Darrell J. Pursiful

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Vampire Vednesdays: Jianshi

Still from “Mr. Vampire” (1985)

Jianghi is the Chinese form of the name of these Asian vampire-like monsters. They are also known as cuong thi (Vietnamese), gangshi (Korean), kyonshi (Japanese) and hantu pocong (Malay and Indonesian). They are sometimes created through arcane magic, and wear a paper talisman on their forehead containing their sealing spell. (One story about their origin is that, when someone dies far from home, it is easier for a Taoist priest to conduct a ritual to animate the corpse and “march” it to its proper burial place.) More often, however, they are created through an improper burial, suicide, or spirit-possession. Though they might rest in a coffin during the day, it is also common for them to hide in dark places such as caves.

They might have the appearance of a recently-deceased corpse or be horrifying to see—with greenish-white skin, long white hair, rotting flesh, etc. Their distinguishing feature, however, is rigor mortis, when results in them having to hop about rather than walking like an ordinary mortal. Their name, in fact, translates to “stiff corpse.” In the popular imagination, jiangshi dress in the robes of Qing dynasty bureaucrat. In general, they have more in common with popular depictions of zombies than vampires. Numerous Chinese “vampire movies” feature jiangshi and those who must contend with them.

Jiangshi feed on their victim’s qi or “life energy,” killing them in the process. The most powerful among them become ba or “drought demons” with shapeshifting powers and the ability to cause draughts and plague.



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