Sunday, November 17, 2013

Bamboo Ghosts -- an Urban Legend From Taiwan

According to Taiwanese folklore, say the authorities below, there is a type of invisible malevolent ghost that lurks within bamboo groves, waiting to snare passers-by. This bamboo ghost is most active at night and sometimes emits an eerie laughter. The ghost may be more prevalent within groves where unfortunate individuals hanged themselves. The spirit of a suicide victim, nursing resentment for the living and desiring to find a replacement, may leave a bamboo stalk lying on a path. When a traveler comes upon the stalk and attempts to step over it, the stalk might snap upwards, killing the person on the spot. The haunted bamboo stalks have also been known to whip around a person's throat, throttling him or her.

Locals where such occurrences are thought to occur will tell you that these possessed bamboo stalks are incredibly powerful and are able to fling a hog to its death.

Can a bamboo ghost be circumvented from taking someone's life in the ghost's quest to find a replacement? It is said that they can be dispelled if the potential victim sprays urine or throws a rock in the general direction of where the haunting seems to be coming from.

According to someone who says he or she knew the person involved the following story, there was a young fellow who was attending night classes. One night, on his way home after classes, he took the path home that went through a bamboo grove, the only road, it seems, that most directly connected his home with the school.

On his way home on this particular night, he stopped when he came to a large bamboo stalk lying in the middle of the path. It was twitching, shaking. Recalling stories he had heard of bamboo ghosts, he turned tail and ran back down the way he had come, back towards school, then taking a very long, roundabout way to return home. Upon returning home, his parents scolded him for coming back so late. He told them about the bamboo stalk shaking on the path.

The next day came the report that the corpse of a suicide victim had been found hanging nearby where the bamboo stalk had blocked the student's path.

Another story, told by someone who also purportedly knows the person  involved, tells of a mother who had to get up very early in the morning, at about three or four A.M., to sell vegetables at the market. Her route would take her through a bamboo grove. She admitted she would walk through with her eyes closed.

Early one morning this woman was walking through the grove to market while in the midst of a thick fog that had suddenly descended on the area.

What had been clearly one path now suddenly became two with a fork in the road. She stopped in her tracks and dared not go farther, market or no market. She waited until the early morning rays of the sun finally dispersed the fog. Only then right before her eyes did the two paths merge into one . She was mindful of what is said about mysterious pathways that appear in bewitched forests: To take the wrong road or path would be to disappear forever.

In the safety of the day, she resumed her journey to the market and arrived without being harmed.

from◆台灣都市傳說 有跨台湾都市传说:跨过就会死的竹子鬼 - 

要常来過就會死的竹子鬼?! @ 鬼道‧伊藤翔&Ghost Theory :: 痞客邦 PIXNET ::

The first source is from Taiwan; the second one is basically the same but from China and retold in simplified Chinese characters. 

These stories of bamboo ghosts haunting groves and waylaying travelers to find new ghosts as replacements seem to be a new variation of the deadly water ghosts. Stories of water ghosts appear in my ebook, Taiwan Folktales. Water ghosts are likewise believed to draw in unwary men and women to replace them in their watery haunts, such as a lake or pond.  

Are bamboo ghosts actual folklore being transmitted regularly, or are they what is known as "fakelore," spurious legends such as those made up about Paul Bunyan? Indeed, are any of the previous posts on ghost stories gleaned from the Chinese Internet fakelore instead of folklore? Time will tell. If such stories continue to be transmitted, if some didactic meaning (e.g., a warning) can continually be derived from them to make their transmission purposeful, and if such stories are believed in the community in which they are told (grammar and middle school students, perhaps?), they'll probably be accepted as legitimate folklore. 

Urine is a powerful apotropaic, or magic, like an amulet, to ward off evil in Chinese folklore. 

The motifs below are largely approximate.

Motifs: c E266.1, "Ghost of suicide leads people to commit suicide" ; E711.2.6, "Soul in bamboo"; and cF95.1, "Path to the world of the dead."  Without the "Halloween" connection, this would also be very close: c1099.2, "Roads miraculously appear on Halloween." 

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