Tang Shao was a Tang Dynasty official who was clever and could remember things that had happened in his previous life. He never disclosed it to anyone, not even his wife or his children.
Tang had a neighbor, Li Miao, who was an executioner. Tang and Li got on well, and Tang would invite Li to dinner or for a chat. As Tang was a higher ranking official than Li, Tang’s wife couldn’t help but to ask:
“Li Miao is merely an executioner who knows nothing and whom nobody cares about, while you are a scholar whom everybody respects. Why do you treat him as someone important? I don’t think that is reasonable.”
Tang replied after a long lapse of silence: “You are right. But there is something that is very important in our relationship that I can only explain to you later.”
Several years later, Tang suddenly talked to his wife solemnly one day: “My dear wife, I shall now tell you the reason for my way of treating Li Miao. I have good reasons to treat him well that I can only divulge prior to my death, and now is the time.”
“You may not believe it, but I was born with the ability to remember my previous life. In my last life, I was a woman. I was married to a man named Wang in Balin. My mother-in-law was very strict with me.
“I remembered she ordered me to prepare the meal for the whole family for the winter solstice eve. After that, she ordered me to make a skirt for her to wear the next day. I was already very tired but had to work through the night.
While I was concentrating on my work, suddenly a dog rushed in and knocked down the oil lamp, and splashed oil onto the skirt. I was so annoyed that I shouted at the dog. It was scared and ran toward the door, which was locked.
“It couldn’t escape and hid under the bed. I lit another candle and began to clean the stain on the skirt, but it just would not come off. I was both scared of being punished and annoyed at the dog causing the mess. Without thinking, I looked under the bed and used a pair of scissors to stab the dog. It was killed in the end.
In this reincarnation, I am Tang Shao and the dog I killed is Li Miao. The one who will kill me soon must be him. Please don’t be sad when this happens.”
The next day, while preaching the art of military to all the high officials in Li Mountain, Emperor Tang Xuanzong began to beat a drum. In the middle of his third round of drumming, the Defence Minister, Guo Yuanzhen, suddenly ordered: “The preaching of the emperor is finished.”
This annoyed the Emperor as he was amused by his own drumming. He ordered the execution of Guo. Tang immediately knelt down and appealed for Guo. Even though agreeing to spare Guo, the angry emperor decided to execute the acting Minister of Rites, Tang Shao, instead.
It took Li Miao twice to kill Tang. The knife was broken at the first try and he was killed by a second knife. It was said that Emperor Tang regretted his ruthless decision afterwards. He complained that Li executed Tang too fast and never used him again.