The Chiang-shih are undead creatures of Chinese mythology, with similarities to the European vampire. Instead of feeding on the blood of their victims, the risen Chiang-shih were said to suck the breath out of the living. Like many European vampires, they were said to have long hair, eyebrows, and fingernails, as well as the ability to fly.
A person was thought to have two different souls: a superior and an inferior. It was the inferior soul that remained in the body after death, and if it was strong enough it could reanimate the corpse. That soul was made strong when the person died with unfinished business, suffered a violent death, was given an improper burial, or because respects had not been paid to them.
Also, like the Western vampire, the Chiang-shih are said to be vulnerable to religious verses and images, as well as garlic. Throwing rice and peas at the Chiang-shih was also said to keep them at bay. A jiangshi (chiang-shih in Wade–Giles), also known as a Chinese “hopping” vampire or zombie, is a type of reanimated corpse in Chinese legends and folklore. “Jiangshi” is read goeng-si in Cantonese, gangshi in Korean . It is typically depicted as a stiff corpse dressed in official garments from the Qing Dynasty, and it moves around by hopping, with its arms outstretched. It kills living creatures to absorb their qi, or “life force”, usually at night, while in the day, it rests in a coffin or hides in dark places such as caves. Jiangshi legends have inspired a genre of jiangshi films and literature in Hong Kong and East Asia.
The Chiang-Shih (or Kiang Shi, Kuang-shi, or Jiang Shi) is the Chinese vampire derived from the believe in two souls. Each person had a superior rational soul and an inferior irrational soul. The former had the form of the body and upon separation could appear as its exact double. The superior soul could leave the sleeping body and wander the countryside. For a short period, it could even possess the body of another person and speak through it. If accidents befell the wandering soul, it would have negative repercussions on the body.
The inferior soul (the p’ai or p’o), was the soul that inhabited the body of a fetus during pregnancy and often lingered in the body of a deceased person, leading to the unnatural preservation of the body. When the p’ai left the body, it disintegrated. The p’ai could inhabit the body for a long time and could use the body for its own gain, but only if the p’ai was strong.
The body when animated by a strong p’ai was considered the Chiang-Shih. It appeared normal and was not recognized as a vampire until some action gave it away. Sometimes, the body would have a hideous appearance and a green phosphorescent glow; when in this form, the Chiang-Shih would develop serrated teeth and long talons.
The Chiang-Shih lacked the powers of Slavic vampires. It could not rise from the grave. The transformation to vampire had to occur before burial. The Chinese vampire was nocturnal which limited their activity during the day. It, also, had trouble crossing running water, but the Chiang-Shih was very strong and vicious. There are detailed reports of attacks upon living people, where their heads and limbs were ripped off by the Chiang-Shih vampire.
Some would appear to look as a normal human being while others had a hideous green phosphorescent glow with serrated teeth and long talons. These Vampires have difficulty walking because of the pain and stiffness of being dead so they hop instead. They are far more pale and have very dark circles under their eyes.
Generally in the movies the hopping corpses are dressed in imperial Qing Dynasty clothes, their arms permanently outstretched due to rigor mortis. Like those depicted in Western movies, they tend to appear with an outrageously long tongue and long fingernails. Their visual depiction as horrific Qing Dynasty officials reflects a common stereotype among the Han Chinese of the foreign Manchu people, who founded the much-despised dynasty, as bloodthirsty creatures with little regard for humanity.
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.
These Vampires can be evaded by holding one’s breath, as they are blind and track living creatures by detecting their breathing. People also protected themselves from chiang-shih by using garlic or salt. They were 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.