Halloween is coming fast! Is your costume ready? To kick-start your creative process, here’s our shortlist of five Chinese culture-inspired Halloween costumes guaranteed to spark interest at parties, or at least generate a few good laughs while you’re trick-or-treating:

1. The Great Wall

The perfect ensemble costume for going out as a group. Come with 3 friends or 33 friends. Enter together or arrive separately. It doesn’t matter. After all, the original Great Wall 长城 chángchéng wasn’t a continuous flow of bricks.

China Simplified: The Great Wall of China

Talking points, in case they ask:

  • Qin Shihuang, the first Emperor of a unified China, didn’t build the first wall. Rather he connected (and knocked down) separate Warring States walls, plus added new ones, made mostly of stones and packed earth.
  • The majority of the modern Great Wall was constructed 1500 years later during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) to prevent nomadic invasions.
  • The Great Wall in total measures 21,196 km (across 9 provinces).

2. Chinese vampire

To pull off the 僵尸 Jiāngshī Chinese Vampire costume you need the signature yellow patch (like a post-it note over your face) and frightening body movements. Jiangshi move by jumping, body stiff, arms out straight. Go solo, or with other Jiāngshī péngyǒu in a coven of vampires.

China Simplified: Jiangshi Halloween costume

Talking points, in case they ask:

  • Jiangshi were most often spotted in West of Hunan Province, and differ from zombies because they suck the qi of their victims.
  • Scientists speculate Jiangshi come from living people catching a glimpse of the nighttime transportation of dead bodies – suspended vertically using bamboo poles, giving the impression of movement – in the narrow streets of old West Hunan.
  • The yellow patch 符咒 fúzhòu contains a Taoist incantation to disempower the cursed Jiangshi creature by slapping the patch on its head. They’re also afraid of the 八卦 Bāguà symbol, jujubes, vinegar and the blood of a black dog.

3. Goddess of Mercy

Choose your version: the simple white-robed Guānyīn 观音 aka the Goddess of Mercy (shown here) or the complex thousand-armed bodhisattva, able to reach out to help many people. The Goddess of Mercy carries a willow branch (symbolizing adaptability) and a vase of water (the dew of compassion), though in a crunch, you could probably get away with a house plant.

China Simplified: Guanyin Goddess of Mercy

Talking points, in case they ask:

  • The Guānyīn 观音 aka Goddess of Mercy originated as a male bodhisattva before being popularized and worshipped as a female protective figure across most of modern East Asia.
  • Guanyin is one of the most beloved immortals features over 30 incarnations, though she’s best known as the protector of fishermen in seafaring communities.
  • Traditionally, the term “bodhisattva” refers to someone on the quest for enlightenment who achieves nirvana but delays earthly liberation until all suffering has ended.

4. The Little Red Book

Want to be an instant icon, one of the 5 billion copies of the world’s most printed book, for your Halloween Party? To bring your experience up a notch, memorize a few lines from Chairman Mao’s collection of 400 quotes and recite them when the opportunity arises.

China Simplified: The Little Red Book

Talking points, in case they ask — check out our latest post Viral Marketing: Mao’s Little Red Book as a Case Study.

5. The Pearl Tower

The modern metropolitan option. Any body shape will do. All you need are three spheres of different sizes and a bit of imagination to make this work.

China Simplified: Oriental Pearl Tower

Talking points, in case they ask:

  • Measuring 468 meters (1,535 feet) in height, the Oriental Pearl Tower was China’s tallest building when completed in 1994.
  • Designed as a symbol of Shanghai’s new development, the Pearl Tower stands across the Huangpu River from the Bund (Wàitān 外滩 lit. outer beach), a landmark of the city’s colonial past.
  • Pudong now has three major skyscrapers: the Jinmao Tower (420 meters), Shanghai World Financial Center (492 meters) and Shanghai Tower (632 meters).

With clever costume construction and a creative personalized performance, you’re in for an entertaining Sinologist’s Halloween night.

Didn’t see a costume concept you like? Feel free to share your own ideas in the space below.

Happy haunting!