Jiang Shi

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Jiang Shi (simplified Chinese: 僵尸; traditional Chinese: 僵屍 or; pinyin: jiāngshī; literally "stiff corpse" or "zombie") are reanimated corpses that hop around, killing living creatures to absorb life essence (气/氣 ) from their victims. Jiāngshī is pronounced gœngsi in Cantonese, or gangshi in Korean and kyonshi in Japanese.

They are said to be created 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] They may also be victims of premature burial.[3]

Generally their appearance can range from unremarkable (as in the case of a recently deceased person) to horrifying (e.g. rotting flesh, rigor mortis, as with corpses that have been in a state of decay over a period of time). A peculiar feature is their greenish-white furry skin; one theory is that this is derived from fungus or mold growing on corpses. They are said to have long white hair all over their heads[4] and they may be 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.

A supposed source of the jiang shi stories came from the folk practice of "Moving a Corpse over a Thousand Li" (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. Taoist priests would transport the corpses only at night and would ring bells to notify other pedestrians of their presence because it was considered bad luck for a living person to set eyes upon a jiang shi. This practice (湘西趕屍) 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 corpse walking are included in Liao Yiwu's book The Corpse Walker. One account describes how corpses would be walked using a two person team. One man 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]

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