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Whenever a sound is heard at night, people always show fear at what might be lurking in the dark. Whenever an incident of death occurs, people wonder and meditate about what might be awaiting them in the other life. Communities were united in shared beliefs regarding these incidences and rites of life. Some beliefs were consolidated into religion, growing from primal animism to the most cultured beliefs. Furthermore, some experiences faced by some validate their beliefs, and they in turn refer to these experiences as divine happenings requiring a supernatural input (Hearn, 2004).
The tales are narrated over and over again, and in the long run such tales form a vast collection of work, which portrays the paranormal beliefs of a community in much detail; that is, if a story leaves out an aspect, another account will fill the gap. Tales are narrated from one individual to the other, and later some of these accounts are written down and committed to memory, even though most are fallen into perpetual oblivion (Akinari, 2007).
This passage of tales down generations also occurs in China, which is in another side of the globe. These are the stories that have stayed alive, made-up, copied, or written by intellectuals or historians right through the history of China, where exploration into the fox spirits is founded. The figure of the fox spirit in Chinese literature presents a complex affair that requires great intellect and a good mastery of Chinese history to decipher. Much as the figure of the fox may emerge sleazy or threatening to the contemporary popular imagination, its role in traditional China is multifaceted (Hearn, 2004).
According to Hearn (2006):
When a fox is fifty years of age, it has the ability to change into a woman but when it at a hundred years of age the fox can transform into a good-looking girl or a wizard in any of these forms, the fox can foretell what transpires several distance away and it can as well mislead and bewitch people resulting to the lose of their intelligence. When a fox hits a thousand years of age, it can speak with heaven and transform into an extraterrestrial fox.
In Chinese mythical tales, foxes range from being ferocious and homicidal to having no malevolent purpose at all. Just like ghosts, foxes have come to be viewed as amorous beings, although they can lose their reticence and become entirely gratuitous in their needs. Hence, when a woman is likened to a fox, it implies that the she is a seductress or a whore (Songling, 2006).
A fox masquerading as a woman is generally gorgeous and seductive. In case of a man, he is bound to be handsome, intelligent, and attractive. In some instances, the conversion is not appealing, especially when the tail sporadically obtrudes (Hearn, 2004). In the event that a fox was killed, its skull resembled that of the human, and hence the belief that it used its magic to appear human. It is documented that the Chinese fox spirits in general obtain the appearance of a young attractive provocative female. They are time and again scheming and wicked, seducing men for their vigor so that they can attain immortality. Due to this strong Chinese folklore of the fox evil spirits, women, who have a thing with matrimonial men, are usually referred to as fox spirits.
In early accounts, the rise of a fox from its uncomplicated beginning to emerging as a shape transformer then transcending into an outer space fox was merely an issue of great age; that is, the more the fox lived in terms of age, the more commanding it turned out to be (Akinari, 2007). In more recent tales, a fox could continue in its present state, dwelling in the intermediate between human and monster, or it could purify itself via reflection, refraining from bliss, sex, killing, and turmoil and so ultimately become immortal. Based on these, the fox appears as an allegory for the Buddhist standards of efforts to improve oneself; that is, process of improvement is not automatic but involves hard and persistent effort (Songling, 2006).
According to Chinese beliefs, foxes symbolize the foreigner, the alien, or the barbarian. So, the advancing of the fox is considered a plodding development of the barbarian into Chinese objects. Some literature points out that as the foreigner or alien, the fox spirit looks for matrimony in order to gain socially, and the related family will relent at nothing until this is achieved (Hearn, 2004).
The fox, which has attained the status of an extraterrestrial being, in most cases is termed as fox with nine tails since it has that number of tails. In all of the Asian tales, this fox (celestial fox) is evident. For instance, in Vietnam (Akinari, 2007), it is recorded that an encounter between the founder of the Vietnamese mythology and a celestial fox resulted in the formation of a Lake in Hanoi. In Korea, the nine tailed fox assumes a more ferocious nature, in the sense that the fox would first dreadfully murder someone and later consume the body before assuming the live form (Akinari, 2007). Akinari continues to say that the tales in Japan indicate that the fox spirit came from China during the Tang Dynasty, where it united with the native tanuki and transformed into a central part of the nationwide legends (2007).
However, throughout the Chinese literature the fox spirit has been portrayed in different ways from one historic period to the other. These portrayals depended on the cultural practices of the Chinese people in different historic times. These also depended on the roles played by the fox spirits as believed by the Chinese. The early literature indicates that the fox spirit, particularly the fox heroine, was responsible for directing and guarding the traditions of the Chinese people (Songling, 2006). These traditions include Chinese food, marriage, kung fu, medicine, and various unique Chinese aspects. During fighting competitions among different communities, the fighters expected to see a fox prior to the fight, and this they believed could only be seen by one of them. The fighter, who is privileged to see the fox, will be the winner since he will have gotten the blessings of the fox. In the event that the fighter looses the fight despite seeing the fox, it is believed that he was cursed by the spirit of the fox and that he is not eligible to fight again.
Regarding medicine, whenever someone was ailing from a disease, the doctor would perform some rituals in honor of some fox spirits. The doctor would also gather some herbs in the forest where, according to Chinese belief, a fox inhabited prior to its transformation. These herbs were believed to be more effective than the similar ones from different locations. Some foods were well associated with the fox spirit. Such foods were eaten in the belief that the fox spirit participated in the provision of them.
With the development of the Chinese culture, some literature points out that the fox symbolized might, power, and resilience. Therefore, the Chinese people believe that they should emulate the fox in every aspect of their lives; an ideal that is commonly shared by the Buddhists. Due to this fact, they associate themselves to some fox spirits and believe that a celestial fox never kills a resilient and powerful man. This is because the fox considers this person to be a member of its lineage.
However, nearly all authors tend to accentuate that the fox in China was perceived to be almost entirely a wicked creature. Historical accounts dating back to the foundation of Chinese civilization imply that the fox is an evil being, upon whose back spirits traverse (Hearn, 2004). Other authors depict that the fox has been considered an ill-fated being since the earliest times. Yet at the same time, some literatures point out that places of pilgrimage were often put up in the honor of the fox to symbolize that the fox is more than a cruel fiend. There is also the argument of the fox bringing to an end the Chinese dynasties. This is a trendy one in Chinese fox lore.
According to Akinari (2007), a fox’s yelp signifies a disaster, and it is a regular motif in Chinese and Japanese folklore. From these tales, the fox is viewed as the reason for ailment and psychosis.
From these different historical accounts regarding fox spirit, there appear to be contradictory portrayals of the fox spirit regarding how it was perceived. The most outstanding difference being that of evil and good associated with the fox spirit. While some literature portrays the fox spirit as malicious and very evil, another one depicts it as good, and that the origin of Chinese culture is founded on some fox spirits.
This variation in perception and beliefs tells more about human cultural concerns throughout Chinese history. The Chinese people are viewed as very concerned about their culture, and they would associate many things to it, not just the fox spirits. The Chinese will go at any length to ensure that the culture is maintained or preserved, hence they will hold on to that which guards the culture and rebuke that which is a threat to their culture. In different Chinese accounts of the fox spirit, culture seems to be the dominant factor.
As mentioned earlier, Chinese folklore holds the origin of foxes as devil and spirits; this plays a key role in nearly all the Chinese folklore. This depiction of the fox spirit does not appeal to many Chinese, as it endangers their lives and their cultural way of life (Wu Ch’engen, 1994). It has been recorded that at the beginning of the Chinese civilization specific species of foxes were killed, because they were perceived to be associated with evil happenings to the community members. Given that some foxes were perceived to be seducers of both, men and women, people feared that when these foxes appeared, some moral value of the community was threatened. This is why those women or ladies found to be having an affair with married men are likened to the fox spirits.
On the other hand, in instances where the fox spirit was considered to mean good to the community in the history of Chinese culture, the foxes were given the utmost respect by nearly everyone in the society. In some cultures, shrines were built in honor of some foxes that appeared to some communities. For instance, the nine tailed foxes of zhiguai were erected places of pilgrimage for spiritual purposes (Hearn, 2004). This is because they believed that the fox having been lifted to the heavens communicated to the heavens on their behalf.
The Buddhists, as is pointed in some literature, have some positive regard of the fox spirit, which brings in the issue of religion and its association with the fox spirit. They believed that in order to attain immortality the fox usually could abstain from immoral acts, such as murder, sex, and the likes. Consequently, the Buddhists borrow a sense of determination and hard work to maintain purity from the fox spirit (Wu Ch’engen, 1994).
Therefore, the contradictory account of the fox spirits highlights many aspects of the Chinese culture, especially in the beginning of the Chinese civilization, and how the culture has since developed. Religion is viewed as an important part of the Chinese culture with evil spirits competing with good spirits.
The importance of the Chinese accounts being primarily of awful foxes is not apparent, partially because of the doubtful sources of the stories. The tales of the fox spirits personifies two of the most extraordinary present trends in the faculty of Chinese culture and religion; that is, the intertwining of narrations, texts, and ethnology. The tales also helps to reveal the extensively undervalued wealth of contemporary religion of Chinese world. The fox spirit is predominantly complicated in its sensitivity to the several meanings connected with foxes and the different kinds of people involved in building these meanings (Akinari, 2007).
Most Chinese tales blend data from previously unexplored sources to show that the fox was a multi-vocal epitome that diverse people maneuvered in order to rationalize their status in Chinese society, and at times even defy the burden of standard cultural norms. Most tales of fox spirits reflect conservative wisdom regarding the basic concord of Chinese culture, and the ability of elites to enforce cultural incorporation down from the top.