37. Great Father Hu
GREAT Father Hu is a spirit fox. When the foxes have almost finished making the elixir of life they can work miracles. They are then entered in the imperial list of sacrifices.
When the Manchu first came to China they made Mukden their ancestral seat and there established a big temple which was entrusted to a high dignitary. Everything there is just as in the imperial temple in Peking. In this temple stand tripods and sacrificial vessels, all of them wrought of gold, silver and precious stones and worth many millions. Although thieves covet them greatly, they cannot get near them.
During the reign of the Emperor Hsien Fang there lived three powerful robbers who could fly over the roofs and walk up and down the walls of houses. If anyone surprised them they would blow poisonous smoke into his face to make him faint.
These robbers broke into the imperial temple one night and from the altar stole golden incense burners, jade bowls and silver dishes. They concealed them under their shirts and thus climbed up the wall again. Suddenly they saw an old man with a white beard sitting on the roof-tree of the temple. He pointed his hand at them and instantly the three were pinned down astride the wall and could not get down. Their legs seemed to be nailed to the wall.
When dawn broke, the guardian of the temple found them there. He had them brought down and questions.
They confessed everything. The guardian of the temple thereupon made a report to the court and by reply was instructed to grant a place of sacrifice to the fox. Since then he has worked great miracles. By degrees he received the highest official button and the yellow riding jacket.
Throughout Manchuria temples and votive pictures have been set up to him. He is represented as a dignified high Manchu official. The people praying for the granting of happiness or the averting of sorrow are so numerous there that they rub shoulders and jostle each other. In the temple forecourt stands a great incense burner. In it stand veritable forests of incense sticks. The smoke of sacrifice rises from them in thick clouds and the ash of the burnt paper money flutters about like butterflies. Those who pray hold their breath as they fling themselves down and dare not look about. The people refer to the fox as the third father, not daring to utter the word ‘fox’. More recently his veneration has spread to eastern Shantung and is now very extensive there.