29 • Columbus, OH
Well, I guess I’ll be upfront: I’m a jiangshi. It’s kind of like a Chinese zombie, though that’s not really accurate—trust me, I’ve tried hanging out with the zombie population here, and they thought I was nothing like them. But, look, we follow in the same traditions, right? They’re undead, I’m undead; they get a bite or infection that turns them into a zombie, and I had an improper death that caused me to turn. They feed on flesh; I feed on qi. We’re basically the same, really.
What I’m doing with my life
You know, “life” is a weird term for us undead. I mean, when I was alive, I was a grad student at OSU, but that didn’t go so great, to put it lightly. With my death—my undeath?—I guess I’m mostly trying to get by. Homeostasis is all good, but I’d like to find some new friends, too. Plus I’ve been forced to become a night owl, so if you’re looking for someone to explore Columbus night life with, I’d totally be up for that.
I’m really good at
Linguistics? Well, I used to be. That was the Ph.D. program I was in at OSU; I was pretty good at completing the homework assignments, but research turned out to be something else entirely. I can still probably talk your ear off about syntax and semantics, though. But I should say right now, I don’t judge the way you speak—in fact, linguists do exactly the opposite! We love to see all the diversity and difference in language in the world.
I’m also good at listening. Whether that’s you talking about your hobbies, or talking about how rough your day was, I do all that active listening stuff and really pay attention to you. I love when people are enthusiastic and when they’re being sincere. I’m always down for conversation, especially after trying to hang out with zombies—it’s not that they’re nonverbal or just grunt like what everyone thinks; they just have their own way of communicating, one that I ended up not being able to pick up. So it’s been a while since I’ve sat down to have a chat in my own language.
Favorite books, movies, shows, music, and food
Oh man, I’m terrible at picking favorites. I’m weirdly obsessed with vampire media, though—I suppose jiangshi can be compared to vampires too, and it’s interesting to see something that reflects my experience without being entirely the same. I don’t tend to watch jiangshi films themselves—partly because of the language barrier (I don’t actually speak Mandarin or Cantonese, even though I’m Chinese myself…) and partly because it feels weird seeing some of the depictions that veer from my own experience.
As for food? I’ve always been something of a foodie, but ever since I turned, I’ve had to tweak my diet. I can’t be vegetarian anymore, so the most I can do is try to be ethical about my qi consumption. These days, the easiest food for me to get is live fish from Chinese supermarkets—once anything’s been prepared, even raw sushi, the qi’s already gone. I mean, I can still eat regular food; it just doesn’t have the same nourishment. So I’d still be happy to go out to a restaurant with you. I’d just have to eat another meal by myself later.
The six things I could never do without
Internet. Cliché answer, I know, but it’s the truth.
Qi. Hey, a jiangshi’s gotta eat too.
Front-facing cameras. Okay, hear me out. Mirrors are awkward because they repel me—that’s just part of what being a jiangshi entails—so I have to use the front-facing camera as a mirror. Otherwise I’d look like a mess all the time.
Sleep. In this regard, I haven’t changed at all since when I was alive.
Electric candles. I know, they look dorky, but they provide nice mood lighting for when I want to relax. I can’t light regular candles because the flame is another thing that repels me. Makes candlelit dinners kind of awkward.
And, of course: CATS! Even undead people love our fuzzy companions.
I spend a lot of time thinking about
Life, the universe, and everything.
Jokes aside, I’ve been thinking a lot about things like community and mental health advocacy recently. I never really thought about that kind of stuff when I was alive, but I probably should have. I was always your stereotypical Chinese grad student, working really hard and trying my best to be successful, but that… drove me over the edge, to put things lightly. Well, I won’t let this section get dark. Let’s just say that life doesn’t end at death, and there’s still a lot more for me to learn and work on. I’m slowly getting better and finding peace.
On a typical Friday night I am
Waking up and figuring out what to do with the day/night.
You should message me if
You’re a jiangshi. It’s not that I’m specifically looking for someone who matches my ethnic background, just that the shared experience makes it a bit easier, you know?
I’d love to make friends with people from different backgrounds as well. Are you a vampire? A ghost? I’m sure we can find common ground.
But honestly, if you’re a living grad student, especially if you’re feeling lonely, feel free to reach out to me too. I’ve been there before, and I just want you to know that you’re not alone. If you’re struggling with thoughts that are telling you to hurt yourself, to end your life, just know that you don’t have to keep those thoughts to yourself and that you have someone out here who’ll listen to you.
I know, it might be weird to be getting life advice from someone undead, but hey—that’s the world we live in.
Message me, yeah? ❈
Originally published in Fitting In: Historical Accounts of Paranormal Subcultures, 2016.