The old tiger hunter. A story of Ji Xiaolan

The old tiger hunter. A story of Ji Xiaolan

When my cousin Zhonghan was the magistrate of Jingde County, there was a tiger that caused havoc near the city and injured several hunters who failed to catch it. The locals said, «Only Tang, the skilled hunter from Huizhou, can eliminate this menace.»

According to Dongyuan Dai from Xiuning, «During the Ming Dynasty, there was a person named Tang who was newly married but was killed by a tiger. His wife later gave birth to a son and said to him, ‘If you cannot kill a tiger, you are not my son. In future generations, if any of your descendants cannot kill a tiger, they are not my descendants either.’ That’s why the Tang family has been able to catch tigers for generations.»

 So they sent an official with a reward. The official returned with two exceptionally skilled hunters from the Tang family. When they arrived, one was an old man with white hair and a cough, while the other was a young boy of around sixteen or seventeen. Disappointed, my cousin still ordered food to be prepared. Sensing Zhonghan’s dissatisfaction, the old man half-knelt and said,

«I heard that the tiger is less than five li from the city. We should go catch it first, and it’s not too late to have the food afterward.»

He was then led by the servants. When they reached the entrance to the valley, the servants hesitated to proceed, but the old man sneered and said, «I am here, why are you afraid?»

After they had entered the valley for about half the distance, the old man turned to the young boy and said, «The beast seems to be asleep. Wake it up with a tiger’s roar.» The young boy made a tiger’s roar, and the tiger came out from the forest and pounced directly at the old man. The old man wielded a short-handled axe, around eight or nine inches long and half an inch wide, and raised it with one arm. When the tiger lunged, he dodged to the side, and the tiger jumped over his head and fell to the ground, blood flowing.

Looking closely, the tiger’s entire body, from its chin to its tail, had been cut by the axe. They rewarded and sent them off. The old man said that he had trained his arms for ten years and his eyes for ten years. His eyes did not blink even when swept with a broom, and his arms were so strong that even a strong man could not move them when hanging from them.

Zhuangzi said, «Become proficient with the spirit.» The skillful are no more than those who have become proficient. It is trustworthy. I once saw the insigne historian Sibiao writing on a scroll in the dark, and it was no different from when he held a candle. I also heard that the famous Liwen from Jinghai can write one character on each piece of one hundred square-inch pieces of paper cut. The pieces were stacked towards the sun, and there was not a single stroke that deviated. It’s all a matter of practice, not some extraordinary skill.

If you are interested in the tiger symbolism in China you could be interested in my book (only en Spanish now) El Tigre en China: Imagen y Símbolo (The tiger in Chona: image and Symbol).

jinuo book

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