Stories from Ancient China: Twenty Bowls of Orange Skin Soup

In the era of the Emperor Xuzong during the Tang Dynasty, there was a fortuneteller who claimed he could foretell what foods people would eat in the future. Many officials in the Imperial Court went to see him to ask him to tell their fortune. Only one senior official, named Li Qijun, didn't believe him.

Li Qijun invited the fortuneteller to his home and asked him, “What am I going to have to eat tomorrow?” The fortuneteller thought for quite a while, then told him, “You will eat two plates of sticky rice cake, and twenty bowls of orange skin soup.” Li smiled. He asked his chef to prepare a banquet for him the next day and he planned to invite other officials to join him.

In the early morning of the next day, the Emperor summoned Li Qijun. The Emperor told him, “Today the mayor of the imperial capital presented me with some new sticky rice. My chef made some cakes with it. You might want to try some.” After quite a while, a servant brought him some cakes presented on a golden tray. Li extended his thanks to the Emperor, and started to eat the cake. He had to eat them all although he did not want to. The Emperor delighted at the fact that Li finished all of the cakes, and told the official, “It seems that you really like the cakes. Let me bestow you another plate of sticky rice cakes.” Li then had to finish another entire plate’s worth of cakes.

After Li returned home, he suffered a serious stomachache. He could not eat anything and could only drink orange skin soup. It was not until midnight that the pain receded. He recalled what the fortuneteller said, and asked his servants, “How many bowls of orange skin soup did I have?” They answered, “Twenty bowls worth.”

Li gave a long sigh of admiration for the fortuneteller’s amazing ability. He immediately asked his servants to invite the fortuneteller to his residence , and gave him quite a bit of money and some beautiful silk

Adapted from Historic Anecdotes

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