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Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

Rooms 8 & 9, Faculty of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies
Event date: 
Wednesday, 13 March, 2019 - 17:00 to 18:30

China Research Seminar Series talk given by Dr Justin Winslett, Asian & Middle Eastern Studies, University of Cambridge

In modern Chinese media, foxes are often represented as succubi — beings that transform into beautiful human women and seduce human men to drain their essence. This representation is claimed to originate in and strongly associated with premodern literature — particularly the tales of the Liao zhai zhi yi 聊齋誌異 and the Zi bu yu 子不語. Scholars of these texts, and their attributed authors, claim that their use of such foxes, however, is derived from even earlier imperial tales and lore that they are simply transmitting. This talk will take a ook at some of these tales, particularly those contained in the anthology Tai ping guang ji 太平廣記, to better understand how foxes are represented in this argued source literature. Through its perusal of these earlier tales, however, it will point out that the role of succubi is an extremely minor one and foxes transform into a variety of forms and take on a variety of roles from baleful to beneficial, productive to disruptive, and many things in between. This talk will explore these tales and demonstrate that the most productive way to understand foxes in early imperial tales is as shape-shifters — beings whose ability to take on other forms provides them both the ability to take on multiple and versatile roles in these tales but also further and construct the tales themselves.

Justin Winslett is a Teaching Associate in Classical and Literary Chinese at the University of Cambridge Faculty of Asian & Middles Eastern Studies. His research is concerned with the extrahuman and supernatural in texts from the premodern period. His work has ranged from Warring States manuscripts to Qing dynasty biji, with a particular interest in material from the Early Imperial period (221 BCE-10TH C CE).