Not all Chinese vampires are created equal. This style of dress is associated with traditional “Mandarin”, the bureaucrats of old-school mainland China, particularly during the Qing Dynasty. Think of this outfit as being akin to the powdered wigs and robes of British parliament. It is a symbol of elitism and thus turns these classic vampires into something of a political statement. All that being said, there are often depictions of vampires in Chinese films that more closely resemble Western vampire or zombie films. A newly-deceased body can be reanimated as well, resulting in a more casually-dressed monster.
Not really. For the most part, Chinese vampires are just trying to gather enough “qi” or “chi” energy to return to life. Qi literally translates as “breath” or “air”. Essentially, they’re trying to suck out your soul. In some films, the vampirism is still treated as a disease and can be spread through being bitten. Just as our Western film culture has slow zombies and fast zombies, there are some Asian films that depict these vampires as blood suckers instead. Variety is the spice of life, or the afterlife, I suppose.
No way! Though we commonly refer to the Jiangshi as “Chinese hopping vampires” due to their popularity and prevalence in Hong Kong cinema, there have also been similar vampire films created in other regions of Asia. I’ll do my best to provide as many examples of Asian vampires as I possibly can at the end of this piece!
Now this is the hardest part for us to understand, as Westerners. That piece of paper has a special character drawn on it by a Taoist priest. That parchment with the “spell” drawn on it acts as a magical talisman. They can create talismans to summon all sorts of supernatural powers, from healing wounds to exorcising demons to resurrecting the dead. The Taoist priest, in theory, maintains control of these “vampires” as long as the talisman remains intact. In many films, the vampires go feral when the talisman is removed, and the easiest way to defeat them is to re-attach the talisman so that the priest regains control. This whole practice is somewhat similar to the concept of a voodoo priest raising a group of zombies to do their dirty work for them.
The common answer is that they hop because rigor mortis has set in, causing the body to stiffen up. This is somewhat baffling however, because these undead bastards quite often exhibit superhuman strength and the ability to leap great distances, yet they can’t, y’know... take a single step.
The better answer comes from Chinese folklore: Back in the Qing Dynasty, if someone died far away from home (let’s say they had moved to a big city for work), but their parents couldn’t afford a vehicle to transport the remains back home for burial, then the parents would hire a Taoist priest to return them home cheaply. This was very important back then because it was believed that their souls would be restless if they were buried far from home, turning the deceased’s spirit into a sort-of “homesick ghost”. The priests would transport the bodies only by night, because it was considered bad luck for anyone else to look upon the corpses. They would arrange the bodies upright in a single file line, tied to bamboo poles. One priest would balance the poles on his shoulders carrying from the front, and another priest carrying from the back. As they walked, the bamboo poles would flex up and down, giving the corpses the appearance of “hopping” in unison, as though they had been re-animated by the priests. Thus the legend of hopping corpses came to be.
This is critically important. If you start with the wrong movie, you may just write off the whole genre as being “not for you” and you’ll think that anyone who enjoys it is soft in the head. Some geung si movies are so incredibly low budget, poorly edited, or just plain weird that you’ll find the barrier to entry is just way too steep. My advice, though it tends to be flawed, is to watch these movies in this order: