|Literal meaning||stiff corpse|
A jiangshi (chiang-shih in Wade–Giles), also known as a Chinese "hopping" vampire or zombie, is a type of reanimated corpse in Chinese legends and folklore. "Jiangshi" is read goeng-si in Cantonese, cương thi in Vietnamese, gangshi in Korean and kyonshī in Japanese. It is typically depicted as a stiff corpse dressed in official garments from the Qing Dynasty, and it moves around by hopping, with its arms outstretched. It kills living creatures to absorb their qi, or "life force", usually at night, while in the day, it rests in a coffin or hides in dark places such as caves. Jiangshi legends have inspired a genre of jiangshi films and literature in Hong Kong and East Asia.
The Qing Dynasty scholar Ji Xiaolan mentioned in his book Yuewei Caotang Biji (閱微草堂筆記) that the causes of a corpse being reanimated can be classified in either of two categories: a recently deceased person returning to life, or a corpse that has been buried for a long time but does not decompose. Some causes are described below:
- The chemical composition of the burial ground is unsuitable for living organisms, so bacteria is not present to help in the decay process. The corpse's hair and nails appear to be growing and there are no evident signs of decomposition. If not dealt with, the corpse will eventually become a jiangshi over time. (In fact, a corpse's flesh will actually contract and withdraw, so hair and nails originally concealed under the flesh become more exposed, creating an illusion of "growing" hair and nails.)
- The use of supernatural arts to resurrect the dead.
- Spirit possession of a dead body.
- A corpse absorbs sufficient yang qi to return to life.
- A person's body is governed by three huns and seven pos. The Qing Dynasty scholar Yuan Mei wrote in his book Zi Bu Yu that "A person's hun is good but his po is evil, his hun is intelligent but his po is foolish". The hun leaves his body after death but his po remains and takes control of the body, so the dead person becomes a jiangshi.
- The dead person is not buried even after a funeral has been held. The corpse comes to life after it is struck by a bolt of lightning, or when a pregnant cat (or a black cat in some tales) leaps across the coffin.
- When a person's soul fails to leave the deceased's body, due to improper death, suicide, or just wanting to cause trouble.
- A victim of premature burial.
- A person injured by a jiangshi is infected with the "jiangshi virus" and gradually changes into a jiangshi over time, as seen in the Mr. Vampire films.
Generally, a jiangshi's appearance can range from unremarkable (as in the case of a recently deceased person) to horrifying (rotting flesh, rigor mortis, as with corpses that have been in a state of decay over a period of time). The Chinese character for "jiang" (僵) in "jiangshi" literally means "hard" or "stiff". It is believed that the jiangshi is so stiff that that it cannot bend its limbs and body, so it has to move around by hopping while keeping its arms stretched out for mobility. A peculiar feature is its greenish-white skin; one theory is that this is derived from fungus or mould growing on corpses. It is said to have long white hair all over its head and may behave like animals. The influence of western vampire stories brought the blood-sucking aspect to the Chinese myth in more modern times in combination with the concept of the hungry ghost, though traditionally they act more like western zombies.
Methods and items used to counter jiangshis
- Mirrors: Li Shizhen's medical book Bencao Gangmu mentioned, "A mirror is the essence of liquid metal. It is dark on the external but bright inside." (鏡乃金水之精，內明外暗。) Jiangshis are also said to be terrified of their own reflections.
- Items made of wood from a peach tree: The Jingchu Suishi Ji (荊楚歲時記) mentioned, "Peach is the essence of the Five Elements. It can subjugate evil auras and deter evil spirits." (桃者，五行之精，能厭服邪氣，制御百鬼。)
- A rooster's call: Yuan Mei's book Zi Bu Yu mentioned, "Evil spirits withdraw when they hear a rooster's call" (鬼聞雞鳴即縮。).
- Jujube seeds: Zi Bu Yu mentioned, "Nail seven jujube seeds into the acupuncture points on the back of a corpse." (棗核七枚，釘入屍脊背穴。)
- Fire: Zi Bu Yu mentioned, "When set on fire, the sound of crackling flames, blood rushes forth and bones cry." (放火燒之，嘖嘖之聲，血湧骨鳴。)
- Hoofs of a black donkey: Mentioned in Zhang Muye's fantasy novel Ghost Blows Out the Light
- Vinegar: Mentioned by coroners in eastern Fujian
- Ba gua sign
- I Ching
- Tong Shu
- Glutinous rice, rice chaff
- Azuki beans
- Toadstool from graveyard placed in Kiangshi's left sock and thrown in river (Jackie Chan Adventures)
- Thread stained with black ink
- Blood of a black dog
- Stonemason's awl
A supposed source of the jiangshi stories came from the folk practice of "transporting a corpse over a thousand li" (simplified Chinese: 千里行尸; traditional Chinese: 千里行屍; pinyin: qiān lǐ xíng shī). The relatives of a person who died far away from home could not afford vehicles to have the deceased person's body transported home for burial, so they would hire a Taoist priest to conduct a ritual to reanimate the dead person and teach him/her to "hop" their way home. The priests would transport the corpses only at night and would ring bells to notify others in the vicinity of their presence because it was considered bad luck for a living person to set eyes upon a jiangshi. This practice, also called Xiangxi ganshi (simplified Chinese: 湘西赶尸; traditional Chinese: 湘西趕屍; pinyin: Xiāngxī gǎn shī; literally "driving corpses in Xiangxi"), was popular in Xiangxi, where many people left their hometown to work elsewhere. After they died, their bodies were transported back to their hometown because it was believed that their souls would feel homesick if they were buried somewhere unfamiliar to them. The corpses would be arranged upright in single file and be tied to long bamboo rods on the sides, while two men (one at the front and one at the back) would carry the ends of the rods on their shoulders and walk. When the bamboo flexed up and down, the corpses appeared to be "hopping" in unison when viewed from a distance away.
Two oral accounts of transporting corpses are included in Liao Yiwu's The Corpse Walker. One account describes how corpses would be transported by a two-man team. One would carry the corpse on his back with a large robe covering both of them and a mourning mask on top. The other man would walk ahead with a lantern and warn his companion about obstacles ahead of him. The lantern was used as a visual guide for the corpse carrier to follow since they could not see with the robe covering them. It is speculated in the accounts in the book that corpses would be carried at night to avoid contact with people and the cooler air would be more suitable to transporting bodies.
Some[who?] speculate that the stories about jiangshi were originally made up by smugglers who disguised their illegal activities as corpse transportation and wanted to scare off law enforcement officers.
In popular culture
Hong Kong experienced a boom in jiangshi films in the 1980s and 1990s. In the Hong Kong film Encounters of the Spooky Kind (1980) and the Mr. Vampire franchise, jiangshis can be put to sleep by putting a piece of yellow paper with a spell written on it on their foreheads (Chinese talisman or fu; Chinese: 符; pinyin: fú).
Because it usually takes decades for an unattended resentful corpse to become a jiangshi, they are usually depicted wearing attire identified with a previous era, and since these films are usually set in modern China or Hong Kong, the closest "previous era" would be the Qing Dynasty. Their modern visual depiction as horrific Qing officials may have been derived by the anti-Manchu or anti-Qing sentiments of the Han Chinese population during the Qing Dynasty, as the officials were viewed as bloodthirsty creatures with little regard for humanity.
It is also the conventional wisdom of feng shui in Chinese architecture that a threshold (simplified Chinese: 门槛; traditional Chinese: 門檻; pinyin: ménkǎn), a piece of wood approximately 15 cm (6 in) high, be installed along the width of the door at the bottom to prevent a jiangshi from entering the household. Glutinous rice (sticky rice) is believed to draw the evil spirit of the jiangshi out. In the film Mr. Vampire, only sticky rice works, and mixing it with regular rice diminishes its effectiveness. Furthermore, the glutinous rice must be in its uncooked form for it to be effective. Other items used to repel jiangshi in films include chicken's eggs (whereas duck's eggs are ineffective), and the blood of a black dog.
A jiangshi is featured as the primary villain in the season two episode of Jackie Chan Adventures, "Chi of the Vampire" (2002).
Other appearances of jiangshis in Hong Kong cinema include the 2005 comedy film Dragon Reloaded, where the three protagonists accidentally destroy a village tomb, successfully resurrect the corpse and command it. The jiangshi is shown dressed in Qing Dynasty official robes and moves by hopping. The Jitters, a 1989 American film, focused on mayhem involving a jiangshi getting loose in the United States.
The 2007 season of the Super Sentai series, Juken Sentai Gekiranger, features the Rin Shi, footsoldiers of the Confrontation Beast-Fist Akugata, which are patterned after jiangshi, if not outright being such. True to form, this trait carries over to the Rinshi, the basic enemy troopers in Power Rangers: Jungle Fury.
The My Date with a Vampire television series trilogy produced by the Hong Kong television network ATV blends aspects of the jiangshi with those of western vampires while injecting elements of Chinese mythology, eschatology, time travel, and modern horror legends.
During Tokyo DisneySea's 2009 Halloween show Mysterious Masquerade, Chip and Dale are possessed by a ghost that lives in a Chinese gong and turned into jiangshis. Shortly after being transformed, they are joined by several more jiangshis, which proceed to separate Minnie Mouse from Mickey Mouse in order for her to become a host for the ghost that lives in an Egyptian Sphinx.
Two jiangshi brothers appear in the original graphic novel The New Brighton Archeological Society who are related to the two protagonists in the series. The jiangshis guard the main villain's castle from intruders and the two main characters must break into the castle to take some maps that allow them to find the locations of books of magic.
In the Monogatari series, written by the Japanese novelist Nisio Isin, jiangshi were created by Oshino Shinobu in an attempt to destroy the world when she learns about the death of Araragi Koyomi, in the book Kabukimonogatari.
In the World of Darkness setting, the jiangshi are known as the Kuei-Jin. The Pionpi enemies of the Chai Kingdom from Super Mario Land are based on these entities. Also, the enemies hidden under the floor on the first level of Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle resemble the pionpi from Super Mario Land and thus they are probably also jiangshi(for a picture see http://www.flyingomelette.com/oddities/conspiracy1.html). In Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, a jiangshi appears as an optional boss. The player can obtain a glyph from this boss, allowing Shanoa to summon them as familiars. A 1989 game for the NES, called Phantom Fighter, involves a protagonist who must fight through eight towns filled with jiangshis.
Jiangshis appear in the Nightmare in North Point stage in the 2012 action-adventure video game Sleeping Dogs.
In the 2D fighter video game series Darkstalkers by Capcom, the character Hsien-Ko (Lei-Lei in the Japanese releases) is a jiangshi. Her twin sister Mei-Ling (Lin-Lin in the Japanese releases) is the ward, (or spelled yellow paper), on her hat which serves to make sure that Hsien-Ko does not lose control of her jiangshi self. As part of the characters' backstory, Hsien-Ko and Mei-Ling are said to have turned themselves into a jiangshi in order to save their mother's soul after their village was attacked by the eponymous Darkstalkers (creatures of darkness). Taking up the role of Dark Hunters, Hsien-Ko and Mei-Ling go out into the night in search of Darkstalkers. The character also appears in Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds, as well as its update, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3.
In the online game Ragnarok Online, the Munak, Bongun, and Hyegun are jianshis.
In Spelunky, jiangshis are an enemy found in the jungle levels when "the dead are restless!"
In King's Quest VII, the Boogeyman is possibly a jiangshi, though he lacks hair.
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- (Chinese) 殭屍的七個等級
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