The World of Chinese - - Tea Leaves -

“I’m not afraid of ghosts, just afraid of poverty,” prospec­tive home­buyer Zhou Qu quoted a com­mon say­ing on Meiri Renwu, a Wechat ac­count ded­i­cated to long-form per­sonal es­says.

In­spired by a story in June of a “haunted” Nan­jing villa that was put up for auc­tion for one-fourth its mar­ket value, Zhou be­gan to con­tact agents about other prop­er­ties with dark his­to­ries, hop­ing to find a bar­gain that could “rekin­dle” his long-dead dream of own­ing an apart­ment in Bei­jing.

It was eas­ier said than done. Prop­er­ties known as xiongzhai (凶宅, “mur­der res­i­dences”) gen­er­ally re­fer to homes that have seen any sort of un­nat­u­ral or un­timely death. These

xiongzhai are nor­mally con­sid­ered un­lucky to live in, or even to own, mean­ing they usu­ally can only sell for a frac­tion of the real value—but le­gal com­pli­ca­tions and, more re­cently, ris­ing de­mand, are erod­ing even that tra­di­tion.

Just like Hong Kong and Tokyo, two other in­fa­mously over­heated prop­erty mar­kets, the high cost of hous­ing is forc­ing buy­ers to re­con­sider their su­per­sti­tions—and the mar­ket is slowly re­flect­ing the change. Though a quick road­side sur­vey by Take­ found that only one out of 13 re­spon­dents would con­sider buy­ing a xiongzhai, even at a steep dis­count, 22 buy­ers were will­ing to pay the 30,000 RMB de­posit to bid on the Nan­jing villa (the site of a grue­some 2011 axe mur­der and dis­mem­ber­ment), which

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