China has a rich history of folklore and mythology, including creepy myths. Much of Chinese mythology focuses on ghosts and demons - and if you think all ghosts are the same, you're in for a surprise. There are so many different kinds of Chinese ghosts and demons, from ladies who will give you winning lottery numbers but expect something in return to malevolent animal spirits that really, really want to steal your soul. And, of course, there's plenty of just plain weird Chinese folklore, too.
China is one of the world's oldest civilizations, and its history is rich with stories that will truly frighten you. Chinese myths are richly detailed and fully realized, not just some half-baked ghost story you hear from a friend. This list dives deep into Chinese culture and extracts the creepiest Chinese myths and legends. Vote up the tales that scare you the most.
A Jealous Wife Keeps a Terrible Secret
Gan Bao was one of the first Chinese writers to record tales of the supernatural. He was known to live from some time before 315 AD to about 336 AD. One of his best-known works is Records of an Inquest into the Spirit-Realm, which contains many ghost stories. But more than the stories themselves, it's the inspiration behind them that will make your skin crawl: when Gan Bao's father died, his mother secretly buried a maid with whom her husband was having an affair alive in his tomb, sealing the two together forever, and, she thought, conscripting the maid to death. The family knew nothing of her plot.Years later, when Gan Bao's mother died, they opened up the tomb to lay her to rest next to her husband. What they found was the maid, weakened but very much alive. She said that the ghost of Gan Bao's father had brought her food and water for ten years, keeping her alive until she was freed.
In the Afterlife, Wicked Souls Languish in Diyu
Diyu is the equivalent of hell in Chinese mythology. When someone dies, their soul's first stop is Diyu. There, they are judged, and a punishment is handed out. Unlike in many other cultures, people are not consigned to Diyu forever. The amount of time spent there depends on how much they sinned in life. If you were a relatively good person in life, you won't have to spend much time in Diyu before being freed and reincarnated. But if you weren't? You're in for a long, painful journey. Because in Diyu, you can feel pain, but you can't die. And whatever damage inflicted upon your body after a round of torture is erased before the start of the next round, ensuring that you feel every whip, cut, burn, and disembowelment.
A Husband and Wife, Destroyed by a Painted Demon
The Painted Skin is a supernatural allegory about foolishly succumbing to your desires. It was written as a short story by Pu Songling and published in a collection of his work, Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio, in 1740.
The story concerns a man who brings home a beautiful woman whom he meets on the street. She tells him she is homeless, having just escaped an abusive family. He hides her from his wife, confining her to the library, and has an affair with her. A priest warns him that there is evil in his house, and when he returns, he peers through a window and sees the Devil painting the woman's skin and bringing her to life.
Eventually, the woman kills the man who saved her by ripping his heart out of his chest, and in a desperate bid to resurrect him, his wife approaches a street preacher, who beats her, demeans her, and spits in her mouth. He tells her she must swallow his spit if she wants to resurrect her husband. She does, but feels very ashamed. She goes home and begins to prepare her husband's body for burial, but as she is trying to close the wound on his chest, she coughs up a human heart, which she places inside her husband. She sews him up, and by the next morning, he is once again alive.
Songling spares no one from judgment in his story, damning both the husband for cheating on his wife and the wife for debasing herself for a man who was not faithful to her. The Painted Skin is often told as a cautionary tale about desire and misplaced loyalty.
The Shui Gui, the Souls of the Drowned
If you're afraid of drowning, you might want to avoid swimming in China. The shui gui are vengeful ghosts of people who have drowned. They lurk in the same spot where they perished, waiting for an unsuspecting person to swim by. Once they've found a victim, the shui gui drown them, and the new person becomes the shui gui, perpetuating the cycle forever.