Go to Jordan's main page,
China Resources main page.

Content created: 2020-11-03
File last modified:

decorative graphic

The Zombie & the Bodhisattva


Reanimated corpses —“zombies”— are dangerous in Chinese folklore not only to people but even to divinities. The following brief tale is from a collection by Yuán Méi 袁枚, an eighteenth-century literatus strongly interested in reports of supernatural phenomena.

Such zombies are typically mindlessly destructive, and the one here is no exception. What is perhaps of more interest in the present story is that the corpse, seeking to attack the living protagonist, LǏ Jiǔ 李九, is not deterred by the sanctity or the magical power of the Buddhist sanctuary and the statue of a powerful guardian bodhisattva, but only by the physical violence inflicted on it when that statue comes to life.

The Bodhisattva Wéituó 韦驮 is a very common statue in Buddhist temples, always represented carrying a sword and guarding the premises. He is especially associated with Guānyīn 观音, as reflected in the story “Thousand Armed Guānyīn” elsewhere on this web site (link). See also “A Brief Note on Chinese ‘Zombies’”(link).


The Zombie & the Bodhisattva

by Yuán Méi 袁枚

Dramatis Personae

LǏ Jiǔ 李九 = an itinerant cloth-merchant

Wéituó 韦陀 = A bodhisattva enshrined as a temple statue

An anonymous corpse, inclined to be testy

A temple full of Buddhist priests, trained in martial arts

A pragmatic magistrate

Go to English only version.

Acknowledgements: The traditional Chinese text and the English translation are from J.J.M. de GROOT 1892-1910 The Religious System of China. Leiden: E.J.Brill. Vol. 5, pp. 743-744. Both have been lightly edited. Pinyin and simplified character versions were mechanically created from the traditional character version.

Return to top.
Go to English only version.