Bu Tian Gang Ch27

Author: 梦溪石 / Meng Xi Shi

Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/

Chapter 27

The mountain gate above their heads didn’t seem far away, but it took a full two hours to reach it. When he arrived, Dong Zhi found that the scenery he had just vaguely seen under the steps had completely changed.

The original dense forest scenery was now a Taoist temple that was standing majestically in front of him. Coiled dragon stone pillars stood at the center of the square as Taoist flags fluttered in the wind. Figures that wore Taoist robes and had their hair tied in a bun were seen walking through corridors. All this made him feel as if he had stepped into another world.

“This is the Hezao sect?” Dong Zhi asked curiously, “Can ordinary tourists come in?”

He Yu said, “Although it is part of the mountains, there are barriers in place. Ordinary people wouldn’t even find the entrance, let alone enter. Just like what’s written in the Tao Yuanming’s Chronicles*, there is no way to enter.”

*(桃花源记) Is a famous writer during the Eastern Jin Dynasty. His collection of works is titled Land of Peach Blossoms, which expresses his ideals of pursuing a better life and his dissatisfaction with his real life at that time. It’s an allegory to chasing “paradise”.

Under the azure sky, the Taoist Temple became more solemn, and the tai chi floor tiles on the square seemed to be shining brightly. Dong Zhi gasped in astonishment as his eyes filled with admiration. “It’s worthy of its famous name. It’s so different from the tourist area!”

He Yu said, “You haven’t even seen the bigger sects yet. Rich sects like Mount Longhu and Maoshan are a hundred times more magnificent than this. Despite us having just as much prestige as the other two, the Hezao Sect bears its name in vain for they refuse to spend money on marketing, so it’s devastatingly poor… Ouch!”

The back of his head was smacked before he could finish his shit talk.

“Which bastard…” He Yu touched his head and turned it around, then immediately changed to a smiling face. “Shishu*, did you come out to let the wind out1?”

*[Shishu] (师叔) It’s a combination of teacher + uncle. It’s a title for the junior brother of one’s master [shifu] (师父) that’s younger than him. I previously translated it as “martial uncle or uncle” but decided now to use the pinyin form. While Chinese has distinctions in these titles, I cannot think of an English equivalent and martial uncle just doesn’t sound quite right to me.

The old, white-bearded man made a gesture as if to beat him again. “What wind1? I’m your shishu, not someone locked up in a mental hospital!”

1Let loose (放风) Has many meanings. In this context, He Yu is asking if he’s out to “take in the fresh air” but it also has a double meaning of “letting prisoners go out to walk in the yard or use the toilet” which is why the old man responded like this.

He Yu hurriedly hid behind Dong Zhi and pushed him forward. “Shishu, look, look. This is the apprentice I brought back to you!”

The white-bearded old man looked at Dong Zhi, smiled kindly, and said, “Where did you find this kid?”

He Yu proudly said, “I picked him up on the road. As your nephew, I have a good eye. I chose one that has quite some talent for drawing talismans. He can almost instantly learn how to draw runes with just one lesson, which is more powerful than I was back then!”

Dong Zhi was busy acting modest. “It’s not that good. It’s only because I went to graphic design school that I have a little foundation!”

The old man smiled and said, “Don’t worry, don’t worry. Have you brought back Cheng Hui’s remnant soul?”

He Yu: “I brought it back. We barely escaped death back then! Even my life was almost accounted for there.”

The old man said: “Your shifu* is waiting for you, so take Cheng Hui over quickly. It’s not good for him to delay too long.”

*[Shifu] (师父) Refers to the master/teacher. I’ll leave it in pinyin form as well to keep things consistent.

He Yu nodded and looked at Dong Zhi. “Then you can play with my shishu for a while. I’ll come back and find you later.” With that said, He Yu led Cheng Hui away.

Dong Zhi complained in his thoughts. ‘How can you dare say play with him when your shishu’s this old?’

The old man smiled and said, “Since it’s your first time here, I want to entertain you well. How about eating tea-smoked duck tonight? The cook is from Sichuan, so he combines Sichuan style cooking with the local tea-smoked duck. It’s a delicious delicacy that you can’t find anywhere else.”

Dong Zhi was flattered and hurriedly declined, not wanting to intrude too much.

The old man said, “It’s fine. Thanks to you, I can have such a good meal. Let’s go.”

He walked slowly in front with his hands behind his back, pointing to a stone or tree from time to time while saying a word or two about them to Dong Zhi.

The Hezao Sect flourished during the Northern Song Dynasty. It, along with Maoshan and Longhu, was designated as the three major sects of Buddhism by Emperor Song Huizong. During this time, it was prosperous. At the end of the Song Dynasty was the beginning of the Yuan Dynasty, when the Hezao Sect fell into turmoil. Some Taoists of the Hezao Sect fled to participate in the rebellion. Encountered by military disaster, their Taoist temples were almost destroyed, and all three sects sharply declined. It was not until the Ming Dynasty that, with great efforts from the head of the 31st generation, the Hezao Sect was revived and became prosperous again.  

In order to avoid repeating the same mistakes and being destroyed by war and fire, the Hezao Sect learned from Maoshan and Longhu, and hid their entrance in the back of the mountain behind a barrier, which has lasted to this day.

Dong Zhi listened with relish and asked once it ended, “So ordinary tourists can’t find the real path to Maoshan and Longhu Mountain?

The old man smiled and said, “Naturally, those scenic spots outside are for ordinary people to see. Although the Hezao Sect has also put up a similar trick and is on par with the history of Maoshan and Longhu sect, we are still just a small group and are not comparable to a large organization like them.”

Before Dong Zhi had time to ask more questions, he heard the old man say, “We’re here.”

They stopped at a lake that had a group of big white ducks that were happily flapping their wings in the water. The weeping branches hung down low by the shore, and the lotus were blossoming, beginning to populate the lake. Such a sight was truly idyllic.

Old man: “Okay, catch it.”

Dong Zhi: ???

Seeing his face blank, the old man said, “Don’t you want to eat tea-smoked duck? You have to catch the duck yourself.”

Dong Zhi didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. “Can I really catch ducks this casually?”

Old man: “Of course, this is what we raise for the kitchen. They say that I have high blood pressure, so they rarely let me eat them, so it’s hard to wait until guests come that I can finally have a meal today!”

Dong Zhi discovered that what He Yu said wasn’t disrespectful to his elders at all!

He really meant it by telling him to go play!

Dong Zhi felt like he’d been tricked into boarding a pirate ship, but under the kind gaze of the old man, he had to accept his fate, so he pulled up his trousers and walked towards the group of ducks.

At the same time, in the airtight room with all the windows closed, Cheng Hui tilted to the side and fell to the ground. The head of the Hezao Sect, Headmaster Xin, was sweating profusely, and his face was ghastly pale. He said to He Yu, “It won’t be too bad of an issue when he wakes up.”

He Yu hurriedly handed in the towel. “Shifu has worked hard!”

Headmaster Xin wiped a handful of sweat on it, shook his head and said, “Although Cheng Hui is good at divination, he doesn’t know any kung fu skills. How could he walk into a trap so easily?”

He Yu said, “At first, I just wanted him to help track down the people behind the Sneaky Yaksha, but I didn’t expect that it would draw out an Archfiend*.”

*Clarity: the term (人魔) is used to describe what Xu Wan is. I previously translated it as “demon” but it’s not necessarily correct. It’s more like a cross between a human who’s “fallen” to become a demon. I can’t really think of an appropriate name, but just think along the lines of fiend, devil, demon, ghoul, fallen ect. I have decided to use Archfiend because it’s a high-tier demon that can control other demons.

Headmaster Xin’s expression froze. “Archfiend? Are you sure it’s an Archfiend?”

He Yu nodded. “Also, the boss found fragments on stone walls in the desert area of northwestern Inner Mongolia. The runes are similar to those on the stone tablet we found on Changbai Mountain. I would like to ask you to take a look.”

He pulled up an album on his phone and zoomed in on the photo. Headmaster Xin’s brows furrowed tightly.

“Do you know how many ups and downs the Hezao Sect has encountered?”

He Yu was puzzled by the seemingly irrelevant* question. “I know, as you taught me, the rise and fall of Taoism is closely related to the rise and fall of a dynasty. In troubled times, Taoism’s ancient records are lost and scattered to all reaches of the world, and some couldn’t be restored.”

*The wind, horse, and cattle are not in harmony (风马牛不相及) Idiom that refers to incompatibility. || In this context, He Yu was confused by Headmaster Xin’s question that didn’t seem to have anything to do with the cryptic runes.

Headmaster Xin said, “When I was a child, I once heard your shizu* say that there was a Book of Scriptures from a sect in the Central Plains that was destroyed by fire at the end of the Qing Dynasty. He once flipped through it and vaguely remembered some of the talismans and demonstrated them to me, but because it was all from memory, what he repeated was incomplete. I didn’t teach it to you, but I remember that one of the talismans is at least seven or eight strokes similar to the rune in the middle of the photo.”

*(师祖) Title of your master’s master.

He picked up the incense burner, poured some ash on the ground, and drew the talisman according to his memory. He Yu gave a chuckle and compared it to the photos. Although it wasn’t exactly the same, it was very similar.

“Do you know what this talisman does?”

“Suppresses demons.”

Headmaster Xin patted the ashes on his hands and said, “I heard your shizu say that the Book of Scriptures was written many years before the founding of the Hezao Sect, so it should at least be before the Tang Dynasty. Based on the photos you provided, combined with this remnant rune, I speculate that the rune engraved on the stone tablet should be a rune representing a different direction or function of a talisman array.”

He Yu took a deep breath. “Then this talisman array is really big! One is on Changbai Mountain. The other is in the desert of Inner Mongolia. So, are there other stone tablets?”

Headmaster Xin said, “I have to tell Long Shen about this in person. Give me his contact information.”

He Yu let out a cry, turned on his phone, tapped it a few times, and handed it over. When Headmaster Xin looked at it, he was so angry that he raised his hand to smack the back of He Yu’s head.

“Who would scan the QR code at this time to add friends?! Hurry up and call him!”

He Yu was aggrieved and said, “How would I know that you wanted to speak to him? I thought you liked communicating like this!”

He dialed Long Shen’s number, but no one picked up the first time. He tried again, and it took a long time before someone picked up.

“What’s the matter?” Long Shen’s voice sounded.

Headmaster Xin took the call and pressed it on speaker. “Boss Long, it’s me, Xin Huaiyuan.”

Long Shen had met Headmaster Xin before, so he naturally recognized his voice. “Headmaster Xin?”

Headmaster Xin didn’t bother with greetings and went straight to the point and explained his speculation just now, then asked, “Are you sure that the Archfiend you ran into is indeed an Archfiend?”

Long Shen said, “A few years ago, when He Yu and Tang Jing went on a mission to the Yunnan border, they ran into a drug lord who could manipulate a Sneaky Yaksha. After they eliminated him, they thought the matter was over. Who knew that three years ago, Tang Jing and I went to Russia and encountered a similar incident. With Xu Wan, this would be the third time. Sneaky Yaksha are monsters* that condense by refining the blood and soul of resentment. Under normal circumstances, it’s impossible for them to appear on a large scale in batches, let alone have any sense of autonomy, so it must be that they are deliberately being manipulated by someone.”

*Clarity: I have previously called these “demons” and technically they are as (魔物) is used to describe them, but they are like very lower-level demons than what Xu Wan is as she can control them. In order to not get things confused and establish a “power ranking” I’ll now change to calling them monsters instead.

Humans have seven emotions and six desires* that they build resentment if they either beg for or abandon them. In a city with men and women feasting and drinking, endless resentment condensed in the sky above them. Some grievances are harmless and would dissipate on their own over time, while others were deep obsessions that could last forever. People with motives could use these grievances and condense them to blend with souls of those who died in vain and turn them into monsters.

*The seven emotions generally refer to: joy, anger, sorrow, fear, love, evil, and desire. The six desires (according to Buddhism) are: lust, appearance, posture, speech, voice, smoothness, and human desires.

This is not something that any ordinary practitioner can do. It can only be done by a powerful demon.

Headmaster Xin said solemnly, “Take resentment and hatred as the soul. Take hostility as the God. Take evil as the bone, flesh, and blood, and together they form the Archfiend.”

Long Shen: “Indeed, according to ancient records, among the great demons, Heavenly Demons, Earth Demons, and Archfiends are considered the worst. Heavenly Demons call the wind and rain, Earth Demons destroy the mountains and rivers, and Archfiends walk with tens of thousands of demons. Although its human body is dead, it can be reborn again by changing their sacs, just like the evil spirit in Liaozhai’s “Painted Skin“*. Although it’s not the most powerful of the three, it’s the most difficult. The cycle of life and death is endless, so it’s hard to completely eliminate them.”

*Is a work by Pu Songling and one of his most famous from his “Strange Tales from a Liaozhai“, which is a famous work in Chinese ghost stories. See Kinky Thoughts for lore. The TLDR is that a man picks up a demon who wears human skin that it “paints” to make it look like any human.

Headmaster Xin’s expression was solemn. “If that stone tablet is really part of a talisman array, then the dragon corpse was most likely guarding it. I suspect that the Archfiend’s aim in resurrecting the dragon corpse was to use you to destroy the stone tablet, thereby destroying the talisman array.”

Long Shen said, “We think so as well. Coupled with the valuable clues provided by you, it is assumed that this is not far from the truth*.”

*Eight to nine is not far from ten (八九不离十) Idiom that means very close to the actual situation.

Headmaster Xin said, “I don’t know what kind of monster is in this talisman array. If it is a Heavenly Demon or an Earth Demon, it will be very troublesome. You’d better make haste before the Archfiend and send people to find the rest of the stone tablets and guard them.”

Long Shen: “Our bureau is having a meeting now. If there is further news, He Yu will let you know. One more thing. I hope that you can join the delegation and participate in the World Exchange Conference next year.”

Headmaster Xin smiled. “Thank you for your invitation. I will consider it carefully. If there is any need, you can directly tell He Yu. He has the right to call on the resources of the Hezao Sect.”

Seeing that Headmaster Xin hung up, He Yu asked, “Shifu, are you really going to participate next year?”

Headmaster Xin glared at him. “Is it really time to care about this? Cheng Hui is fine, so you should go back quickly and see what you can do to help!”

He Yu wailed, “Shifu, I am your apprentice, and I was not raised by a stepmother*! My injuries have not fully healed yet. Even so, I worked hard to rush back to that old man and wish shishu a happy birthday. How can you treat me like?!”

*(后娘养的) Proverb referring to a child who is not love by anyone.

Headmaster Xin suddenly sighed and patted him on the shoulder. “We have no one like you in the Hezao Sect, and we’re not as deep-rooted as the Longhu Sect. It is indeed hard for you to walk by yourself in the Special Administration Bureau.”

He Yu’s howling stopped abruptly as he became stunned and said cautiously, “Shifu, are you—are you okay?”

His shifu was suddenly so gentle to him. Could this be a pit that was waiting for him to jump into?

Headmaster Xin kicked him angrily. “You ingrate. You don’t appreciate it when I use nice words, so you prefer I beat you then, ah? Then let me grant your wish!”

He Yu hugged his head as he ran away.

Dong Zhi held a big white duck as he followed the old man to the kitchen and heard him say to the staff, “I don’t want to eat tea-smoked duck tonight. This is for the guest who specifically requested this dish.” Dong Zhi was speechless.

He handed over the duck and followed the old man while saying disgruntledly, “Is it okay to use me as a shield?”

“Why not?” The old man walked with his hand behind his back, looking like a duck. He continued slowly, “My birthday is coming up soon, so I just want to eat something I like. It’s not against the law. It’s just I can’t eat it too much at my age!”

Seeing that his beard and hair were all white and his complexion was ruddy, Dong Zhi laughed. “I think you can definitely live longer than me!”

The old man smiled. “He Yu didn’t tell you? I’m almost 100 this year!”

Dong Zhi thought he had heard it wrong. “You look like you are fifty or sixty!”

The old man said kindly, “I am much older than He Yu’s shifu, but I just started late, so I’m behind.”

Dong Zhi didn’t know the old man’s name, so he followed He Yu’s lead and called him shishu. The old man didn’t seem to mind, as if he had completely forgotten about what He Yu said earlier regarding accepting him as an apprentice.

He led Dong Zhi around the Taoist temples, and finally they reached a room. From the statue and plaques inside, Dong Zhi faintly recognizes that this temple was dedicated to the ancestors of the Sanqing* and the Hezao Sect.

*Reminder: They are the highest gods of Taoism: Yuanshi Tianzun, Lingbao Tiazun, and Daode Tiazun.

The old man pointed to the pillow on the ground and said, “Go on. Go up and worship. I’ll say something and you repeat it after me.”

Dong Zhi knelt down and bowed three times. Then he heard the old man say, “The patriarch of the Sanqing. Ancestral spirit. This person is not a disciple of my Hezao Sect, but because of his integrity and his kindness to our disciples He Yu and Cheng Hui, I will teach him the Five Thunder Talisman today.”

Dong Zhi: ???

The old man put the incense in his hand and said to Dong Zhi, “Repeat after me. The ancestors of the Sanqing were at the top and our ancestors acquire the Five Thunder Talisman from them. This is our secret technique of the Hezao Sect. We vow to stick to our hearts and follow the righteous path. Never slander Taoism, vent scriptures lightly, and bully the poor or seize property. Never be violent or arrogant or aimless.”

Seeing that there was no sound coming from Dong Zhi, the old man urged, “Start repeating!”

Dong Zhi gave a perplexed look and hurriedly repeated what the old man had said.

The old man inserted the incense into the incense burner, and then bowed his hand for a long time. Only then did he say, with satisfaction, “Okay, get up.”

Dong Zhi was confused. “What are you doing?”

The old man said, “He Yu brought you here so I could take you on as my apprentice, but I am too old to have one. However, you have a clear mind and are likely to work with He Yu in the future, so I’ll teach you our secret technique. I heard that you learned the art of the Sunlight Talisman from He Yu, so your foundation is barely just enough. Come with me.”

When he heard that the old man would not accept him as an apprentice, he felt a trace of disappointment, but also breathed a sigh of relief. He wasn’t dissatisfied with this shishu or the Hezao Sect, but He Yu’s remark about Long Shen accepting disciples still lingered in his mind, causing him to hang on to unrealistic expectations.

The old man turned his head and saw that he was standing there stupidly and didn’t move. “Not happy with the Five Thunder Talisman? Let me tell you! This isn’t something that can be learned by disciples unless they have been here for at least five years!”

Dong Zhi was dumbfounded and felt touched. “Is it okay for you to teach such an important secret to an outsider?”

The old man smiled and said, “It’s fine. Do you think that I would teach this to anyone so casually? I watched over He Yu since he was a child. He’s casual when it comes to small things, but unambiguous to serious things. You were brought in by him and passed the mental test. Just now, you were fooling around with me for a long time trying to catch ducks, yet you show no impatience. This is a sign that you’re a good child, so what’s wrong with me teaching you something?”

Dong Zhi: “But…”

Old man: “Okay, okay. Don’t be reluctant. The meaning of talismans is for people to learn them. If you hide it and dare not teach anyone, what’s the difference between a sect that prides itself on its righteousness and a hypocritical villain?”

The fate between people was wonderful. Although the two had just met not long ago, there was an instant connection between them. Just as Dong Zhi liked this lively and lovable old man, he too felt a similar feeling for Dong Zhi. Hearing his words, Dong Zhi no longer struggled. He got up and kowtowed three times.

“Thank you, shishu, for teaching me. I will study hard and use what I have learned to follow the righteous path. I will never commit any crimes!”

The old man was pleased with his show of courtesy and cleverness. He smiled. “That’s right. Don’t be hypocritical. Alright, I’ll take you somewhere to teach you.”

“Right here.” The old man led him to the yard, pointed to the stone table under the tree, and said, “This place is suitable for you to learn. Go and sit.”

Dong Zhi said curiously, “Is there enough spiritual energy here?”

The old man took out his phone from the inner pocket of his robe and said, “No, but it’s convenient for dinner. Wait a moment. I’ll text the group and ask them to deliver it here when it’s done.”

Dong Zhi: …

He finally knew where He Yu’s unreliability came from.

After sending his message on WeChat, the old man waved to Dong Zhi with satisfaction and began to teach him the art of breathing and nourishing qi.

When He Yu taught him to draw talisman before, he once said that there was no internal kung fu in Dong Zhi. Even if the talisman matched, they would only have the appearance but not the blessing. On the rooftop of Tianyuan Building, the talismans he used for the bagua array were drawn by He Yu in advance. Otherwise, the talisman he created would only deter a Sneaky Yaksha. It would be delusional if he thought it could subdue an Archfiend.

Only by practicing the kung fu tona* can you truly get started in drawing talismans.

*Breathing (吐纳) Technique for qi-refining in qigong. It includes external and internal breathing. In Taoism, the breathing method is used for chanting sutras, mantras, and summoning gods. || I’ll be using it pinyin form as this is not just “regular” breathing but a specific kind.

The old man said, “This set of kung fu is not a secret. All sects know it. Have you heard of Wudang Mountain? There are tai chi training classes on it every year. You can learn this breathing method for a few thousand yuan. All the internal kung fu are basically the same. The key is to persevere for many years. Half an hour in the morning and half an hour before going to bed.”

He recited a mantra while using kung fu tona so Dong Zhi could memorize it, then demonstrated it himself and let Dong Zhi follow. Dong Zhi didn’t know how lucky he was as the old man didn’t accept disciples and the disciples of the Hezao Sect rarely got his personal guidance.

The old man said, “You have to learn to meditate. When you close your eyes, imagine that there’s a sun above your head and you’re absorbing its essence. When you breath out, imagine that you’re expelling the turbid qi from your body.”

The allusion was so vivid that Dong Zhi immediately had an intuitive impression. He nodded. It wasn’t difficult. When he was a child, he studied tai chi with his grandfather, who taught him the basic skills of breathing and practicing qi. However, he didn’t stick to it, since, like all children, he was more interested in playing. Doing this exercise now evoked those memories of the past.

When the old man saw that he had done it correctly, he started teaching him the Five Thunder Talisman technique.

Dong Zhi felt that this shishu was too impatient, not at all like the leisurely old man when they first met, but the old man seemed to insist on finishing his lesson before dinner. He said, “The Five Thunder Talisman technique is something many sects, including the Maoshan and Longhu Sects, have. It is popularly called the Law of Five Thunders because heavenly thunder can exorcize evil spirits and demons since, in order to transform into humans, spirits and monsters must cross a thunder tribulation. Kan Chaosheng is an example that you probably met in their bureau… Forget it, forget it. In other words, the Five Thunder Talisman is the induction between itself and the heavens attracting thunder and lightning to descend. Do you understand?”

Dong Zhi nodded and asked, “Then if the user is injured, or is not proficient in learning, and cannot completely control the talisman, will it lead to a backlash?”

Seeing that Dong Zhi could draw inferences from his words, the old man was quite happy. “Of course. Such a situation is applicable to everything in the world, and the same is true of the Five Thunder Talisman. However, as long as your mind is firm and there’s no mistake on the talisman, then generally speaking, there will only be a difference in power. For example, novices cannot attract thunder. Among the disciples of this sect, only He Yu is able to do it, and it’s only once a month.”

Kinky Thoughts:

I’ve been wishy-washy with what I translate and what I leave in pinyin. Originally, I planned to translate everything, but some terms just don’t have a suitable English equivalent, so they are left in pinyin.

Also, my research is very basic as I’m not an expert in Taoism or any of these mythological stuff. If you are more proficient in this area, do let me know so I can add to my notes.

Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio – Painted Skin by Pu Songling

An academician from Taiyuan, referred to only by his surname, Wang, chances upon a homeless girl who claims to be an ill-treated concubine. Noting her beauty as well as feeling pity for her, Wang agrees to let her stay at his residence temporarily. They make love in his study, unbeknownst to anybody else. A few days afterward, Wang’s spouse, Chen, discovers their affair and is unhappy with the arrangement; but she fails to change her husband’s mind.

At the marketplace, a Taoist priest informs Wang that he has been possessed by an evil spirit. The incredulous Wang dismisses this. Returning home, he finds the gates locked but manages to find a way into the courtyard, where he finds that the front door is bolted too. Peeking through the window, Wang makes a startling discovery: the girl is actually a “green-faced monster, a ghoul with great jagged teeth like a saw.” All this while, she had been wearing a mask made of human skin, on which her attractive features were painted.

Shocked, Wang returns to the Taoist priest and begs him to help. The priest agrees but ambivalently wishes to be lenient with a fellow sentient being, and thus offers Wang only a charm meant to ward off demons. Wang returns home and hangs the charm outside his bedroom; but it has no effect on the demon. Instead, she turns enraged and rips out Wang’s heart. Wang’s spouse reports this to the priest who, incited to fury, launches a full-scale offensive against the demon. The priest and Chen find that the demon has transformed itself into an elderly helper working at Wang’s brother’s place. In the climax, the demon reverts to its original form, and the priest beheads it with his wooden sword. The demon’s remains dissolve into smoke which the priest stores in his calabash. He also rolls up the demon’s “painted skin” and stores it away.

Later, the priest tells Chen to visit a lunatic beggar at the marketplace if she wishes to revive her husband. The madman treats her with disrespect by continuously demeaning her, but she takes this in stride and patiently pleads with him for help. Finally, he coughs forth some phlegm and makes her swallow it. The beggar departs, and Chen is left feeling deeply ashamed. Back home, during funeral preparations, the phlegm gradually hardens and rises from Chen’s stomach to her throat. Ultimately, she disgorges a throbbing heart, which she places into the gaping wound in Wang’s chest; slowly, his life is restored.

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