虎跡牛蹤

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1987 / 6月

文‧莊伯和 圖‧李淑玲



唐朝太中年間,有個名叫寧菌的秀才,獨個兒住在南山下的大寮莊裡讀書,準備進京應試。

此地屋宇半墜、牆垣毀壞,十分荒涼。一天晚上,風清月朗,他站在院中吟詩,忽然聽到叩門聲。門啟處,是一位自稱桃林斑特的處士相訪。來者客氣地說:「我是田野中人,就住在附近。今晚,見風月皎潔,又聽到先生吟詩,所以特來拜訪。」寧菌喜道:「原以為這鄉下小地方,只有農具相伴,沒想到還有您這樣風雅的鄰居。榮幸榮幸,快請進來。」

進屋後,寧菌奉茶寒喧,兩人相談甚歡。斑特嘆道:「我年輕的時候,最愛讀史記田單破燕之計,恨不得奮擊其間,可惜生不逢時,只能默默在田間工作,如今年紀老了,又沒孩子,不過空自悲淒而已。」談著談著,兩人又聽到庭院外有人叫門,說是南山斑寅將軍來見。寧菌請他進門,此人相貌威嚴、性格剛猛,與斑特彷佛相識。

三人落座,繼續聊著身世家學。斑特道:「咱們姓斑在後漢有個遠親,就是那投筆從戎的班超。曾經有個看相的告訴他說:『你燕頷虎頭,飛而食肉,萬里公侯之相。』後來果然守玉門關,封定遠侯呢!其實我家世世代代原也皆做虎賁中郎的官,因犯了過失,只好生活在山林之中,晝伏夜遊,只是苟且偷生罷了。剛才松吹月高,到牆外散步,聽到你們在吟詩,所以進來瞧瞧。」

一語未了,斑寅看到床上有棋局,就對斑特說:「願和老哥下一盤?」斑特很高興地接受,兩人下了許久,不分高下。寧菌在旁細細觀賞,不時教斑特一、兩步。斑寅笑說:「主人你莫非是棋中高手?」寧菌妙答:「管中窺豹嘛,不過,——時見一斑。」兩斑大笑說:「大有意思,真是一發兩中。」

下完棋,寧菌取出酒來,三人喝了幾杯,愈發投機,大剌剌的斑寅也不客氣了,直說:「拿些下酒菜來呀!」寧菌原未備菜,只找出一些鹿肉,斑寅三兩口,就清了盤底,斑特卻一口未沾,寧菌勸菜,他只推說:「年紀大了嘛,缺牙嚼不動了。」

酒過三巡,斑特起身說:「身體不好,不敢喝太多。」斑寅已有醉意,自然不答應,一把拉住他說:「那有這便宜事,這麼樣的好酒,少說該學學商紂王做長夜之飲哪。」斑特微慍,搶白道:「老弟!我知道你爪牙銳利,但又何必老欺負我?再說你那剛猛的身子,一旦遇到個勇士卞莊,也就成粉啦。」斑寅反唇相譏:「老哥哥!你看來體碩力大,如果遇到個庖丁(廚子),就只剩點兒頭皮嘍。」

寧菌不解,正好他面前有一把削肉的刀子,看二人吵得厲害,就故作生氣地揮著刀說:「你們別再吵了!」兩斑見狀趕忙吟詠曹植詩曰:「萁在釜下燃,豆在釜中泣。」引得三人哈哈大笑。

眼看東方將白,寧菌說:「今日咱們難得有緣相聚,何不各做一首詩作為結束呢?」說著便吟道:

曉讀雲水靜,夜吟山月高。

焉能履虎尾,豈用學牛刀。

斑寅接著說:

但得居林嘯,焉能當路蹲。

渡河何所適,終是怯劉琨。

斑特則接口道:

無非悲寧戚,終是怯庖丁。

若遇龔為守,蹄涔向北溟。

寧菌聽了斑特的詩,不禁嘆道:「真是奇才!」沒想到斑寅氣大,拂衣而起,朝著寧菌大吼:「姓寧的,你怎麼一直護著他,自古只有班(固)馬(司馬遷)之才,那有班牛之才?」說著,打個揖就走了。斑特見狀不服,亦怪嗔道:「古人都尊重老人家,如今真是世道變嘍!乾啥生那麼大的氣。」說完也告辭離去。

不久,天色大亮,寧菌到門外散步,卻見泥地上赫然是二排清晰的虎跡與牛蹤。他這才恍然大悟,原來昨晚來客,竟是老牛與猛虎的化身。走著走著,他看到一戶廢莊之內,橫臥著一頭老牛——身上還帶著酒氣哩!而那老虎想必已經入山去了。寧菌於是快步回家,收拾了包裹,再不敢單獨住在這荒郊野外了。

故事採自「古今圖書集成」,是典型的傳奇故事。林中猛虎、廢耕老牛,在月明星稀之夜,俱成夜讀書生的座上客。酒助談興之下,兩「斑」明來暗往,從藉田單火牛破燕之計、班超燕頷虎頭之相以明志,到卞莊殺虎、庖丁解牛的互譏,兩不相讓。有趣的是,這難兄難弟哀怨喜怒的生之慨嘆,竟然與人無異。而當這一切都隨著東方既白,剩下虎跡牛蹤可憑,我們已分不清這究竟真是山中傳奇,或只是窮秀才滿腹典故的仲夏之夢了。

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EN

Ox Trails and Tiger Tracks

Chuang Po-ho /photos courtesy of Sue Lee /tr. by Peter Eberly


During the T'ai-chung period (847-860) of the T'ang Dynasty, a young scholar named Ning Chun was staying by himself in an abandoned farmhouse at the foot of South Mountain, where he was studying in preparation for the examination at the capital.

The building, with its half caved-in roof and collapsed walls, presented a scene of thorough desolation. One breezy moonlit night, as he stood in the courtyard reciting poetry, he heard a sudden knock at the door, which he opened to discover a man who declared himself to be a retired scholar from Peach Forest named Pan T'e.

"I'm a country fellow from the neighborhood," the man explained. "I heard you reciting poetry in the moonlight and thought I'd drop in to pay my respects." Delighted, Ning replied, "I never realized this rustic locale was home to such refined neighbors. Please come in."

Seated inside, the two chatted over tea. With a sigh Pan T'e exclaimed, "When I was young I used to love the stories of the heroes in the history books--oh, how I longed to be there myself and lend them a hand! Unfortunately, the times have changed and I've spent my life quietly toiling away in the fields. Now I'm old and childless and filled with vain regret."

In the midst of their conversation, the two men heard another knock at the door; this time the visitor was a General Pan Yin from South Mountain, whom Ning also invited in. The new guest was imposing in aspect and forceful in character, and he and Pan T'e appeared to be acquainted.

Picking up their discussion of times long past, Pan Yin remarked, "A distant relative of ours was that famous Pan Ch'ao of the Latter Han Dynasty who 'renounced the pen for the sword.' A physiognomist had told him he was 'swallow-cheeked and tiger-headed, the signs of a lord from far away,' and later he did indeed receive a distant fiefdom in reward for holding the Jade Gate pass.

"In fact, our family served the court for generations as Esquires Brave as Tigers until, one of us having committed an offense, we were forced to make our living in the mountain forests, sleeping by day and roaming by night, leaving no trail behind us. Just now, with the moon bright and the wind in the pines, I was walking outside the wall when I heard your conversation and dropped in to take a look."

Spotting a go set on the bed, Pan Yin challenged Pan T'e to a match. After they had played for a while with neither gaining the upper hand, Ning Chun suggested a few moves to Pan T'e, which provoked Pan Yin to remark, "So our host is a master at the game, I see." "Not up to your stripe, I'm sure," Ning politely replied.

The three had drunk several cups of rice wine and were feeling quite congenial when Pan Yin impertinently blurted out, "Bring in some food to go with the drinks!" All Ning could find was some venison, which Pan Yin gulped down in two or three mouthfuls. Pan T'e took not a bite and when pressed by Ning replied, "I'm old, you see. My teeth are gone and I can't chew it."

The wine had gone round several times more before Pan T'e stood up to excuse himself. "My health's not good," he explained, "and I really can't drink any more."

"Not so fast!" Pan Yin, who was well in his cups, cried out, pulling him back. "With wine as good as this we ought to carouse till dawn like King Chou of the Shang!"

"Listen, brother," replied Pan T'e, a little annoyed, "I know your claws are sharp, but do you have to keep trying to push me around all the time? Your looks may be fierce, but if you ever met up with Pien Chuang the hunter, you'd be mincemeat for sure."

"Oh yeah?" Pan Yin snapped back. "Well you may think you're strong as an ox, but if you ever ran into p'ao Ting the butcher, there'd be nothing left of you but your hide."

At a loss, Ning Yin picked up a knife from the table and shouted, "Quit your quarreling!" Seeing how things stood, the Pan's made up, and when one of them quoted a famous couplet on fraternal affection, the three of them fell back into laughter.

As the east grew pale with dawn, Ning proposed that they compose verse.

Pan Yin's went like this:

All I can do is howl in the wood,

with never a chance to crouch on the road.

Across the stream, wherever I go,

I'm always afraid I'll meet up with my foe.

Pan T'e followed with:

My life is much troubled by sorrows and tears;

It's the butcher Pao T'ing who's the cause of my fears.

If I had farmer Kung as protector and guide,

My ox-hoof trail would stretch far and wide.

When Ning Chun heard Pan T'e's poem, he exclaimed, "A rare talent indeed!" Unexpectedly, Pan Yin took umbrage at this and roared out, "Listen, Ning, you're always favoring him! I've heard of the talents of Pan and Ma, the famous historians; I've never heard of Pan and T'e!" So saying, he stormed out.

"The ancients always respected their elders," Pan T'e remarked. "Times sure have changed. What's the point in getting so angry?" Pan T'e then took his leave as well.

When Ning Chun went for a walk in the morning, he came across a pair of tracks: one of a tiger and one of an ox. The ox trail led to a deserted barn, where he found an old ox stretched out asleep--and still reeking of wine! The tiger had apparently run off to the hills. Ning Yin quickly returned and packed his things, no longer daring to live in that desolate building alone.

This T'ang Dynasty wonder tale is found in the Ku-chin t'u-shu chi-ch'eng. The Chinese word pan means "striped or spotted"; yin is the zodiacal sign for the tiger; and the character t'e means "strange or peculiar" and contains the radical for "ox."

 

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