Jiaona: Become soul mates with a fox

Explore the story of Kong Xueli and his intimate friend Jiaona, where their deep spiritual connection transcends physical intimacy.

Scholar Kong Xueli, a descendant of Confucius, was a gentle and reserved individual, skilled in poetry. He had a like-minded friend who served as a county magistrate in Tiantai County and wrote a letter inviting him to come. When Kong Xueli arrived there, the county magistrate had just passed away. Consequently, Kong Xueli found himself stranded in the area, unable to return home. He took up residence in the Bodhi Temple and was hired by the monks there to transcribe scriptures.

Heading westward from Bodhi Temple for more than a hundred steps, there is a residence belonging to Mr. Shan. Mr. Shan was originally a wealthy young man from a distinguished family, but his fortunes declined due to a major lawsuit. With a decrease in family members, he moved to the countryside, leaving his mansion vacant. One day, as heavy snow fell silently and the road was devoid of pedestrians, Kong Xueli happened to pass by Mr. Shan’s mansion and saw a handsome young man coming out. The young man, upon seeing Kong Xueli, approached and greeted him. After a few exchanges, he invited Kong Xueli inside as a guest. Kong Xueli had a favorable impression of the young man and readily entered through the gate. Inside, the rooms, while not overly spacious, were adorned with silk curtains and hung with numerous calligraphy and paintings of ancient scholars. On the study desk, there was a book with the title “Langhai’s Miscellaneous Records.” Kong Xueli flipped through the book, finding its contents entirely unfamiliar to him. Believing the young man to be the owner of Mr. Shan’s residence, Kong Xueli refrained from inquiring about his background. After the young man inquired about Kong Xueli’s experiences in detail and expressed sympathy, he suggested that Kong Xueli open a school to teach students. Kong Xueli sighed and said, “I am a stranger in this land. Who would be willing to recommend me?” The young man replied, “If you don’t mind my foolishness, I would be honored to be your student.” Kong Xueli was delighted and, not daring to consider himself a teacher, preferred to treat each other as friends. Kong Xueli then asked, “Why has your family’s mansion been locked up for so long?” The young man replied, “This is the residence of the Shan family. Mr. Shan moved to the countryside, leaving it vacant for an extended period. My surname is Huangfu, and my family has lived in Shaanxi for generations. Due to our house being destroyed by a wildfire, we temporarily reside here.” Kong Xueli now understood that the young man was not the owner of the Shan family mansion. That night, the two of them had a cheerful conversation, and the young man insisted that Kong Xueli stay with him.

The next morning, just as the day was breaking, servants came in and lit a charcoal fire in the room. The young man had already risen and gone into the inner chamber, while Kong Xueli was still sitting on the bed, wrapped in blankets. At this moment, a servant entered and said, “Sir, your father has arrived.” Kong Xueli hurriedly got out of bed and saw an elderly man with snowy white hair entering the room. He sincerely thanked Kong Xueli, saying, “I am grateful that you are willing to teach my unruly son and guide him in his studies. He has just started learning poetry and prose. Please do not treat him as an equal just because you are friends.” After speaking, he presented Kong Xueli with a set of silk clothing, a sable hat, a pair of socks, and shoes. Once Kong Xueli had washed his face and combed his hair, the old man ordered food and wine to be brought in. Kong Xueli noticed that the furniture, beddings, undergarments, and outerwear in this place were all splendid but unfamiliar to him. After a few rounds of wine, the old man stood up to bid farewell, leaning on his cane as he left. After the meal, the young man took out the homework related to their courses and showed it to Kong Xueli. Kong Xueli noticed that all of it was classical Chinese poetry and prose, with no essays for the imperial examination system. He asked why that was the case. The young man smiled and said, “I have no desire to participate in the imperial examinations and gain official titles.” In the evening, the young man had more wine brought in and said, “Let’s enjoy ourselves one more time tonight, but tomorrow it won’t be allowed.” He then called for the servants and said, “Go and check if my father is asleep. If he is, quietly summon Xiangnu to come here.” The servants left and returned with a pipa wrapped in a brocade bag. After a while, a maid entered the room, elegantly dressed and exceptionally beautiful. The young man asked her to play the tune “Lament of the Xiang Fei” on the pipa. The maid plucked the strings with an ivory pick, producing a melody that alternated between passionate and haunting, unlike anything Kong Xueli had heard before. The young man had more large wine cups brought in, and they continued to revel until the early hours of the morning before dispersing.

The next day, the two of them got up early to study. The young man was extremely intelligent, with an exceptional memory for his studies. He could recite and compose poems immediately. After just two or three months, the poems and essays he wrote were already brilliant and thought-provoking. They agreed to meet every five days to share a drink, and each time, Xiangnu would be summoned. One evening, Kong Xueli, under the influence of alcohol, became infatuated and couldn’t take his eyes off Xiangnu. The young man understood his intentions and said, “This maid was adopted by my father. My elder brother lives alone without a family, and I’ve been planning this for you day and night for a long time. I’ll find you a suitable wife very soon.” Kong Xueli replied, “If you intend to find a companion for me with good intentions, she must be like Xiangnu.” The young man laughed and said, “You truly are a rare and peculiar person! If you believe that is enough, your desires are far too easily satisfied.”

Six months later, Kong Xueli decided to go to the outskirts of the city for a leisurely stroll. When he reached the main gate, he found that both doors were locked from the outside. Upon asking the young man, he was told, “My father is afraid that too much socializing and leisure activities will disrupt my character, so he uses this method to decline visitors.” Kong Xueli, upon hearing this, felt at ease. It was the height of summer, and Kong Xueli and the young man moved their study to a pavilion in the garden. One day, a swelling the size of a peach suddenly appeared on Kong Xueli’s chest. Overnight, it had grown to the size of a bowl, causing him great pain and constant moaning. The young man visited him from morning till night, worrying so much that he couldn’t eat or sleep. After a few more days, Kong Xueli’s chest sore worsened to the point where he couldn’t eat or drink. The old man also came to visit, but they could only sigh in helplessness. The young man said, “Two nights ago, I thought of Jiaona Meimei as someone who could treat Mr. Kong’s illness. I sent someone to fetch her from her maternal grandfather’s house. Why hasn’t she arrived yet?” Not long after, a servant came in and reported, “Miss Jiaona has arrived, and Aunt Song is here as well.” The young man and his father immediately went to the inner chamber. After a while, the young man brought his sister to visit Kong Xueli. Jiaona appeared to be about thirteen or fourteen years old, with a charming gaze that revealed her intelligence. Her slender figure was graceful and elegant, like a willow. When Kong Xueli saw such a remarkably beautiful woman, he instantly forgot his pain and moaning, feeling refreshed. The young man said to Jiaona, “This is my closest friend, whose friendship surpasses that of a brother. Please, sister, treat him well.” Jiaona, thus encouraged, suppressed her shyness, waved her long sleeves, and approached the bedside to examine him. As she took Kong Xueli’s pulse, he sensed waves of fragrance emanating from her, more fragrant than orchids. After diagnosing his pulse, Jiaona smiled and said, “You were meant to have this illness; your heart rate has quickened. Although the illness is severe, it can still be treated. However, the pus has already solidified, so it will require cutting to remove.” She then removed a golden bracelet from her arm and placed it on the affected area. Slowly, she pressed downward. The swollen wound gradually bulged to over an inch in height, surpassing the circumference of the bracelet, and the remaining pus lump was suctioned within the bracelet’s ring, reducing its size. Jiaona then raised her robe and took out a thin dagger, thinner than a sheet of paper. Holding the bracelet with one hand, she held the dagger with the other and began to cut along the base of the wound. A purplish blood flowed continuously, staining the bedding. During this time, Kong Xueli, captivated by Jiaona’s alluring figure, not only felt no pain but also feared that she would finish too quickly, unable to enjoy her proximity for longer. After a short while, the decayed flesh was all removed, leaving behind a lump that resembled a tumor on a diseased tree. Jiaona then asked for water to clean the incision. She spat out a red pill the size of a marble, placed it on the flesh, and pressed it, making it spin. After just one rotation, Kong Xueli felt a surge of heat in his chest. Another rotation, and the wound began to itch. By the third rotation, he felt an overall cooling sensation that penetrated to his bone marrow. Jiaona put away the red pill and returned it to her mouth, saying, “It’s done!” She quickly walked out of the room. Kong Xueli jumped up and hurriedly went to thank her. His severe illness of many days seemed to have vanished in an instant. However, Kong Xueli found it hard to contain his feelings whenever he thought of Jiaona’s beautiful face.

From then on, Kong Xueli abandoned his books and spent his days sitting idle, with no place to channel his thoughts. The young man had already discerned his intentions and said, “I’ve been searching for you for a long time and have finally found a suitable partner.” Kong Xueli asked, “Who is it?” The young man replied, “She’s also a relative of mine.” After deep contemplation, Kong Xueli said, “It’s not necessary.” He then turned to the wall and recited two lines of poetry, “Once the vast sea turns to mere water, only Wu Mountain remains in the clouds.” The young man understood his meaning and said, “My father admires your erudition and talent and has often thought about forming a marital alliance with you. However, I only have a younger sister, and she’s still too young. My aunt has a daughter named A Song, who is eighteen and not unattractive. If you don’t believe me, A Song comes to the garden pavilion every day. You can discreetly observe her from the front room, and you’ll see for yourself.” Following the young man’s instructions, Kong Xueli indeed saw Jiaona accompanied by a beautiful woman. He observed her finely arched eyebrows, dainty and slender feet adorned with embroidered phoenix shoes, and a countenance that rivaled Jiaona’s. Delighted, he asked the young man to act as a matchmaker. The next day, the young man emerged from the inner chamber and congratulated Kong Xueli, saying, “It’s a done deal.” They prepared another courtyard for Kong Xueli’s wedding. On that evening, with drums and music resounding, the dust on the beams was shaken loose and scattered everywhere. Kong Xueli, on the verge of sharing a bed with the celestial maiden he had longed for, even began to doubt whether the palace in the moon’s Guanghan Realm was truly in the heavens. After their marriage, Kong Xueli was extremely content in his heart.

One day, the young man suddenly said to Kong Xueli, “The knowledge and insights we’ve gained from studying together have been imprinted in my mind every day. However, the legal dispute in Mr. Dan’s family has been resolved, and he is returning, urging me to return to our estate promptly. We are preparing to leave this place and go back to the west. I realize that from now on, it will be difficult for us to meet again, and my heart is filled with parting sorrow.” Kong Xueli expressed his willingness to go with them, but the young man advised him to return to his own hometown. Kong Xueli felt that returning home would be quite challenging. The young man said, “Don’t worry; we can send you back immediately.” Before long, the old man arrived with A Song and even gave Kong Xueli one hundred taels of gold. The young man held Kong Xueli and his wife separately, instructing them to close their eyes. Kong Xueli suddenly felt himself rising into the air, with the sound of rushing wind in his ears. After a while, he heard the young man say, “We’ve arrived.” When Kong Xueli opened his eyes, he indeed saw his hometown. Only then did he realize that the young man was not an ordinary person. Kong Xueli joyfully knocked on the door of his home, and his mother was overjoyed. When she saw his beautiful wife, everyone was filled with happiness and relief. But when they turned around, the young man had already disappeared. A Song served her mother-in-law with great filial piety, and her beauty and virtues became well-known among the local villagers and neighbors.

Later, Kong Xueli passed the imperial examination and was appointed as the administrative officer of Yan’an Prefecture. He moved there with his whole family, except for his mother, who didn’t make the journey due to the long distance. A Song gave birth to a son named Xiao Huan. However, Kong Xueli soon offended a high-ranking inspector and was dismissed from his position. He had to stay there pending further action and couldn’t return to his hometown immediately. One day, while hunting in the outskirts, he unexpectedly encountered a handsome young man riding a small black horse who kept gazing at him. Upon closer inspection, Kong Xueli realized it was the son of the Huangfu family. They stopped their horses, gathered together, and were filled with mixed emotions. The young man invited Kong Xueli to visit their place, and upon arrival at their village, they found lush, dense trees casting deep shadows that shielded the sun. At the young man’s home, they saw large golden studs on the door, resembling the grandeur of a prestigious family. Kong Xueli inquired about the young man’s sister, learning that she had already been married, and also found out that his mother-in-law had passed away. This news deeply saddened him, and he was overwhelmed with emotion. After staying for one night, Kong Xueli departed but later returned with his wife and child. Jiaona also visited and playfully lifted and lowered Kong Xueli’s child, teasing, “Sister, you’ve disrupted our lineage!” Kong Xueli once again thanked Jiaona for her past medical treatment, to which she replied with a smile, “Brother-in-law, you’ve become prosperous. You’ve healed the scars but haven’t forgotten the pain, have you?” Jiaona’s husband, Wu Lang, also came to pay his respects. Kong Xueli’s family stayed for two nights before departing.

One day, the young man, with a worried expression, said to Kong Xueli, “Heaven is about to bring a great calamity upon us. Can you help us?” Although Kong Xueli didn’t know what was happening, he immediately agreed. The young man quickly went out and summoned his entire family to the hall, where they all expressed their gratitude to Kong Xueli. Kong Xueli was greatly surprised and urgently asked what was going on. It was then that the young man revealed, “I am not a human but a fox. We are now facing the disaster of a thunderstrike. If you are willing to stand up and help us, there is still hope for my family to survive. Otherwise, I would ask you to take the child and leave quickly to avoid being implicated.” Kong Xueli swore that he was willing to live and die together with them. So, the young man asked him to hold a precious sword and stand in front of the main gate, instructing him, “Even if you are struck by thunder, do not move!” Kong Xueli followed the young man’s instructions. Indeed, the sky became densely overcast, and daytime turned into pitch-black night, as if a massive black stone had descended. When he looked back at their original dwelling, he saw no grand estate but a towering grave, below which was a deep, bottomless pit. Just as he was bewildered, a thunderous roar suddenly echoed from the sky, shaking the earth; then came a storm of wind and rain that uprooted ancient trees. Although Kong Xueli felt dazed and deafened, he stood there unmoved. In the midst of the rolling black smoke, a malevolent ghost suddenly appeared, with a pointed mouth and long claws, grabbing someone from the pit and rising through the black smoke. Kong Xueli glimpsed the person’s attire and felt it resembled Jiaona. He immediately leaped into the air, striking the malevolent ghost with all his might, causing the person to fall from the sky. Suddenly, there was a deafening thunderclap, like a mountain collapsing and the earth splitting apart. Kong Xueli fell to the ground and died.

After a while, the clouds cleared, and Jiaona regained consciousness on her own. She saw Kong Xueli lying dead beside her and burst into tears, saying, “Kong Lang sacrificed himself to save me, why am I still alive?” At that moment, Songniang also came out, and together, they carried Kong Xueli back home. Jiaona had Songniang hold Kong Xueli’s head and had the young man use a golden hairpin to open his teeth, then used her fingers to hold his cheeks, opening his mouth and placing the red pill on his tongue. She then pressed her mouth against his and blew air into his mouth. The red pill followed the air into Kong Xueli’s throat, making a “gege” sound. After a while, Kong Xueli suddenly opened his eyes and regained consciousness. Seeing his loved ones gathered around him, he felt as if he had just awakened from a deep dream. The family was reunited, and their fear turned into joy.

Kong Xueli believed that staying near the grave was not appropriate, so he discussed with his family the idea of returning to his hometown. The whole family agreed, except for Jiaona, who was feeling downcast. Kong Xueli asked her to go with Wu Lang, but she was concerned about leaving her in-laws, who would miss their young son. They couldn’t come to a decision. Just then, a servant from the Wu family arrived, panting and sweating. Everyone was surprised and questioned him, only to learn that the Wu family had also suffered a calamity on the same day, and all the family members had died. When Jiaona heard this news, she was overwhelmed with grief, pounding her chest and crying uncontrollably. After much consolation from the family, they finally decided to return to Kong Xueli’s hometown together. After Kong Xueli finished his business in the city, the family set off that very night. Upon their return to their hometown, Kong Xueli allowed the family of the gentleman (the fox) to stay in his unused garden. The garden gate was always locked, and it was only opened when Kong Xueli and Songniang came. Kong Xueli and the gentleman’s siblings often played chess, drank together, chatted, and feasted like a family. As Little Huan grew up, he had a handsome face and the clever nature of a fox. When he went to the market, people knew he was the child born of a fox.

The chronicler of strange tales said: Regarding Kong Xueli, I don’t envy him for having a beautiful wife, but I envy him for having an intimate girlfriend. Seeing her beauty can make one forget hunger and thirst, and hearing her voice can bring smiles to people’s faces. Having such a good friend, sharing drinks and casual conversations together, that kind of spiritual connection is even more enjoyable than the physical intimacy between lovers.














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