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Foxes reached their full flower in China. Chinese foxes are earnest scholars,
dedicated rakes, devoted lovers, seductresses par excellence,
tricksters, poltergeists, drinking companions, karmic avengers,
and always, always great moralizers.
Huli jing: Fox spirit. Literally, "exquisite fox." Also
a modern colloquial term for a dangerous seductress, a slut, or
Hujing: Fox spirit. An older word which also means "exquisite
Huxian: Immortal fox.
Xian: Immortal or transcendent person. Because foxes were often
worshipped in folk religion, they were sometimes called xian (or
derivatives thereof, such as xianren) in order to avoid saying their
real name, in the same way that English speakers referred to fairies
as "the good folk," "the fair folk," "the
people under the hill," and so on. Other varieties of immortal
creatures were called xian as well.
Jinwei hu: Nine-tailed fox.
Laohu: Old fox. Foxes must attain great age before they can transform
into humans, so all shapeshifting foxes are technically old; however,
this term carries the connotation of a fox so old that it is old
even for a fox. The term also removes some of the sexual connotations
of the fox, since sexlessness is associated with age.
Books and Theses
Chan, Leo Tak-Hong. The Discourse on Foxes and Ghosts. Honolulu:
University of Hawaii Press, 1998. [find
Huntington, Rania. Alien Kind: Foxes and Late Imperial Chinese
Oh, my sisters and oh, my brothers, this is the book you have been awaiting. Fox worship, foxes and romance, foxes and sex, foxes and transcendence, foxes and ghosts, what to do when you've got a fox living in the guest room. Huntington devotes considerable space to the development of the fox through history, which explains a lot about the contradictions in popular fox stories. And she does this all in a lively and jargon-free style that's a pleasure to read. If you want a taste, scroll down and click on the link to "Foxes and Sex in Late Imperial Chinese Narrative".
Huntington, Rania. Foxes and Ming-Qing Fiction. Thesis (Ph.D),
Harvard University, 1996.
Jameson, R.D. Three Lectures on Chinese Folklore. Beijing:
North China Union Language School, 1932. [find
Kang, Xiaofei. Power on the Margins: The Cult of the Fox in
Late Imperial and Modern North China. Columbia University Press,
Walthall, Anne. Peasant Uprisings: A Critical Anthology of Peasant
Histories. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991. [find
Foxes are connected with late Edo peasant uprisings
as a symbol of social change, as in "A Tale of a Dream from
the Fox Woman Plain," pp. 169-92.
Barr, Allan. "A Comparative Study of Early and Late Tales
in Liaozhai zhiyi." Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies
Coman, B.J. "Mr
Tungs Fox Tenants." Quadrant Magazine XLIX:6,
Huntington, Rania. "Foxes and Sex in Late Imperial Chinese
Narrative." Nan Nü 2(2000)1: 78-128.
Examines the relationship between foxes, sex,
and Chinese views of the sexes, with a focus on foxes as seductresses
rather than wives or romantic heroines. This article became a chapter of Huntington's book Alien Kind.
Download a free copy of this article (and the
rest of this issue of Nan Nü) from Ingenta
Illuminated Lantern. "Ghost
Lovers and Fox Spirits." 2000.
Jameson, R.D. "The Chinese Art of Shifting Shape". Journal
of American Folklore 64(253):275-280. 1951.
Johnson, T.W. "Far Eastern Fox Lore". Asian Folklore
Studies 33:35-68. 1974.
Kang, Xiaofei, "The Fox [hu] and the Barbarian [hu]: Unraveling
Representations of the Other in Late Tang Tales." Journal
of Chinese Religions 27(1999): 35-67.
Kang, Xiaofei, "Sex
with Foxes: Fantasy and Power in Traditional Chinese Stories."
River Gazette 5(2):8. 2005. [HTML
Krappe, Alexander H. "Far Eastern Fox Lore". California
Folklore Quarterly 3(2):124-147. 1944.
Watters, T. "Chinese Fox-Myths". Journal of the North-China
Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland,
n.s., 8:45-65. 1874.
Wu, Fatima. "Foxes in Chinese Supernatural Tales". Parts
One and Two. Tamkang Review 17(2):121-53 and 17(3):263-94,
The Chinese worshipped foxes, though never at the level of official
religion. Instead, foxes were a part of folk religion. This unofficial
worship reached to the highest levels of society; in the late 1920's,
in a family shrine ostensibly dedicated to the Buddha, Kuan Yin,
and other official deities, Lao Tai-tai, an aristocratic woman of
Beijing, shows off her family's icon of a fox:
"This," [Lao Tai-tai] said with a beaming
smile, "is the best of all."
"And who is this?" I asked, for I did
not recognize the scholarly-looking old man in the picture hanging
on the west wall, the little old man with the intelligent, shrewd
face. He was sitting in a garden with a great tree behind him and
flowering shrubs around, dignified in his long flowing blue silk
robes and tall black hat of a long-past dynasty.
"He is the Second Son of the King of the
Fox Fairies. He was so good and learned that he was allowed to take
human form. We worship him for scholarship and for official position
and for wealth." These, I knew, were synonymous to most of
the people. She lit a big bundle of incense and set it in the burner
on the table. (Old Madam Yin: A Memoir
of Peking Life, by Ida Pruitt, p. 35)
Kang, Xiaofei, "Power on the Margins: The Cult of the Fox
in Late Imperial China." Thesis (Ph.D.), Columbia University,
Read the abstract here.
Kang Xiaofei, "In the Name of the Buddha: the Cult of the
Fox at a Sacred Site in Contemporary Northern Shaanxi." Minsu
quyi, no.138 (2002): 67-110.
Li Wei-tsu. "On the Cult of the Four Sacred Animals".
Folklore Studies 7:1-94