Xiangxi Corpse-Driving

As a branch of sorceries of Miao ethnic group as well as a component of wichery culture of ancient Hunan and Hubei provinces the corpse-driving custom was said to be popular in four areas in Xiangxi, namely Yuanling,Luxi, Chenxi and Xupu.

Dating back to the Qing Dynasty(1616–1901), the legend of corpse driver in xiangxi was widely spread: when people left their hometown and died away aboard, a corpse
A driver-a Taoist priest-would make the corpse jumping by himself and transport the corpse
back to their hometown for proper burial .Usually, the Taoist priest led in front of the
corpse in his robe instead of driving behindthem . No lantern was needed, but a ghost-absorbing bell would be used to notigy other pedestrians of their presence and avoid stray dogs. When there were more than one corpes, they would be tied together with a straw rope at an interval of seven feet. It was only practied in the evning with the corpse wearing a high hat and a piece of yellow talisman sticked on its forehead in case of unexpected frenzy . After being transported back to its family, the corpse would be identified by its living relatives and then properly dressed and buried. Despite no convincing scientific verification or confirmation by modern people , the priactice is well known through trilling movies bases on this custom.

A profesional corpse-driver would have ast least the following instruments|: a conch engraved with Tianshi Mantra(created by Tianshi, Head of the Taoism), A stack of yellowo talismans made of bamboo pulp. Written with red vermillion or a roaster’s blood, a black robe, and accurate compass and a steel gong for drawing spirits. Spells used during corpse driving varied from one to another , but most of them were from the Song of righteousness by Wen Tianxing , a hero fighting againgst alien invasion in the southern Song dynasty.

The corpse-driver is a special occupation with special request. They are called”Tusi” by the local people , with not high social position but somehow a bit of respect . No people curry favour with them but easily offend them too in daily life.

Shen Congwen(1902-1983), a literary master born in Xiangxi mentioned the corpse driving custom several ties in his works. In one of his works, he says “Today, the corpse driving custom still exists in Yuanling which is a cinnabar-producing place. If you are lucky you Will have a chance to witness a group of corpus marching along the road. Even the corpus would give way to bus drivers as if they Were alive”