If you’re from the West, you’ve likely heard of a poltergeist or banshee, but what about a yūrei or guǐ? When it comes to ghosts and ghouls, not all countries are alike, and Japan and China have some of the world’s most terrifying legends. With that in mind, here are 18 types of Asian ghosts you’ve probably never heard of (and may wish you never had).
The Ghosts of Japan
Yūrei is a Japanese word for ghost, though these spirits look quite different from their Western counterparts. A traditional yūrei wears white clothing, has long, disheveled hair that often hangs over its face, and an accompanying pair of floating flames known as hitodama. The creepy ghosts in The Ring and The Grudge are two good examples, as are the characters from The Fatal Frame video game series (which I love). However, yūrei is simply a broad term for ghosts. Specific types of yūrei include:
- Onryō – Ghosts, usually female, who come back from the dead seeking revenge. More often than not, the angry spirits are women who were wronged by a husband or lover.
- Ubume – The ghosts of women who died in childbirth.
- Goryō – Spirits from the aristocratic classes who come back to seek revenge.
- Funayūrei – The ghosts of a person who died at sea.
- Zashiki-warashi – Children’s ghosts.
- Samurai Ghosts – This one is pretty self-explanatory
- Sexy Time Ghosts – The ghosts of women who seduce living men, similar to a Western succubus.
The Ghosts of China
China, like Japan, has a general term for ghosts and terms for specific types of ghosts. Guǐ is the general term, while the subtypes include:
- Diào Sǐ Guǐ – The ghost of a person who died by hanging, either through murder or suicide.
- Gū Hún Yě Guǐ or Yóu Hún Yě Guǐ – The ghost of a person who died far from home and is now trying to find their way back.
- Guǐ Pó – A kind old woman ghost, often a former servant, who returns to an employer’s home to help out (doesn’t that sound terrific).
- Nǚ Guǐ – The ghost of a wronged woman out for revenge.
- Yuān Guǐ – The ghost of a person who died a wrongful death and now wants someone to recognize the injustice.
- Shuǐ Guǐ – The ghost of a drowning victim who lives in the water and tries to drown other people.
- Wú Tóu Guǐ – A headless ghost.
- È Guǐ – The ghost of a person who was greedy in life and is now cursed to roam the world hungry and alone.
- Bā Jiāo Guǐ – The ghost of a former gambler who sits under a tree and wails.
China and Japan are far from the only countries in Asia with terrifying legends. Stay tuned for more posts about Asian ghosts!