Anti-Imperial Ghost Story


“Well, there’s this one that I do know. I don’t know the details but there’s this one well inside the palace museum in Beijing. So there’s this well that makes strange noises at night or something and people say it’s because there was this one princess, or–I don’t think it was a princess–I think it was a servant for the nobles and what happened was she was mistreated and she was very young and she just decided to kill herself in the well, and that became her spirit there, and people say they can see her ghost wandering around the well late at night.”


Informant (XY) is a student aged 19 from Changsha, China. He spent a few years going to elementary school in Canada but has spent almost his entire life in China. He currently goes to USC. This piece was collected during an interview over dinner in the dining hall. He learned about this from Chinese TikTok. To him, the story is an example of the evils of the past nobility.


This piece demonstrates how new stories are told as a result of modern media. TikTok has created a new medium for folklore to be communicated amongst people. It is also rather interesting to note that this story came to (XY) not from family or friends, but from strangers on the internet. The story also demonstrates anti-imperialist ideas amongst the Chinese people. It is even possible that the story’s circulation was positively impacted by its anti-imperialist nature. It’s a well-known fact that the Chinese government has a group of people creating fake pro-CCP posts on Chinese social media. Could this even be an example of a fake ghost story being circulated by such groups? That question is beyond the scope of this interview.