The Biography of the Knight of Dragon-Beard (虯髯客傳, Qiu ran ke zhuan ) is a novel in the classical language (or chuanqi) of Du Guangting (杜光庭, 850-933), a Taoist writer.
It was include in the book Taiping Guangji, Chapter 193. The story tells the encounter between two lovers, Li Jing and Hongfu (the Red-whisk Bearer ), and an adventure with Li Shimin (李世民), the future founder of the Tang Dynasty.
This version was Originally Translated into German by Richard Wilhelm, and Published as Chinesische Märchen (Chinese Fairy Tales) 1958, then translated into English from the German by Ewald Osers, in the book Chinese Folktales, Published by G. Bell & Sons Ltd., 1971.
隋煬帝之幸江都也，命司空楊素守西京。素驕貴，又以時亂，天下之權重望 崇者莫我若也，奢貴自奉，禮異人臣。每公卿入言，賓客上謁，未嘗不踞床而見 ，令美人捧出，侍婢羅列，頗僭於上。末年益甚，無復知所負荷，有扶危持顛之心。
一日，衛公李靖以布衣來謁，獻奇策，素亦踞見之。靖前揖曰：「天下方亂 ，英雄競起，公以帝室重臣，須以收羅豪傑為心，不宜踞見賓客。」素斂容而起 ，與語大悅，收其策而退。 當靖之騁辯也，一妓有殊色，執紅拂立於前，獨目靖，靖既去，而執拂妓臨 軒指吏問曰：「去者處士第幾？住何處？」吏具以對，妓頷而去。
靖歸逆旅，其夜五更初，忽聞叩門而聲低者，靖起問焉。乃紫衣戴帽人，杖 揭一囊。靖問：「誰？」曰：「妾，楊家之紅拂妓也。」靖遽延入。脫衣去帽， 乃十八九佳麗人也。素面華衣而拜。靖驚，答曰：「妾侍楊司空久，閱天下之人 多矣，未有如公者。絲蘿非獨生，願託喬木，故來奔耳。」靖曰：「楊司空權重 京師如何？」曰：「彼屍居餘氣，不足畏也。諸妓知其無成，去者眾矣。彼亦不 甚逐也。計之詳矣。幸無疑焉。」問其姓，曰：「張。」問伯仲之次，曰：「最 長。」觀其肌膚、儀狀、言詞、氣性，真天人也。靖不自意獲之，愈喜懼，瞬息 ，萬慮不安，而窺戶者足無停履。既數日，聞追訪之聲，意亦非峻，乃雄服乘馬 ，排闥而去。將歸太原。
行次靈石旅舍，既設床，爐中烹肉且熟，張氏以髮長委地，立梳床前。靖方 刷馬。忽有一人，中形，赤髯而虯，乘蹇驢而來，投革囊於爐前，取枕敧臥，看 張梳頭。靖怒甚，未決，猶刷馬。張熟視其面，一手握髮，一手映身，搖示令勿 怒。急急梳頭畢，斂衽前問其姓。臥客答曰：「姓張。」對曰：「妾亦姓張，合是妹。」遽拜之。問：「第幾？」曰：「第三。」問：「妹第幾？」曰：「最長。」遂喜曰：「今日幸逢一妹。」張氏遙呼曰：「李郎且來見三兄！」靖驟拜之。遂環坐。曰：「煮者何肉？」曰：「羊肉，計已熟矣。」客曰：「飢甚！」靖出市胡餅。客抽腰間匕首切肉共食。食竟，餘肉亂切送驢前食之，甚速。客曰：「觀李郎之行，貧士也，何以致斯異人。」曰：「靖雖貧，亦有心者焉。他人見問固不言，兄之問，則無隱耳。」具言其由。曰：「然則將何之？」曰：「將避地太原耳。」曰：「然，吾故謂非君所能致也。」曰：「有酒乎?」曰：「主人西，則酒肆也。」靖取酒一鬥。既巡，客曰：「吾有少下酒物，李郎能同之乎？」靖曰：「不敢。」於是開革囊，取一人頭並心肝，卻收頭囊中，以匕首切心肝，共食之。曰：「此人天下負心者，銜之十年，今始獲之，吾憾釋矣。」又曰：「觀李郎儀形器宇，真丈夫也。亦知太原有異人乎？」曰：「嘗識一人，愚謂之真人也。其餘，將相而已。」曰：「何姓？」曰：「靖之同姓。」曰：「年幾？」曰：「近二十。」曰：「今何為？」曰：「州將之愛子也。」曰：「似矣，亦須見之，李郎能致吾一見否？」曰：「靖之友劉文靜者，與之狎，因文靜見之可也。然兄欲何為？」曰：「望氣者言，太原有奇氣，使吾訪之，李郎明發，何日到太原？」 靖計之。曰：「某日當到。」曰：「達之，明日方曙，候我於汾陽橋。」言訖， 乘驢而去。其行若飛，回顧已遠。公與張氏且驚且喜，久之，曰：「烈士不欺人 ，固無畏。」促鞭而行。
及期，入太原候之，相見大喜，偕詣劉氏所，詐謂文靜曰：「有善相者，思 見郎君，請迎之。」文靜素奇其人，一旦聞有客善相，遽致酒延焉。既而太宗至 ，不衫不屨，裼裘而來，神氣揚揚，貌與常異。虯髯默居坐末，見之心死，飲數巡，起招靖曰：「真天子也。」靖以告劉，劉益喜，自負。既出，而虯髯曰：「 吾得十八九矣。然須道兄見之。李郎宜與一妹復入京，某日午時，訪我於馬行東 酒樓下。下有此驢及一瘦騾，即我與道兄俱在其上矣。到即登焉。」又別而去， 公與張氏復應之。及期訪焉，即見二乘。攬衣登樓，虯髯與一道士方對飲，見靖 驚喜，召坐環飲。十數巡。曰：「樓下櫃中有錢十萬，擇一深隱處駐一妹畢，某 日，復會我於汾陽橋。」
如期至，道士與虯髯已先到矣。俱謁文靜。時方弈棋，起揖而語。少焉，文 靜飛書迎文皇看棋。道士對弈，虯髯與靖旁侍焉。俄而文皇來，精采驚人，長揖 就坐，神氣清朗，滿坐風生，顧盼暐如也。道士一見慘然，斂棋子曰：「此局全 輸矣！於此失卻局，奇哉！救無路矣！復奚言！」罷奕請去，既出，謂虯髯曰： 「此世界非公世界也。他方可圖。勉之；勿以為念！」因共入京。虯髯曰：「計 李郎之程，某日方到。到之明曰，可與一妹同詣某坊曲小宅相訪。李郎相從，一 妹懸然如磬，欲令新婦祇謁，兼議從容，無前卻也。」言畢，吁嗟而去。
靖策馬遄征，即到京，遂與張氏同往，乃一小板門子，叩之，有應者，拜曰 ：「三郎令候李郎、一娘子久矣。」延入重門，門益壯麗，婢四十人羅列庭前， 奴二十人引靖入東廳。廳之陳設，窮極珍異，箱中妝奩冠鏡首飾之盛，非人間之 物。巾櫛妝飾畢，請更衣，衣又珍奇。既畢，傳云：「三郎來！」乃虯髯紗帽裼 裘而來，有龍虎之姿，相見歡然。催其妻出拜，蓋亦天人也。遂延中堂，陳設盤 宴之盛，雖王公家不侔也。四人對饌訖，陳女樂二十人，列奏於前。飯食妓樂， 若從天降，非人間之曲，食畢，行酒。家人自東堂舁出二十床，各以錦繡帕覆之 ，既陳，盡去其帕，乃文簿鎖匙耳。虯髯謂曰：「此儘是寶貨泉貝之數，吾之所 有，悉以充贈。何者？某本欲於此世界求事，或當龍戰三二十載，建少功業。今 既有主，住亦何為？太原李氏，真英主也。三五年內，即當太平。李郎以英特之 才，輔清平之主，竭心盡善，必極人臣。一妹以天人之姿，蘊不世之藝，從夫而 貴，榮極軒裳。非一妹不能識李郎，非李郎不能榮一妹。聖賢起陸之漸，際會如 期。虎嘯風生，龍吟雲萃，固非偶然也。將余之贈，以佐真主，贊功業。勉之哉 ！此後十餘年，當東南數千里外有異事，是吾得志之秋也。一妹與李郎可瀝酒東 南相賀。」因命家童列拜曰：「李郎、一妹，是汝主也。」言訖，與其妻從一奴 戎裝乘馬而去；數步，遂不復見。
貞觀十年，靖位至左僕射平章事，適東南蠻入奏曰：「有海船千艘，甲兵十 萬，入扶餘國，殺其主自立。國已定矣。」靖心知虯髯得事也，歸告張氏，具禮 相賀，瀝酒東南祝拜之。乃知真人之興也，非英雄所冀，況非英雄者乎？人臣之 謬思亂者，乃螳臂之拒走輪耳。我皇家垂福萬葉，豈虛然哉！或曰：「衛公之兵 法，半是虯髯所傳也。」
AT the time of the last emperor of the Sui dynasty the real power was in the hands of the emperor's uncle Yang Su. He was a proud man and a spendthrift. In his hall he kept choirs of singing and dancing girls, and maidservants were always at hand to do his bidding. When the great men of the empire Came to visit him he remains comfortably seated on his couch when receiving them.
At that time there lived a brave hero by name of Li Ching. Wearing simple clothes, he called on Yang Su to present him a plan for the pacification of the realm.
He made a deep bow which Yang Su did not return and said: 'The empire is about to be submerged in disturbances, heroes are arising all over the place. You are the highest servant of the imperial house; it would be your duty to rally the brave around the throne. You should not turn people against you by your pride.'
When Yang Su heard these words he pulled himself together and rose from his seat and talked cordially to Li Ching.
Li Ching handed him a document and began to discuss all kinds of things with him. By their side stood a maidservant of quite exceptional beauty. In her hand was a red whisk and her eyes were riveted on Li Ching. Li Ching then took his leave and went back to his inn.
At midnight he heard a knock at his door. He looked outside and saw a figure in a hat and a purple robe, With a bundle on a stick over its shoulder.
When he asked Who it was he received the reply: 'l am Yang su's whisk-bearer.' She entered his room, and took her outer clothes and her hat. He then saw that she was a beautiful girl of eighteen or nineteen.
She bowed to him and When he returned her greeting she said: 'I've been in Yang Su's household for a long time and have seen many famous people, but none who was your equal. I wish to serve you wherever you go.' Li Ching replied: 'The Minister is powerful. I fear we may be inviting disaster.'
'He is a corpse with but a little breath in him,' said the whisk girl. 'There is no need to fear him.'
He asked her name and she replied that it Was Chiang and that she was the oldest of her sisters.
Looking at her and seeing her brave behaviour and listening to her sensible words, Li Ching realized that she was a heroic girl, and they decided to escape secretly. The girl with the whisk again put on men's clothes, they mounted a couple of horses and rode Off. They were making for Taiyüan.
The following day they put up at a hostelry. They had the beds arranged as they wanted them and put up a cooking Stove for their meals. The girl with the whisk was standing by her bed, combing her hair. The hair was so long that it reached down to the ground, and shone So that One could see one's reflection in it. Li Ching was outside grooming the horses. Suddenly a man appeared with a red curly beard like a dragon. He had come on a lame mule and now flung his leather satchel On the floor in front of the cooking stove, picked up a cushion and lay down on the bed watching the girl combing her hair. Li Ching caught sight of him and grew angry. But the girl instantly recognized the stranger for what he was. She
signalled Li Ching to control himself, quickly finished combing her hair and tied it in a knot.
She then welcomed the stranger and asked his name.
He said his name was Chiang. 'My name is Chiang too,' she replied. 'so we must be related.'
She then bowed to him as her elder brother.
'How many brothers have You?' she then asked him.
'l am the third,' was his reply. 'And you?'
'l am the eldest girl.' 'What a wonderful thing to have found a sister today,' the stranger said cheerfully.
Then the girl called out through the door to her husband; 'Come inside! I want to introduce ray third brother to you.'
Li Ching came in and greeted him.
They then sat down together and the stranger asked: 'What meat have you got?'
'Mutton,' was the reply.
'l am very hungry,' said the stranger.
Li Ching went to the market to buy bread and wine.
The stranger pulled out his dagger, cut up the meat and they all ate together. When they had finished he fed the remaining meat to his mule. Then he said: 'My friend, Li, you seem to be a poor knight. How is it then that you are here with my sister?'
Li Ching told him What had happened.
'And where are you making for now?'
'Taiyüan,' came the reply.
The stranger said: 'Will you get another dish of wine for me? I have some spice here for the wine and you shall join me.'
With these words he opened his leather satchel and took out from it a human head and a heart and a liver.
He carved the heart up with his dagger and the liver also and put them in the wine.
Li Ching was horrified.
But the stranger said: 'That was my worst enemy. For ten years I carried my hatred with me. Today I killed him, and I feel no regret.'
Then he continued: 'You seem to me no ordinary fellow. Have you heard of any hero living hereabouts?'
Li Ching replied: 'Yes, I know of one whom heaven seems to have chosen as a ruler.'
"Who is he?' asked the other.
'The son of the Duke Li Yuan of Tang. He is only twenty years Old.'
'Could you present me to him?' the stranger asked.
Upon Li Ching's assurance he continued: 'The sooth Sayers declare that there is a special sign in the air at Taiyüan. Perhaps it comes from that man. You may wait for me tomorrow at the Fenyang Bridge'
With these words he mounted his mule and rode Off as fast as if he were flying through the air.
The girl said: 'He is not a man Who should be crossed. I saw that his intentions were not good. That was why I made an ally of him by claiming relationship.'
Thereupon they left together for Taiyüan and at the appointed place they met the Dragonbeard. Li Ching had an old friend by name of Liu Wen-tsing who was a tent- fellow of the Prince of Tang. He introduced the stranger to Liu Wen-tsing, saying: 'This stranger can tell the future from the lines in a man's face and would like to see the prince.'
Liu Wen-Ging thereupon took him to the prince. The prince wore quite simple domestic clothes but there was something impressive about his manner which distinguished
him from all other men. As the stranger caught sight of him he fell silent and his face turned ashen grey.
When he had drunk a few cups of wine he took his leave.
That is the true ruler,' he said to Li Ching. 'I am almost certain, but my friend must see him too.'
Then he named another day and a certain inn Where they would meet again. 'If at the door of that inn you see this mule and a very emaciated ass then you will know that I am there with my friend.'
On the appointed day Li Ching went there and true enough outside the door he saw the mule and the ass. He gathered up his clothes and climbed to the upper floor. There Dragonbeard and a Taoist monk were drinking wine. When he saw Li Ching he was delighted and invited him to sit down and drink with them. When they had drunk enough all three of them set out again to See Liu Wen-tsing. He was just then playing chess with the prince. The prince rose courteously and invited them to sit down.
As soon as the Taoist Saw his radiant and heroic nature he Was overcome and saluted him with a deep bow, saying: 'The game is over!'
As they took their leave Dragonbeard said to Li Ching: 'Carry on to Sian, and when the time is come ask for me at this or that place.'
With these words he left, puffing. Li Ching and the girl again packed their things, left Taiyüan and continued their westward journey. At that time Yang Su died and great disturbances broke out in the kingdom.
After a few days Li Ching and his wife arrived at the spot appointed by Dragonbeard. They knocked at a small wooden door and a servant came out who conducted them down long corridors. Magnificent buildings arose before them, with crowds of girl slaves standing in front of them. They stepped into a hall in which the most precious dowry had been set out—mirrors, robes and jewellery were all of a magnificence unparalleled On earth. Beautiful slave girls led them to a bath, and When they had changed their clothes their friend was announced. He entered, clad in silks and fox furs, and in his appearance almost suggested a dragon or a tiger. He was delighted to see them and also called in his wife Who was of exceptional beauty. A feast was served and the four Sat down at table. The table was covered with the choicest dishes of which they did not even know the names. Beakers and plates are all implements were of gold and jasper, adorned with pearls and precious stones. Two choruses of girl musicians in turn played flutes and shawms. They sang and danced and the visitors felt as though they were transported to the palace of the moon fairy. The rainbow garments fluttered and the girl dancers were of a beauty which surpassed anything on earth.
When they had drunk a few rounds their host commanded the servants to bring in beds upon which embroidered silken blankets were spread. When they had feasted their eyes on everything Dragonbeard presented them with a book and a key. Then he said: 'In this book are listed the treasures and riches which I possess. I give them to both of you as a wedding present. Without possessions no man can undertake great deeds, and it is my duty to give my sister an appropriate dowry. I had originally intended to take over the Middle Kingdom and put matters to rights. But now that a ruler has arisen already, What else is there for me to do here? The Prince Tang in Taiyüan is a real hero.
He Will have put matters to rights in a few years. You two must support him and you Will assuredly rise to high honours. You, sister, are not only beautiful but have also good sense. No one but you would have recognized Li Ching's true value and no one but Li Ching would have had the good luck of meeting you. You Will share this man's honours and your name shall go down in history. This is all predestined. As for the treasures I have given you, you are to use them to help true lord. This you must be sure to do! In ten years a glow Will arise far away in the south-east, and that shall be my signal to you that I have attained my aim. When you See that glow you may pour a wine offering towards the south-east to wish me luck.'
He thereupon ordered the maidservants and the other servants to salute Li Ching and the girl one after another and said to them: 'These are your master and mistress.' With these words he took his wife by her hand, they mounted the horses which were being held for them, and rode off.
Li Ching and his Wife then moved into the house and were immeasurably rich. They became followers of the Prince Tang, who created order in the empire, and they supported him with their money. Thus the great work was achieved and when the empire was at peace again Li Ching was appointed Duke of Wei and the girl Who had held Yang Su's whisk became his duchess.
Ten years later news was brought to the Duke that in the far-away empire across the sea a thousand ships had landed with a hundred thousand soldiers in armour. They had captured the land, killed the ruler and set up their leader as king. The empire was now pacified, and the Duke knew that Dragonbeard had accomplished his work. He
told his wife. They put on festive garments and made a wine offering to express their good wishes. Then they saw a red glow shine brightly in the south-eastern sky. Undoubtedly this was the signal sent by Dragonbeard in reply. The two were exceedingly happy.