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Ghosts – or the (Nearly) Invisible

Spectral Phenomena in Literature and the Media


Maria Fleischhack and Elmar Schenkel

In this volume, ghost stories are studied in the context of their media, their place in history and geography. From prehistory to this day, we have been haunted by our memories, the past itself, by inklings of the future, by events playing outside our lives, and by ourselves. Hence the lure of ghost stories throughout history and presumably prehistory. Science has been a great destroyer of myth and superstition, but at the same time it has created new black boxes which we are filling with our ghostly imagination. In this book, literature from the Middle Ages to Oscar Wilde and Neil Gaiman, children’s stories, folklore and films, ranging from the Antarctic and Russia to Haiti, are covered and show the continuing presence of spectral phenomena.

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From Cultural Ghosts to Literary Ghosts – Humanisation of Chinese Ghosts in Chinese Zhiguai


Abstract: In attempting to explore the role of ghosts, ghost beliefs, and ghost narratives, as an absolute but intimate “other” in mirroring Chinese people and society, this article will examine the process of humanisation of Chinese ghosts in two realms. The first refers to the humanisation of cultural ghosts, i.e. a brief history of Chinese ghost beliefs till roughly around the Six Dynasties. The second realm locates the humanisation of literary ghosts in zhiguai, with a specific focus on the literary birth of ghosts and ghost narratives in the Six Dynasties.

Once upon a time there was a traveller drawing for the King of Chi. “What is the hardest thing to draw?” asked the King. “Dogs and horses are the hardest.” “Then what is the easiest?” “Ghosts are the easiest. Indeed, dogs and horses are what people know and see at dawn and dusk in front of them. To draw them no distortion is permissible. Therefore they are the hardest. On the contrary, ghosts have no shapes and are not seen in front of anybody, therefore it is easy to draw them.” – Han Feizi (32.22)


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