Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Holy Chinese Zombies Batman!

Image courtesy: BIG ACTIVE


Some time ago I wrote a blog post (you can read it HERE) about Zombies and mentioned a few found throughout the world, but one I neglected to mention were the JiangShi - the Chinese Walking Dead.

The Jiangshi are also known alternatively throughout parts of Asia as: cương thi in Vietnamese, gangshi in Korean and kyonshī in Japanese.

Like most zombie mythologies, they have a physical (earthly body), but are not alive and have no free will of their own.

It is said that the walking dead were regularly seen on the roads of rural China, shambling to find their way back to their ancestral homes. If a Chinese person was buried away from his/her ancestral lands without the correct rituals it was widely believed that they would turn into a zombie in a desire to return home.

Image result for jiangshi
Generally speaking, a jiangshi's appearance can vary.  The jiangshi may appear unremarkable albeit pale and stiff with rigor mortis or depending on the length of time out of the grave, can be a rather horrifying spectacle of human decomposition with rotting flesh, and greenish skin covered in mould.
One of the main features of the jiangshi is said to be its stiff mode of movement. They walk with arms outstretched for balance, and may even hop or lope as their limbs are largely unbending.

 I have read that the Chinese character for "jiang" (僵) in "jiangshi" literally means "hard" or "stiff", in reference (one can assume) to the process of rigor mortis, when the body of dead person or animal becomes stiff and unbending. If this is indeed the case, then I would speculate that the jiangshi could only made from a recently dead individual - rather than the long time dead being raised from the grave.

Rigor mortis (Latin: rigor "stiffness", mortis "of death") is caused by chemical changes in the muscles after death, causing the limbs of the corpse to stiffen. It starts between 2-6 hours after death first in the eyelids, jaw and neck, progressing to other parts of the body. Rigor mortis lasts between 24 - 48 hours.

If a corpse was magically animated during those first 24 - 48 hours then the mobility of the individual would be highly compromised as the jiangshi myths suggest they are.

The jiangshi are relatively popular in Chinese and Hong Kong horror movies, and are often depicted wearing Qing era clothing - they are also often referred to as Chinese Vampires, as the familiarity of the Western bloodsucking vampire merged with traditional mythology. Some jiangshi may attack humans and consume their life force. Essentially, however, the jiangshi is a shambling, rotting corpse with little or no self awareness and animalistic tendencies. It is suggested that some Taoist priests and malevolent magicians may raise jiangshi from their rest to do their wicked bidding, but most myths are more benign suggesting that the animated corpses simply want to go home.

Wikipedia (fabulous source of trustworthy information that it is) has amusingly listed [link ref] methods to prevent jiangshi attack. Some of which are quite unusual. I do not have the time to verify the authenticity of these methods or the quotes used, so read and take them with a pinch of salt, or perhaps the hooves of a black donkey.

  • Mirrors: "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: "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 "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:  "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
  • Handbell
  • Thread stained with black ink
  • Blood of a black dog
  • Stonemason's awl
  • Axe
  • Broom
So, dear readers,  if you suspect your beloved may turn into a jiangshi, keep your roosters and jujube seeds handy.

Have a super day.

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