In popular Chinese mythology, Chiang-shih (or kiang shi), sometimes called hopping corpse or Chinese vampires by Westerners, are reanimated corpses that hop around, killing living creatures to absorb life essence (qì) from their victims.
Some would appear to look as a normal human being while others had a hideous green phosphorescent glow with serrated teeth and long talons. They have difficulty walking because of the pain and stiffness of being dead so they hop instead. They are far more pale and have very dark circles under their eyes.
Generally in the movies the hopping corpses are dressed in imperial Qing Dynasty clothes, their arms permanently outstretched due to rigor mortis. Like those depicted in Western movies, they tend to appear with an outrageously long tongue and long fingernails. Their visual depiction as horrific Qing Dynasty officials reflects a common stereotype among the Han Chinese of the foreign Manchu people, who founded the much-despised dynasty, as bloodthirsty creatures with little regard for humanity.
Chiang-shihs were nocturnal creatures and had difficulties crossing running water. It was said that they were particularly vicious and ripped the head or limbs off their victims. They were also said to have a strong sexual drive which led them to attack and rape women. After a period of growing stronger, chiang-shihs would gain the ability to fly, grow long white hair, and possibly change into wolves.
They can be evaded by holding one's breath, as they are blind and track living creatures by detecting their breathing. People also protected themselves from chiang-shih by using garlic or salt. They were driven away with loud noises, and it was thought that thunder could kill them. Brooms were used to sweep the creature back to its resting spot, while iron filings, rice, and red peas were used as barriers. If a chiang-shih reached its flying, white-haired stage, it could only be killed by a bullet or thunder. Its body must then be cremated.
Usually villages that are 'infested' with vampire occurances recruit a Taoist priest to perform a 'ceremony' to exorcise the negative energy. Taoist Priests traditionally rely on talismans-yellow paper strips with illegible characters written in red ink or blood. It is commonly believed that with incantations the priest can 'activate' the talisman, which can totally inhibit a vampire's actions when applied to it's forehead area, thus putting the vampire under a spell. The priest will then, after subduing the vampire(s), use a special bell, which with every ring, will command the vampires to take a single jump. Should the vampire be too strong to subdue, the priest usually draws upon a wooden sword, or a sword made entirely of copper coins linked by a red string as a weapon. Although Taoist priests nowadays do not go 'capturing' vampires, they still perform ceremonies of exocism from "unclean spirits" and still commonly use talismans.
It is also conventional wisdom of feng shui in Chinese architecture that a threshold, a piece of wood approximately six inches high, be installed along the width of the door to prevent a hopping corpse from entering the household
They are said to be created when a person's soul fails to leave the deceased's body. Usually chiang-shih were created after a particularly violent death, such as a suicide, hanging, drowning, or smothering. It could also be a result of an improper burial, as it was thought that the dead would become restless if their burial was postponed after their death. The chiang-shih were not known to rise from the grave, so their transformation had to take place prior to burial.
The influence of Western vampire stories brought the blood-sucking aspect to the Chinese myth in modern times (the traditional Chiang-shih steal the breath of his victim). In fact, Dracula is translated to Chinese as "blood-sucking jiāngshī" where the thirst of blood is explicitly emphasized because it is not a traditional trait of a jiāngshī.
Theories and analysis
Theories about origin and existence
In Chinese belief, each person has two souls, a superior or rational soul and an inferior irrational soul. The superior soul could leave a sleeping body and appear as the body's double as it roamed about. It could also possess and speak through the body of another. However, if something would happen to the disembodied soul during its journey, its body would suffer.
The inferior soul, on the other hand, was called p'ai or p'o and was that which inhabited the body of a fetus during pregnancy and often lingered in the bodies of the dead. It was thought to preserve the corpse. If the p'ai was strong enough, it could preserve and inhabit a corpse for a length of time, using the body to serve its needs.
The chiang-shih would arise from people who died a violent death, including suicide. Improper burial procedures such as a long postponement of burial which angered the dead. Animals, particularly cats, were kept away from the unburied corpse for fear that the might jump over it and thus the deceased would come back as a chiang-shih. Because they had no powers to dematerialize, transformation had to occur before burial, an added incentive for prompt burial.
It came from the mythical folklore practice of "Traveling a Corpse over a Thousand Li", where traveling companion or family members who could not afford wagons or have very little money would hire Tao priests to transport corpses of their friends/family members who died far away from home over long distances by teaching them to hop on their own feet back to their hometown for proper burial. Some people speculate that hopping corpses were originally smugglers in disguise who wanted to scare off law enforcement officers.
Art / Fiction
Hopping Corpses were a popular subject in Hong Kong movies during the 1980s; some movies even featured both Chinese Hopping Corpses and "Western" zombies.
- "Kyonshi", a word based on the Japanese pronunciation of jiāngshī, is used in some games and trading card games as a term for creatures that combine the characteristics of Chinese and western vampires.
- The hopping corpse has appeared in a handful of films from Hong Kong that have seen Western release, including the Geungsi Sinsang (also known as Mr. Vampire) series featuring Lam Ching-Ying.
- In the video game Super Mario Land one of the minor enemies, Pionpi, has characteristics of the jiāngshī.
- In Conker's Bad Fur Day for the Nintendo 64, two parts of the game feature ceramic infant-like enemies that resemble the jiāngshī.
- Poe, an enemy that appears in the Zelda series, is similar to (and possibly based on) jiāngshī.
- In the Jackie Chan cartoon series there is a "Chi Vampire" that is an exagerated version of the Hopping Corpse.
- In the fighting game Darkstalkers, the character Hsien-Ko is based on the jiāngshī.
- In the role-playing game Shining Force III, the inhabitants of Quonus Village are cursed and transformed into kyonshi. One of the inhabitants can become a playable character.
- In the anime and manga Shaman King, the Tao family has a massive army of jiāngshī at their call. One certain jiāngshī the show focused on was Lee Bailong, who is a thinly veiled reference to Bruce Lee. Here, Talismans are used by the person controlling them, and cutting the talisman off turns the Jiangsi into dust, much like a western vampire.
- In the novel Anno Dracula by Kim Newman, a hopping vampire appears as a minor villain.
- In the Disney/Square Enix video game Kingdom Hearts II, Heartless with characteristics of the jiāngshī appear in Mulan's world.
- In the Yu-Gi-Oh trading card came, a monster card based on the zombie exists as "Master Kyonshi".
- In the MMORPG "Ragnarok Online", monsters known as Munaks, Bonguns, and Hyeguns were heavily based on the jiāngshī figure.
- In the Steve Jackson game, Munchkin Fu, one enemy is the "Hopping Vampire" (a vampire on a pogostick).
- In the PlayStation 2 game Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves, when the player is in China, a character summons grasshopper hopping corpses.
- In Oriental Adventures, a supplement for the tabletop roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons, the hopping vampire is a monster the players can face.
- In the MMORPG "MapleStory" monsters known as the Zombie Mushroom and the Zombie Mushmom are based on the jiāngshī.
- Chaozu, a character from the Dragon Ball series, is based upon the jiāngshī.