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Ji Kang is playing his Qin

The Scholar and the Headless Ghost

Ji Kang was a man of noble character who liked to roam the country. Once traveling southwest of Luoyang, he came to a station named Huayang a few dozen li from the capital, where he put up for the night. There was no one else there that day. He was all alone. The station stood on an old execution ground, and accidents often happened to those who lodged there, But Ji Kang, who had a clear conscience, was not afraid. At about the first watch (Eight or nine in the evening.) he started strumming his lyre, playing several tunes. He was an excellent player, and a voice from the emptiness called: "Bravo!"

   Ji Kang stopped playing and asked: "who are you?"
"I am a dead man," answered the voice. "I have been here four thousands of years. When I heard you playing so sweetly and harmoniously on your lyre, I could not help coming to listen, as I used to love music too. Unfortunately I was killed unjustly and my body is mutilated, so I am not fit to be seen. But I greatly admire your playing and would like to watch you if you have no objection. Do play some more."
Ji Kang, having played again, beat his lyre with his hand and exclaimed:"It is growing late. Why don't you show yourself? Why should we care about appearances?"
Then the ghost appeared holding its head in its hand.
"After hearing you play, my heart feels light," it said. "I seem to have come to life again."
So they discussed their common interest in music, and the ghost spoke most lucidly and eloquently. Finally it asked Ji Kang, "May I borrow you lyre?"
Then Ji Kang let it play. Some of the tunes it played were common enough, but one piece called Guangling San (a very famous ancient tune in China.) was quite superb. Ji Kang learned this from the ghost, memorizing the whole of it within a few hours – a better melody than he had ever learned before. The ghost made him swear not to teach it to others and not to disclose the ghost's name. When dawn was about to break it said to Ji Kang:
"Although we met only this night, we have formed a thousand years friendship. The long night is over – I must reluctantly leave you!"

 

Note: Ji Kang (223-262 A.D.), a great poet and musician of the Three Kingdoms Period (220-280 A.D.). He was the leader of the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Forest School and one of the representatives of the metaphysician of his contemporary.
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