Posted by: beaufortninja | April 4, 2012

Jiang Shi: The Chinese Zombie

Maybe “zombie” is too generic of a term. It might be more proper to call it a zombie/vampire hybrid but for the purpose of clarity, I’ll refer to refer to it from now on as a zombie. And oh yeah, it hops around. Whereas most of the Western zombies stumble around, the Jiang Shi jumps after it’s victims! Regardless, it’s a type of reanimated corpse found in Chinese mythology and folklore. A few people I know here have actually told me that they’ve seen one before. Their stories are often suspicious and make almost no sense but that’s beside the point.

This beast hunts at night, pouncing on its victims and draining their life essence. Ji Xiaolan, a scholar in the Qing dynasty, wrote in his book, Yuewei Caotang Biji (閱微草堂筆記), that the causes of reanimation of the dead can be classified into 2 groups. The bodies of the recently deceased returning to life and the remains of the long dead being revived. Some causes for this that he gave were:

1. The soil of the burial ground has an unsuitable chemical composition which is unsuitable for living organisms. No bacteria in the soil causes bodies not to decay. If steps are not taken to correct this, then the corpse will eventually become a Jiang Shi.

2. Black magic.

3. Possession of a dead body by demons or spirits.

4. The corpse absorbs enough energy from yang (as in yin and yang) qi (meaning life energy) to return to life. How this is done isn’t mentioned.

5. Some Chinese scholars believed that the body is controlled by 3 huns and 7 pos, hun being good and po being evil. When a person dies, their hun leaves the body, leaving the po behind. The po then takes control and a Jiang Shi is born.

6. A corpse is struck by lightning.

7. A black or pregnant cat jumps jumps over the dead person’s coffin.

8. A person’s soul refuses to leave the body due to suicide, improper death or a mischievous personality.

9. A living person who was accidentally, or intentionally, buried.

10. A person injured by a Jiang Shi will eventually change into one over time.

The appearance of the Jiang Shi can range from a relatively normal person if they are recently deceased to a horrifying ghoul composed of maggots and rotting flesh. It’s also worth mentioning that many reports indicate that the creature may have a greenish color to its skin, which may be caused by a type of fungus or mold and it’s believed that the limbs are so stiff that it must hop around with arms outstretched in order to capture its prey.

A few ways to prevent the zombie from attacking you are to use a mirror to shine the monster’s reflection back at it. Apparently they are terrified of their own images. You could also attack it with a peach wood sword since peach is the essence of the five elements in Chinese belief and can be used to vanquish evil auras. Jiang Shi are also afraid of the call of a rooster and vinegar. Or if you don’t have any of the that, then you could throw some coins or something on the ground and the Jiang Shi will stop to count them.

The Jiang Shi is just one of many interesting creatures from Chinese folklore and I look forward to covering more of them in the future. It’d be awesome if I could make a comprehensive bestiary but I doubt I’ll have that kind of time to invest in a continuous project. Anyway, what do you think? They say all legends are based on facts.


  1. Hey! You stole it!

    • Meh. I don’t read that guy’s stuff. Never particularly cared for him.

  2. I love this – spooky! I’d wear a mirror on my forehead just in case!

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