Friday, June 17, 2022

Forest Vampire -- a Legend from Chaozhou, Guangdong

 In a rugged, forested, and mountainous area called Leiling, someone had once left a coffin with a dead body inside. Into that body eventually entered some miasma, some airborne evil spirit, infecting that corpse, turning it into a jiangshi, a vampire. 

And so, in the darkness of night, the vampire would venture out of its coffin and seek out humans who happened to be out in the forests of this hill country. It would appear behind them and envelop them with its arms, hugging and, thus, killing them, all this being accomplished in mere seconds. 

Despite the ruggedness and remoteness of the terrain, more than a few people fell victim to this vampire.

Now, it so happened that a man in the area had arranged with another family for his son to marry their daughter. Early one evening, he had a bridal sedan chair carried by two porters show up at the bride's house to escort her to the home of the groom. The bride climbed up into the sedan chair, one of the porters closed the curtains to her compartment, and the porters picked up the sedan chair to head for their destination. 

The path would take them through the forest. 

Once in the forest, the porters suddenly felt the need to relieve themselves. They gingerly put the sedan chair down and headed off into the bushes to take care of nature's business. They came back to the sedan chair as soon as they could, hoisted the chair, and quickly completed the journey, arriving at the groom's house. 

The groom eagerly came out of the house to greet his bride. He pulled back the curtains . . .

There sat his bride; from seven gaping holes in her lifeless pale body trickled blood . . .

What was supposed to have been a day of joy now turned into one of unspeakable tragedy. The family members and friends of the bride and groom had the two porters arrested and hauled into the yamen.  The county magistrate heard the case. He knew that a vampire had been responsible for murdering the unfortunate bride. He also reasoned the two porters would not have likely killed the bride and then still delivered her corpse to the groom's family. He came to the conclusion that the vampire had killed her while they, the porters, had been preoccupied with relieving themselves in the bushes. 

The county magistrate next had his men comb the area where the vampire had likely been. Its coffin was located, and the vampire was still inside it. The magistrate's men attacked the vampire with all the weapons they had. The vampire, though, as stiff as a log, extended its arms in an attempt to hug its attackers. 

The magistrate ordered the men to destroy the coffin to prevent the vampire from having a sanctuary to which it could return. With the rigid vampire now on the ground and under the watchful eyes of some of the armed men, the other men burned the coffin. The vampire rose and turned towards a tree and embraced the tree. The magistrate then ordered the tree, along with the vampire, to be burnt as well. 

The vampire would not plague this area ever again. 


Chaozhou Minjian Gushi 潮州民間故事 [Chaozhou Folktales], Chen Di, ed.; pp. 48-49.  (See 7/22/07 for complete citation.) 

One wonders why a bridal party would deliberately take a route through a part of the forest frequented by a vampire, but then again this is folklore, where ironies and inconsistencies with logic abound. Greater "truths," however, remain: the forest is a cold, unwelcoming place that is the home to beings whose very existence is adverse to humans. In addition, unburied corpses that are not provided the proper rites accorded to other decedents could very well be reanimated to curse any unlucky person who crosses their paths. 

For another story about a vampire, see the post for 4/9/22. 

Motifs: E20, "Malevolent return from the dead"; E250, "Bloodthirsty revenant"; E251, "Vampire"; cE363.1.1., "Ghost (vampire) substitutes for bride on her wedding journey." 

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