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Who and What Was Pao-Ssu?

According to the Japanese story of Tamamo-no-mae, an uncommonly ambitious fox transformed herself into a beautiful woman, became the concubine Hua-Yang, and charmed the Indian king Pan-Tsu into such cruelties that he was overthrown. Having found a schtick that worked, she repeated it on the Chinese King Yu Wang of the Chou Dynasty, then tried it on the Japanese Emperor Toba and was uncovered and turned into a poisonous stone for her efforts. The name she bore during her time as King Yu's concubine was Pao-Ssu (or Pau-Ssu, or Pao-Sze, or Baosi).

Therefore, Pao-Ssu was a fox.

...Or was she? It's not quite so cut and dried. If you follow the story back to its Chinese roots, the original Pao-Ssu, the ethereal maiden who laughed only at watching her lord cry wolf was half-dragon.

A brief retelling of the life of Pao-ssu
A longer retelling from a history book

How did a half-dragon turn into a fox on the trip over the Japan Sea? Travel is broadening, but surely not that broadening. The answer is simple: The long-dead Japanese writer who made Pao-Ssu into a fox confused his evil concubines.

Daji, concubine to King Chou, last king of the Shang Dynasty, had been reviled as evil for hundreds of years. Historians love a good story about female depravity, and Daji was as depraved as they came—she loved watching torture, devised a few new tortures of her own, and held orgies in the palace gardens. She spurred King Chou on to new heights of cruelty until the nobles rose and overthrew him. For centuries of Chinese history books, Daji was merely an ordinary human hellbitch. Then fox stories became popular, and it was discovered that historians had known all along that Daji was a fox.

Pao-Ssu was also an evil concubine who spurred her lord into actions that led to his downfall. Though she married a different king and lived three centuries after Daji, her story was similar enough to Daji's that a Japanese historian, working off of possibly limited sources, can be forgiven for combining the two evil concubines into one.

Daji vs. Pao-ssu


Evil concubine who was famous for her cruelty and sexual depravity; devised a number of intriguing tortures

Married King Chou of the Shang Dynasty

Killed in 1046 BCE by the forces that overthrew King Chou



Evil concubine who was famous for laughing only when the king lit the beacons calling his troops to battle; he was overthrown when his troops stopped responding to the summons

Married King Yu Wang of the Chou Dynasty

Deposed in 771 BCE and taken captive by General Man Yeh-Su


Note: All spellings in this article are written in the Wade-Giles system.