The Drought Tomb


YZ was born in the family of a high ranking military official of the Republic of China. After the Communist Party defeated the Nationalist Party, her family did not flee to Taiwan. Instead, they settled in a village in the northeastern part of China and became farmers. During the Cultural Revolution, her father was executed, and her mother married another man, also a farmer. YZ grew up and had a family in the village, and spent a large amount of time in her life as a farmer, until her grandson was born. Her son had a job and created a family in the city, and when her grandson was born, she moved into the city to help take care fo the kid.

YZ learned of this piece of folklore from the stories told by other villagers when she was growing up.

The informant shared this piece of folklore during a family dinner on Sunday when the family was chatting about ghosts.

The Main Piece

If a woman dies and is buried when she is pregnant, it might happen that the kid in her womb will live although the mother is dead. The kid will climb out of the mother’s death body and stays inside of the tomb. If this happens around a village, the village will experience drought for years. The tomb is called a 旱包(drought tomb).


I think this piece of folklore reflects how the villagers understand natural disasters. They consider drought to be a result of a ghost-ish baby haunting the village.

This can also be linked to the concepts of life cycle: When a woman dies in a pregnancy, the “fruit” of her pregnancy, the baby, dies with her and, therefore, doesn’t come. This piece of folklore reverses this situation, so that the fruit of the pregnancy will come although the mother is dead. However, the absence of the “fruit” will occur in a difference realm– the actual fruits of the village will not come because of the drought. The drough will cause plants to die and therefore the fruits, what the farmers live on, will experience great loss.

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