2010 — Chinese ghosts in Mongolia


Chinese Merchants in Our, beginning of 20th century (©Mongolian National Archives)

Chinese Ghosts in Mongolia

Inner Asia 12/1, pp. 127–141.

Special issue: Oral Histories of Socialist Modernities in central and Inner Asia. Edited by U.E. Bulag, C. Kaplonski and Y. Konagaya.

DOI: 10.1163/146481710792710282


This paper explores a rumour that has been circulating lately in Mongolia’s capital city, Ulaanbaatar. People report encounters with Chinese ghosts, who appear in the form of long‐bearded old men dressed in silken clothes. These curious apparitions are recognised by the population as the souls of Chinese merchants, who remained attached to the place where they buried the wealth they accumulated during their life. At a time when Chinese economic expansion raises concerns among the Mongolian population, these ghosts of the colonial era sound like a warning against present‐day Chinese migrants. Introducing several of these stories, this paper shows that Chinese people are imagined as essentially parasitic beings, who not only come to Mongolia to trade but stick to the place, even beyond their own death, to suck out its vital resources.