Author：Verbena C. W，Elaine Yang，Kitten Wang
When people talk about Chinese monsters, they tend to think of the fox spirit first. However, they’re not the spirits in the The Lord of the Rings or the cute creatures from The Smurfs, fox spirits are beings who cultivated their skills for thousands of years to turn into humans, they can also turn from human into plant form. Seen in this way, fox spirits are perhaps closer to the the werewolf in Western fantasy literature. They’ve always been popular supernatural characters because of their wisdom and beauty.
In Chinese myths, fox spirits are often portrayed as excellent at beguiling humans with their magic. While a few fox spirits could use their power for harm, most of them aren’t evil, rather, they’re playful, seductive, and extremely loyal. They will persevere in what they believe in inspite of incredible obstacles.
For example, in the classic Chinese myth, Da Yu Fights the Flood, when ancient China was besieged by a great flood, a young man named Da Yu led everyone in overcoming the flood, but he postponed the chance to get married. One day as he passed Mt. Tu, he met A Jiao, the clan leader of nine-tailed fox spirits, the two fell in love and got married. But Da Yu left to fight flooding again four days after the wedding, and he was gone for 13 years. He passed his house three times, and he never went inside once. The fox spirit A Jiao was a devoted mate. She spent her life waiting but never complained. Her quiet devotion turned her into stone, “The Waiting-for-Husband Statue.” When Da Yu finally returned home, he was devastated to see his wife was now a rock, but then the rock cracked open, revealing a baby, who would then become the creator of a new era in China, the Xia Dynasty.
There’s many more touching stories on fox spirits, the Chinese ghost story classic, Liao Zhai, featured three of them, the kind and loyal Yingning, the clever Xiao Cui, and the independent and confident Hong Yu. Of course, let’s not forget the blockbuster show, Eternal Love (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms) and their nine-tailed fox spirits, Bai Qian and Feng Jiu. Bai Qian was stripped of her magical powers, turned human, lost her memory, and was constantly persecuted by her romantic rival, before finally having a happy ending. Feng Jiu had no luck with her crush yet she vowed to devote her life to thank him. It wasn’t until the sequel that she got her wish fulfilled. Fox spirits are adored by humans, who marvel at their tormented lives, which is why in contemporary Chinese cinema and TV, fox spirits are a constant.
While most fox spirits are female, a few are male. In a book by romance novelist Shi Dingrou, Jie Ai, a male fox spirit called He Nan was a expert of jade. He Nan was also a playboy who enjoyed listening to music at midnight while looking at the moon. He began to notice a human girl called Pi Pi, plotted to make her fall in love with him and then eat her liver to become immortal. However, he fell in love as well. The He Lan character attracted a lot of young female readers, who made the book a bestseller and awards-winner in China.
Fox spirits are unique in their charm, they show off the timeless appeal of Chinese myths. Their stories will stay with us and keep on enchanting us.