Fenzhou Fox: A Tale of Love and Supernatural Encounters in Ancient China

Explore the enchanting tale of Zhu Gong and a mysterious fox spirit, a classic story of love, fate, and supernatural encounters in ancient China.

Fenzhou magistrate Zhu Gong had many foxes in his official residence. One night, Zhu Gong was sitting inside with the lamp lit, and a woman kept coming and going in the light. At first, he thought it was one of the women from his household and didn’t pay much attention. However, when he raised his eyes to look, he realized he didn’t recognize her, and this woman was exceptionally beautiful. Zhu Gong understood in his heart that she was a fox, but because he liked her, he called out to her loudly. The woman stopped in her tracks, smiled, and said, “Why are you shouting so loudly? Am I your servant or old mother?” Zhu Gong smiled, stood up, pulled her over, and made her sit down, apologizing. They started chatting intimately, and as time passed, they became as close as a married couple.

One day, the woman suddenly said to Zhu Gong, “You are about to be promoted, and the day of parting is approaching.” Zhu Gong asked, “When will it happen?” The woman replied, “It’s right in front of you. However, the congratulations are arriving at the door, and the mourners are also approaching the alley in your hometown. You won’t be able to hold onto this official position.”

Three days later, the joyful news of Zhu Gong’s promotion indeed arrived. However, the very next day, he received the sad news of his mother’s passing. Zhu Gong resigned from his official position, intending to return to his hometown with the woman. The woman disagreed and accompanied Zhu Gong to the riverside. Zhu Gong forcefully pulled the woman onto the boat, but she said, “Don’t you know? Foxes cannot cross the river.” Unable to bear parting from her, Zhu Gong lingered by the river. Suddenly, the woman left, saying she wanted to visit an old friend. Some time passed, and the woman returned. Shortly after, a guest came to visit, and the woman entertained the guest in another room. After the guest departed, the woman returned and said, “Please board the boat; I will escort you across the river.” Zhu Gong asked, “Didn’t you say earlier that you couldn’t cross the river? How can you do it now?” The woman replied, “The one I met earlier was no one else but the River God. I specially asked for his permission for you. He granted me ten days for the round trip, so I can temporarily go with you.” And so, the two of them crossed the river together. On the tenth day, as promised, the woman indeed parted ways and left.

《汾州狐》

汾州判朱公者,居廨多狐。公夜坐,有女子往来灯下。初谓是家人妇,未遑顾瞻,及举目,竟不相识,而容光艳绝。心知其狐,而爱好之,遽呼之来。女停履笑曰:“厉声加人,谁是汝婢媪耶?”朱笑而起,曳坐谢过,遂与款密,久如夫妻之好。忽谓曰:“君秩当迁,别有日矣。”问:“何时?”答曰:“目前。但贺者在门,吊者即在闾,不能官也。”

三日,迁报果至。次日即得太夫人讣音。公解任,欲与偕旋。狐不可,送之河上。强之登舟,女曰:“君自不知,狐不能过河也。”朱不忍别,恋恋河畔。女忽出,言将一谒故旧。移时归,即有客来答拜,女别室与语。客去乃来,曰:“请便登舟,妾送君渡。”朱曰:“向言不能渡,今何以渡?”曰:“曩所谒非他,河神也。妾以君故,特请之。彼限我十天往复,故可暂依耳。”遂同济。至十日,果别而去。

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