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Huli jing

Nine-tailed fox, from the Qing edition of the Shan Hai Jing

Huli jing (狐狸精; literally: "fox spirit"), Huxian (狐仙; literally: "fox immortal"), or Jiuweihu (九尾狐; literally: "nine-tailed fox") are Chinese mythological creatures who can be either good or bad spirits.

In mythology

In Chinese mythology, it is believed that all things are capable of acquiring human forms, magical powers, and immortality, provided that they receive sufficient energy, in such forms as human breath or essence from the moon and the sun.

The fox spirits encountered in tales and legends are usually females and appear as young, beautiful women. One of the most infamous fox spirits in Chinese mythology was Daji (妲己), who is portrayed in the Ming shenmo novel Fengshen Yanyi. A beautiful daughter of a general, she was married forcibly to the cruel tyrant Zhou Xin (紂辛 Zhòu Xīn). A nine-tailed fox spirit who served Nüwa, whom Zhou Xin had offended, entered into and possessed her body, expelling the true Daji's soul. The spirit, as Daji, and her new husband schemed cruelly and invented many devices of torture, such as forcing righteous officials to hug red-hot metal pillars.[1] Because of such cruelties, many people, including Zhou Xin's own former generals, revolted and fought against Zhou Xin's dynasty, Shang. Finally, King Wen of Zhou, one of the vassals of Shang, founded a new dynasty named after his country. The fox spirit in Daji's body was later driven out by Jiang Ziya (姜子牙), the first Prime Minister of the Zhou Dynasty and her spirit condemned by Nüwa herself for excessive cruelty.

Typically fox spirits were seen as dangerous, but some of the stories in Pu Songling's Liaozhai Zhiyi are love stories between a fox appearing as a beautiful girl and a young human male. In the fantasy novel The Three Sui Quash the Demons' Revolt, a huli jing teaches a young girl magic, enabling her to conjure armies with her spells.[2]

Belief in fox spirits has also been implicated as an explanatory factor in the incidence of attacks of koro, a culture-bound syndrome found in southern China and Malaysia in particular.[3]

There is mention of the fox-spirit in Chinese Chán Buddhism, when Linji Yixuan compares them to voices that speak of the Dharma, stating "the immature young monks, not understanding this, believe in these fox-spirits..."(Source: The Record of Linji, Honolulu 2008, p. 218)

Modern usage

In modern Mandarin and Cantonese profanity, the term huli jing is a derogatory expression describing a woman who seduces a married or otherwise romantically-involved man; a homewrecker.

See also


  1. ^ "Fox-spirit Daji invents the Paoluo torture". Chinese Torture/Supplice chinois. Retrieved 2006-12-26. 
  2. ^ Lu, Xun (1959). A Brief History of Chinese Fiction. Translated by Hsien-yi Yang and Gladys Yang. Foreign Language Press. p. 176. ISBN 978-7-119-05750-7. 
  3. ^ Cheng, S. T. "A critical review of Chinese Koro." Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry 20(1):67-82 (1996).

Further reading

  • Chan, Leo Tak-hung (1998). The discourse on foxes and ghosts: Ji Yun and eighteenth-century literati storytelling. Hong Kong: Chinese University of Hong Kong. ISBN 9789622017498. 
  • Huntington, Rania (2003). Alien kind: Foxes and late imperial Chinese narrative. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674010949. 
  • Kang, Xiaofei (2006). The cult of the fox: Power, gender, and popular religion in late imperial and modern China. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 9780231133388. 

External links