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.
brief retelling of the life of Pao-ssu
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 cameshe
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
Daji vs. Pao-ssu
Evil concubine who was famous for her cruelty and sexual
depravity; devised a number of intriguing tortures
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
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