Do you believe that the soul of a dead person will return to visit his/her family home on the seventh day after their death? Some Chinese believe this is what we call 回魂夜 (Huí Hún Yè) – the return of the dead’s night or 头七 (Tóu Qī).
On the day of the return, family members will prepare a table full of the dead person’s favourite foods and also put two bowls of rice for Dua Yah Peh (大爷伯 or 白无常–General Xie) Big Brother in White Robe and Di Yah Peh (二爷伯 or 黑无常–General Fan) 2nd Brother in Black Robe to enjoy too. The two Deities are also known as Dua Di Ya Peh / Da Er Ye Bo (大二爷伯) by the Southern Chinese of Hokkien and Teochew and also known as Hei Bai Wu Chang (黑白无常) in Mandarin. (Please listen to Mr Zhou’s Ghost Stories podcast 26th April 2019 at 21 minutes rather a story on them.)
Did you know that Da Er Ye Bo’s main roles are to capture and escort all criminals to the Deities in Hades for judgement and sentence? You might be wondering why Dua Yah Peh is dressed in white while Di Yah Peh is dressed in black.
Well, before they became ghost dispatchers, they were both generals and worked for the magistrate in Fuzhou as low-ranking officials. Da Ye Bo’s name was called Qi Ye and Er Ye Bo was called Ba Ye.
According to the legend of ‘Do not break one’s promises’, both of them were virtuous, upright, kind, trustworthy and highly respected by the people. One day, while these sworn brothers were on duty, the weather turned bad. Dua Yah Peh (大爷伯–General Xie) decided to head back to get umbrellas and told Di Ya Peh (二爷伯–General Fan) to wait for him under the Nan Tai Bridge (南台桥). On the way home, Dua Yah Peh was struck with stomach pain and had to rest for a while before heading back for Di Ya Peh.
Heavy rain came and the river was flooded. Di Ya Peh knew Dua Yah Peh would keep his promise to come back for him. So he held onto the pillar of the bridge until he drowned. His face turned black due to persistent struggling while drowning. Hence he was named Hei Wu Chang/黑无常 and carries a tablet with the wording “Arrest the Evil”/见恶便拿 on it.
When Dua Yah Peh learned he had caused his friend to drown, he decided to commit suicide. He jumped into the river but he did not drown due to his height. He then hung himself on a tree. Due to hanging, his tongue stuck out of his mouth. This is why in all his statues, his tongue is always sticking out and carries a tablet with the wording “See and Smile”/见笑. On his hat, he has the wording 一见大吉/Yi Jian Da Ji. He was named Bai Wu Chang/白无常.
On the seventh day, everyone in the family should retreat into their own bedroom before 8pm/or when there is no daylight. If they are late, it is best not to go back home. Make sure you don’t stick any religious ornament or paper talisman on the main door. Otherwise, the dead soul will not be able to enter the house.
If you hear any noises, do not come out of your room to check. This is because you will disturb the dead soul. Stay in your room until the break of dawn. Some people may dust some flour or talcum powder on the floor of the main door to detect footprints. After the break of dawn, before you come out of your room, throw a pair of scissors to inform them that you are coming out. (Mr Zhou’s Ghost Stories podcast 23rd Oct 2020 by Freddie)
If you ask me if I have experienced any of this, I am not sure. You be the judge of this. When my granddad passed away in 1989, a few of us went to stay in my granddad’s house. On the eighth day of his death, my aunty, cousin and I woke up around 5am to prepare an offering. To our surprise, the main gate was wide open. My aunty was very shocked as she had locked it the day before. So who had opened up the gate? Maybe my granddad did visit us or maybe someone opened it but didn’t close it back. Who knows?
The next experience happened with my dad. He passed away suddenly in 2007. At that time, I was 35 weeks pregnant and unable to go back to Singapore for his funeral. On his seventh day, around 8pm, the window in my spare room suddenly opened itself and my Buddha picture which was near the window sill flew away due to the strong wind. That was the only room with a religious item in it. It was impossible for the window to open itself as I would have to twist the handle to open it. It was during winter and we lived in a 13th floor flat.
I was in my bedroom and I heard the wind noise and rushed to the spare room. I saw a glowing green image around the window and it disappeared. To be honest, I have no idea what was it. It could be my imagination. I quickly shut the window. Until now, I’m unable to explain why the window opened itself.
So what do you think? Do you believe the dead will return to visit their loved ones? Let me know in the comments below.
Want to hear a true ghost story about 回魂夜 (Huí Hún Yè)/头七 (Tóu Qī)? This story was broadcast on Mr Zhou’s Ghost Stories podcasts – on 23rd October 2020. Do check it out if you want to listen to it in Mandarin