Nine-tailed Fox 九尾狐- Mystery Revealed

Nine-tailed fox: Image from Shanhaijing

There is a beast whose appearance resembles a fox. It has four feet and nine tails, and makes a sound like a baby. Wisdom and power fill its tail with a new one growing every 100 years. After a millennium on Earth, the worthy fox may ascend to the Heavens and join the gods. That is the nine-tailed fox, a deity beast appearing alongside Xi Wangmu (Queen Mother of the West) with the Rabbit, the Toad, and the Three-foot Blue Bird.

In the Qin Dynasty, the nine-tailed fox was an auspicious symbol. The appearance of a nine-tailed fox symbolizes peace and prosperity in the world. According to the ancient illustrated book of Ruiying Tupu《瑞应图谱》, when the king is over-distracted by beauty, the nine-tailed fox would arrive (王者不倾于色,则九尾狐至). Another record in the old book Furuizhi 《宋书·符瑞志》reveals “The white fox would arrive if the king is both benevolent and wise (白狐,王者仁智则至).”

The nine-tailed fox is also a sign of marriage and love, and whoever marries a nine-tailed fox would have many children and many grandchildren. In the legend, a monarch called Yu did not get married until he reached the age of thirty. He saw a nine-tailed fox in a place called Tushan, and he thought it was an auspicious sign of a king so he married a woman in Tushan. The nine-tailed fox witnessed the love between Yu and the Tushan woman.

However, since the Song Dynasty, the nine-tailed fox has been gradually demonized. It was turned into a beauty who sought to bewitch humans and their souls.

Watch out for more Chinese tales on this Confucius Institute for Scotland website …

Nine-tailed fox lantern, Giant Lantern of China, Edinburgh Zoo.