21 July 2009

Vampires in China

"In China red-eyed vampires with green hair prowled the night" (Krensky 8). "The name kuang-shi (or chiang- shi) was used to describe the most feared vampire type...a demon distinguished by its glaring red eyes and sharp" fangs (Bunson 46). "Chinese vampires resemble the classic Nosferatu with" their "long claws and fiercely glaring eyes." They "often acquire the ability to fly without the necessity of transforming into a bat" (Bush 193).

China is home to horrifying vampires that rival Western counterparts in their descriptions. "The Chinese Vampire lacks few, if any of the horrible traits he exhibits in Greek and Slavonic superstition" (Summers 237). "When Western scholars began to gather the folklore of China in the nineteenth century, they very quickly encountered tales of the ... the Chinese vampire" (Vampire Book). "It was reported that vampires existed there in 600 B.C." (McNally 117). These myths offer "a curious parallel to that of the Slavs" (Hastings 590).

"The chiang-shih lacked some of the powers of the Slavic vampire. It could not, for example, dematerialize, hence it was unable to rise from the grave, being inhibited both by coffins and the soil. Thus their transformation had to take place prior to burial, an added incentive to a quick burial of the dead. The Chinese vampires were nocturnal creatures and limited in their activity to the night hours. The chiang-shih had trouble crossing running water." "The chiang-shih arose following a violent death due to suicide hanging, drowning, or smothering. It could also appear in a person who had died suddenly, or as a result of improper burial procedures. The dead were thought to become angry and restless if their burial was postponed for a long time after their death. Also animals especially cats, were kept away from the unburied corpse, to prevent them from jumping over it, lest they become vampires" (Vampire Book). The rise of a vampire is particularly likely "should the sun or the moon be allowed to shine fully upon an unburied body." In this case, it will "acquire strength to issue forth and obtain human blood to build of the vitality of the vampire" (Summers 237). The "sunlight and moonlight give the chiang-shi strength. It needs the yang energy of the light to reanimate the whole corpse" (Vampire Book).

"In China, vampire-like beings" and evil spirits "are called kuei." These evil creatures are created by the lingering of a soul after death. "A human has two souls, a superior, hun, and an inferior called, po. The hun (yang energy) usually leaves the body on death, but the po (yin) remains behind, especially if the deceased has unfinished business on Earth" (Bush 193). The persistence of the po within the corpse prevents the otherwise inevitable decay. Consequently, "the chiang-shih appeared normal and was not recognized as a vampire" until it acted strangely or unless someone knew the individual had already died. "However, at other times it took on a hideous aspect and assumed a green phosphorescent glow. In this form the chiang-shih developed serrated teeth and long talons" (Vampire Book).

"The chiang-shihs were very strong and vicious. Reports detailed their attacks upon living people, where they ripped off the head or limbs of their victims. This homicidal viciousness was their most often reported trait. They usually had to surprise their victims because they had no particular powers to lure or entrance them. Besides their homicidal nature, the chiang-shih might also demonstrate a strong sexual drive that led it to attack and rape women. Over a period of time, the vampires gained strength and began to transform to a mobile state. They would forsake the coffin habitat, master the art of flying and develop a covering of long white hair. They might also change into wolves" (The Vampire Book).

"Suspected corpses were allowed to decay in the open air before burial, or when buried, were often exhumed and burned. In the absence of the corpse from a grave, the coffin-lid was removed, thus letting in fresh air, which prevents the body from re-entering it. When the corpse was roaming about, rice, red peas, and pieces of iron were strewn round the grave; it could not pass these, and was found stiff and dead on the ground and could be burned" (Hastings 590). "Vampires are...believed to have a powerful fascination with counting: if a vampire should come across scattered seeds, it will begin counting them, not stopping until it has finished" (Kronzek 283). In addition to counting seeds, the Chinese vampire is reported to have several other weaknesses. "Garlic an almost universal medicinal herb, kept vampires away. Salt was believed to have a corrosive effect on the vampire's skin. Vampires were offended by loud noises, and thunder would occasionally kill one. Brooms were handy weapons with which a brave soul could literally sweep the vampire back to its resting spot. Iron filings, rice, and red peas created barriers to the entry of the vampire and would often be placed around a vacant coffin to keep a vampire from taking it as a resting place" (Vampire Book).

Restless vampires were created by disturbances of the body after death. "With the hopping or jumping vampires, a different mythology about dealing with vampires evolved. They could be subdued with magical talismans" (Vampire Book). "By far the most common cause of a vampire in contemporary folklore is the random ritual infelicity of a cat or animal jumping over the corpse while it is lying in state...In such cases, the association is between evidence of a vampire attack and a recent death that was otherwise natural, except for the postmortem intrusion into the sacred space around the deceased's body" (McClelland 94). In these myths, "holding one's breath would temporarily stop" the vampire. "Eating sticky rice was an antidote to a vampire bite. By creating a separate vampire myth, the Chinese movies have built a new popular image of the vampire in the Orient much as the Dracula movies created one in the West" (Vampire Book).

Zai jian,

Stories of Chinese Vampires:

Sung-lings, P'u. The Resuscitated Corpse.
Liaozhai. Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio.
Mei, Yuan. Tzu Puh Yu.


Barber, Paul. Vampires, Burial and Death.
Bunson, Matthew. The vampire encyclopedia.
Bush, Laurence C. Asian Horror Encyclopedia.
Hastings, James. John Alexander Selbie, Louis Herbert Gray. Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics.
Krensky, Stephen. Vampires.
Kronzek, Elizabeth. The Sorcerer's Companion.
McClelland, Bruce. Slayers and their vampires.
McNally, Raymond T. Radu Florescu. In search of Dracula
The Vampire Book: Vampires in China. http://www.answers.com/topic/vampires-in-china

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