Peasant Autonomy
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Story 93

Gaomi District, Shandong Province, China – 1937 (2)

The fox ghost

for bigger picture click on this photo

(Photo: Matthew Lee)


Old Geng had gotten up early, when the cocks of the village just had crowed. The sun had not yet risen, but the sky was already colouring a lovely orange-red. It was frosty cold outside, a small white cloud left his mouth every time he exhaled. Old Geng was without doubt the best hunter of the village. He knew exactly which trail the fox would take. He lay down behind a low river bank and waited. Old Geng was getting cold, but he waited patiently. After some time, he smelled the fox’s scent and heard a soft crackle of a piece of ice.
Old Geng waited another moment, and then he drew himself up carefully, and saw the fox on the ice of the river bank. The fox looked at him. He was not afraid. He knew that Old Geng was lying there, but he had no fear, just like he trusted Old Geng. He had beautiful red fur. Old Geng would get a decent amount of money for it. He levelled his rifle, blew his right forefinger warm with his breath, and pulled the trigger. Once more, the fox looked at him with furious eyes, just like he cursed him, and then he tumbled down.

for bigger picture click on this photo

(Photo: Kanegen)

Shandong Province, China.

At the same moment he heard shouting in a foreign language. Within a few seconds a group of Japanese stood around him. They stabbed him with their bayonets one after another. Blood dripped out his body. Old Geng knew that his time had come. He was such an experienced hunter, but he hadn't heard the Japs coming, stupid as he was.
Old Geng felt hot, like he was burning. He tore his quilted cotton coat. He was so hot, and slowly he lost consciousness. As if in a dream he felt a soft, cool tongue going over his body. Old Geng opened his eyes, and saw the fox sitting next to him. He didn't look angry any more, but sad, full of compassion. The fox, or actually the ghost of the fox, licked his wounds. Some medication must have been on the tongue of the fox, because his wounds closed, the bleeding stopped, and Old Geng slowly regained consciousness. He got up with great difficulty, and staggered home. He crawled under a few furs at his kang, his stove bed, and slept for three days. Then he was healed.

Since then he was called Eighteen Stabs Geng. You could see the scars on his chest and back. The ghost of the fox had saved him. Eighteen Stabs Geng made a small altar and brought daily some offerings to the ghost of the fox, until the day of his death many, many years later.


The book Red Sorghum (1986) from the Chinese writer Mo Yan tells the story of the bitter fight against the Japanese occupiers in a remote peasant region. The struggle between the Kuomintang, the communists and the local gangs of bandits is no less violent.

Go to:
= part 1: Crab hunt - Gaomi District, Shandong Province, China – 1934 (1), story 86.
= part 3: 'Take me back' - Gaomi District, Shandong Province, China – 1985 (3), story 137.
= the next page: The village priest no longer understands - a village in Aragon, Spain – 1937, story 94.
= the Table of contents, story 93.