Mythology Monday: Chinese Vampires Are Different


Today, our weekly journey through folklore takes us to China, where we shall explore the jiangshi, or hopping vampire.

Why are they called this? Because they get around by hopping.

Anyway, the literal translation of jiangshi is “stiff corpse,” which honestly explains the hopping bit, since a reanimated corpse can’t really be expected to have much range of motion. They’re often referred to as vampires, but there’s a pretty major difference between them: unlike European vampires, jiangshi don’t drink blood. Rather, they absorb a person’s qi, which is basically their life force.

So, how does one get a jiangshi? There are numerous methods, the first being just straight-up necromancy: basically, the corpse is resurrected intentionally by someone through magical means. This makes them fairly similar to the original Haitian zombies.They also come about through the person’s soul being unable to leave the corpse, either because they committed suicide, weren’t buried properly, or were just a giant asshole in life.

The corpse can also be reanimated simply through absorbing sufficient amounts of qi.

As for appearance, that can vary somewhat. A jiangshi born from a newly dead corpse can, more-or-less, look like the person did when they were alive. However, they can get pretty gross-looking the longer the corpse they are raised from is allowed to decompose. This raises the possibility of a jiangshi being just a skeleton, but I haven’t really seen them depicted that way.
Typically, though, a jiangshi is depicted as a dude with gray skin that has moss or mold growing on it.

Like any good undead creature, jiangshi have a number of weaknesses. These weaknesses include:

1) Their own reflections.
2) Vinegar.
3) The sound of a rooster crowing.
4) Fire.
5) An axe.

To be fair, though, those last two are actually the weaknesses of a lot of things.

Also, like any creature that’s been around in a culture’s folklore, the jiangshi has found its way into popular culture. There are a fuckton of Chinese movies about them, and fans of Capcom’s fighting games would recognize Hsien-Ko from Darkstalkers as one.

So there you have it: a look at on of China’s most interesting bits of folklore. I still think that the whole hopping thing is kinda silly, though.


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