Showing posts from September, 2022

Lady Dai’s Amazing Mummy

A short note about the mummies in The Corpse Ritual , the latest book in   my   Geomancer's Apprentice series .  Wen Dou and his family are wholly imaginary. Lady Dai and her funeral banner, however, are very real. And there is something very remarkable about her mummy that brings to mind the vampire lore. Lady Dai, or Xin Zhui, was a wealthy noblewoman married to a high-ranking Chinese official. She lived during the Western Han Dynasty (206 BCE to 9 CE). Her tomb and those of her husband and son were discovered in the early 1970s near Changsha in China’s Hunan Province. It is one of China’s most important archaeological discoveries. Archaeologists excavating her tomb had to open four coffins—nestled inside each other like nesting dolls—before they found her body in the last, and smallest, coffin. When she was brought out, her skin was soft to the touch and her limbs could bend at the joints. She had all her hair, including her eyelashes, brows, right down to the hair in her n

The Museum Setting in 'The Corpse Ritual'

When it came to writing The Corpse Ritual , it was a no-brainer to set the book in a museum. For one, I’d already decided the book would feature mummies and jiangshi. I also love museums, especially natural history museums. In addition, you can’t set a series in Washington, D.C., without mentioning its museums. After all, D.C. is known for its museums. The district’s National Air and Space Museum and National Museum of Natural History are two of the most visited museums in the United States. Both museums are part of the Smithsonian Institution, which was created by an act of Congress in 1846 to be “an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.” The Smithsonian has since become the largest complex of museums and education centers in the world. I’ve long thought of natural history museums as a great setting for urban fantasy stories. Many of their exhibits relate to magic, ritual and superstition. One good example of this is the British Museum’s ancient Egypt collecti

China’s Soul-Stealing Scare of 1768

Did you know that China had its own mass hysteria over witchcraft and sorcery, 75 years after the Salem, Mass., witch trials? The Corpse Ritual , Book 3 in my Geomancer’s Apprentice series, references a year during China’s Qing Dynasty when many people were accused of “soul stealing.” In January 1768, rumors began to arise in eastern and central China that a secret network of sorcerers and master sorcerers were stealing souls and using them for nefarious purposes. The soul stealing generally was thought to take two forms. One was by obtaining a personal item (such as somebody’s hair) and reciting spells over it. During this time, men wore their hair in a long braid known as a “queue.” The most common allegation under this form of soul stealing was that sorcerers were cutting off men’s queues to obtain control over their souls. The other form of soul stealing was by writing a person’s name on a piece of paper and attaching the paper to the foundations of a building or a bridge. A