The topic I want to talk about in this paper comes from those stories in the field of mythology. Before I begin to tell those stories, I want to raise a simple question here that what mythology means to you. To many people, mythologies are just that God knows who talks about who knows what. Because they think that mythology stories are all about things that never happen and never exist. However, to many scholars, mythologies are stories that conceal history and truth. To litterateur, mythologies are one of the most important literary form through thousand of years. And to me, mythologies are some interesting things that accompany with me to sleep during my childhood.
It is easy to recognize that people can better accept those mythology which comes from Europe and America, such as Vampires, werewolf, merman, etc. However, for Chinese mythology, it seems that fewer people know about them and also it is hard to understand. But it would be a pity that those beautiful love stories and those special characters to be hidden because of cultural reasons. Therefore, this paper aims to translate those mythology stories to people who come from different countries and feel difficult to understand Chinese mythology. The paper mainly talks about one of the most important animal image in Chinese mythology, fox with nine tails. The paper would introduce this mythology image from different dynasties in Chinese history and would also contains their change process from one dynasty to another dynasty.
The fox mythology in China has a long history. The first fox image is originated from the book Shanghai Jing, which Shanghai Jing is the first book in Chinese history which records ghosts and goddesses. Shan in Chinese word characters is means mountain, and Hai means ocean. Therefore, it is not difficult to infer from the name of this book, that Shanghai Jing tells something related to geographic knowledge in the ancient time. Shanghai Jing has extraordinary value in many fields, not only for it tells lots of remarkable mythological stories that even has a profound influence in the modern society, but also for it contains lots of historical, cultural, geographic, medical, ethnological contents for scholars to do researches. The book records, “In the north of Sunrise Valley, there is a nation called Qingqiu. And there is a kind of beasts that lives in this country. It looks like fox but has nine tails and its sound like a baby. Whoever eats this beast would never be poisoned.” Although this animal image was a very small portion in Shanghai Jing, however, it gradually becomes one of the most important Chinese mythical creature image over history.
The first fox story happened in Xia Dynasty. This Dynasty existed from B.C.2029 to B.C. 1559, which is the first Chinese empire. The first fox story is related to the King of this Dynasty , Yu (禹)，who built Chinese imperial system. The story tells, the king Yu was devoted himself into water conservancy project in order to bring benefit to his citizens and gain respect. One day he arrived at Tushan and he met a nine-tailed fox. Suddenly the fox became into a beautiful girl and said her name is Jiao, the daughter of Tushan. Yu fell in love with this girl and they married. But Yu spent most of his time to the water conservancy project and did not have much time accompany with his wife. Because Jiao was so miss his husband, so that she stand on the top of mountain everyday. But days went by but his husband would never come back. However, once Jiao went to see Yu, she saw Yu became a black bear. And she was so scared and turn to a stone. Yu said to that rock, “give my son back.” And the rock was separated, then Yu brought his son back.
In fact, Jiao is the daughter of one of most powerful local tribes which respect fox as totem. The reason why ancient people respect the fox with nine-tails is that in Chinese conception, tail means child. Child is very important in a Chinese family because it needs someone to inherit the family business. And nine is a a lucky number in Chinese conception. Therefore, a fox has nine-tails symbolize that a family would have lots of sons. There are also another similar stories in Chinese mythology that dragon has nine sons. Therefore, as we can see in this story, the image of fox is totally different from what people think of fox today. Actually in the ancient time, people though the fox with nine tails as the messenger of God, its social status is as same as Hermes in Greek mythology. But with the time goes by, the women’s social position and human’s respect to nature were decreasing gradually. The image of fox also experienced substantial changes.
When time came to Ming Dynasty, there is a famous literature masterpiece that even has profound effect today, which is called The Legend and The Hero. The book tells an epic story about Shang Dynasty. There was a very very beautiful woman called Daji in the Shang Dynasty and no man can deny her charm. And she used her beautiful performance captivated the King and became the Queen of the nation. This would be a wonderful love story if the story ends here. However, Daji is a nine-tailed fox and she raise a tyranny in the political filed. She led the King to kill his senators who are really loyal to him and squeeze the citizens and rob their money. These kinds of action caused revolution and finally lead the dynasty to the end. Because the book is so famous in China and also because the women’s rights in Ming Dynasty have been cruelly exploited. Hence, fox gradually become an image that always used to describe bad women. From here, we can see that
Another important change happened in Qing Dynasty. A man called Songling Pu wrote a book named Ghosts and Foxes. The book is consisted of four hundreds and ninety-one short stories and contains eighty-nine stories about fox. During thousands of years, Chinese people were talking about fox stories. Traditional fox characters are always bold into debauched women who steal men’s life, or a charter that has special power and after thousands of year, it would turn into God. However, in Songling’s book, he gave fox human’s character and made these foxes into a lovely, intelligent and beautiful women characters. They act or try to act as a human being. And once they fall in love with a man, they dare to revolt tradition rules for guarding their love.
Actually, Songling aimed to use these characters to anti-tradition. The thought in Qing dynasty became pedantic, and the rules restrict people to reflect and judge. Women lived under suppression and their social status were decrease to the lowest situation. In such situation, Songling wanted to use these characters to satire the feudal society and revoke people to rebel with the imperial system.
Look over the whole history about the fox, it can be also concluded some other reasons except literary reasons. Firstly, there is an old saying in China, that destruction pursues the great. It means if a person stand in a higher place would be easily to be attacked because of others’ jealousy. Foxes always have beautiful performance, and it can be easily speculated in
a feudal society, the conservative would defame the fox image in order to constraint people from thinking. In the past, people always used fox to describe beautiful women. Therefore, the transformation of fox image also reflect the decline of women’s social status in the other way. Another reason is that compare with other mythical creatures such as dragon, phoenix, fox is a more common animal. Things are valued in proportion to its rarity. The image of fox have experienced defamation through the history and finally because a word of curse.