The Jiangshi (僵屍 or 殭屍) is a Chinese vampire/zombie that's name translates to 'stiff corpse'. It is a horrific creature that usually hops along, and when it comes across a victim it will suck the life force out of them. (In Chinese, qi.)
The Jiangshi is said to be raised by a necromancer, or when the soul of a dead man cannot leave his body due to reasons in life, such as they were a horrible troublemaker, or if they commit suicide. The body looks different due to when they were raised. If they are raised soon after death, their appearance looks almost like a normal human, however if they have decomposed some time before they come to life, they can look horrific and ghastly.
Usually they are described as a pale white colour with furry green hair, moss, or mold growing on their flesh. The Jiangshi also has pale, long white, messy hair atop their heads. They are said to have extremely long tongues and black, sharp fingernails, and they walk along with their arms outstretched.
The Jiangshi may be distracted if small objects are thrown about, in which case, like most vampires, it will stop to count them. Also, they are blind, and if one holds their breath when it passes, they may remain unnoticed.
Supposedly a 15cm piece of wood nailed to the width of the bottom of the door will stop a Jiangshi from entering.
The Jiangshi has many different names, such as Chiang Shi, Kang Shi and Geungsi.
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 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 not so good". 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 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.
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。), because the rooster's call usually occurs with the rise of the sun.
- 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。)
- 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
- Thread stained with a concotion of black ink, chicken blood and burnt talisman
- Blood of a black dog
- Stonemason's awl
- Holding ones 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.