Foxes are cute, foxes are clever. Mystical foxes are even better. Their curious and witty nature has naturally made them symbols of street smarts and playfulness. How does that relate to East Asian mythology? Fox Spirits as manifestations of nature appear in literature, poems and art all over Japan, Korea and China.
In Japan, the fox spirits are known as a type of kami (Shinto god/spirit). The Japanese term for them is kitsune. In ancient Japan, foxes lived in close vicinity to humans, hence a lot of legends arose about the nature of these animals. The general rule is, the more tails, the older and more powerful the fox is (Naruto, anyone?).
In Korea, the fox spirits are called Kumihos. Here are they are very identical to the Japanese folklore, being able to turn into human form and control nature (often with mischievous intent). Featured in many modern-day Korean telenovelas, kumihos take often the shape of beautiful women and cause a lot of drama.
Known as huli jing, the fox spirit folklore probably originates from China. The trickster aspect and the role of the femme fatale that seduces naive men into doom are pretty popular in ancient Chinese literature. Around the Han-Dynasty period, the idea of animal shapeshifters first originated among legends and art. Since then it has been a staple of East Asian mythology and modern pop-culture as well.
Do you love mystical foxes?
If you do, you should check out our very own Kumiho t-shirt, it is based on the Korean version of the legend.
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