Storehouse of Laughter – Chapter 4

笑府卷四 方術部


Diverse occupations

Mohanzi says: After the time of Confucius and Mozi, the Confucians split into eight schools, while the Mohians split into three. White has shaded into black. Although these are minor occupations, there is still much worth laughing about (a reference to the Analects, Zi Zhang 4: “Zi Xia said: ‘Even in the minor occupations, there is something worth looking at ….'” 子夏曰:「雖小道,必有可觀者焉;致遠恐泥,是以君子不為也。). The chapter on diverse occupations follows.




A child fell ill with fever, and died after receiving medicine. His father accused the physician of failing to do his duty. The physician did not believe this, and came himself to check. On touching the child’s body, he turned to the father and said: “You’re spreading lies; the fever’s gone!”
This is the same sort of person who uses a vise to cure a hunchback. One doesn’t need to be told that’s a joke, but the old way of treating illness, only treating the head when there’s a headache and only treating the foot when there’s a footache, is cut from the same cloth.



Fighting medicine

A sick child was given some medicine, but his belly started hurting very much. The child’s father went to ask the physician, and the physician said: “Don’t ask any more, it’s just the medicine fighting the illness.” But before he could finish speaking, a family member came running up to report that the child had died. The physician clapped his hands and said: “I told you that my medicine can’t be beaten in a fight!”



Hades seeks a good physician

Hades despatched his minions to seek out a good physician in the world of the living, telling them: “You will know when you come to a good physician because he will have no aggrieved spirits hanging around his door.” But at every physician’s doorway, the minions of Hades found plenty of aggrieved spirits. Finally they came to one physician’s house where there was only one aggrieved spirit walking to and fro in front of it. They said to each other: “This must be finally the good physician!” But when they asked, it turned out that he had only started his practice yesterday.



A physician, who killed someone’s child when treating it, compensated him with his own child. Soon afterward, he killed someone’s servant, and offered up a servant from his own household as compensation. One evening, yet another came knocking on his door, saying: “My mistress at home is sick, please come and see her.” The physician whispered to his wife: “Looks like someone is interested in you.”




Silkworm larvae

A physician had no business for a long time, when he finally had a patient who needed medicine. When he opened his medicine chest, it was full of bookworms. The patient asked him what they were, and he replied that they were silkworm larvae (jiangcan, dried larvae used in traditional Chinese medicine). The patient asked again, how is it that they are alive? The physician replied: because they ate some of my medicine.

One fears that if humans eat it, they would become silkworm larvae.



Gift of medicine

A physician moved house, and called on his new neighbors, saying: “I have been bothering you all lately, but haven’t yet brought anything as a greeting gift. Here is a gift of medicine for everybody.” The neighbor protested that there was nothing wrong with him, and the physician replied: “Once you eat my medicine, there will definitely be something wrong.”



A sick person called for a physician. The physician said that everything would be fine, but even after spending a lot of money, he was still not better. He was very angry and sent his servant to go berate the physician. In a short while, the servant was back. When asked if he had scolded the physician, he said no. “Why not?” asked the master. The servant replied: “There were too many people there who wanted to scold him. I couldn’t squeeze my way through.”



Willing to be kicked

A woodcutter was carrying wood, and accidentally hit a physician. The physician was furious, and wanted to slap him. The woodcutter fell to his knees and said that he would rather be kicked. Onlookers were perplexed. The woodcutter explained: “Anyone who passes through his hands is uncertain to live.”

跳虱藥 (跳音條)


Lice medicine

Someone put up a sign to advertise his medicine for killing lice. When asked how to use the medicine, he said: “First you catch the louse, then smear the medicine on its mouth until it dies.” “Since I’ve already caught it, why not just crush it and be done with it?” “Now that you say it, that might work even better.”



Someone went to watch a military display, when a stray arrow pierced his ear. A surgeon was brought to him, who used a small saw to saw off the arrow shaft protruding from his ear, and asked for his fee. “What about the bit that’s stuck inside?” The reply came: “That will have to wait for the specialist in internal medicine.”



Third Brother

During the Han period, a famous physiognomist came to visit Liu Bei. Liu allowed him to read his fortune from his features, and the physiognomist said: “Your features are very fine. Your face is fair and so is your heart.” He then went to read the face of Guan Yu, and told him: “Your features are exceedingly fine. A ruddy face and a ruddy heart.” Liu heard this, and rushed to see Zhang Fei. Taking his hand, he said: “Third Brother – your face is not your fate, is it?” (Liu Bei, Guan Yu, and Zhang Fei famously swore brotherhood in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Guan Yu is usually depicted with a reddish complexion, and Zhang Fei with a black one.)





There was a man who believed deeply in fengshui, and wouldn’t do anything without first asking a fengshui master’s advice. One day he was sitting by a wall, when the wall suddenly fell down and trapped him. He cried out for help, and one of his household responded: “Hang in there, while I go ask the fengshui master, whether it is permissible to dig today.”


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