Jia’er: A Tale of Fox Spirits and Deception

Explore the intriguing story of Jia'er, a tale filled with fox spirits, deception, and a family's struggle against supernatural forces.

In the land of Chu, there was a merchant who conducted business in a distant place. His wife lived alone at home, and one night she dreamt of an intimate encounter with a stranger. Startled, she reached out to touch the person sleeping beside her, only to find a short man lying there. Upon closer observation, she noticed that this man’s demeanor was unlike that of an ordinary person. She realized that she had encountered a fox spirit. After a moment, the man jumped off the bed and disappeared without opening the door. The next night, the merchant’s wife asked an elderly lady who cooked for her to keep her company while she slept. She also had a ten-year-old son who usually slept in another bed, but now he was called to sleep together with them. In the middle of the night, after the old lady and the child had fallen asleep, the fox spirit slipped in again. The merchant’s wife began to murmur in her sleep. When the old lady heard this, she screamed, and the fox spirit hastily departed. From that day on, the merchant’s wife seemed to be in a daze, as if she had lost her soul. At night, she dared not blow out the candles and warned her son not to fall asleep. One night, when it was already very late, her son and the old lady were leaning against the wall, dozing off. When they woke up and couldn’t find the merchant’s wife, they initially thought she had gone out to relieve herself. However, as time passed and she didn’t return, they became worried. The old lady was too frightened to go look for her, so the merchant’s son took a lamp and began searching the house. He found her in another room, lying there completely naked. When he approached to help her, she showed no shame or modesty. From then on, the merchant’s wife went mad. During the day, she would alternate between singing, shouting, crying, and cursing. At night, she refused to sleep with anyone else, making her son sleep in a separate bed and sending the old lady away. Whenever her son heard her laughing and talking at night, he would light a lamp and watch over her. She would angrily scold her son, but he paid no heed, earning a reputation for his courage. During the day, however, the son would play recklessly, often behaving like a mason by piling bricks and stones against the windows. No one in the family could dissuade him. If anyone removed a stone from the window, he would lie on the ground, rolling around, throwing tantrums, and everyone was afraid to provoke him. After a few days, he had completely blocked both windows, allowing no light to enter. Once he finished the wall, he began plastering the gaps in the brick wall with mud. He worked tirelessly all day and didn’t mind the hardships. After finishing the wall, there was nothing left for him to do, so he continuously sharpened a kitchen knife, making a scraping sound. People who saw him despised his mischief and didn’t treat him as a human being.

One night, the merchant’s son secretly concealed a kitchen knife in his bosom and covered the lamp with a bowl. When his mother began to murmur in her sleep, he immediately uncovered the lamp and shouted loudly while blocking the door. After a while with no unusual events, he left the room, claiming he was going out to urinate. At that moment, something suddenly, resembling a raccoon, darted through the door crack. The son hurriedly swung the kitchen knife, but only managed to cut off a piece of its tail, about two inches long, which was still dripping with blood. Initially, when he lit the lamp, his mother scolded him, but he seemed not to hear. Upon realizing that he hadn’t struck the creature fatally, he went to sleep in frustration. However, he consoled himself, thinking that even though he hadn’t killed the fox spirit immediately, it might be deterred from returning in the future. After daybreak, the son followed the bloodstains on the ground, which led him beyond the low wall and into the garden of the He family. That night, the fox spirit indeed did not return, bringing relief to the son. However, his mother still lay on the bed, staring blankly, as if she were dead.

Not long after, the merchant returned home and inquired about his wife’s condition by her bedside. However, his wife launched into a tirade against him, treating him like an enemy. The son explained in detail to his father the reason behind his mother’s madness. The father was deeply shocked and immediately sought medical treatment, but his wife threw the medicine on the ground and continued to curse. So, the family discreetly mixed the medicine in hot water and gave it to her. After some time, she gradually calmed down. Both father and son were relieved. One night, after the father and son woke up, they found the woman missing again, and they later found her in another room. From then on, she became insane once more and refused to sleep in the same room as her husband. In the evening, she even ran to another room by herself. When the family tried to assist her, she screamed even louder. The husband was at a loss and had no choice but to lock all the doors. However, whenever his wife attempted to run outside, the doors would miraculously open on their own. The husband was deeply troubled and sought help from various sources to exorcise the evil spirit, trying every possible method, but none seemed to work.

One evening, as dusk fell, the merchant’s son stealthily infiltrated the He family’s garden and hid among the foliage, intending to discover the whereabouts of the fox spirit. Shortly after the moon had risen, he suddenly heard voices. He cautiously parted the grass with his hand and saw two individuals here drinking wine. There was also a servant with a long beard, holding a wine jug beside them, dressed in dark brown clothing. Their voices were soft and low, making it difficult for him to hear clearly. After a while of drinking, he heard one of them say, “We can get more white wine tomorrow.” Before long, both of them departed, leaving only the man with the long beard behind, who took off his clothes and lay on a large rock. The merchant’s son examined him closely and saw that the man had limbs like a human but had a tail trailing behind him. He considered returning home but was afraid the fox spirit might notice him. Therefore, he remained hidden in the grass throughout the night. Just before dawn, he heard the two individuals from earlier return, muttering as they entered the bamboo grove. It was only then that he stood up and returned home. When his father asked where he had been, he replied, “I slept at Uncle’s house.”

One day, the merchant’s son happened to accompany his father to the marketplace. He saw a fox tail hanging in a hat shop and begged his father to buy it for him. His father initially ignored him, but the son clung to his father’s clothes, acting spoiled and causing a scene. Unable to bear his son’s disappointment, the father eventually bought it for him. While the father was busy conducting business in the market, the son played and frolicked around him. When his father was distracted, the son secretly took some money and used it to buy white wine, which he stashed in the hallway of a shop. The son had an uncle who lived in the city and made a living as a hunter. After leaving the wine behind, the son went to his uncle’s house. His uncle was not at home, so his aunt asked about his mother’s condition. He replied, “She’s been slightly better these past few days. However, a rat chewed up her clothes, and that made her cry and curse incessantly. So, they asked me to come and get some poison for hunting wild animals.” His aunt searched through a wooden box and handed him a small amount of poison, which he wrapped up and took. He thought the amount was too little but didn’t say anything. When his aunt offered to make pancakes for him, he saw that no one was around, so he secretly opened the poison packet and grabbed a handful, hiding it in his pocket. Then he told his aunt not to bother making a fire and said, “My father is waiting for me at the marketplace, and I don’t have time to eat.” After saying this, he left and quietly placed the poison in the bottle of wine he had purchased. He returned to the marketplace to play and didn’t come home until evening. When his father asked where he had been, he falsely claimed he had been at his uncle’s house. From that day on, he spent each day wandering around the marketplace.

One day, the merchant’s son suddenly noticed that the man with the long beard was also mingling in the crowd. After confirming his identity, he discreetly followed him. He struck up a conversation with the man and asked where he lived. The man replied, “I live in the northern village.” He also inquired about the son’s residence, and the son falsely claimed, “I live in a cave.” The man was puzzled and asked why he lived in a cave. The merchant’s son chuckled and said, “My ancestors have lived in caves for generations. Weren’t you the same way?” The man was even more surprised and asked about the son’s surname. The son said, “I am from the Hu family. Have you forgotten that we once saw you with two young men somewhere? Do you not remember?” The man stared at him for a while, still somewhat skeptical. The merchant’s son gently lifted a corner of his clothes to reveal a bit of his fake fox tail and said, “We live among the people, but this thing can’t be removed. It’s truly hateful.” The man asked, “What are you doing at the marketplace?” The merchant’s son replied, “My father sent me to buy wine.” The man said that he was also there to buy wine. The son asked, “Did you manage to steal any?” The man replied, “Most of us, like me, are very poor, so we often resort to theft.” The merchant’s son said, “This job is truly miserable, full of fear and danger.” The man said, “When you’re sent by your master, you have no choice but to do it.” Taking the opportunity, the merchant’s son asked, “Who is your master?” The man answered, “It’s the same two brothers you saw before. One of them had an affair with the wife of the king of the northern city, and the other one lives in the house of a merchant in the eastern village. The son of that merchant is really formidable. My master had his tail cut off by him, and it took ten days to heal. Now, he’s gone again.” After saying this, the man was about to bid farewell, saying, “I can’t delay my business.” The merchant’s son said, “Stealing wine is difficult; buying it is easier. I have some wine stored under the shop’s corridor; I’m willing to give it to you as a gift. I also have extra money in my pocket, so I won’t have trouble buying more.” The man felt embarrassed and said he couldn’t repay the favor. The merchant’s son replied, “We’re of the same kind; why bother about such things? When we have time, we can drink together!” So, they went together to the market’s corridor, where the son took out the bottle of poisoned wine and handed it to the man before returning home.

That very night, to everyone’s surprise, the mother slept peacefully and did not try to run away. The son knew that something unusual must have happened to the fox spirits. He then detailed the situation to his father. The father and son went to the garden together to investigate. They found two foxes dead on the pavilion in the garden, and another fox dead in the grass, with blood still oozing from its mouth. The wine bottle was also there, and when they shook it, they found that the wine had not been completely consumed. Delighted, the father asked his son, “Why didn’t you tell me earlier?” The son replied, “These creatures are very sensitive; if I had mentioned it even slightly, they would have known immediately.” The father praised his son happily, saying, “My son, just like Chen Ping of the Han Dynasty, you are truly resourceful in defeating the foxes!” So, the father and son carried the dead foxes back home. One of the fox’s tails was cut off halfway, and it had clear knife marks on it! From then on, the merchant’s household found peace. However, his wife’s health deteriorated rapidly, and she became extremely weak. Though she gradually realized the truth, her coughing worsened, and she would produce several liters of phlegm at once. Before long, she passed away.

The wife of the king of the northern city had always been plagued by fox spirits. However, when someone inquired at her house, the foxes had disappeared, and her illness had been cured. Because of this, the merchant believed that his son was a prodigy and allowed him to learn the skills of horseback riding and archery. As the merchant’s son grew up, he eventually rose to the position of a general.










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