Translated variously as "ghost," "devil," "evil spirit," or "demon," Mogwai were originally described as malevolent demons who enjoy inflicting pain and misery on the living. These beings were said to sexually reproduce during rainy seasons, as these periods signified the coming of more prosperous times.
Chinese tradition has evolved, however, so that now Mogwai are believed to be the spirits of the dead who have returned to exact vengeance on those who caused them suffering in life. One way to be rid of a Mogwai is said to be to sacrifice money (usually in the form of fake banknotes) by burning it; this provides the deceased with funds to use in the afterlife, and hopefully encourages the spirit to move on.
- Chinese translations of the Christian bible use the term Mogwai in place of Satan.