[Note] I have posted this in the page “Past life memories and information retention” for easy access.
Old lady remembered her three past lifetimes
In the village of Peigou in Shilou county in Shanxi province lived an old country woman named Niu Wenqi who was born on the third day of the second month of the lunar calendar in 1916, and died on the 29th day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar in 2012, at age 96. She was interviewed in 2010 by Chang Dalin, chief editor of Guangming Daily News [*] when she was 93 years old.
[*] Guang Ming Daily News is a Hong Kong pro-Communist newspaper that had been using classical Chinese characters, and the interviewer, being a modern editor in Hong Kong, would be more familiar with classical Chinese characters [**] than with the simplified characters used on the Chinese mainland. Classical Chinese characters [**] are used both in Hong Kong and on Taiwan.
Old lady Niu Wenqi did not have any education in this lifetime. But, she was able to recite lengthy poems and was able to write classical Chinese characters[**].
[**] In 1956, Chinese Communist authorities implemented the simplified Chinese character writing system and the pinyin system. Since then, Chinese mainland students were not taught to write in classical Chinese characters.
Old lady Niu Wenqi also did not speak Mandarin. She spoke her village dialect. Her grandson who was 15 years old in 2010, thus born in 1995, speaksMandarin so he acted as interpreter for grandma Niu Wenqi and the interviewer who speaks Mandarin. Surprisingly, the old lady was able to communicate with the interviewer very easily by writing classical Chinese [**].
According to old lady Niu Wenqi, she had not had any education in this lifetime. Her ability to write classical Chinese characters, her ability to recite lengthy classical Chinese poems in both Xian and Henan dialects all come from her previous lives when she studied and scored the highest in the imperial exam in 1660 and was awarded the title “Zhuang Yuan”, and assigned a government post. In 1660, she won the title of “Literary Zhuang Yuan” and a Fan Wubing won the title of “Military Zhuang Yuan”. “Zhuang yuan” is the title given to the person who scored the highest in the imperial exam.
Old lady Niu Wenqi began telling stories of her three past lives when she was 8 years old (1924). She said that her first life was that of a man named Zhou Gui-tsai, a horse and mule trader who died at the age of 37. He was from Yanta village in Xian city in Shaanxi province [no dates were given].
Her second life was that of a daughter named Yeh Wenguo of the Yeh family of a court official named Yeh of ancient Loyang in Henan province. She disguised herself as a man and took the imperial court exam at age 29 (1660), scored the highest in the exam, and was assigned an official post in Xining, Qinghai province. [So she would have been 29 years old in 1660]. She died of typhoid fever.
In this life, she said she reincarnated into a farm family in Huangshiyu village in Shilou county in Shanxi province. She was married into a farm family in Peigou village about 5 li away. She had never had any education in this third life, but she was able to recite lengthy classical poems and write in classical Chinese characters. This was because, according to her, she still remembered her studies and retained the skills she acquired in her previous life as a “Literary Zhuang Yuan”.
She also built a Henan style stove by hand, a one of a kind stove in Huangshiyu village where she lived.
Renowned Chinese Buddhist scholar Nan Huaijin said in his “Seven days of Southern Zen” lecture that the “spirit enters the womb, resides in the womb, and emerges from the womb”. The spirit may choose to enter a particular womb, and the spirit would remain inside the womb for nine months as if imprisoned, and would emerge nine months later, after all life memories have been wiped clean and washed away. Only spirits that “take over the bodies of a recently deceased baby” [***] would be able to retain their past life memories.
[***] The Buddhist term for “taking over the bodies of a recently deceased baby” is “duo she”, literally meaning “seizing and taking over the shack or house”. There have been reported cases of reincarnating spirits taking over the bodies of dying babies and dying adults and emerge as a new healthy baby or adult with an entirely different personality and linguistic skill sets.
Old lady Niu Wenqi also said that her present third life was only supposed to last for 25 years but she dedicated her current life to building a shrine to Guan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, and she was able to see her shrine completed when she was 88 years old.
The ability of old lady Niu Wenqi to write classical Chinese characters without having had any education, her ability to speak the Xian and Henan dialects without having been there in her current life, and her ability to recite lengthy classical poems without having had any education, are, to the modern interviewer, unexplainable except for reincarnation and the retention of learned skills through reincarnation.
In the province of Shanxi, there is a 30-year-old woman named Ze Guo’e who claimed to be a man in her previous life with a son. The son is now 40 years old, but he calls the 30-year-old woman named Ze “Dad”.
[Master Chen says]
Buddhist scholar Nan Huaijin described the reincarnation process and the loss of memory of our previous lives as going through the process of “entering the womb”, “residing in the womb” and “emerging from the womb”, like a fly flying into an electric fan and being tumbled around and then emerging. What he had described is the reincarnating process of “reconstitution of the reincarnating spirit in bardo through the 7×7=49 ‘days’ in bardo or the multiple 7-year cycle on earth” which Buddhist Master Hsing Yun had explained. I prefer his explanation of the multiple 7-‘day’ cycles of the reincarnating soul in bardo.