Explore the intriguing story of an old man and a fox in Weixian County, their unusual interactions, and the moral lessons hidden within.
In Weixian County, there is a villa owned by the Li family. One day, an old man suddenly came and wanted to rent a room. He offered to pay fifty taels of silver each year, and the owner of the Li family agreed. After the old man left, there was no news from him for a long time. So, the owner of the Li family instructed his family to rent the house to another family. Not long after, the old man returned and said, “We had already agreed on renting the house, so why did you want to rent it to someone else?” The owner of the Li family explained the reason. The old man said, “I am definitely going to stay here for a long time, but I didn’t come earlier because I wanted to choose a good day to move, which will be ten days from now.” He then paid a year’s rent in advance and said, “Even if the house remains vacant throughout the year, you don’t need to worry about it.” The owner of the Li family accompanied the old man out and asked for the moving date, which the old man told him.
A few days had passed since the moving date, but there was still no activity. The owner of the Li family went to check the situation at the courtyard house he intended to rent out. To his surprise, both large doors were closed from the inside, and there was smoke rising from the courtyard, with a lot of noise and commotion. He was quite astonished, so he presented his name card and requested to visit. The old man quickly came out, welcomed the owner into the house with a friendly smile. After the Li family owner returned home, he sent gifts to express gratitude, and the gifts the old man bestowed upon the servants were particularly lavish.
A few more days passed, and the Li family hosted a banquet to invite the old man. Everyone got along harmoniously and enjoyed themselves. The Li family owner asked the old man about his hometown, and the old man replied that he was from Shaanxi. The Li family owner was very puzzled and couldn’t understand why he had come from such a distant place. The old man explained, “Your hometown is a blessed place. Shaanxi is no longer a suitable place to live; a great disaster is about to happen there.” At that time, the world was at peace, so the Li family owner just took it as hearsay without further inquiry.
The next day, the old man sent an invitation as a gesture of returning the favor to the landlord. During the banquet, the food and drinks were extremely extravagant and luxurious. The Li family owner was even more astonished and began to suspect that the old man was a high-ranking official. However, because of their good relationship, the old man revealed that he was, in fact, a fox. The Li family owner was utterly amazed and later shared this story with others.
The local gentry in the city heard about this strange occurrence, and every day, they would travel by carriage or on horseback to visit the old man’s house, hoping to make his acquaintance. The old man always received them with a polite and respectful demeanor. Gradually, even county officials began to interact with the old man. However, when the county magistrate requested an audience with the old man, he declined, making excuses. The county magistrate then asked the owner of the Li family to go and inform the old man, but he still refused to meet. When the Li family owner inquired about the reason, the old man left his seat, approached the Li family owner, and whispered, “You have no idea; in his past life, he was a donkey. Although he now pretends to be high and mighty among the common people, he is actually a shameless person. Even though I am not a human, I am ashamed to associate with someone like him.”
The Li family owner fabricated a story to tell the county magistrate, claiming that the fox was afraid of the magistrate’s divine aura and dared not meet him. The county magistrate believed this explanation and no longer intended to meet the old man. This incident occurred in the eleventh year of the Kangxi era. Shortly thereafter, Shaanxi experienced a period of turmoil. People say that foxes can foresee future events, and it seems to be true.
The chronicler of strange tales said: The donkey, as an animal, can also be considered a colossal creature. When it gets angry, it kicks and brays wildly, with eyes wider than wine cups, and its roar is coarser than that of a bull. Not only is its voice unpleasant, but its appearance is also quite unattractive. However, if you use some fodder to entice it, it will lower its head and ears, willingly submitting to control. Allowing such a creature to rule over the common people is nothing but greed and shamelessness. It is hoped that those in positions of authority who govern the people should take the donkey as a warning, so that even foxes would be willing to discuss virtue. In doing so, moral character will steadily improve.