Mon, Nov 13, 2017 - Page 9 News List


The Scream, by Edvard Munch, 1893, in the National Gallery, Oslo, Norway.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Chinese practice


(mao2 gu2 song3 ran2)

have one’s hair stand on end






有趣的是,我們可以觀察到洪邁的故事元素和他使用的一些文學手法,特別是夢的場景接續,在現代仍常用於故事的鋪陳;他所描述的恐懼感也是人類普遍的經驗,放諸任何時代或文化皆然。在英文中用來描述恐懼襲來的感覺,可以說chill/shiver running up/down the spine(令人背脊發涼),或是說one’s hair standing on end(令人頭髮豎立)。


♦ 想到剛剛差了那麼一點點就被砸中,像跟死神擦身而過,真令人不禁毛骨悚然。

(The very thought of how close that was, and how it almost landed on me: It was like the Grim Reaper was standing over me. That really makes my hair stand on end.)

♦ 若對某些人事物覺得毛骨悚然,或許是因為自己對其缺乏了解,而盲目地感到害怕。

(If something sends a chill down your spine, it probably means you don’t understand it properly: It’s just fear born of ignorance.)


send a chill up/down one's spine
have one's hair stand on end

The biji xiaoshuo (notebook fiction) literary format, generally eclectic stories and musings in a concise writing style, first emerged during the Wei and Jin dynasties. The format would later be divided into two categories, the zhiren xiaoshuo (writings on people), describing anecdotes and sayings of people of note, and the zhiguai xiaoshuo (tales of the miraculous), relating supernatural and mystery stories.

The Records of Yi Jian by the Song Dynasty writer Hong Mai (1123-1202) is a zhiguai xiaoshuo that was popular during the Song. One of the stories in this book, the da hun wang, tells of how a man named Xing Zu has a dream in which he is visited by a man he recognizes as a close friend who had died some time before. The man takes Xing Zu to an official’s building, and tells him that in a few days’ time this is the office from which Xing Zu will be carrying out his official duties. A little boy enters and tugs on Xing Zu’s official robes, and Xing Zu recognizes the boy as his own son, who had died several years previously. The friend then asked Xing Zu to return home, telling him that he would be summoned again in a few days. At this point Xing Zu wakes up, and realizes it was all a dream.

Soon after, however, Xing Zu goes out on official business and, as he is passing the house of the friend who had appeared to him in the dream, he feels a rush of cold fear shoot through him, from the hair on his body down to the marrow of his bones, as Hong Mai has it. Xing Zu falls ill, and is dead within days. From Hong Mai’s original phrase 毛骨凜然俱竦 we get the idiom 毛骨悚然, which is now used to express a feeling of utter dread.

The idiom has been used in several major Chinese literary works, not least in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms and the Journey to the West. In Chapter 22 of the former, the warlord Cao Cao receives a summons to war and, on reading it, feels a chill run down his spine, and he breaks out in a cold sweat. In Chapter 10 of the latter, the Sea King is angered by news, and sets about beating the messenger with a wooden door beam. When he realizes the implications of the message, however, and the danger he is in, he is stricken with fear, and drops the beam, collecting himself and offering apologies to the messenger.

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