The nine-tailed fox Daji

My mom shared this fox story, easily the most famous fox legend in China. There were books and shows based on this legend. There was a TV show based on this played by her favorite actor when I was young, and that’s how she collected the details of this fox story. We interviewed in Chinese so the following is only rough translation of what she shared.


Daji of Su was taken by King Zhou when he invaded Su’s land and was brought back to the Capital. On the way back, she was possessed by the nine-tail fox [none-tail fox is believed to be the most powerful fox spirit in China or even East Asian culture].  Daji (now the fox) seduced King Zhou and had him became extremely obsessed with her. Zhou started to stick with Daji instead of dealing affairs of his own country. To please her, Zhou built a zoo of rare animals, constructed “pool of wine” and “forest of meat”, as well as all the other extravagant constructions by exploiting his people.

Daji also enjoyed to come up with various ideas of torture, and Zhou was more than happy to fulfill her desire. She invented the torture of Paolao – tying people to a heated metal cylinder and burn them to death, and the torture of Chaipen – throwing people in a pit full on poisonous snakes. Moreover, Daji once asked Zhou to cut off a farmer’s feet and open up a pregnant woman’s belly only to satisfy her curiosity. She even had Zhou to take out his uncle Bigan’s heart because Bigan disapproved Daji’s influence over Zhou. Finally, the revolution began. King Zhou and Shang Dynasty were overthrown, and Daji was executed with gods’ help [which is a whole other story].


The most interesting part of this fox story is that, everything in the story is actually true. In Chinese history there really is a king named Zhou and this king did have a wife Daji. He was so lost in her beauty that he listened to everything she said and do everything she wanted to please her. He stopped dealing state affairs and became extremely brutal. This eventually led to revolution and a new Dynasty.


For another version of this legend, see:

Chew, Katherine Liang. Tales of the teahouse retold: investiture of the gods. New York: Writers Club Press, 2002. Print.