A Poor Scholar and Ghosts


A poor scholar was preparing for an official examination but could not find a quiet place to study. A friend told him about a haunted cottage abandoned by its owner. Nobody even dared to go near it in the evening. The scholar happened to believe nothing about ghosts and spirits. There was no other place available but this examination was critical for his future. He decided to give it a try. After cleaning and dusting, and trimming the weeds to show off the flowers and decorative plants, he fell in love with the place. He even thought there was no need to study hard for a better life now that he had such a nice place in which to live.

He was pleased to notice nothing unusual during the day and in the evening. But there was noise everywhere in the house once he was in bed. It sounded as if he was in a battlefield. The next morning the place was a mess: His books and papers were everywhere and some were even torn in pieces in the garden. Black ink was on the walls and the ceiling. He was thinking of moving out three days later because of lack of sleep but it was such a pleasant place when the sun was out. He felt a pain at the idea of leaving this nice cottage.

He then wrote a long essay expressing his frustration and conflicting emotions, and condemning the ghosts for placing him in such a poor and desperate condition when he had such a lofty motive to serve his country and his people. How could someone do something like that to him? He said he had nowhere else to go and determined to stay on and fight with those heartless ghosts to the end. He made several copies of his essay and put them beside the door and window, and one on the ceiling. To his delight the noise stopped, and in these improved conditions, his studies and scholastic ability improved rapidly.

The examination required him to write an essay in a standard style along the classic teachings of Confucius. To his surprise the scholar found the title he was asked to write on was in many ways similar to the essay he had already written condemning the ghosts. He changed a few words here and there but his essay fitted the given title perfectly. He now realized those ghosts came to help him in his official career. After the announcement of his success, many local officials and governors came to congratulate him. One rich man even wanted to give him a mansion as a gift. He left them all behind and came to the cottage to thank the ghosts. He laid out a roasted baby pig surrounded by colorful fruits and vegetables. He poured the best wine on the ground according to the custom, and read his prepared speech with emotion to thank them, and then asked for a favor that he would like to thank them in person at night. He stayed there till dawn but the ghosts never returned.