Alien Kind: Foxes and Late Imperial Chinese Narrative

By ,

Publisher: Harvard University Press


Language: English | Number of Pages: 350 | Format: Hardcover

Isbn-10: 0674010949 | Isbn-13: 9780674010949 | Publish date: 

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Book Description
To discuss the supernatural in China is "to talk of foxes and speak of ghosts". Ming and Qing China were well populated with foxes, shape-changing creatures who transgressed the boundaries of species, gender and the metaphysical realm. In human form, foxes were both immoral succubi and good wives/good mothers, both tricksters and Confucian paragons. They were the most alien yet the most common of the strange creatures a human might encounter. Rania Huntington investigates a conception of one kind of alien and attempts to establish the boundaries of the human. As the most ambiguous alien in the late imperial Chinese imagination, the fox reveals which boundaries around the human and the ordinary were most frequently violated and, therefore, most jealously guarded. Each section of this book traces a particular boundary violated by the fox and examines how manoeuvres across that boundary change over time: the narrative boundaries of genre and texts; domesticity and the outside world; chaos and order; the human and the non-human; class; gender; sexual relations; and the progression from animal to monster to transcendent.
As "middle creatures", foxes were morally ambivalent, endowed with superhuman but not quite divine powers; like humans, they occupied a middle space between the infernal and the celestial.
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  • 5

    This was another book I borrowed from SOAS but I have to get my own copy. It's only £30 and it's just totally amazing. Without a doubt this is the best book focusing on Chinese fox spirits I've ever r ...continue

    This was another book I borrowed from SOAS but I have to get my own copy. It's only £30 and it's just totally amazing. Without a doubt this is the best book focusing on Chinese fox spirits I've ever read. It's so nice to see the subject given a full scholarly view. The book focuses on treatment of the foxes in the Qing dynasty but gives an account of them from the earliest recorded statements and how their abilities and reputations change over time. The book is very strong on tradition and literature but a little bit more weak on the religious side. That said it is still brilliant and I definitely recommend it.

    It talks about different books and stories about foxes, everything from pornography to classic works, it includes male and female foxes and looks at the different ways the two are represented. It also addresses the fact that foxes can change their gender, sometimes at will, at so they outstep the boundaries of "men and women". Foxes stand on the borderline between the strange and the commonplace (93). It includes translations of shorter stories and interesting social analysis of the stories. It looks at foxes haunting places and how this transforms into worship of the fox as well as how prevelant the cult of the fox was in late Imperial China. It looks at the relationship between foxes and spirit mediums, how mediums would exorcise foxes and how they would posess women. As well as how they disguise themselves as women and seduce men leading to their death, but how not all female foxes are portayed as having this dangerous nature. He even looks at foxes and homosexuality. There was an amazing story (Feng Sanniang" 封三娘) that could have been Victorian about a young fox who befriends a young girl and the two become "very close" friends and eventually the fox leads the young girl to get married but still wants to retain a relationship with her. But the girl feels badly she doesn't have a husband so tries to get the fox drunk so her husband can sleep with her, but the fox manages to escape and not get raped and ends up leaving the girl. It sounded like a lovely sad story. There was also the story Lianxiang which was a story about a fox and a ghost in love with the same scholar.

    It was a lovely book addressing both the supernatural and social and cultural gender roles. I think I will try and be very good and not spend any money for the coming week so I can treat myself to a copy at the end of the week.

    said on