Episode 16: How To Sell A Ghost

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So far we have talked about a few ghost stories in our podcast. What would you do in life if you happened to meet a ghost? Are ghosts really dangerous? Today we are talking about a guy who sold the ghost. I learned this story in middle school and always like this story. I am glad I could share it with you.

This story is from the book SouShenJi 搜神记, In Search of the Sacred or In Search of the Supernatural. We actually have mentioned it a few times before. It is a Chinese book written and complied of legends, short stories and supernatural phenomena by the author Gan Bao 干宝 , a historian in Jin Dynasty 晋代 from around the year 350 AD. These stories have a great impact on the future books and plays.

In the place of Nanyang南阳, there was a guy named Song Dingbo宋定伯. When he was young, one night he came across a ghost when he was walking on the street. He asked who it was. “ I am a ghost”, replied the ghost, “ who are you?” How would you answer? Song Dingbo lied, “ I am a ghost too”. “Where are you going?”, asked the ghost. “I am going to the city Wan 宛市”said Song Dingbo. “I am going to the city Wan as well” said the ghost. So they walked together for a few miles until the ghost suggested that “It is so tiring to walk. We can take turns to carry each other on the back.” Song Dingbo thought it was a great idea. Therefore, the ghost carried Song Dingbo on its back. The ghost got suspicious and asked Song Dingbo ”You are too heavy. Are you not a ghost?” Guess how he replied? Song Dingbo replied,” I died not too long ago that’s why I am heavy” When it was Song Dingbo’s turn to carry the ghost, as you expected, the ghost barely had any weight. So they took turns like this a few times.


Song Dingbo asked,” I am a new ghost and I don’t know what ghosts are afraid of?” The ghost replied, ” It’s the human’s spit that we are afraid of.” Spit is the weakness of ghosts imentioned in other Chinese mythology stories. Some people say it is because in the ancient time, spit was considered as dirty waste. Ghosts were considered from the dark world so they could only be defeated with equly dirty things.

As they walked they came to a river. Song Dingbo let the ghost cross the river first. There was no sound when the ghost went across. When Song Dingbo crossed the river, he splashed water with a lot of noises. The ghost got suspicious again and asked why. Song Dingbo replied with the same answer, “ I recently died and am not used to crossing waters. Don’ be surprised.”

When they were approaching the city of Wan, Song Dingbo carried the ghost on his shoulders and held it so tight. The ghost shouted loudly and begged Song Dingbo to put it down. However, Song Dingbo didn’t listen to him. He carried him to the city of Wan and let it down. The ghost transformed into a sheep on the ground. So Song Dingbo sold the sheep and got 1500 bucks. Considering the ghost might transform again, he spit on it and left with the money.

There is a saying in China the fear of ghosts human have is 30% while the fear of human ghosts have is 70%. In the another way, the sayings basically means human are evil. Don’t afraid of ghosts cause human around you might be the real ghosts that can harm you. I don’t think ghosts have special abilities after death besides maybe they have a light body or walking without sounds. If ghosts are so capable, why do we want to be human instead of ghosts?


搜神记SouShenJi/ In Search of the Sacred

干宝 Gan Bao

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