According to Chinese belief, when a person dies; his/her soul shall return to his/her house for the last time to visit his/her love ones. This returning of dead soul is also known as ‘turning of sha’ (转煞). It is believed that the dead soul will be accompanied by a messenger from hell which is known as ‘god of sha’ (煞神). This god of sha looks pretty awful and it is said that it has hands and feet that resembles chicken craws.
If a household forgotten to prepare food offerings to treat the dead soul and especially the messenger from hell; then this messenger will torture this poor dead soul.
Taoists believe that a living person has 3 hun (三魂) and 7 po (七魄). When a person dies, his/her 3 'hun' ascend to heaven and 7 'po' descend in to the earth immediately for a minimum of 9 feet and a maximum of 18 feet depending on calculation. As soon as the po has descended to its maximum depth, it will start to come up at a pace of 1 foot per day. So, if the po has gone 18 feet down, then it will take 18 days to come back to the surface of the earth.
According to Taoist practice, proper preparation should be done to receive the returning of soul. This preparation is called ‘receiving sha’ (接煞). If the duration of soul returning is short, we call it ‘fierce sha’ (凶煞) otherwise we call it ‘kind sha’ (善煞).
The night before the soul returning, in the deceased’s bedroom, the deceased’s clothing should be laid flat on his bed and his head is substituted by a vase. A table should be placed beside the bed and deceased’s favourite dishes should be served on this table together with some joss paper and hell notes. When all of the preparations are done, ashes are spread in the room periphery to check if the soul and messenger have visited the room. Finally the bedroom door is shut and no one should be allowed to enter.
For the house that has a chimney, food offerings are also made beside the fire place as people believe that the messenger of hell will enter from the chimney. Again, ashes are spread around the foods to check if there will be any chicken craw prints the next day. However, if the house has no chimney, then window should be opened for the spirits to enter; otherwise the room door should be opened instead.
There is also a formula to calculate from which direction the spirits will come and go too, but I will not disclose it for now for simplicity.
All of the setups should be left for a day before re-entrance. If the food stuffs or joss papers or even foot steps are found on ashes; then it is presumed that the souls have returned for a visit.
There are many true accounts of strange happenings on the returning of dead souls. I will list some of what I have heard from my pals:
· Albert said he saw half of a burnt down Mercedes stopped in front of his house the soul returning night of his late grandpa.
· My mom said she saw my late dad returned the soul returning night but she was so scared and hide behind the main door.
· Simon said he heard sounds of iron chains being dragged outside of his house and he found signs of things dragging on ashes he spread on the floor around the food offerings.
Well, I am sure you too have similar experiences; kind to share?