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Examination for the Post of City God


A city god or chénghuáng 城 隍 was a local divinity charged with overseeing the record-keeping involved with rounding up the newly dead and delivering them to the land of the dead for judgment, punishment, and eventual reincarnation.

City god temples were found in all major towns and cities in traditional China, as well as existing at the county and province levels.

Because it was obvious that such divinities were all separate local functionaries, and not a single divinity with lots of temples, vernacular religion often included the belief that people who were especially worthy could be appointed directly to a divine bureaucratic post after death, including the post of city god.

The following ghost story builds upon this belief.

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


Examination for the Post of City God

by Pú Sōnglíng 蒲松龄

Dramatis Personae

SÒNG Tāo 宋焘 = a virtuous bureaucrat

His mother, destined to live nine more years

ZHĀNG = an affable but unimpressive examination candidate

Guāndì 关帝 = a god

More gods

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. 274-275, 284-287. The scanned traditional Chinese has been corrected in places (including restoration of the first sentence) and repunctuated following the version provided by Brandt.

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