Qingfeng: Love story with fox spirit

Explore the enchanting tale of Qingfeng, a story of transformations, family bonds, and enduring love in Chinese folklore.

In Taiyuan, there was a family surnamed Geng. They were originally a prominent aristocratic family with a grand and spacious mansion. However, over time, the family’s fortunes gradually declined, and many of their houses remained vacant and uninhabited. This led to some strange and eerie occurrences. The doors of the main hall would often open and close by themselves, and family members would often be startled and noisy in the middle of the night. The old master of the house was troubled by these events and decided to move to a villa, leaving only an old man to watch over the mansion. Since then, the place became even more desolate and run-down, but occasionally, the sound of laughter and singing would emanate from inside.

The old master had a nephew named Geng Qubing, who had a free and adventurous personality. He instructed the old man watching over the mansion that if anything strange happened, he should come and inform him. One night, the old man saw flickering candlelight upstairs and quickly went to inform Geng Qubing. Geng Qubing wanted to investigate what was unusual, but the old man strongly discouraged him. He was familiar with the courtyard’s layout, so he pushed aside the overgrown weeds and made his way into the building, navigating left and right. As soon as he ascended the stairs, he didn’t see anything particularly strange. But as he walked through the building, he heard faint voices. Geng Qubing approached quietly to observe and saw two large candles burning brightly, illuminating the room as if it were daytime. An elderly man wearing a scholar’s hat sat facing south, while an elderly lady sat facing him, both in their forties. Sitting to the east was a young man, around twenty years old, and on the right was a young girl, about fifteen years old. The table was filled with food and wine, and the four of them sat around, chatting and laughing. Geng Qubing suddenly burst into the room, laughing, “An uninvited guest has arrived!” Everyone was startled and rushed to get up and hide, except for the old man who scolded, “Who are you? Why did you barge into someone’s private room?” Geng Qubing replied, “This is originally my family’s private room, and you have occupied it. You’re even enjoying good food and wine without inviting the host; isn’t that too stingy?” The old man carefully examined him and said, “You are not the master of the Geng family.” Geng Qubing said, “I am Geng Qubing, the nephew of the master.” The old man bowed to him in respect and said, “I’ve heard of your name for a long time!” He then invited Geng Qubing to sit down. They ordered another table of food and drinks, but Geng Qubing declined. The old man poured him a drink and invited him to have some. Geng Qubing said, “We can consider ourselves as family, and there’s no need for the others who were here earlier to avoid us. Let’s invite them to join us for a drink.” The old man called out, “Xiao’er!” In a moment, the young man walked in from outside. The old man introduced him, saying, “This is my son.” The young man gave a slight bow and took a seat. Everyone briefly introduced their family backgrounds. The old man introduced himself, saying, “My surname is Hu, and my name is Yijun.” Geng Qubing was usually outgoing and cheerful, and Xiao’er was also elegant and charming. During their conversation, they couldn’t help but admire each other. Geng Qubing was twenty-one years old, two years older than Xiao’er, so he referred to him as “younger brother.”

The old man asked, “I heard that your ancestors once wrote a book called ‘The Legend of Tu Mountain.’ Do you know about it?” Geng Qubing replied, “Yes, I do.” The old man said, “I am a descendant of the Tu Mountain clan. I can remember the branches of the family tree up to the Tang Yao era, but there is no record beyond the Five Dynasties. Please, Geng Gongzi, enlighten us.” Geng Qubing then briefly recounted the achievements of the Tu Mountain fox woman in assisting Dayu in water management. He embellished the story with eloquence and fluency, like a bubbling spring. The old man was very pleased after listening and said to his son, “Today, I had the privilege of hearing many things I had never heard before. Geng Gongzi is not a stranger; we can call your mother and Qingfeng to come and listen together, so they can also learn about the merits of our ancestors.” Xiao’er got up and lifted the curtain to enter the inner room. Soon, the old lady and the young girl came out together. Geng Qubing took a careful look at the young girl, who had a delicate figure and eyes that revealed intelligence, a rare beauty in the mortal world. The old man pointed to the old lady and said, “This is my wife,” then pointed to the young girl and said, “This is Qingfeng, my niece. She is very clever and has an exceptional memory for everything she hears and sees, so I asked her to come and listen as well.” After discussing the Hu family’s history, Geng Qubing began to drink, his gaze fixed on the young girl without turning away. The young girl noticed and lowered her head. Geng Qubing discreetly tapped Qingfeng’s small foot under the table with his own. Qingfeng quickly pulled her foot back, but there was no sign of anger on her face. Geng Qubing became even more infatuated, unable to contain himself, and slapped the table, exclaiming, “To marry such a wife, I would be willing to become a king!” Seeing that Geng Qubing was getting increasingly intoxicated and unrestrained, the old lady and the young girl got up together and hurriedly lifted the curtains to enter the inner room. Geng Qubing suddenly felt disappointed and took his leave from the old man. When he returned home, he still longed for Qingfeng with a heart full of dreams and desires.

The following night, he went there again, and he could still smell the fragrant scent of orchids and musk in the room. However, he waited all night in silence, but there was no sign of anyone. When he returned home, he discussed with his wife and thought about moving their entire family to that mansion in the hope of encountering Qingfeng again. His wife disagreed, so Geng Qubing decided to move in by himself and study downstairs. One night, as he was leaning on the table, a ghost suddenly burst in, disheveled and with a pitch-black face, staring at Geng Qubing. Geng Qubing smiled, dipped his finger into the inkwell, and smeared some ink on his own face, his eyes shining as he locked gazes with the ghost. The ghost, feeling uninterested, simply wandered away.

The following night, it was already quite late when Geng Qubing extinguished the candle and prepared to sleep. Suddenly, he heard the sound of the door latch being lifted from behind the building, followed by a loud “bang” as the door swung open partially. He quickly got up to peek and saw the door ajar. After a moment, he heard the faint sound of footsteps, and a candlelight shone out from inside the room. Upon closer inspection, it was indeed Qingfeng who had arrived. Startled, Qingfeng spotted Geng Qubing and took a few steps back, quickly closing two doors. Geng Qubing knelt outside the door and pleaded, “I waited here earnestly, not fearing danger, all for the sake of meeting you. Fortunately, there’s no one else here now. If we could just shake hands and share a laugh, then I would have no regrets even if I died.” The young lady replied from inside the room, “I know how sincere your feelings are, but my uncle’s rules are very strict. I dare not heed your request.” Geng Qubing continued to plead, “I don’t expect any intimate relationship with you; just opening the door to let me see your face would suffice.” It seemed like the young lady reluctantly agreed to his request. She opened the door, grabbed his arm, and pulled him into the room. Geng Qubing was overjoyed, and he and Qingfeng went downstairs together, where he held her in his arms. The young lady said, “Fortunately, we have a fate from a past life. After this night, our longing for each other will be in vain.” Geng Qubing asked, “What’s the reason for that?” Qingfeng replied, “My uncle was afraid of your boldness, so he transformed into a fierce ghost to scare you. However, you weren’t affected at all. Now he has found another house and the family is busy moving their belongings there. I’m the only one left here to guard, and we’ll be leaving tomorrow.” After saying this, she wanted to leave and added, “My uncle may return soon.” Geng Qubing forcibly detained her, wanting to share an intimate moment in bed. As they were struggling, the old man suddenly came in unexpectedly. The young lady felt ashamed and frightened, unable to face him. She lowered her head and leaned against the bed, silently twiddling her clothes. The old man scolded her, saying, “You wretched girl, you’ve tarnished our family’s reputation! If you don’t leave quickly, I’ll use a whip on you!” The young lady hurriedly left, and the old man followed. Geng Qubing quickly followed them to listen to the commotion. He heard the old man continuously berating and then heard Qingfeng’s soft crying. Geng Qubing’s heart ached, and he shouted, “The fault is mine, what does it have to do with Qingfeng? Even if you were to punish Qingfeng severely, I would willingly bear the punishment!” After a long time, the building fell silent, and Geng Qubing finally went back to sleep. From that day on, there were no more unusual sounds in the mansion.

Geng Qubing’s uncle heard about this incident and found it very intriguing. He was willing to sell the mansion to Geng Qubing without haggling over the price. Geng Qubing was delighted and moved in with his family. After living there for a year, he felt comfortable, but his heart still longed for Qingfeng every moment.

On the Qingming Festival, when Geng Qubing returned from tomb-sweeping, he saw two young foxes being relentlessly chased by a dog. One of the foxes fled in panic, while the other one ran around in confusion on the road. When it spotted Geng Qubing, it let out a plaintive cry, hanging its head and drooping its ears, as if begging for help. Geng Qubing felt pity for it, so he opened his clothes, picked it up, and carried it back home. Upon arriving home and closing the door, he placed the fox on the bed, and to his astonishment, the fox transformed into Qingfeng. Geng Qubing was overjoyed and rushed forward to comfort her. The young lady said, “I was playing with a servant girl when suddenly we encountered this great calamity. If it weren’t for you, I would have surely met my end in the jaws of that dog. I hope you won’t despise me for not being of the same kind.” Geng Qubing replied, “I have been yearning for you day and night, even in my dreams. Seeing you now is like gaining a priceless treasure. How can I despise you?” The young lady said, “It’s all fate determined by heaven. If it weren’t for this calamity, how could I be with you? But fortunately, the servant girl must think I’m already dead, so I can be with you forever from now on.” Geng Qubing was overjoyed and prepared another set of rooms for her to live in.

After more than two years, Geng Qubing was reading late at night when Xiaor saw him and abruptly entered. Geng Qubing set down the book in his hand and asked in surprise where he had come from. Xiaor prostrated himself on the ground and said with sadness, “Father has suddenly encountered a grave crisis, and apart from you, there’s no one who can save him. He originally intended to come and plead in person, but he was afraid you wouldn’t accept him, so he sent me to make the request.” Geng Qubing inquired, “What happened?” Xiaor said, “Does Sir know Mo Sanlang?” Geng Qubing replied, “He is a fellow examinee from my year in the imperial examinations, a nephew.” Xiaor said, “Tomorrow he will be passing through here, and if he has captured foxes, please, Sir, must keep them.” Geng Qubing said, “I still remember that humiliation downstairs vividly to this day, and I have no interest in other matters. If this matter requires my assistance, it must be with the intervention of Qingfeng.” Xiaor, with tears in his eyes, said, “Qingfeng sister has been dead in the wilderness for three years.” Geng Qubing angrily said, “In that case, I hate him even more.” After saying that, he picked up the book and began reading loudly, ignoring Xiaor. Xiaor stood up, cried out in pain, covered his face, and ran out. Geng Qubing immediately went to Qingfeng’s residence and told her what had just happened. Qingfeng, upon hearing this, turned pale and asked, “So, will you save him or not?” Geng Qubing replied, “I will save him, but my earlier hesitation was just to get back at him for his previous rudeness.” Qingfeng became delighted and said, “I have been an orphan since childhood and grew up under my uncle’s care. Although I was punished by him before, it was because the family rules required it.” Geng Qubing said, “Indeed, but it’s hard not to hold a grudge. If you were truly dead, I wouldn’t save him.” Qingfeng smiled and said, “You’re really heartless!”

The next day, Mo Sanlang indeed passed by here during his hunt. He was riding a horse adorned with a golden chest belt and carrying a quiver made of tiger skin. Numerous attendants followed him. Geng Qubing stood at the door to greet him and saw that he had captured many birds and beasts, including a black fox. The blood that had flowed from it had dyed its fur a deep crimson color. When he touched it, the skin and flesh were still warm. Geng Qubing falsely claimed that his fur coat was torn and requested the fox’s skin to repair it. Mo Sanlang gladly took off the fox’s skin and gave it to him. Geng Qubing immediately handed it over to Qingfeng and kept the guest company for a drink. After the guest left, Qingfeng held the fox in her arms, and it took three days for it to awaken. It transformed back into the old man after a brief body movement. The old man opened his eyes and, upon seeing Qingfeng, wondered if he was still in the mortal world. Qingfeng then explained the situation in detail. The old man immediately bowed to Geng Qubing and expressed his sincere remorse for his past mistakes. He then happily looked at Qingfeng and said, “I always said you didn’t die, and now it’s indeed true.” Qingfeng said to Geng Qubing, “If you have me in your heart, could you lend us that mansion so that I can repay my uncle’s kindness for raising me?” Geng Qubing agreed. After thanking and bidding farewell to the old man, he left. That night, the whole family indeed moved in. From then on, the two families were like father and son, with no more suspicions or resentments. Geng Qubing lived in the study, and Xiaor often came to drink and chat with him. When the son of Geng Qubing’s lawful wife grew up, he allowed Xiaor to be his teacher. Xiaor was an excellent mentor and displayed all the qualities of a true teacher.

《青凤》

太原耿氏,故大家,第宅弘阔。后凌夷,楼舍连亘,半旷废之。因生怪异,堂门辄自开掩,家人恒中夜骇哗。耿患之,移居别墅,留老翁门焉。由此荒落益甚,或闻笑语歌吹声。

耿有从子去病,狂放不羁。嘱翁有所闻见,奔告之。至夜,见楼上灯光明灭,走报生。生欲入觇其异。止之,不听。门户素所习识,竟拨蒿蓬,曲折而入。登楼,殊无少异。穿楼而过,闻人语切切。潜窥之,见巨烛双烧,其明如昼。一叟儒冠南面坐,一媪相对,俱年四十馀。东向一少年,可二十许,右一女郎,裁及笄耳。酒胾满案,团坐笑语。生突入,笑呼曰:“有不速之客一人来!”群惊奔匿。独叟出叱问:“谁何入人闺闼?”生曰:“此我家闺闼,君占之。旨酒自饮,不一邀主人,毋乃太吝?”叟审睇曰:“非主人也。”生曰:“我狂生耿去病,主人之从子耳。”叟致敬曰:“久仰山斗!”乃揖生入,便呼家人易馔,生止之。叟乃酌客。生曰:“吾辈通家,座客无庸见避,还祈招饮。”叟呼:“孝儿!”俄少年自外入。叟曰:“此豚儿也。”揖而坐。略审门阀。叟自言:“义君姓胡。”生素豪,谈议风生,孝儿亦倜傥,倾吐间,雅相爱悦。生二十一,长孝儿二岁,因弟之。

叟曰:“闻君祖纂《涂山外传》,知之乎?”答:“知之。”叟曰:“我涂山氏之苗裔也。唐以后,谱系犹能忆之,五代而上无传焉。幸公子一垂教也。”生略述涂山女佐禹之功,粉饰多词,妙绪泉涌。叟大喜,谓子曰:“今幸得闻所未闻。公子亦非他人,可请阿母及青凤来共听之,亦令知我祖德也。”孝儿入帏中。少时,媪偕女郎出。审顾之,弱态生娇,秋波流慧,人间无其丽也。叟指妇云:“此为老荆。”又指女郎:“此青凤,鄙人之犹女也。颇惠,所闻见,辄记不忘,故唤令听之。”生谈竟而饮,瞻顾女郎,停睇不转。女觉之,辄俯其首。生隐蹑莲钩,女急敛足,亦无愠怒。生神志飞扬,不能自主,拍案曰:“得妇如此,南面王不易也!”媪见生渐醉,益狂,与女俱起,遽搴帏去。生失望,乃辞叟出。而心萦萦,不能忘情于青凤也。

至夜,复往,则兰麝犹芳,而凝待终宵,寂无声欬。归与妻谋,欲携家而居之,冀得一遇。妻不从,生乃自往,读于楼下。夜方凭几,一鬼披发入,面黑如漆,张目视生。生笑,染指研墨自涂,灼灼然相与对视。鬼惭而去。

次夜,更既深,灭烛欲寝,闻楼后发扃,辟之然。生急起窥觇,则扉半启。俄闻履声细碎,有烛光自房中出。视之,则青凤也。骤见生,骇而却退,遽阖双扉。生长跽而致词曰:“小生不避险恶,实以卿故。幸无他人,得一握手为笑,死不憾耳。”女遥语曰:“惓惓深情,妾岂不知,但叔闺训严,不敢奉命。”生固哀之云:“亦不敢望肌肤之亲,但一见颜色足矣。”女似肯可,启关出,捉之臂而曳之。生狂喜,相将入楼下,拥而加诸膝。女曰:“幸有夙分。过此一夕,即相思无用矣。”问:“何故?”曰:“阿叔畏君狂,故化厉鬼以相吓,而君不动也。今已卜居他所,一家皆移什物赴新居,而妾留守,明日即发。”言已,欲去,云:“恐叔归。”生强止之,欲与为欢。方持论间,叟掩入。女羞惧无以自容,俛首倚床,拈带不语。叟怒曰:“贱婢辱吾门户!不速去,鞭挞且从其后!”女低头急去,叟亦出。尾而听之,诃诟万端,闻青凤嘤嘤啜泣。生心意如割,大声曰:“罪在小生,于青凤何与?倘宥凤也,刀锯鈇钺,小生愿身受之!”良久寂然,生乃归寝。自此第内绝不复声息矣。

生叔闻而奇之,愿售以居,不较直。生喜,携家口而迁焉。居逾年,甚适,而未尝须臾忘凤也。

会清明上墓归,见小狐二,为犬逼逐。其一投荒窜去,一则皇急道上。望见生,依依哀啼,阘耳辑首,似乞其援。生怜之,启裳衿,提抱以归。闭门,置床上,则青凤也。大喜,慰问。女曰:“适与婢子戏,遘此大厄。脱非郎君,必葬犬腹。望无以非类见憎。”生曰:“日切怀思,系于魂梦。见卿如获异宝,何憎之云!”女曰:“此天数也,不因颠覆,何得相从?然幸矣,婢子必以妾为已死,可与君坚永约耳。”生喜,另舍舍之。

积二年馀,生方夜读,孝儿忽入。生辍读,讶诘所来。孝儿伏地,怆然曰:“家君有横难,非君莫拯。将自诣恳,恐不见纳,故以某来。”问:“何事?”曰:“公子识莫三郎否?”曰:“此吾年家子也。”孝儿曰:“明日将过,倘携有猎狐,望君之留之也。”生曰:“楼下之羞,耿耿在念,他事不敢预闻。必欲仆效绵薄,非青凤来不可!”孝儿零涕曰:“凤妹已野死三年矣!”生拂衣曰:“既尔,则恨滋深耳!”执卷高吟,殊不顾瞻。孝儿起,哭失声,掩面而去。生如青凤所,告以故。女失色曰:“果救之否?”曰:“救则救之,适不之诺者,亦聊以报前横耳。”女乃喜曰:“妾少孤,依叔成立。昔虽获罪,乃家范应尔。”生曰:“诚然,但使人不能无介介耳。卿果死,定不相援。”女笑曰:“忍哉!”

次日,莫三郎果至,镂膺虎韔,仆从甚赫。生门逆之。见获禽甚多,中一黑狐,血殷毛革,抚之,皮肉犹温。便托裘敝,乞得缀补。莫慨然解赠。生即付青凤,乃与客饮。客既去,女抱狐于怀,三日而苏,展转复化为叟。举目见凤,疑非人间。女历言其情。叟乃下拜,惭谢前愆。喜顾女曰:“我固谓汝不死,今果然矣。”女谓生曰:“君如念妾,还乞以楼宅相假,使妾得以申返哺之私。”生诺之。叟赧然谢别而去。入夜,果举家来。由此如家人父子,无复猜忌矣。生斋居,孝儿时共谈宴。生嫡出子渐长,遂使傅之。盖循循善教,有师范焉。

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