Huli Jing Picture

Huli jing

Pu Songling in Classical Chinese during the early Qing Dynasty.

Pu borrows from a folk tradition of oral storytelling to put to paper a series of captivating, colorful stories, where the boundary between reality and the odd or fantastic is blurred. The cast of characters include magical foxes, ghosts, scholars, court officials, Taoist exorcists and beasts. Moral purposes are often inverted between humans and the supposedly degenerate ghosts or spirits, resulting in a satirical edge to some of the stories. Ghosts and spirits are often bold and trustworthy, while humans are on the other hand weak, indecisive and easily manipulated, reflecting the author's own disillusionment with his society.

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 ??, who is portrayed in the Ming novel Fengshen Yanyi. A beautiful daughter of a general, she was married forcibly to the cruel tyrant Zhou Xin ?? Zhòu Xin. 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. 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 ???, 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.

The fox spirit has also been used as an explanatory factor in the incidence of attacks of koro, a culture-bound syndrome found in southern China and Malaysia in particular.

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


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