Jiang Shi

Jiang Shi
Jiang Shi
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 僵屍
Simplified Chinese 僵尸
Literal meaning stiff corpse
Japanese name
Kana キョンシー
Korean name
Hangul 강시
Hanja 殭屍

A jiang shi, also spelled jiangshi or chiang-shih (in Wades-Giles), and also known as a Chinese "hopping" vampire or zombie, is a type of reanimated corpses in Chinese legends and folklore. "Jiangshi" is read as Gangshi in Korean and Kyonshī in Japanese. According to legend, in the day, the jiangshi rests in a coffin or hides in dark places such as caves. At night, it moves around by hopping, with its arms outstretched. It kills living creatures to absorb their qi (life essence).


How a jiangshi is created

Qing Dynasty scholar Ji Xiaolan mentioned in his book Yuewei Caotang Biji (閱微草堂筆記) that the causes of a corpse being reanimated can be classified in two groups: a recently deceased person returning to life, and a long buried corpse not decomposing. Some causes are described below:

  • The chemical composition of the burial ground is unsuitable for living organisms, so bacteria is not present to help in the decaying process. The corpse's hair and nails appear to be growing and there are no evident signs of decomposition. If not dealt with, the corpse will eventually become a jiangshi over time. (In fact, a corpse's flesh will actually contract and withdraw, so hair and nails originally concealed under the flesh become more exposed, creating an illusion of "growing" hair and nails.)
  • The use of supernatural arts to resurrect the dead.
  • A corpse absorbs sufficient yang qi to return to life.
  • A person's body is governed by three huns and seven pos. Qing Dynasty scholar Yuan Mei's book Zi Bu Yu mentioned that "A person's hun is good but his po is evil, his hun is intelligent but his po is foolish". The hun leaves his body after death but his po remains and takes control of the body, so the dead person becomes a jiangshi.
  • The dead person is not buried even after a funeral has been held. The corpse comes to life after it is struck by a bolt of lightning, or when a pregnant cat (or black cat in some tales) leaps across the coffin.
  • When a person's soul fails to leave the deceased's body, due to improper death, suicide, or just wanting to cause trouble.[1][2]
  • A person injured by a jiangshi is infected with the "jiangshi virus" and gradually morphs into a jiangshi over time, as seen in the Mr. Vampire films.


Generally, a jiangshi's appearance can range from unremarkable (as in the case of a recently deceased person) to horrifying (rotting flesh, rigor mortis, as with corpses that have been in a state of decay over a period of time). A peculiar feature is its greenish-white skin; one theory is that this is derived from fungus or mold growing on corpses. It is said to have long white hair all over its head[4] and may behave like animals.[5] The influence of Western vampire stories brought the blood-sucking aspect to the Chinese myth in more modern times in combination with the concept of the hungry ghost, though traditionally they act more like western zombies.

Methods and items used to counter jiangshis

  • Mirror: Li Shizhen's medical book Bencao Gangmu mentioned, "A mirror is the essence of liquid metal. It is dark on the external but bright inside." (鏡乃金水之精,內明外暗。) Jiangshis are also said to be terrified of their own reflections.
  • Peach wood branch or peach wood sword: The Jingchu Suishi Ji (荊楚歲時記) mentioned, "Peach is the essence of the Five Elements. It can subjugate evil auras and deter ghosts." (桃者,五行之精,能厭服邪氣,制御百鬼。)
  • A rooster's call: Yuan Mei's book Zi Bu Yu mentioned, "Ghosts withdraw when they hear a rooster's call" (鬼聞雞鳴即縮。).
  • Jujube seeds: Zi Bu Yu mentioned, "Nail seven jujube seeds into the acupoints on a corpse's back" (棗核七枚,釘入屍脊背穴。).
  • Fire: Zi Bu Yu mentioned, "When set on fire, the sound of crackling flames, blood rushes forth and bones cry." (放火燒之,嘖嘖之聲,血湧骨鳴。)
  • Vinegar: Mentioned by coroners in eastern Fujian

Origins of jiangshi stories

A supposed source of the jiangshi stories came from the folk practice of "transporting a corpse over a thousand li" (Chinese: 千里行屍), where traveling companions or family members who could not afford wagons or had very little money would hire Taoist priests to transport corpses who died far away from home by teaching them to hop on their own feet back to their hometown for proper burial. The priests would transport the corpses only at night and ring bells to notify other pedestrians of their presence because it was considered bad luck for a living person to set eyes upon a jiangshi. This practice Xiangxi ganshi (Chinese: 湘西趕屍; literally "driving corpses in Xiangxi") was popular in Xiangxi, where many people left their hometown to work elsewhere.[6][7] After they died, their corpses were transported back to their rural hometown using long bamboo rods, believing they would be homesick if buried somewhere unfamiliar. When the bamboo flexed up and down, the corpses appeared to be hopping in unison from a distance.[8][9][10] Once, it was a myth.[11]

Two oral accounts of transporting corpses are included in Liao Yiwu's The Corpse Walker. One account describes how corpses would be transported by a two-man team. One would carry the corpse on his back with a large robe covering both of them and a mourning mask on top. The other man would walk ahead with a lantern and warn his companion about obstacles ahead of him. The lantern was used as a visual guide for the corpse carrier to follow since they could not see with the robe covering them. It is speculated in the accounts in the book that corpses would be carried at night to avoid contact with people and the cooler air would be more suitable to transporting bodies.[12]

Some people[who?] speculate that the stories about jiangshi were originally made up by smugglers who disguised their illegal activities as corpse transportation and wanted to scare off law enforcement officers.[13]

In popular culture


Jiangshi became a popular subject in Hong Kong films during the 1980s, primarily due to the films of Sammo Hung, including Encounters of the Spooky Kind (1980), and the Mr. Vampire franchise, which started in 1985 with Mr. Vampire and its four sequels, all of which were directed by Ricky Lau.

In the films, jiangshi can be put to sleep by putting a piece of yellow paper with a spell written on it on their foreheads (Chinese talisman or fu; Chinese: ; pinyin: ). Generally in the movies the jiangshi are dressed in Qing Dynasty official robes, their arms permanently outstretched due to rigor mortis. Like those depicted in Western movies, they tend to appear with outrageously long tongues and long razor sharp black fingernails. They can be evaded by holding one's breath, as they track living creatures by detecting their breathing.[14] They are blind, and lack knowledge.

Because it usually takes decades for a unattended resentful corpse to become a jiangshi, they are usually depicted wearing attire identified with the previous dynasty. Their modern visual depiction as horrific Qing Dynasty officials may have been derived by the anti-Manchu or anti-Qing sentiments of the Han Chinese population during the Qing Dynasty, as the officials were viewed as bloodthirsty creatures with little regard for humanity.

It is also the conventional wisdom of feng shui in Chinese architecture that a threshold (simplified Chinese: 门槛; traditional Chinese: 門檻; pinyin: ménkǎn), a piece of wood approximately 15 cm (6 in) high, be installed along the width of the door at the bottom to prevent a jiangshi from entering the household.[15] Glutinous rice (sticky rice) is believed to draw the evil spirit of the jiangshi out.[citation needed] In the film Mr. Vampire, only sticky rice works, and mixing it with regular rice diminishes its effectiveness. Furthermore, the glutinous rice must be in its uncooked form for it to be effective. Other items used to repel jiangshi in films include chicken's eggs (whereas duck's eggs are ineffective), and the blood of a black dog.[16]

Other appearances of jiangshi in Hong Kong cinema include the 2005 comedy film Dragon Reloaded, where the three protagonists accidentally destroy a village tomb, successfully resurrect the corpse and command it. The jiangshi is shown dressed in Qing Dynasty official robes and moves by hopping. The Jitters, a 1989 American film, focused on mayhem involving a jiangshi getting loose in the United States.

In Crazy Safari, part of the The Gods Must Be Crazy series, a jiangshi is set loose in a Namibian village, with hilarious consequences.


  • A jiangshi was featured in the second season of Jackie Chan Adventures where the qi of almost all the main characters were sucked out and rearranged in different bodies to produce a running gag in the episode.
  • The protagonists: Sid Tobey and Sue from Three Delivery encounter jiangshis that were resurrected by an old man trying to bring back his dead brother by using the Hop-Sing Shrimp cooking recipe. In this episode, the jiangshis hop, suck out the soul through breath and can be warded off with sticky rice, and be completely killed by drawing a Chinese symbol on a yellow piece of paper and throw it into the cooking pot in which the recipe was made, also in this there is only one good jiangshi that can show you the symbol to write and if the spell is not reversed by midnight, the jiangshi will stay on Earth forever.
  • In the Japanese Super Sentai series Juken Sentai Gekiranger and its Americanized counterpart in the Power Rangers series Power Rangers Jungle Fury the Rinshi and their higher rank forms Rinrinshi (Gekiranger) / Rinshi Beasts (Power Rangers: Jungle Fury) are based on the jiangshi.
  • During one episode of the animated series My Life as a Teenage Robot, Jenny fights hopping vampires. As a joke, a bop on the head (Jenny even defeats one by sitting on it) is all it takes to defeat them.
  • In the monsters special of the television contest Takeshi's Castle, one of the sideshows is disguised as a jiangshi.
  • Rin Azuma, in the 2008 anime series Yozakura Quartet, is a 15 year old jiangshi. She moves to the fictional town of Sakurashin, a place where humans and youkai co-exist with one another, after being bullied by humans at her former school. She wears a yellow talisman on her forehead until exchanging it for a tulip shaped name tag.
  • The My Date with a Vampire trilogy produced by Hong Kong's ATV. The television drama blended aspects of Western vampires with jiangshi, injecting elements of ancient Chinese mythology and modern horror legends. Eric Wan played a World War II guerilla fighter who becomes a jiangshi after being bitten by the Vampire King. He lives until the present-day and starts a romance with an heiress (played by Joey Meng) to a family of ghostbusters. The drama was well-received and was key to ATV's triumph over its rival TVB.
  • The Fangire from Kamen Rider Kiva are vampires who feed off the victims life force like the jiangshi.


  • During Tokyo DisneySea's 2009 Halloween show Mysterious Masquerade, Chip and Dale are possessed by a ghost that lives in a Chinese gong and turned into jiangshis. Shortly after being transformed, they are joined by several more jiangshis, which proceed to separate Minnie Mouse from Mickey Mouse in order for her to become a host for the ghost that lives in an Egyptian Sphinx.


  • Two jiangshi brothers appear in the original graphic novel The New Brighton Archeological Society who are related to the two main protagonists in the series. The jiangshis guard the main villain's castle from intruders and the two main characters must break into the castle to take some maps that allow them to find the locations of books of magic.


  • The Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game has a monster card called "Master Kyonshee", though kyonshi is misspelled in both its name and flavor text possibly to remove any religious association from the card.

Video games

  • Hopping praying mantises emulate jiangshi in Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves.
  • The monsters Bongun, Munak, and Hyegun in the game Ragnarok Online are jiangshi, with Bongun wearing blue garb and being male, and Munak wearing red and being female, Hyegun are also male but they wear brown. They bounce continuously, and attack with their stiff arms.
  • In Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, a jiangshi appears as an optional boss. The player can obtain a glyph from this boss, allowing Shanoa to summon jiangshis as familiars.
  • A 1989 game for the NES, called Phantom Fighter, involves a protagonist who must fight through eight towns filled with jiangshis.
  • The 2001 PlayStation game Fear Effect 2: Retro Helix features jiangshis in the Xi'an level. They make high-pitched sounds and dart after your character, inflicting damage.
  • In Super Street Fighter IV, the character Rufus wears traditional jiangshi garb as an alternate costume.
  • An enemy in Kingdom Hearts II, the Nightwalker, strongly resembles the jiangshis, and is in fact based on them.
  • In Ten Desires, the 13th game in the Touhou Project series, Yoshika Miyako, the third stage boss, is a kyonshi.

Manga and anime

  • In Shaman King, Tao Jun and her clan control jiangshis, using them as living weapons that serve as bodyguards and enforcers.
  • In Rosario + Vampire: Season II, Ling-Ling Wong is a jiangshi and also commands her own personal army of jiangshis.
  • In Yozakura Quartet, Rin Azuma is a jiangshi (seen above under Television).
  • In "Princess Jellyfish", Tsukimi Kurashita briefly imitates a jiangshi.


  • Taiwanese singer Jay Chou featured jiangshis in one of his music videos, Bencao Gangmu (本草綱目).
  • In Taiwanese black metal band Chthonic, one of the band members wears corpse paint to make himself look like a jiangshi, and another, the pianist wears a cloth with a spell on it around his head.

See also


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