The Strange Experience of Lu Chong

This story took place in the Eastern Han Dynasty. In Fanyang (范阳) where was in modern-days Hebei (河北) Province, there was a young man named Lu Chong (卢充). At the age of 20, one day Lu Chong hunted in the environs. He saw a river deer (獐), 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 official 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 Cui (崔) Shaofu (少府).”(Shaofu was 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 held a new garment, and said to Lu Chong, “Fujun (府君) let me give it to you.”(Fujun was an honorific form of address for a magistrate)

Lu Chong wore the new garment, and entered the house. Cui Shaofu entertained him very well, and told him, “Your father didn’t think my family is low-down, and wrote to me. He wanted me to let my young daughter be your wife. So I let servants greet you.” Then he showed the letter of Lu Chong’s father to Lu Chong. 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 sorrow-stricken, and didn’t refuse Cui Shaofu. Then Cui Shaofu told his servants, “Lu Lang (郎) has been here. Please tell my daughter to freshen up and dress up.”(Lang was a hypocoristic form of address for a young man) 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 saw Lu Chong, and made an obeisance (拜) 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, and the young gentle woman treated him very well. They fell in love. But three days passed, Cui Shao 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. But if she gives birth to a girl, the child will be kept and nurtured by ourselves.” Lu Chong had to say goodbye to Cui Shaofu and his newly-married wife. The young woman held the hands of Lu Chong, and her tears streamed down. She gave a package of new clothing to Lu Chong, and said sadly, “We just became a couple, but we have to be apart. Now I present the new clothing to you, and wish you to take good care of yourself.” Cui Shaofu let a servant drove a calf-drawn carriage (犊车) and carried him to his home. The carriage ran very fast, and very soon Lu Chong returned home. The servant immediately said goodbye and left.

In the past three days, Lu Chong’s mother didn’t see her son return home, and she felt very anxious. When Lu Chong came back, the gaunt mother held her son’s hands, and asked him why he was missing in these days. Lu Chong told his experience to his mother. The mother felt very surprised, and said, “Cui Shaofu? He died many years ago. Did you really see him?” Lu Chong told where he had been. His mother said, “Oh, there is the tomb of Cui Shaofu.” Lu Chong was now aware that the official residence was the transmutation of Cui Shaofu’s tomb, and he actually entered the tomb! He felt very nervous, but when he remembered the young gentle woman, he was regretful.

Lu Chong still missed the woman very much every day. Four years later, in the third day of the third month of the Lunar Calendar, Lu Chong went to the riverside and enjoyed the new spring. This day was the Shangsi (上巳) Festival which was the valentine's day of the Chinese nation before the Tang Dynasty. Young men and women held white orchids and went to the riverside. In this festival, young people could freely show their love to the person of their heart. Lu Chong and his friends came to the riverside, too. Lu Chong suddenly saw two calf-drawn carriages. The carriages looked familiar, so Lu Chong ran to there. He saw the woman that he missed every day 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, “Fujun 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 descended from the carriage. She gave the boy to Lu Chong, and said, “He is your son. Now I return him to you.” And then she gave a gold bowl to Lu Chong. The young woman finally couldn’t restrain her sad feelings, and wrote a sorrowful poem to Lu Chong. The Poem of Cui's DaughterThe poem said that they would be apart forever and they would never meet again, because they lived in two different worlds. 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. They weren’t suspicious of this child any longer. All of them sighed over the love 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 daughter of the Cui’s 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 young 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 this gold bowl.” Lu Chong then told his experience to the young man, and the young man felt sad, too. The young 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 Lu Chong and Cui’s daughter. 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 a fine woman.’ So he gave his daughter a Zi (字) called ‘Wenxiu’ (温休). Perhaps ‘Wenxiu’ is the omen of the marriage in the nether world.”

There is much cultural knowledge which should be explained. “Zi” was another name of a Chinese in the ancient times. Generally men had a Zi, but women didn’t have it. But if a woman was born in a scholarly family, or her father wanted to express his great expectations to her, the woman would get a Zi. Generally the Zi was gotten when a person had grown up. But if the father wanted to express his special expectations, perhaps the Zi would be given when a person was born. In the word “Wenxiu”, the Chinese character “Wen” (温) means “warm”. The character “Xiu” (休) has many meanings. When “Xiu” is used as a verb, it generally means “Stop”. If “Xiu” is used as an adjective (the usage is generally in ancient Chinese language), it means “fine; auspicious; happy”. The meaning of “Wenxiu” that Cui Shaofu gave to his daughter was “warm and fine”. But if “Wenxiu” was understood by another method, it means “Warm Stops”. The nether world was described as a cold world in traditional Chinese culture. So “Warm Stops” could be understood as the omen of the nether world.

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 governor of a Jun. His offspring were all excellent persons. Among his offspring, Lu Zhi (卢植) 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. In the Western Jin (西晋) Dynasty, one day in a banquet, Lu Zhi (卢志) defiantly asked Lu Ji (陆机), “Which relatives of yours were Lu Xun (陆逊) and Lu Kang (陆抗)?” Lu Ji said, “As you with Lu Yu (卢毓) and Lu Ting (卢珽).” Lu Yun (陆云), who was the younger brother of Lu Ji, lost countenance. When they left the house, Lu Yun said to Lu Ji, “Why did you say so? Perhaps he really doesn’t know the fact.” Lu Ji said with a severe countenance, “Our father and grandfather had illustrious fame in our nation. Who doesn’t know them? Only the offspring of a ghost dares to say that.” Lu Xun was the grandfather of Lu Ji, and he was the prime minster (丞相) of the Wu (吴) State in the Three-Empires Times. Lu Kang was the father of Lu Ji, and he was the military minister (大司马) of the Wu State. Lu Yu was the son of Lu Zhi (卢植), and he was the minister (司空) of public works in the Wei (魏) State in the Three Kingdoms Era. Lu Ting was the son of Lu Yu, and he was an advisory and secretarial minister (侍中尚书) in the Western Jin Dynasty. Lu Zhi (卢志) was the son of Lu Ting. Because the Wu State surrendered itself to the Western Jin Dynasty which took the place of the Wei State, Lu Zhi (卢志) intentionally insulted the Lu (陆)’s family. It is very disrespectful to face a person and say the names of the person’s grandfather and father. Lu Ji thought he was from a noble family, and he couldn’t be tolerant of the disdain of Lu Zhi. So he said the names of Lu Zhi’s grandfather and father, too. The abusive words “the offspring of a ghost” show that the story of Lu Chong had been read widely.

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