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The Daoist of Láoshān


Daoism covers such a multitude of perspectives and activities across Chinese history as to defy concise characterization. In Chinese folklore Daoism often includes hermits and magicians, normally possessing admirable or frightening occult powers, as well as charlatans pretending to such powers. Some Daoists are presented as exorcists, keeping malign forces at bay, but others capture such forces and use them for their own, often devious purposes. Some are positive trickster figures, who ingeniously contrive that the ill-natured receive a just comeuppance.

Not surprisingly, the prospect of mysterious power can prove attractive, even though tradition holds that it requires a lifetime of training. Folklore therefore presents us with images of Daoist masters served by disciples as well as by wannabe disciples who lack the spine for it when actually put to the test. The following is a story about just such an ambitious but badly motivated soul, and the Daoist who sees to his just desserts.

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


The Daoist of Láoshān

by Pú Sōnglíng 蒲松龄

Dramatis Personae

WÁNG = a would-be Daoist

His long-suffering wife

A Daoist priest living on Mount Láo

Various Disciples

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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 Herbert A. Giles 1916 Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio (Shanghai: Kelly & Walsh), pp. 10-13. The scanned traditional Chinese has been corrected in places and repunctuated.

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