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What Are the Nine-Tailed Fox, Huli Jing, Fox Spirit, Fox God, and Fox Demon?


Nine Tailed Fox, Huli Jing, Fox Spirit, Fox Demon, and Fox God are creatures in Chinese Mythology with long histories, changing reputations, diverse magic, and fascinating stories.


They are all foxes with supernatural powers, but in different states, forms, and cultivation means.

Nine Tailed Fox or Jiuwei Hu

Nine Tailed Fox (in Chinese Jiuwei Hu) is a mythical creature in ancient Chinese mythology.


It is a silver-white fox with nine tails that howls like a newborn baby and only shows up in flourishing, prosperous, and peaceful places. 

Nine Tailed Fox or Jiuweihu

Nine-Tailed Fox or Jiuweihu, Drawn by Benyo.

Huli Jing or Fox Spirit


Huli Jing or Fox Spirit, recorded later in history, is a fox that obtained magic power, mainly can convert to or possess human beings and come into the secular world.


Huli Jing or Fox Spirit can be good or bad, based on one's characteristics and practice methods.

A Fox Spirit from TV Show "Legend of Nine Tails Fox"

A Fox Spirit from TV Show "Legend of Nine Tails Fox"

Fox God or Huxian


Fox God or Huxian is the fox deity that practices and obtains power in righteous ways, following the rules of the Taoism Religion.


They are wiser and more powerful, value morals and justice, and help humans when necessary.


Their final goals are obtaining magic and immortality, but they would never hurt humans to achieve that.

Fox God or Huxian

Fox God or Huxian Drawn by Artist She Xi

Fox Demon or Huyao


Fox Demon or Huyao refers to foxes trying to obtain magic power through evil means, no matter whether these cultivations would hurt others.


These demon foxes follow no rules and never care about the proper ways in the world.


They would possess the land, hurt and kill people, and, if they gained more power, would perish cities and states.

Fox Demon The Owner of Precious Jade Workshop in the Movie "White Snake"

Fox Demon The Owner of Precious Jade Workshop in the Movie "White Snake", Produced by Light Chaser Animation Studios.

How Would A Fox Gain Power and Immortality?


In ancient mythology and folklore, a fox with special encounters and obtained enough magic aura from the universe can become Fox Spirit or Hulijing. 


Since then, with it spending more time on practicing and more powers gained, additional numbers of tails would grow.

The successful ones, after thousands of years of hard cultivation and tests, can become Nine Tailed Fox, or Fox God the Huxian.

Some others might fail or become Demon Fox which could hurt people, and later get defeated or suppressed.

Nine Tailed Fox Spirit Drawn by BoluohuiS

Nine Tailed Fox Spirit Drawn by BoluohuiS.

What Is the Origin of Nine Tailed Fox?


Nine-Tailed Fox was first recorded in the ancient masterpiece The Classic of Mountains and Seas.


In this book, it is a type of auspicious creature that has silver-white fur and nine tails and would only appear in stable and prosperous kingdoms. 


They may prey on people, and humans that ate Nine-Tailed Fox's flesh can be protected from evils and poisons. 


Meanwhile, most of them live in a magical place named Qingqiu. 

Nine Tailed Fox in Qingqiu

Nine Tailed Fox in Qingqiu, Drawn by Quangao.

In some folklore, when Yu the Great (about 2123 BC — 2025 BC) was fighting against the vast flood, a Nine-Tailed Fox transformed into a beautiful woman, assisted, and fell in love with him. 

Another saying is that this woman, later the first queen of the Xia Dynasty (2070 BC — 1600 BC), was from a tribe that lives in Qingqiu, which is a place in today's Heze city of Shandong Province.


This powerful tribe named Tushan possibly had a fox with nine tails as the totem or was an alliance of clans that all used the fox as their totem. 

Bronze Artifact Decorated with Turquoise Unearthed From Erlitou Site, A Possible Relic Site of Part of the Xia Dynasty

Bronze Artifact Decorated with Turquoise Unearthed From Erlitou Site, A Possible Relic Site of Part of the Xia Dynasty — Luoyang Museum

Therefore, from the beginning, the Nine Tailed Fox symbolized auspiciousness, prosperity, happiness, and love. 

Changing Reputations of Nine Tailed Fox Throughout History


From the Xia (2070 BC — 1600 BC) to Han (202 BC — 220 AD) dynasties, Nine Tailed Fox had been one of the propitious spirits, together with the Chinese Dragon Loong, Chinese Phoenix Fenghuang, and Qilin

Auspicious and Kind Nine-Tailed Fox

Auspicious and Kind Nine-Tailed Fox, Picture from Lianhua.

Gradually, more records regarding demon foxes obtaining magic power, transforming into human form, and entering people's worlds, appeared and were widespread in novels and folklore.


Since Tang Dynasty (618 — 907), the Nine-Tailed Fox turned downright evil after having been connected to two queens in history that overthrew kingdoms. 

Nine-Tailed Fox with Human Figure

Nine-Tailed Fox with Human Figure, Drawn by Shanze Li Yifan.

They were believed to be incarnations of wiser and more powerful Nine Tailed Foxes, extremely beautiful and seductive.


They had lured and manipulated their kings and, in the end, perished their kingdoms. 


One is Daji, the queen of King Dixin, who buried the Shang Dynasty (1600 BC — 1046 BC), and the other is Baosi, the queen of King Ji Gongheng, who ended the Western Zhou Dynasty (1046 BC — 771 BC). 

Unearthed Ritual Bronze Vessel (Li Gui) with Inscriptions Carved inside Recorded the Battle of Muye that Perished Shang Dynasty, and the Establishment of the Zhou Dynasty
Inscriptions about the Battle of Muye on the Unearthed Bronze Bowl (Li Gui) of the Zhou Dynasty

Ritual Bronze Vessel (Li Gui) with Inscriptions Carved inside Recorded the Battle of Muye that Perished Shang Dynasty — National Museum of China

Hence, Nine-Tailed Fox became a seductive and indecent creature, a family wrecker, and a kingdom destructor, just like Demon Fox or Huyao.


These two queens were actual figures in history; however, no one can be sure to tell whether they were incarnations of evil Nine Tailed Fox spirits and whether they should take responsibility for the fall of these two empires. 

Nine-Tailed Fox Drew by Shanze Li Yifan

Nine-Tailed Fox Drawn by Shanze Li Yifan

Is Huli Jing or Fox Spirit Good or Bad in Folklores?


Among all forms of foxes with supernatural power, Fox Demon or Huyao is evil and destructive, while Fox God or Huxian is benevolent and righteous.


The Huli Jing or Fox Spirit, however, can be both.


No later than the Three Kingdoms, Jin, Northern, and Southern Dynasties (220 — 589), in myths and legends, foxes, after centuries of cultivation, were able to obtain magic power and emotion and gain abilities to transform into human forms.


The longer they practiced, the more power they got, and the more tails they would grow. 


During their tens of thousands of years of practice procedures, some would turn into humans and interact with people. 

Huli Jing Transformed Beautiful Woman

Huli Jing Transformed Beautiful Woman, Drawn by Zhang Wang.

In large numbers of novels and folklores, some Huli Jing had tricked, helped, made friends, or fell in love with people, while others of them had turned into beautiful women (sometimes handsome men), lured people to get humans' essence, even lives, to obtain power for their practice.


In some legends, mighty foxes also may share information with or possess humans in exchange for people's help. 


Therefore, to sum up, Huli Jing can be good, sincere, mischievous, intelligent, greedy, or evil.


Anything is possible to be found in these spirit foxes. 

Image of Nine-Tailed Fox

Image of Red Fox with Nine Tails, Picture from jasmineyu.

What Does the Fox Symbolize in Chinese Culture?


With changing reputations of Nine Tailed Fox and the diverse characteristics of Huli Jing, Fox Spirit, Fox God, and Demon Fox in folklore and legends, the fox has been the symbol of smartness, auspiciousness, beautiful love, as well as crafty, sly, evil, seductive, allure. 


Because of these complex images, today, Nine-Tailed Fox shape decorations have been quite popular, especially among women, which is believed to bring them good luck in their love lives. 

Nine Tailed Fox or Jiuweihu

Nine-Tailed Fox or Jiuweihu, Drawn by Shexi.

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