From Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio. Having passed the first civil-service examination at the age of eighteen in the late 1650s, Pu failed to obtain a government post and became a private tutor for a local family in 1679, by which time the self-titled “historian of the strange” had collected the majority of the 431 tales that comprise his book. At odds with prevailing literary tastes, the work was not celebrated until it was printed some fifty years after his death.
There was a merchant of Qingzhou who was much away on business, often for as long as an entire year. He had a white dog at home, and during her husband’s absences his wife encouraged the dog to have sexual relations with her. The dog became quite accustomed to this.
One day, the merchant had just returned home and was in bed with his wife when suddenly the dog burst into the room, climbed up on to the bed, and bit his master to death.
When the neighbors came to know of this, they were most indignant and reported the matter to the local magistrate, who interrogated the woman under torture and, when she still refused to confess, had her thrown into the county jail. He gave orders for the dog to be brought on a leash, and then summoned the woman into the tribunal. The moment the dog saw her he rushed forward, tore off her clothes with his teeth, and leaped on top of her, adopting a posture that was unmistakably sexual. The woman could no longer deny the charge brought against her. The magistrate sent them both, woman and dog, under guard to the higher court in the provincial capital.
On their way there, local inhabitants wishing to see them in the act of coupling bribed the escort, who dragged them out and forced them to perform in public. Wherever they stopped, this act attracted a crowd of several hundreds, and the yamen guards made a small fortune out of it.
Subsequently, both woman and dog were sentenced to Lingering Death.
How many things are possible, in the immense universe of heaven and earth! This woman is certainly not the only creature with a human visage to have coupled with an animal.
© 2006, John Minford. Used with permission of Penguin Books Ltd.