As the night of the dead approaches, we’re taking a look at all things creepy and crawly. In the Philippines, we have our hauntingly pale white ladies, screaming tiyanaks, and shape-shifting aswangs. But have you ever wondered about the paranormal myths and beings that exist beyond our lands?
In the thousands of years that the ancient civilizations of China have thrived, there have been more than a couple of horror stories that have been brought to life. From ghosts, zombies, and all the members of the undead, here are five supernatural creatures that are said to roam across China:
1. Heibai Wuchang (黑白无常)
Heibai Wuchang, literally meaning “the Black and White Impermanences,” are two immortal deities who take on the duty of guiding the spirits of the dead into the underworld. Like their name suggests, one deity wears black while the other wears white, respectively representing the bad and the good.
According to one legend, there was once a scoundrel who spent most of his time gambling despite the scoldings of his father. When he died after being murdered by his father for gambling all his money away, he was sent to Hell to receive punishment. He then repented for his sins by performing various good deeds. Seeing this, the gods appointed him to be the Black Guard of Impermanence.
As for his counterpart, stories say that the son of a wealthy family was once sent on an errand handling a large sum of money. However, when he encountered a poor family in need, he immediately forgot his errand and offered them the money instead. Once he realized his mistake, his shame made him unable to return home. He then committed suicide and was judged by the gods for his good deeds, leaving him to become the White Guard of Impermanence.
2. Jiangshi (僵尸)
If you’ve ever wondered what a cross between a Chinese zombie and a vampire looks like, it’s this. In the myths, a jiangshi is what comes to be when a dead body is possessed or when a person’s soul fails to leave their body because of an improper death like suicide.
The supernatural being is usually described to be a Chinese shroud-wearing reanimated corpse that sleeps during the day and hunts living beings during the night to absorb their qi or life energy. Like many other creatures of the dark, they are said to favor coffins and dark places like caves as their hiding places.
3. E Gui (饿鬼)
Also known as the hungry ghosts, e gui refers to the spirits that visit the world of the living during the Hungry Ghost Festival. While plenty of spirits roam the land in search of their former families and amusement during Ghost Month, the e gui are typically known to be those who have been condemned to suffer hunger after death because of their many sins of greed.
Physically, the e gui are described to be pitiful creatures with green or gray skin with a potbelly and a mouth too small for ingesting food. Suffering from extreme hunger, they wander streets and kitchens in search of offerings and rotten food.
4. Nü Gui (女鬼)
If the Philippines has its white ladies, then China has its nü gui. Like the former, many say that the nü gui often take the appearance of a long-haired female ghost dressed in a white dress. These spirits are usually that of a woman who committed suicide after being condemned to injustice or sexual abuse. As nü gui, they return to the world of the living to seek revenge against those who have wronged them.
In some other stories, the nü gui are said to be creatures similar to the succubus, with an enrapturing beauty that allows them to lure and seduce men so that they may suck out their yang essence and kill them.
5. Ba Jiao Gui (芭蕉鬼)
Have you ever been told to stay away from certain trees because they may be haunted? Also referred to as the banana ghosts, the ba jiao gui are female spirits who live among the banana trees. They often appear during the night, wailing while carrying a baby.
In Southeast Asian countries, some greedy people have learned to ask the ba jiao gui for lottery numbers by tying a red string around the tree trunk, sticking sharp needles into the tree, then tying the other end of the string to their beds. During the evening, the ba jiao gui will appear and offer the person a set of winning lottery numbers. In return, the person must set the ghost free; otherwise, they will die a gruesome death for not fulfilling their promise.