Whatever Happened to Asian Hopping Zombies?

If you, like me, were born in the 1980s, and if you, like me, had a grandparent who was into Hong Kong cinema, you might have vague memories of this guy:

The above is a Chinese hopping zombie, or hopping vampire, as he is also commonly known, though really, he is sui generis. Known as a jiang shi, or "stiff corpse," in mandarin, a goeng si in Cantonese, and a kyonshi in Japanese, he's not a zombie, because he doesn't eat flesh. He's not a vampire -- though he was called one by Hong Kong filmmakers, who thought it would be good for marketing purposes. He doesn't drink blood (or at least, he didn't until the influence of Hollywood western vampires made itself felt). Rather, he drinks qi, or life energy.

These guys were legion in the Hong Kong movies of the 1980s and 1990s, from the classic Mr. Vampire and Encounters of the Spooky Kind, featured above, to The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires, in which a British film company tried to muscle into the genre. The films were big in Hong Kong -- a very earnest academic paper I stumbled across on this topic framed them as a critical response to the pending Chinese handover and the "crisis of modernity" -- but they were also popular in Southeast Asia, and across the Chinese diaspora.

The lines between jiangshi and other, more Western forms of the undead grew increasingly blurred over time, as Hollywood influence made itself increasingly felt -- in later jiangshi movies, for example, you might see one of these creatures drink blood -- but one defining characteristic remained: while western zombies lurched and juddered around, and western vampires moved like normal humans (or, if anything, more gracefully), these Chinese undead always hopped -- slowly, rigidly, with arms extended straight ahead (something to do with rigor mortis?).

And then the jiangshi disappeared, almost as quickly as they'd arisen. A Hollywood push into Asia took its toll on the Hong Kong film industry; Asian countries developed a taste for movies like 28 Days Later, and homegrown fare like Tokyo Zombie and Zombie 108 began taking on the tropes of the Western horror genre instead of the weird, wacky kung fu horror/comedy style that marked Hong Kong jiangshi films.

Another victim of globalization

Lately, however, the genre has shown some signs of life. Hong Kong pop star-turned-actor Juno Mak is proudly touting his latest movie, Rigor Mortis, as a tribute to jiangshi movies, while a Japanese show that debuted last year,Haohao! Kyongshi girl, features the jumping creatures and a Malaysia-made game, The Chinese Zombie War,  in which a Taoist priest fights an army of jumping jiangshi in the jungle,appears to be a a hit in Hong Kong, Taiwan and the mainland.

Is this nostalgia? Another critical response to a crisis of modernity? I'll leave it to the academics to decide. 

Thanks to Matt Mogk at the Zombie Research Society for help on this post.



Russia Is Collecting Saliva from Muslim Women Because Terrorism

With less than a 100 days till the Sochi Winter Olympics, Russia is really ramping up its security -- in decidedly creepy ways. Russian officials are taking saliva samples from orthodox Muslim women in Dagestan in an effort to gather DNA data in case they decided to blow themselves up during the Games.This comes after a suicide attack on Oct. 21 on a passenger bus in Volgograd in southern Russia carried out by a Dagestani woman, Naida Asiyalova. The bomb she detonated killed six people and wounded 30. Asiyalova was a representative of a new breed of suicide bombers, the so-called Black Widows, who have enacted close to 50 attacks in the region over the past 13 years.

According to Reuters, Russia is stepping up its push to eliminate leaders and operatives of the Islamic insurgency in the Northern Caucasus, which has been ravaging the region since the conclusion of the Second Chechen War in 2009, before the skiers, bobsledders and speedskaters descend on Sochi. The effort focuses on Salafi Muslims who adhere to a strict version of Islam and are often associated with jihadist movements. Salafi men are arrested, jailed, killed and kidnapped. Young madrassa students are photographed and fingerprinted. And the women are asked to spit.

"There are simply no other ways to combat these inhuman monsters," said Vladimir Kolokoltsev, the Russian minister of interior.

Suicide-bombing prevention through collecting saliva and fingerprinting teenagers is part of a broader effort to enhance security before the Games begin. Russian authorities have deployed a special contingent of 300 Cossacks, the age-old tribe of horsemen used by the tzars to suppress all sorts of social upheaval in centuries past to support the police force in the region.

The Cossacks are being incorporated into police efforts all over Russia. The semi-official patrolmen often perform their duties wearing traditional garb.

The Russian authorities are using modern security measures, too. According to Russian investigative journalists (and FP contributors) Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan, the secret service  is preparing what could be "near-total surveillance" for the time of the Olympics. They've found that the Federal Security Bureau -- the descendant of the infamous KGB -- wants to monitor all internet and phone traffic coming in and out of Sochi. According to The Daily Telegraph, it won't be just meta-data gathering. "This is about content," Soldatov told the British daily. Soldatov suggests that this surveillance isn't just a way to prevent terrorist attacks, but a way to monitor information useful to the authorities about the opposition to the Kremlin. And that's nothing to spit at.