‘Journey to the West’ Director Yang Jie’s Paranormal Encounters

Promotional poster for the 1986 Chinese TV series 'Journey to the West.'
Director Yang Jie, known for her pivotal role in bringing the classic 'Journey to the West' to the screen, shares her personal experiences with the paranormal. (Image: via Public Domain)

In the following account, renowned Chinese director Yang Jie shares her personal encounters with the supernatural, offering a rare glimpse into the mysterious and often unspoken world of ghostly phenomena.

Yang Jie’s personal account

On October 2, 1987, we were filming the final scene of Journey to the West at the Qing Xiling Mausoleum, where Emperor Tang welcomes back the monk and his companions.

Lodging near the mausoleum

Our accommodation was a guesthouse near Qing Xiling. As you entered, you’d face a palace-like building with tightly locked doors. Behind it were rows of newly constructed bungalows for guests. Previously, key creative staff stayed in the first row of these bungalows, while others stayed in the guesthouse inside a circular gate. This time, we all stayed together within the circular gate.

Yang Jie and the entire production crew all stayed together within the circular gate.
Yang Jie and the entire production crew all stayed together within the circular gate. (Image: Shuang Li via Dreamstime)

An unsettling evening

We arrived at Xiling late and headed to the dining hall after settling in. Post-dinner, Yang Bin [a supporting actor], Chi Chongrui [who played Emperor Tang], and I were the first to leave. Between the dining hall and the guesthouse was where we had previously stayed. The area, now overgrown with bamboo, was dimly lit.

The mysterious figure

While chatting, Yang Bin suddenly pointed toward the bamboo thicket’s end: “Look, someone’s coming from there!” Chi and I saw a tall, thin figure slowly approaching, his face unclear. “Who is that?” I asked, but they couldn’t tell. “Let’s meet him,” I suggested, and we walked toward the figure. I was still talking to Chi when Yang Bin exclaimed: “He’s retreating!” The figure seemed to be trying to avoid us, moving back with a slow, dreamlike pace. “Let’s catch up,” I urged, but the figure quickly disappeared at the end of the row of houses.

Chasing shadows

Reaching the end of the row, we spotted a path leading to another circular gate. Yang Bin pointed: “There he is, peering at us!” But when I looked, I saw nothing. “You must be seeing things,” I told them, but they both insisted. I hurried to the gate, only to find a large empty square, a path, and a desolate building resembling a toilet. No sign of any figure.

A haunting revelation

The next day, while filming at Xiling, I learned something intriguing at the museum. The nearby temporary palace had housed Empress Dowager Cixi and Emperor Guangxu’s remains. I was curious and asked our production director, Li Hongchang, about visiting it. To my surprise, he revealed that our accommodation was precisely in that temporary palace. Recalling the previous night’s encounter, I shuddered. Could that figure have been Emperor Guangxu’s spirit?

Illustration of Emperor Guangxu of China.
Could the figure have been Emperor Guangxu’s spirit? (Image: Public Domain via Wikimedia)

Another strange incident

During filming, another odd event occurred. Zhen Zhicai, in charge of props, followed a woman in floral clothes into a museum room to ask for water. Upon entering, the woman vanished, with no other exit in sight. This scared Zhen, who quickly left the room.

My daughter, Yaya, resting under a tree, also saw the woman enter, but not leave. These incidents left us all in astonishment during dinner, pondering the unexplainable.

Yang Jie’s out-of-body experience

This reminded me of an incident from just after New Year’s Day in 1963. Following lunch, I took my usual rest before work. As I descended the stairs, I suddenly lost consciousness.

A surreal flight

I felt unprecedented comfort, weightless, floating upward toward a bright light. I heard someone shouting for smelling salts and to pinch the Renzhong acupoint. Looking down, I realized I was floating above my apartment stairwell. Below, neighbor Bai and her sons were tending to someone — it was me!

Returning to reality

Suddenly, discomfort pulled me back into my body. Bai and her family looked relieved, saying I had come back to life. I had experience gas poisoning and it gave me an out-of-body experience. I’ve always wondered about the soul’s existence, and this event provided my answer — souls are real. Death isn’t frightening, as I’ve experienced it once.

Therefore, I believe those shadows and the woman are spirits of the deceased, lingering in places they once frequented. It’s possible!

Translated by Audrey Wang

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