Why are supernatural tales so prevalent on Chinese campuses?

It was summer of 1980, Peking University (PKU). Chen Mu, a third-year student at the university’s renowned Chinese literature department, was taking no interest in the Western philosophy and literature that were taking Chinese academia by storm during the early years of the reform period.

In Chen’s eyes, this life was artificial, a shadow of a bygone age of literary grandeur; she wanted out. She had tried slitting her wrists several time, but every attempt had been too shallow to be life-ending. So Chen sought a method with no possible escape—and that was when she decided to drown herself in the university’s most famous landmark, the Nameless Lake (未名湖).

On a chilly spring morning, Chen stood by the lake’s bank, drawing deep breaths, readying herself to take the plunge. Hesitation started to creep in, but then her ears caught the sound of a bamboo flute playing a mellow lullaby; something in her heart stirred, and she jumped, never to be seen again. In the years since, scores of students have reported catching a glimpse of a girl from the corner of their eye, each time while they played a flute by the lake.

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author Eduardo Baptista

Eduardo Baptista is a former editorial intern at The World of Chinese. He is a fan of rap, basketball, and the TV rom-coms “Yanxi Palace” and “First Half of My Life.” Eduardo studied history at the University of Cambridge.

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