The primary school students at BWYA have been studying the units of Myths & Legends and Progress in their Unit of Inquiry program. We decided that there was no better way to combine these two subjects than a spooky Beijing ghost tour through the old hutongs of our ancient city. Newman Tours are the only tour company in Beijing currently hosting ghost tours in Beijing, and in a city with thousands of years of history, one would have to expect there to be a lot of old ghosts wandering around!
Starting at the entrance to Beihai North subway station, we met our guides Christopher and Daniel who – armed with their Apple products – showed our group a video of a mysterious girl in a red dress riding the subway. With animated enthusiasm, our guides explained that the Beijing subway system is haunted between the hours of 11pm and 3am. From 1965 when construction began, countless numbers of people have died deep underground while building the intricate system of tunnels. Thousands of years worth of bones and bodies were also disturbed during the construction. All of these lost lives have resulted in lonely ghosts who travel back and forth on the trains and follow the tracks around Beijing, haunting late-night travelers, maintenance workers and security guards.
This awesome start to our tour immediately grabbed the attention of our students who were hooked on every word of every story. From the subway station, we began our spooky journey through the maze of alleyways on the west side of Qianhai and Houhai lakes. Our guides would stop every few hundred meters or so in front of an important landmark and tell us about ghosts, murder victims, historical figures and the gruesome legends which haunt the ancient buildings.
We learned about Daji, the concubine who was famous for being deeply sadistic and cruel. Daji – who is portrayed as an evil Hu Lijing, nine tailed fox spirit in Chinese mythology – loved nothing more than the sound of a tortured human’s scream and was insatiably curious. She once had the feet of an old man cut off because she saw him walking on ice and wished to examine them to see how they withstood the freezing temperatures. Daji famously invented a torture device where people were forced to dance on an oily hot metal drum over burning coals for her amusement before dying a slow and painful death while she watched and laughed.
Our guides had the students in the palms of their hands when ghosts starting coming to life and following us down the narrow alleyways. One of the highlights for our group was the zombie wedding. In this part of the tour, an unsuspecting “volunteer” (in our case, the lovely Ms. Nallely) finds themselves being forced to marry an undead soul in order to send him into the afterlife happily and with the wedding gifts he desires to satisfy his ghostly needs.
If you have ever seen a Chinese movie with vampires or zombies, you would have wondered why they hop or bounce with their arms outstretched in front of them. On the tour, it is all explained along with more tales of evil rulers, poltergeists who won’t go away and even the occasional good guy ghost who saves drowning children.