Episode 155: Nie Xiaoqian – part3

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Today we will continue one of most famous stories from the book Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio 聊斋志异from the Qing dynasty 清朝 published in 1740. The name of the story is Nie Xiaoqian 聂小倩, which has been adapted into numerous films and TV series.

Ning Caichen finally came back to his hometown with Xiaoqian’s bones. He buried Xiaoqian’s bones right out side his study room. He said in front of her new grave, “what a poor lonely girl! Now you are next to my study room that we will hear other’s singing and crying. Hope you will never be bothered by monsters.” Just when he was about to return home, he heard something calling his name. “please wait for me. I will come with you.”


Ning Caichen turned around and found Xiaoqian standing there. “I couldn’t possibly pay back for the favor you did for me. Please let me serve you and your parents in the future. I don’t mind being your concubine or maid.” In the original text, it didn’t mention what Ning Caichen was thinking then. But it says Ning Caichen looked at Xiaoqian carefully. This was the first time Ning Caichen actually looked at her. She had pink skin and her feet look like fresh bamboo roots. She looked more breath taking during the day. This was the first time Ning Caichen saw her during the daytime.

Ning Caichen didn’t say anything, he just took her into his study room. As a principled man, he didn’t want to disobey any rules or traditions. He went to see his mother and told everything about Xiaoqian.


His mother was shocked but suggested him not to let his wife know since she had been ill for a long time and this might scare her. At this moment, Xiaoqian came in and keeled down on the floor. Ning Caichen introduced, “this is Xiaoqain.” His mother was too scared to see a ghost and didn’t know what to do. Xiaoqian said, “I am girl has no one to rely on. I have been taken care of by Mr. Ning. I would like to pay my favor if I could be her concubine or maid.” Ning Caichen’s mother looked at her closely and thought she was a nice and beautiful girl, and started to talk. “I am glad you like my son. However, I only have one son and if he married a ghost wife, we have no hope to have pass our name on.” Xiaoqian replied, “I have no second thought. But if you don’t trust me now, I will serve you and Mr. Ning. How about that?” Ning Caichen’s mother was moved and let her stay. Xiaoqian mentioned to visit Ning Caichen’s wife, the mother refused. Xiaoqian went right into the kitchen and start cooking for the family like she had lived there for a long time.

This is not some love story that when their relationship is not approved by the families, they would elope or secretly be together anyway. Because in the end, Ning Caichen was so principled and following all the rules and traditions and Xiaoqian knew that very clearly as well. Now Ning Caichen’s mother’s disapproval is based on Xiaoqian was a ghost and she couldn’t give birth.

At night, Ning Caichen’s mother was still scared of Xiaoqian and didn’t prepare a bed for her. Xiaoqian knew what she thought and left. When she passed Ning Caichen’s study room, she wondered around at the door. Ning Caichen called her to come in. Xiaoqian said, “the atmosphere of sword in your room scares me.” Ning Caichen released it was the old sword bag his friend Mr. Yan gave him before he left the temple. He put it in another room so Xiaoqian could enter his study room.

She asked Ning Caichen to give her Buddhism scripts to read. So they just sit in the room for a whole night reading without talking. It was past midnight, Ning Caichen asked her to leave. Xiaoqian replied, “I am a lonely ghost from far away and I am scared of graves.” Ning Caichen said, “there is only one bed here. This is not good for us. ” Xiaoqian finally stood up and seemed like she was going to cry. She walked out slowly and disappeared.

The next morning, Xiaoqian came back early in the morning to serve Ning Caichen’s mother and help with households. At night, she read with Ning Caichen until bed time and left again.

Days after days, Ning Caichen’s mother appreciated Xiaoqian and almost forgot she was a ghost. She even prepared a bed for her to stay. Xiaoqian never ate or drunk anything when she first was here. After about half a year, she started to eat soup.

Not too long after that, Ning Caichen’s wife passed away. Ning Caichen’s mother liked Xiaoqian very much that she was thinking about let Xiaoqian be her daughter in law but still with the concern that she might not give birth. Xiaoqian said, “children are given by the god. Mr. Ning is destined to have three great sons. ” Ning Caichen’s mother was convinced. Ning Caichen was extremely happy and sent invitations to families and friends. Xiaoqian came out sincerely to meet visitors. No body could tell she was a ghost but thought she was a goddess. Now Xiaoqian was finally be accepted and stand in front of everyone that she was not a ghost any more.


One day, Xiaoqian looked depressed. She asked, “where did you put the old sword bag?” Ning Caichen said, “I put in another room since you are scared of it.” Xiaoqian said, “I have been living with the alive long enough that I am not scared of it anymore. We should put it in our room now.” Ning Caichen asked the reason. Xiaoqian said, “I feel worried these days. I am guessing the monster would find me here.” She put the bag on the door of their room.

The next night, they sat next to candles in the room. Suddenly something fell off like a bird. Xiaoqian hid before curtains. Ning Caishen saw a monster with sharp eyes and bloody tough. The monster stopped at the door and wondered for a while. The monster tried to grab the bag with its claws. “Pa” something clicked in the bag and it became the size of two big baskets. It seemed like something from the bag grabbing the monster into the bag. Then, it became again. The bag shrunk back its normal size. Xiaoqian came out and said, “we are safe now!” They looked into the bag, There was only some water in it.

Until now, Xiaoqian finally cut off her last connection to her past life and became a real alive person.

After a few years, Ning Caichen gave birth to a boy. Ning Caichen got a great position in the government. After a few years, he got another concubine. She and Xiaoqian both gave birth to another boy. The three boys later all became famous scholars.

This is not a legend love story but a story of Ning Caichen and Xiaoqian trying to be a normal couple that can sleep on the same bed at night and have kids.



聊斋志异 Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio


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