A Ch’iang Shih is in Chinese folklore, a monster made of evil spirits and an unburied corpse, which comes to life and wreaks death and destruction. According to Chinese tradition, an unburied corpse is a great danger, because it invites inhabitation by the evil spirits believed to be present everywhere at all times.
The Ch’iang Shih story has various versions. According to one Ch’iang Shih folktale, four travelers arrived late one night at an inn near Shangtung. No rooms were available, but the travelers persuaded the innkeeper to find them any space where they could sleep. They were placed out in a little shack, where, unbeknownst to them, lay the unburied corpse of the innkeeper’s daughter-in-law, who had died earlier in the day. Her body was laid out on a plank behind a curtain.
Three of the travelers fell asleep immediately, but the fourth could not because he had a foreboding of danger. Presently, he saw a bony hand pull the curtain aside. The corpse, green and with glowing eyes, emerged and bent over the sleeping travelers, breathing the foul breath of death upon them. They died instantly. The fourth traveler managed to pretend to be asleep and held his breath while the Ch’iang Shih breathed on him, thus saving his life. When the monster returned to its plank, he ran out the door. The monster heard him and gave chase.
The man hid behind a willow tree, but the Ch’iang Shih found him. With a shriek, it lunged at him. He fainted from terror, an act which saved his life again, for the monster missed him and sank its claws so deep into the willow tree that it could not extricate itself. The next morning, others found the corpse, now no longer animated by spirits, and the man, who was still unconscious.