Blood Sucking Fiends Part 2: China’s Undead

Every seventh lunar month of the Chinese calendar, the Chinese believe the boundary between our world and the spirit world is wide open. For an entire month the dead may cross the void to either check in on the living, or cause mischief. The Festival of the Hungry Ghost was created as a means to appease the dead with food and treasure. Nevertheless, there is one supernatural being that is feared above all the rest. A vile reanimated corpse that feeds on the chi of the living: the dreaded Jiangshi.

In the early days of the Qing dynasty, China’s longest lasting imperial rule, two warriors, Po and Ching, were returning from battle. As they walked along a country road boasting of their glorious victory, the two men began to get weary. Realizing the sun was swiftly dipping low on the horizon, they came to the conclusion it was time for food and rest. Although the two men won the battle, they knew that assassins lurked in the shadows and they needed a safe place; but they soon learned that assassins weren’t the only beings lurking in the shadows.

With the sun making its descent, Po and Ching quickened their pace and were overjoyed when an inn came into view just over the hill. After filling their bellies with food, Po inquired of the innkeeper if any rooms were available. A look of panic filled the innkeeper’s face as he stood before the warriors. He managed to stammer out that he indeed had a room but it was unfit for people to stay in. He couldn’t possibly give them the room.

When Po and Ching pressed the man, he explained that before they arrived his daughter had died a mysterious death. The room was being used to store her body awaiting burial. Po and Ching, surprised the man when they said they didn’t care and offered more money than the room was worth. Finding it hard to deny the warriors, the innkeeper reluctantly led them to the room. Po and Ching, would finally get the sleep they needed.

Deep into the night, as the two slept, Po was awakened by a peculiar sound. With sword in hand he looked about the room for a possible assassin. All he could see was Ching sleeping soundly and the innkeeper’s lovely daughter forever at rest. Convinced he heard something, Po, looked out into the hall, but again, silence. 

When Po returned to his room, his eyes were met by a horrific sight. Straddling his friend’s sleeping form was the dead girl glowing a sickly green color. It became apparent to Po the entity was sucking Ching’s chi out through his nose. When he regained his composure, Po shouted, “Foul Jiangshi, come and get me.” The creature looked up, its eyes glowing malevolently and chased him from the room.

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As Po ran out into the night, the Jiangshi was hot on his heels. He looked back to see those ghastly eyes glowing in the darkness as an eerie, unearthly screech that sounded as if the demons were howling escaped her lips. Just then, Po came to an abrupt stop and faced the oncoming monster. As she drew near, blackened talon like nails bared, she lunged at the warrior. Thinking fast, Po ducked and the creature’s nails sank deep in the tree bark. Po, unsheathed his sword and beheaded the once beautiful girl. Her soul finally dispatched to an uncertain afterlife.

When the sun rose, the innkeeper came upon the bizarre scene. Po, stood there holding the girl’s head in his hands as her body, nails still in the tree, slumped to the ground. When the innkeeper heard Po’s story, he was immediately contrite and begged the warrior’s forgiveness. He returned to Po all the money the two warriors had given him and Po went on his way.

Among the many ghostly entities to haunt China, the Jiangshi is the most feared. According to legend, a Jiangshi can be created in several different ways. One way is through magical incantation. While another way is not burying a dead body even after a funeral is given. To not do so is to risk an unclean spirit possessing the corpse. Which is probably what happened in the case of the warrior Po and his fight with the Jiangshi. And there is a third way, steeped in Chinese philosophy.

According to the Qing dynasty scholar, Yuan Mei, the human body is ruled by three Huns and seven Pos. Huns and Pos are different kinds of souls spoken about in Chinese philosophy and religion. Yuan Mei wrote in his book, Zi Bu You, a person’s Hun is good while the Po is evil. Upon physical death, the Hun leaves the body while the Po remains. The Po can reanimate a corpse and unleash a Jiangshi upon an unsuspecting town or village.

While a Jiangshi certainly appears to be an unstoppable living nightmare, there are methods to ward them off. In his medical book, Bencao Gangmu, Li Shizhen writes, ” A mirror is the essence of liquid metal. The external is dark, but bright inside.” When confronted with a mirror, Jiangshi, are forced to see their true nature causing them to flee. Other methods include piercing them with wood from a peach tree, a rooster’s call, and Seven Jujube seeds. These are all sure-fire ways to banish the dreaded undead being.

The Jiangshi is arguably the deadliest spirit being in Chinese folklore. And yet they appear to be the easiest to rid yourself of. There has not been a reported Jiangshi attack in China for generations. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t biding their time until the right chi comes along.

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About Rick Hale 26 Articles
Rick Hale became interested in anomalous phenomenon at an early age after encountering an apparition in his grandparent's home. Rick is the author of "The Geek's Guide To The Strange and Unusual: Poltergeists, Ghost and Demons," and "Behold! Shocking True Tales Off Terror...And Some Other Spooky Stuff." Rick has been published in Haunted Times Magazine, Paranormal Underground Magazine, The Supernatural Magazine, Spookyisles.com and Legends Magazine. Rick appeared in Ghost Tapes 2 and Ghost Tapes: The Series found at YouTube.com.
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