I’ve always been very interested about supernatural stuff and ghost stories. Among all the Chinese ghost stories books, my favorite one would be “Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio”, it’s a collection of nearly 500 mostly supernatural tales written by Pu Songling in Classical Chinese during the early Qing Dynasty.
The stories are filled with magical foxes, ghosts, scholars, zombies, immortals, Taoist exorcists and beasts. The author used He used the supernatural and unexplainable to illustrate his ideas of society and government. I could never get tired of reading this fantastic book.
Pu Songling was born in a poor merchant family from Zichuan (now Zibo, Shandong). The place where he lived has become a very hot tourist spot in recent years. I took a short trip there with a good friend of mine.
My first destination was the former residence of Pu. It was a quite yet elegant yard with moon gate and flowers decoration. A golden plaque saying “Liao Zhai”(Leisure Loft) was hanging in the top middle of front gate. There were a few ancient Chinese Scholar trees, the shades were very nice. Inside the lobby, a portrait of Pu in 74 years old hanging on the wall. I stood there and closed my eyes for a short while, trying to imagine Pu sitting in the lobby and writing the book that had such a great influence on later generations.
The second destination was Liaozhai Town. There were different themed attraction inside it, such as Willow Spring, Liaozhai Palace, Magical Fox Garden, Hiding Stone Garden, Full-well Temple, Li Melody Teahouse, Cemetery Park.
Willow Spring was on a vital communication line in ancient times. People came and went every day from here. Legend has it that Pu used to set a small resting thatched pavilion besides the spring, providing passers-by tea and cigarettes, then asking them to share their personal supernatural experience and putting these amazing stories into his book. People with great stories could have a cup of tea for free. Pu loved Willow Spring, he even called himself “Willow Spring Householder”. The spring wasn’t as good as old times but with the pavilion and willows, you could still get a feeling or two of that age.
The design of Magic Fox Garden was based on the stories of Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio, with Pu’s works and painting from famous artists in it. There were artificial mountains, rocks in all kinds shapes, green trees with nice shades, sounds like a perfect place for magic fox. In Fox-seeing park, there were over 1400 foxes in different species. Pu once used Stone Hiding garden as a school and taught children about literature. He also created many great poems and some of famous ghost stories from here. Inside Pu’s family cemetery, there were over 30 tombs and some old cypresses. In the northwest corner, there buried Pu and his wife.