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Episode 136: Nine-tailed Fox Spirits

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Today we will talk about the beautiful and mysterious nine-tailed fox spirits 九尾狐. There are numerous fox spirits 狐狸精 in Chinese mythology and the nine-tailed fox spirits is the most known. What’s the impression of the nine-tailed fox spirit in your mind? We will finally talk about how the concept of the nine-tailed fox spirits evolved through the history.

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The earliest text about nine-tailed fox spirits is from the book Classics of Mountains and Seas 山海经from the 4th century BC. The book actually mentioned the nine-tailed fox spirits in a few chapters. For example, in the chapter NanShanJing 南山经, it says, “There is a kind of beast living on the Land of QingQiu 青丘. The beast resembles a fox with nine tails. It makes a sound like a baby and eats men. Whoever eats the beast will be protected against poison. “ It is believed that the nine-tailed fox spirits lived in the place called QingQiu, which means Green Hills and although it eats human, human eat it can get protected. The historian GuoPu 郭璞 from the Jin dynasty 晋朝 noted the book that, “the nine-tailed fox spirit is an auspicious omen that appeared during times of peace. ”

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In the book Master Lv’s Spring and Autumn Annals 吕氏春秋, an Chinese classic text complied around 239 BC, there is a story about Yu the Great, who was a legendary ruler in ancient China around the Great flood time around the year 2000BC. The story says once Yu the Great passed the place TuShan 涂山 and said, “there should be an omen of me getting married.” Then there he heard the song from a local girl who claimed to be a white nine-tailed fox and was interested in having a family with Yu the Great. Later they got married and had the son Qi 启. In this story, nine-tailed fox not only represents fertility but also royalty.

During the Han dynasty especially the Eastern Han dynasty, which is between the year 25 ~220, the idea of heavenly prophecy was popular especially in the politics. Nine-tailed tails was symbolize as a beneficial god and even more emphasized as an auspicious omen that appeared during times of peace with the wise king. From the stone carvings during the Han dynasty, we could find the image of nine-tailed foxes on the side of Queen Mother of the West 西王母. We have talked about Queen Mother of the West in Ep74, please check it out if you want to know about her. In the stone carvings, the Queen Mother of the West is always in the center with a dragon and a tiger on her two sides and a toad underneath. A nine-tailed fox is in the corner. Sometimes the fox has six, seven or eight tails. So far it seems the nine-tailed fox is still a holy spirit.

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Since Tang dynasty 唐朝 between the year 618~ 907, the holy royal fox spirit started become more popular among the normal people. They are not just for the king but they started to appear in folklore. People started to worship fox spirits in villages. The famous poet from the Tang dynasty Bai Juyi 白居易 wrote an article in which he compared Daji 妲己 and Baosi 褒姒 with fox spirits. Daji is from around the 1000 BC. Baosi is from around 700 BC. They were both the consort and concubine of two kings and their stories are both known as the classic examples of how a beauty causes the downfall of a dynasty in Chinese culture. We will talk about their stories in our future episodes. But clearly here, they are considered as the negative influences on the kings and the fox spirits started to change.

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In the Song dynasty 宋朝 between the year 960 ~ 1279, nine-tailed foxes were almost totally became the evil spirits that seduce people based on the article we just talked about. This is when Japanese and Korean heard about the fox spirits and became Kitsune in Japanese mythology and Kumiho in Korean mythology. In English the word Huli jing 狐狸精 from Chinese in just used as fox spirits.

One of most known mythical story of nine-tailed fox is from the book Investiture of the Gods 封神演义from the Ming dynasty 明朝 in the 16th century. The story confirmed that Daji is an evil nine-tailed fox spirit in a beautiful woman’s form. The king Shangzhou 商纣 王didn’t do anything wrong but was just seduced and haunted by her.

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At last, during Qing dynasty 清朝, the last dynasty in ancient China, the book Strange Stories from the a Chinese Studio 聊斋志异 published in 1740 emerged and it contains many stories about fox spirits and they all have different characteristics like human. And there are male fox spirits, old fox spirits and kid fox spirits in the book. They can be malevolent and can be lovely. Most the female fox spirits in the book are smart, brave and would sacrifice for the loved ones.

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Until today, people still love the stories of fox spirits and the image is a fox spirit becomes more complicated and interesting. Like the word Huli Jing 狐狸精 in modern Chinese has been a negative word to refer to a woman who is good at flirting with men and interfere other people’s relationships. However, today maybe some women probably wouldn’t offended being called as a Huli Jing. Women can be whoever they want to be if they choose to be. Good at flirting and being extremely attractive is not so bad, right? Because we know the downfall of a dynasty is not caused by a woman and if the man is seduced, he should be responsible for it.

 

Mentioned:

山海经 Classics of Mountains and Seas

吕氏春秋 Master Lv’s Spring and Autumn Annals

封神演义 Investiture of the Gods

聊斋志异 Strange Stories from the a Chinese Studio

Episode 135: Parasite – part 2

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Today we will continue the story about a parasite in a man’s body. The story is from the book XuanShiZhi 宣室志 from the Tang dynasty 唐朝 by the author Zhang Du 张读 between the year 834 to 882.

Last time we talked about a man named Lu Yong was told by some barbarians that he had a parasite in his body that eats noodles. He took a purple pill and spit out the parasite.

Lu Yong asked, “how did you find it?”

The barbarians replied, “I can see the atmosphere of treasure every morning located in the Imperial School so we visited you the first time. About one month ago, it moved to here and we came here. The worm was formed with by the pure essences of Heaven and Earth that’s why it looked noodles. Because wheat was planted in the fall and harvested the next year. Let’s try to feed it to prove it.”

Lu Yong put a cup of wheat flour in front of the parasite, within a second, the wheat flour were gone.

Lu Yong asked, “what can the creature do for you?”

The barbarians said, “all the treasures in the world are formed with the essence of the Heaven and Earth. And this creature is the essence of the essence. If you have this one, how can you not get the others?”

The barbarians put the parasite in a bamboo bottle and locked the bottle in a metal case and let Lu Yong keep it until the next day when they came back with tons of gold and silk as the exchange of the parasite.

After that Lu Yong never had a problem with money. He bought houses and gardens and lived a decent life.

A year or so later, the barbarians came back again and said, “would you like to join us for an exploration under the sea? We would like to find some treasures there and we know you are curious about things.”

Lu Yong had been living in a luxurious and peaceful life for a year and this was a fun offer for him. So he joined with the barbarians to the sea. The barbarians built a house on the sea and they put a silver pot on the bonfire. In the silver pot, they put some oil and threw the parasite inside. After 7 days of burning, a boy wearing green jumped out of the sea. The kid was holding a place with a 4 cm pearl on it. The boy offered the pearl to the barbarians. However the barbarians were angry and yelled at him. The boy seemed scared and went back to the sea.

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After a meal’s time, an extremely beautiful woman walked out from the sea. Her dress was as think as fog. She was holding a jade plate with more than ten pearls in it. However the barbarians were angry again and yelled at her. She went back to the sea like the boy.

Not too long, an immortal wearing a glamorous headset and a red cape came out of the sea. He was holding a red silky booklet, folded a pearl around 10 cm. The light from the pearl could be seen 10 feet away. This time the barbarians were satisfied and took the pearl from the immortal. They told Lu Yong, “the best treasure is finally here.”

At the same time, they put out the bonfire and took out the parasite from the pot. The parasite was burned inside for days but was jumping around.

One barbarian swallowed the magic pearl and told Lu Yong, “come with me under the sea. Don’t worry.” Lu Yong jumped into the sea with the barbarian and grabbed him clothes. The water split for more than ten feet and the fish and turtles all swam away from them.

Lu Yong followed the barbarian and they visited the dragon place where mermaid or merman lived. We talked about mermaid and merman in Chinese mythology in our ep 55. There were tons of treasures and they took whatever they wanted there.

Lu Yong sold some of the treasures in the south and became more rich. He never went back to become a scholar again and died in the south at an old age.

 

Mentioned:

宣室志 XuanShiZhi

Episode 134: Parasite – part 1

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Today we will tell a story about a parasite in a man’s body. The story is from the book XuanShiZhi 宣室志 from the Tang dynasty 唐朝 by the author Zhang Du 张读 between the year 834 to 882.

In the book, it says, there was a man named Lu Yong 陆颙 from the region of Wu 吴, which was the southeastern China. He lived near the capital. His family were all scholars.

Lu Yong liked to eat noodles since he was a kid, however, the more noodles he ate, more skinny he became. When he grew up, he attended Imperial Exam as his families did. He didn’t get a good ranking so he attended Taixue 太学, the Imperial School to study.

After a few months in school, one day, a few barbarians visited his place. They looked at Lu Yong and introduced themselves, “we are native people from Nanyue 南越, which is the far south region of China. We have heard so much about the Imperial School in the capitol have all the genius of the country. So we have traveled over the seas and mountains here to see it ourselves. We notice you with your outstanding appearance and manners and would like to make friends with you.”

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After hearing those complimentary words from some strangers from far away, he was so flattered but was still trying to be humble, “it was my luck to have the opportunity to study here. I don’t have any particular talents, how can you appreciate me? ” They started to drink and talk and had a great time.

Lu Yong was a person that easily trust people, and he never had any doubts about these barbarians. After half a month, the barbarians came back to visit him again and this time they even brought gold and silk as gifts. Lu Yong was suspicious that he needed to exchange something with the gifts so he refused to accept them.

The barbarians said, “although you live in the capital, your life seems to be not that great. You look like you are starving. The gold and silk we brought can cover the cost for your servants and carriage a day. We are just trying to be your friends and nothing else. ”

Lu Yong had no choice but accept the gifts.

Some of Lu Yong’s friends in school heard about these strange things happened, and all said to Lu Yong, “the greedy barbarians even fight with each other for small things like salt and rice. Why would they just give you gold and silk for no reason? Plus, there are many students in the Imperial School, why do they only choose you? We suggest you should hid in the suburb for a while before they came back again.”

Lu Yong was suspicious already and after hearing these words from his cohorts, he decided to be cautious and stayed in the suburb and avoided stepping out of the house at all.

After about a month, the barbarians came to his new place. Lu Yong was surprised to see them in front of the gate. The barbarians were happy and said, “we did have something to talk with you. Now you are living in the suburb, it is a better place to talk.” After they sat down, they continued, “we have a favor to ask. It has nothing harmful to you but makes a huge difference for us.”

Lu Yong said, “please continue.”

The barbarians said, “don’t you like eating noodles?”

Lu Yong answered, “that’s correct”

The barbarians said, “it’s not you who likes eating noodles but the parasite in your belly likes eating noodles. I have a pill for you that the parasite would come out after you take the pill. We can pay you with a great price for it.”

Lu Yong said, “if the parasite really exists, why not?”

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The barbarians handed him a purple colored pill. Not too long after Lu Yong took the pill, he split out with a green creature around 6cm that looks like a frog. The barbarians said, “here it is the noodle-eater. It is a treasure.”

 

Mentioned:

宣室志 XuanShiZhi

Episode 133: Remote Nations Of The World 5

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It has been a while since the last time we talked about the remote nations of the world. Today will be the fifth episode of this series of stories.

One of human’s question about lives is how to live forever. In the book Classics of Mountains and Seas 山海经 from the 4th century BC , there is a kingdom called ChangShengGuo 长生国, meaning the nation of immortality. Just as the name indicates, people from this nations can live for hundreds of years. Those people have dark skin. The secret of their immortality is that people eat the fruits from a kind of immortality and drink the water from the immortality springs.

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This is not weird. There is another nation from the book Classics of Mountains and Seas 山海经 called WuQiGuo 无启国, the nation of no offspring. It says, the people from this nation have no children and they live in caves. There aren’t differences between people which indicates there aren’t really two sexes. People survive by eating air, fish and soil. After death, they are buried under the ground. Although the body dies, the soul still is alive. After 120 years, they get back to alive again.

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Which way would you choose to live between these two?

 

Mentioned:

山海经 Classics of Mountains and Seas

Episode 132: The Real Foodie

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It’s interesting to see today that on social media people like to tag themselves as foodies and loving food and eating becomes a cool thing to be proud of considering in the western culture and the eastern culture, gluttony is considered as a sin. Today we will talk about a real Foodie, a mythical creature in Chinese mythology called TaoTie 饕餮. In modern Chinese or more precisely in the modern language in Beijing, LaoTao 老饕 means foodie in a positive way, which is interesting because TaoTie is an greedy and cruel mythical creature in Chinese mythology.

We have mentioned it once in our episode 89 – nine sons of the dragon that in some myths it is one of dragon’s sons, which is questionable. Because in the book Spring and Autumn Annals 春秋, an ancient Chinese chronicle covering from year 722 BC to 481 BC likely complied in the 4th century BC, it says, TaoTie is the son from the family JinYun 缙云 not the dragon. JinYun is one of the oldest last name in China. In the book ZuoZhuan左传, an ancient Chinese narrative history as a commentary on the book Spring and Autumn Annals from the late 4th century BC , it also says TaoTie the family Jinyun has a shameful son that over indulges food and drinks. Moreover, he likes money. He extorts money and enjoys a luxurious life. For him, there isn’t word called more. He doesn’t have a compassion for the poor or the people who are in need. So people call him TaoTie, as one of “four evil creatures” along with other three evils HunDun 混沌, QiongQi 穷奇 and TaoWu 梼杌.

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In the book ShenYiJing 神异经, a book from the Han dynasty 汉代, it says, there is a hairy person from the southwest wearing a pig on the head. He was greedy and evil. He loves collecting money and treasures but never uses them and robbed other people food and possessions.

From these texts, it seems like TaoTie was orginally a person or at least based on a person.

In the book Classics of Mountains and Seas 山海经 from the 4th century BC, it says, there is a mountain called GouWu 钩吾山 which is famous for the jade on the mountain and cooper under the mountain. There is a creature live in the mountain has a goat body and human face. Its eyes grow under its armpit. It has teeth of a tiger and hands of a person. Its voice sounds like a bady. This creature is called PaoXiao 狍鸮 and eats human. The historian GuoPu 郭璞 from the Jin dynasty 晋代 noted this part of the text and said this greedy creature is called TaoTie. I am sure if he mixed up two different creatures or not and it seems they both sound like some greedy creatures.

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In the 2016 fantasy movie The Great Wall 长城, although I don’t recommend the movie, there was an evil monster in it which was supposed to be based on TaoTie. If you are interested, go ahead and check it out.

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TaoTie is a motif on ritual bronze vessels since way back in Chinese history from the Shang 商朝 ans Zhou dynasty 周朝, which is around 1600 BC. The design usually consists of a symmetrical zoomorphic mask with a pair of eyes , brows, ears, and a nose, a mouth and a chin.

Although this design probably wasn’t called TaoTie 3000 or 4000 years ago at that time, in the book LvShiChunQiu吕氏春秋, a Chinese classic text compiled around 239 BC during the Qin dynasty 秦朝, it says, the pattern of TaoTie is found on the bronzes from the Zhou dynasty. TaoTie only has a head but no body. When it east people, it does not swallow them but harms them. So at least since 239 BC, people started call this kind of motif as TaoTie.

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What does TaoTie really look like? What does this motif mean?

The modern Chinese scholar Li Zehou 李泽 厚commented, “it is hard to explain what is implied in this, as so many myths concerning the TaoTie have been lost, but the indication that it eats people accords fully with its cruel, fearful countenance. To alien clans and tribes, it symbolized fear and force, to its own clan or tribe, it was a symbol of protection. This religious concept, this dual nature, was crystallized in its strange, hideous features. What appears so savage today had a historical, rational quality in its time. ”

 

Mentioned:

春秋 Spring and Autumn Annals

左传 ZuoZhuan

神异经 ShenYiJing

山海经 Classics of Mountains and Seas

吕氏春秋 LvShiChunQiu