Dear Mr. Know-It-All, Halloween is coming up. Can you tell me about Chinese ghosts? – Cool Ghoul What good timing, Cool Ghoul. Why don’t I tell you about the spooky spirits we have on the cover of HK Magazine this week: the Taoist grim reapers themselves? They are the hak bak mo seung (黑白無常), the “Black and White Impermanence.” “Impermanence” is the Buddhist doctrine of mutability: all things must change, and nothing can ever remain static—particularly our lives. This pair of deities guides the spirits of the recently deceased to the underworld. The Black Guard has domain over the evil souls; while the White Guard guides those who have been good in life. The White Guard wears a hat emblazoned with the phrase yat geen fat choi (一見發財), “Fortune at one glance.” The Black Guard’s hat reads teen ha tai ping (天下太平), “Peace under heaven.” The tablet he holds is a symbol of authority, engraved with the character ling (令), “order.” They are often depicted with long red tongues, to scare away evil demons. How did these opposing guards come about? Well, there are a variety of stories, but they all share a common theme: loyalty. This is my favorite. Xie Bian and Fan Wujiu were two policemen in Fuzhou in times gone by. Respected by all, they saw each other as nothing less than brothers. One day, the pair was ordered to track down an escaped convict, who had run away during a torrential storm. The pair ventured out into the screaming winds and driving rain, but they searched far and wide without success. As the rain grew stronger they decided to split up and each search one half of the city, meeting under a bridge in the middle of town. Fan Wujiu made it to the bridge first, but Xie Bian was held up chasing the fugitive. As the waters rose, Fan refused to leave his spot under the bridge, certain that his brother would arrive. The floodwaters crashed down on him, and Fan drowned just moments before Xie arrived. In anguish for causing the death of his brother, Xie killed himself. On seeing the true loyalty of these two policemen, the Jade Emperor raised them to godhood, and put them in charge of guiding spirits to the afterlife. Never again would a soul be left standing, waiting for help to arrive. Mr. Know-It-All answers your questions and quells your urban concerns. Send queries, troubles or problems to firstname.lastname@example.org .