Two people dressed up as jiangshi on Halloween in Osaka
|Literal meaning||stiff corpse|
A jiangshi, also known as a Chinese hopping vampire or hopping zombie, is a type of reanimated corpse in Chinese legends and folklore. The characters for "jiangshi" are read geung-si in Cantonese, cương thi in Vietnamese, and gangsi in Korean. It is also known as phi dip chin in Thai, hantu pocong in Malay, and vampir cina in Indonesia. 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 during 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) (c. 1789 – 1798) that the causes for a corpse to be 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 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 the po is evil, the hun is intelligent but the po is not so good". The hun leaves his/her body after death but their 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 their deceased body, due to improper death, suicide, or just wanting to cause trouble.
- 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). The Chinese character for "jiang" (僵) in jiangshi" literally means "hard" or "stiff". It is believed that the jiangshi are so stiff that they cannot bend their limbs or body, so they have to move around by hopping while keeping their arms stretched out for mobility. Jiangshi are depicted in popular culture to have a paper talisman (with a sealing spell) attached onto and hanging off the forehead in portrait orientation, and wear a uniform coat-like robe and round-top tall rimmed hat characteristic of a mandarin (Chinese official from during the Qing dynasty). 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 feed solely on the qi of a living individual for sustenance and in order to grow more powerful.
Methods and items used to counter jiangshi
- Mirrors: Li Shizhen's medical book Bencao Gangmu mentions, "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。) Jiangshi 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 mentions, "Evil spirits withdraw when they hear a rooster's call" (鬼聞雞鳴即縮。), because the rooster's call usually occurs with the rise of the sun.
- Jujube seeds: Zi Bu Yu mentions, "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 mentions, "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。)
- Hooves 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
- Adzuki beans
- Hanuman Chalisa: As told by its author, reciting it guarantees its reciter full protection from ghosts, demons and any other types of evil.
- Thread stained with a concoction of black ink, chicken blood and burnt talisman
- Blood of a black dog
- Stonemason's awl
- Holding one's breath
- Taoist talisman, stuck on the forehead to immobilise them whilst it is firmly stuck on
- Dropping a bag of coins can cause the jiangshi to count the coins.
Stephanie Lam in "Hop on Pop: Jiangshi Films in a Transnational Context" lays out the main methods of protecting and fending off the jiangshi.
- To subdue a hopping vampire the person must take a thin yellow piece of paper and write out a distinct spell in chicken's blood, which will then be attached to the vampire's forehead.
- A person defending themselves against a hopping vampire/zombie can use an 8 sided mirror called Ba-qua mirror, which is often used in Feng Shui. The mirrors purpose is to reflect the light, which in turn scares the creature away.
- A sword charged under the light of the moon made of Chinese coins can be used in an attack against the vampire.
- To stop a hopping vampire (zombie) in its place, take a small amount of blood and place it on the creature's forehead.
- To banish the hopping vampire, a person can throw sticky rice at the creature drawing out the evil in it.
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; lit. '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.
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.
- China was not the only place to perform these atypical burials and Revenant practices. Archeologists have found revenants and what appear to be deviant burials all the way back to 4500–3800 BC in Cyprus. If you were unlucky enough to be born as an illegitimate child, with an abnormality, or on an auspicious day, or a victim of murder, drowning, suicide, or the plague/curse it was thought that you had the potential to be a Vampire. Like the jiangshi in China, these cultures had ways of deterring the revenants from coming back. A person "known" to be a vampire would be incinerated or dismembered to keep them from coming back. Others that were thought to be one were trapped by being buried deep, on their stomachs, tied, staked, or pinned with rocks. These types of burials have been discovered in numerous places including Egyptian, Greek, and Roman cultures. Slavic folklore talks about vampires and preventions dating back to the 11th century with Drawsko, Poland being home to some of these burial sites and early discoveries of such practices. They found that while burying vampires they focused on three parts of the body being the mouth, hand, and feet. These were the main focal points because the mouth is where they would feed on humans, the hands are how they seized their victims, and the feet are how they moved. Folklore and burial practices dealing with the "undead" can also be traced back to Norse mythology with draugr or draug(s) that closely resemble stories of jiangshis. They are similar in the sense of also being re-animated corpses that rise from their graves, and many of the various accounts report the "spirit" to be sighted far from where they were initially buried.
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