Dover Book

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While our perception of "ghost" in the West may be something horrible, chilling, or terrifying, these stories from China are more about "spirit" than "ghosts". They are powerful and emotional tales of love, valor, loyalty, and reward.

The Soul of the Great Bell tells a tale of great love between a father and daughter. Kouan-Yu is commanded by the Celestially August, the Son of Heaven, Yong-Lo of the Ming Dynasty to build a bell whose sound would be heard for one hundred li, along with other specific attributes. Though Kouan-Yu gathers all the best masters of bell-making in the empire, the casting of the bell on two attempts is far below standards. Yong-Lo sends a letter to Kouan-Yu, threatening his life if he does not fulfill his command. Unbeknownst to her father, Ko-Ngai, the beautiful daughter of Kouan-Yu visits an astrologer and learns what she must do to save her father's life.

The Legend of Tchi-Niu is a poignant story of an honorable sacrifice being rewarded. Tong-Yong's mother died when he was an infant. When he was nineteen, his father also dies. Poor and alone, yet determined to give his cherished father a deserving burial, Tong-Yong sells himself into slavery. Three years pass, and still Tong-Yong honors his father's tomb, never ceasing to mourn. When he finally succumbs to his sorrow, and lies in a deathlike fever, he imagines a beautiful lady who appears in his dream. When he awakens, he finds her beside him, his fever gone and strength returned. "I will provide," she promises him. They are married, and she cares for him, preparing his meals and weaving every day, selling her beautiful handiwork to bring prosperity to the household. In the conclusion of this tale, Tong-Yong is rewarded beyond anything he could have imagined.

The Return of Yen-Tchin-King is a tale of valor, loyalty, and bravery. The evil Li-hi-lié has threatened revolt, so the emperor sends Yen-Tchin-King with a letter requesting peace. Hi-lié only laughs and demands that Tchin-King bow before him, lest he be thrown into the fire which is burning the bones of those he has slaughtered. Tchin-King, rather than bear him allegiance, jumps into the fire himself. Hi-lié's soldiers snatch him from the flames, and Hi-lié is stunned by his bravery. He bids Tchin-King to sit among them and partake of their hospitality. But Tchin-King refuses, and Hi-lié slaughters him. Even after his death, Tchin-King reappears to the emperor. After that and other incidents, he is known and honored as a divinity of Heaven.

These and three other stories are included in this short yet powerful book.

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