An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Mingxiangji 冥祥記

Oct 3, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald

Mingxiangji 冥祥記 "Records of mysterious Mmanifestations" is an collection of stories compiled by the Southern Qi period 南齊 (479-502) scholar Wang Yan王琰 (ca. 454-?), who came from Taiyuan 太原 (modern Taiyuan, Shanxi) and wandered around with Buddhist monks, in his early years in the far southern region of Jiaozhi 交趾 (north of modern Vietnam), and later along the Yangtze River. In the preface of his book Wang Yan says that he had once obtained a golden Buddha image that radiated a golden shine as an expression of former merits accrued in an earlier life. In accordance with his personal belief, the book Mingxiangji includes stories that narrate the relation between good and evil behaviour and a retribution for these deeds in a later life. The Mingxiangji is thus not only a book entertaining a readership, but also serves as a tool for the propagation of Buddhist religion. In comparison to other books that include tales about strange events or persons with supernatural powers, the chapters of the Mingxiangji are relatively long, and the stories largely abstain from depicting extraordinary effects. The language is, nevertheless, short and concise and easy to understand for a common audience, all the more as the stories are related to the everyday life of everyone. It is not sure whether some surviving fragments of the books have been written during the Tang period 唐 (618-907) and do not belong to the original text. The Mingxiangji is first mentioned in the imperial bibliography Jingjizhi in the official dynastic history Suishu 隋書 among the "miscellaneous biographies" (zazhuan 雜傳). The 10 juan "scrolls" long book was already lost at the end of the Tang period, yet some paragraphs are quoted in the Song period 宋 (960-1279) encyclopedias Taiping guangji 太平廣記 and Taiping yulan 太平御覽 and in Su Yijian's 蘇易簡 Wenfang sipu 文房四譜. Collections of fragments can be found in the reprint series Shuofu 說郛 and Gujin shuobu congshu 古今說部叢書, and in Lu Xun's 魯迅 Gu xiaoshuo gouchen 古小說鉤沉 from the Republican period. The latter includes 131 fragments and is the most complete collection.
There was a continuation of the Mingxiangji compiled by the Liang period 梁 (502-557) scholar Wang Manying 王曼穎. The Xu mingxiangji 續冥祥記 was either 1 juan long, or 11 juan, as the bibliographical lists in the histories Jiutangshu 舊唐書 and Xintangshu 新唐書 say. It might be that the long version included Wang Yan's original book. It is not clear whether fragments of the Xu mingxiangji have survived.

Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰 (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典, vol. 2, p. 2171. Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe.
Zheng Yunbo 鄭雲波 (ed. 1992). "Xu mingxiangji 續冥祥記", in: Zhongguo gudai xiaoshuo cidian 中國古代小説辭典, p. 15. Nanjing: Nanjing daxue chubanshe.