Chinese ghost stories are an assortment of over 500 wraithlike anecdotes written by Pu Songling in traditional Chinese throughout the early Qing reign. The stories are filled with Taoist exorcists, jiangsh, mystic foxes, monsters, ghosts, immortals, scholars, and demons. There are four central subjects of these stories. The first argument discusses the grumbles about the crooked old systems. The second theme is about corruption; the third issue concerns love, i.e., the vibrant approbation of unadulterated, authentic love among poor sages and immobilized women. The last theme was based on the criticism of people’s debauched behavior. The purpose of the current paper is to use the philosophy of Confucianism and conduct an in-depth analysis of Miss Quarta Hu, “The Painted Skin,” MuDran, “The Magnanimous Girl,” and Miss Lien-Hsiang stories from the “Chinese Strange Stories” from Make-do Studio.
Confucianism, similarly denoted as ruism, describes the structure of hypothetical, ethical, and sociopolitical wisdom designated as a religious conviction at times (Fetzer 13). Confucianism is a functional structure of ethical, societal, and spiritual thought that produced a tremendous influence on the history of Chinese civilizations until the 21st century (Goldin 11). Confucianism was industrialized through the spring and autumn epochs by Confucius (Master Kong), the Chinese philosopher of 551-479 BCE (Fetzer 13). Confucius’ philosophy stressed personal and administrative morality, perfection of social affiliations, fairness, and honesty. Confucius advocated for strong family allegiance, antecedent adoration, respect accorded to elders from children, and respect of husbands by their spouses. The philosopher also endorsed family as a foundation for superlative government. He further championed the widely recognized principle “Do not do unto others what you will not want to be done unto you” (Goldin 19).
Confucianism’s development is based on the core Confucian texts, i.e., the four books and the five classics (Ruggiero 26). The four books encompass The Great Learning, The Doctrine of the Mean, The Analects of Confucius, and The Mencius. On the other hand, the five classics include the classic of poetry, history, rites, changes, and the spring and autumn annals (Fetzer 16). Confucius also bases his thoughts on the following core concepts, rites, where he advocated that people should be led to excellence instead of administrative sanctions and put them in their place via roles and ritual practices instead of punitive laws imposed on them; he ordered symphonically, hence developing a sense of shame (Yao 45). Based on the facet of affiliations, Confucius discovered that different duties arise from numerous positions held by various individuals. Juniors are echoed in Confucianism to owe duties of devotion and service to their superiors. On the other hand, seniors owe their juniors munificence duties (Ruggiero 32).
On the aspect of filial piety, filial devotion is a virtue that must be shown toward the living and the dead. Filial means “relating to a child” and denotes respect and obedience that a child should show to his or her parents, particularly his or her father (Goldin 27). The other core concept is the loyalty concept that is more or less the same as the filial piety but in a different dimension, i.e., the association between a ruler and a minister. Loyalty is commonly associated with the social class where most Confucius’ students belonged so as to secure the future for their scholarly services and become prominent officials to gain entry to the ruler’s civil service (Yao 53). The last concept is about humaneness; Confucius was concerned with people’s individual growth that took place within the framework of human relations. Formalities and familial devoutness are the attitudes that one should show toward others from the core attitude of humaneness (Yao 56). Based on Confucius’ philosophies, social philosophy was his utmost treasured theory that believed that building an ideal human society is the fundamental concern of Confucianism (Ruggiero 39). Confucianism’s core perceptions about love, family, ethics, filial piety, and relationships are well illustrated in the following short stories.
Mr. Shang was an intuitive scholar from T’ai-Shan, who lived quietly with his books. One autumn night as he was out walking with wandering thoughts, he met a young girl who came to him and asked him what he was deeply thinking about (Buber et al. 74). They introduced themselves to each other; the girl’s name was Tertia. After their first meeting, Tertia kept coming back to Shang every evening to chat. Shang grew fond of her, and he could not take his eyes off of her most of the time until one day she asked him what he was staring at. He said that he was looking at “his lovely rose, his beautiful peach.” Tertia’s reply was, “If you think so much of poor me, I don’t know where your brains could be if you saw my sister Quarta” (Pu and Guang 254). On her next visit, Tertia brought her sister to meet Shang. Shang could not believe his eyes as he had never seen such a beauty. Tertia left Quarta behind with Shang as they kept talking until Quarta revealed that she was a fox (Buber et al. 75).
Shang was so genuinely taken by her beauty that he did not take what she said seriously. Further, she told him that Tertia was very dangerous as she had already killed three people. Quarta further told him that anyone bewitched by Tertia’s beauty would never escape death (Ma and Lau 76). Quarta also told him that he was lucky to have set his eyes on her as she would ensure that he would not be destroyed, but on condition that he was to break all his connections with Tertia. Shang was so scared that he begged her to help him. Quarta said that even if she was a fox, she was skilled with immortals. So, she gave him a charm that he would paste on his door to keep Tertia away. The following day, Tertia came and saw the charm; she fell and cried, “Ungrateful minx! You have thrown me up for him” (Buber et al. 79).
On another occasion, Shang was out for a walk and was approached by a nice-looking lady who came from the shade of an oak tree. The girl handed Shang money and said, “The Hu girls (Tertia and Quarta) never bring you even a cent” (Pu, Mair and Mair 88). Shang took the money and bought wine as instructed by the girl. The young lady later came with some food and ate together with Shang. After some time, Tertia and Quarta came to Shang’s house and threw the young woman out, calling her a fox (Hearn 112). One day, a Shensi man approached Shang’s father and told him that he had been searching for three devils who killed his brother, and now he finally found them. He was talking about the three ladies that Shang was spending time with. The Shensi man made charms that brought the three women into a bottle. Quarta gave Shang instructions from the bottle on how to release her. He obeyed, and then she escaped leaving the other two behind (Pu and Guang 257). Ten years later, Quarta appeared to Shang and told him that she had gained the prize of immortality. She disappeared again to return after 20 years when she claimed that her name was in the register of immortals, and she had no right to return to earth. She promised to guide him through the happy land till his last day (Ma and Lau 78).
There was a man named Wang in T’ai-Yuan. One morning, he was out for a walk when he saw a young lady of about sixteen years old carrying a bundle with difficulties (Pu and Guang 143). Wang hurried to the girl, and they engaged in a conversation. The young girl told Wang that her parents loved money. So, they sold her to a wealthy family where she became a concubine (Pu, Mair and Mair 52). The wife of the rich man was very jealous and beat the girl day and night. The girl further said that she could not take it anymore; so, she escaped, but she had no fixed place to run to. Wang hearing that offered her his place, which she accepted. The girl asked Wang not to let anyone know that she was staying there, to which he agreed (Pu, Mair and Mair 57). After some days, Wang told his wife about the girl; his wife advised him to send the girl away as she might belong to a prominent family, but Wang did not consent to that. One day on his way to town, Wang met a Taoist priest who queried him about what he had met, but he did not understand the priest since had not met anything. The priest walked away after telling him that he was bewitched, and he termed him as a fool who did not know when death was at hand. Wang was so startled, and his mind rushed to the girl in his library, but he convinced himself that the beautiful young lady could not be a witch (Ma and Lau 43).
When Wang returned to the library, he found the door locked. He climbed on the wall and looked inside. He was astonished to see a hideous creature with a green face and jagged teeth like a saw spreading a human skin on the bed and painting it. The creature then wore the skin as a jacket and became the young girl that he met (Pu, Mair and Mair 69). Wang left at once in search of the priest whom he found in the fields, and he begged him to save his life. The priest gave Wang a fly-brush that he should hang in the bedroom to scare the creature. True to the priest’s word, the girl came; and when she saw the brush, she was frightened to pass and left. She later came cursing the priest, saying she was not scared of him, and she would not let go of what is already in her grasp. She then walked into the bedroom where she killed Wang, tore his heart out, and then she left Wang’s wife screaming (Hearn 146).
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Wang’s wife sent Wang’s brother to fetch the priest. The priest came with a sword and stood in the courtyard and shouted, “Base-born fiend, give me back my fly-brush”(Pu, Mair and Mair 77). The girl tried to escape, but the priest cornered her, and the painted human skin fell off, revealing the hideous creature. The priest stuck his sword into the creature that turned into a cloud of smoke (Buber et al. 64). The column of the smoke was sucked into a gourd, and the priest took the bottle with him. Wang’s wife asked the priest to bring her husband back to life, but he was not able to do that as that was beyond his power. He referred her to a maniac who could help her. She eventually got help, and Wang came back to life (Pu, Mair and Mair 87).
MuDan was a gorgeous fox ghost who became a woman. She wanted a human life so badly that she sneaked down the mountain to become a concubine of a very wealthy man (Wangfu) who was in silk business in the town of Xian (Ma and Lau 183). MuDan told Wangfu that all her family members died in a fire accident that left her the only survivor. Wangfu was so obsessed with MuDan that he decided to get married to her in a fancy wedding. The wedding was far better compared to his wedding to his first wife, Miss Wang. After the wedding, Wangfu forgot all about his first wife and only concentrated on MuDan (Hearn 136). Wangfu slept with MuDan almost every day that made Miss Wang jealous and unhappy. Miss Wang had two girls with Wangfu, but somehow she could not give birth to a baby boy. So, Wangfu began meerting with many concubines so that he could impregnate one of them to bore him a son to continue the family lineage.
Wangfu had never loved any of the concubines as he loved MuDan. Miss Wang was afraid that MuDan might take over her position in the family in the future (Pu, Mair and Mair 193). So, Miss Wang decided to kill MuDan; she poisoned MuDan with a deadly poison pill that she procured from a famous witch-doctor in town. Miss Wang did not have the slightest idea that MuDan was a ghost with nine lives (Pu and Guang 171).
Miss Wang was scared of MuDan as the poison seemed not to have harmed her in any way. After MuDan realized that Miss Wang wanted to kill her, she too began plotting a revenge strategy. MuDan met a poorly knowledgeable scholar, Lizi, who had just passed his scholarly test in Beijing and fell in love with him (Buber et al. 47). MuDan wanted to get her new love out of poverty, and so, she executed her revenge plan on the Wangfu family. She decided to kill the entire Wangfu family, including Wangfu’s kids. After MuDan had killed all Wangfus, she inherited the entire Wangfu fortune and lived a happy life with Lizi. Few years later, Lizi decided to have a concubine, but MuDan could not bear that. MuDan was very jealous that she murdered Lizi’s concubine. Lizi got scared and sought advice from a Taoist priest, who revealed that MuDan was from a ghost fox family (Ma and Lau 190). Lizi became more afraid of MuDan that he never had sex with her anymore. MuDan became so sad that she committed suicide.
Ku was a poor man living in Chin-ling with his old mother, but he had a significant capability of painting (“The Magnanimous Girl” para 1). Ku was 25 years old, not yet married as what he earned from painting and writing could only support him and his mother (Hearn 99). Opposite them, there was a house that had not been inhabited for a long time; however, one day a young lady and an old woman came and occupied it. The girl was about 18 years old, breathtaking, and clever, while her mother was a deaf old lady. One day, Ku’s mother visited the young lady and her mother and discovered that they were destitute of food for that day. She asked how they survived, and the old lady said that they trusted food from her daughter’s ten fingers (“The Magnanimous Girl” para 2). Ku’s mother proposed the old lady to unite the two families to which she agreed, but the young woman did not agree to that. One day, the girl and her mother had nothing to eat; therefore, they sought help from Ku and his mother. Ku gave them rice. Since then, the young lady got into the habit of coming over to help Ku’s mother with the household chores as if she had become her daughter-in-law (“The Magnanimous Girl” para 4).
After some time, Ku’s mother got a boil on her leg that left her in torture day and night. The young lady devoted herself to cleaning and administering medicine to Ku’s mother (“The Magnanimous Girl” para 7). With all the care and attention given to the woman, she cried saying that she wished that the young lady was her daughter-in-law to see her through to the day she died (Buber et al. 89). For some time, the young lady disappeared only to appear after a while. Ku had a friend who was interested in the girl, but she disliked him very much. Once, Ku’s friend said something to her that upset her so much that she drew a knife from her robe, which petrified Ku’s friend, and he ran away to save his life (“The Magnanimous Girl” para 8). When Ku’s friend vanished, the young lady threw her blade into the air bringing a smudge of light like a rainbow, and then something came plummeting with a flop. Ku saw the light and ran to see what was happening, and there he saw a white fox, its head in one place and body in another (Ma and Lau 202). The young lady said to him, “There is your friend, I knew he would make me destroy him one day.” The young lady admitted having wisdom on how to use black magic (“The Magnanimous Girl” para 9).
In I-Chou, there lived a primitive young man named Sang Tsu-ming. Sang’s parents died when he was very young. One day, his neighbor asked him jokingly if he was scared of devil-foxes. Sang laughed saying that he did not fear foxes as he was a strong man. He further added that if the foxes came as men, he had a sword for them; and if they came as women, he would ask them to come in (Hearn 122). The neighbor went away and arranged with his friend to get a young girl to climb to Sang’s house and knock on the door. The girl knocked, and as Sang asked who was at the door, the young girl answered saying that she was the devil and ran way. After six months, a young lady knocked on Sang’s door; he thought it was his friend’s old tricks again, so he invited her in (Ma and Lau 156). The girl said that her name was Lien-Hsiang and she was from the neighborhood. Sang and Lien-Hsiang became friends and met almost every day.
One evening, Sang was expecting Lien-Hsiang when a young lady of about fifteen or sixteen years old walked in instead of Lien-Hsiang. Sang took her for a fox, but she introduced herself as Li and said that she came from a respectable family. Li told Sang that she would only come to visit him when no one was there; so, she gave him a fine-pointed embroidered slipper (Pu and Guang 313). She told him that whenever he shook the slipper, she would know that he wanted to see her, and she would come. She also warned him against shaking the slipper before strangers. Every evening, whenever he was alone, he shook the slipper, and the girl appeared. Sang decided to ask about the slipper, but the girl said that it was just a coincidence that he shook the slipper, and she appeared. One evening, after Lien-Hsiang had visited, Li trailed her and learned that she was a fox. Li told Sang about what she discovered, but Sang took it as if Li was jealous of Lien-Hsiang. Lien-Hsiang also watched Li and discovered that she was a devil (Ma and Lau 159). Sang did not believe Lien-Hsiang as he thought she was also jealous of Li. Lien-Hsiang asked Sang to forbid Li from visiting. She further told him that he was infected with a devil disease (Pu, Mair and Mair 76). Lien-Hsiang offered him medicine that would help him get rid of the poison in his system. After Lien-Hsiang had left, Li came; when Lien-Hsiang discovered that Li had come again, she went away (Buber et al. 94).
After two months, Sang got a feeling of great lethargy that made him gaunt. Finally, Sang believed what Lien-Hsiang told him about Li being the cause of his sickness. He was now almost dying, hoping Lien-Hsiang would come to save him. Suddenly, Lien-Hsiang walked in smiling, telling him that she was right. Sang implored her to save him, but she said that there was not much that she could do; she only came to bid him goodbye. On that same day, Sang asked Lien-Hsiang to destroy the magic slipper, but instead, Li appeared when the slipper was shaken (Ma and Lau 163). The two ladies had a squabble with Li admitting to being a devil, and Lien-Hsiang acceded that she was a fox. Three months later, Lien-Hsiang healed Sang, and he became strong again.
Confucianism is a complex structure of ethical, societal, and pious thought that caused a tremendous influence on the history of Chinese civilizations until the 21st century. In the story of Miss Quarta Hu, Shang shows his loyalty to Quarta when he helps her escape from the ghost hunter. Quarta, in turn, promises the young scholar to guide him all through his life to ensure that he gets successful.
In the story of the painted skin, a Confucian-style moral teaching and the Taoist principles of parables are depicted. Wang finds it ethical to help the young girl who is all alone and gives her shelter for the night as she has nowhere to go. Confucius stresses that helping one another creates harmony. Wang does not know that the girl who he has helped is a ghost that can kill him later. This is where the Taoist comes and warns him about the girl, and helps him scare the girl away, but she still manages to kill him. Later, the Taoist helps Wang’s wife contact the maniac who has contributed to raising Wang from the dead.
Confucius was obsessed with family lineages and family continuity. In the story of MuDran, Wangfu has married MuDran as the second wife to bear him a son to continue his family lineage. Wangfu knows nothing that MuDran is a ghost, who later kills his entire family and inherits his fortune to live on with Lizi.
Confucius believed that in order to build an ideal society, the family relationship was an essential part of thinking; therefore, the doctrine of filial piety is the keystone of all integrities in The Analects of Confucius. According to the story of “The Magnanimous Girl,” Ku takes care of his mother as she is his only family. He also accords his mother respect that she deserves. Based on the relationships concept, the young lady tirelessly helps Ku’s mother with household chores as well as when she is sick; this shows her respect for the elders. Ku also respects and helps the young lady’s mother.
In the story of Miss Lien-Hsiang, Confucianism in the form of loyalty is depicted when Sang stays loyal to his two friends, Li and Lien-Hsiang. When Li says that Lien-Hsiang is a fox, Sang tells the latter and does the same to Li when Lien-Hsiang says that Li is a devil. Lien-Hsiang is a real harmless fox, while Li is an evil demon who does not want to harm Sang, but she cannot help it. Lien-Hsiang also stays loyal to Sang regardless of their differences and cures him.