Below are accounts, both classical and modern, that illustrate the genre of zhiguai" [zhi=records; guai=strange]. These include examples of horror and paranormal memoir (most of the stories here), alongside classical third-person horror fiction (e.g. the tales of Pu Songling). This is in keeping with the tradition of zhiguai collections mixing both types of materials.

Yeye’s Girl by Ohne Re

  When I was three and a half, my yeye drank pesticide and killed himself. To understand why, you first have to know this: from the day I was born, Yeye loved me dearly. He fell in love with me, he said, as soon as he saw my tiny face. And on that very day, he asked my parents to move in so that he could watch me while they worked. In China, it is common for one grandparent or …

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An Early Chinese Alien Abduction Tale by Ji Yun

*a nonfiction account as recorded by Ji Yun (1724-1805), Imperial Librarian and Investigator of the Strange, and translated by John Yu Branscum and Yi Izzy Yu; notes on Chinese alien abduction and fairy lore are at the bottom of the piece: One day I received a letter that was written in my language but seemed to be written in a foreign one. The thoughts it expressed were odd, confused, and almost impossible to decipher. The letter’s poor quality especially surprised …

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Keanu Reeves’ Ghostly Encounter

Excerpt: “I’m probably like six, seven years old, [and] we’d [just] come from Australia. [My] nanny, Renata, is in the bedroom, my sister is asleep [and] I’m hanging out. There was a doorway and all of a sudden this jacket comes waving through the doorway, this empty jacket – there’s no body, there’s no legs, it’s just there…” Reeves’ narration of the ghostly encounter begins at the 1:06 mark:

Checkpoints by Ji Yun (1724-1805), Imperial Librarian and Investigator of the Strange

In the early days of my assignment in Urumqi, one afternoon an army clerk came to me with a brush and ink, along with a pile of papers that he requested I sign. “What are these papers?” I asked. “Passports,” he replied. “You see, most of the soldiers here are from far away. So, if they die, we have to ship their bodies back home for burial and funeral rites. Living people must pass through many border checkpoints when travelling. …

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Meat Vegetables by Ji Yun (1724-1805), The Emperor’s Librarian

When I was a boy, I went on a journey with our family servant Shi Xiang. While we were passing a village outside of Jing Cheng, Shi Xiang pointed at some mounds in a field to the west. “Those are graves,” he said. “Zhou graves. Long ago, one of their ancestors did a good deed that allowed their family line to persist three generations longer than it would have otherwise.” I asked Shi Xiang what kind of deed. He said …

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A Student Visits the Future by Caroline Jiu

————-> The following experience occurred in 2016, when I was in eighth grade, shortly before my classmates and I were scheduled to take our high school entrance exams. This was a very hectic and stressful time. Everyone was worried about the exams. Additionally, our classes were moved into a whole new building because our usual building was now being used as a test center. Our days were very long too. Since exams were coming up, after day classes were finished, …

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The Ringing of the Western Beast by Ji Yun (1724-1805), The Emperor’s Librarian

About 150 years ago, in the fourteenth year of Emperor Kangxi’s reign, a Western nation gave him a mysterious creature called a “lion.” No one in his circle had ever seen such a creature before, and it immediately featured prominently in the poetry and paintings produced by members of the court. It also featured in many tall tales. For example, one story that made the rounds detailed how the lion escaped the palace one morning by snapping its chains in …

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Snake Girl by Dao Fei

Recently in China, a snake girl was reported in a village in the far north – about three flying or twenty driving hours from my hometown in Yantai.  It’s very cold in this part of China, a Canadian kind of cold. The snake girl who lived in the village was about thirteen years old. Before she became a snake girl, she was just this typical Chinese girl – with two ponytails in the back of her head and with skin …

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Old Trees by Mei Lin

I don’t remember all the details, but my roommate in college, Liaoyang, who comes from the city next to mine, once told me about a strange occurrence in her high school. At this high school, because of increasing enrollment, the administration decided to build a new building in an empty part of the school grounds. There was one big problem, however. A thousand-year-old tree stood in the way. Students quickly heard about the plan for the new building and also …

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