Ghost Story – China

Ming dynasty in a village somewhere lived a despicable man. All the villagers despised him because of his wrong doings. One night, he came down with a sickness he caught from one of the dead bodies he was stealing from. As he was about to die because no one would help him, an old doctor kindly took him in and treated him back to health in hopes of him starting a new life to be a better person. However, he did not learn his lesson and kept stealing. The villagers eventually beat him out of the village and threw him in the forest. A couple days later, he came back to the village begging for help but this time none would help him. Again, he was beaten, this time tied up to a tree. He ultimately died on that tree but his body went missing soon after. A couple months later, he came back as a ?? (Jiang Shi/Zombie) and killed off the whole village by biting them, converting them to zombies as well.

Jiang Shi literally means rigid corpse. It is one of the more popularized ‘monster’ figures in China. Much like ‘Frankenstein’ there have been numerous depictions of Jiang Shi in books, movies, plays and other media. I first heard of Jiang Shi from an older friend of mine when I was still in elementary school. I also remember watching horror movies about it and being scared to death.

Now that I think about it, there is definitely a correlation between Jiang Shi and its western brother, zombies. They are both evil walking corpses with cannibalistic tendencies out to kill and convert others to increase in numbers. Jiang Shi is also similar to vampires because they also drink blood. In fact, their Achilles’ heel is some sort of a Chinese prayer tag, much like the cross and garlic to the vampires. Does this suggest that zombies are a prevalent theme in every culture? Much like tales about the sun, the stars and the moon. Or is this an example of polygenesis? We may never know but one thing for sure is that monsters and ghost stories are a huge part of folklore regardless of cultural boundaries.