Huli Jing


Foxes reached their full flower in China. Chinese foxes are earnest scholars, dedicated rakes, devoted lovers, seductresses par excellence, tricksters, poltergeists, drinking companions, karmic avengers, and always, always great moralizers.

Hu li jing (狐狸精 húlijīng) in Chinese mythology are fox spirits that are akin to European faeries or to the Japanese kitsune. Hu li jing can be either good spirits or bad spirits.

In Chinese mythology, it is believed that all things are capable of acquiring human forms, magical powers, and immortality, provided that they receive sufficient energy, in such forms as human breath or essence from the moon and the sun.

The fox spirits encountered in tales and legends are usually females and appear as young, beautiful women. One of the most infamous fox spirits in Chinese mythology was Daji (妲己), who is portrayed in the Ming novel Fengshen Yanyi. A beautiful daughter of a general, she was married forcibly to the cruel tyrant Zhou Xin (紂辛 Zhòu Xīn). A nine-tailed fox spirit who served Nüwa, whom Zhou Xin had offended, entered into and possessed her body, expelling the true Daji's soul. The spirit, as Daji, and her new husband schemed cruelly and invented many devices of torture, such as forcing righteous officials to hug red-hot metal pillars.[1] Because of such cruelties, many people, including Zhou Xin's own former generals, revolted and fought against Zhou Xin's dynasty, Shang. Finally, King Wen of Zhou, one of the vassals of Shang, founded a new dynasty named after his country. The fox spirit in Daji's body was later driven out by Jiang Ziya (姜子牙), the first Prime Minister of the Zhou Dynasty.

Typically fox spirits were seen as dangerous, but some of the stories in Pu Songling's Liaozhai Zhiyi are love stories between a fox appearing as a beautiful girl and a young human male.

In modern Mandarin and Cantonese slang, the term hu li jing is a derogatory expression describing a woman who seduces a man (“gold digging”).

The fox spirit has also been used as an explanatory factor in the incidence of attacks of koro, an ethnic psychosis found in Southern China and Malaysia in particular.[2]

Chinese Terminology

  • Hu: Fox.
  • Huli jing: Fox spirit. Literally, “exquisite fox.” Also a modern colloquial term for a dangerous seductress, a slut, or a whore.
  • Hujing: Fox spirit. An older word which also means “exquisite fox.”
  • Huxian: Immortal fox.
  • Xian: Immortal or transcendent person. Because foxes were often worshipped in folk religion, they were sometimes called xian (or derivatives thereof, such as xianren) in order to avoid saying their real name, in the same way that English speakers referred to fairies as “the good folk,” “the fair folk,” “the people under the hill,” and so on. Other varieties of immortal creatures were called xian as well.
  • Jinwei hu: Nine-tailed fox.
  • Laohu: Old fox. Foxes must attain great age before they can transform into humans, so all shapeshifting foxes are technically old; however, this term carries the connotation of a fox so old that it is old even for a fox. The term also removes some of the sexual connotations of the fox, since sexlessness is associated with age.


  1. Huli Jing - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia #Huli Jing - The Chinese Fox
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