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Magical Arts


Chinese folklore was always full of miracles, magic, gods, and demons. Chinese life was equally full of priests, exorcists, and fortune tellers. There were skeptics who doubted all of this and gullible people ready to believe everything, as well as charlatans who preyed on them, courageous souls who exposed them, and a government that wanted everyone to calm down. And there were writers who spun tales about everyone involved.

The following story is about a sturdy literatus who doubts fortune telling and who exposes and destroys artificial demons; but it is equally about a magician who creates such demons through black magic to protect his reputation as a fortune teller.

This story is from the group of "Liáozhāi" 聊斋 stories by the Pú Sōnglíng 蒲松龄 (1640-1715).


Magical Arts

by Pú Sōnglíng 蒲松龄

Dramatis Personae

= a strong and fearless young scholar

His sickly servant

A devious fortune teller

Various friends and makeshift demons

Go to English only version. woodcut

Acknowledgements: The scanned traditional Chinese text is from the Chinese Wikisource. Simplified and Pinyin versions were mechanically created from it. The translation is freely modified from J. Brandt 1927 Introduction to Literary Chinese (Peking: North China Union Language School), pp. 204, 206, 217, 219, 229, 231-233. The scanned traditional Chinese has been corrected in places and repunctuated, largely following the version provided by Brandt.

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