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Upon its release in 1987, the Hong Kong blockbuster A Chinese Ghost Story resulted in sequels, adaptations, and two remakes in 2011 and 2020. Despite its popularity, only a few critics have noticed its eclectic representations of Chinese religions, nor has there been any evaluation of its pedagogical potential. This article details how the author employs this 1987 work to teach the syncretism of Chinese religions in an undergraduate course “Asian Religions in Film.” By decoding the embedded concepts, the meanings and history behind “the Jade Garland talisman,” the inclusion of the Diamond Sutra for exorcistic efficacy, and the portrayal of paper offerings, this article argues that while A Chinese Ghost Story initially seems like a simple horror romance comedy, it nonetheless provides instructors with valuable sources to educate students about the complex and longstanding Chinese culture. Broadly, this article contributes to pedagogy of Asian religions in film by leading students to recognize how this media presents Chinese religious elements to heighten students’ intercultural understanding and awareness of the relationship between humans and spirits in Asian religions.

This paper was part of a panel on “Teaching Asian Religions Through Film” presented at the Association for Asian Studies conference in Honolulu, Hawaii, March 24­–27, 2022. The panel offered concrete examples on how to adopt cinema and TV to discuss Asian religions, culture, and modernity in the classroom and contributed to the developing analysis concerning the use of visual media in Asian studies pedagogy.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.