Vampires in China

Belief in vampires is not confined to the people of Transylvania, and half humans able to transform themselves into monsters are no strangers to Chinese folklore. Some tales may be traced back to the third century AD.

Since Bram Stoker’s Dracula was published in 1897, this makes a case that vampire folklore may have originated in China and traveled west along the Silk Road almost two thousand years ago.

The Chinese vampire is called a Jiang-shi (also spelled Kaing-shi or Chiang-shih). However, Chinese vampires are different from Dracula or Anne Rice’s vampires.

Chinese folklore says the Jiang-shi is stiffened by rigor mortis and these vampires have to hop to get around. The Jiang-shi also finds its victims by smelling your breath, so if a hungry Jiang-shi is about, it is best to stop breathing.

In the 1980s, there was a series of vampire movies produced in Hong Kong. The first in the series was Mr. Vampire (you may watch Mr. Vampire here. For parts two through ten, scroll down to the embedded YouTube series at the bottom of this post).

Mr. Vampire – Part 1/10
with English subtitles

Ricky Lau directed Mr. Vampire and the producer was Sammo Hung.

Chopper Time says, “Almost all of these movies are pretty watchable, but the best of the bunch was the first one, an expert horror-comedy called Mr. Vampire.

There were a few Taiwanese vampire films, which include The Vampire Shows His Teeth (a series of three films (1984-1986), New Mr. Vampire (1985), Elusive Song of the Vampire (1987) and Spirit versus Zombie (1989).

Today, Vampires stories are becoming popular in mainland China. Tom Carter, an American author and expatriate living in China, says Twilight is a popular pirated novel and some Twilight fans are now writing their own fan-fiction and vampire stores in Chinese on their Blogs.

In fact, a shop called the Vampire opened its doors recently in Beijing to sell vampire, zombie, and werewolf blood along with Satan poison and UFO fuel.

In November 2010, the China Daily reported Blood Shop drawing a thirsty Crowd.

“The shop, which opened September 20, is reportedly the first of its kind in Beijing. The storefront also has a stained-glass window adorned with a miniature vampire model sucking blood from a cup held in his skeletal hand.”


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Mr. Vampire continued
with English subtitles

Mr. Vampire – Part 2/10

Mr. Vampire – Part 3/10

Mr. Vampire – Part 4/10

Mr. Vampire – Part 5/10

Mr. Vampire – Part 6/10

Mr. Vampire – Part 7/10

Mr. Vampire – Part 8/10

Mr. Vampire – Part 9/10

Mr. Vampire – Part 10/10

Note: This post first appeared December 25, 2010


4 Responses to Vampires in China

  1. merlin says:

    It hops? I always thought Bunnicula was a kid’s fiction novel. Although I sometimes thought my former boss’s white dwarf rabbit with red eyes was Bunnicula in the fur.

    I never knew the Chinese had a vampire legend, but I do know they have many legends with transformations. In ancient times, some Gods were seen as half serpent half human. For some reason, unlike other cultures, China really focused on the serpentine shaped God labeled as a dragon. Also, they focused a lot on turtles. It’s interesting that the oldest known cultures of China used turtle shells for communication and mystic predictions.

    The whole thing about smelling breath strikes my curiosity. In India, garlic is a major spice used in cooking. In some places in China, garlic is used in cooking too. Because the Chinese are used to spicy things, there are people that sit in front of a television snacking on raw garlic. I’ve tried it and like it, but it throws out a powerful kick in the pants along with breath that would make a skunk run for it’s life. I ate it because it’s healthy. I had an episode when I nearly passed out back in September. My cancer doctor gave me the same response as always. I went to a local clinic for the first time only to be told it COULD be a minor inner ear inflammation that fired up for a brief second. Well, the local hospital once told me the same thing 12 years ago that it MIGHT be cancer, but they’re not sure and it could just be a virus. The local emergency room 11 years ago thought I swallowed a quarter when my throat swelled shut from a reaction to Asparaginase. Even though I dont show it much, I’m constantly thanking that invisible being from the bottom of my heart that’s always there to drag my butt away from a dirt nap.

    Anyways, I wonder if the concept of using garlic was also from ancient China and followed the caravans along the silk road.

    • There is also pickled garlic. In addition, my wife cooks with garlic and ginger all the time—lots of it! Since we all eat the same food, we don’t notice the garlic/ginger breath. However, in the early mornings, it’s obvious.

      • merlin says:

        Yea, I remember the smell of cooked garlic. One thing about the suburbs, there’s always a nice smell wafting on the air. Ginger. Wow that’s some strong stuff. Sichuan food is spicy, but ginger is just…a different extreme. That’s all near the bottom of my book of favorite food including Guangdong herbal tea. Give some of that to a vampire, they’d fall over and die again.

        So I’m curious what else went across the Silk road? Wasn’t it before the European medieval era? I’m curious if the stories of Asian dragons similarly drifted by word of mouth from caravan to caravan to Europe. History is always full of mysteries because of simple misinterpretations. Reminds me of the Ancient Aliens series on the History channel. There’s dozens of different ideas, but ultimately the one theory is our ancestors were in contact with living things not from this planet. I always enjoy watching it to see how much agrees with my own opinion.

      • I’m not sure about the dragon myths making that journey West along the Silk Road. Western dragons are evil, mean, destructive, and they fly and spew fire from their mouths.

        However, Chinese dragons are more like sea serpents and offer protection and wisdom, which may explain why Chinese New Year Celebrations have those long, decorative, serpentine dragons in the parades and the roofs of Imperial era buildings had dragons incorporated into the designs.

        There is a lot in China that is the opposite of the West. At funerals, the Chinese wear white while in the West we tend to wear black. In China, the last name comes first. In China the practice of health is preventative instead of living life anyway you ant and eating anything you want, you eat food that is supposed to be healthy and exercise. In the West, we wait until people are sick and then radiate, medicate and slash out the disease while letting them continue the same bad lifestyle habits that causes most of disease in the first place.

        Even religion and spiritual beliefs are the opposite. In the West, most people live their lives to get ready to die and go to heaven. In China, most people believe there is no life after death and live life as if it is all they will every have but respect, family honor and honoring elders is such a strong influence in the culture that most children do not become destructive as children in the West do.

        In China, children take care of their parents as they age and older people are given much respect. In the West, most children say/think, “I didn’t ask to be born” and expect their parents to take care of them in every way possible even if the children do not respect the parents. And if the parents get too old, the children take away everything they own by getting a court order to be the master and control the money/property and then shove the parents into and old person’s home where they are out of sight and sound and seldom visited by the children who are out having a good time spending what the parents earned. There are exceptions of course but the average tends to fit these descriptions.

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