What is a Phi Dip Chin?

A Phi Dip Chin (ผีดิบจีน, also Phi Dued Luat, originally Jiangshi) is a hopping vampire or zombie from the Chinese tradition, who wears an ancient costume and has a Chinese rune in front of his face.

Background

The legend of Phi Dip Chin was brought to Thailand by the Thai-Chinese community. The Chinese originally called this undead being “Jiangshi”. This term is composed from the Chinese characters for “stiff” and “corpse”. The Phi Dip Chin are often described as revived corpses that resemble European vampires, but move hopping while stretching their arms away. In Thailand, the term “Jiangshi” is sometimes used colloquially for zombies in general.

Phi Dip Chin are usually depicted with clothing from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912 AD) and are said to be able to absorb the life force (Qi) of living beings through touch. Phi Dip Chin are a kind of vampire-like creature. Phi Dip Chin kill creatures at night to absorb their qi or “life force” During the day they rest in coffins or hide in dark places. The reason for their unusual way of moving is that their corpse rigidity has progressed so far that they can only move around hopping. In fact, this points to the actual origin of this vampire myth.

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The Jiangshi legend could go back to the Chinese tradition of Xiangxi gan shi ((湘西趕屍 / 湘西赶尸, Xiāngxī gǎn shī – “traveling corpses in Xiangxi”), in which corpse collectors or relatives track down deceased relatives who died far from home and bring them back to their homeland. In this custom, the corpses are erected and wrapped in shrouds.

Two strong, elastic bamboo poles were put under the armpits of the corpses so that they were secured and could be transported by two carriers. The journey was sometimes long, and due to the elasticity of the bamboo poles and the heaviness of the corpse, it was not uncommon for the poles and corpse to bounce up and down during transport. This may have given outsiders the impression that the body is hopping.

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