A Fit Laughing Stock for Devils (Chinese Supernatural Tales)

Strange Stories   by Pu Songling (1740)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   June 2, 2015


When thinking of the supernatural, ghost, or horror stories, Chinese literature  is not the first thought that comes to mind.  Their fictional history is a long one with supernatural tales being recorded as early as The T’ang Dynasty, then Chuanqi tales became popular,  then Sung, Confucian, and Ming Dynasties brought supernatural mysteries into printed story collections.

During the Quig Dynasty, Pu Songling (1640-1750) wrote with a narrative strength and completed nearly 500 tales published in 1740 by his grandson. The Liaozhai Zhiyi or Strange Stories is considered to be the bible of Chinese supernatural folktales.  Most of Songling’s  stories hinge on that mysterious place between life and death, waking and dreaming, and have themes of foxes, tigers, and snakes. I’ve chosen four of his tales that are flash fictions and  are ‘charming with a chill’ in their supernatural moralities.


Pu Songling (pintura)


Songling says of his writings: “I am but the dust in the sunbeam, a fit laughing stock for devils. For my talents are not those of Kan Pao, elegant explorer of the records of the Gods; I am rather animated by the spirit of Su Tung-p’o, who loved to hear men speak of the supernatural. I get people to commit what they tell me in writing and subsequently I dress it up in the form of a story; and thus in the lapse of time my friends from all quarters have supplied me with quantities of material, which, from my habit of collecting, has grown into a vast pile.”




Read these flash fictions at Gutenberg.org. (Click the titles below or scroll the Table of Contents  at Gutenberg.org and click on other titles)




Metempsychosis   Mr. Lin dies at age 62. Will he meet a devil or a god in the Kingdom?








Killing a Serpent  A young  man, Chang, is fond of hunting, but not hunting snakes.









The Great Rat  A rat that eats cats? Until the rat meets up with …











The Tiger Guest  In Chinese culture, tigers kill evil men and protect good ones.  In this story of poets  and scholars, we have a twisty little tale.







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 Rob Around Books     The Story Reading Ape Blog

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Filed under dark fantasy, fiction, horror blogs, literature, quiet horror, short stories, supernatural

2 responses to “A Fit Laughing Stock for Devils (Chinese Supernatural Tales)

  1. Emily

    Paula – I grew up reading a lot of Liao Zhai stories. They are so popular in China that many of them have been adapted into many TV drama series. It has evolved into a lot of fantasies ghost stories. One of them would be like this! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fairies_of_Liaozhai

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Emily: I stumbled across Songling and was surprised to see how many supernatural stories he wrote. What a wild imagination! I’d love to see a movie or TV drama but I guess not many are in English. You’ll have to tell me more about this sometime. Thank you for commenting!


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