Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Xiangxi 1: Walking Dead (湘西趕屍)

A Taoist is leading a procession of corpses!
Xiangxi is in fact the western part of Hunan Province, an area mainly along the upstream of Yuanjiang, mostly referring to Yuanling, Luxi, Chenxi and Pu a total of four areas. These areas are covered by mountain ranges, it if someone dies in this area; then it is really inconvenient to transport the body through the rugged mountain ranges. Traditional Chinese have a very strong sense of provincialism, so one must die in his or her homeland. The problem is that in ancient time, there was no such thing as a refrigerator nor fast modes of transport, in order to repatriate a corpse on a long journey without decay, people at that time can only rely on the service of "Xiangxi Walking Dead".


湘西即湖南省的西部,主要是沅江上游一帶,以沅陵、瀘溪、辰谿及浦這四個 地方為主。那多崇山峻嶺,死後要把遺體運回故鄉安葬要經過崎嶇山路實在不便。傳統的中國人有很濃厚的鄉土觀念,覺得客死異鄉是件非常淒涼的事。但古代既無 冰箱,又無快速的交通公具,要將遺體運送一段漫長路程而不腐爛,惟有靠「湘西趕屍」這種服務。


Walking dead ritual was from Hmong


According to ancient legends, the Hmong ancestor Appleton Chi led his army to war on the Yellow River bank, and when he wanted to retreat; he did not want to leave his soldiers killed in action around. So the military counselor of Appleton Chi suggested that the two of them swapped dress. Appleton Chi to carry talismans and lead the way, while his military counselor followed Appleton Chi at the back performing incantation. Consequently the dead soldiers stood up by themselves and follow closely behind. At that time the enemies are already closing, so the military counselor casted another spell to draw down thick fog at dawn to blind the enemies. Due to the fact that the military counselor is the one who performed magic ritual, people called him “the old master”. This title was adopted ever since.




遠古傳說,苗族 的祖先阿普蚩尤率兵在黃河邊打仗,當要撤退時,他不想丟下戰死的士兵,身邊的阿普軍師建議他們二人掉換裝扮,阿普蚩尤拿符節在前引路,阿普軍師在後施法督 催,結果令戰死的士兵站起並跟隨阿普蚩尤後面起行。當敵兵追近,阿普蚩尤和阿普軍師又施法引來五更大霧,將敵人圍困在霧中。因這是阿普軍師所「施」之法 術,自此便稱他為「老司」,而日後趕屍的法師亦稱為「老司」。


The boundary of walking dead

The sorcerers who lead these walking dead would not send the corpses directly to their home. They can only transport the corpses from hill area to the plain; the relatives of the deceased will have to take over the job by putting the corpse into a coffin and continue the journey with other means of transportation. The service boundary only to Changde towards the north, cannot cross the Dongting Lake; the farthest towards east is to Jingzhou, whereas to Fu and Wu states towards the west. Finally, the farthest towards southwest extends to Yunnan and Guizhou. Legend has it that the above regions are controlled by the ancestral spirits of Hmong; their magic cannot cross these boundaries.



趕屍隊伍不會把所有屍體直接送回故鄉,而是把屍體由山區送到平原後,便會轉交死者的親 屬將屍體放進棺材,再以其他途徑運送。服務範圍往北只到常德,不能過洞庭湖,東至靖州,西至涪州和巫州,西南則可到雲南和貴州。傳說這些地方是苗族祖先的 鬼國轄地,法術不能越界。


Three yes and three nays


Not all of the corpses can be transported by the “walking dead” method. According to old legends, there are three yes and three nays of transporting a corpse by walking dead method. A dead row even though after beheading, needs only to sew back the head; those died from strangulation or died in station case will also be acceptable. However, death by disease, hanging or lighting strike causing an incomplete corpse will not be taken.




並不是每一具屍體都可以透過趕屍這一個方法運回家鄉。當地的一些古老傳說中描述,趕屍有所謂「三趕三不趕」。如果被判決有罪的死囚, 在砍頭之後,只要把身首縫合,便可以趕。受到絞刑或者站籠而死的,也可以趕。而病死、投河吊頸、雷打火燒屍身不全者不趕。


Although there are contradictions in the above narrations, but due to the antiquity of this ritual; there is always a strong sense of mystics and attractiveness.


雖然以上的記載 有矛盾的地方,但古籍傳流,總是給人有一種很強烈的神秘感和吸引力。


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