The Chinese bury their dead in a standing position and believe that if a soul is disrespected in some way, it will become a Chiuang-Shis meaning “stiff corpse” or more commonly called the “Hopping Ghost.”
This happens as the corpse begins to decay, the po (soul) stays on the earth and cannot leave for the world beyond. When the po lives without its body on the earth, it turns into an evil spirit. The ghost will leave its grave at nightfall and assume the function of the decaying body. The ghost will stalk their family, friends, or neighbors in search of substance.
There are many reasons for this, the most common being that the corpse is not buried where the po wants it to be or that a proper respect in the burial was not observed. The po is many times seen in the company of monks and mourners, and will often follow them home. If a corpse is buried away from their home, is buried in conflict with its belief in feng shui, or if their grave was disturbed, it will bring out the po. If murder, suicide, or violent accident caused the death, the po may not have time for his departure to the afterlife and will be forced to remain on earth. The ghost will spend eternity haunting those who disrespected him.
Now you may ask, what makes the “hopping ghost,” hop? It is believed that it may be the burial garments that sometimes in the period of the Qing-Chng-Dynasty, bound the legs making it impossible to walk. Another explanation is that rigor mortis sets in and the joints cannot be flexed, making hopping their only way to move. Some feel that the hopping motion is deeper than the previous explanations. They maintain it is the ghost’s attachment to the earth and the fact that it is stuck here and the hopping is simply symbolic of the ghost trying to leave and being tied to the earth plane.
All Chinese children know when they are very young that the Hopping Ghost find the living by smelling their breath. They cannot see, and must use the breath of the living to attack them.
The Chinese have devised several weapons to protect themselves from this putrid, smelly ghost. There are the death blessings that are written on yellow paper and stuck to the forehead of the hopping ghost which are suppose to make him stop hopping. Or an eight-sided Taoist mirror where the ghost will see his reflection and hop away. Throwing salt or chicken blood on it will dissolve its flesh and make it go away, or spreading a circle of long-grain sticky rice around yourself which the ghost cannot cross. This does nothing for getting rid of the ghost, but will keep you safe from it.
As in most cultures, ghosts can’t cross running water so Asian bridges are built to zigzag in order to confuse the ghosts, and the doorway of temples have high step-overs to prevent the Ghosts from entering them.
The Hopping Ghost is very powerful and has many supernatural powers. They can produce gale force winds with their breath, change forms, and on occasion have been seen to fly when threatened. Their fingernails continue to grow and are used as the ghost’s main weapon against those they are chasing. When entering a room and the smell of the foulest odors that can be imagined, you are probably in the presence of a po. They are afraid of the light and particularly afraid of the sun, so they are most active in the dark.
Their eyes are the color of red and can often be mistaken for the lights on appliances except, on occasion, they blink. They bring with them the cold of their corpse and can turn a warm room to freezing within seconds. Hopping Ghosts, when photographed, are the color green due to their rotting flesh or appear as a green mist or a green, vortex-like funnel.