Monday, March 2, 2015

A Ship Of Ghosts (一船鬼)

There are many such stories in Chinese ghost literatures throughout the years. Let’s first explore closest one first.

This first incident happened somewhere around 1875 during Qing Dynasty. A ship Lucky Star belonged to Shanghai Commercial Steamship Bureau sailed from Shanghai to Tianjin; unfortunately this ship sunk in the Northern Ocean which has caused the drowning of 63 passengers. This was a major sea disaster occurred during the late Qing period.

Other than specific literature documented this incident, there are also many notes concerning this incident. Below is one of many stories related to ghostly affairs; it is taken from “From The Notes Of A Common Cottage” (庸庵笔记) chapter 4: The Sinking Of Lucky Star Liner ( 福星轮船沉没):

A committee member named Kang who just boarded the ship and saw the passenger cabin already filled. There was no more space to place the luggage; further the faces of those passengers were all blurred without clear features. Since all of the passengers looked horrible and they weren’t looked like human beings; Kang approached the crowd and found that all were indeed human.

After pondering for a while, Kang decided to transfer his baggage back to his hotel room and waited for the next ship.

After the mishap, he felt he was lucky to be protected by his lucky star. He did wonder why only he saw that the ill fated ship was bearing a ship of ghosts and no one else had noticed the scene. Perhaps we can attribute that to it wasn’t Kang’s time yet to go.

Another sea disaster occurred on the 9th month of 1882 and this is described in the work “Ghost Talk With Tea” (醉茶志怪):

A person boarded a liner and he took a nap in a cabin and while he was entering his slumber land, he heard two voices in conversation:

A voice asked: “Is the number sufficient?”

Another voice answered: “Still lacks of two.”

The person suddenly realized that it was not a norm to take headcounts in a ship, perhaps it was ghostly messengers taking a death count? So he immediately disembarked the ship. And as the story goes, the ill fated ship met with a strong headwind and sunk.

If we go back further to history to the Southern Song Dynasty, in the 3rd month of 1163AD, a disaster happened in Xijin Ferry of Zhenjiang (镇江). At that time Gold Hill (金山) was in the center of the river. And Xijin Ferry was plying between Zhenjiang and Gold Hill. According to the story:

There were already 44 persons on board of the ferry and just as when the ferry was leaving the dock, a man holding a kid in his hand approached the ferry side. But the kid started to cry out loud and whatever method used to coax him, the kid would not stop yelling and crying.

The kid’s dad smacked his head and just as the kid said: “listen to me…” he suddenly fainted onto the floor. The dad panicked after he felt the boy’s body was frozen rock solid with chilled hands and feet.

The ferry certainly cannot wait for this father and son pair and that no one was willing to help them, so the ferry left them behind. As the ferry was approaching Gold Hill, a gust of strong wind blew towards the ferry and the ferry subsequently sunk.

As soon as the ferry sunk to the bottom of the river, the kid suddenly awoke from his seizure. Before the dad can ask, the kid said: “just now I saw the ferry was full of ghosts with horrible expressions, so I dare not go onboard. As I was speaking, a ghost suddenly muffled my mouth and I felt dizzy as if entering dream land, that all to it.”

The above stories have some similarities with a posting in Magic SEA concerning “faces of death”:

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