Sunday, 23 October 2011

Kiang shi mystery

I previously said, 'If there's anything that throws a spanner into my belief that vampires were not universal entities, it's those bloody stryges and kiang shi.' Let's focus on the latter.

The kiang shi are better known as Chinese vampires, on account of their supposed bloodsucking proclivities. Bloodsucking is a key trait of the folkloric vampire, as demonstrated by the Plogojowitz and Paole cases. In various vampire 'field guides', this trait is sometimes omitted, but broadened to include beings that steal 'life force' or some derivative. Even flesh eaters. The broad application of the term is a bugbear I see popping up time and time again.

But the vampire as we know it, has its origins in the Serbian cases mentioned, which give us a vampire 'paradigm': bloodsucking corpses. At the time, this wasn't a term of convenience, but the local word used to describe such beings, ergo, other 'vampires' must conform to this paradigm, from a folkloric perspective. So when you get things like the kiang shi popping up, seemingly 'developed' independently, a spanner's thrown into the works. To my knowledge, there was no real cultural interaction between the Chinese and Slavs at the time, so, how did the vampire 'get there'?

That's where we ask ourselves: was the kiang shi actually a vampire? I'm starting to have my doubts. I came across an article that gives brief coverage to the kiang shi, written by one J. L. Nevius1:

Google books

Is it possible the kiang shi has actually been 'vampirised' through Western influence? No mention of bloodsucking there, but a very interesting reference to death-by-sunlight. However, I should point out that the vampire's destruction by sunlight is not a folkloric motif, but a comparatively modern one.

I'm gonna go over the evidence for the kiang shi's 'vampire' tag at a later time, but I'll say that 'if they eat any material food' bit reminds me of a certain other folkloric creature...

1. JL Nevius, 'Religions and superstitions of China', The Missionary Magazine, August 1858, p. 304.

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