Master storyteller Pu Songling sitting at Laoshan park
Master Pu Songling at Laoshan park, during my visit, November 10, 2015

Don't listen to scary tales after dark

DIRTY OLD MEN whose brains reside in their testicles shouldn’t simply pick up female strangers in the streets, says Pu Songling 蒲松齡。

I met the old master raconteur on a visit to Laoshan, a forested hilly park outside Qingdao city. It was a cold autumn afternoon when I sat on the stone bench to hear the cautionary tale he told about a certain Mr Wang from Taiyuan city, an idle fellow who spent most of his time trying to pick up girls.

Wang was rich and didn’t need to do a lick of honest work because his dead papa left him a small fortune. He would wander in the streets hoping to meet someone naive and innocent, and seduce her.

So, early one morning as Wang was out walking, he did meet such a girl, about 16 and very beautiful. Wang immediately greeted her and after some chit-chat, he suggested they go to his house for some recreational activities. Strangely, she seemed only too pleased to follow him.

“Now, you know, I know, and every mother’s son knows, that no well-brought-up girl would willingly follow a strange man home,” said Master Pu.

Aha, I thought, something bad is definitely going to happen to dirty-minded Wang.

“When they arrived, Wang took the girl into his private study, an empty house with its own front courtyard that was set apart from the other buildings in the large residence. That night and several more nights he stayed there with the girl, copulating with her and ravishing her delicate, jade-smooth body from sunset to sunrise, without his wife or servants knowing anything.

“But his ‘fucking’ good time didn’t last,” said Master Pu with a chuckle. “Wang went out one morning to the marketplace to buy breakfast, and ran into a Taoist priest who stared at his face and told Wang he was bewitched! Wang of course didn’t believe what the priest said. He couldn’t imagine that such a sweet young thing could cast an evil spell on him.

“When he returned home, he saw that the outer door of his study was barred and he could not enter. He found a hole in the wall where he barely managed to squeeze through and got into the courtyard. But the inner door was also locked. Now he really felt uneasy. Creeping up to a window, he peeped through and saw the most horrifying sight of his life – a green-faced monster with big jagged teeth was leaning over what looked like the skin of an entire female human body, spread on the bed, his bed.

“The monster had a paintbrush in its hand and was using it to touch up the skin in life-like colour. When the painting was done, it threw down the brush, lifted the skin, shook it like a cloak and wrapped itself in it. Instantly, the green monster was transformed into Wang’s pretty girlfriend!”

I jumped in fright. “Master Pu,” I cried, “please tell me you’re simply making up this story!”

The master smiled. I looked around the now deserted courtyard which just an hour earlier was thronged with flag-waving tourists. The daylight was fading, the overhanging tree branches looked like twisted limbs, and deep blue shadows were creeping up on me. I recalled reading that Pu Songling used to spent many long nights in Laoshan itself, writing about strange encounters with spirits and other denizens from the supernatural realm. Whether they were creatures of his fantasy or real, I wouldn’t like to stay back to find out.

“I think I’ve got to go,” I said as I stood up to gather my camera bag and put on my coat. “Goodbye, sir!”

“Wait! Don’t you want to know what happened to Wang?” Master Pu asked, with a twinkle in his eyes.

“Another day, perhaps” I replied. “My grandma told me that when it gets dark, I shouldn’t be listening to scary tales.”

Laoshan is a charming spot for a day tour. If you are in Qingdao, go early in the morning when the sun is bright and the place bustling with life. Join the crowd of pious visitors burning incense and seeking God’s favour in one of the many picturesque Taoist temples nestled in serene gardens. Stroll along the leafy paths, and contemplate the ancient trees and the hillside covered with emerald tea bushes.

But don’t linger after dark when it gets chilly.

Continue... Pu Songling’s tale, Part 2

Pu Songling with Confucius and Laozi | Contents Page