answering questions

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1. We learned in lecture that the nine-tailed fox is usually attributed to the Tu-Shan girl, wife of Yu the Great or even the Tu-Shan tribe as a figure of worship and auspiciousness. In the reading however, it states that "Whoever eats it will be protected against insect-poison (gu)." While eating this sacred animal would clearly protect the person, would it not also bring them bad luck for harming it? 

2. In the story of Chang Hua and the fox, it is hard to determine what the moral is.  The fox was obviously very smart, but because he was young, Chang Hua was suspicious that he was a fox. This could be a way that people legitimized gate-keeping high scholarly positions from younger people. However, at the same time, the fox makes a good argument, saying that if you become suspicious of anyone just because they are smarter (better) than you, everyone would keep to themselves for fear of suspicion. So what is the main takeaway from the story? 

3. We know how foxes are cunning and smart, but Ren also seems to know some very detailed information. Are foxes known to be able to tell the future or see into people’s minds? Otherwise, how would she have known about the horse and the exact price it would sell for?

select two questions and answer them. No less than 100words

readings are attached

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Attachment 1

Harvard University Asia Center

Chapter Title: Conclusion

Book Title: Alien Kind Book Subtitle: Foxes and Late Imperial Chinese Narrative Book Author(s): Rania Huntington Published by: Harvard University Asia Center. (2003) Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1tfjcmj.13

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My title, "Alien Kind," alludes to foxes as both an alien species and a peculiar category. As Ji Yun so memorably affirmed, that peculiarity lies in their liminal position. Other cultures feel the same need for a "middle" category of alien, but the exact parameters of liminality dif- fer. The important axes of middleness are morality, power, and prox- imity. The "middle people" are neither inherently benign nor in- nately malign; rather, they are morally ambivalent. They have powers that humans do not, but these powers are finite and are balanced by weaknesses. Since their habitat intersects at least partially with our own, they brush against humans much more often than creatures en- sconced in entirely separate worlds. In this Conclusion, I compare foxes to some of these other "middle people" in order to throw Chi- nese concepts of the alien and the human into sharper relief and to return to the question of the relationship between species of super- natural beings and the genres in which they are depicted.

Because of the wealth of material and the parallel complications of folklore collection and literary adaptation, I will compare foxes pri- marily to Western European (mostly German, English, and Irish) fairies and elemental spirits. The following discussion is guilty of oversimplification, since it conflates different periods of European fairylore and Chinese foxlore, although the range in time, from the fifteenth through the nineteenth century, remains roughly paral- lel. Fairies share a great many roles with late imperial foxes: the household protective spirit, often providing favors in exchange for a

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humble offering of food, like the English brownie or Scandinavian

tomte; the mischievous kobold, who torments households; the fatal

lover; and the grateful supernatural creature. Some plots, such as the

tale of a midwife summoned to an unearthly household in the middle

of the night to deliver a child, are virtually identical in the two tradi-

tions.1 I do not think these tales are direcdy related; rather, these

parallel niches suggest that distinct societies have similar chinks in

the familiar, where the alien can approach. Not only are there paral-

lels in the narrative niches these species fill, but there are parallels in the explanations of their place in the universe.



Particularly striking parallels with Ji Yun's attempts to rationalize the difficult in-between position of foxes are found in Liber de nymphis,

sylphis, pygmalis, et salamandris by the fifteenth-century German phi-

losopher Paracelsus. His "in-between" figures are the spirits of the

four elements: nymphs for water, sylphs for air, pygmies for earth,

and salamanders for fire. To a certain extent, he was a defender of

these creatures and endeavored to delineate their differences from

both demons and human beings. Because he derived his concept of

these creatures by applying logical principles to received folk mate- rial, from the outset his task, as well as his sympathetic stance, was very similar to Ji Yun's.

Like Ji Yun, Paracelsus also felt that he had to justify writing

about marvels; he argued that marvels are more worthy of description

than the court, for they are the works of God as opposed to the

works of men. The pretext that one can use the bizarre to observe the

· wonders of God's creation is not unlike Ji's claim that one can exam-

ine universal principle through the strange just as well as through the

I. Examples for foxes include "Hu taitai" i!if.j:;t:;t, in Xu Kun, Liuya waibian (1793 ed.)juan 12; and "Baita si"B~~' in Li Qingchen, Zuicha zhiguai, 3.365. The

parallels suggest that for both cultures, midwifes were liminal creatures themselves,

summoned to serve in households of varying social status; and childbirth was a

charmed moment, when the worlds could mix.

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ordinary. For both men, an apparently peripheral topic of dubious morality is central to a universal moral project.

According to Paracelsus, the elemental spirits fall between men and ghosts. Their flesh is different from man's, in that it is not solid and can pass through matter; but they are like human beings in that they eat, drink, and bear children, as ghosts do not. They are a mix of ghost and human, like two colors mixed together or a sweet and sour flavor.2 They are, however, neither ghost nor human. Since they have no soul, when they die, they are like animals, extinguished for- ever. Paracelsus compared them to apes, the closest animals to hu- mans, but in general they are above the animals. "Thus they are peo- ple, but die with the animals, change with the ghosts, and eat and drink with men. . . . Their customs and gestures are human, as are their speaking and appearance, and all their virtues, the better and the cruder, the subtler and the grosser." They cross two of the same borderlines, between man and ghost and man and beast, that Ji sketched in his introduction to the fox. Like foxes, they resemble human beings as closely as possible. Paracelsus also emphasized their internal variety just as Ji Yun's various fox spokesmen did. "They are smart and rich, understanding, poor, or foolish, like we descendants of Adam: they are made in our image just as we are made in the im- age of God."3

Paracelsus explained the stories of romances between humans and elves or nymphs using the same logic: they (apparently exclusively the females) strive to unite with men just as men strive to unite with God. This justification seems to share the desperate quality of a vixen's pursuit of a human lover and a human self. As we have seen in the discussion ofYingning and Undine, in both cultures alien fe- males can become almost human through matrimony. As is true for

2. Paracelsus. Liber de nymphis, sylphis, pygmaeis et salamandris, p. 13-14. All translations from the German are my own. Cf. Kirk, The Secret Commonwealthes of Elves, Fauns, and Fairies, p. I; Kirk places the fairies between men and angels.

3· Paracelsus, Liber de nymphis, sylphis, pygmaeis et salamandris, p. 15. Note how the Western comparison has three levels, the other, man, and God, whereas the Chinese has only two, man and the other. This fits well with distinctions made be- tween Chinese and Western allegory; in the Chinese case there is not an essential comparison between the human world and the divine. See Plaks, Archetype and Alle- gory in Dream of the Red Chamber.

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foxes in most cases, the children they bear men are human, with hu- man souls; sometimes even the mothers win souls through their ties to men.4 Paracelsus defended the integrity of these relationships: a man married to a spirit should remain loyal to her.5 But unlike Ji, who refused to focus on the romance with an alien woman exclu- sively, Paracelsus enshrined it at the heart of his explanation of the spec1es.

The most obvious difference between the two traditions is the ab- solute division in the West between the possession and the lack of a soul. On that question there can be no in-between for Paracelsus, al- though these creatures are as close as conceivable to a borderline case. Although they have human understanding, they need not fol- low God because they have no soul. Ji could not ~dmit such a moral exemption. The soul allows Paracelsus to put a final limitation on the elemental spirits' imitation of humanity, since all of their other at- tainments are rendered meaningless by this one missing quality. It is this limitation that gives them their meaning: they prove to humans how we have been favored with the gift of a soul. The fact they can- not become human reminds us that we in turn cannot become gods. 6

This general case, which highlights both our privilege and our limi- tation, sets off the special case of the fairy bride, who is like us in her passionate aspiration to transcend her origins.

The Chinese tradition has no such absolute answer to the ques- tion of what makes men unique. Buddhist ideas of reincarnation serve to blur the boundaries between species; the afterlife becomes the point at which men and beast can be confused, not distinguished. In Daoist visions, humans themselves can effectively change species to become transcendents. Yet although the boundaries of humanity seem on the surface less clearly drawn in the Chinese case, they are not entirely permeable. Foxes reincarnated as humans are used, pri- marily in vernacular fiction, as a device to explain exceptional sexual appetites, as is the case for Hede in Zhaoyang qushi, or extraordinary desire for revenge, as in Xingshi yinyuan zhuan, and not as a means of considering the boundaries of humanity. The human fallen to fox

4· Paracelsus, Liber de nymphis, sylphis, pygmaeis et salamandris, p. 24. 5· Ibid., p. 3I. 6. Ibid., p. r6.

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Conclusion 327

form, regaining human form again after centuries of work, is more co:mmon: but in this case, the human story, narrated by the fox, gives an elevated justification to typical fox actions, be it an attempt to pass oneself off as human in a community of monks or a sexual liaison? Species identity in former lives provides motivation, but it does not reshape identity in this life. As for Daoist advancement, allowing foxes to skip over humanity altogether and become xian sidesteps the issue of whether foxes can become truly human.

The question of whether the boundary between humanity and the other can dissolve is the fundamental tension in Qing zhiguai: the marvelous has become so common, so close, and so familiar, with the demon lover becoming the good housewife, that the distinction is on the verge of dissolving even though it cannot be allowed to dissolve. The fox, ever the confounding in-between, is the embodiment of this problem. Despite what appears to be a dramatic difference between species defined by the presence or the absence of a soul, with death as the moment of truth, as opposed to species defined by the wheel of rebirth and the ladder of cultivation, the rhetorical uses of the self- improving fox are similar to the double meaning of the elemental spirits: the diligent fox, starting in a burrow and aspiring to the heav- ens, reminds us of human striving, human superiority, and human limitation.

Paracelsus' analysis brings us back to the questions of theory and practice discussed in Chapter 2. Cultural differences dictate a differ- ent relationship between theory and practice for Paracelsus, or for Robert Kirk (ca. r65r-92), the author of The Secret Commonwealthes of Elves, Fauns, and Fairies, than for Chinese authors. The first sys- tematic theories on the middle people in the European context are to a greater or lesser extent responding to the theorizing of demonology and explanations of witchcraft. Both Paracelsus and Kirk are setting fairies or elementals apart from demons, already an object of organ- ized attention, and the men who have commerce of various sorts with them apart from witches. There are two reasons for this focused attention. First, weird and sinister species reflect more critically on a single omnipotent creator than they do on a system of natural

7· On the link between the transformed fox and repentance, see Heine, Shifting Shape, Shaping Text, pp. r66-75.

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principle, a factor that compelled the Europeans to provide more sys-

tematic explanations. Second, ties between humans and inhuman be-

ings were more threatening to the European social order, which cre-

ated important judicial genres for perceiving the supernatural, such as

confessions of witchcraft, and theorizing on the nature and limita-

tions of the crime; these were much less common in China. 8

Just as Paracelsus systematized received lore, so his theorizing,

centuries later, inspired authors of the literary fairy tale. From the

Chinese perspective, this would be as if Ji Yun's unified fox theories

came first and Pu Songling's romances later. Additionally, there is a

crucial difference in the publishing climate and perceptions of his-

torical change. "When Fouque, about fifty years Ji Yun's junior, read

Paracelsus, he perceived a far greater cultural gap in the four hundred

years that had elapsed thanJi Yun did when he read Hong Mai, who

predated him by six centuries. Fouque was inspired to reinterpret

Paracelsus' ideas to fit his own times; Ji believed he was working in

Hong Mai's tradition, albeit after an interruption of generic devi-

ance. In Chinese terms, most European histories of the literary fairy

tale begin in the last century of the Ming, without the sense of a ge-

neric history stretching back a millennium.


One obvious difference between foxes and European fairies is that

between an ambitious quadruped and a (or several) humanoid spe-

cies. Many subspecies of fairies can take animal shape or have some

physical attributes of animals, but they are not seen as animals them-

selves. This is related to another glaring difference: in Europe people

can descend to animal form through illness or curse, whereas in East

Asia animals more often assume human form. 9 This seems related to

the lower status of animals in Europe based on the insurmountable

boundary of the soul. In the European context, human shape is

something humans can lose (although the demonologists argue that

8. In the Chinese case, it is sorcery with human perpetrators, especially in organ-

ized groups, that is more threatening than any interference of ghosts or demons it-

self; see Kuhn, Sou/stealers, pp. 94-rr8. 9· The exception would seem to be the selkies or swan maidens, but still their

animal shape is viewed as clothing, concealing a human shape within.

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this is a demonic illusion, and that shapes never really change) but not something animals can gain, even as an illusion. The beings clos- est to humanity are primarily given hominid forms. Other than the exceptional case of the fairy bride, descent is of more interest than ascent. In East Asia, the vector of ascent is crucial, whether it is genuine ascent or trickery honed with advancing age. With animals available as the closest aliens to the human, the parallel hominid races (like the sometimes hominid Wutong, who at least are not clearly identified with a single animal species) fill fewer supernatural niches.10

Paradoxically, however, it is the European fairies, not the Chinese foxes, who are seen as representatives of wild nature as opposed to human culture. This difference is founded on different understand- ings of nature and culture, which, to overgeneralize crudely, were separate and opposed spheres to a greater degree in Europe than they were in China. The difference is determined by a romantic attitude toward nature that gives accounts of fairies from the nineteenth cen- tury on elegiac perspective, as signs of a natural world that was be- coming lost to contemporary urban man.11 In some of the Victorian interpretations of fairies, the gap between fairies as the embodiment of nature, as opposed to man, is made even clearer by emphasizing their connections to plants and even inanimate elements rather than to animals.

A concept of "elemental beings" requires a concept of fixed ele- ments, which both form the substance of the sylphs and like and provide their habitat. Humans alone are mixed beings. The Chinese conception of elements as phases does not provide a similar, stable bestiary. Foxes are clearly identified with yin, but even that is rela- tive; this identification is not nearly as strong for them as it is for ghosts. Foxes are not entirely different from us either in habitat or in substance.

The stronger tie between fairies and wild nature is determined by their habitat: only the domestic spirits, like brownies, are primarily imagined indoors. The others are creatures of woods and fairy

ro. This is less true in Japan, where the more active roles are given to the hu- manoid tengu and kappa; see Figal, Civilization and Monsters, pp. 83-83, 144-45.

II. Silver, Strange and Secret Peoples, p. IO.

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330 Conclusion

mounds. And all of them are primarily rural; they do not move into

cities as the foxes do, although in both cultures gardens can be tran-

sitional spaces. In the Victorian era, it was left to poltergeists to

be urban. As we have seen, the late imperial fox traveled far from its animal

roots. Such foxes are called chusheng tf1:_, "animals," only in insults, usually by exorcists asking how a beast could have the gall to violate

the order of the universe. When they refer to themselves, they some-

times use the term yilei.12 Yilei, while more polite than "animal," is

still an expression of distance: the true lover or friend of a fox does

not regard his companion as of an alien kind, and the fox uses the

term when imploring a human not to be estranged. 13 As the discus-

sion in the previous chapters has shown, the animal body of the fox

holds a different position in different parts of the fox tradition:

glimpsing a hairy shape is part of coexisting with a haunting fox, but

the fox body is not depicted in the images used in fox worship, and

in long tales of intimate relations with foxes, it is used sparingly, to

introduce moments of transition or revelation. The body of the beast

is not indispensable in any case. By late imperial times, foxes were more closely related to human

culture than to anything outside it. This is not to say that there were

no anecdotes placing foxes in the woods and wilderness, but the ma-

jority of stories placed them closer to human setdement. Ji Yun made

the tie between foxes becoming monsters and Chinese culture overt

when he observed that the foxes of Xinjiang do not become mon-

sters. The project of self-improvement must be something they

learned from men.14 Those foxes that are the least cultured and the

least human, the dark forms pressing down on sleeping humans or

the ones clattering about in the rafters, are explained as being either

responses to human flaws or creatures at the earliest stage of progress

and civilization. What is most important here, once again, is transi-

tion: foxes are always in the process of attaining culture. The stories

never hint of an independent existence, with the foxes burrowing

12. Qingfeng says ftilei :lf:~, "not of the same kind," instead; see "Qingfeng,"

LZ, 1.112-18. 13. YWCT, 16.948, story 97· 14. YWCT, 6.263-64, story 264.

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Conclusion 331

in the ground or hunting mice out of our sight; the foxes speak only of an anthropomorphized world of family and residence in various places. A simulacrum of human culture has become their only identity.

With fairies, there is more emphasis on their independent world, with its trappings of royalty. Moreover, fairies steal human beings to live with them in that world. Although men sometimes reside with the foxes, lingering in their glamorous mansions, there are only households, rather than an entire fairyland. Those who have al- ready risen to become xian have a separate world, with its caves and peaks, more like the European fairyland, but most often the xian en- ters narrative by falling to this world for a liaison with a human. But, more important, the man who lingers with the vixen in her home does not stay permanently. The fox comes to her lover where he or she is more often than it takes him or her away; and when the en- counter with the other proves fatal, the human dies in his own home.

The idea of the changeling child, so central to English fairylore, is absent in China.15 The sickly child is explained instead as a ghost, reborn to collect a debt. With reincarnation, strangers can be directly born in one's household without any need for abduction and re- placement. Although in older stories foxes occasionally substitute for family members, that theme had waned in popularity by late imperial times. More important, the fear in those stories was of false family members indistinguishable from the true, rather than of children or others who were obviously made strange. In late imperial China, it was the clever concubine, the fortuitously forward lover, or the lodg- ers in the next room who were suspected of being strange. Although in both cultures, ties, especially sexual ties, with another world were a way to explain physical and psychiatric afflictions in the young men and women of a family, the difference between the human who has "been away" and the one who remains at home, possessed by an alien force, is significant.

15. On the changeling, see Strange and Secret Peoples, chap. 2, pp. 59-87.

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332 Conclusion


Moral middleness in the European context is between two fixed points on a spectrum, with devils at one end and angels at the other; this establishes man in the middle and forces other peoples to be a secondary middle. To be between xian and yao, however, is to be be- tween two paths rather than between two points. To some degree, humans can also choose these two paths, to refine themselves or to become sorcerers or rebels, but only a small minority go in either di- rection. Foxes are between these two paths in the sense that they can choose either one, not because they have a third path.

"When European conceptions deny that fairies or elemental spirits have a soul, they create the possibility of an amoral but sentient spe- cies. Fairies can be a way of contemplating moral aliens, who do not share our sense of good and evil. Without the soul, fairies have ca- prices rather than emotions and only ape human passions.16 Chris- tian ideas situate individual moral choice and moral justice in the soul; moral obligations apply only to those with souls. But the Chi- nese system makes no such exclusions, since systems of moral justice must apply to all beings.17 Interest in the moral alien can blend at- traction with revulsion, especially when contemplating the amoral female. The Chinese case shares some of this as well: Yingning and Xiaocui are thought experiments, attempts to see how a woman who differed radically from the expectations for her sex could act as a wife.

In narrative practice, the fox can also seem to represent caprice without explicable human feelings or motivations, especially in cases of haunting or predatory sex. But once Chinese authors move out of individual anecdote to explanation, and thus from popular, shared narrative to intellectualizing, they are interested in two contradictory

I6. Ibid., p. !2. 17. A Yuewei caotang anecdote describes a fox on trial in the infernal courts for

killing his grandfather. One infernal official argues that animals should be judged by standards different from those applied to human beings; a second replies that since foxes are not like other animals, those who have improved themselves should be judged by human standards. A third argues that filial piety can be expected even of animals. See YWCT7.3II-I2, story 21.

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Conclusion 333

moral possibilities: either foxes are inherently morally inferior, re- pelled by good and attracted by evil; or they have the same moral choices as men. The one thing they cannot be is amoral. However, these possibilities also have their counterparts in the European ar- guments: Kirk envisioned the peoples of his "secret common- wealthes" as having the same range of virtues and vices as ourselves; yet at the same time they do the most harm to the barbarous and are defeated by Christian piety.18

Popular experience of foxes-their depredations, inscrutable appa- ritions, willful gifts, and harsh revenge-does create an impression of amoral torment. Perhaps on the ground, relations with the nearest alien were not very different in early modern China or Europe. Ac- tual experience is the closest to chaos; narrative gives it shape, and explanation imposes a further level of order. Raw chaos seems the least culturally specific; it was in elite explanation that differences emerge.

Talk of moral middle ground evokes the image of the trickster of international folklore studies. The middle people and the trickster are not necessarily the same thing, although they overlap. The idea of the trickster has been defined by examples from folktales and myths, stories set in another plane of reality or another time, as op- posed to the middle people who are most common in legends and re- side on the margins of our world. The trickster is usually an individ- ual (even if there is more than one, it is Coyote with a capital C, rather than coyotes). An entire tricky species is a different problem. Border-crossing and ambivalence are shared, but the difference is in the ordinariness of the middle people: borders keep being crossed, and the middle people beat a regular, if not predictable, path through our houses. Lewis Hyde's point about the male gender of nearly ail tricksters is also relevant here.19 A species in which both males and females cross boundaries, but each in distinct ways that usually keep the boundary between male and female clear, has a different struc- tural function than a single male border-crosser: these are the

r8. Kirk, The Secret Commonwealthes of Elves, Fauns, and Fairies, p. 73· 19. Hyde, Trickster Made This World, pp. 333-43. I agree with Hyde's selection of

Sun Wukong as the Chinese representative of tricksters.

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334 Conclusion

tricksters who provide a certain necessary element of chaos in a stable world rather than the single individual who remakes the world.20



Both the fox and the fairy are unorthodox, standing at the edges of the greater moral order of their respective universes. The difference between them is shaped, among other things, by the forms in which intellectual attention was paid to the unorthodox in their respective societies, which brings us back to the issue of genre. We have already seen the correlation between species and genre in the Chinese con- text: foxes dominate the classical tale, have a more marginal presence in the vernacular novel, and are almost absent in chuanqi drama. Any argument based on this correlation risks tautology: Are foxes most common in the classical tale because of their nature, or do they seem the way they are because of the genre that records them? I argue that species and genre are interdependent, with each shaping the other.

In looking at the relations of genre and species cross-culturally, I find the following distinctions useful: the difference between large and small stories; between stories set in other worlds and those set in this one; and between stories narrated as personal experience, as ex- perience of named friends, and those held at a greater distance. Gen- erally, the stories closest to personal experience are smaller tales, al- though not all small stories are close to personal experience. Different species find their ideal habitats at different points along this spectrum. Foxes thrive best in small, individual stories, which in China take the form of the classical tale, although they play their part in the larger stories of vernacular fiction. They are residents chiefly of this world and can be as close as personal experience or as distant as a nameless man at the end of a previous dynasty, the entire range of the classical tale itself.

In comparison, fairy tales or Marchen are tales of another world, held at a distance, and legends are tales of this world, sometimes closer to the teller. The creatures that resemble foxes the most, the sometimes mischievous, sometimes helpful, kobolds, are found in

zo. Ibid., p. r88.

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Conclusion 335

legends and written records, rather than Marchen.21 In comparison with fairies, foxes are more like the regionally specific figures of legend than the beautiful but vague figures blessing cradles in the Miirchen.

When foxes do appear in vernacular fiction, they are seldom cen- tral characters. Rather, they serve a functional role in a larger story: they are a source of demonic deception, but as in the Daji cycle or Sanjiao kaimi, the backstory of the fox provides an explanation for re- venge or lust, or fox gratitude temporarily provides supernatural pro- tection, as in Qixia wuyi -!:::;{~Ii.~ (Seven gallants and five heroes; r889). (The exception is Huli quanyuan.) Foxes' acts of deception, possession, seduction, revenge, and reward do not make the entire narrative by themselves. The larger roles are usually reserved for ex- ceptional beings who are individuals, further from common experi- ence: the monkey Sun Wukong or even the white snake Bai Niangzi, who are never subsumed into their species the way a vixen is primar- ily a vixen. When a vixen becomes an individual, her audience is one appreciative lover or one fortunate or afflicted household.

In discussing narrative, I have neglected the obvious statement that, unlike xian and fairies who are subjects of poetry, foxes are pri- marily the subject of prose. Mter the Tang, when foxes were used as an image of deception, fox poems are rare. In contrast, xian and fair- ies are subjects of poetry. Although there are stories in which foxes compose poetry, such as Hu Shuzhen's cycle, these are scattered ex- amples, and the poems make almost no reference to vulpine origins. There is no established tradition or set of imagery, as there is for the poetry of ghosts. This suggests that encounters with foxes are in some way a prosaic, in the sense of ordinary, experience. Poetry about vixen lovers uses the language of romance with a goddess, and from vixen lovers the language of the longing woman. The animal identity of the friend or lover is unpoetic, and the perspective of that alien species is not imagined clearly enough for poetry, in contrast to the once human ghost longing for life.

Partially as a consequence of the circumstances of folklore collec- tion-folklorists collected someone else's lore, which was about to be

2!. On kobold, see Muller and Wunderlich, Diimonen, Monster, Fabelwese,


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lost-fairies always seem to be drawing away from us. Carol Silver argues that departure is inherent to the nature of the species.22 Fair- ies are native to a habitat threatened with loss as soon as men begin to cultivate it. The fox and the zhiguai, on the other hand, are not going anywhere. The men who collected zhiguai were collecting their own lore, and although individual stories might be lost, it was unthinkable that this kind of story itself might die out. Although the individual vixen departs, her species fills an ecological niche very similar to the starlings, Canada geese, and raccoons that thrive in American suburbia, stealing our garbage and roosting in our yards. Human habitat suits them very well.

The fox was not, within the timeframe of this book, the subject of systematic study in China, as the fairies were in England in the Vic- torian era.23 Even Ji's theorizing is always in the context of narrative; narrative is never pressed into the service of treatises. Theoretical arguments about the supernatural do not take foxes as a central sub- ject but focus instead on ghosts or human practices like divination and geomancy.24 Perhaps the fox was too close and alive in contem- porary conversation to become a subject of argument. I have already discussed the relation of this theoretical bent to the systematizing compulsions of demonology. What the Victorians and their contem- poraries and predecessors in Qing China shared was the urge for documentation and voluminous publication of narrative and experience.

The Chinese case shows that the literary fantasy does not require distance from its creatures. The stuff of "ordinary'' extraordinary ex- perience, the thunks in the next room and the small space set aside for the fox, are part of the furniture of the truly extraordinary cases, the complex relationships with foxes. This overlap anchors weird ex- perience and fantasy to each other: every abandoned room carries the possibility of marvel. But whereas the marvelous, qi, tends to shim- mer in the distance, it is the weird, guai, that occasionally infests one's own garden or closets.

22. Silver, Strange and Secret Peoples, pp. 185-212. See also Briggs, The Fairies in Tradition and Literature, p. 210.

23. Silver, Strange and Secret Peoples, p. 4· 24. See the survey in Chan, The Discourse of Foxes and Ghosts, pp. 79-94.

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Conclusion 337

Silver argues that the popularizing of fairies in moralistic and sac- charine children's literature helped to bring about the fall of the tra- dition. As fairies lost their ambiguity, their power and attraction dwindled.25 One can draw a parallel with the Guangxu-era fox romance, in which the vixen has lost her ambivalence and, in losing her ties to sex, often finds her claims to passion dulled as well. Satia- tion of desire becomes routine, and the strange becomes ordinary in the sense of market saturation. Yet precisely because the fox of close- hand experience was not going anywhere, the loss of ambivalence in one branch of the fox tradition did not dictate loss of ambivalence in the whole. Xu Feng'en §lf*,lgf,, in a collection published in 1879, in- cluded-alongside a tale of a vixen as both lover and schoolmistress, good at eight-legged essays; and another of a man who requests a vixen lover and is rewarded with nine partners of both sexes,26 until he nearly dies of debauchery; both illustrations of a late, self- conscious stage of the fox romance-an account of his own experi- ence in a very different tone. He had gotten used to the footsteps of the fox transcendent who lived upstairs in the official residence in Zhejiang where he was temporarily lodging while grading exams. There had been one tense moment when a dog killed a fox, but he and his colleagues averted that disaster by burning incense and ask- ing the foxes not to take their anger out on people. In the comment appended to this story, he related how one night his friends had been joking with him, since he was young and lodging alone, about the amorous ghosts and vixens recorded in books, just as young Sang's friends had joked with him in Liaozhals "Lianxiang." That night when he went to bed, a beautiful woman appeared. Terrified, he apologized for his friends' joking words, insisting he meant no disre- spect. She vanished, but he could not think of the episode without the hair on the back of his neck standing up straight?7 In contrast to his unnamed characters who long for a fox, he is terrified of the pos- sibility. This vision is linked to reading and conversation, as opposed

25. Silver, Strange and Secret Peoples, pp. 186-89. 26. "Gu chuluan" tiM~ and ''Wuxiang mou taishi" .li~~*7,;:9:, in Xu

Feng'en, Lantiaoguan waishi 3.4Ib and 6.12b, respectively. 27. "Zhejiang xueshi shu hu" #Jf¥I~~~m\, in ibid., 4.44b.

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3· Japanese fox from Dianshizhai huabao

to the more immediate experience of foxes weeping for one of their own, but both reveal that the fox, when close at hand, had not lost its potential for threat. Whether this represents an account of experi- ence or a parody of the suggestible Liaozhai reader, Xu chose to por- tray himself as a man who can coexist with foxes without assuming that they are benign.

Foxes as a presence in daily life and in narrative do eventually fade away, without entirely vanishing. The process of that fading is be- yond the scope of this book. Foxes continue to appear in the pages of the newspaper Shenbao and the pictorial Dianshizhai huabao into the 1890s, and the odd fox story still attracts the attention of figures as important to modern literature as Lin Shu and Wu Jianren. When Qinghai leichao m~!1Jl~tJ> (Categorized Qing fiction), published in 1916, keeps the fox stories in a group but places them within the lar-

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Conclusion 339

ger category mixin ~{§, "superstition," this is a significant moment, with the genre intact, at least in retrospect, but one of its determi- nant topics renamed. The zhiguai and the fox tale had existed in the uneasily shared space between the supernatural ideas of their upper- class authors and those of their other informants and subjects. When the elite adopted new standards, strange tales were no longer poten- tially shared yiwen ~00, "reports of the strange," but someone else's mixin, and a shared language was lost.28 Gerald Figal has argued that in Meiji Japan theorizing on monsters was central to the moderniz- ing project, as some parts of the supernatural were eliminated and others were made central to the Japanese spirit.29 In China, in con- trast, foxes and their kin were more unequivocally seen as backward.


The overlap between the nonhuman alien and the human alien dif- fers from culture to culture. In her work on fairies in Victorian con- sciousness, Silver examines the meaning of ideas about fairies in both ethnic and gender terms. As we have seen, gendered meanings of foxes were much more important than ethnic meanings. In both cultures, women themselves already straddled the boundary of humanity. During the witchcraft scares in early modern Europe, the demonological and judicial literature's interest in sexual relations be- tween the human and the inhuman is the opposite of the Chinese case: women's ties with devils received more attention than men's re- lations with succubi. But in the Romantic and Victorian literature on fairies, the gender distribution is much more like the Chinese case, with focus on the fairy bride or !a belle dame sans merci. 30 I believe this

shift has to do with a shift in genre, from the regulation of social threats in judicial writings to the narration of individual experience in fictional accounts, which is closer to the world of zhiguai and chuanqi.

28. On the use of the term mixin in constructing nongmin, as opposed to elite, identity, see Dorfman, "The Spirits of Reform."

29. See Figal, Civilization and Monsters, p. 15. 30. See Silver, Strange and Secret Peoples, pp. 89-n9, q8-83.

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340 Conclusion

The conflation of ethnic others and the alien species seems more important in Victorian England than in Qing China.31 I do not think that the ethnic implication of hu, "fox," as a pun for hu iiF.I, "northern barbarian," is alive in the Ming and Qing as it was in the Tang,32 other than in a loose association of foxes with the north. At most, perhaps there is a parallel in the tales of literary fox friends to the relations between Han and Manchu men of similar status: one knew that the other was supposed to be distinct, yet they shared all the same elite cultural references and amusements. In the late Qing, there are occasional moments when foreignness and foxiness are overlaid: an anecdote in the pictorial Dianshizhai huabao about a Japanese fox opens, "In the world seductive women are called 'foxes,' because they are good at beguiling men. If a 'foxy' person can already beguile a man, how much more can a real fox, let alone a foreign fox?"33 On an unnamed Japanese island known for its population of foxes, a Chinese traveler comes on shore desperate for something to eat. A beautiful woman invites him to her place for a meal. He fol- lows her eagerly until the sound ofWestern troops doing military ex- ercises nearby alarms her. As she flees, she reveals her true form as a fox. In the illustration, there seem to be a conflation of markers of ethnic identity and species identity as her obi and her tail are con- founded. A simple tale of exorcism is reframed with international content. In another late Qing tale, a seductive vixen is clearly West- ernized in dress, and she advises her lover to convert to Christianity to relieve his poverty.34 But these remain momentary coincidences of different kinds of strangeness, rather than a sustained way of think- ing about the alien.

However, the hope of advance, through study and proximity to humanity, has implications about sinification and inclusion. There are still limits to assimilation: a fox is never entirely human, and those who come closest are granted that status only as corpses. To phrase the question in ethnic terms: Does a "cooked" savage ever be- come well done enough that he dissolves into the mass of Han Chi-

31. See ibid., pp. 43-50, 117-47. 32. See Kang, "The Fox and the Barbarian." 33· "Yaohu xianmei" ~m\li:k~, in Dianshizhai huabao, Zi r (z.r) 7, 56. 34· "Bai laochang" B~~, in Xuan Ding, Yeyu qiudeng lu, 4.140.

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Conclusion 34I

nese? But the very question is a paradox: any story which recorded that transition would of necessity still preserve the label of "alien," at least in the beginning. Total assimilation, the barbarian who was no longer a barbarian, or the fox who was no longer a fox, could happen only outside of the narrative frame. Narrative instead traces an as- ymptotic approach. Although literary expectations of foxes as an en- tirely human-seeming species became routine, assimilation remained a matter for individuals: even in the late Qing, there remains an in- exhaustible supply of unrefined foxes who are mysteries in a small sense-the noise in the attic.


To return to the Chinese case, what does the fox have to teach us about Chinese society in late imperial times? Fox haunting and the resident fox showed us that the home was a focus of intense atten- tion, but at the same time there was a sense of a highly mobile, tran- sient society. The competitive market in women clearly had a signifi- cant impact on the imaginary cosmos by creating a great need for women outside that market. Foxes were a means to think about all of women's roles other than the reproductive: they could either be de- pleting, barren sexual partners, the women one seeks out for enter- tainment, or they could provide for all of a man's other needs but let another woman bear the children. 35 Social mobility, which many argue is a distinguishing feature oflate imperial society, was accepted in the fox story as a constant. Conversations about foxes' mobility

seemed to serve to reassure humans that mobility is, in the end, inseparable from virtuous hard work, although wicked foxes drama-

tize the possibility of immoral, parasitic advance. The fox as a spirit of wealth dealt with similar anxieties about profit unrelated to production.

Interest in the horrible and monstrous is often read as a symptom of social discontent and instability.36 How, then, is one to interpret interest in the alien in modes other than horror? Foxes were shown

35· See Bray, Technology and Gender, pp. 358-68. 36. C£ the concern in Japan with bakumatsu bakemono, "the late Edo monstros-

ity''; Figal, Civilization and Monsters, pp. 21-37-

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342 Conclusion

enduring the vicissitudes of history together with humans: chaste vixens sacrificed themselves when the Ming fell and again to the Taipings;37 they fled human rebellions at least as often as they were involved in them; at least one late Qing vixen was addicted to opium/8 and another dressed herself in imported fabrics. Rather than being a sign of anxiety about cultural change, foxes were a reas- surance of cultural adaptability. Where they survive, we will, too. Foxes played out the great fantasies of satiation of desire and a just universe, but at the same time they filled an equally important appe- tite for the small, quotidian mischance or wonder. In the end, from an upper-class perspective at least, they were less frightening than other human beings.


The different faces the fox shows in the classical tale and in the ver- nacular novel suggest that more comparisons between genres would be highly fruitful. Rather than simply tracing relationships of sources and variant versions, we need to pay attention to the ways in which different genres allow exploration of different ideas and issues. Gen- res that have been relatively neglected, like biji, much drama, espe- cially regional drama, baojuan :If~ (precious scrolls), and tanci 5~BRJ (plucking rhymes) would provide rich sources. Relations between genres as distinct ways of talking and thinking in constant inter- change with one another are not restricted to a simple division of popular and elite. Some of the most interesting discoveries are likely to occur in the places where genres cross and in the gaps be- tween them.

As for those genres that have been central to this project, Tak- hung Leo Chan closes his book by arguing that applying standards other than the aesthetic to Chinese literature will allow scholars to take on not only zhiguai but the vast oceans of biji.39 I would second this. These genres contain a vast treasurehouse of the small stories of

37· "Lie hu zhuan" ?.!HJJlft:, in Zhang Chao, Yu chu xinzhi 10.193; and Baiyi ju- shi, Hutianlu, xia, 46b-47a.

38. Xu Qiuzhai, Wenjian yici, in B]XSDG, 12: 2.7a. 39· Chan, The Discourse of Foxes and Ghosts, p. 250.

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Conclusion 343

the late imperial tradition, including the popular, the whimsical, the personal, and the petty, which has barely been touched. Although the fox has provided a valuable glimpse into this world, in a future project I hope to go beyond a single topic and examine these works as a whole.

This discussion of foxes has revealed not so much the outer limits of the human imagination of the alien, as perhaps the inner limits, habits, and patterns of that imagination. Unlike contemporary au- thors of science fiction, the zhiguai authors did not deliberately set out to test those limits with the invention of species.40 The fox in human form is a particular kind of alien: it is assumed that the alien, for good or ill, has placed us at the center, and the strange comes in a form that looks like us. The fox has two poles in the relatively known, a four-footed animal and a human shape; the strangeness lies in the link between the two.

Even in contemporary American and European science fiction, however, it is only the more literary end of the genre (like Stanislaw Lem's Solaris) which endeavors to test these boundaries.41 Popular science fiction provides us with either monstrous ciphers, familiar as threats, or aliens much closer to ourselves. The former are often modeled on terrestrial non-mammalian species, either insects or rep- tiles; the latter come to us, like the fairies or the foxes, as humanoid bipeds.

As with the foxes, the contemporary popular tradition is obsessed with aliens who strive to become human: the heart of each successive Star Trek series had a creature striving toward, or struggling with, humanity. However, the pole opposite the human is the machine, not monster or animal, and the key to becoming human is emotion and release, rather than discipline or effort.

In the contemporary popular tradition, we are interested in both the alien that more purely represents some quality, be it logic or valor, than we do, and the one who is even more indeterminate and suspended between realms than we are. This same two possibilities were contained in the middle people, whether fairies or foxes. Either the mixed nature of the middle people is set up as a contrast to

40. Benford, "Effing the Ineffable," pp. 13-25. 4!. Ibid., P· I4.

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344 Conclusion

human purity, or humans themselves are the true mixed and middle beings. Foxes are both simpler than we are, and more indeterminate: they can focus on ascent, or lust, or mischief, to the exclusion of all other interests, but at the same time, they linger between categories.

Since he had the opening word, I give the last word again to Ji Yun. At the end of a story of a servant's wife seduced by a fox, who confounded all her husband's efforts to put a stop to it, Ji closed on a speculative note. It appeared the fox was able to change the shapes of other things with his tricks.

The Song Confucians urged us to investigate things, but with matters like

this, how can one extrapolate from principle? My father often said that

when foxes live in a tomb and give it the illusory guise of a house and

rooms, people see it as real, but what do the foxes see? Foxes have their fur

and skin and transform it into rouge and mascara; people see it as real, but

what do the foxes themselves see? And moreover, what does a fox see when

it looks at another fox's illusion? There really is nowhere to start investigat- . h' 42 mgt 1s.

Between the tomb and the red pelt and all the trappings of human fantasy was a third possibility, the true mystery of the perspective of the fox, the point where reason was exhausted. As much as he

excelled at explaining the strange, Ji Yun gestured here toward his culture's limits in imagining the alien.

42. YWCT, 5.231, story 233·

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Attachment 2

4- Tang Ta l es (chuan-qi) J1i D u r i n g the Tang, a n o l d trad i t ion of p rose a necdotes was transformed i nto a fu l ly developed fictio n a l form, l ater known as chuan-qi-"transm itt i ng accounts of re­ markab le th i n gs ." Although the m ajor ity of such stor ies treated some form of the su­ pernatu ral , there were a l so p u re ly human l ove stor ies and tales of hero i s m . One of the most common types comb ined the su pernatu ra l with the l ove story or erot ic en­ counter .

A common concern i n tales of l ove was fa ith kept and faith b roken . By keep ing fa ith w i th another, a c reatu re of the sp i r i t wor l d cou l d r i se to the l evel o f a h u m a n be i ng, and by b reak i n g fa ith a h u ma n be i ng cou l d s i n k t o the besti a l . T h e model of such rel ationsh i ps i s p ragmatic and econo m i c : each party g ives someth i n g essen­ t ia l , and so long as accou nts are ba lanced, no mechan i sm of retr ibut ion i s set i nto moti o n . I f, however, one party fai l s to pay back what is g iven, the consequences are d i re .

Many of these stor ies take p l ace in Chang-an and g ive u s a v iv id p i ctu re of l ife i n the c i ty i n the e ighth and n i nth century. One i mportant n arrative device for putt ing you n g heroes i n the beds of you n g heroines was C hang-an's ward system , b y wh ich the c i ty w a s d iv ided i n v a r i o u s "quarters," each separated from the others by wal l s that wou l d be locked at sunset and opened on ly at daybreak . Anyone who foun d h i mself i n a quarter other than h is own at dusk wou l d h ave to stay the n i ght .

Two Ta l es of Keep i ng Fa i th ,�-�

Sherr Ji-j i ( £1 . ca. 800 ) , "Rerr's Story" Ren was a woman of the werefolk.

5 1 8

And there was Wei Yin, now a lord governor, ninth i n seniority i n his branch of the family, maternal grandson of Li Hui, the Prince of Xin-an. Wei Yin was an undisciplined and wild young man, who loved to drink.

And there was his uncle's sister's husband, surnamed Zheng, though I don't recall his given name. In his early years Zheng had practiced the mar­ tial arts, and he too loved wine and pretty women. Being poor and without family of his own, he lived as a dependent of his wife's family. Once he and Wei Yin found one another, they were inseparable wherever they went.

In August of the summer of 750, Wei Yin and Zheng were riding together on the lanes of Chang-an on their way to a drinking party in the Xin-chang Quarter. When they reached the southern part of the Xuan-ping Quarter, Zheng excused himself for some reason or other and asked Wei Yin to go on ahead by himself, saying that he, Zheng, would be along shortly. Wei

The Tang Dynasty

Yin then went off east riding his white horse, while Zheng rode his donkey south into the north gate of the Sheng-ping Quarter . There he came upon three women walking along the street, of whom the middle one, dressed in white, was a rare beauty. No sooner did he see her than Zheng was infatu­ ated. He whipped his donkey now in front of her, now behind, always on the point of bantering with her flirtatiously, but not daring. From time to time the woman in white cast a sidelong glance at him, having understood what was on his mind. Then Zheng j oked with her, "And how is it that such a beautiful woman as yourself is going on foot ? " The woman in white laughed, "What can I do but go on foot if someone doesn't loan me his mount ? " Zhang replied, "This miserable mount is hardly an adequate al­ ternative to such a lovely person walking, but I will offer it to you at once. I would be quite content to follow you on foot. "

They looked at each other and laughed out. As they went along to­ gether, he fell increasingly under her spell, and they gradually began to be­ have quite familiarly with one another. Zheng followed the women; and by the time they reached the Le-you Gardens in the east, it was already getting dark. Here they came to a compound with earthen walls and a carriage gate. The buildings inside were quite well built and properly proportioned. As the woman in white was about to go in, she looked around and said, "Wait here for a little while. " Then she went inside, leaving one of her female bond­ servants in the open gate. The bondservant asked his name and family; and after Zheng had told her, he asked of the woman in white. The servant an­ swered, "Her name is Ren, and she is the twentieth in seniority. "

After a short while he was invited in. Zheng tied his donkey at the gate and left his cap on the saddle. He first met a woman in her thirties, who wel­ comed him. This was Ren's elder sister. Rows of candles were lit, various dishes set out, and cups of wine were raised in frequent toasts. Having changed her attire, Ren came out. They drank until they were tipsy and very merry. As the night drew on, they finally went to bed. Her features were cap­ tivating and her body was beautiful. In the way she looked when singing and laughing and in all her movements there was a sensual loveliness that was virtually not of this mortal world.

When it was almost dawn, Ren said, "You had best go now. My broth­ ers are attached to the Music Academy, which is under the j urisdiction of the Southern Guard Command. Early in the morning they will rise and go out, so you cannot linger here . " They agreed on a future meeting, and he left.

Having set out, he came to the ward gates, which had not yet been un­ barred. There was the shop of a Turkish pastryseller beside the gate, whose owner was just then hanging up his lanterns and firing his ovens. Zheng went in through the curtains to rest and sat down to wait for the drums that would announce the opening of the gates . As a consequence he got to talking with the shopowner, and pointing to where he had spent the night, Zheng asked him, "When you turn east from here, there's a gate. Whose compound is that ? " The shopowner replied, "That's just wasteland surrounded by a bro-

5 1 9

Anthology 0 f Chinese Literature


ken-down wall-there are no buildings there. " Zheng said, "But I just passed by the place-how can you say that there's nothing there ? " and he argued with the man stubbornly. Then the shopowner realized, "Ah! now I under­ stand. There is a fox there that often seduces men to spend the night with her. I 've already seen this happen a few times now. Are you another one who has met her ? " Zheng's face flushed and he didn't tell the truth: "No, no. "

In full daylight he went back to look at the spot and did see the earthen wall and carriage gate just as before; but when he peered inside, it was all overgrown with scrub, with abandoned garden plots. After he got home, he saw Wei Yin, who berated him for missing the party. Zheng didn't let on what had happened and excused himself with some other story. Neverthe­ less, he kept imagining Ren's sensual beauty, and the desire to see her again remained unforgotten in his heart.

A dozen or so days passed. Zheng was out and going into a clothing store in the Western Market when all at once he saw her, accompanied by her ser­ vants as before. Zheng instantly shouted to her. Ren turned to the side and tried to lose herself in a crowd to avoid him. But Zheng kept shouting to her and pushed his way forward. Finally she stood with her back to him, screening her face from his sight with a fan that she held around behind her. "You know, so why do you come near me? " He answered, "I do know, but I don't care . " She replied, "The situation makes me very embarrassed. It's hard to look you in the face. " Zheng then said, " Since I think on you so in­ tently, how can you bear to reject me? " She replied, "How could I dare re­ j ect you? It's just that I am afraid of being despised by you. "

Zheng then swore a n oath, and the import of what h e said was very mov­ ing. At this Ren turned her eyes to him and removed the fan, revealing the same dazzling sensual beauty that she had before. To Zheng, she said, "I 'm not the only one of my kind in the human . .\Vorld. You just don't recognize them. Don't think of me as a singular fieak. " When Zheng entreated her, telling her of his j oy in her, she replied, "The only reason my kind is despised and loathed by human beings is because we are thought to harm people. I'm not like that. If you don't despise me, I would want to serve you all my days as your wife . " Zheng agreed and began to make plans where she could live. Ren said, "To the east of this spot, where a large tree comes out from among the roof beams, there is a quiet, secluded lane; you could rent a place there for me to live. That man who went riding a white horse east from the south­ ern part of the Xuan-ping Quarter earlier-wasn't he your legal wife 's brother? His house has ample furniture and household goods that you could borrow. "

At the time Wei Yin's uncle was serving in posts out in the provinces, and three apartments' worth of his household goods were kept in storage . Following her suggestion, Zheng first went to inquire about the lodgings, then went to see Wei Yin to borrow the household goods. When Wei asked what he wanted them for, Zheng said, "I have just gotten myself a beauti­ ful woman and have rented lodgings for her; now I need to borrow house-

The Tang Dynasty

hold goods to fix the place up. " Wei Yin laughed. " Considering your looks, you must surely have gotten yourself a spectacularly ugly woman. How could you possibly get a perfect beauty ? "

After loaning him things like curtains, beds, and mats, Wei had a quick­ witted servant boy follow Zheng and spy out where he was going. In a short time the lad rushed back to make his report, panting and streaming with sweat. Wei Yin met him and asked, "Was she there ? " and further, "What did she look like ? " The lad said, "She is a wonder-the world has never seen her like . " Wei Yin's family and kin were widely spread and numerous; moreover, having gone on escapades since his early years, he had come to have extensive grounds to make judgments of beauty. He then asked, " Is she as beautiful as so-and-so ? " The lad answered, "That person is not of her caliber . " Wei Yin brought up four or five beautiful women for com­ parison, and in each case the boy said, "Not of her caliber . " At that time Wei Yin's sister-in-law, the sixth daughter of the Prince of Wu, had a full and sensual beauty like that of a goddess, and both sides of the family had always acclaimed her the foremost in beauty. So Wei Yin said, "Is she as beautiful as the sixth daughter of the Prince of Wu ? " And again the boy said, "Not of her caliber . " Wei Yin slapped his hand down in amazement. "How could there be such a person in the world ? " He instantly ordered water to be drawn so that he could wash his neck, put his turban on, applied lip balm, and set off.

Zheng happened to be out when he arrived. On entering the gate, Wei Yin saw a young servant boy holding a broom sweeping; there was a bond­ servant at the gate, but he saw no one else. He then asked information of the servant boy, who laughed and said, "There's no such person here . " Wei Yin was looking all around the inside of the rooms, when he caught sight of a red skirt showing beneath a door panel. He forced his way in to check it out and saw Ren, who had curled up to hide behind the door panel. Wei Yin dragged her out, bringing her over into the light so he could take a look at her. She virtually exceeded what he had been told. Wei Yin wanted her so much that he behaved like a madman. He threw his arms around her and forced himself on her, but she would not submit. Wei Yin used his strength to hold her fast, and when the situation became desperate, she said, " I sub­ mit, but please loosen your grip a little . "

When he did as she asked, she fought back as she had before. This hap­ pened several more times, until Wei Yin exerted all his strength to hold her fast. Ren's own strength was exhausted, and she was sweating as if she had been soaked by rain. Realizing that she couldn't escape, she let her body relax and didn't resist any more, yet her expression changed to one of heartfelt sadness. Wei Yin asked why, saying, "How unhappy you look ! " Ren gave a long sigh. " It's just that I feel sorry for Zheng ." Wei Yin said, "What do you mean ? " She replied, " Zheng is six feet tall yet is unable to protect one woman-how can he be a real man! You, sir, have led a life of wild excess since your youth and have had many beautiful women-a multitude of


Anthology of Chinese Literature

those you have encountered have been comparable in beauty to me. Yet Zheng, who is poor and of humble background, has only myself to suit his fancy. Can a heart that has had something in abundance be so hardened as to plunder the same from someone who does not have enough? I feel sorry for his poverty and want, that he is unable to stand on his own. He wears your clothes and eats your food, and thus he is bound by you. If he could provide even simple food for himself, he should not be brought to this. " In Wei Yin's domineering arrogance there was some sense of justice. Hearing what she had said, he immediately set her down, and straightening his clothes, he apologized, saying, "I can't do this . "

A short time later Zheng arrived, and looking a t Wei Yin, h e beamed with j oy. From that point on, Wei Yin provided Ren with all her firewood, grain, and meat. Now and then Ren would stop by. In her comings and go­ ings she would sometimes go by carriage, sometimes ride a horse, sometimes travel in a sedan chair, and sometimes walk-her choice was not uniform. Wei Yin would go about with her every day, and be extremely happy to do so; the two grew very familiar and intimate with one another, and there were no barriers between them, except for sexual intimacy. Wei Yin came to love her and honor her. He begrudged her nothing, and at every meal and every time he drank, she never left his thoughts. Ren knew that he loved her, so she a pologized to him. "I am ashamed to be loved by you so much, but this poor body is inadequate to answer your generous feeling. I cannot betray Zheng, thus I cannot accommodate myself to your pleasure. I am from this region of Qin, and I grew up in this, Qin's greatest city. My family is one of entertainers, and many of my relations on both sides have been kept as con­ cubines . For this reason I am well acquainted with all the winding lanes of Chang-an's pleasure quarters. There may be some beautiful and pleasing young girl who has not yet been taken-letfue bring one for you. For I want by this to repay your goodness . " Wei Yin said, "What good luck ! " In the bazaar there was a woman who sold clothes called Miss Zhang, with smooth and bright skin. Wei Yin had always been attracted to her, so he asked Ren if she knew her. Ren replied, "That is my cousin. It will be an easy matter to bring her to you . " And after about two weeks she finally brought her .

A few months later, Wei Yin grew tired of her and dismissed her. Ren then said, "The women of the marketplace are easy to procure and not worth much effort. If there is someone absolutely out of reach, someone hard to devise a plot to get hold of, just tell me-for I want to be able to use all my strength and wit in this . " Wei Yin then said, "During this most recent Cold Food Festival I was visiting Thousand Blessings Temple along with a few other companions.l There I saw a musical performance arranged by Gen­ eral Diao Mian in the great hall. There was a skilled flageolet player of about sixteen years of age, her hair done in a pair of coils that hung down to her ears . She had an air of sweetness about her and was utterly desirable. Do

'The Cold Food Festival was a spr ing festival in wh ich the use of fire was forbidde n .


The Tang Dynasty

you know her, by chance ? " Ren replied, "That is Chong-nu. Her mother is, in fact, a cousin of mine. It's possible to go after her . " Wei bowed to her with respect, and Ren promised him.

Ren then began to pay frequent visits to the Diao household. After some­ what more than a month, Ren wanted two bolts of the highest grade silk to use as a bribe. Wei Yin provided these. Two days later, Ren was dining with Wei when Diao Mian sent a servant leading a black steed to bring Ren to see him. On hearing this summons, she said to Wei Yin with a smile, " It's worked. " Earlier Ren had given Chong-nu something that made her grow sick, an illness that neither acupuncture nor medicines could relieve. Her mother and Diao Mian were extremely worried about her and were going to summon a soothsayer . Ren secretly bribed the soothsayer, and pointing out where she lived, she ordered him to say that it would be lucky to trans­ fer her there. After examining the illness, the soothsayer said, " It is not ad­ vantageous for her to be in this house; she should go reside at such-and-such a place to the southeast where she will obtain quickening life forces. " When Diao Mian and the girl's mother made a thorough survey of the location, it turned out that Ren's residence was in the area. Diao Mian consequently asked that Chong-nu be allowed to stay there. Ren made a pretense of ob­ jecting on the grounds that her house was small and cramped, and agreed only after they entreated her earnestly. Then Chong-nu, with all her clothes and ornaments carried in litters and accompanied by her mother, was sent to Ren's. When she got there, her sickness got better. Just a few days later Ren secretly led Wei Yin to her, and he had intercourse with her. After a month she was pregnant. Her mother was frightened and immediately took her back to Diao Mian's, from which point the affair was over.

On another occasion Ren said to Zheng, "Would you be able to get five or six thousand cash? I have a scheme to make you a profit. " Zheng said, " All right" ; and by going to borrow money from people, he got six thou­ sand cash. Ren then said, " In the market there is someone selling a horse with something w"rong with one of its legs . Buy it, take it home, and take care of it. " Zheng went to the market and at last saw a man leading a horse and looking for a buyer. There was a flaw on one of its left legs. Zheng bought it and took it back home with him. His wife's brothers all ridiculed him, saying, "That creature was just something someone was trying to get rid of. Why did you buy it ? " Not long afterward Ren said, "Sell the horse now. You should get thirty thousand cash for it. " Zheng then went to offer the horse for sale. When someone offered him twenty thousand cash, Zheng refused to part with it. The whole market was saying, "What problem does the first man have that he is willing to spend so much, and why does the other man love the horse so much that he won't sell ? " Zheng rode the horse back home, and the man who had wanted to buy it followed after him, re­ peatedly raising his offer until it reached twenty-five thousand. Zheng, how­ ever, would not part with it, saying, "I won't sell it for less than thirty thou­ sand. " His wife's brothers all crowded around and berated him; unable to


Anthology of Chinese Literature

maintain himself against them, he sold it, never getting the full thirty thou­ sand.

Afterward he secretly confronted the buyer and asked him why he had been willing to pay so much. It turned out that one of the imperial horses kept in Zhao-ying County had something wrong with one of its legs . This horse had died three years ago, and the functionary in charge had not promptly taken it off the official records. The government office had sent an allowance for its upkeep totaling sixty thousand cash, and he speculated that if he were to buy another for half that amount, he would still be reap­ ing a handsome profit. If there were a horse to make the full complement, then the functionary would get its entire allowance for fodder and grain. And since what he would have to pay would be less than he made, he bought it.

Since her own clothes were old and frayed, Ren also asked Wei Yin for clothes . Wei was going to buy whole bolts of cloth to give her, but she did­ n't want that: "I want to get clothes that are ready-made . " Wei Yin then called someone from the market, Old Zhang, to make the purchases for her, and he had Zhang meet Ren to find out what she wanted. When he saw her, Zhang was alarmed and said to Wei Yin, "This woman has to be a goddess or someone related to the imperial house whom you have secretly carried off. She is not someone who should be kept in the mortal world. I urge you to send her back as quickly as possible before some disaster befalls you. " That was how much her beauty could stir people. In the end he found ready­ made clothes for her, and she did not sew them herself. He did not, how­ ever, understand why.

More than a year later, Zheng was selected for a military post and was appointed assistant director for military �ffairs of the Huai-li district, which was in Jin-cheng C()unty. Since Zheng had a legal wife and household, he might go out for the day, but he always slept home at night. It always upset him that he could not have Ren with him every night. When he was about to leave to take up his post, he invited Ren to go along with him. Ren did not want to go: "Traveling together for weeks on end cannot be considered a pleasure. Please j ust estimate how much will keep me provided with meat and grain, and I will stay here as always, awaiting your return . " Zheng en­ treated her earnestly, but she grew only less willing. Zheng then sought out Wei Yin to provide help in persuading her, and together they urged her once again and questioned her on her reasons for refusing. After a long time Ren said, "A soothsayer said that it would be unlucky for me to travel west this year, and that's why I don't want to go. " Zheng was completely infatuated with her and could think of nothing else. Together with Wei Yin he laughed, saying, "How can you be so intelligent, yet be led astray by such mumbo­ jumbo ? " They stuck to their request, and Ren said, "If by chance the sooth­ sayer's words prove true, what good will it do if I die for you for nothing? " And both of them said, "How could this happen?"-and they pleaded as earnestly as before. Unable to have her own way in this, Ren went. Wei Yin loaned her a horse and held a parting banquet for them at Lin-gao, waving his arms to them as they went off on their way.


The Tang Dynasty

After two days of travel, they reached Ma-wei . Ren was riding her horse in front, and Zheng was riding his donkey behind. Further behind, the two women servants were riding apart. At that time the Imperial Groom of the West Gate had been hunting with his dogs for ten days in Luo River County, and he happened to meet them on the road. One of his dark gray dogs leaped out from among the grasses, and Zheng saw Ren fall to the ground in a flash, reverting to her original shape and running south. The gray dog chased her .

, Zheng ran after it shouting, b).lt he couldn't stop it. After a little more than a league the dog caught her.

With tears in his eyes, Zheng took money from his purse and paid to have her buried. And he had a piece of wood carved as the grave marker. When he went back, he saw her horse grazing on the grasses beside the road. Her clothes were left draped on the saddle, and her shoes and stockings were still hanging in the stirrups, as if a cicada had metamorphosed from its shell. Nothing else was to be seen but her hair ornaments, which had fallen to the ground. The two women servants were also gone .

After a little more than ten days, Zheng returned to the city. Wei Yin was delighted to see him and greeted him, asking, "No harm has come to Ren, has there ? " Zheng's eyes streamed with tears as he replied, " She 's dead . " Hearing this, Wei Yin was stricken with grief, and the two men clasped one another there in the room, giving full expression to their sor­ row. Softly Wei asked the cause of her death, and Zheng replied, "She was killed by a dog. " Wei Yin then said, "However fierce a dog may be, how could it kill a human being ? " Zheng answered, " It was not a human being . " Wei Yin was shocked. "What d o you mean, 'not a human being' ? " Then Zheng told him the whole story from beginning to end. Wei Yin was amazed and could not stop sighing. On the next day, he ordered a carriage to be made ready and went off with Zheng to Ma-wei. He opened her tomb, looked at her, and went back feeling a lingering unhappiness. When he thought back on all that had happened, only the fact that she did not make her own clothes was rather strange in comparison to human beings.

Afterward Zheng served as a supervisor-general, and his household be­ came very wealthy, with overten horses in his stables. He died at the age of sixty-five.

During the Da-li Reign, 1, Shen Ji-ji, was living in Zhong-ling and used to go a bout wi th Wei Yin. Wei told this story often, with the resul t tha t I learned many of the details. Later Wei Yin became Palace Censor, as well as Prefect of Long-zhou, where he died without returning to the capital .

I am struck that such humanity could be found in the feelings of a crea­ ture so alien. When someone used violent force on her, she did not aban­ don her principles, and she met her death by sacrificing herself for someone else. Among women today there are those who are not her equal. It is un­ fortunate that Zheng was not a perceptive man, merely attracted by her beauty and not seeing the evidence of her nature. Supposing there had been some scholar of profound discernment, he would surely have been able to investigate the principles in such a transformation, to discern the lines of dis -


Anthology of Chinese Literature

tinction between human beings and spirits, to write it out in a beautiful style, and thus to transmit such subtle feelings to posterity-he would not limit himself to just savoring her good looks and a love story. It is a pity !

In 7 8 1 , I left my post as Reminder of the Left and was going to Wu. Gen­ eral Pei Ji, the Vice Governor of Chang-an Sun Cheng, the Director of the Ministry of Revenue Cui Xu, and the Reminder of the Right Lu Chun all happened to be going to live in the Southeast. In the journey from Qin to Wu we all followed the same route, both land and water. At the time, the former Reminder Zhu Fang was also traveling, and he went along with us. We floated down the Ying River and then the Huai, our double boat car­ ried along by the current. By day we would feast and at night tell stories, with each of us presenting strange tales. When these gentlemen heard of the events surrounding Ren, all were deeply touched and amazed. As a conse­ quence, they asked me to transmit it as an account of strange things.

-Written by Shen Ji-j i

True se lf-sacrif ice i s most often found i n women, but answer ing devot ion i n men i s a l so acknowledged . F ro m "Ren's Story, " it may seem that a love affa i r w i th a crea­ ture from beyond the h u m a n wor ld was a safe u n dertak ing ; but Ren ' s su rpr ise on fi n d i n g that Zheng sti l l wanted her, in sp i te of the fact that she was a were-fox, was more in keep i ng with convent iona l wi sdom that m iscegenation with su pernatu ra l bei ngs o r ghosts was bad for one's health and fortune . Neverthe l ess, a w i l l i n gness to brave such a pro h i b it ion m ight be as much a proof of love and rec ip rocat ing fa ith as of overwh e l m i n g l u st, as seems to have been the case with Zheng.


Li Jing-liang ( fl . 794 ) , "Li Zhang-wu's Story"

The ancestry of Li Zhang-wu, otherwise known as Li Fei, was traced to the Zhong-shan region. From his earliest years he was intelligent and well in­ formed, and whatever happened he knew what to do. He was, moreover, a skilled stylist, and his writings always reached the height of perfection. Al­ though he had a high opinion of his own achievements in improving him­ self, he abhorred putting on airs. He was of a refined and handsome ap­ pearance and was genial to those who approached him. He was a good friend of one Cui Xin of Qing-he, another cultured gentleman and a collector of antiquities. Because of Zhang-wu's astute intelligence, Cui Xin would often seek him out for discussions; together they penetrated the most subtle mys­ teries and thoroughly investigated questions. Contemporaries compared Zhang-wu to Zhang Hua of the Jin Dynasty.

In the year 787, Cui Xin had taken the post of administrative aide to the prefect of Hua-zhou, and Zhang-wu came from Chang-an to visit him. Sev­ eral days later he was out walking, and saw a very beautiful woman on the northern avenue of the market. He then concocted a story, telling Cui Xin that he had to have some dealings with an old friend outside the city. He next rented lodgings in the beautiful woman's home. The master of the house was named Wang, and the woman was his daughter-in-law. Zhang-wu was

Attachment 3

of the power of goats and sheep from the early medical text The Di-

vine Farmer’s Classic of Remedies (Shennong bencaojing, late 3rd cent.

b.c.e.) where the horn of the Gu, a black ram, is recommended for

frightening o demons, tigers, and wolves as well as to eliminate


12. C H A N G F U - B I R D ( C H A N G F U ) ij There is a bird dwelling here on Foundation Mountain whose form resembles a chicken with three

heads, six eyes, six feet, and three wings. It is called the Changfu. Eating it will prevent sleep.23

13. N I N E - T A I L F O X ( J I U W E I H U ) E¿∞ Three hundred li farther

east is Green-Hills Mountain, where much jade can be found on its south slope and green

cinnabar on its north. There is a beast here whose form resembles a fox with nine tails. It

makes a sound like a baby and is a man-eater. Whoever eats it will be protected against

insect-poison (gu).24 The ancient Chinese greatly feared a kind of poison man-

8 8 P L A T E I V






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ufactured from insects known as gu. The graph appears as early as the Shang oracle-

bone inscriptions and is a picture of three virulent insects in a container stinging one

another, a process that yields an extremely toxic substance. Its many uses and knowl-

edge of its antidotes were associated with wu-shamans and others who were considered

masters of black magic.25 Nine-Tail Foxes were generally regarded as auspicious crea-

tures. In one ancient myth, Yu the Great was seeking an omen that he marry and en-

countered a white fox with nine tails, which he interpreted as a sign that he would be

successful. This fox sometimes appears in Han art along with the Queen Mother of the

West [nos. 65, 275] in her later role as a goddess of immortality at Mount Kunlun. Ac-

cording to the Debates in the White Tiger Hall (Baihutong, late 1st cent. c.e.), the fox’s

nine tails symbolize abundant progeny.26

14. G U A N G U A N - B I R D ( G U A N G U A N ) ÈÈ There is a bird here on

Green-Hills Mountain whose form resembles a dove and that makes a sound like a man

shouting. It is called the Guanguan. Wearing a part of it from the belt will prevent mental

confusion.27 The Compendium of Mr. Lü considered this bird’s flesh a delicacy

when roasted. The poet Tao Qian (365–427) also celebrated this bird in the twelfth of

his “Thirteen Poems upon Reading the Guideways through Mountains and Seas” (Du

shanhaijing shisan shou, 422):

On Green-Hills Mountain is a unique bird

That speaks and appears of its own accord.

It was born to help those in confusion,

Not to caution the Noble Man.28

15. R E D R U - F I S H ( C H I R U ) ™a The Eminent River flows forth from

Green-Hills Mountain southward into Carp-Wings Lake. Many Red Ru-Fish are found in

the lake. It has the basic form of a fish with a human face and makes a sound like a man-

darin duck. Eating it will prevent scabies.29 According to another version

noted by Guo Pu, eating it will protect against epidemics.30


16. M O U N T A I N G O D ( S H E N ) ´ The ten mountains from the first peak,

Shaking Mountain in the Magpie Mountains to Winnower-Tail Mountain, extend 2,950

li in length. The gods of these mountains all have the form of a bird’s body with a dragon’s

head. The proper sacrifice to them is an animal of a single color and the burial of a jade

blade. The grain o ering is glutinous rice along with a jade disc and unhulled rice. White

reeds should be used for the ceremonial mats.31 The gods of each of the guide-

ways in the Guideways through Mountains form distinct groups and often share simi-

lar physical features. They must be sacrificed to by representatives of the government,

by the local people, and especially by travelers. In earliest times, such a airs were prob-

ably carried out by wu-shamans and other ritual specialists. In the background of the

illustration is the tip of a roof, which is the artist’s anachronistic vision of a sacrificial

temple reflecting the later, more elaborate architectural style of temples. In ancient China,

such local altars and shrines were more likely outdoor stages or simple structures.

P L A T E S I V – V 8 9

Attachment 4

The Six Dynasties 101

(24) Chang Hua and the Fox

Chang Hua, styled Mao-hsien, was Minister of Public Works in the time of Emperor Hui [r. 290-307] of the Chin. One day there appeared a speckled fox iii front of the tomb of King Chao of Yen [290-259 B.C.]. It was very old and could transform itself. In this instance it changed into a student who wished to go see Chang Hua.

On the way it inquired of the spirit of the memorial post in front of the tomb, "Judging from my talent and appearance, do you think I am qualified to see Minister Chang?"

"With your extraordinary intelligence, there should be nothing you cannot accomplish," replied the post, "But Chang is very wise and perceptive, and I think he'll be very difficult to ensnare. You will certainly meet with disgrace if you go and probably won't be able to come back. Not only will you lose your virtue attained only with a thousand years' cultivation, but you will involve me in an unpleasant manner as well."

The fox paid no heed but, visiting card in hand, went off to meet with Chang. When Chang saw his youthful elegance, clean and light like jade, and that he was dignified in manner, self-confident and poised, he truly respected him. When they talked about literature, the student's critical acuity became clear. Hua had never heard the like before. Then they talked of the three histories,1 investigated the hundred philosophies, discussed obscure passages in Lao-tzu and Chuang-tzu, elucidated the arcane meaning of the Feng and Ya sections of the Shih ching, embraced the ten sages,2 plumbed the three factors,3 probed the eight schools of Confucianism,4

1 The Shih chi, Han shu and Tung-kuan Han-chi (a history of the Later Han compiled by Pan Ku and others, Tung-kuan being the name of the hall where the compilation took place).--Ed.

2 The ten disciples of Confucius: Yen Hui (Tzu-ylian), Min Hsiin (Tzu-ch' ien) , Jan Keng (Po-niu) , Jan Yung (Ch'ung-kung) , Chai Yii (Tzu-wo), Tuan-mu Ssu (Tzu-kung), Jan Ch'iu (Tzu-yu), Chung Yu (Tzu-lu), Yen Yen (Tzu-yu), and Pu Shang (Tzu-hsia).--Ed.

3 Heaven, Earth, and Man.--Ed. u Those related to the names of Tzu-chang, Tzu-ssu, Yen,

102 Classical Chinese Tales i

and examined the five rites.5 Hua was always bested. Sighing, he said, "How could there be a youth like this

in the world? If he is neither a ghost nor goblin, then he is surely a fox!" Chang then stationed men to guard him, even as he was receiving him as his guest.

"You ought to revere the worthy and embrace the masses," said the student, "and treat well the good while pitying the incapable. But instead, you hate others who are learned. Mo-tzu loved all. Would he act like this!" Having finished his speech, he sought to leave, but Hua had already set men at the doors, and he could not get out.

He then addressed Hua once again, "There are men and horsemen stationed at your gates. That must mean you are suspicious of me. I fear that in the future men of the world will keep their tongues to themselves. Wise scholars and clever counselors will glance at your gates but will not come in. I find this possibility deeply regretable for you." Hua did not even reply, but put his men even more on their guard.

In time, Prefect Lei Huan of Feng-ch'eng [modern Nan-ch'ang County, Kiangsi], styled K'ung-chang, a scholar of profound knowledge, came to visit Hua. When Hua told him about the scholar, K'ung-chang said, "if you are suspicious, why not call the hunting dogs to test him?" And so Hua ordered the hunting dogs out for a test.

With no expression of fear whatsoever, the fox said, "I am by nature talented and knowledgeable, but now for some reason you consider me an evil spirit and try to test me with dogs. Even if you should test me, could I be worried?"

When Hua heard this, he became even more angry. "This must truly be an evil genius," he said. "I've heard that forest goblins fear dogs, but that dogs can only detect creatures of up to a few hundred years of age. They cannot discover thousand-year-old spirits. Only by getting a thousand-year-old tree and illuminating the creature with it can its true form be made apparent." "How can we find a thousand-year-old spirit tree?" asked K'ung-chang. "It is said that the memorial post in front of the tomb of King Chao of Yen is already a thousand years old," replied Hua. He then sent someone to chop down the wooden post.

Meng, Ch'i-tiao, Chung-liang, Sun, and Yueh-cheng.--Ed. 5 The rites of sacrifice, marriage, burial, and diplomatic and military protocol.--Ed.

The Six Dynasties 103

When the servant was about to reach the place where the post was, a small child clad in green appeared from nowhere and inquired of the servant, "Why have you come here?" "A youth came to visit Minister Chang," said the servant. "He is of extraordinary talent and has a way with words. The suspicion is that the youth is an evil goblin, and I have been sent to obtain this memorial post with which to illuminate him." "So, the old fox was not so wise after all," said the green-clad one. "He didn't listen to me. Now today his mistake has involved me as well. How can I escape?" He let out a yell and began to cry; then suddenly disappeared. When the servant cut down the post, blood flowed.

He then returned with the tree, whereupon it was ignited and used to illuminate the student. He turned out to be a speckled fox.

"If these two creatures had not happened upon me," said Chang Hua, "They would not have met their match for another thousand years!" They then cooked the fox.

(SSC 18/421; cf. TPKC, 442.11; Pai-hai version in SSHC, p. 90)

Tr. Michael Broschat

Note: See Introduction, Sec. IV, for a discussion of this story. On Chinese legends of fox fairies, see J. J. M. De Groot, The Religious System of China, vol 4 (Leyden, 1901), pp. 188-96; vol. 5 (Leyden, 1907), pp. 576-600; see also Bodde, "Some Chinese Tales of the Supernatural."

At this stage in the development of Chinese folklore, fox fairies are generally regarded as inimical to humans. In later representations, after the T'ang, they tend to become friendly and to appear as females when they take up the human form, often just to seduce men. In their dealings with men, they often desire nothing more than love and affection from them. In fact, they look suspiciously like humans, and it is only their yearning for sexual fulfillment that makes them "foxy."