Contagion and its Consequences:

The Problem of Death Pollution in Ancient China




Li Jianmin

Institute of History and Philology

Academia Sinica

Nan kang Taipei 115, Taiwan

Republic of China



In his Family Instructions for the Yan Clan (Yanshi jiaxun), Yan Zhitui (ca. 531-603) of the Northern

Qi dynasty (550-577) criticized his contemporaries for practicing the so-called "return of the soul"

(guisha) or "escape from the killing" (bisha), rituals related to a dread of the ancestral spirits returning

to haunt their relatives [Appendix Ba]:

According to heterodox books, a few days after a man's death, his soul returns to his home. On such a

day, his sons and grandsons stay outside the house, no one daring to remain within: they draw charms

on tiles, and make use of all kinds of magic spells to fend off the inauspicious. On the day of the

burial, a fire is lit in the doorway, and the ashes are spread outside in order to expel the soul. Petitions

are sent to the Celestial Thearch requesting an end to disorders like zhu and lian amongst the


Practices like these were already quite widespread in China even at this early date. In discussions of

different ways of dealing with sha , it was said that northerners shunned it, and southerners welcomed

it [2]. Although the earliest textual reference to these practices is found in the Yanshi jiaxun, they

probably originated in earlier times. In particular, in records from the Han dynasty we find mention of

the practice of leaving the house previously inhabited by one who has recently died to avoid disease

[3]. As late as the 1930s, the practice could still be found in China and was strongly criticized in the

Pochu mixin daquan (Great Compendium on the Eradication of Superstition) compiled by Christian


Regarding the practice of "escape from the killing," Fan Xingzhun, a pioneer of the history of

medicine in the early part of this century, contended that the practice was a contribution to early

health measures since it functioned as a kind of early quarantine, protecting people from the infections

that might have spread from corpses. Furthermore, lighting a torch and spreading the ashes in front of

the house, according to Fan, were antiseptic measures. In other words, Fan Xingzhun interpreted the

practice as a means of avoiding diseases caused by the pathogenic organisms produced in corpses [5].

This kind of approach, wherein texts are anachronistically interpreted according to today's medical

discoveries, does not reveal historical truths, but rather conceals them in modern perceptions.

Let us reexamine the citation beginning on page one. The meaning of the last sentence, zhang duan

zhulian, is not very clear, and has led to a considerable volume of debate. There are two major

interpretations. The first sees zhulian as an object that wards off evil influences. The Japanese text

Wamei rui jusho by Genjun (911-983), defines zhulian as "shimenawa," [6] a rope made of rice straw

hung on the entrance of monasteries or shrines indicating that none may enter. Wakan sansai zue

(1712), by the Osaka physician Terajima Ryoan, says that the shimenawa was used to avoid the

unclean or inauspicious [7]. Moreover, the book provides an illustration of this shimenawa.

Utsunomiya Kiyoyoshi adopts this interpretation and states that the shimenawa was probably used as

a charm to stop spirits of the deceased from reentering the home [8]. Sawada Mizuho, on the other

hand, defines zhang as seals used in religious Taoism to exorcise evil spirits. He infers that objects

such as these were probably hung from a rope in order to fend off evil spirits [9]. However, Chinese

texts do not support the definition of zhulian as shimenawa, and this equation was, therefore, already

questioned one and a half centuries ago in the writings of Kariya Ekisai (1775-1835)[10].

The second interpretation understands zhulian as some kind of illness or disease [11]. Wang Liqi

defines zhu as zhubing. Zhulian used as a verb thus becomes a synonym of zhuyi, meaning to infect

or contaminate. When used as a noun, it is very close to our modern understanding of the term

contagion. Wang's interpretation has been broadly accepted in the field [12]. Zhang, then, must mean

"petition" or "memorial" as in the zhang zou lei section of the Taoist Canon. Yan Zhitui's

denouncement of "heterodox books," refers to texts like these.

Basically, I agree with Wang's interpretation. However, if zhulian indicates a complex of disorders,

the two characters should be read separately. That is, lian is also a zhubing-related disorder. (I will

discuss this issue in detail in the following section.) Moreover, based on our modern understanding of

the classification of diseases, assigning zhu the meaning of "contagious diseases" is a mistake. Wang

Liqi, though he notes the relationship between these disorders and the activities of spirits, uses

"germs" as an interpretive mechanism to understand zhulian. Indeed, our modern concept of disease

associates germs with corpses but for people living in Yan's time there was no concept of germ. It is

the concept of uncleanness and the pollution of the death ritual that permeates Yan's text and the

conceptual world of his contemporaries [13].

At this point it may be helpful to pay closer attention to the ritual objects used to exorcise the

pollution caused by the deceased. Fire is a universal means of ritual purification. Ashes serve to reveal

the footprints left by the spirit of the deceased when it returns to its previous residence. On the other

hand, according to a certain Chinese myth, ashes may be used to scare the spirits [14]. Both fire and

ashes have important functions in the death ritual. To understand their significance, we have to

understand the world-view of those who lived in ancient times and its relationship to the zhu disorder.

To this end, I will use a new kind of document, Jiezhu wen (Writings on zhu exorcism), a sub-

category of writings related to talismans and texts placed in tombs (so-called zhenmu wen

"documents to ward off evil from the tomb"), to shed light on the nature of zhu disorders within the

framework of the "world of demonic forces" of religious Taoism and the Yinyang masters [15].

In the following discussion, I will use the zhu disorder to discuss the following two issues:

(a) the relationship between the human body and disruptions in the "world of demonic forces" and,

(b) the concept of chuanran. Chuanran is related to the problem raised in (a). Although I will use

"contact" or "infection" as a translation for chuanran in some texts on the zhu disorder, I have chosen

not to translate the word in some special cases.

Zhu, Demonic disorders

The two different characters, zhu and zhu, are sometimes used interchangeably. Prolonged illness,

repeated relapses, or infection (zhuyi) of others, were all regarded as characteristics of the zhu

disorder in general [16]; zhu thus is a complex of disorders, not a single disease. Goblins or foul qi are

its major causes. In medieval medical writings, terms such as zhongwu, kewu, guiji, guimei, yan, and

shijue all indicate a group of similar and related disorders [17]. The Qing physician Mo Meishi (1837-

1907) noted that these disorders "pertain to inauspiciousness" [18]. Mo's comment underlines the

polluting nature of the zhu disorder.

The term zhu was frequently used in pre-Qin documents, but its association with disorders took place

during the Qin and Han periods. In his Shi ming (Explanations of names), Liu Xi of the Han dynasty

explained that when a person dies of an illness, the qi of his disorder is transferred to another person,

causing the latter to suffer a similar illness [Appendix Bb]. Perhaps this is why zhu disorders have

been identified with the "communicable disorders" of modern Western medicine. The terms zhuyi

and zhulian begin to appear in the Han and Wei (220-265) periods in reference to a kind of "illness."

Both terms have the connotation of being "interconnected," or "uninterrupted." The Youming lu by

Liu Yiqing (403-444) of the Liu Song (420-479) recorded a story in which Sima Long and his two

companions used the wood of a broken coffin to make a wagon, after which all three of them became

ill. "The zhulian was transmitted from one to another, and there was no end to their misfortune"

[Appendix Bc]. Here, zhulian is not completely identical with the modern concept of "contact" or

"infection." The wood of a coffin causes illness because of pollution from the dead. The Shennong

bencao jing (The divine husbandsman's Materia Medica), compiled towards the end of the Eastern

Han (25-220), noted disorders of demonic zhu (guizhu) and prescribed more than fifty different kinds

of medicine for the related disorders [19].

A number of major medical writings of the Sui and Tang periods (581-907) devote chapters to this

subject. The Zhubing yuanhou lun (Origins and symptoms of medical disorders), completed in 610 by

Chao Yuanfang, for instance, states that: "When we say that zhu means "to stay"(zhu ), we mean that

a noxious qi (xieqi ) takes up residence within the patient's body. That is why these disorders are

called zhu_ When one unwittingly provokes [invasion by a contaminating] qi after someone has died,

or disturbs demonic beings, these disorders may be the outcome. They appear in as many as thirty-six,

or even ninety-nine different forms." [20]. According to this statement, it is clear that a great variety

of zhu disorders existed [Appendix Aa]. Nathan Sivin has formerly translated zhu as "possession"

[21]. While zhu disorders may reveal symptoms of what folk healing calls "possession," the word

"possession" alone does not adequately cover the zhu disorders discussed in ancient medical texts.

For example, Zhubing yuanhou lun describes guizhu as follows: "A person with no prior illness may

suddenly be struck by demons and experience piercing pains in his heart and abdomen at that

moment, or the patient may suffocate and faint, as happens in cases of zhongwu. After the patient

recovers, the remaining qi is not exhausted, instead it stagnates and accumulates [in the body of the

patient]. Every now and then it breaks out, until the patient dies. After his death, [the qi] is

transmitted to other people. This is called demonic zhu." [Appendix Ab].

For xiezhu, Zhubing yuanhou lun has the following description: "The so-called "wickedness (xie)"

means virulent qi. The qi from human internal organs are unbiased qi, while that from wind, cold,

summer heat, damp, and goblins (mei ba wang liang ) are all xie. Xiezhu is wicked qi that harms a

weak body. The qi will permeate the jing mai and remain in the organs, leaving the patient's emotions

in an unstable state, sometimes sad, sometimes frightened. Therefore it is called xiezhu." [Appendix

Ac]. These two types of zhu disorder show clearly that zhu lacks definite symptoms. These

descriptions may be close to what has been termed "Spirit Possession Phenomena" (SPP) or "Altered

States of Consciousness" (ASC) [22].


Secondly, zhu disorders are related to such disorders as shibing and zhongwubing, both of which

involve a person being suddenly struck by the qi of guimei or corpses. The Zhubing yuanhou lun

devotes chapters twenty-three and twenty-four to these disorders. The difference between them is that

zhongwu is more acute and is quickly concluded, either in recovery or death. By contrast, zhu

disorders are mostly chronic, though acute symptoms such as abrupt infection or sudden relapses may


Furthermore, in the Sui and Tang periods, some zhu disorders were called fulian, chuanshi, or shizhu.

Fu means "harboring," or "residing," which is close to the meaning of zhu. The term "lian," which

describes a particular disorder, is the same "lian" as in the term zhulian mentioned in the Yanshi

jiaxun, and means "continuous" [Appendix Ad]. The "shi" from chuanshi means cadaver or corpse or

the qi of the corpse, implying that this type of zhu is caused by the corpse or the qi of a deceased

person. Wang Tao (ca. 690-756) states in his Waitai miyao (Arcane essentials from the imperial

library) that: "The main cause of this disorder is that when a person cries near the corpse, the qi of the

corpse enters his abdomen." In extreme cases, an entire family may die of the disorder [Appendix

Ae]. Modern scholars have identified fulian or chuanshi as tuberculosis because of such symptoms as

tidal fever (chaore) after midday [23]. The fact that Sun Simiao's (ca. 581-682) Qianjin fang

(Prescriptions worth a thousand) classifies these as disorders of the lungs may serve to support this

conjecture by modern scholars [24]. These disorders are also called lao or laozhai, which are various

types of pulmonary consumption disorders (feilaobing) [25]. We need, however, to explore the

relationship between these disorders and the disorders incited by goblins, such as the above-mentioned

zhu and zhongwu.

Although the Waitai miyao states that chuanshi is contracted by approaching or touching the corpse

when crying over the deceased, both guizhu and xiezhu - which are very similar to chuanshi - are

described as "infecting other people after one's death." According to Fan Xingzhun, "dumping the

corpses into gullies was the only way to prevent infection from those who died of pulmonary

consumption" in ancient China. He also points out that this practice has probably lasted throughout

Chinese history. Indeed, some of those stricken with what we now term pulmonary consumption

would, on the brink of death, voluntarily throw themselves into water [26]. It seems that this kind of

death pollution was considered more serious than other diseases.

Zhuyi remains a puzzle to scholars of Chinese medical history. Ding Guangdi, for example, is struck

by the fact that since "these disorders are much more infectious before the patient's death than after,

the peculiarity of infection after death is such that it need hardly be reiterated" [27]. The concept of

"inauspiciousness" mentioned in many documents may serve as the key to solve this puzzle.

In the list below, I translate some of the symptoms mentioned among the zhu disorders as described

in the Zhubing yuanhou lun (for the Chinese originals, please consult Appendix Af) :

(a) When a man's age-fate (nianming) is weak and he attends a funeral, his mind suddenly

experiences fear of the inauspicious. The corpse-worms (shichong ) in his body, who by their nature

dislike the inauspicious, are subjected to a malign influence and provoke a chronic illness. When the

disease breaks out, the heart and abdomen of the patient are in acute pain and become swollen so that

his qi cannot flow smoothly. Whenever he enters a place of mourning, the disorder always breaks out.

Consequently, it is called sangshi .

(b) When a man comes into contact with or approaches a corpse, the corpse-qi enters his abdomen;

together with the corpse-worms within his body, it causes a disorder. When this disorder breaks out,

the heart and abdomen of the patient are in acute pain and become swollen so that his qi cannot flow

smoothly. Whenever he inhales corpse-qi, the disorder erupts. Consequently, it is called shiqi.

(c) Whenever a man dies of a zhu disorder, whoever comes to his house contracts a similar disorder

and may himself pass away. That person may then pass along [the disorder] to others. This is

therefore called sizhu.

(d) When a man approaches a corpse, if his body is weak he will receive the corpse's qi. It will dwell

in his connecting vessels and bowels. If he touches or sees the coffin, the disorder will break out. His

heart and abdomen experience such acute pain that he vomits. Therefore the disorder is called

These four disorders are mainly contracted by visiting the bereaved to offer condolences, by direct

contact, by handling the corpse, or by entering the residence of the deceased. Mark Elvin and Zhang

Yixia have conducted a study of the relationship between tuberculosis and the environment in

contemporary China and have concluded that overcrowded living and working spaces play an

important role in the spread of the disease [28]. This conclusion may help us to understand modern


conditions, but may not apply to ancient China.

To understand these disorders as they were conceived in traditional China, we need to examine the

concepts and vocabulary used to describe them. The specific agent for these zhu disorders is the so-

called shiqi (corpse-qi). Those with a "weak age-fate" or "those with a feeble body" mentioned in the

above citations are probably "susceptible hosts." The key word here is nianming (age-fate). Ge Hong

(fl. 317-350) states in his Baopuzi : "The Yuce ji and the Kaiming jing both consider that the state of

a man's age-fate can be calculated from the Five Notes (wuyin) and Six Regulations (liushu) of the

denary cycle" [29]. In other words, a person's fate can be calculated by Yinyang masters if they know

the year, month, day, and hour of his birth. Why does a person whose "age-fate" is weak succumb

easily to zhu disorders on occasions of mourning, or touching a dead person, or entering the residence

of the deceased? To understand this problem, we have to turn to the world of demonic forces.

Sha, the "world of Demonic Forces"

The section above offers us a few clues to help settle the question of why disorders like zhu were

considered "inauspicious." It is clear from the case described in Yanshi jiaxun that I cited at the

beginning of this paper, that the "place of death" mentioned in medical writings is not simply the

place where the funeral is held. The practitioners of bisha were apparently not only relatives of the

deceased; those who came to offer condolences and whoever came near the corpse seem to have been

included in the practice.

What is sha? The term sha has the following four inseparable and intertwined meanings.

First, sha is sometimes read as sha (to kill). Linguists generally consider the two characters

interchangeable. Guisha is therefore often written as guisha. According to Shen Jianshi's research, the

term sha (to kill) in classical Chinese is the sha of yangsha in later periods, while sha is identical to

sui (approximate to the meaning of haunting) [30]. In Taiwanese, the term shazhuo ( Taiwanese: sha-

dioh) is still used to indicate the harm or punishment inflicted on people by demons [31]. When sha is

used as a verb to replace sha (to kill), it takes on a strong religious overtone.

Second, sha is also used to indicate a particular condition of the soul or spirit after death. The Xuanshi

zhi (completed 863-873), by Zhang Du of the Tang dynasty, records the following:

It is commonly said that when a person dies, a bird-like being will fly out of the coffin after a few

days; it is called sha [Appendix Bd].

This account reveals that the soul or spirit of the deceased appears in a bird-like form [32]. This so-

called sha coming out of the coffin is what medical writings call shiqi. Hong Mai (1123-1202) of the

Song dynasty recorded in his Yijian zhi : "It is said that when a person dies, his spirit will return.

Having calculated the date, everyone from the household goes out to avoid [the spirit] when it returns.

This is called 'escape from the killing (bisha)'. Robust servants or monks are ordered to watch over the

house and spread ashes on the floor. The following day, footprints left by the spirit will be examined

to judge whether the deceased has been reincarnated in human or in any other living form" [Appendix

Be]. Some have noted that traces of chicken-claws are occasionally found in the ashes [Appendix Bf].

This kind of soul or spirit of the newly dead is probably called sha because of its strong malignant

power. The soul of the newly dead has only drifted away from the body, and exists in a most volatile

condition. It is neither ghost (gui), nor spirit (shen); it does not belong to this world, or the other

world, and is temporarily caught in a liminal, betwixt-and-between state. This sha has to be reunited

with its ancestors in the afterworld through the help of relatives or funeral ritual specialists. But before

it enters this last stage, this spirit is at its most dreadful. According to the Zuo zhuan, "the spirit of the

newly dead is large but that of the long dead is small" (xingui da gugui xiao). Some scholars argue

that this statement may be related to the power of sha discussed above [33]. In addition, children who

die before their teeth grow in do not become sha [34]. This is because they are relatively

unthreatening to their relatives or other people [35].

Deceased people who are in the sha stage are not only a threat to their relatives, but may also harm

members of the community. The Tang Yinyang master Lu Cai (d. 665), who was as famous as his

contemporary Li Chunfeng, recorded in his Baiji li the "Law of Harm Caused by Sangsha" . The law

stipulates that people born at a specific time, or those with a certain appearance, or with a certain

surname, should regard as taboo people who died at a specific time and should not attend that person's

funeral ceremony. The author even distinguishes male sha (xiong sha) from female sha (ci sha)

[Appendix Bg]; both of these can be related to certain zhu disorders like fulian. According to Liulun

jing written by Baihe Xianshi, "In general, the sha of those who die on a zi day harms men above tha

age of thirty and below forty in the North. The sha of those who die on a jiazi day harms men born in

the xinchou year at the time of encoffining" [Appendix Bh]. The practice of so-called "pishu"

(calculating books) was eventually developed; this system allowed the Yinyang master to make

calculations relevant to certain persons and to advise them on whether or not to participate in a

particular death ritual [36]. Those persons unable to participate were defined as having a "weak age-

fate," as mentioned in the medical texts cited in the above section. The Yinyang masters then use this

concept of "weak age-fate" to explain why some people are stricken by the sha during the mourning

ritual, while the rest are left undisturbed.

Third, sha can also be shensha (demon spirits or divine killers) and xiongshen (malicious spirits). In

Taoist writings such as Nuqinggui lu or Dongyuan shenzhou jing, written during the Six Dynasties

(3rd-6th centuries A.D.), the following terms appear most frequently: gui (spirit), mo (demon), jing

(spirit), and xie (noxious) [37]. At the same time, the forces of various kinds of evil spirits in the

universe are constructed by a group of concepts related to sha. Within the traditional Chinese dualistic

theoretical framework of yin and yang, shashen or shagui indicate "malicious spirits" (xiongshen ), as

opposed to "rightous spirits" (zhengshen ). A medieval text of geomancy entitled Dahan yuanling

mizangjing mentions the term "mingqi shensha," meaning the various types of malicious spirits in the

grave [38].

In the oral tradition of the Taoist Lushan Sect [39], the term gui (demon) is usually replaced by sha.

This case shows that gui and sha are, at least in some cases, synonymous[40]. This also shows how

different demon spirits existing in religious Taoism, after a long period of time, underwent changes,

resulting in the interchangeable use of gui and sha in Taoist texts. The interchangeable use of gui and

sha is also found in collections of literary miscellanea and in so-called heterodox writings.

The malicious sha spirits are sometimes closely related to such baleful stars as Taisui, Baihu, and

Tiangou, in Taiwanese popular thought [41]. Yinyang masters base their calculations for avoiding the

offending spirit of bisha on the motion of these stars. Ge Hong's Baopuzi calls them shahao

[Appendix Bi] :

Whoever is able to preserve unity (shouyi ) can travel thousands of miles, enter army barracks and go

across large rivers without bothering to calculate the right day and hour. When he begins a new task

or moves to a new home, there is no need for geomancy or calendrical divination, nor will he need to

heed the taboos of Taisui, Taiyin, the General (a baleful star), the cycles of the moon (Yuejian ), and

the gods of Shahao. The age-fate (nianming) taboos will no longer be considered mortal [42].

Shouyi is a kind of Taoist meditation. Yinyang masters consider Taisui, Taiyin, Yuejian, and Shahao

baleful stars. These stars affect the fate of every human being. Such influences are subsumed under

the concept of "age-fate".

Fourth, the sha related to xionghui zhiqi (inauspicious or foul qi) is called shaqi [Appendix Bj]. The

nature of so-called e'gui (evil ghosts) and liqi (evil qi) can also be understood through a better


understanding of the concept of qi. The meaning of the term e'gui is identical to that of e'qi.

According to fieldwork in Guangdong by anthropologist James L. Watson, local people call death

pollution from funerals shaqi (Cantonese: seat hei). These so-called "killing airs", according to his

report, "are thought to be released at the moment of death, like 'an invisible cloud,' to quote one

villager. The airs emanate from the corpse and contaminate everything and everybody in the

immediate vicinity" [43]. In fact, shaqi-related concepts still play a vital role in current Taiwanese

popular belief [44].

There are differences in the degree of severity of shaqi. For example, ligui and liqi can be divided into

two main types: the first are ghosts of those who lack descendants, the second are the ghosts of those

who died because of injustice or force (for example by suicide, by accident, or by violence). The

former become dangerous because they lack sacrifices from their descendants, the latter, because they

seek revenge against those who harmed them. Both are the main cause for shaqi-related illnesses [45].

In other words, ligui refers to the spirits of those who died unnaturally, or whose corpses were not

properly taken care of. The shaqi emerging from these unruly and vengeful dead is particularly severe.

Ligui depend upon qi to haunt and harm the living. As is made clear in the Chinese classic Li ji, the

activities of ligui are closely related to seasonal changes and the movement of constellations; they

interact with the so-called daling jishi zhi qi and fenmu sisi zhi qi when performing their harmful

activities. They are also considered unharmonious qi (buhe zhi qi)[46].

The "world of demonic forces" is constructed through the above-mentioned four meanings of sha and

is an extension from the world of common people. In his Hengyan lu, the Qing dynasty scholar Qian

Daxi (1728-1804) states:

A few days after a person's death, his spirit returns to his residence. Shashen follow him. Whoever

offends them will experience disasters and calamities [Appendix Bk].

According to this passage, the spirit of the deceased is inseparable from shashen. From the above

discussion, we may conclude that zhu disorders are mainly a result of a disruption in the "world of

demonic forces" caused by death pollution. Whenever death happens, a readjustment and change

within the system of demonic forces occurs. Those whose age-fate is weak will probably succumb to

a zhu disorder. Obviously, the zhu disorder is embedded within a Chinese cultural milieu wherein

demonic forces interact with the human world. This particular disease thus cannot be translated

according to modern medical concepts and has to be understood as a "cultural construction of illness,"

to use Arthur Kleinman's phrase [47].

As different types of death give rise to different degrees of pollution, so do there exist different

degrees of shaqi. I will now proceed with a discussion of the problem of death pollution.

Death Pollution and Related Purification Rituals

Pollution is chaos and disorder. Although many have attempted hygienic or physiological

interpretations of pollution, it is basically a cultural problem. Uncleanness can be characterized by

ambiguity and indefiniteness. Unburied corpses, as well as unnatural or extraordinary deaths, are

important sources of uncleanness. They constitute a threat to the well-being of the living and are thus

considered taboo. Whenever a person violates these taboos, whether consciously or not, malefic

influences erupt. Certain rituals have therefore been devised to reverse this state of disruption. These

are, in fact, basically human efforts to re-establish harmony with the environment, to bring about a

reversal from the "extraordinary" to the "ordinary".

Li Fengmao , a scholar of Taoism and an anthropologist, has put forth a set of opposing concepts to

explain traditional Chinese structural thinking about "good" and "bad" death. He contrasts natural

death and ordinary procedures for handling corpses, with unnatural death and improper handling of

corpses [48].


Shaqi: degree of pollution ordinary ←→ extraordinary

weak A. natural death (old age) ←→ unnatural death (violent death)

∣︱ ordinary handling (peaceful burial, spirit tablet) ←→ improper handling (discarded corpse, no

spirit tablet)

∣∣ B. individual death (individual case, accidental) ←→ collective death (group, remote in time)

∣∣ ordinary handling (peaceful burial, spirit tablet) ←→ improper handling (collective, recent)

∣∣ C. sudden incident (individual, accidental) ←→ successive incidents (no death, uncanny)

∣∣ sudden death (single, accidental) ←→ successive deaths (death, uncanny)

∣↓ D. individual or collective death (spirit tablet, offerings) ←→ individual or collective death


(remote in time, uncanny)

strong ordinary handling (peace) ←→ improper handling (no peace)


As death becomes more extraordinary, we move from A to D and shaqi increases. Within the same

category, factors like elapsed time since death and the degree of improper handling all influence the

degree of pollution of shaqi. In other words, different degrees of death pollution (A→D), lead to

different degrees of chaos in the "world of demonic forces".

In group A, though natural death handled according to ordinary procedures produces shaqi, it is much

weaker than that which emerges from unnatural deaths that are not properly handled. Group B

contrasts individual death and collective death. The latter refers to death caused by war, natural

disasters, or large-scale epidemics; the shaqi produced is much stronger than that of cases of

individual deaths. The elapsed time since death also exerts an influence on shaqi. Generally speaking,

shaqi is strong when death is recent but gradually weakens as time passes. Group C contrasts isolated

and successive accidents. A single natural disaster or a calamity should not produce sha. But when

disasters happen again and again, two possibilities emerge: in the first, no one dies; in the second,

people die successively. These two possibilities entail differences in the degree of shaqi. The

situations in Group D are mythical, and Li deals with them separately. Henceforth, no matter whether

the deaths are individual or collective, improper handling will result in the site of death being regarded

as unclean and subject to disturbances. Let us take a former graveyard or execution court as an

example. Since corpses were disposed of improperly at this site, uncanny happenings will frequently

take place. Clothes previously worn by, or the house previously inhabited by the dead produce similar

effects. In these cases the shaqi stagnates. When the corpse has been improperly handled, shaqi will

grow stronger over time.

We can explain the causes of disasters and diseases and the notion of sha engendered by those

experiences through the dualistic and opposed structure of "ordinary ←→ extraordinary" mentioned

above. Death related to the latter is regarded as inauspicious and gives rise to taboos. Textual material

from ancient China offers evidence supporting this interpretation.

For example, the practice of bisha recorded in Yanshi jiaxun may well be an example of ordinary

people treating the deceased in a normal way. As for unnatural death, Li ji states that there is no need

to mourn for those who die by execution, crushing, or drowning [Appendix Bl]. Shaqi produced by

these types of death is exceptionally strong. This may explain the taboo on mourning. Meanwhile,

"documents to ward of evil from the tomb" (zhenmu wen) excavated from several tombs dating from

the end of the Later Han Dynasty function "to exorcise malefic influences on behalf of the living and

to gain a release from culpability on behalf of the dead" (wei shengren chuyang, wei siren jiezhe), or

"in order to exculpate the dead and erase the misdeeds of the living" (wei sizhe jiezhe, shengren

chuzuiguo). In these texts, calamities descending on the living are closely related to the status of the

dead. In terms of our discussion, these texts express the strong wish to exorcise the sha of the

deceased for the sake of the living [49].

Furthermore, the central government or local officials arranged periodic burials of and offerings to

those who died in war or natural disasters, those who died away from home, or those whose tombs

were disturbed by grave robbers [50]. These rituals were related to the ligui who had died long before.

The festivals variously known as "Great Exorcism" (Da Nuo), "Exorcism" (Nuo), and "La" (La),

held on the eve of lunar new year served the same function [51]. In addition, a type of funeral text,

called "land contract" (dijuan), was prevalent in burial ritual practices from the late Han to Six

Dynasties periods. Research shows that they were probably used by the relatives of the deceased to

"buy land" (maitu) from the God of the Soil (tushen) [51]. The "land contract" was devised to guard

against corpses previously abandoned in a given plot of land, thereby rendering it unclean, possessed,

or chaotic[53]. This type of death pollution can be classified under group D mentioned above.

The evidence presented above indicates that different degrees of death pollution disrupt the

macrocosmic and microcosmic order. The "world of demonic forces" is clearly divided according to

the dual structures of yin/yang, righteous/evil, and unbiased qi (zhengqi) /noxious qi (xieqi); different

xiesha have distinctive positions within this system. An equilibrium in the cosmic order is thus

maintained by the rise and fall of righteous gods and evil sha. Death pollution, however, tends to

change and destroy this balance, resulting in disorder. To deal with this disruption, a mediator such as

a shaman, healer, Taoist priest, or physician is needed. All the rituals and taboos related to zhu are

meant to cure not only the individual but also the local community. In the course of my studies, I

have encountered four distinct healing methods to combat the above-mentioned disorders. Following

are four examples of such healing methods.

Medicinal methods and acupuncture are the first means. A wide variety of medicines were used to

treat zhu disorders. As mentioned above, the Shennong bencao jing notes more then fifty different

medicines used to treat this type of disorder. The Qianji yifang by Sun Simiao has a section entitled

"Demonic Medicines" which lists thirty-two kinds of medicine [54]. The famous physician, Xu Sibo,

of the Northern and Southern Dynasties used coffin-pillows as an ingredient in his medicine. Such a

treatment is a "like-cures-like" type of sympathetic healing. Its pharmaceutical characteristics have

been discussed in detail in Yixue dushu ji by the Qing dynasty physician You Yi (?-1749) [Appendix


Xu Qiufu, a physician of the Northern and Southern Dynasties period, determined thirteen

acupuncture holes (xue) to treat demonic disorders. The Qing dynasty physician, Xu Dachun (1693-

1777), explains [Appendix Ah]:

Man's spirits belong to the category of yang. When one's yang influences are weak, demons avail

themselves of their place. The Nei jing has a passage stating that in case of illness in the five viscera,

demons appear in the respective five colors. The Nan jing states, "When the yang influences have left,

one sees demons." Hence among the holes on the conduits (jingxue) there are some bearing such

names as: "demon's bed" (guichuang) and "demon's dwelling" (guishi) . These holes depend on a

man's spiritual influences to be closed and filled. Once there is a deficiency of spiritual influence, the

demon-spirits will be able to avail themselves, seizing a position of spiritual influence. [55]

The above passage points out that these holes on the conduits can be a path by which demon-spirits

may enter the human body.

A second healing method is recorded in Jiezhu wen. One type of texts among the Zhenmu wen is

called Jiezhu wen [56]. The term zhu here refers to zhu disorders and jie means "to exorcise". The

Jiezhu wen is used to undo the harm done by the zhu disorders. However, the word jie also has a

strong judiciary overtone, namely remitting punishment of a crime. These funeral texts thus function

to "absolve" the deceased from punishments for his misdeeds. Practices such as these were associated

with the rise of a particular set of beliefs about culpability in the Later Han period [57]. Both death

pollution and culpability caused suffering. The Laojun yinsong jiejing, by Kou Qianzhi (365-448),

mentions that if the unseen culpability of deceased ancestors is not remitted, it will be transmitted to

their descendants [Appendix Bm].

To date, more than ten Jiezhu wen documents have been unearthed, mostly in the Dunhuang area.

The following Jiezhu wen, dated 396 A.D., is quite typical:

Now exorcise Heaven-zhu, Earth-zhu, Year-zhu, Month-zhu, Day-zhu, Hour-zhu. The living walk

ahead; the dead stay behind. Life and death follow different paths and should not collide. Quickly,

quickly, in accordance with the statutes and ordinances. [Appendix Bn].

The shaqi of the deceased disturbs the "world of demonic forces". The terms "Heaven," "Earth,"

"Year," Month," "Day," and "Hour" underline the omnipresence of the divine killers (shensha).

The phrasing of these Jiezhu wen is very similar to that of the "petitions and memorials" in the Taoist

Canon. A well-known item from the canon, Chisongzi zhangli, states that: "A certain deceased has

done misdeeds, causing uninterrupted disorders; there is no end to death; and there is no end of

infection until the entire family is subdued by terror....The living belong to Heaven, the dead the

underworld; life and death follow different roads. Do not disturb anybody!" [Appendix Bo]. The text

also records the following: "Petitions for the confession of culpability, the atonement of crimes and

the release from the [subterranean] captivity of deceased ancestors (of the sick man)" (wei wangren

shouhui shuzui jiezhe zhang). In other words, the culpability of the deceased is hereditary. This

culpability cannot be abolished; it can only be diverted. Some Jiezhu wen, therefore, also demand that

the culpability of the ancestors be diverted from their descendants:

Other inauspicious calamities are diverted and implanted into the passersby. [Appendix Bp]

Kominami Ichiro contends that this way of dealing with calamities is very important in the burial

ritual [58]. Furthermore, another scholar has pointed out that funeral texts "are, in general, for victims

of unnatural deaths" [59]. This view merits further discussion, and would make an interesting subject

for a future paper.

Unrooting and severing fulian is the third method of healing. Wang Tao's Waitai miyao advocates the

following [Appendix Ai]:

First find an unopened gourd; bury it in the ground; open it on the shangli day, then fetch and put

three spoonfuls of cooked, thick gruel in it. Then cut paper money and set it on the new tomb; let the

sick man sit down, facing the road of return with his back toward the grave. Make a circle of paper

money around the grave and the sick man, leaving some of the money outside the enclosure as an

offering to the Wudao generals.

Let the sick man hold the gourd with one hand and let him stab a knife into the ground beside him

with his other hand. He should place the gourd where the soil has been penetrated. When the gourd is

set in the right place, let a person who is not ill slap the back of the sick man with two locks, and read

the curse: "Fulian, fulian be gone! If fulian cannot be driven off, knife and lock will do!" And further:

"The living remain above the earth, the dead beneath the earth. May the living and dead follow

different paths." After the curse is completed, let the man who is not ill fling the two locks behind the

back of the sick person, making sure the two locks fall back-to-back. If they do not, fling them again

until they do. Return home together without ever looking back.

The ritual [60] takes place on the shangli day, an auspicious date chosen to prevent interference from

malicious spirits. The power of the healer is reinforced by choosing the best moment and the correct

directions for the reconstruction of the cosmic order. Isolating the sick person from the grave with

paper money [61] creates a sacred space. The ritual is held at the burial site, the possible location of

infection with the zhu disorder. The text cited stresses that the location of the ritual is a "new grave".

This leads us to infer that the deceased has only recently passed away. The site is thus transformed

into a sacred space, favorable to carrying out the ritual, an environment where the spirits (the so-called

"Wudao generals") are able to lend assistance.

Common objects such as knives and locks are transformed into ritual objects. According to

Kominami Ichiro, the gourd symbolically mediates between this world and the other [62]. The sick

person holds the gourd in one hand, and a knife in the other. The healthy person holds two locks in his

hands. The use of knife and locks separates the sick from the spirit of the deceased.

The positioning of the sick person during the ritual merits attention. The sick man sits with his back to

the tomb, facing the road home. The lock is used to slap the back of the sick man. The ritual ends

only when both locks fall down in a back-to-back position. These actions symbolize that the living

and the dead belong to two different worlds and that these two interrelated worlds should maintain

distinct spheres of existence.



underworld the road home this world

yin tomb patient yang

the dead the living


The structure of the ritual complies with the yin/yang dualistic mode of thought. The face and back of

the patient stand for the yin and yang directions. The direction he faces is the world of the living, of

yang, of this world; the direction he turns his back to is the world of the dead, of yin, of the

underworld, the world that should be cast away. The patient situates himself between the two worlds.

The content of the ritual as a whole can be divided into three stages: the separate, the liminal, and the

aggregate. The role of the patient simulates the structure of the return from the extraordinary to the

ordinary. Every action taken during the ritual, every performance, all the words and objects used,

symbolize the restructuring of a new order.

Exterminating the shizhai (duanchu shizhai fa) is the fourth healing method. "Shi" stands for shizhu,

"zhai" stands for laozhai. Both are a type of zhu disorder. I have already mentioned that scholars have

suggested that laozhai and some of the symptoms of fulian resemble tuberculosis. The shaqi of people

who die from this type of zhu disorder is particularly strong; it is passed along not only to the

attendants of the burial and those who offer condolences, but also to the rooms previously inhabited

by the deceased as well as the utensils previously used. A detailed discussion of death pollution

remedies can be found in the twenty-third chapter of the Wushang xuanyuan santian yutang dafa , a

work from the Taoist Canon. This chapter is entitled Duanchu shizhai pin (On the extermination of

shizhai). The Taoist priest Lu Shizhong completed his compilation of this text in 1126, though the

content of the text may date earlier than its actual compilation [63]. The following is a translation of

sections related to our discussion [Appendix Bg]:

The vigor of the illness varies, and the causes of contamination differ. Even housing and food may

gradually pass on [the disorder]; the clothes [worn by the deceased] are pervaded with the infectious


The first channel of infection is called wuchuan (pollution caused by a house):

Even if it has been abandoned for a long time, the polluted qi (bingqi) remains in the bleak and empty

house. Though the house is empty, [the qi in] its rooms stagnates and lingers in the darkness. This evil

qi will never be dispelled and its damage lasts forever. He who opens the gate and enters will suffer

its poison. He whose spirit is weak will become its victim.

The second channel of contamination was called "yichuan" (pollution caused by clothes):

The so-called yichuan means either that the living remain in the same bed with the sick man, or [the

evil qi] is transmitted via clothing. This is because after the sick man dies, evil qi saturates his clothes,

curtains, bed, couch, vessels and utensils; all places inhabited by the noxious gu. The tightfisted keep

such objects for further use, and poor families cannot afford to be rid of them. Is it not regrettable that

one's misfortune arises simply because of this?

The third channel of contamination was called "shichuan" (pollution caused by food):

Whoever eats the remnants of the food or medicine of the patient will ingest the malicious qi, which

will go directly to his heart and abdomen and cause disorders. However, while most shichuan are

curable, the pollution caused by clothing or houses is not, because the evil qi penetrates deep into the

body and the suffering is severe.

The above-cited passages indicate that if a patients dies of shizhu or laozhai disorders, his clothes,

utensils, and residence may all remain harmful. The bingqi of a house is particularly severe because

the bingqi stagnates in the house and may never be dispelled. In the talismanic writings of the

Wushang xuanyuan santian yutang dafa, zhugui and sha are named as the causes of laozhai; these are

to be expelled by charms and incantations. Clearly, our modern conception of tuberculosis is

inadequate to translate ancient China's laozhai, which is inextricably connected to the idea of


According to Wushang xuanyuan santian yutang dafa, after the zhugui or sha have entered the human

body, they will unite with the Three Corpse-Demons (sanshi) and Nine Worms (jiuchong) to create

six different stages of transformation. The worms roam among the "holes" (xue) in the human body.

After the afflicted man dies, these worms are transformed into so-called "feishi" (flying creatures),

which have polluting power.

Two related problems still need to be discussed. The first is related to the transference of culpability;

the second concerns the relation between the corpse worms (shichong) in the human body and shaqi

or shiqi.

Beginning in the final years of the Later Han, the concept of cheng fu (inherited culpability) starts to

show up in religious Taoist writings, such as the Taiping jing . The crucial idea here is that demonic

disorders are not the result of change, instead, the wrongdoing of ancestors is transformed into a

power which brings misfortune upon the descendants. Taiping jing maintains that when ancestors are

not able to exculpate themselves within their lifetime, all debts will be repaid by their descendants

[64]. Some scholars have compared the content of funeral texts (Zhenmu wen or Jiezhu wen) with

Taiping jing and have concluded that the wording and concept of cheng fu are consistent in the

various texts [65]. Yang Liansheng has put forward a rather original interpretation of cheng fu. He

contends that cheng fu is "the sharing of fate" or "transmission of burdens". Certain "crimes may

have been committed by only a few persons in earlier times, but the consequences involve later

generations of the offender's families and neighborhoods" [66]. A similar pattern can be observed in

the case of zhu disorders. Not only do both sha and shiqi threaten the family of the deceased, but also

those people who live in the same area [67]. As a result, with regards to zhu disorders, the concept of

cheng fu may help us to understand better the Chinese concept of chuanran, which is closer to the

terms "to transfer" or "to transmit" than "to contact" or "to infect".

If sha or shiqi are ubiquitous, why do they only affect certain people? Chao Yuanfang's Zhubing

yuanhou lun says:

In the human body, there originally exist three Corpse-Demons cohabiting with man from his birth.

Being able to communicate with ghosts and spirits and attract and receive external evils, these

demons despise malignancy and harm the victim [Appendix Aj].

Though ghosts and spirits and other "outer evils" are important in the disorder, the Three Corpse-

Demons play the major role.

However, what are the Three Corpse-Demons? Though some scholars have previously identified

them as parasites [68], such a translation is inadequate. Ge Hong defines them in his Baopuzi as

"three corpses in our bodies, which, though not corporeal (wuxing) , actually are part of our inner,

ethereal breaths, of the powers, the ghosts, and the gods." [Appendix Bp]. It is clear that they are not

physical entities; perhaps they are closer to a person's soul or spirit. The Three Corpse-Worms cohabit

with man and function as evil masters to check human conduct (siguo) [69]. The Sanshi zhongjing

states that [Appendix Bs]:

In the abdomen of every person dwell three Corpse-Demons and Nine Worms which can cause great

harm. They ascend to heaven on the gengshen day to make a report to the Celestial Thearch (Tiandi) .

They record and report their host's culpability in detail, cutting short his "life-register" (shengji) ,

reducing his allotment of prosperity, and causing his untimely death. After the host dies, one soul

(hun) ascends to heaven, and one soul (po) descends to the earth, while the Three Corpse-Demons

wander around and are known as ghosts (gui). These ghosts expect sacrifices during the four seasons

and eight festivals. If the sacrifices are not rich enough, they will cause disasters, produce various

illnesses, and damage human lives.


In the Taoist context, the term "corpse" or "cadaver" (shi) often refers to the corruptible and

destructive factors in human lives. That is, all people are born with the inherent potential for death and

illness, precipitated by such factors as death pollution. When a person does wrong, he attracts external

evil which gives rise to disorders. In other words, external evils and ghosts or spirits act according to

the demands of internal demons, which are directly affected by one's behavior. This mechanism


explains why only those whose body or "age-fate" is weakened become the victims of cheng fu.

Some scholars have interpreted sanshi as the so-called sanshishen, otherwise called tineishen (spirits

within the body) [70]. The Taoist conceives of the human body as a sort of "environment." In Taoist

terms, this is the neijing (the Inner Scenes or the Inner Landscape) wherein dwell various kinds of

shen [71]. In the above discussion, environment thus has two different levels of meaning: one refers to

the "internal environment" (namely the living environment of the sanshi), and the other refers to

"external environment." The zhu disorders show that the Chinese concepts related to "environments"

are quite different from the modern concept which only takes the external environment into account.

Concluding Remarks

Attempts to employ modern medical terminology to explain the malady described as zhu in pre-

modern Chinese texts yields mixed results. The symptoms related to certain zhu disorders do, in fact,

correspond to those of tuberculosis, and some of the practices used to prevent zhu disorders have

proven effective in combatting the spread of disease. At the same time, modern medical concepts are

of little or no use in explaining why the vengeful dead should be more likely to have had tuberculosis,

or why those who died a non-violent death should be less likely to spread disease. In short, we can

only make sense of literature on zhu disorders by incorporating the language and logic used to

describe them--ideas such as shaqi, age-fate, inauspiciousness and so forth. The preceding discussion

leads to two general conclusions:

First, the contracting and healing of the zhu disorder is a process of disruption and restructuring of the

"world of demonic forces". Death causes the disruption and produces pollution.

Second, when the death of an individual causes pollution, solving this problem becomes the collective

burden of the community to which the individual belongs. This is called cheng fu. If the pollution of

the external environment is inevitable, the purification of the internal environment plays an even more

crucial role in reversing the disorder and returning to order. Because of the continuum within which

the human world and the world of demonic forces exist, one has to take both worlds into account

when investigating the relationship between environment and disorder. Disease has never been a

purely natural phenomenon; it is and always has been embedded in culture.



1. Yen Chih-t'ui, Yen-shih chia-hsun (Family Instructions for the Yen Clan), translated by Teng ssu-

yu (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1966), 36. I have modified the translation to render it more accurate.

2. See Wang Liqi王利器, Yanshi jiaxun jijie顏氏家訓集解 (Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju, 1982), 99,

especially note 3. For a thorough study of the custom of escaping from the returning ancestral spirits,

see Sawada Mizuho澤田瑞穗, "Tamakayeru魂歸", in idem, Chugoku no minkan shinko中國ソ民

間信仰(Tokyo: Kosakusha, 1982): 406-450.

3. Lin Fushi林富士, "Shilun Handai de wushuyiliaofa ji qi guannian jichu試論漢代的巫術醫療法

及其觀念基礎", Shiyuan史原 16 (1987), 31-33.

4. Li Ganchen李幹忱, Pochu mixin daquan,破除迷信大全 in Wang Qiugui王秋桂, Li

Fengmao李豐楙 eds., Zhongguo minjian xinyang ziliao huibian中國民間信仰資料彙編 30

(Taibei: Xuesheng Shuju, 1989), 559-560.

5. Fan Xingzhun范行準, Zhongguo yufang yixue sixiangshi中國預防醫學思想史 (Beijing:

Renmin Weisheng Chubanshe, 1955), 33-37

6. Kariya Ekisai狩谷掖齋, Senchu wamei rui jusho箋注倭名類聚抄 (Tokyo: Asahisha, 1940),


7. Terajima Ryoan寺島良安, Wakan sansai zue vol.4 和漢三才圖會4 (Tokyo: Heibonsha, 1988).

8. Ganshi kakun vol. 1顏氏家訓 1, annotated by Utsunomiya Kiyoyoshi宇都宮清吉(Tokyo:

Heibonsha, 1989).

9. Sawada, "Tamakayeru," 412-413.

10. Kariya, Senchu wamei rui jusho, 466.

11. For a discussion of disease, illness, and sickness in medical anthropology, see Yang Ling楊翎,

"Bu shufu, shengbing he jibing不舒服、生病和疾病", Renlei yu wenhua人類與文化 28 (1992):


12. Yu Yan余巖, Gudai jibing minghou shuyi古代疾病名候疏義 (Taibei: Ziyou Chubanshe,

1972), 223; Wang Liqi王利器, "Ge Hong dui Zhongguo gudai lianjinshu he chuanran bingxue de

gongxian葛洪對中國古代煉金術和傳染病學的貢獻", Chuantong wenhua yu xiandaihua傳統

文化與現代化 1993: 2, 61-62; Li Jingwei李經緯, "Zhubing yuanhou lun de bingyinxue yanjiu諸

病源候論的病因學研究", Zhonghua yishi zazhi中華醫史雜誌 21: 3 (1991), 131; Ma Boying馬

伯英, "Zhongguo gudai zhuyao chuanranbing bianyi中國古代主要傳染病辨異", Ziran kexueshi

yanjiu自然科學史研究 10:3 (1991), 284.

13. On pollution, see Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and

Taboo (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1966). For research concentrating on China, see Emily M.

Ahern, "The Power and Pollution of Chinese Women," in Margery Wolf and Roxane Witke eds.,

Women in Chinese Society (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1975), 193-214; James L. Watson,

"Of Flesh and Bones: The Management of Death Pollution in Cantonese Society," in Maurice Block

and Jonathan Parry eds., Death and the Regeneration of Life (Cambridge: Cambridge University

Press, 1982), 155-85; Charlotte Furth, "Blood, Body and Gender: Medical Images of the Female

Condition in China", Chinese Science 7 (1986): 43-66; James L. Watson, "Funeral Specialists in

Cantonese Society: Pollution, Performance, and Social Hierarchy", in Watson and Evelyn S. Rawski

eds., Death Ritual in Late Imperial and Modern China (Berkeley: University of California Press,

1988), 19-34; Robin Yates, "Purity and Pollution in Early China", paper presented at the International

Symposium of Chinese Archeology and History (Taipei: Academia Sinica, 1994).

14. Wang, Yanshi Jiaxun Jijie, 100.

15. Liu Zhaorui劉昭瑞, "Tan kaogu faxian de Daojiao jiezhu wen談考古發現的道教解注文",

Dunhuang Yanjiu敦煌研究 1991: 4, 51-57.

16. Ding Guandi丁光迪, Ni Hexian倪和憲, Zhubing yuanhou lun jiaozhu諸病源候論校注

(Beijing: Renmin Weisheng Chubanshe, 1994), 690.

17. Li Jianmin李建民, "Suibing yu changsuo: chuantong yixue dui suibing de yizhong jieshi祟病與

場所:傳統醫學對祟病的一種解釋", Hanxue yanjiu漢學研究 12: 1 (1994), 103-104.

18. Mo Meishi莫枚士, Yanjingyan研經言 (Beijing: Renmin Weisheng Chubanshe, 1990), 17.

19. Li, "Suibing yu changsuo", 145-148.

20. Zhubing yuanhou lun jiaozhu, 690-691.

21. Nathan Sivin, Traditional Medicine in Contemporary China (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan,

Center for Chinese Studies, 1988), 102-106.

22. See Arnold M. Ludwig, "Altered States of Consciousness," in R. Prince ed., Trance and

Possession States (Montreal: R. M. Bucke Memorial Society, 1968): 69-95; Nils G. Holm, "Ecstasy

Research in the 20th Century - An Introduction," in idem ed., Religious Ecstasy (Uppsala : Almquist

and Wiksell International, 1982): 7-26.

23. Yu Yan余巖, "Zhonghua jiuyi jiehebing guannian bianqianshi中華舊醫結核病觀念變遷史",

Huaguo yuekan華國月刊 11 (1924): 1703-1716; Liu Ts'un-yan, "The Taoists' Knowledge of

Tuberculosis in the Twelfth Century", T'oung Pao 57 (1971): 285-301.

24. Sun Simiao孫思邈, Qianjinfang千金方 (Beijing: Huaxia Chubanshe, 1993), 248-252.

25. Sivin, Traditional Medicine, 408-409.

26. Fan Xingzhun范行準, Zhongguo bingshi xinyi中國病史新義 (Beijing: Zhongyi Guji

Chubanshe, 1989), 97.

27. Zhubing yuanhou lun jiaozhu, 699, 708.

28. Zhang Yixia張宜霞 and Mark Elvin, "Jindai Zhongguo de huanjing he jiehebing近代中國的環

境和結核病," in Liu Cuirong劉翠溶 and Mark Elvin eds., Jijian suo zhi: Zhongguo huanjingshi

lunwenji積漸所至:中國環境史論文集 (Nangang: Zhongyang yanjiuyuan jingji yanjiusuo中央

研究院經濟研究所, 1995): 797-827.

29. James R. Ware tr., Alchemy, Medicine, Religion, in the China of A.D.320: The Nei P'ien of Ko

Hung (Pao-p'u tzu) (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The M.I.T. Press, 1966), 197.

30. Shen Jianshi沈兼士, "Di, sha, ji guyu tongyuan kao謫、殺、祭古語同原考," in idem,

Shenjianshi xueshu lunwenji沈兼士學術論文集 (Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju, 1986), 222-23.

31. Wen Rongguang文榮光, "Linghun fushen, jingshen jibing yu xinli shehui wenhua yinsu靈魂附

身、精神疾病與心理社會文化因素", Bentu xinlixue yanjiu本土心理學研究 2 (1993), 28, 30.

32. The shamanistic spirits, according to their nature, can be classified into six categories: (1) spirits

of the dead, (2) spirits of the underworld, (3) animal spirits, (4) deities of nature, (5) heavenly gods,

and (6) immortals. See Fu-shih Lin, "Chinese Shamans and Shamanism in the Chiang-nan Area

During the Six Dynasties Period (3rd-6th Century A.D.)," (Ph. D. dissertation, Princeton University,

1994), 117-44.

33. Chen Pan陳槃, "Xingui da gugui xiao shuo新鬼大故鬼小說", Dalu zazhi大陸雜誌 79: 5

(1989): 1 . For research on this subject, see Ying-shih Yu, "O Soul, Come Back! A Study in the

Changing Conceptions of the Soul and Afterlife in Pre-Buddhist China," Harvard Journal of Asiatic

Studies 47: 2 (1987), 363-95.

34. Fan, Zhongguo Yufang Yixue Sixiangshi, 34.

35. Charlotte Furth, "From Birth to Birth: The Growing Body in Chinese Medicine," in Anne

Behnke Kinney ed., Chinese Views of Childhood (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1995), 176.

36. Fan, Zhongguo Yufang Yixue Sixiangshi, 36.

37. Li Fengmao李豐楙, "Dongyuan Shenzhou Jing de shenmoguan ji qi kezhi shuo洞淵神咒經的

神魔觀及其剋治說", Dongfang zongjiao yanjiu東方宗教研究 2 (1991): 133-55; Li Fengmao李

豐楙, "Daozang suo shou zaoqi daoshu de wenyiguan - yi Nuqinggui lu ji Dongyuan shenzhou jing

xi weizhu道藏所收早期道書的瘟疫觀-以女青鬼律及洞淵神咒經系為主", Zhongguo

wenzhe yanjiu jikan中國文哲研究集刊 3 (1993), 417-54.

38. Xu Pingfang徐苹芳, "Tang Song muzang zhong de mingqi shensha yu muyi zhidu唐宋墓葬中

的明器神煞與墓儀制度", Kaogu考古 1963: 2, 87-106.

39. Liu Zhiwan劉枝萬, Taiwan no dokyo to minkan shinko台灣ソ道教シ民間信仰 (Tokyo:

Fuukyousha, 1994).

40. Li Fengmao李豐楙, "Sha yu chusha: yige yuzhou zhixu de pohuai yu chongjian煞與出煞:一

個宇宙秩序的破壞與重建", in Minsu xilie jiangzuo民俗系列講座 10 (Taibei: Guoli Zhongyang

Tushuguan Taiwan Fenguan, 1993), 284.

41. Ching-lang Hou, "The Chinese Belief in Baleful Stars," in Holmes Welch and Anna Seidel eds.,

Facets of Taoism (Taibei: Southern Materials Center, 1984), 193-228; Liang Xiangrun梁湘潤,

Shensha tanyuan神煞探原 (Taibei: Xingmao Chubanshe, 1981).

42. Ware, Alchemy, Medicine, Religion, 305.

43. Watson, "Funeral Specialists in Cantonese Society", 112-13.

44. Li Fengmao李豐楙, "Taiwan minjian lisu zhong de shengsi guanhuai台灣民間禮俗中的生死

關懷", Zhexue zazhi哲學雜誌 8 (1986), 42.

45. Lin Fushi林富士, "Shishi Shuihudi Qinjian zhong de li yu dingsha試釋睡虎地秦簡中的癘與

定殺", Shiyuan史原 15 (1986): 9-11.

46. Kurihara Keisuke栗原圭介, "Takuju no shuzoku ni tsuite磔禳ズ習俗ズコゆサ, Toho

Gaku東方學 45 (1973).

47. Arthur Kleinman, "The Cultural Construction of Illness Experience and Behavior: Affects and

Symptoms in Chinese Culture," in idem, Patients and Healers in the Context of Culture (Berkeley:

University of California Press, 1980), Chapter 4.

48. Li Fengmao, "Sha yu chusha," 286-90.

49. Anna Seidel, "Traces of Han Religion in Funeral Texts Found in Tombs", in Akizuki Kan'ei秋月

觀 ed., Dokyo to shukyo bunka道教シ宗教文化 (Tokyo: Hirakawa Shuppan, 1987), 21-57

50. Li Jianmin李建民, "Zhongguo gudai yanzi lisu kao中國古代掩胔禮俗考," Qinghua xuebao清

華學報 24:3 (1994), 319-43.

51. Derk Bodde, Festivals in Classical China: New Year and Other Annual Observances during the

Han Dynasty 206 B.C.- A.D.220 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975), 75-138.

52. Valerie Hansen, "Why Bury Contracts in Tombs", Cahiers d'Extreme-Asie 8 (1995).

53. Yuasa Yukihiko湯淺幸孫, "Chiken chozon koshaku地券徵存考釋", Chukoku shisoshi

kenkyu中國思想史研究 4 (1981), 10.

54. Sun Simiao孫思邈, Qianjin yifang千金翼方 (Beijing: Huaxia Chubanshe華夏出版社, 1993),


55. Paul U. Unshuld, Forgotten Traditions of Ancient Chinese Medicine: A Chinese View from the

Eighteenth Century (Brookline, Massachusetts: Paradigm Publication, 1990), 130.

56. Wan Fang萬方, "Gudai zhu (zhu) bing ji rangjie zhiliao kaoshu古代注(疰)病及禳解治療考

述", Dunhuang yanjiu敦煌研究 1992: 4, 91-88.

57. Kominami Ichiro小南一郎, "Kandai no sorei kannen漢代ソ祖靈觀念", Toho Gakuho東方學

報 66 (1994): 28-39.

58. ibid., 32-33; see also Chen Zhi陳直, "Han chuping sinian Wangshi Zhushu taoping kaoshi漢初

平四年王氏朱書陶瓶考釋", in idem, Wenshi kaogu luncong文史考古論叢 (Tianjin: Tianjin

Guji Chubanshe, 1988), 395.

59. Liu, "Tan kaogu faxian de Daojiao Jie zhuwen", 55.

60. I am indebted to the following research papers for my analysis of the ritual: Mary Douglas, "The

Healing Rite", Man 5: 2, 302-08; L. A. Rhodes, "This Will Clear Your Mind: The Use of Metaphors

for Medicine in Psychiatric Settings," Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry 8 (1984), 49-70; Victor

Turner, The Anthropology of Performance, (New York: PAJ Publication, 1987); F. R. Wetley,

"Rituals as Psychic Bridge Building: Narcissism, Healing and the Human Potential Movement," The

Journal of Psychoanalytic Anthropology 6: 2 (1983), 179-200.

61. See John McCreery, "Why Don't We See Some Real Money Here? Offerings in Chinese

Religion," Journal of Chinese Religions 18 (1990): 1-24.

62. Kominami Ichiro小南一郎, "Tsubokatachi no uchu壺形ソ宇宙", Toho Gakuho東方學報 61

(1989): 176-192.

63. Liu, "The Taoists' Knowledge of Tuberculosis in the Twelfth Century", 287. I have modified the

translation to render it more accurate.

64. Tang Yijie湯一介, Wei Jin nanbei chao chiqi de Daojiao魏晉南北朝時期的道教 (Taibei:

Dongda Tushu Gongsi, 1988), 361-73.

65. Liu Zhaorui劉昭瑞, "Taiping jing yu kaogu faxian de Dong Han Zhenmu wen太平經與考古發

現的東漢鎮墓文", Shijie zongjiao yanjiu世界宗教研究 1992: 4, 112-116; Liu Zhaorui劉昭瑞,

"Chengfu shuo yuanqi lun承負說緣起論", Shijie zongjiao yanjiu世界宗教研究 1995: 4, 100-7.

66. Lien-sheng Yang, "The Concept of Pao as a Basis for Social Relations in China", in John K.

Fairbank ed., Chinese Thought and Institutions (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1957),


67. Paul U. Unschuld has written an enlightening article on the subject, "Plausibility of Truth? An

Essay on Medicine and World View", Science in Context 8, 1 (1995): 9-30.

68. Yoshimoto Shoji吉元昭治, Dokyo to furochoju no igaku道教シ不老長壽ソ醫學 (Tokyo:

Hirakawa Shuppan, 1989), 286.

69. Miyakawa Hisayuki宮川尚志, "Dokyo teki shintairon ni okeru shichu to konpaku道教的身体

論ズれんペ尸蟲シ魂魄", in Naito Motoharu內藤榦治 ed., Chukoku teki zinseikan, sekaikan中

國的人生觀、世界觀 (Tokyo: Tohoshoten, 1994): 259-71; Fu-shih Lin, "Religious Taoism and

Dreams," Cahiers d'Extreme-Asie 8 (1995): 95-112.

70. Mugitani Kunio麥谷邦夫, "Kotei naikeikyo shiron黃庭內景經試論", Toyo Bunka東洋文化

62 (1982): 29-59.

71. Kristofer Schipper, The Taoist Body (Taipei: SMC Publishing INC., 1993), 100-12.

Appendix A. Chinese Medical Texts

Aa 巢元方《諸病源候總論》:凡注之言住也,謂邪氣居住人身內,故名為注。此由陰





Ab 巢元方《諸病源候總論》:人有先無他病,忽被鬼排擊,當時或心腹刺痛,或悶絕



Ac 巢元方《諸病源候總論》:凡云邪者,不正之氣也,謂人之腑臟血氣為正氣,其風



Ad 王燾《外臺秘要》:療伏連,病本緣極熱氣相易,相連不斷,遂名伏連,亦名骨蒸


Ae 王燾《外臺秘要》:傳尸病,亦名痎瘧、遁注、骨蒸、伏連、殗@,此病多因臨尸



Af 巢元方《諸病源候總論》:人有年命衰弱,至於喪死之處,而心 意忽有所畏惡,其








Ag 尤怡《醫學讀書記》:五疰鬼氣之病,或助正氣以辟之,如蘇合香丸之屬是也。或


Ah 徐大椿《醫學源流論》:蓋人之神屬陽,陽衰則鬼憑之。《內經》有五臟之病,則



Ai 王燾《外臺秘要》:崔氏斷伏連解法,先覓一不開口葫蘆,埋入地,取上离日開之







Aj 巢元方《諸病源候總論》:人身內自有三尸諸蟲,與人俱生,而此蟲忌惡,能與鬼


Appendix B. Quotations from Other Sources

Ba 顏之推《顏氏家訓•風操》:偏傍之書,死有歸殺(俗本殺作煞)。子孫逃竄,莫肯



Bb 劉熙《釋名•釋疾病》:注病,一人死一人復得,氣相灌注也。

Bc 劉義慶《幽明錄》:謝玄在彭城,將佐齊郡司馬隆、弟進及東安王箱等,共取壤棺



Bd 張讀《宣室志》:俗傳人之死,凡數日,當有禽自柩中而飛者,曰「煞」。大和中




Be 洪邁《夷堅志》:江浙之俗信巫鬼,相傳人死則其魄復還,以其日測之,某日當至



Bf 盧文弨《龍城札記》:人死陰陽生以死者之日時,判為某日當接煞。其來有尺數高





Bg 俞文豹《吹劍錄外集》:按唐太常博士呂才《百忌歷》載〈喪煞損害法〉:如巳日



Bh 白鶴先師《六輪經》:凡子日死者,煞傷北方三十以上四十以下之男子;甲子日死


Bi 葛洪《抱朴子•地真》:能守一者,行萬里,入軍旅,涉大川,不須卜日擇時,起



Bj 葛洪《抱朴子•至理》:南林以處溫長茂,接煞氣則彫瘁於凝霜,值陽和則鬱藹而


Bk 錢大昕《恆言錄》:人死後數日,魂魄來返故宅,有煞神隨之,犯者必有災咎。

Bl 《禮記•檀弓》:死而不弔者三,畏、厭、溺。

Bm 寇謙之《老君音誦誡經》:老君曰,道官道民,其先亡祖曾父母,幽謫不解,復


Bn 敦煌解注文:麟嘉八年(396年)閏月甲辰朔六日己酉重(董)執(姬)女訓身死,自注應之



Bo 《赤松子章曆•斷亡人復連章》:具法位上言:臣謹仙科,今據某云:「即日叩頭








Bp 漢初平四(193年)王氏朱書陶瓶:地下死籍削除文,他央咎轉要道中人,和以五石之


Bq 《無上玄元三天玉堂大法•斷除尸瘵品》:疾勢多端,染習各異。屋與食亦能漸染











Br 葛洪《抱朴子•微旨》曰:身中有三尸,三尸之為物,雖無形而實魂靈鬼神之屬也

Bs 《太上三尸中經》曰:人之生也,皆寄形於父母。胞胎飽味於五穀精氣,是以人之






Fig. 1 Zhulian注連 Shimenawa. Terajima Ryouan寺島良安, Wakan sansai zue和漢三才圖會 4

(Tokyo: Heibonsha, 1988), 263.

Fig. 2 The footprints left behind by the spirit of a deceased, as published in the 1909 Chengdu

Tonglan成都通覽. Sawada Mizuho, Chugoku no minkan shinko中國ソ民間信仰 (Tokyo:

Kosakusha, 1982), 449.

Fig. 3 Zhu disorders like fulian are closely related to "sha". Lu Shizhong路時中, Wushang xuanyuan

santian yutang dafa無上玄元三天玉堂大法

Shape 1. Wenwu文物 1975:11, 79.

Shape 2. Kaogu Xuebao考古學報 1956:2, 24.

Fig. 4 Zhenmu wen鎮墓文

Fig. 5 Guixue鬼穴. Lingmen huanshou tongren zhixue凌門傳授銅人指穴 (Taibei: Shilin

Chubanshe, 1988), 87.



Fig. 6 The talismanic writings recorded in the Wushang xuanyuan santian yutang dafa無上玄元三天

玉堂大法, refer to "bingsha病煞" as "zhugui注鬼" and "sha煞".

Fig. 7 After the zhugui注鬼 and sha煞 have entered the human body, and are united with the Sanshi

Jiuchong三尸九蟲, they create six stages of transformation. Starting from the right, the first to sixth

stage are illustrated. Yoshimoto Shoji吉元昭治, Dokyo to furochoru no igaku道教シ不老長壽ソ

醫學 (Tokyo: Hirakawa Shuppan, 1989), 317.