Episode 44: Do Ghosts Exist?

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Do ghosts exist? Today we are going to talk a short myth about a guy named Ruan Zhan 阮瞻. Ruan Zhan is a real historical figure from Jin Dynasty 晋朝, which is between the year 265 ~ 420. In the real history, he was a peaceful person who didn’t really care about fame and considerate. He liked to spend time alone and reading. He would argue with people about what he believed without too many words but persuasive. He was a man who was skeptical about the existence of ghosts. Every time he argued about he ended up with leaving the others speechless. He died around 30 years old.


What I just said was the real history, however, there is a myth about how he died at such a early age. So as I said, he didn’t believe the existence of ghosts and liked to argue about it with people. I guess because a lot of people believed there were ghosts in the ancient time. In the book In Search of the Sacred 搜神记, it says, one day, Ruan Zhan had a guest visiting him. They chatted and the guest was knowledgeable and good at logic as well. They started to talk about the existence of ghosts. Since they both were talented, the arguments lasted for a while. The guest couldn’t persuaded Ruan Zhan and got annoyed, “ghosts and immortals, are believed by wise people throughout history. Why don’t you believe their existence? To be honest, I am a ghost.” accordingly the guest transformed into a ghost and disappeared. Ruan Zhan got shocked and couldn’t say a word. After about a year, he died of illness.

Of course this is a myth and I am not sure what kind of disease Ruan Zhan really had that led to death. I am curious about the argument between a ghost and a guy who didn’t believe in ghost. Imagine you were a ghost, how would you persuade somebody the existence of yourself besides transforming into a ghost form? It probably would be just as hard to convince somebody that you were a ghost as it would be that you were not a ghost.


搜神记 In Search of the Sacred

阮瞻 Ruan Zhan

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