Sunday, December 23, 2018

A Face That Looked Awfully Familiar . . . (Hong Kong)

A young lady we shall call Karissa worked for a phone company. On this particular day, she was assigned to canvass door-to-door in a section of old apartment buildings, informing residents of the company's new programs and incentives.

She knocked on this one door, and the door slowly creaked open to reveal utter darkness beyond the door. By and by, an old man's head appeared in the crack between doorway and doorjamb.

"Yes, Miss . . . " he said, "may I help you?"

"Good afternoon! I'm Karissa, with XXX Telephone Company, and I'd like to take a moment of your time, if I may, to introduce to you some of the benefits of the new programs our company is offering to residents. How might I address you?"

"The name's Lu . . ."

"Mr. Lu, did you know that through one of our programs you can now have a telephone for the low price of $50.00 per month?"

Mr. Lu waved his hand. "Young lady, my son takes care of these matters. He's responsible for things such as this. I don't have any say in these things."

"I see. Is your son home?"

"No. He's at work. He should be home in one hour."

"One hour. Okay. I'll come back in an hour to speak with him if that's all right."

"Sure. You do that," said Mr. Lu, slowly closing the door.

A little more than an hour later, Karissa returned and once again knocked on the door. This time, a young man opened the door.

"Yes?" asked the young man gruffly.

"Oh, hello, Mr. Lu! I'm Karissa from XXX Telephone Company. I am in the area today--"

"Hold on, a moment. How did you know my name is Lu?"

"I was just here about an hour ago and spoke briefly to your dad and--"

"WHAT? My dad? Excuse me! Are you trying to be funny with me?"

The younger Mr. Lu's outburst and demeanor unsettled Karissa, leaving her at a complete loss of words. She then, for the first time, noticed something in the room just beyond this young man. It was a framed photo, a photo of the same older man she had seen earlier, set on a table. Here, his visage was one of a happy, smiling older gentleman.

But wait . . . The photo was not alone on the table. It was standing between tall ancestral tablets, and the photo itself was within a golden niche.

The photo was part of a lingwei, a memorial display . . .

Karissa now understood.

撞鬼 [Encountering Ghosts], Ah Wu and Ah Yong, eds.; Hong Kong; Wanli, 2007; pp. 6-8.

The above book and a companion volume (回魂 [Returning Spirits]) by the same editors/authors are supposed to be a collection of oral and online ghostly urban legends--in the case of the former, from HK; the latter, from China.

The lingwei 靈位 are ancestral tablets and those of the more recently deceased. They are kept on a special table and are given offerings on certain days. I've seen a few such tables in Taiwan, where the tablets are flanked by large lamps emit red light. A large image of a deity is in the background. 

Motifs: cE422, "The living corpse"; cE544, "Ghost leaves evidence of his appearance"; E545, "The dead speak"; E545.13, "Man (woman) converses with the dead."

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