Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 22, 1911.djvu/270

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234 Correspondence.

so that the trunk is now, as visible in the photograph, scarred and blackened. The neighbouring buildings are shrines of local guardian spirits (T'u Ti) or village gods. Some references to Chinese tree-worship will be found in Johnston's Lion and Dragon in Northern China, pp. 377-81.

The following cutting of a native paper's extract from the North China Daily News, of a date between March nth and April 19th last, seems worthy of record. (The spelling and punctuation of the cutting are followed exactly.)

A. R. Wright.

Chenyuan, March II. A Not of Troubles.

Two days south of here in the Black Miao village of Panghai, we have a mission station where Mr. and Mrs. Powell have resided for two years. They have just told me a most interesting incident.

Recently, one of their helpers was away for a visit to his home. When he returned he excused himself for being behind time by saying there had been a ' broth-cooking ' in his village. Whta asked when he meant he said there had been a quarrel which was settled by cooking broth. The quarrel started between two women. A certain young woman was in the habit of visiting an elder woman ; one day the elder woman said ' I don't like you to come here. After you were here once my husband died. Another visit was followed by my son's death. I believe you bring us bad luck and I want you to keep away.' Needless to say such an accusation aroused great hostility and some trouble ensued. Finally, one of the young woman's party offered to vindicate her character by the broth-making test.

A day was appointed and a great crowd gathered to see the trial. A large cauldron was brought out and set over a rudely prepared fireplace. Into this a mess of millet was put to boil and an axe-head was laid in the bottom of the cauldron. When the contents began to boil, the young woman's champion stripped his arm bare. His duty was to reach down into the boiling porridge and snatch out the axe-head with his naked hand. If his skin were blistered, then the young woman's cause was lost ; if not, er honour was vindicated. Each side had also wagered a stake of some Tls. 25.'*

To snatch out the axe-head was the work of an instant and the man's hand and arm came out uninjured from the scalding bath. It was clear therefore that the young lady was not the minister of bad luck.

This is the first instance of trial by ordeal I have met with in China.

^ I.e. about 68s.