Author Archives: siruizhu

Relatives in Dreams

--Informant Info--
Nationality: China
Age: 47
Occupation: Government officer
Residence: China
Date of Performance/Collection: October 29, 2020
Primary Language: Chinese
Other Language(s):

Main Piece: Interviewer: When I was little, I lived with my grandparents. One day at breakfast, my grandfather told me that his mother, who has been dead for years, came to his dream last night. In the dream, she complained to her son that her feet were cold. In the beginning, my grandfather did not understand what she meant, so he decided to visit his mother’s grave. The grave was in the cornfield and the coffin should be covered by straw. When my grandfather arrived, he discovered that the straw at the end of the coffin was shoveled away by someone unknown. Then, he suddenly understood the meaning of the dream, so he put the straw back to the top of the coffin. After that, my grandfather has never received any complaints from his mother.

Background: There are lots of ghost stories in rural China. Many people there state that their dead relatives have come to their dreams to inform their living conditions in the underworld. Then, according to dead relatives’ needs, people burn some money or clothes for their relatives so they could live more comfortably in the other world.

Context: I have heard this story from this interviewer in the past, so this time I just ask her directly when we were having supper together. She was quite convinced and confident about this story because there were some similar dreams happened to her relatives as well.

Thoughts: My aunt used to tell me a similar story of her great grandfather in her dreams asking her to burn some clothes for him. In fact, I did not feel frightened when I first heard these stories. Instead, I thought they were very warm. These stories embody people’s yearning for their dead relatives. We all hope that our loved ones can go to another wonderful world and still communicate with us after death. Therefore, those stories actually comfort a lot of people by making them feel less afraid of death.

Bunshinsaba

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Chinese
Age: 18
Occupation: Student
Residence: China
Date of Performance/Collection: October 28, 2020
Primary Language: Chinese
Other Language(s): English

Main Piece: Interviewer: In my middle school, the movie Bunshinsaba was quite popular at that time. One day after the final exam, my roommates and I decided to summon Bunshinsaba and ask her how did our exam go. We sat around the table in the dormitory and held a pen together. As soon as we read the incantation silently, the pen started to move on the paper automatically and a number gradually appeared. Everyone was shocked by what we have just seen. Then, according to the tradition, after the rite, we should properly bury the pen so that the Bunshinsaba can be peacefully sent away, but we were too lazy to do that so we just left the pen in our dormitory. Soon, we heard a loud sound from next door: the chandelier in that dorm fell from the roof! More horribly, after checking the chandelier, the maintenance guys affirmed that there was nothing wrong with the chandelier and they could not explain why this situation happened. We were scared by it, and we thought it must be a warning from Bunshinsaba. Therefore, the next day, we bury the pen in the school’s garden, and then everything returned to normal.  

Background: Bunshinsaba was from one of the oldest witchcrafts in ancient China. Bunshinsaba is the ghost of a dead person who can come back to humans’ world and answer people’s doubts through a certain rite. It originated in the worship of a legendary spiritual goddess. Normally, we think it started from Tang Dynasty but some experts believe it is much longer than we thought. Initially, some Taoist priest used it for divination, and then, it became more popular among ordinary people.   

Context: I sent a message to my interviewer, who is one of my best friends, and asked her to tell me some unusual or supernatural things that have happened to her. Then she sent me a long message to illustrate this story and I asked for several details afterward. It was a relaxing and fun chat as she thought it was a memorable and interesting part of her school life. 

Thoughts: People do not like uncertain and unknown future, and they try to figure it out through summoning Bunshinsaba. I felt very unbelievable and frightened when I first heard this story, so I looked up some relevant information online. Some scientists explained that this is simply because people had some psychological hints during the process that make them inadvertently move their pens. More importantly, I think the story tells us not to do these ghost rituals casually, no matter how curious you are, because you do not know if something terrible will happen if you annoy the ghost.