Liu Ji and the Stong-Cat Tablet

Under Hongwu reign in the Ming Dynasty, Liu Ji built a stone tablet in front of the residence of Yu Tonghai, a knight of the Guo, on the northen bank of Shangfu Bridge. Seven meters high and nine meters long, it was then carved with 100 cats. According to a legend, in the early Ming Dynasty, Yu Tonghai, Yu Tongyuan and Yu Tongyan as three brothers were offered with official positions thanks to their exploits in the war. After Yu Tonghai was killed in a battle, Zhu Yuanzhang held a naitonal funeral for him and offered him a higher official rank, leading to the qucik rise of power of the Yu’s family. However, some opponents of the Yu’s family spread such a rumor: “Near the Qinhuai River, there is a ray of morning-glow which is blessed with the royal air, because a fish-spirit has appeared in the river. If swimming into the sea without control, the fish-spirit will become a dragon threatening the Ming rule. This fish-spirit is none other than the Yu’s family.” Upon hearing this, Zhu Yuanzhang became doubtful, thus consulting with his military mastermind Liu Ji who said: “For a family like Yu’s with exploits, there might be oppositions if it is charged with crimes for no reasons. It would be appropriate to set up a military formation in the shape of Eight Trigrams around his residence to eliminate the royal air.” Zhu Yuanzhang nodded in agreement and asked Liu Ji to do this job. Liu Ji had a well dug in front of the gate of Yu’s home, a 100-cat tablet erected, a Block-the-Gate Bridge (later called Steep-Gate Bridge) built in the rear of Yu’s home, a fishing platform put up in the east, a Driving-Fish Lane (later mistakenly called Dry-Fish Lane) constructed in the west as well as two floating bridges built in the front and rear of Yu’s home (present-day Shangfu Bridge and Xiafu bridge ). The fish of Yu’s family, when intending to get out, would first be threatened by 100 cats in front of the gate. If the fish wanted to rush out, it would be blocked in the rear of Yu’s home, caught in the east and driven back in the west, finding itself in a dilemma and drying itself to death in a waterless well. Besides, boat-decks were set up in the mouth of the Qinhuai River to prevent the fish from swimming into the Yangtze River and the sea. In order to wipe out all the fish here, willow trees were planted extensively in the lane opposite to Yu’s home across the Qinhuai River, standing for stringing the fish (homophonically Yu) with willow branches to prevent it from going into the sea. Therefore, it was named Willow-Leaf Lane since it was then covered with willow leaves. Nowadays, the Stone-Cat Lane and some samll zigzag lanes are still seen in this area. Strangers would find it difficult to get out after walking into them. As it is said, fish has disappeared in this part of the Qinhuai River ever since.


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