Exorcism in the Garden 大觀園符水驅妖孽

The following episode is from Chapter 102 of The Story of the Stone: The Dreamer Wakes 萬境歸空, translated by John Minford, Penguin Books, 1986.

Charms and Holy Water are Used to
Exorcize Prospect Garden



Skybright’s cousin, Wu Gui, lived, it will be remembered, opposite the rear gate-house of the Garden. It had reached the ears of Wu Gui’s wife that Skybright, after her death, had become a flower fairy, and from then on she took the precaution of staying indoors every evening. One day Wu Gui went shopping and stayed out later than usual. His wife had caught a slight cold and during the day took the wrong medicine, with the result that when Wu Gui returned that evening he found her lying dead on the kang. Because of her reputation for promiscuity, other members of the household staff concluded that a sprite must have climbed over the Garden wall, enjoyed her at inordinate length, and finally ‘sucked the sap’ out of her. 卻說晴雯的表兄吳貴正住在園門口,他媳婦自從晴雯死後,聽見說作了花神,每日晚間便不敢出門。這一日,吳貴出門買東西,回來晚了。那媳婦子本有些感冒著了,日間吃錯了藥,晚上吳貴到家,已死在炕上。外面的人因那媳婦子不妥當,便都說妖怪爬過牆吸了精去死的。

This incident put Grandmother Jia in a great tizzy. She increased the guard around Bao-yu’s apartment and had it constantly watched and patrolled. Some of the younger maids subsequently claimed to have seen weird red-faced creatures lurking in the vicinity, while others testified to the presence of a strange female apparition of great beauty. Such rumours soon multiplied, and Bao-yu lived in mortal terror. Bao-chai was less easily taken in, and warned the maids that any more fear-mongering would bring them a good hiding. Although this quietened things down a bit, there was still an atmosphere of great apprehension throughout both mansions, and more watchmen were taken on, which was an additional expense. 於是老太太著急的了不得,替另派了好些人將寶玉的住房圍住,巡邏打更。這些小丫頭們還說,有的看見紅臉的,有的看見很俊的女人的,吵嚷不休。唬得寶玉天天害怕。虧得寶釵有把持的,聽得丫頭們混說,便唬嚇著要打,所以那些謠言略好些。無奈各房的人都是疑人疑鬼的不安靜,也添了人坐更,於是更加了好些食用。

Jia She was the only one not to believe a word of it. 獨有賈赦不大很信,說:

‘There’s nothing the matter with the Garden, for heaven’s sake! Haunted! What an absurd notion!’ 好好園子,那裏有什麼鬼怪!

He waited for a warm day when there was a mild breeze, and went to inspect the Garden himself; accompanied by a large number of armed servants. They all advised him against going, but he would not listen. When they entered the Garden, the atmosphere was so dark and sinister, so oppressively Yin, that they could almost touch it. Jia She refused to turn back, and his servants reluctantly followed him in, with many a furtive and shrinking sideways glance. One young lad among them, already scared to death, heard a sudden ‘whoosh!’, and turning to look saw something brightly coloured go flashing past. He uttered a terrified ‘Aiyo!’, went instantly weak at the knees and collapsed on the ground. When Jia She looked back and stopped to question him, he replied breathlessly: 挑了個風清日暖的日子,帶了好幾個家人,手內持著器械,到園踹看動靜。眾人勸他不依。到了園中,果然陰氣逼人。賈赦還扎掙前走,跟的人都探頭縮腦。內中有個年輕的家人,心內已經害怕,只聽「呼」的一聲,回過頭來,只見五色燦爛的一件東西跳過去了,唬得噯喲一聲,腿子發軟,便躺倒了。賈赦回身查問,那小子喘噓噓的回道:

‘I saw it with my own eyes! I did! A monster with a yellow face and a red beard, all dressed in green! It went up there, into that grotto behind those trees!’ 親眼看見一個黃臉紅鬚綠衣青裳一個妖怪走到樹林子後頭山窟窿裏去了。

Jia She was somewhat shaken himself. 賈赦聽了,便也有些膽怯,問道:

‘Did anyone else see this thing?’ 你們都看見麼﹖

Some of the servants decided to take advantage of the situation and replied: 有幾個推順水船兒的回說:

‘Clear as daylight, sir. You were up in front and we didn’t want to alarm you, sir. So we tried to keep a grip on ourselves, and act as if nothing had happened.’ 怎麼沒瞧見,因老爺在頭裏,不敢驚動罷了。奴才們還撐得住。

Jia She now lacked the courage to go any further. He turned back and went home as quickly as possible, telling the boys who had accompanied him not to say anything about what had happened, but merely to let it be known that they had had an uneventful tour of the Garden. He himself needed no further convincing that the Garden was haunted, and began to think it might be advisable to apply to the Taoist Pontificate for priests to perform an exorcism. His servants, meanwhile, who were by nature fond of making trouble, saw how frightened their master was, and far from concealing the episode, retailed it with a great deal of gusto and embellishment, creating quite a sensation and eliciting a good deal of open-mouthed astonishment. 說得賈赦害怕,也不敢再走,急急的回來,吩咐小子們:不要提及,只說看遍了,沒有什麼東西。心裏實也相信,要到真人府裏請法官驅邪。豈知那些家人無事還要生事,今見賈赦怕了,不但不瞞著,反添些穿鑿,說得人人吐舌。

In the end Jia She decided that there was no other recourse than to go ahead and hold a formal ceremony of exorcism. A suitable day in the almanac was chosen, and an altar was constructed in the Garden, on a dais in the main hall of the Reunion Palace. Images of the Three Pure Ones were set up, flanked by figures of the spirits presiding over each of the Twenty-Eight Constellations, and of the Four Great Commanders — Ma, Zhao, Wen and Zhou. Further down the hall, the sacred precinct was made complete with a diagrammatic representation of the Thirty-Six Heavenly Generals. The air was heavy with flowers and incense, the hall blazed with lanterns and candles. Bells, drums, liturgical instruments and other paraphernalia were arrayed along both sides of the hall, and emblematic banners were hoisted at each of the Five Cardinal Points (the Four Corners and the Centre). The Taoist Pontiff had delegated Forty-Nine Deacons for the ceremony, and they began by spending a whole day purifying the altar. Then three priests went the rounds of the hall, waving smoking bundles of joss-sticks and sprinkling holy water, and when this was done the great Drum of the Dharma thundered forth. The priests now donned their Seven Star Mitres and robed themselves in their chasubles emblazoned with the Nine Heavenly Mansions and the Eight Trigrams. Wearing Cloud-Mounting Pattens on their feet and holding ivory tablets in their hands, they addressed themselves in reverent supplication to the sages. For a full day they chanted the Arcanum Primordii, a text renowned for its efficacy in the dispelling of misfortune, the exorcizing of evil spirits and the general enhancement of propitious vibrations. Then they produced the Spirit Roll, which called on the Heavenly Generals to be present. 賈赦沒法,只得請道士到園作法事,驅邪逐妖。擇吉日,先在省親正殿上鋪排起壇場,上供三清聖像,旁設二十八宿並馬、趙、溫、周四大將,下排三十六天將圖像。香花燈燭設滿一堂,鐘鼓法器排兩邊,插著五方旗號。道紀司派定四十九位道眾的執事,淨了一天的壇。三位法官行香取水畢,然後擂起法鼓,法師們俱戴上七星冠,披上九宮八卦的法衣,踏著登雲履,手執牙笏,便拜表請聖。又念了一天的消災驅邪接福的《洞元經》,以後便出榜召將。

It was inscribed with the following large characters: 榜上大書





Charms and Holy Water are Used to Exorcize Prospect Garden. Source: Sun Wen 孫溫, Illustrations for the Complete Dream of the Red Chamber 《繪全本紅樓夢》.

The menfolk of both Rong-guo and Ning-guo House had taken courage from the presence of the priests, and were gathered in the Garden to watch the demon-hunt. 那日,兩府上下爺們仗著法師擒妖,都到園中觀看,

‘Most impressive!’ they all agreed. ‘All those benevolent spirits and powers are bound to strike fear into the heart of even the most obdurate demon!’ 都說:好大法令!呼神遣將的鬧起來,不管有多少妖怪也唬跑了。

They crowded in front of the altar to watch the rest of the proceedings. The young banner-bearing Deacons took up their positions in the hall, one group at each of the Five Cardinal Points, North, East, South, West and Centre, and awaited their orders. The three priests stood on the lower steps of the altar: one held the Magic Sword and the Holy Water, one the black Seven Star Banner, and one the peach-wood Demon Whip. The music ceased. The gong sounded thrice, the monks intoned a prayer, and the cohorts of banner-bearers began performing circular gyrations. The priests then descended from the altar and instructed the Jia menfolk to conduct them to every storeyed building, studio, hall, pavilion, chamber, cottage or covered walk, every hillside and water’s edge in the Garden. In each place they sprinkled the Holy Water and brandished the Magic Sword. On their return, the gong rang out again, the Seven Star Banner was raised aloft and consecrated, and as it descended the Deacons formed a phalanx around it with their lesser banners, and the Demon Whip was cracked three times in the air. 大家都擠到壇前。只見小道士們將旗幡舉起,按定五方站住,伺候法師號令。三位法師,一位手提寶劍,拿著法水;一位捧著七星皂旗;一位舉著桃木打妖鞭,立在壇前。只聽法器一停,上頭令牌三下,口中念念有詞,那五方旗便團團散布。法師下壇,叫本家領著到各處樓閣殿亭,房廊屋舍,山崖水畔,洒了法水,將劍指畫了一回。回來連擊牌令,將七星旗祭起,眾道士將旗幡一聚,接下打怪鞭望空打了三下。

This, thought the Jias, must be the climactic moment; now at last the entire company of evil spirits would be routed and captured. They thronged forward to be in at the finish. But nothing seemed to happen. No apparition, no sound; only the voice of one of the priests, ordering the Deacons to ‘bring on the jars’. These receptacles were duly ‘brought on’, and in them the priests proceeded to ‘confine’ the invisible spirits, sealing them afterwards with official seals. The Abbot inscribed some magical characters in vermilion, and put the jars to one side, giving orders that they should be taken back to the temple. There they were to be placed beneath a pagoda, whose geomantic location would ensure that they and their contents were safely ‘contained’. The temporary altar was dismantled and thanks given to the Heavenly Powers. Jia She made a solemn kowtow of gratitude to the Abbot. 本家眾人都道拿住妖怪,爭著要看,及到跟前,並不見有什麼形響。只見法師叫眾道士拿取瓶罐,將妖收下,加上封條。法師朱筆書符收禁,令人帶回在本觀塔下鎮住,一面撤壇謝將。賈赦恭敬叩謝了法師。

Afterwards Jia Rong and the younger men of the family had a good laugh about it all in private: 賈蓉等小弟兄背地都笑個不住,說:

‘All that pantomime to catch the evil spirits! They might at least have let us have a look! What a farce! They probably didn’t manage to catch a single one!’ 這樣的大排場,我打量拿著妖怪給我們瞧瞧,到底是些什麼東西,那裏知道是這樣收羅,究竟妖怪拿去了沒有﹖

‘Fools!’ snapped Cousin Zhen, when he heard this. 賈珍聽見,罵道:

‘Evil spirits don’t behave like that at all. At certain times they condense into crude matter, at others they dissolve into the ether. With so many benevolent spirits present of course they wouldn’t dare take on material form. It’s their etheric form that’s in question here. That is what Their Holinesses have taken hold of; by so doing they have rendered the spirits harmless. That is how the magic works.’糊塗東西!妖怪原是聚則成形,散則成氣,如今多少神將在這裏,還敢現形嗎﹖無非把這妖氣收了,便不作祟,就是法力了。

The younger generation were only half-convinced, and reserved their judgement until such time as they could observe a more visible diminution in demonic activity; the servants, who were told quite firmly that the spirits had now been caught, became less apprehensive as a result, and no further incidents or sightings were reported; while Cousin Zhen and the other invalids made a complete recovery (which they had no hesitation in attributing to the efficacy of the monks’ spells). 眾人將信將疑,且等不見響動再說。那些下人只知妖怪被擒,疑心去了,便不大驚小怪,往後果然沒人提起了。賈珍等病愈復原,都道法師神力。

There was, however, one page-boy who continued to find the whole episode highly amusing, and who shared his amusement with the others: 獨有一個小子笑說道:

‘I don’t know what the earlier business was about, but that day we were in the Garden with Sir She, it was nothing more than a big pheasant that took off out of the undergrowth and went flying past us. Old Ropey got the fright of his life and thought he’d seen a ghost or something. He made a great song and dance about it afterwards. Most of the others believed him and backed him up, and Sir She swallowed the whole thing. Oh well, at least they put on a nice bit of mumbo-jumbo for us!’ 頭裏那些響動,我也不知道,就是跟著大老爺進園這一日,明明是個大公野雞飛過去了,拴兒嚇離了眼,說得活像。我們都替他圓了個謊,大老爺就認真起來。倒瞧了個很熱鬧的壇場。

But no one was convinced by his version of the story. And certainly no one was willing to live in the Garden again. 眾人雖然聽見,那裏肯信,究無人住。