Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Guide to Surviving Chinese Hopping Vampires

I'm sure we're all familiar with the classic depiction of a vampire, a mysterious figure cloaked in darkness with an intense hypnotic gaze that hides an insatiable bloodlust. If needed, I'm sure we could also name the various ways to kill a vampire. Hollywood may have added a few new "twists" such as UV light emitted from a machine gun attachment or concentrated essence of garlic in a weaponized spray/injection. Overall, I'm sure we can all agree that there are some pretty general "rules" to protecting yourself from and/or killing a traditional Western vampire:

Garlic - Beginning as a Eastern European tradition, garlic was hung from windows and worn as necklaces to ward off evil spirits. Garlic was also believed to protect against the "evil eye" and witchcraft throughout parts of Europe, India, and some Asian countries. Primarily used for protection and defense, garlic became somewhat of a "cure-all" for evil and was eventually incorporated into the vampire mythos. Cloves of garlic would be placed into a person's mouth, and other orifices, after death so that evil spirits may not enter the corpse. Although, in some Hollywood movies like the Blade, you may see a concentrated form of garlic delivered via injection.

Crucifixes - Being unholy creatures of the night, it only makes sense that holy objects will ward off these creatures of pure evil. Vampires typically cower at the mere sight of crucifixes and they have even been known to burn the flesh upon contact with the skin of vampire. Larger crucifixes, like the ones found atop a church, can sometimes be used to impale a vampire. Their effectiveness is based on your personal faith, one could create a makeshift crucifix by crossing two pieces of wood (or any two objects) as long as your faith remains strong enough.

Speaking of holy weapons, Holy Water is also useful in the fight against vampires. Used by priests in purification ceremonies, Holy Water will burn a vampire's skin like hydrochloric acid. Ultimately, there are really only two known ways to kill a vampire:

Driving a wooden stake through the heart of a vampire will destroy it. Be careful as this method is extremely dangerous, so it is best to catch the vampire off guard by waiting until it retreats to its coffin.

The other surefire method is Sunlight, which will completely destroy the vampire. Some vampires explode when exposed to sunlight, so stand back! Others will melt, burst into flames, or simply turn to ash (and blow away dramatically in the wind). New theories suggest that the UV-light from the Sun is what destroys the vampires, so tactical UV attachments (similar to a dazzler) may be mounted onto rifles. Silver is said to be effective on vampires, although I've typically heard that attached to werewolf lore, it couldn't hurt if you're able to find silver ammunition.

Some of the more uncommon vampire lore is their compulsive need to count mustard seeds and untie knots, so these things may be used as a temporary distraction during an escape.

These methods are great if you're dealing with a typical European vampire but what would you do if confronted by a Chinese Hopping Vampire? Hopefully, you're armed with the same amount of knowledge on how to stop these Jiang Shi... BUT in case you're not, here's a guide to surviving any run-ins with those hopping corpses.

Identifying a Jiang Shi

First off, know your enemy! The literal translation of the term "jiang shi" (or as I prefer the Cantonese, goeng si) means stiff corpse, these creatures are known to hop around with their arms stretched out in front of them because their entire body is stiff from years worth of rigor mortis. While it seems like this stiffness would limit their mobility, these hopping vampires are actually able to leap great distances at a time and levitate as if nearly weightless.

Goeng Si are sometimes dressed in formal clothing from a previous era (believed to be from the Qing Dynasty) because it typically takes decades for a neglected corpse to become resentful and turn into a hopping corpse. This is also why most reanimated corpses will seek out closest living relatives first before moving onto random victims. Their appearance may vary depending on the individual's level of decay but are typically characterized by their fangs and signature piercing fingernails. 

The hopping vampire's fingernails are their primary method of attack, stabbing victims and holding them still in order to drain them of blood or qi ("life force"). Goeng Si sometimes appear to be blind after reanimation although they may regain some visual acuity if they gain enough strength back (by draining enough "qi" from victims). In order to hunt, the hopping vampire will follow the fluctuation in your qi from breathing. Because these vampires are blind as a bat (see what I did there?!), holding your breath will make you invisible to the Goeng Si. In addition to being surprisingly agile, Chinese hopping vampires are also immensely strong (much like their European counterpart). They are able to knock down fortified doors and break out of most restraints with ease. These reanimated corpses are also extremely tough and seem impervious to blade or edged weapons, even bullets do little to slow them down.

They are sensitive to bright lights like Western vampires but don't turn into ash when exposed to sunlight, the sun just seems to weaken them. These vampires also have coffins although, unlike their Western counterpart, they don't usually go back to sleep in it once they've broken out. During the day, they will usually hide in caves and other dark places in order to avoid the Sun. These creatures do seem to be affected by moonlight, particularly full moons, becoming much more aggressive. (Like werewolves?)

Western vampires are fully capable of conscious thought and may possess powers of hypnosis/mind control to manipulate others to do their bidding. Goeng Si typically aren't capable of conscious thought and are sometimes under the control of an evil priest, therefore they have been compared to zombies.

In order for an evil priest to summon the dead to do his bidding, he must begin by setting up an altar where he will conduct his dark rituals. If you are able to locate the evil priest, destroying his altar will disrupt any hex or spell that was cast by his black magic. In these circumstances, it is best to seek the aid of a professional, preferably one that's well versed in the practices of this type of Taoist magic.

European vampires cast no reflection in a mirror, which is one of the tell-tale signs that someone is a vampire. Unlike their Western counterparts, Goeng Si actually do have reflections in a mirror. They are afraid of seeing their own reflections, however, which is why you may have seen one of these hanging in a Chinese home or shop:

...but more on those a little later. An interesting difference between the European vampires and Goeng Si is that instead of holy water, virgin urine is used as an effective weapon. Virgin urine, usually from a young boy, is seen as "pure" like the holy water. I wouldn't say it has the exact same uses but virgin urine is supposedly filled with Yang energy, which is harmful to an evil creature.

What makes them Jiang Shi?

So what is it that turns people into a hopping vampire? There are actually several different reasons that may cause a corpse to reanimate:

One explanation given was that those who die in anger have one last breath caught in their throat. This dying breath trapped in the body will cause the corpse to reanimate into a vampire. In this sense, you could also suck out the vampire's breath if you are able to hold it steady long enough. Sucking the "corpse's breath" out may turn it back to an ordinary corpse but few are brave enough to try this method and even fewer are successful.

"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 [Jiang Shi]." - DeliriumsRealm

If the corpse isn't buried, even after funeral has been held, then the corpse may reanimate. If it's resentful and feeling neglected, it may seek out family members to attack first.

If lightning strikes a dead body, bringing it back to life in a Frankenstein-esque fashion. This seems like a pretty general way to reanimate corpses, so I suspect that the corpse must already be on its way becoming a Jiang Shi and is just "awakened" by the lightning.

After death, it is believed that a spirit can only reincarnate if the body is there to accompany it. Sometimes, if the person was murdered, a spirit will wander in search of its body (which has no doubt been hidden to avoid authorities discovering it). If a wandering spirit possesses a random dead body, it will use this body as a vessel.

If a pregnant or black cat leaps across the coffin, it may also reanimate the corpse.

A premature burial, meaning if the person was buried alive or had some unfinished business before dying. The spirit may become restless and reanimate the corpse.

An evil priest using black magic to bring a corpse back to life may unleash a Jiang Shi on unsuspecting victims. This, of course, goes against all the teachings

Finally, much like their Western counterpart, if you're bitten or scratched by one of these reanimated corpses, you will contract the vampire disease and start turning into a Jiang Shi. Unlike traditional Western vampires, however, those bitten aren't under the influence of the original vampire that bit him/her.

Symptoms of Infections

Loss of feeling, initially in the area surrounding the injury, but numbness will soon spread throughout the body as the toxins of the vampire begins traveling through the bloodstream.

Blood will begin to coagulate and clotting will decrease blood flow to the rest of the body, eventually causing numbness then stiffening.

Victim will feel cold and begin shivering as their blood pressure drops.

Victim will be itchy all over and feel an overwhelming desire to scratch. This is because the fingernails are beginning to protrude.

Victim will go through a "teething" phase, where they want to bite because their fangs want to burst out.

As the toxins takes effect, the final stages of infection leads to a total loss of self control and an attraction to the smell of blood.

How to Stop or Reverse Infection

Sticky Rice is probably your greatest asset when dealing with Chinese Jiang Shi. Glutinous rice, otherwise known as Sticky Rice, counteracts the toxins from the vampire although it is VERY important that the sticky rice is not mixed with any other type of rice. (The sticky rice must also be used in its raw, uncooked form)

Constant movement is also necessary to generate blood flow, in order to avoid coagulation of the blood. The longer that you stay still, the more the toxins will coagulate your blood resulting in stiff joints and overall rigor mortis. The sticky rice may also be poured onto the floor to be walked on, this will help draw out the toxins from your body.   

A snake's gallbladder is often used in tradition Chinese medicine to "promote stamina due to the 'essences of energy and heat', which is derived from a snake's attributes, such as aggressive behavior (fiery) and venom (energy)." - Wikipedia

The reason for its effectiveness in treating Jiang Shi infection is uncertain but I believe it to come from the concept of "fighting fire with fire" or, in this case, fighting poison with another poison. Another reason could be the increase in stamina playing a role in the resistance of the vampire's toxins.

Taking a bath in rice water made from soaking sticky rice is another way to saturate a victim with the sticky rice's anti-Jiang Shi properties. This is perfect for anyone who needs to make sure they're covered from head to toe. Supposedly, washing yourself with snakes will also speed up the recovery process! (Although the species of snake is not specified)

Snake Wine can be used draw out the toxins allowing for an easy extraction. The process of extraction has not been detailed, but snake wine is also used prominently in Chinese medicine. Believed to have restorative properties, snakes (preferably venomous ones) are steeped in rice wine or grain alcohol for many months. Sometimes smaller snakes and other medicinal herbs are steeped in the snake wine as well, making it potentially more potent.

How to fight Jiang Shi

Jiang shi are extremely dangerous, so it is not recommended for anyone to take on these hopping vampires without the aid of a professional. The "professionals" that I speak of are Taoist priest that sometimes wear a ceremonial yellow robe. They also wear those pointed triangular hats and usually carry around a bunch of yellow paper with them.

Back of the Robe

The most famous depiction of this vampire hunting archetype in movies is the One-Eyebrow Priest, often played by Lam Ching-Ying. This character is similar to that of Van Helsing, who always seems to be the protagonist opposite of Dracula. Whether man or myth, the priest with the monobrow is armed with a vast knowledge of Taoist magic and enough Kung-Fu skills to fight anything that gets in his way. Although punching or kicking a jiang shi doesn't actually harm it, being able to fight back never hurts. 

If you believe yourself to be in any danger, a method of protection is to write/draw inscriptions directly onto your body. This may protect your body from a spirit trying to possess you or even an evil priest that's trying to curse you Voodoo-style. 

These methods are used in defense against malevolent forces. If a spirit touches your body, it may repel the spirit.

Sometimes it may be difficult to locate a mischievous spirit lurking in the shadows. Luckily, there is another way to track what you cannot see.

I just refer to this as the Chinese P.K.E. meter. Long before Ghostbusters brought science into the mix, Chinese ghost hunters made due with what they had. Similar to a compass, the pointer will rotate on the dial to reveal which direction the spirit is hiding. Although slightly primitive as compared to the Ghostbusters version, this dial can track the spirit's movements.

If you've been to a Chinese home, you may have seen one of these mirrors hanging above the doorway.

Known as a Bagua Mirror, or an octagonal mirror, the markings around the mirrored center represent the eight trigrams of Taoism. There may be more intricate variations, such as the one shown earlier, but this is the most common version of this type of mirror. The idea is that this mirror will reflect bad luck and negative energy away from your household, hence why it's typically hung over doorways at the entrance to the home.

This is commonly used as a weapon by Chinese "ghost hunters" seeing as Jiang Shi, and some other evil spirits in Chinese folklore, are afraid of their own reflection. Apparently, on some of these, you can remove the mirror from the back and use it to concentrate the moonlight into a weaponized aura that surrounds an object such as a coin sword (as demonstrated by the picture above). 

Coin Sword - These swords are made by tying coins together with a lucky red thread and is traditionally used to ward off evil, misfortune, and illness. The specific number of coins used is said to total 64. This sword is said to be able to separate and re-form the dagger shape at the command of its user.

Here we see the moonlight infused version

Typically hung above the bed of someone who is sick, this sword is also said to cut through bad luck and illness. When pulled apart, the coins tied together by the lucky red string can be used as a makeshift whip or to temporarily bind a malevolent spirit. While these coin swords might be found in the vampire hunter's arsenal, the dagger is secondary to the...

Wooden Sword - made from the wood of a peach tree. Peaches are said to be "the essence of the Five Elements. It can subjugate evil auras and deter evil spirits." These swords are the primary weapon used in an Taoist exorcisms and is sometimes used with a yellow talisman at the end, for added effectiveness against evil.

However, these wooden swords are extremely effective on their own. These things sometimes glow like lightsabers upon contact and then spark like you just hit the vampire with some kind of supernatural cattle prod.

Much like Western vampires, these Jiang Shi can be stopped if you stab it through the heart. Normal swords will bend and break against them, as will most metal objects, but the peach wood sword seems to be the only thing that can pierce through the stiffened exterior of the corpse. In fact, as long as you can penetrate, you might not even have to aim for the heart if you can hit a vital area such as the abdomen and chest. The true weakness of these creatures are to magic and magical items, typically associated with Taoist spiritualism. 

To strike a well-aimed deathblow at these hopping vampires, it is best to keep them still and restrained. Typically, it would take a team of grown men to pin the beast down. Unless you have a team of vampire hunters at your disposal, the next best thing is to find a way to bind it. Thread stained with black ink and chicken blood is an extremely effective method of binding jiang shi. Why chicken blood in particular? I'm not exactly sure, but chickens seem to have a million and a half different uses when fighting evil. Chicken blood can be used to write or draw, chicken eggs are used to keep a corpse from rising out of the coffin, and live chickens can be used as bait. If they touch the thread, it will spark and the vampire will be repelled. This line can also be used to create barriers or bind their stabbing fingers at their side.

The ink and chicken blood mixture can also be transferred onto the coffin, creating a type of seal to keep the jiang shi from getting out. (Note: For this to be effective, the entire coffin must be covered by the ink and blood seal. If you forget to mark the bottom of the coffin, the vampire can still break out through sheer brute force.)

If the thread is too thin to be effective against a stronger vampire, thicker rope may be required to properly restrain the corpse from rising. The rope may also be stained with the black ink and chicken blood. This could potentially provide more resistance before the hopping vampire is able to break through it.

Though the most effective method by far to immobilizing jiang shi is to use of the yellow paper talisman:

That yellow paper that I mentioned before is typically used to create talisman that will stop a vampire in its tracks, if stuck to their forehead (Although a really powerful vampire may be able to resist it). The inscriptions on the paper talisman may be written in a combination of red ink and chicken's blood to increase their effectiveness. Also, the type of "spell" written on them may also affect how effective each individual talisman (or "fu" in Cantonese) is on the vampire. Here are a few examples of different types of fu:

This is known as the "Corpse-appeasing Talisman"

These talisman, much like the sticky rice, has a variety of uses. If defending a household, these can be hung or plastered to windows in an attempt to keep Jiang Shi out. They can be used to bind a spirit/ghost, create a barrier of protection, and even be placed on the end of a wooden sword to increase the power of the sword.

Once immobilized by talisman, the Taoist priest may be able to transport a group of them by ringing a bronze handbell. The origin stems from migrant workers dying in another part of the country while looking for work. In Chinese culture, it is customary for bodies to be buried in the soil of their native birthplace, so these priests would transport corpses in this manner until they brought the corpse home. The loud noise produced from ringing these bronze handbells is also believed to ward off evil spirits. (Loud noises in general are believed to scare away evil, which is why we burn firecrackers for New Years)

A rope with bronze bells dangling from the end can also be used to restrain a jiang shi. Although I'm sure that this method is not as effective as the ink and blood stained rope, as the bronze handbells are amongst the least effective weapons in fighting jiang shi. Practically ineffective on their own against a stronger vampires, these bronze handbells are typically used in conjunction with the yellow paper talisman. (After the talisman has already immobilized and probably weakened them)

However, the best method to destroying a jiang shi is just to burn it. Whether you cremate the corpse before it turns into a hopping vampire (recommended) or if you are able to keep it still long enough to set fire to it, the bottom line is that you want to burn it. (Kill it with fire, if you will)

While it's been many years since a jiang shi has been seen hopping around, keep these tips in mind if you ever have a run-in with these Chinese hopping vampires and you might be able to survive your spooky encounter...


Mr. Vampire (1985) - The granddaddy of all Jiang Shi films, this is the film that popularized the genre as well as cementing Lam Ching-Ying as the vampire/ghost hunter. (One-Eyebrow Priest)

Mr. Vampire II (1986) - The "sequel" in this non-linear series. A couple of archeology students and their professor discovers a family of jiang shi. When they are accidentally released, all hell breaks loose!

Mr. Vampire III (1987) - This one focuses more on "evil spirits" and features a priest that has two pet ghosts. When they encounter a great evil, Lam Ching-Ying and this other priest must join forces to overcome it.

Mr. Vampire Saga [a.k.a. Mr. Vampire IV] (1988) - The only one in these "series" that doesn't feature Lam Ching-Ying. The first 45 minutes of which doesn't really feature any jiang shi and instead focuses on a childish rivalry between two priests of different beliefs. When the vampire finally shows up though, it's a good one.

Vampire vs. Vampire (1989) - One of the few movies that actually features an East meets West vampire storyline. Unfortunately, the jiang shi in this is just a baby and it's really more about Lam Ching-Ying fighting a Western vampire. I would've LOVED to have seen two adult vampires go at it.

Spooky Encounters [a.k.a. Encounters of the Spooky Kind] (1980) - One of Sammo Hung's famous entries into the genre, this primed Hong Kong audiences for the hopping vampire craze that would officially hit after Mr. Vampire came out.

Magic Cop (1990) - More Lam Ching-Ying awesomeness! This time, he's a retired cop that helps out on a case where the supernatural is involved. Drug smuggling using Taoist magic? Nice.

Hocus Pocus (1984) - Another precursor that would later help cement Lam Ching-Ying's reputation as the ultimate vampire/ghost hunter.

The Dead and the Deadly (1982) - Another movie that's more about Chinese spiritual beliefs than jiang shi, this movie not only has Sammo Hung but Lam Ching-Ying playing an elderly Taoist priest that would make him the face of the whole vampire hunting genre.

There are many more movies in this genre but these were the ones I watched when writing this article, so start with these and find more if you're interested. Also, leave a comment with your personal favorites that might not have made it on this list. Stay safe out there everyone!