Rethinking Ghosts in World Religions – Chinese





Ghosts and Responsibility

Steven Shankman


Roman Manes

Charles W. King


Culture of Ghosts in 6-Dynasties

Mu-chou Poo


6-Dynasties Anomaly Tales

Yuan-ju Liu



pp. 77-94 Steven Shankman : "Ghosts and Responsibility : Confucius".

p. 83 ghosts in the Analects of Confucius

Analects 11:12

"Zilu asked how ghosts and spirits (... gui shen) are to be served. ... Zilu asked, "May I ask about death?""

Analects 6:22

"show respect for (... jing) ghosts and spirits (... gui shen)."

p. 88, fn. ghosts in the S^uo-wen

/>O^B/ : "The Hebrew word, according to Koehler and Baumgartner, is cognate with the Arabic ">wb come back, = revenant" (Hebrew and Aramic Lexicon, I:20). The parallel association of gui ... with the idea of a "revenant" is suggested by the Shuowen jiezi ... (Explaining Simple Graphs and Analyzing Compound Graphs), which was written by Xu Shen ... . ... His definition of gui .. is as follows : ... "A person who has occasion to return (gui) is a ghost (gui)." ... The commentary to Shuowe’n notes several other early texts that play on this homophony."


pp. 95-114 Charles W. King : "The Roman Manes : the Dead as Gods".

p. 100, fn. 9 cults of the dead

"There have been ... attempts to explicitly compare Roman practices to cults of the dead in the modern world. The best such study is probably John Karl Evans, "The Cult of the Dead in Ancient Rome and Modern China : A Comparative Analysis," Journal of the Hong Kong Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society 25 (1985):119-51, which compares Rome to modern China."


pp. 237-97 Mu-chou Poo : "The Culture of Ghosts in the Six-Dynasties Period".

p. 238 belief in ghosts during the Eastern Z^ou dynasty

"One passage in the Zuozhuan, the major source for the history of the Eastern Zhou ... period, mentions that even ghosts needed to be fed ... . [fn. 3 : "Zuozhuan 21:21, Mu-chou Poo, In Search of Personal Welfare (Albany : State University of New York Press, 1998), p. 55."] ...

In the book of Mozi, written during the early fourth century B.C.E. , uses ... to prove the existence of ghosts ... incidences where people ... have seen ghosts."

pp. 239-40 exorcism of plague-causing ghosts

p. 239

"Ying Shao’s (c. 165-204) description" : "He mentions that during the year 125 C.E. ... rumor had it that there was a malicious plague ghost by the name of Youguang. ... this ghost ... caused the plague to occur year after year. The way to ward off this ghost, as Ying Shao reports in his A Penetrating Account of Manners and Customs (Fengsu tongyi), is to tie a piece of newly woven silk cloth on the doorway."

p. 240

"In the "Rhapsody on the Eastern Capital" (Dongjing fu ...) by ... Zhang Heng ..., the ritual of the Great Exorcism (dano ...) peformed at the years’ end was described ... . The main concern of the ritual was also the expulsion of the evil spirits that caused illness to the people."

pp. 241-2 ghost-lords cause plague [quoted from :- Dao-zan 6:25, Tai-s^an Don-yuan S^en-z^ou-jin 7:56]

p. 241

"There are great ghost lords in the country : Deng Ai, Zhong Shiji, Zhao Shan, Wang Mang, Li Ao, Du Zhou, ... etc. Some people nowadays worship Emperor Wu and King

p. 242

Wen, ... who each ... haunted people, and killed people with diseases year in and year out". {These disease-causing ghosts resemble the diseases causing spirits whom Siberian curing-shamans remonstrate with and/or combat, in the course of curing a patient.}

p. 248 a list of types of ghosts [Dao-zan 28:370, Tai-s^an Z^en-yi Z^on-gui-jin]

ghosts of __




constellation Yin-huo

roaming and exorcism, ...

the official residence


the army camp

the prisoner, ...

those who died when traveling

the unburied

the road, ...

those who died because of their constellation, ...

those who died of hasty prayers, ...

those who are afraid of people, ...

__ ghosts










road, ...



p. 251 ghosts of dead animals [according to Ge Hon]

the ghost of a dead __

looketh like a __




woman {"I met with a sort of people that held women have no souls, (adding in a light manner), No more than a goose." (GF 1)}



GF = George Fox

pp. 251-2 descriptions of ghosts in outhouses

p. 251

"ghosts ... met in the toilet one night : "the ghost was about 10 feet high, with black skin and big eyes, wearing a white dress and a flat headdress."


Another ghost ... also appears in the toilet, and is described as "having the shape of Fang Xiang (demon-expelling deity in the Great Exorcism

p. 252

ritual), with two red eyes and shining body, emerging slowly from the earth.""

p. 252 many-faced & many-headed ghosts [according to Dao-zan 6:28, Tai-s^an Don-yuan S^en-z^ou-jin 8:2b]

"there is a giant ghost with a red nose whose name is Fuzi. His height is nine feet, and he has three faces and one eye.

They go together carrying white knives ... . They fly about in the clouds".

There is another ghost who has two heads and one body, three feet tall. They all have red eyes.

There is another ghost whose name is Daye, with three heads and one body, seven feet tall.

pp. 252-3 tiny and gigantic types of ghosts [according to Dao-zan 6:37, Tai-s^an Don-yuan S^en-z^ou-jin 10:78b]

p. 252

"Now there are eight thousand black-bodies ghosts. [Such] ghosts are six inches tall. They clinch on the birds and fly into the water ... .

p. 253

Then there are thirty-nine thousand Barbarian ghosts of the desert. They are three inches tall, their color is red-white, and they will attach to people with the rise of the flood.


Then there are eight hundred thousand giant wet ghosts. The name of such ghosts is Heavenly Head." Their leaders ... causes the houses to catch fire with flames that cannot be extinguished."

p. 253 giant ghosts [according to Dao-zan 6:38, Tai-s^an Don-yuan S^en-z^ou-jin 10:80b]

"Now there are Eighty-nine thousand black-faced giant ghosts. The name of [such ghosts] is Red Beard, and the height is seventy feet."

pp. 254-5 methods of exorcism

p. 254

[quoted from James R. Ware, The Nei P>ien of Ko Hung (MIT Pr, 1966), p. 288] "If you encounter an official, but only hear his voice without seeing any shape as it keeps shouting at you, throw a white stone at it, and it will stop.

Another way is to made a reed spear and prick the creature with it ... . If you meet a ghost coming and shouting continuously at you for food, throw a white reed at it".

p. 255

[Bei-di S^a-gui Fa (‘Northern-Emperor’s Killing-Ghosts Method’), according to Dao-zan 6:613, Den-z^en Yin-jue] "chant :

Heavenly tent, ...

the commander of five soldiers,

the high knife and the northern elder,

seven righteous [ones] and eight spirits,

the supreme and great villain, long-headed monster, holding the cup of the emperor,

the three gods of the white owl (?), whose spirits ride on the dragon, ...

with purple qi rise up to heaven as red clouds gush forth ... .

The red Emperor will drain the blood and

the Big Dipper will burn the bone.

The Four Luminaries will break the skeleton".

p. 262 gui-wan (‘ghost-kings’) [according to Dao-zan 6:3, Tai-s^an Don-yuan S^en-z^ou-jin 1:4b]

"There is also the Red-headed "ghost-killing Ghost King," a hundred thousand feet tall, who leads thirty six hundred million "ghost-killing ghosts," each carrying a red club and traveling around the world".

p. 265 animal[-ghost]s posing as deities [according to treatise addressed by Bao-lin to the Record-Keeper of the Palace of the Eastern Mountain]

those who call themselves gods of __

must be __



river & seas

turtles & fish

heavenly father & earthly mother

wild cats & raccoons


bears, tigres, & leopards


monkeys & orangutans


hounds, sheep, & swine


pp. 269-309 Yuan-ju Liu : "Allegorical Narrative in Six-Dynasties Anomaly Tales".

p. 278 lawsuit of a ghost at the heavenly court [according to Yi-yuan 6:5:2]

"His lineage sacrificed to him, and they saw Xuan come and sit in the spirit seat. He took off his head and placed it on the spirit seat, and took all the ... food ... he could get, and stuffed them into his neck, When finished, he put his head back on.

At this, he stated : "My case has been taken up by the Supreme God. The King will have no heir." ... Subsequently, a shaman saw the soul of Emperor (Wu of Jin), who said ... : "The country’s downfall began at the time when Cao Shuang and Xiahou Xuan petitioned their grievances (to the Supreme God) and were granted permission.""

pp. 281-2 dream about official appointments effective for the after-death world [according to the You-min Lu]

p. 281

"Xu You dreamed that an official dressed in black resented him with a lacquered tray, on which were six documents of appointment. He knelt. The statement read : "You, governor, will be the Lord of the Big Dipper ... ."

There was another tray upon which were four documents, saying, "Chan Kang will be the Registrar." After he woke up, Kang was just arriving. ...

p. 282

Hearing this, You ... asked Kang, who said, "I am a Daoist Master. After death, ... I hear I am to be the Registrar for the Lord of the Big Dipper ... !" In the ... next year, both died on the same day."


NUMEN BOOK SERIES, Vol. 123 = Mu-chou Poo : Rethinking Ghosts in World Religions. Brill, Leiden, 2009.