosts and spirits, collected by Gan Bao in the fourth century. The meeting between Lu Chong and Cui Wenxiu is one of the bizarre stories.

This story took place in the Eastern Han Dynasty. In Fanyang (范陽) where was in modern-days Hebei (河北) Province, there was a young man named Lu Chong (盧充). At the age of 20, one day Lu Chong hunted in the environs. He saw a river deer, and shot at it. The river deer was wounded, but it ran off quickly. Lu Chong pursued it. He ran for a long time, and didn’t know how far he had left the city. Suddenly the river deer disappeared, and Lu Chong saw a grand residence. A servant walked outside and called him. Lu Chong felt surprised, and asked him, “Who is the master of the residence?” The servant said, “It’s the residence of Shaofu.” (Shaofu or “少府”, an official who managed the property of the royal family) Lu Chong said, “My clothing is shabby. How can I visit Shaofu?” At this time, another servant brought a new garment to Lu Chong and said, “My lord gives this to you.”

Lu Chong wore the new garment, and entered the house. Cui (崔) Shaofu, the master of the residence, entertained him very well, and told him, “Your father didn’t think my family was inferior, and I got a letter from him recently. He asked me to let my young daughter be your wife. So I sent servants to greet you.” Then he showed the letter. Lu Chong’s father had been dead when Lu Chong was a little child. But he still remembered the writing of his father. He felt sorrowful, and didn’t refuse Cui Shaofu. Then Cui Shaofu told his servants, “The honored young guest from the Lu family has been here. Please tell my daughter to dress up.” And he told Lu Chong, “Please go to the east room.” When Lu Chong arrived at the east room, the daughter of Cui Shaofu had been there by a carriage. She stood beside a mat, and waited for him.

The young woman made an obeisance to Lu Chong, and Lu Chong returned a salute with an obeisance. After this simple ceremony, the young woman became the wife of Lu Chong. Lu Chong stayed at the home of Cui Shaofu in three days. Then Cui Shaofu said to Lu Chong, “You can return home. My daughter has the omen of pregnancy. If she gives birth to a boy, the child will be returned to you, and please not to doubt. But if she gives birth to a girl, the child will be kept and nurtured by ourselves.” Lu Chong had to say goodbye and leave. Before parting, Cui Shaofu held the hands of Lu Chong, and tears streamed down. Later Cui Shaofu let a man give a package of new clothing to Lu Chong, and take a message to him, “Fate of marriage is just in the beginning, and we all regret deeply to be apart. Now I present the new clothing to you, and please take good care of yourself.” A calf-drawn carriage carried Lu Chong to his home. The carriage ran very fast, and very soon Lu Chong returned home.

In the past three days, Lu Chong’s family felt very anxious and sad for his disappearance. Lu Chong came back, and told his experience to them. They told him that Cui Shaofu died many years ago, and there was the tomb of Cui Shaofu in the direction that Lu Chong pursued the river deer. Lu Chong was now aware that the residence was the illusion of Cui Shaofu’s tomb, and he actually entered the tomb! He felt very nervous and regretful.

Four years later, in the third day of the third month of the Lunar Calendar, Lu Chong and his friends went to the riverside and enjoyed the new spring. This day was the Shangsi (上巳) Festival which could be partly regarded as the Valentine’s Day of ancient Chinese youth. Lu Chong suddenly saw two calf-drawn carriages. The carriages looked familiar, so Lu Chong walked to there. He saw Cui Shaofu’s daughter sat in the first carriage with a little boy. Lu Chong was very glad, and wanted to hold the hands of the woman. But the woman seemed to be quiet, and she pointed to the back carriage and said to Lu Chong, “My father wants to see you.” Lu Chong then came to the second carriage and gave regards to Cui Shaofu. The woman enfolded the boy in her arms, and gave him to Lu Chong. And then she gave a gold bowl and a sorrowful poem to Lu Chong. The poem told the woman’s excellence and her nostalgia for the world, and said that they would never meet again. When Lu Chong accepted his son, the gold bowl and the poem, he suddenly found the two carriages disappeared.

Lu Chong took his son and showed the little boy to his friends. The friends thought the boy was a ghost. It was said that saliva could cause a ghost to reveal its true features and also could restrain the ghost, so these young men spat saliva to the little boy, but the features of the boy didn’t change. The young men asked the child, “Who is your father?” The boy threw himself into the arms of Lu Chong. Lu Chong showed the poem of the woman to the friends, and these young men were moved deeply. All of them sighed over the meeting between the alive and the dead.

Several days later, Lu Chong went to the market of the city and showed the gold bowl. He made a very high price, because in fact he didn’t want to sell the bowl, and he wanted to meet someone who recognized this bowl. Later, an old woman recognized this bowl, but she didn’t tell Lu Chong. She returned home right away, and said to her mistress, “In the market, I saw that a man is selling a gold bowl which was placed in the coffin of the girl of the Cui family.” The mistress was the younger sister of Cui Shaofu’s wife, so she felt very surprised. She let her son to the market for asking about the gold bowl. Her son found Lu Chong and they introduced themselves each other. Then the man told Lu Chong, “Many years ago my maternal aunt married Cui Shaofu and gave birth to a daughter. But the girl died before getting married. My mother mourned her death, and then gave a gold bowl to her. The gold bowl was placed in the coffin of the girl. Please tell me how you got it.” Lu Chong then told his experience to the man, and the man felt sad, too. The man returned home and told Lu Chong’s words to his mother. The woman felt that it was miraculous, and she called her relatives to go to Lu Chong’s home with her. The woman saw the son of Lu Chong had the features of both of Cui Shaofu’s daughter and Lu Chong. She recognized the gold bowl, too. Then she said, “My niece was born in the end of the third month. Her father said, ‘The spring is so warm, so I wish my daughter to be nice and strong.’ So he gave his daughter a name ‘Wenxiu’ (溫休). Perhaps ‘Wenxiu’ is the omen of the marriage in the nether world.”

In the name “Wenxiu”, “Wen” (溫) means “warm”. The character “Xiu” (休) has some different meanings. When “Xiu” is used as a verb, it means “stop” or “terminate”. If “Xiu” is used as an adjective, it means “nice”, “auspicious” or “happy”. The meaning of “Wenxiu” that Cui Shaofu gave to his daughter was “warm and nice”. But “Wenxiu” could be explained as “warmth terminates” by a fatalistic way. The nether world was described as a cold world in traditional Chinese culture.

Lu Chong decided to educate the little boy who lost his mother to be an excellent man. In the later days, the boy became a regional governor. His descendants were all excellent persons. Among his descendants, Lu Zhi (盧植) was the most famous one. He was a brilliant scholar in the Eastern Han Dynasty.

The story that Lu Chong married a woman ghost was remembered generation after generation. After the Western Jin (西晉) Dynasty annexed the Wu (吳) State, one day in a banquet, Lu Zhi (盧志) defiantly asked Lu Ji (陸機), who was from the Wu State, “Which relatives of yours were Lu Xun (陸遜) and Lu Kang (陸抗)?” Lu Ji said, “As you with Lu Yu (盧毓) and Lu Ting (盧珽).” Lu Yun (陸雲), the younger brother of Lu Ji, felt very worried. When they left the house, Lu Yun said to Lu Ji, “Why did you say so? Perhaps he really didn’t know the fact.” Lu Ji said angrily, “Our father and grandfather had illustrious fame throughout the land. Who doesn’t know them? Only the descendant of a ghost dared to say that.” Lu Xun was the grandfather of Lu Ji, and Lu Kang was the father of Lu Ji. Both of them were important ministers in the Wu State. Lu Yu was the son of Lu Zhi (盧植), and he was a minister in the Wei (魏) State. Lu Ting was the son of Lu Yu, and he was a minister in the Western Jin Dynasty. Lu Zhi (盧志) was the son of Lu Ting. It was very disrespectful to face a person and say the names of the person’s grandfather and father. This was why Lu Ji was angry and Lu Yun was worried. Anyway, the abusive description “the descendant of a ghost” shows that the story of Lu Chong and Cui Wenxiu had been known widely.

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