Fox Spirits Present Cases 妖狐陳狀

Zhou Ju’an of Ancheng passed the civil examinations when very young, and was first employed as registrar and constable of Songzi in Jiangling. One night within a few months of taking up the post, his father Zhou Hongbo dreamt that the sage protector Zhenwu addressed him, saying: “Your son began his official career very young, but in recent days fox spirits have transformed into seven women bringing complaints in order to turn his head; you should deal with the matter.” As soon as he awoke, he told his son about the dream. Ju’an waited until dawn to see to the matter, first, having already summoned military officers to the government office, he waited for them to arrive. Suddenly, when he had started to judge cases, seven women came to make speeches presenting their complaints, and the constable-registrar judged the cases with composure. Before long the hubbub and noise became extreme, at which he shouted to the soldiers, who shackled and jailed them, although two had already slipped away. The five people all changed into foxes, but said: “You should not kill us, killing us would not be auspicious.” The registrar-constable did not answer, but eventually had them flogged to death, reporting the matter to the government office.

At that time the Vice Grand Councilor Bie was a prominent judge in Jiangling, and was especially pleased to receive his report, soon writing a proclamation that he would come and commend Constable-Registrar Zhou at his office. The Zhous, father and son, on receiving this proclamation, were more than a little surprised, and wondered whether there might be some other reason behind it. On his arrival, Vice Grand Councilor Bie, seeing them, said: “Your Honour passed the civil examination very young, at a similar age to your servant. Your servant too, on first taking office, had fox spirits come having transformed themselves into women, and immediately had them executed. Your killing them, sir, was entirely fitting.” He then proclaimed that [Zhou] serve as a judge among his subordinates. When the time came for the constable to set out and take up this post, he prepared his cap and clothing and said farewell to his ancestral temple. Suddenly he saw, in front of him as he walked, an elderly fox sitting upright with some dignity in the hall. It spoke: “The gentleman has killed five of our people, and ought to be killed for this; as the gentleman is moving away, the rich and powerful of near and far must order the taking of five people from the gentleman’s family.” The constable was angry, and struck out at the old fox with the tablet he was holding, at which it died.

Within two years, his two younger brothers died, his two younger sisters died, his father died, and people said this was the fox spirit’s vengeance. Why? One’s life and death is a matter of fate; how could a fox spirit [252] wrest this away? This was merely chance. Ju’an later rose to the seventh grade in Nanxiong, and eventually died.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.251-52 (Tale 453):

妖狐陳狀

安成周居安,少年登科,初任江陵松滋簿尉。之任未數月,乃父周洪伯夜夢所事佑聖真武告之曰:「汝子初仕少年,來日有妖狐化作七婦人告狀,以惑汝子,可治之。」翌早,洪伯以所夢告其子。居安待旦視事,先已約束兵使在衙,待其來矣。方判事間,忽有婦女七人來陳狀詞,簿尉判事自若。未幾喧嘩之甚,遂喝兵使縛之,枷鎖入獄,已失其二。五人盡變為狐,卻云:「不可殺我,殺我不祥。」簿尉不答,竟杖死之,以其事申府。時別參政之傑判江陵,得申狀極喜,尋檄周簿尉過本府稟儀。周之父子當被檄之時,不無驚訝,疑有異故。及至,別參政見之,乃云:「足下少年登科,與某登科年相若也。某之初任亦有妖狐化婦而來者,當即殺之。君殺之甚宜。」遂檄為椽屬。尉捧檄啟行之時,具冠裳辭家廟,忽見前所走之老狐踞坐公廳云:「公殺我五人,本合殺公以去,富貴方遠,必公家取五人之命。」尉怒,以所執手版擊之,老狐隨斃。二年之內,二弟死,二妹死,其父死,或曰「曰」原作「者」,據明刻本改。妖狐之報也。吁!夫人死生有命,豈妖狐所 [252] 能奪也,第偶然爾。居安後得七秩南雄而終。

Yuan Haowen 元好問, Chang Zhenguo 常振國 (ed), Xu Yijian zhi 續夷堅志 (Continued Records of the Listener), and Anon., Jin Xin 金心 (ed.), Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi 湖海新聞夷堅續志 (Continuation of Records of the Listener with New Items from the Lakes and Seas) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1986).

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A Fake Woman Takes Wealth 假女取財

In the Baoqing era, the jiwei year (1259?),[1] Zhao Zhigan employed a female cook, and by this woman had a son, Wang Qianyi. Throughout his youth, the father dressed this son in the clothing of a daughter, piercing his earlobes and binding his feet; made up just like a woman, he studied female work in serving food and drink. Bribing an intermediary with gifts, they deceived a wealthy family and had him accepted as a kitchen maid. The rich household’s favoured concubine never [doubted] him and, having no idea that this was a boy, shared a bed with him, acting most lasciviously. When the matter became known, she was blamed and returned to her parents.

Later, he transferred to the employment of the East Gate Zhao family; Zhao noticed that [he] was somewhat attractive, and also repeatedly [50] wanted to violate him; the kitchen maid pleaded many times and did not consent. One day, when [Zhao] was drinking together with colleagues, one among their number said: “I heard recently that a boy has been got up as a kitchen maid, fooling rich households many times and defrauding them of their wealth; now I hear he has been hired again by a fellow official as a kitchen maid, and that none are aware of it.” When they stopped drinking, Zhao returned to his hall and called the kitchen maid out. Making an exploratory grope, his true form could not be hidden. Dismissed for the crime, he was sentenced to beheading and exposure in the marketplace; his parents and the intermediary were all banished and their property confiscated.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前1.149-50 (Tale 89):

假女取財

寶慶己未,趙制幹雇一廚娘,乃男子王千一也。蓋幼時父將男子形軀假妝女子,與之穿耳纏足,搽畫一如女子,習學女工飲食。買賂牙保,脫騙富戶,充為廚娘。富家寵妾莫[疑衍。]不知是男子,與之共寢,俱為所淫。事彰,責還父母。後轉雇與東門趙家,趙見稍有姿色,亦屢 [50] 欲犯之,而廚娘累託不從。又一日,同僚會飲,坐間有云:「聞近日有一男子粧假廚娘,累次脫騙富家財物,今聞又僱在同幕為廚娘,莫得而知之。」飲罷,趙回廳喚出廚娘,試一捫摸,形不能掩。解之制幹,斷罪斬首棄市,父母、牙保俱配籍焉。

[1] The Baoqing 寶慶 regnal era, in the rule of the Song emperor Lizong 理宗 (r. 1224-64 CE), represents 1225-28. Jiwei 己未 denotes the 56th place in the sexagenary cycle, and as such could only refer to either 1199 or 1259, neither of which falls within this period.

Yuan Haowen 元好問, Chang Zhenguo 常振國 (ed), Xu Yijian zhi 續夷堅志 (Continued Records of the Listener), and Anon., Jin Xin 金心 (ed.), Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi 湖海新聞夷堅續志 (Continuation of Records of the Listener with New Items from the Lakes and Seas) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1986).

A Woman Transformed into a Tanuki and a Donkey 婦變貍驢

Old Woman Zhang, resident under Feicheng County in Jiningfu, her husband having died young, lived together with her son Zhang Lü’er. By day she watched over baskets of spun hemp, by night she transformed into a raccoon dog, going everywhere to steal and eat small children from people’s homes.[1] Those lost numbered eighteen or nineteen. One day she also turned into a white donkey, eating someone’s wheat seedlings, but was caught by the owner of the wheat, chained by the neck and dragged to a millstone, where she was given a severe thrashing. Finally released she was able to return, moaning and groaning, and lie down, at which her son questioned her, and she related all and was beaten to death by the people; this is truly something to marvel at.

[1] This character is presently used to refer to the tanuki, a prominent trickster animal in Japanese folk culture, but seems more likely to refer to a cat of some sort. On the tanuki, see Adrian Burton, “The Transformations of Tanuki-San” Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 10 (2012): 224. Present-day populations seem expected to be broadly omnivorous, their living prey limited to smaller animals. Research on the mandibles of extinct raccoon dog subspecies suggests that their diet may have varied greatly in the past (but the researchers don’t mention human babies). See Masakazu Asahara and Masanaru Takai, “Estimation of Diet in Extinct Raccoon Dog Species by the Molar Ratio Method”, Acta Zoologica (Stockholm) 98 (2017): 292-99. As noted by by Barend Ter Haar, the story is also related to the child-eating elderly female cannibal or were-animal ‘Auntie Old Tiger’ story, a tale comparable to Hansel and Gretel. See Barend J. ter Haar, Telling Stories: Witchcraft and Scapegoating in Chinese History, Sinica Leidensia, LXXI (Leiden: Brill, 2006), pp. 54-91.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.230 (Tale 413):

婦變貍驢

濟寧府肥城縣管下張婆兒,夫早歿,與子張驢兒同活。此人日則守筐緝麻,夜則變作貍,徧去偷喫人家小孩兒。所失者十有八九。一日又變作白驢,食人麥苗,被麥主捉獲,鎖項拽磨,極其鞭打。既放得歸,呻吟而卧,其子問之,具以狀告,被人打死,甚可怪也。

Yuan Haowen 元好問, Chang Zhenguo 常振國 (ed), Xu Yijian zhi 續夷堅志 (Continued Records of the Listener), and Anon., Jin Xin 金心 (ed.), Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi 湖海新聞夷堅續志 (Continuation of Records of the Listener with New Items from the Lakes and Seas) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1986).