Chiang-Shih

The chiang-shih is the Chinese version of the vampire. 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 body animated by the p’ai was called a chiang-shih.

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.

Characteristics of Chiang-shihs

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.

Protecting Oneself from Chiang-shihs

People protected themselves from chiang-shih by using garlic or salt. They were also 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.

Reader Comments

Thanks to Alan for this comment. If anyone has text references to these legends, please let me know.

1) Virgin Urine. It has been said that the urine from chaste virgins (usually boys) can repel and even “corrosively burn”chinese vampires. Much like holy water. Rationale is that virgin boys (usually boys not yet of puberty age) are chaste, therefore bearing “pure Yang energy” (Males are associated with Yang whilst females with Ying), hence have offensive effects on these vampires.

2) Regarding Chinese Vampires. Popularized beliefs include their form of movement, which is hopping while arms are stretched forward straight, due to rigidity of the dead body. Some people believe their vampiric abilities includes the ablilty to siphon Ying energy which it feeds on since it is a creature of Ying nature (hence its liking for dark environment). Note that the “hopping” habit is also popularized via old Hong Kong horror movies.

3) Talisman. According to folklore chinese vampires can only be effectively dealt with by a Taoist Priest. Usually villages that are ‘infested’ with vampire occurrences 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 exorcism from “unclean spirits” and still commonly use talismans.

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