The actual word "jiang-shi" comes from the Chinese for "stiff corpse", referring to the jiang-shi's rigor mortis, which makes them incapable of walking. Instead, they move along with a stiff, hopping gait. This also causes their nails to strengthen and their arms outstretch. It is possible to knock a jiang-shi over so they can't get up. They are created when a person's soul fails to leave the deceased body. This could be due to an improper death, suicide, or just the desire to cause trouble. They hop around, killing the living and absorbing their life essence, but have no higher consciousness, such as independent thought. They also cannot see, think or speak, but instead locate their prey either with their sense of smell or by detecting their breathing. In a Japanese legend, if you hold your breath you may be able to escape these monsters.
Jiang-shi can differ wildly in appearance and often wear traditional formal garments. To ward off a jiang-shi, one needs to write a protective charm on thin yellow paper, using chicken's blood as ink, and stick it to its forehead. It is also said that rice will stop jiang-shi in their tracks. They cannot pass without stopping and to count every single grain. Sticky rice can also be used to draw out their evil spirit.