Drinking Companions: A tale of an unlikely friendship between a poor scholar and a clever fox

Explore the heartwarming story of a poor scholar and a witty fox who form an extraordinary friendship, leading to unexpected wealth and wisdom.

Che Sheng, a man from a not-so-wealthy family, was addicted to alcohol. He couldn’t sleep unless he drank at least three large bowls of it every night, so the wine bottle by his bedside was often not empty. One night, as he woke up from a nap and turned over, he felt like someone was sleeping beside him. He thought it was his clothing slipping down, so he reached out and touched something furry. It felt like a cat, but larger. He lit a lamp and discovered it was a fox, drunk and curled up like a dog. Looking at the wine bottle, he found it empty. Che Sheng chuckled and said, “This is my drinking buddy!”

Che Sheng didn’t want to startle the fox, so he covered it with his clothes to hide its outstretched arm and went back to sleep, keeping the lamp lit to see if anything would change. In the middle of the night, the fox stretched its body and yawned. Che Sheng smiled and said, “You sleep so peacefully!” When he uncovered the clothes to take a look, he found a handsome man wearing a Confucian scholar’s hat. The fox got up, knelt before Che Sheng, and thanked him for not killing him. Che Sheng said, “I have a strong addiction to alcohol, and people think I’m a fool. But you are my confidant. If you don’t doubt me, let’s become drinking buddies.” He then pulled the fox back onto the bed, continuing to sleep, and said, “You should come here often, and we shouldn’t suspect each other.” The fox nodded in agreement.

When Che Sheng woke up again, the fox had already left. So he prepared a cup of fine wine, waiting for the fox to return for a drink.

In the evening, the fox indeed came, and they enjoyed a close drink together. The fox had a strong tolerance for alcohol and was skilled at telling jokes. They regretted not meeting each other earlier. The fox said, “I’ve asked you to bring out fine wine many times. How can I repay you?” Che Sheng replied, “Why mention the pleasure of drinking wine? It’s unnecessary.” The fox said, “Although that’s true, you are a poor scholar, and acquiring money for wine isn’t easy for you. I should help you plan for some drinking money.”

The next evening, the fox came and said, “Seven miles southeast from here, there are lost gold pieces by the roadside. You should go and retrieve them early.” When daybreak arrived, Che Sheng went there and indeed found two gold pieces. He used them to buy fine food at the market, preparing for a night of drinking. The fox also said, “There are things hidden in the backyard cellar. You should go and dig them out.” Following the fox’s advice, he found over a hundred thousand dollars. Che Sheng happily said, “With money in my pocket, I no longer have to worry about not having enough to drink.” The fox cautioned, “You can’t go on like this. How can you keep scooping water from the same well? You need a long-term plan.”

One day, the fox told Che Sheng, “Buckwheat is very cheap in the market, and it’s a rare commodity.” Che Sheng followed the advice and bought over forty bushels of buckwheat, which others laughed at him for. Shortly after, a severe drought hit, and all the previously planted crops withered, except for the buckwheat. Che Sheng sold buckwheat seeds and earned ten times his investment. From then on, Che Sheng became wealthier, buying two hundred acres of fertile land for cultivation. He would consult the fox before planting anything, and based on the fox’s advice, the crops thrived. The timing for planting was also determined by the fox.

As their relationship grew closer, the fox called Che Sheng’s wife “sister-in-law” and treated Che Sheng’s children as if they were his own sons. Later, when Che Sheng passed away, the fox stopped coming.

《酒友》

车生者,家不中赀,而耽饮,夜非浮三白不能寝也,以故床头樽常不空。一夜睡醒,转侧间,似有人共卧者,意是覆裳堕耳。摸之,则茸茸有物,似猫而巨,烛之,狐也,酣醉而犬卧。视其瓶,则空矣。因笑曰:“此我酒友也。”不忍惊,覆衣加臂,与之共寝,留烛以观其变。半夜,狐欠伸,生笑曰:“美哉睡乎!”启覆视之,儒冠之俊人也。起拜榻前,谢不杀之恩。生曰:“我癖于曲糵,而人以为痴。卿,我鲍叔也,如不见疑,当为糟丘之良友。”曳登榻,复寝,且言:“卿可常临,无相猜。”狐诺之。生既醒,则狐已去。乃治旨酒一盛,耑伺狐。

抵夕,果至,促膝欢饮。狐量豪善谐,于是恨相得晚。狐曰:“屡叨良酝,何以报德?”生曰:“斗酒之欢,何置齿颊!”狐曰:“虽然,君贫士,杖头钱大不易。当为君少谋酒赀。”明夕来,告曰:“去此东南七里,道侧有遗金,可早取之。”诘旦而往,果得二金,乃市佳肴,以佐夜饮。狐又告曰:“院后有窖藏,宜发之。”如其言,果得钱百馀千,喜曰:“囊中已自有,莫漫愁沽矣。”狐曰:“不然,辙中水胡可以久掬?合更谋之。”异日,谓生曰:“市上荍价廉,此奇货可居。”从之,收荍四十馀石,人咸非笑之。未几,大旱,禾豆尽枯,惟荍可种,售种,息十倍。由此益富,治沃田二百亩。但问狐,多种麦则麦收,多种黍则黍收,一切种植之早晚,皆取决于狐。日稔密,呼生妻以嫂,视子犹子焉。后生卒,狐遂不复来。

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