Thursday, August 29, 2013

Hedgehog Girl (Han)

There once was a small household, just three mouths to feed--a  young man, his young wife, and his little brother--all fed by the hard labor of the husband.

Now one day, the wife said to her husband, "Your young brother has more or less already grown up. It's high time that he takes a wife. We can give him half of what we have, such as it is. Otherwise, one way or another, we'll need to be rid of him!"

Her husband wasn't ready for this. He shook his head.

"No?" She ran to pick up a carving knife and held it above her bosom. "No? Then if you don't take care of him, let me end my life right here and now!"

The husband found himself over a barrel; he instantly agreed to her demands.

Early the next day, the husband--the older brother--presented his younger brother with a set of brand-new clothes.

"Change into the new clothes," he said to his kid brother. "I'm taking you out today to . . . to see the world."

The pair went out. Together, they crossed the high mountain and walked and walked until they came to a gully. Here, the older brother came to a complete stop. With tears in his eyes, he turned to his younger brother.

"Didi, here we need to say our goodbyes."

"What? Brother, you don't want me?" the younger lad asked.

The older brother explained the whole situation to him and then handed to him two strings of coins, worth two thousand in cash, roughly half of the older brother and Sister's-in-law fortune, such as it was.

"Take this money for your travel expenses," he said. "Take care crossing the gully and be safe! Farewell!"

The brothers parted, both in tears. The younger brother then began his journey into the unknown. He walked on alone as day turned to night. He stopped when he came to a thatched hut. He looked in the window and saw what appeared to be a hunter. He asked the hunter if he could spend the night, and the older man, seeing how the poor boy was all alone in the world, welcomed him as his guest.

While staying with the hunter, the boy noticed a hedgehog tethered to a pillar. The creature kept its gaze on the boy.

"Master," asked the boy, "why do you have a hedgehog tied up to this pillar?"

"I'm going to skin it and eat the meat" was the reply.

"But Master, look how sad the hedgehog is! Let it go!"

"'Let it go!'? After a backbreaking day of hunting, I'm going to let it go? No, I'm not. Its pelt's going to pay for sorghum wine."

"Master, I'll buy the hedgehog from you! I have the money." He took out his two strings of coins. "See?"

The hunter took the boy's money and said, "The hedgehog's all yours!" He untied the tether and handed the untied end to the boy.

The boy led the hedgehog away from the hunter's hut. When the hut was no longer in view, he untied the noose around its neck, saying, "All right, now run for your life far away from here! If you get caught again, I won't be able to buy back your freedom!"

The hedgehog seemed to nod as if it understood, and then, with a little peep, it headed off for some thick tall brush, into which it disappeared.

The boy stood there, looking at the spot where he had last seen the hedgehog when he noticed something big rustling within the tall grasses and weeds. To his amazement, from out of the brush stepped a maiden who couldn't be more than eighteen years of age. She was carrying a thick blanket decorated with flower motifs.

She approached the astounded young man and said, "My benefactor, you are here alone without any shelter. Allow me to present you with this blanket to keep you warm!"

He saw that she was utterly gorgeous, with her small mouth, big eyes and egg-shaped face.

"Miss, you are truly one of the goodhearted on this earth! Thank you."

They sat down in a comfortable place and chatted.

"Do you have a home somewhere?" the maiden, Hedgehog Girl, asked.

"Yes, I do."

"Then, if you have a home of your own, what are you doing in this forsaken place?"

"My parents are no longer around, so I lived with my brother and his wife. My sister-in-law wanted to be rid of me, so I am here!"

"Do you miss home?" she asked.

"I miss my brother, but I dare not go back."

"Don't worry. I'll carry you back to your home myself. One thing, however; you must agree that we become husband and wife."

"All right," he said.

That night they took vows to each other as husband and wife.

Early the next morning, the young woman said, "My husband, take the blanket and cover my back with it. Climb upon my back, clutch tightly and keep your eyes tightly closed until I tell you to open them."

The young man did as he was told and they were off, with the wind blowing sou! sou! sou! past his ears.

Eventually, the young man felt his feet touch the ground.

"Open your eyes!" said his wife.

He opened his eyes to behold the outskirts of his home village.

"Now, my husband, do not be in a hurry to return to your brother's home. Let's find a nice place for ourselves for the time being."

The young man agreed and led his bride to the wineshop owned by Er Daye, Second Uncle.

"Boy!" cried Er Daye, rubbing his eyes. "I can't believe it's you! I feared you were no more!"

"No, it is I, Uncle, and I've brought my wife."

"Er Daye," said Hedgehog Girl, kneeling before Second Uncle, "we plan to stay in this village and would like to purchase a plot of land to build a house. Can you help us?"

Er Daye clapped his hands and said, "Leave it up to me!"

The next day, Er Daye met with his nephew and Hedgehog Girl and said, "Listen, north of the village there's forty mu of land for sale. The owner won't sell it for anything under four hundred ounces of silver. I don't know if you two have that kind of money."

Without waiting for her husband to speak, Hedgehog Girl said, "Er Daye, we'll take it. Four hundred ounces of silver is a cheap price."

From out of her blanket, she produced five hundred ounces of silver in the form of a single ingot. She instructed her husband to purchase the land and use the left over money to host a dinner party for all concerned in the land matter.

That night Hedgehog Girl and her husband visited their land on the northern outskirts of town. There, she took out a hairpin and with it drew upon the dirt the floor plan of a house. As she withdrew her hairpin, the young husband heard a deep rumble. Now, standing before him was a grand house with a blue-green glazed tile roof!

"Come," she said. "Let's go inside."

Inside, the young husband found their new house furnished with everything they could ever need--precious jewels that shone with nearly blinding brightness and  a granary fully stocked with millet, wheat and beans. And out in the back--a stable with nineteen horses!

And there the two of them made their home and lived happily and quietly.

Three years quickly passed.

One morning Hedgehog Girl said to her husband, "We've spent a fair amount of time together, but we still haven't had a child. I think you need to take another wife."

Her husband wouldn't have that. "It doesn't matter whether we have children or not. You're better than anything in this world for me."

"You don't understand. I won't be able to be with you for the rest of our lifetimes."

She then reminded him how she was the hedgehog transformed into a human woman to repay him for his kindness. He understood but was very reluctant to marry someone else. He went to Er Daye for advice.

"Well, my nephew," the old man said, "the world is full of lovely women, but if you want my suggestion, you'll head for Hangzhou and Suzhou and find a good young woman in one of those two places!"

The young man did as his uncle had suggested, and took a river boat down south to those towns. He looked all around both cities and must have seen thousands of young women but not one to equal the beauty and grace of his wife, Hedgehog Girl.

He was wandering around the shores of West Lake when he happened to see an exceptionally beautiful young woman on a balcony of a mansion. They locked eyes for a moment before she modestly looked away. He turned around and headed for a nearby shop to inquire about the girl and her family. It turned out that the shopkeeper knew the family, and he agreed to go to the mansion and ask on behalf of the young man for that girl's hand in marriage. The shopkeeper returned to the shop shortly after.

"That young lady," said the shopkeeper, "is the only daughter of a very wealthy local man, Merchant Wang. He will agree to let you marry his daughter on only one condition."

"And what is the condition?" asked the young man.

"If you send to him seven wagons full of silver, you may marry the girl!"

The young man heard these details, nodded and returned to his home.

"Well?" asked Hedgehog Girl.

"Well, I found someone all right, but her father demands seven wagons laden with silver in payment for her to become my wife."

"Is that all?" asked Hedgehog Girl. "It's done."

Sure enough, outside waiting for him were the wagons loaded with radiant silver, magnificent horses and sturdy drivers. He left Hedgehog Girl once more and led his caravan down to West Lake, not stopping until he and the caravan had arrived.

Outside the mansion, he called for Merchant Wang. Wang descended the stairs and came out the front door. The silver gleaming in the sunlight dazzled him, forcing him to shade his eyes.

"Come in! Come in!" said Merchant Wang. "Your future wife is upstairs!"

The young man then led his new bride back home, where she was warmly welcomed by Hedgehog Girl.

Early the next morning, the newlyweds rose to see Hedgehog Girl, but she was nowhere to be found.
Indeed, the young husband never saw his first wife and first love ever again.

It is said the next year, the second bride gave birth to a boy and a girl, fulfilling Hedgehog Girl's wish for her husband.

from "Ciwei nu" by Zhang Chunxian in Qianqi baiguaide minjian gushi, pp. 288-291. For complete citation see 2/21/13. 

One mu 亩 is approximately a sixth of an acre. Hangzhou and Suzhou are reputed to have some of the most beautiful women in China. Famed West Lake is by Hangzhou. The girl's "small mouth," "big eyes," and, most important, her "egg-shaped face" are all classical Chinese ideals of beauty.

Apparently, Hedgehog Girl only manifests herself in animal form briefly when she is purchased and taken back out to the wilds. It is hinted that she is animal form when her husband rides her back and closes his eyes. No mention of the older brother or sister-in-law is made after the younger brother takes leave of his sibling in the mountains. Hedgehog Girl and her husband live in the same village, yet the narrative never mentions if they ever encounter the husband's family. Another odd detail--or omission--is how the young man is able to lead a caravan of silver without falling prey to bandits. Shall we assume that the wagon drivers also double as well-armed guards? 

This is one of many stories in the Supernatural Wife cycle of folktales. The usual shapeshifting animal is the fox or tiger; here, it is the very modest hedgehog. This makes sense, as often the lowliest of the lowly, the otherwise despised--such as a one-legged dog or a snake--possess incredible powers, reminding us not to underestimate who or what is in our midst and not to be arrogant or vain. "Hedgehog Girl" is a touching tale of love, devotion, gratitude and selflessness.  Like many stories in the cycle, it ends with a permanent separation of the lovers, with the tacit  understanding that their being together could have never lasted, as such unions contravene nature. We can go "back to nature," but only to a certain point, even in most examples of folk literature. 

Motifs: B310, "Acquisition of helpful animal"; B312.4, "Helpful animal purchased"; B360, "Animal grateful for rescue from death"; cB542, "Animal carries man through air to safety"; B650, "Marriage to animal (hedgehog) in human form"; *D1051, "Magic cloth (blanket)"; and D1599, "Magic object produces house." 

A very close but ultimately unsuitable motif is B641.5, "Marriage to person in hedgehog form."

Friday, August 23, 2013

Contemporary Ghost Stories From China -- Series 2

(1) "Look at Me . . ."

This campus ghost story, sworn to be true, supposedly took place in the women's dorm of a college or university in Sichuan Province.

On this particular night, a student named Xiaoping (小萍, a pseudonym) was tossing and turning in the upper bunk in a room that slept six other young women. For some reason, she just couldn't get to sleep. As just about everyone knows, fretting about not getting to sleep is the worst thing to do, so Xiaoping remained awake.

She looked at her watch: two A.M.!

Oh, get to sleep! she told herself. Got to get up for class in the morning . . .

She looked up and saw that the mosquito netting was slipping down at the end of the bed. Did a breeze loosen the net and make it slip?

She gradually became aware of something floating just beyond the mosquito net at the end of the bed. She squinted at it as it became clearer in the darkness of the room.

It was a face, a male face that appeared to be made of plaster, like some home decoration, and the face was smiling at her.

Xiaoping leaped out of bed, screaming, pointing. "There's a ghost! A ghost!"

That woke everyone up. The other young women got up and gathered around Xiaoping, who was shuddering like mad.

"You were having a nightmare!"

"C'mon, Xiaoping, quit kidding around at this time of the morning!"

"All right," said Xiaoping, "maybe it was a nightmare."

By now, all the other girls were nearly as spooked as Xiaoping.

"Okay, go back to sleep," said one of them.

Everyone went back to sleep; all was peaceful for the rest of the night.

The next night, however, and the night after that, the face reappeared to just Xiaoping. No one could now fall asleep in the room. What could they do? Staying awake and keeping vigil all through the night was not an option.

One of the girls who had gone downstairs to contact their Student Services dean said, "This can't go on. Whether something is really haunting this room or not, we have to do something."

The dean came up to the room and said," Tonight there'll be several security guards posted outside your room. I'll be there, too. If anything happens, just let us know and we'll come in in a flash."

That night, several guards as well as several male volunteer students and the dean himself stationed themselves outside the door to the dorm.

The young ladies, comforted by the presence of the small army outside their room, prepared to sleep.

"With so many people outside, would a ghost dare show his face in here?" one of the women quipped.

The students then turned in early that night.

Two A.M. rolled around. Xiaoping instinctively looked up at the mosquito net over her feet.

Nothing there.

Will it come back? she thought.

No sooner had the thought crossed her mind than the white plaster face appeared once again, leering as it had before.

"It's back! It's back!" cried Xiaoping.

Into the room rushed the dean and the guards.

"Where is it? Show us!" cried the dean.

"It's right there, I said!" Xiaoping pointed to the spot over her bed. "Right there, laughing!"

No one else in the whole room could see what Xiaoping saw.

"Where is it, you say?"

"It's . . . now floating away . . . floating away . . . to the window sill . . . now . . . it's . . . in the open doorway." Xiaoping became silent and then added, "He wants me to go with him . . ."

"All right," said the dean, "go ahead. We're right behind you."

Xiaoping got out of bed and headed out the doorway, following the floating face that only she could see. Following her was everyone else in the room.

The group made their way down the stairs of the dormitory, through the campus and out the main gate, going along a path that took them to a pond, where, according to Xiaoping,  the face, all the while laughing, dropped into the water and disappeared.

"He's gone into the pond," said Xiaoping.

"Get someone to drain the pond immediately," said the dean.

By the next day, the pond had been drained, and there, at the bottom, a body was discovered, that of a male student who had mysteriously vanished the week before. The deceased student's I.D. photo was shown to Xiaoping, and she verified that his was indeed the face that had haunted her during that week.

Everyone was left wondering about the whole affair. The ghost had clearly wanted to be found, but why did he select Xiaoping as the one to uncover the truth? It would have to be a mystery left unsolved.

from 绝对真实的校园鬼故事 - 鬼故事百科

This is one of many campus ghost stories, a branch of urban legends, that are now popular in China and Taiwan. Two things stretch credibility a bit: (i) The original narrative never suggested that anyone, Xiaoping included, had requested a simple change of rooms; and (ii) the dean seemed more than willing to go out of his way to accommodate Xiaoping and her friends' beliefs and demands, at two A.M., mind you! This latter detail probably brings a smile to the face of anyone who's ever had to deal with university bureaucracy and red tape. I found this detail personally more amazing than that of a disembodied face.

Motifs: E.422.1.11.2, "Revenant as face or head"; E544.13, "Drowned man's ghost leaves water
puddles (pond)."

(2) "Skip to My Lou, My Darlin' "

The author of this story attests the following is a true story, told to him/her by a good friend.

A fellow known to be interested in mainly young women and alcohol headed home late one night and prepared to climb the six flights of stairs to his flat. His being inebriated would not make the journey to the sixth floor any easier. It would not be, of course, the first time he arrived home drunk after a full day of drinking; he came home this way just about every night.

It was the dead of night. Everyone in the apartment building, everyone except for him, was fast asleep. His trip up the stairs would take him past the balcony terrace on each floor. He staggered up the first flight.

He was just below the fifth floor when he detected an odd sound coming from the terrace above. Someone was skipping rope. He reached the fifth floor and saw in the profile of a girl on the terrace skipping rope. She was dressed in red and totally made up in a garish and coquettish style. There she was, jumping rope and chanting over and over, "Ninety eight . . . ninety eight . . . ninety eight . . ."

Well, the drunkard was stupefied. Here was a pretty young woman jumping rope and repeating "Ninety eight" repeatedly at an awful hour of the night. What was she doing there? Why was she jumping rope? Why was she saying the same number over and over?

Yes, this was a good-looking young woman. So, his drunkenness and debauched nature overrode whatever small amount of caution may have remained within him. He approached her, asking, "Miss, Miss! Why are you jumping rope and repeating the same number?"

"Move your head in closer, and I'll tell you why!" she said, while jumping.

He came in closer and closer until he was in front of her.

Then he saw that she was literally half a person--the entire left side of her body had been cleft right down the middle and was gone. Where the division was was nothing but dried blood and gore . . .

She continued skipping on her one leg . . .

He sobered up pretty quickly and momentarily looked just beyond her.

There, on the terrace, were scores and scores of men, likewise with half-bodies, skipping along with her on their single legs . . . There must have been at least . . . ninety eight of them up there . . .

"Ninety nine . . . ninety nine . . . ninety nine . . ."  the girl now chanted as she jumped rope.

"Ahhhh!" screamed the drunkard, as he fled like a crazed bat down the long flights of stairs all the down to the first floor, where he collapsed. He was found there later, with the entire left side of his head and face seemingly evaporated.

from 一个真实的鬼故事!

Red seems to be the default color for the most vicious, vengeful ghosts. Two "comeuppance factors" help make this tale similar to other urban legends: (i) the main character's willingness to engage in immoral activities, including walking around drunk (and thus allowing himself to become highly vulnerable) at night; and (ii) his eagerness to approach a pretty woman engaged in a very suspicious and bizarre activity.

Motifs: F525, "Person (Ghost) with half a body"; cK816, "Dupe lured to (supposed) dance and killed"; K850, "Fatal deceptive game." 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Taiwanese Folk Beliefs -- Series 3

(1) Heaven Raises Its Height
In ancient times the heavens were so low that one could reach the sky and touch it by merely extending one's hand above one's head. This was the case until one day a servant girl was throwing out a night bucket of urine and accidentally splashed the sky. The sky immediately receded upwards to its present height.

(2) Some New Year's Day Taboos

  • Don't eat rice porridge/congee/ gruel on New Year's Day; otherwise, there will be rain whenever one is out of town on business. In addition to avoiding rice porridge, one should also refrain from eating sweet potato; otherwise, one may become impoverished.
  • Don't pat a child on the head on New Year's Day; to do so will cause him/her to lose hair, causing that child to grow up to be a balding adult. Also make sure not to cause a child to cry piteously; to do so could cause a death in the family that year.
  • The Broom God takes a break on New Year's Day, so on that day, do not use the broom.
(3) Some Precautionary Taboos

  • A child who is not yet a full four months old should not eat duck egg; otherwise, he or she will grow up to have halitosis. 
  • A child who is not yet fully sixteen years old should not eat fish roe; otherwise, he/she might not be able to do arithmetic. Nor should he/she eat chicken feet; otherwise, when he/she writes characters, his/her hand might be shaky. 
(4) Eating Taboos
To choke while eating is a portent of bad luck to come. To stick chopsticks vertically into a bowl of rice is extremely unlucky and should be avoided at all costs. 

(5) Thunder and Lightning
There was once a young wife who cut open a melon and then threw the seeds outside. The God of Thunder witnessed this act and assumed the woman had committed an unthinkable sin: throwing away perfectly edible grains of rice. He sent down a ball of thunder to kill her. Afterwards, her spirit ascended into the heavens, where she became the wife of the God of Thunder, providing lightning to help him see clearly who is and who isn't a sinner.

(6) Rock Gods
Certain rock formations are called "Rock Lords" and serve as sacrificial sites. One such rock sat in an inconvenient spot in a farmer's field. The farmer had it rolled into a pond. The very next day, the farmer discovered the same rock had returned to the same location. Once again he had it rolled down into the pond, and the day after that the farmer saw to his amazement the rock still sitting where it had presumably always been. The farmer came to the conclusion that a spirit inhabited this rock, so, accordingly, he erected a small shrine to offer sacrifices to the Rock Lord.

from Cang Dewu, pp.99-104. See 9/12/11 for full citation. 

And now the disclaimer: The above superstitions and taboos are from a bygone era and are not claimed to represent current belief systems of the majority of Taiwan's population. 

Chicken and duck feet and fish roe might be avoided because of the principle of similarity in sympathetic magic, in which, in other words, "like produces like." Placing chopsticks vertically into a bowl of rice mimics memorial rites and sacrifices and is thus evocative of the dead. For another version of the tale of the Thunder God's wife, see "The Mother of Lightning" in my e-book, Taiwan Folktales. As for deified rock formations, they are likely to be sites tied to ancient cultic/fertility activities sometimes based on their supposed shapes that evoke certain qualities. For a Cantonese legend about such a rock, see 6/22/07.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Internet Ghost Stories From Taiwan -- Series One

A little note: I haven't been active recently because I've been preparing my PhD dissertation in psychology, the culmination of a fifteen-year quest! (No, the topic won't be folktales or urban legends; it will be, instead, on OCD.) I certainly appreciate all of you who have come to this site and who have left kind notes of encouragement. In the future I plan to leave more time to translate and post these stories. 

(1) That Lavatory on the Second Floor

It seems the new employee had heard there was a haunted privy on the second floor, where unearthly sounds would be heard, rolls of toilet paper would dance in the air, and the faucets would turn themselves on.

Well, he, the new employee, didn't put any stock in such things and didn't believe in the concept of "evil." So on this one particular night, when he had to work overtime, nature called and he had to visit the second floor lavatory for the first time.

He went up.

The lavatory itself looked positively normal, with nothing out of the ordinary.  And so, fine, he entered.

He was standing up and just about to relieve himself at the urinal, when somebody tapped him on the shoulder. The cold shock startled his entire body. He turned around to face a security guard, a uniformed young man in his early twenties.

"Sorry, you can't use this lavatory," said the guard very earnestly, tapping his badge. "It's under repair. Please use the lavatory on the third floor."

"All right."

The new employee left and headed up to the third floor. He used the lavatory up there and returned to his work station on the first floor.

"Say," he told his coworkers, "there's nothing to that story of ghosts in the second-floor lavatory! I just went there. It looked okay, but then a guard told me to use the one on the third floor. So, I went up there too."

Now, all his coworkers within earshot gathered around him, some with faces as white as paper. This alarmed the new employee.

"Well," said one of his coworkers, "you've only just begun to work here, so you probably couldn't have known that we've never had a lavatory on the third floor . . ."

The new employee looked at his colleagues;  his mouth was wide open but no sound came out.

公司的廁所 - 鬼故事( Anonymous writer

It is said by some authorities that privy ghosts are among the most dangerous. (That makes sense since where else are people at their most vulnerable than when using the restroom? See Guiguai xiao pin 鬼怪小品, Chen Yangfeng and Ding Changqing, eds.; Juhai: Juhai Chubanshe, 1994; p.20) In any case, lavatory/bathroom ghosts are nothing in new in the corpus of Chinese ghost folk literature. The young man's visit to a non-existent lavatory suggests some serious bewitching has occurred, the kind of trick a malicious ghost would pull. The pointed mentioning of his disbelief in evil--something the original writer emphasized in Chinese--foreshadows his rendezvous with that very concept, all of which resembles a common "setup" in urban legends. Finally, ghosts in East Asian cultures are, for the most part, not cuddly and cute but rather sinister and relentlessly malicious. They resent being dead and need to be propitiated, coaxed, wheedled, etc., not to harm the living for whom they harbor endless enmity and jealousy.

(2) He's Got Mail!

(Disclaimer: The name used below appeared in the original story. It is presumed fictitious and as such does not represent any person, living or dead.)

X was fooling around on the Internet one night, looking at the list of people on the web who would like to make new friends. He came across the name "Zhong Cuiwen" (钟翠雯), found her interesting, and sent her an email introducing himself.

No reply email came, and so X developed the habit of checking daily and nightly to see if Miss Zhong had ever sent him an email--all to no avail.

Late one night, while X lounged in front of the computer, a sudden wind began howling outside, followed by heavy rain, thunder and lightning. X decided to check his inbox; sure enough, there was an email from "Zhong Cuiwen." X's joy knew no bounds and just as he was about to read Miss Zhong's email, his Internet phone rang.

A chilly, downbeat female voice was speaking to him on the phone.

X's first impression was that the caller on the other end was a friend up to something, so he ignored the call and hung up.

The phone rang and rang afterwards, as X refused to pay any attention.

Finally, when the phone rang yet again, X couldn't stand it anymore and picked up the receiver, asking brusquely for the caller to identify him or herself.

The caller identified herself as "Zhong Cuiwen." What's more, she said that she had thought about X, that she was lonely, and that she had wanted to find a male companion in her life.

They chatted on for a long time, way into the night, for more than several hours.

Then she said that it would soon be daylight and that she had to be going. She ended the conversation cryptically, saying, "If only I had met you earlier, I wouldn't be the way I am now . . ."

X tried to get her to explain these remarks, but the line had already gone dead . . .

Later that morning, X was reading that morning's paper when a news story caught his eye. Early the previous evening, a young woman in red had taken her life by leaping from the upper floor of a tall building, all because of an unhappy romance. Her name was Zhong Cuiwen . . .

X read this story and felt very woozy. 

Internet鬼話 - 鬼故事( Anonymous writer

The original narrative was in first person. 

It's probably not surprising that ghost lore has long since moved into the Computer Age. Urban legends are not static; they keep up with the times. As Professor Jan Harold Brunvand has pointed out, the Vanishing Hitchhiker, for example, has moved from vanishing from open wagons to buggies, and from buggies to automobiles. The name "Zhong Cuiwen" is suitably lyrical but also dreamy and sad, summoning images of jade-colored clouds. There might be significance in her red clothes; in the last decade, a number of ghost stories dealing with women in red have been making the rounds in Taiwan.