Vampires we know and love #3: Xiang shi/Jiang shi/Chiang shi

Think vampires are all the same? Think again! Vampires come in more flavors than Baskin-Robbins ice cream. So, this special DotW feature, Vampires we know and love, spotlights different kinds of bloodsucking fiends from around the world.

Xiang shi/Jiang shi/Chiang shi

Confused yet? Why would a vampire have three names?

Well, when it’s a Chinese vampire, it would be best to write the name in either Mandarin or Cantonese. Wouldn’t it be great if I knew either of those languages?

Just slur it and you’ll be fine.

According to Chinese folklore, you’d better bury your dead right away, or they might become xiang shi (Yes, I’m using the spelling variant that starts with X. Because it’s cool, that’s why). A xiang shi might not have originally sucked blood, but when European travelers brought their tales of vampires to China, they certainly started then.

A xiang shi might be pretty, or pretty gross, depending on the best before date of the corpse, but if you find yourself facing a person with glowy red eyes, covered in greenish fuzz (like corpse mold), and with long white hair, you can get you’ve got yourself a xiang shi.

To defend against the xiang shi, try holding your breath. Other effective techniques include sticky rice (but not the regular kind) and chicken eggs (but not duck eggs).

Or you could just run.

By the way, my friend Allison Van Deipen’s book Raven features a hot jiang shi hip-hop dancer. I would definitely give up sticky rice for him.

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Seriously fishy characters 1: Madame White

Madame White is a character who appears in several Chinese folktales. She’s a lovely woman who appears, accompanied by her pretty handmaid, to a handsome young man and convinces him to marry her.

From there, the legends diverge a bit. Some portray Madame White as an evil entity who kills one man every month by tearing out his heart and liver after being his lover.

But Madame White can also be genuinely in love with the man, and he with her.

From the Summer Palace in Beijing. Check out Madame White.

From the Summer Palace in Beijing. Check out Madame White.

The end is the same, though… it turns out that Madame White was originally a white python, and her maid a blue fish (or green snake).

Depending on your version, the story is either a thrilling tale of the young man’s narrow escape when a Taoist priest identifies the snake demon and imprisons her with her maid in the Liefeng Pagoda, or, it’s a tragic story of love denied.

While you’re making up your mind, check out this YouTube Video of a Chinese TV series based on the legend.


A Field Guide to Demons, Fairies, Fallen Angels and Other Subversive Spirits
A Field Guide to Demons, Fairies, Fallen Angels and Other Subversive Spirits

by Carol K. Mack, Dinah Mack

Special, special, special edition: Birth of a mythical creature

Warning: This blog post includes scenes of an adult nature and foul language… In Mandarin.

It’s rare to be able to witness the origins of a mythical creature, so I just had to share this with you. This is the kind of thing that makes me wonder how myths start in the first place… Are we watching one being created right here, today?

There’s a long tradition of word-plays in Chinese literature and language, and it’s spawned a couple of mythical creatures over the centuries. In my research for the Qilin, which I’ll talk about later, I found out that the Chinese (Mandarin or Cantonese–it wasn’t specific) characters for “reed pipe,” “lotus,” and “osmanthus blossom” are the same characters in the phrase “May there be the birth of precious sons one after the other.” So, families that wanted sons hang up pictures that include a reed pipe, lotus and osmanthus blossom.

As we speak, right now, today, there are a couple Chinese songs ( says they’re in Mandarin.) about the “Grass-Mud Horses,” (Entirely mythical, they look like Alpacas) that live in the “MaLe Desert” and have to fight against the “River Crabs” to protect their “Grassland.”

But in Mandarin, each one of these words sounds soooo close to other words. The only two I will (but I could, I really could) say on this blog are “River Crabs,” which is “Harmonization,” a euphemism for censorship, and “Grassland,” which means “Free Speech.” The other two phrases are… well, let’s just say that they wouldn’t be out of place in Pulp Fiction. “Horse” sounds like “Mother.” “Grass-Mud” sounds like “<insert foul verb here> your”. It’s actually a protest song about censorship, but the clever double-meaning makes it hard to censor.

The grass-mud horse has even become a plushie you can buy for your kid:
Grass mud horse plushies

Here’s a video without the translation:

Okay, here’s a link to a YouTube song with translation. Please understand that you might be offended:

I am thankful every day that I live in a country where I have lots of grassland.

In two hundred, five hundred years, will the Grass-Mud Horse be featured on someone else’s ‘blog’ as a magical creature of unknown origins? Hard to say. And I’ll never know. Unless my plans come together and I am preserved as an animated head floating in ether.

Happy one month anniversary, DoTW!