Huli jing (Chinese: 狐狸精; pinyin: húlijīng; lit. 'fox spirit') are Chinese mythological creatures usually capable of shapeshifting, who may either be benevolent or malevolent spirits, among which the nine-tailed fox, jiuweihu (Chinese: 九尾狐; pinyin: jiǔwěihú; lit. 'nine-tailed fox'), is the most famous.
Nine-tailed foxes appear in Chinese folklore, literature, and mythology, in which, depending on the tale, they can be a good or a bad omen.
During the Han dynasty, the development of ideas about interspecies transformation had taken place in Chinese culture. The idea that non-human creatures with advancing age could assume human form is presented in works such as the Lunheng by Wang Chong. As these traditions developed, the fox's capacity for transformation was shaped.
Painting of a fox spirit from Yanju's tomb, Gansu Province. Older depictions of fox spirits depict the eight other tails as branching out from the main tail rather than being separate tails of their own.
The nine-tailed fox occurs in the Shanhaijing (Classic of Mountains and Seas), compiled from the Warring States period to the Western Han period (circa 4th to circa 1st century BC). The work states:
The Land of Green-Hills lies north of Tianwu. The foxes there have four legs and nine tails. According to another version, it is located north of Sunrise Valley.
In chapter 14 of the Shanhaijing, Guo Pu had commented that the nine-tailed fox was an auspicious omen that appeared during times of peace.
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