Happy Halloween from Two Americans in China!

I can’t believe it has been nearly two months since I last posted! Ugh! I can’t believe I let it go this long. I have just been so busy, I kind of had to let a few things go for a while. But I have some great posts planned! Starting today!

Happy Halloween from China!

The Chinese don’t have an exact equivalent for Halloween, but they do have a strong appreciation for all things creepy. Western Halloween is also growing in popularity, especially among college students. Here are a few of the most popular Chinese ghosts and demons.

The Nügui

The nügui (女鬼, literally ‘female ghost’) is typically the spirit of a woman who was wronged or sexually abused in life. She usually either commits suicide while wearing a red dress or her family can clothe her in a red dress instead of the traditional white garb of mourning for her funeral. 

The Jiangshi

In Chinese tradition, zombies and vampires are basically the same thing – jiangshi (僵尸). They are dead creatures who rise in order to devour the qi (气 , the life force) of the living. They hop instead of walk since, because of rigor mortise, their knees don’t bend.

They are typically dressed as Qing Dynasty officials because the first recorded account of a jiangshi was during the Qing Dynasty.

According to Qing Dynasty scholar Ji Xiaolan as written in his book Yuewei Caotang Biji (閱微草堂筆記), there are many reasons why a person might return to the world of the living as a jiangshi such as through the use of supernatural arts to resurrect the dead or a corpse could absorbs sufficient yang qi to return to life. Jiangshi often populate Chinese horror films and stories and are a popular Halloween costume.

Ox Head and Horse Head

Ox Head (牛头) and Horse Head (马面) are two mythical guardians of the entrance of Hell. They both have the bodies of large, muscular men, but their heads are of an ox and a horse. They are the first creatures the dead encounter on their journey to the underworld. In some stories, they escort the dead on their journey, because they are actually pretty nice guys.

Hungry Ghosts

Hungry Ghosts ( 餓鬼 èguǐ) are the most common type of ghost in China. In general, Chinese believe that all people become ghosts when they die, at least for a little while. It can take 10-30 days (or even longer) for a dead soul to reach the entrance to the underworld. Even in the underworld, the ghosts typically linger for a long time. During that time, the ghost must be taken care of to it can safely pass on. It must be fed, clothed, given money, and venerated. If any of these things are lacking, the ghost can become “hungry” and remain between the world of the living and the underworld.

I hope you enjoyed this little primer about Chinese ghosts and demons. Happy Halloween!

happy halloween chinese zombies

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