Where is the innkeeper’s wife “Donkey Lady”?
During the Tang Dynasty, there was an inn in Bianzhou (around Kaifeng) west of Banqiao, and the owner’s wife was called Sanniangzi. In that era, a widowed woman in her thirties, who was all alone in running an inn, never saw her relatives and friends come and go, looked very special. Moreover, no one around the store knew where she had moved from.
Sanniangzi’s inn is very much like today’s popular bed and breakfast, with a few rooms for passing merchants to stay, while serving simple meals to guests. Although it was a small store, she was very wealthy and kept many donkeys in the store. Sanniangzi would always sell the donkeys to the customers who needed them at a very cheap price. Because of her low price, everyone said that Sanniangzi was a generous person. Many people coveted the cheap donkeys, and guests from near and far liked to stay in Sanniangzi’s inn when they passed by.
During the Yuanhe period (the year of Emperor Xianzong of Tang, 806-820 AD), Zhao Jihe, a native of Xuzhou (around Kaifeng, present-day Xuchang), wanted to go to the eastern capital of Luoyang and stayed overnight at Sanniangzi’s inn in Banqiao. On that day, Zhao Jihe arrived late, and the guest room where he was staying had already been occupied by six or seven guests, one of whom was occupying a couch, leaving only the innermost one against the wall empty. Zhao Jihe placed the package on the empty couch.
Shortly after, Sanniangzi prepared a very rich meal and invited the guests to eat it, and also accompanied them to drink and chat. The group was in high spirits, drinking and laughing at the same time, and they ate until late at night. Zhao Jihe, who does not drink, also ate some dishes, accompanied by everyone talking and laughing. Until the second night, the guests were drunk and full, yawn after yawn, three maidens only to say goodbye to the guests, back to their rooms.
Late at night, the drunken guests snored loudly and went to sleep, while Zhao Jihe tossed and turned, feeling that the blanket was too hard, and being disturbed by the snoring. In between the snoring, he heard a rustling sound in the next room, and when he listened carefully, it seemed to be the sound of moving furniture.
He did not feel to raise his head, look east and west, suddenly found a crack in the wall, so he pounced on the wall from the gap peeked out, it turns out that the next door is the three maidens room. The candlelight reflected the figure of the Third Maiden, she took out a pair of plow harrow, a wooden cow, a puppet man from a small box containing a turban, all just six or seven inches in size, and then put them all in front of the stove. Sanniangzi’s mouth with a mouthful of water, sprayed on the puppet, wooden cattle.
The next sight that appeared, let Zhao Ji and hold his breath. The puppet man actually drove a wooden cow, in front of the bed to plow the land! Just see the puppet driving a wooden cow, plowing back and forth several times, not long, the ground raked flat. Next, the three maidens took out a packet of buckwheat seeds, given to the puppeteer. Puppeteers began to sow, not much work, the buckwheat seedlings grew out, the higher the draw, the flowers, pregnant spike, almost a meal of work, buckwheat ripe. The puppeteers harvested the buckwheat, and then played the field, a total of seven or eight liters of buckwheat.
Three maidens moved out a small mill, so that the puppeteers grind the buckwheat into flour. Until the flour was ground, Sanniangzi puppets, wooden cattle, a set of things all put into a small box. Then, she used the flour to make a lot of biscuits.
Zhao Jihe, who had peeked through the cracks in the wall to see the strange and bizarre behavior of the three maidens, had his scalp tingling, what kind of evil store did he join? Not long after, heard the rooster crowing, he hurried to lie down, pretending to sleep.
Three maidens heard the people in the guest room have got up movement, then smilingly put the hot hot biscuits on the table, greeting the guests to eat breakfast.
Zhao Jihe did not eat the buckwheat baklava. He had a hunch that it was definitely not good. He excused himself to carry the package early, and secretly and quietly from outside the store to peek at the store’s movement. Just see the customers around the table, excitedly eating burritos, less than a meal, they all fell to the ground, foaming at the mouth, and the mouth issued a donkey’s cry, only to see a short time, those customers all turned into donkeys.
At that moment, the three maidens appeared again, holding a whip in her hand, and viciously drove the donkeys to the shed behind the inn. Zhao Jihe was so scared and dumbfounded that he hurriedly tiptoed out of the strange inn.
The Donkey Lady
A month later, Zhao Jihe, who had returned from his business in Luoyang, went to live in the store of the three maidens. The day before he stayed at the store, he asked someone to make some buckwheat biscuits in advance, the size and style were exactly the same as the ones he saw in the last store.
That night, the inn did not have a second guest to stay, only Zhao Jihe alone. Three maidens saw the guest, hospitality is very attentive, full of smiles, a moment to add oil to light the fire, a moment to send hot water to wash his feet, and repeatedly asked him what else he needed.
Zhao Jihe deliberately said, “I have to travel in the morning, so please feel free to give me some breakfast.” Hearing this, Sanniangzi hit the nail on the head and said enthusiastically, “It’s easy, don’t worry about sleeping. We’ll have something to eat first thing in the morning.” Saying that, she smilingly left.
In the middle of the night, from the cracks in the wall to the eyes of Zhao Jihe, the same as last time, the three maidens took out the wooden man wooden cattle, as the method, and finally made into a burnt cake.
At dawn, Sanniangzi came with a food tray filled with burnt cakes. While the three maidens back to bring the wash water, Zhao Jihe hurried to take out the pre-prepared buckwheat cakes, and the plate of burnt cakes in exchange for a. When the three maidens again, he came in, he was not able to get the buckwheat cakes. When the three maidens came in again, he just head down to organize the package, the three maidens did not even notice.
After finishing the package, Zhao Jihe sat down to eat breakfast and suddenly rubbed his head and said to Sanniangzi: “Oh, look how bad my memory is. Didn’t I obviously bring the biscuits myself? Thank you for your help. Just take the cakes you made and leave them for the other guests, I’ll eat my own first.”
Zhao Jihe took out the baked cake from his own package and was eating it when the third wife brought hot tea. Zhao Jihe said, “Come, please try the baked cake I brought, it tastes okay.”
Then he handed the burnt cake that had just been exchanged into the hands of the Third Maiden. Three maidens and did not suspect him, took the cake and ate it. Three maidens to make a scheme to harm people, never thought that in turn harmed themselves! Just see the three niangzi eat that cake, then suddenly fell to the ground, like a donkey grunting, in the blink of an eye, became a donkey, very strong.
Zhao Ji and also went to the three maidens room to search out her wooden man wooden cattle, also want to make a try to do it, but do not know the trick, try and try unsuccessfully. The innkeeper turned into a donkey, and Zhao Jihe got on the donkey and traveled everywhere from then on, and nothing ever happened. The donkey could travel a hundred miles a day and never got tired, so other people were envious of it and wanted to buy it from him at a high price, but he always refused.
After four years, one time Zhao Jihe rode the donkey into the customs and went to a place five or six miles east of Huayue Temple, and something strange happened again. A gray-haired old man passed by him, clapped his hands and laughed, saying, “Haha, how did Panchiao Sanniangzi become like this?”
The old man pulled the donkey’s reins and said to Zhao Jihe, “Although she has faults, but she has suffered enough these years, it is pitiful, please let her go.”
Zhao Jihe agreed. The old man reached out and broke the donkey’s mouth and nose with his hand, and suddenly out of the donkey’s belly jumped a living Sanniangzi, still in her original form. With tears in her eyes, she kowtowed to the old man and went away, disappearing from the scene.
Source: Xue Yusi’s “Hedong Ji”, Tang Dynasty