Huli Jing & Their 16 Jaw Dropping Facts (Chinese Fox Spirits)

Chinese mythology features a fox spirit known as a huli jing (Chinese: ; pinyin: hli jng). Like fairies in Europe, huli jing are spirits that can either be good or bad. The term “huli jing” is slang for a woman who seduces married or romantically involved men in modern Mandarin and Cantonese.

1Hui Jing Are Also Known As Nine-Tailed Fox

In Chinese mythology, there are mythological creatures called Huli jing or “fox spirits” that have the ability to transform themselves and can either be kind or malicious spirits. The fox spirit can take on various forms with unique meanings, abilities, characteristics, and appearances, such as huxian, hushen, husheng, huwang, huyao, and jiuweihu, also known as the “nine-tailed fox.” These creatures are commonly found in Chinese folklore, literature, and mythology, and their presence may represent either good or bad fortune, depending on the story. The concept of the nine-tailed fox also spread to Japanese and Korean cultures.

2They Often Use Their Shapeshifting Powers In Order To Become A Seductive Woman

The behavior of a fox can be either positive or negative, depending on its unique character, and as a result, their motives are often questioned when interacting with humans. Huli jing, a type of fox spirit, have been known to use their seductive abilities to steal the life force of humans, place curses on those they wish to harm, bestow riches upon those who worship them, or offer wise counsel.

3In Chinese Myths, Daji Was One Of The Most Infamous Fox Spirits Ming Dynasty

In tales and legends, fox spirits are often depicted as young and beautiful women, and are typically female. One of the most notorious fox spirits in Chinese mythology is Daji, who is featured in the Ming Dynasty novel Fengshen Yanyi. 

Originally the daughter of a general, she was forced into marriage with the King Zhou of Shang – a cruel tyrant. A Huli Jing nine-tailed fox spirit, who served the goddess Nüwa, took possession of her body after King Zhou offended the deity, expelling Daji’s true soul. As Daji, the fox spirit and her new husband devised cruel schemes and invented various forms of torture, such as forcing upright officials to embrace red-hot metal pillars. Due to their cruelties, numerous people, including King Zhou’s former generals, rebelled and confronted the Shang dynasty. Eventually, King Wen of Zhou, one of the Shang’s vassals, established a new dynasty named after his country. The Huli Jing or fox spirit inside Daji was later expelled by Jiang Ziya, Zhou dynasty’s first Prime Minister, and her spirit was condemned by Nüwa for excessive inhumanity.

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4Chinese Culture From Tang Dynasty Worships Fox Like Entities/Spirits Or Fox Gods

The text “Hu Shen (Fox gods)” talks about the widespread fox worship that was popular during the Tang dynasty. It mentions that ordinary people would offer gifts and pay homage to fox spirits in their bedrooms, hoping for their blessing. These foxes were believed to partake in human food and drinks, and they were not loyal to any particular person. A saying that became popular during that time was “No fox spirit, no village” which illustrates the importance of foxes in their culture.

5Huli Jing Are Mostly Associated With Yin Element & Feeds On Yang

The term “huli jing” in Chinese consists of “húli,” which means “fox,” and “jīng,” which translates to “essence.” According to belief, the huli jing is a creature associated with yin, the feminine principle, and feeds on yang, the masculine energy. The term “huli jing” has also been used as a metaphor for the potentially harmful influence of individuals with seductive beauty, often with the negative connotation of promiscuity.

6There Are Other Chineses Foxes, Fox Demon Or Fox God Other Than Huli Jing

The word “hujing” is an older term used to describe fox spirits, while “laohu” refers to foxes that have lived for a long time. Foxes described as “Huxian” are believed to be transcendent or immortal. Additionally, a “jiuwei hu” is a nine-tailed fox, considered the most magical and oldest of all foxes.

7Huli Jing Become More Powerful As They Age Up To Thousands Years And So On

As a huli jing gets older, their magical abilities grow stronger. A fox spirit that has lived for an extended period can transform from an animal into a human, and eventually, into a transcendent being. With age, a fox becomes highly skilled in deception and seduction, capable of taking on many different forms and shapeshifting.

According to Kuo Po’s writing from AD 324, when a fox is fifty years old, it can transform into a woman. At a hundred years old, it can take on the appearance of a beautiful girl, a wizard, or a man who seduces women. A fox of this age is also said to possess the ability to sense events that are happening a thousand li away, and can use its powers to bewitch and mislead people, causing them to lose their senses. By the time a fox reaches a thousand years old, it is believed to be capable of communicating with heaven and can become a celestial fox.

In contrast to a kitsune or kumiho, which usually take the shape of a beautiful woman, a huli jing can transform into either a young or old woman or man. Although the huli jing often appears as a seductive young woman, it can also take on the guise of a charming young man or wise elder. If a huli jing is in human form, it is generally assumed to have ulterior motives.

8Huli Jing In Human Form Are Always Vulnerable In Front Of Dog & They May Get Back To Their Fox Form Immediately

Even in human form, the fox-like traits of the huli jing may manifest, such as the appearance of a tail or ears.

In the event that a huli jing is discovered in its human form, humans may kill it as punishment for its deceptive behavior without fear of retribution. Similarly, all types of spirit foxes, including huli jing, kitsune, and kumiho, are known to be afraid of dogs. If a fox in human form is confronted by a dog, it may become so agitated that it reverts to its true fox form and runs away. Some accounts suggest that huli jing can only take on human form during daylight hours.

9Chinese Fox Spirits Are Also Omen Of Was, Death & Calamity

Huli jing are shape-shifting creatures that gain the ability to transform into human form as they age. Some sources suggest that this transformation involves a ritual where the fox puts a human skull on its head. These supernatural beings possess a range of powers, such as creating illusions or glamours, speaking human language, disappearing and reappearing, turning into mist, communicating with heaven, and being immortal. The appearance of foxes can also serve as an omen of death, predicting war and calamity.

In China, the morality of foxes is ambiguous, and whether huli jing are good or evil depends on their nature and interactions with humans. These spirit foxes appear in various forms, such as in dreams, haunting people or places, causing illness or death, bestowing wealth or prosperity, offering healing or fertility services, or providing moral guidance.

10Mostly They Lure Men In With Their Beautiful Female Form

One of the most prevalent deceitful tactics employed by huli jing involves assuming human form to engage in seduction. Sexual activity is among the methods that foxes use to extract the essence or vitality of humans. In addition, huli jing can steal a person’s life force by taking their breath while they sleep, even when they remain in their fox form. Furthermore, foxes enjoy duping humans and playing the part of a trickster.

Foxes with good intentions have been known to assist humans in various ways, including being loyal to their partners, helping them locate lost items, and offering gifts such as immortality, wealth and prosperity. Some fox spirits or huli jing aim to enhance themselves by secluding themselves and meditating to attain divinity.

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11Their Powers Are Geared By Meditation & Spiritual Growth

However, not all huli jing possess equal abilities. The most exceptional foxes practice self-cultivation by absorbing natural essence to refine their spirit. They engage in meditation and purification practices to attain immortality and divinity. On the other hand, foxes who lack this skill focus on enhancing their physical appearance to enchant, deceive, and control people. By absorbing the life essence of humans, they enhance their own spirit. The nature of huli jing is ambiguous, as they are both tricksters seeking spiritual growth.

12Despite Of Their Mischievous Nature, They Are Spiritual, Intelligent & Devoted

Upon practicing spiritual cultivation for fifty or a hundred years, a fox gains the capability to shape-shift into a human and increase its power and magical capabilities. This process of transformation is a vital aspect of the huli jing’s quest to reach a superior state of being. While it is important to be cautious of foxes that require human essence for immortality, they should still be treated with respect. Even though huli jing can be mischievous tricksters, they are also intelligent, devoted, and spiritual creatures.

13Interesting Difference Between Huli Jing vs. Kitsune

According to Japanese mythology, Kitsune are essentially foxes that age and gain additional tails as they grow, eventually becoming more magical. On the other hand, Huli Jing also obtain new abilities as they age, but they are magical spirits inherently, regardless of their age.

The majority of illustrations of Huli Jing display them with longer tails, fox ears, and a denser and coarser fur, with fox paws instead of hands and human feet. Kitsune, on the other hand, have a more wild appearance, with human hands that have long and sharp claws, feet that are a mix of fox and human traits, and a softer fur coat.

Although both Kitsune and Huli Jing can be morally equivocal, myths depict them as both good and evil. Although, It’s only the Huli Jing that have the ability to achieve a celestial state. Kitsune, on the other hand, can increase in power, but they always remain as spirits in the service of the Shinto goddess Inari.

14Interesting Difference Between Huli Jing vs. Kumiho

The Kumiho and Huli Jing are two types of nine-tailed foxes from Korea and China respectively, and the main difference between them is that Kumiho are generally depicted as evil and malevolent, while Huli Jing are not. Although there are a few mentions of good Kumiho, most stories portray them as seductive and dangerous creatures.

In addition to consuming people’s life force, Kumiho also have a strong appetite for human flesh, particularly organs like hearts and livers. It is said that they even go as far as to scavenge graveyards to feed on corpses. Another key difference is that Kumiho cannot ascend to the heavens, but if they refrain from consuming human flesh for a thousand years, they may transform into a human. However, this is a rare achievement and not commonly attained.

Physically, Kumiho have longer tails than Huli Jing and possess both human and fox ears, fox paws instead of feet, and human hands. They also have limited magical powers and are mainly known for their ability to transform into young women, with only one recorded instance of a Kumiho transforming into a man and few stories of them changing into older women.

15Huli Jing Symbolize Fear Of Beautiful & Young Women

The Huli Jing has been associated with various meanings throughout history, which have changed as people’s attitudes towards these creatures have evolved over time. Initially, like the Kitsune and the Kumiho, the Huli Jing represented the fear that people had towards young, beautiful women, as they were considered a threat to married men and young adults. In addition, the Chinese feared the wilderness and viewed foxes as pests that caused problems for farmers and livestock breeders.

Despite these negative connotations, the Huli Jing was also regarded as a divine spirit, reflecting people’s reverence for the natural world and their belief that the celestial realm is present in nature. It was believed that a Huli Jing could ascend to the heavens more quickly if she refrained from consuming people’s life essence and focused instead on cultivating her own spirit and the essence of nature.

16From Netflix’s Love, Death +Robots To Movie Soul Snatcher, Huli Jing Have Taken Place In Pop Culture & Fictional Stories

Huli Jing or creatures inspired by them can be observed in various forms of media, including movies like the 2008 fantasy film Painted Skin, the 2019 American animated series Love, Death & Robots, the 2017 drama Once Upon a Time, and the 2020 fantasy movie Soul Snatcher. Additionally, the 2021 Marvel blockbuster Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings features Huli Jing characters.