Nine-Tailed Fox: The Enigmatic Demoness, Entrancing the World

Nine-Tailed Fox

A Mythical Creature in Chinese Mythology.

According to legend, foxes possess spiritual feet, and their tails gather spiritual energy, dividing into two tails, ultimately reaching nine tails.

Initially, the nine-tailed fox didn't have nine independent tails but rather nine strands of fur on one tail (see the cover image of this term: nine-taled fox on ancient Han tomb stone carvings).

The nine-tailed fox possesses immortality and the ability to breathe fire. It is said that consuming the flesh of a nine-tailed fox can prevent being enchanted and ward off demonic energies.

《Classic of Mountains and Seas》

In the mountains of Qingqiu, there is a beast resembling a fox with nine tails, its sound is like that of a baby, it can eat humans, but those who eat it will not be bewitched.

Auspicious Beast

Guo Pu's annotation in the Dahuang Dongjing states, "In the country of Qingqiu, there are nine-tailed foxes, and when there is great peace, they emerge as auspicious signs," indicating that in early legends, the nine-tailed fox was considered an auspicious entity.

In the stone carvings and brick paintings of the Han Dynasty, the nine-tailed fox is often depicted alongside auspicious symbols such as the white rabbit, toad, and three-legged crow, near the seat of the Queen Mother of the West, symbolizing auspiciousness. The nine-tailed fox symbolizes prosperity in descendants.

《Annals of Wu and Yue · An Extraordinary Biography of King Yuexi》

Yu, at the age of thirty, fearing the passing of time, departed saying, 'When I marry, there will surely be a response.' Soon after, a white nine-tailed fox appeared before Yu. Yu said, 'The white one is my garment, and its nine tails are proof of kingship.

Enchanting and Deceitful Huli Jing

Around the Song Dynasty, the image of the nine-tailed fox began to lean towards enchantment and deceit. In the Investiture of the Gods, the nine-tailed fox, under the command of Nü Wa, seduces King Zhou of Shang. Later, King Wu of Zhou overthrows King Zhou, as the nine-tailed fox transforms into Daji, committing numerous misdeeds that led to the loss of King Zhou's people and kingdom. Folklore also tells of the nine-tailed fox assuming various personas to seduce and deceive, hence foxes became synonymous with cunningness.

According to the Ming Dynasty novel 《Investiture of the Gods》, Daji was possessed by a thousand-year-old fox spirit, sent by Nü Wa to disrupt the Yin and Shang dynasties, thus King Zhou became so erratic and committed such cruel deeds. As the poem goes:

The daughters of various feudal lords are bathed in favor, adorned in jade, silk, and exquisite attire. Tender as celestial beings of the nine heavens, yet a fox causing the fall of the Yin and Shang dynasties. Roasting and branding, refining bones, transforming into venomous potions. Drawing forth phoenix cries from Mount Qi, plucking stars from Deer Terrace, all return to their proper place.

However, the Nü Wa's original task was to disturb King Zhou's mind, not to allow harm to innocent lives. The fox demon arbitrarily harmed loyal subjects, causing suffering, and ultimately faced justice.

These three demons are a thousand-year-old fox spirit, a nine-headed pheasant spirit, and a jade and stone lute spirit, all bowing before the throne. The goddess said, 'Three demons, listen to my secret decree: when Tang of Shang's fortune wanes and he loses the world, a sacred ruler has already arisen in the Western Zhou. It's already the will of heaven, and the decree is absolute. You demons may conceal your forms and inhabit the palace, disturbing the king's mind. Wait for King Wu to overthrow King Zhou, aiding in his success, but you must not harm sentient beings. After the deed is done, you will also attain salvation.'" The goddess Nü Wa said, 'I sent you to destroy the Yin dynasty and seize the world; it was originally in accordance with the will of heaven. Who would have thought you would arbitrarily create karma, harming innocent lives, torturing loyal subjects, and committing such abhorrent atrocities, greatly defying the benevolence of heaven. Today, your crimes have accumulated to the brim, and it's only right that you face justice.' The three demons bowed, not daring to utter a word.