Weibo user “Satanlucky” (@撒旦君_Satan) has created a menagerie of monsters in modern China, the “Strange Creatures of Cathay” (华夏异事录). Rendered in the style of Japanese “floating world” (ukiyo-e) paintings, these creatures haunt coal mines, poison restaurant utensils, and steal postcards for lunch. Every demon portrays a social ill that menaces Chinese citizens’ everyday lives.
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Want more cartoons? Check out CDT Chinese’s Sunday series Empire Illustrated (图说天朝).
“Net-fleshed Beggar: Lurks at the entrance to every city. If you accidentally step on his beard, he will block your path and make you to pay a heavy fine. To evade this beast, will need to scale the wall or dig a hole underneath it. Neither route is easy.”
To circumvent the Great Firewall, Chinese netizens “scale the wall” with VPNs and other proxy services.
“Prison cat: Often found in prisons and detention centers, extremely aggressive. If you encounter it in a prison, do not play hide-and-seek with it. From what I’ve heard, fooling around with this cat will leave you dead or badly wounded. Be extremely careful…”
Farmer Li Qiaoming died in a Yunnan Province prison in 2009 days after being detained for illegal logging. The Yunnan police attributed his fatal head injuries to a calamitous game of “hide-and-seek.”
“Cave Stone: People say that if you happen to pass by an abandoned coal mine at night and take a close look inside, you will see a black human-like stone holding a candle. Do not run away. These stones are the souls of miners who died there. As long as you sit down and listen to its story, it will eventually disappear. I’ve heard that this will allow its soul to reincarnate.”
Chinese coal mines, many of them illegal and unregulated, are notoriously dangerous, although conditions have improved. 1,384 miners died in 2012, down from 1,973 in 2011.
“Phosphor Flies: Shaped like a ladybug, the six-legged phosphor fly hides in sanitary napkins and secretes a white, odorless, fluorescent fluid that turns the fabric as white as paper. This fluid is poisonous. Long-term contact can lead to gynecological problems.”
An online rumor that sanitary pads contain phosphors [zh] (luminescent substances) spread online last year.
“Haze Monster: Takes on a gaseous form and appears in northern cities during the winter. Although it is a gas, it carries noxious dust particles into people’s lungs. This monster is afraid of wind. On windless days, it gathers above every major city and many other industrial regions around the country.”
A study published by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences found that air pollution from coal lowers the life expectancy in northern China by three years. Buildings north of the Huai River burn coal for heat in the winter.