Chinese zombies

The other day C. and I were talking about the differences in what is considered scary in the West and in China. He said western ghosts are not scary because “they are just a bed sheet floating around”. I don’t know why he had this idea! In children’s cartoons, ghosts are indeed represented with a bed sheet (and maybe a chain), but in movies… not really! My counter-attack was that Chinese zombies are not frightening at all. They just look like Qing dynasty officials! What’s scary in that? (Well, unless they are in charge of processing some document for you. Then you should be very, very scared).

Have you ever seen a Chinese zombie? I think they are not very scary, but they are interesting anyway. I will write a description so you can picture one:

  • They wear Qing dynasty clothes (little hat included).
  • They have long, blue nails. Long because nails keep growing after you die (not really, but many people seem to believe it) and blue because they are rotten or something.
  • They cannot walk property because their knees cannot bend (rigor mortis?) so they move by jumping around. It’s kind of cute.
  • They are so ugly that if they catch their reflection on a mirror, they are scared.
  • When they attack, you only need to paste on their forehead a piece of paper with some magic words written on it and the zombie will stop in his tracks.


Pretty different from our western zombies, right? The part about the Qing dynasty clothes is indeed classier than the dirty rags our zombies usually wear.

On Saturday we watched a Chinese zombies movie because I had never watched a full movie with them. After some research, C. decided we should watch a Hong Kongnese movie from 1985 called 僵尸先生 (jiangshi xiansheng), literally “Mr. Zombie”, but the title was translated to English as “Mr. Vampire”. In fact, Chinese zombies are probably more similar to western vampires than to zombies. They even have long fangs and bite their victims in the neck! (They don’t seem to have a preference for young beautiful women though). They also sleep in coffins and get up at night.


The movie was quite interesting. It had some mildly scary parts, but also a lot of comedy and Chinese folk references. It is available in YouTube here with English subtitles. Within the first 5 minutes you can see how the zombies wake up, jump around and fight. If you dare to watch it, let me know what you think of Chinese zombies!