What is the proper translation of 妖怪? Let's take the context of Journey To The West for instance.

妖怪 consists of two parts 妖 and 怪 - 妖 is short for 妖精 and 怪 is short for 怪物.

妖怪 often gets translated as:

monster, goblin, demon.

Should it not be a combination of spirit and monster?

4 Answers 4


For my information, 妖 is related to ...uhm temptress? Which means an alluring woman who seduces or exploits men OR a woman considered sexually attractive by men. Often being used on female. Normally 妖 is able to control someone's (male's) mind.


怪 means something is really peculiar or weird.

妖物 or 妖怪 was born from a temptress and a peculiar thing, it does have its own mind or negative thoughts and extraordinary abilities. Hence, we called them monster, goblin, devil and so on,while spirit is just a force or energy which does not have a physical or virtual body and cannot do anything (don't confuse with ghost).

Should it not be a combination of spirit and monster? Answer: Well, it's so so. People may say yes, while people may say no.

Spirit is meant by 靈魂 / 幽靈 (meaning approached to "ghost").

Well, a combination of spirit and monster, I can't actually explain in full in English. But you can watch this movie: See Here

to know more about the spirit and monster hybrid.

A combination of spirit and monster, something like a spirit (more like ghost) conquers a monster's body which the monster's body does not have mind / thoughts.

Hope I did answer your question.


In the "Journey To The West", 妖 and 怪 are used interchangeably. It is no consistent usage and it is very common referring to same creature with both 妖 and 怪 in the book

Both 妖 and 怪 is supernatural. 妖 has some sense of evil and ominous. 怪 is something that looks weird and strange. 妖怪 is collectively description of these bad, weird and supernatural creatures. Monster is the generic translation of 妖, 怪 and 妖怪. Goblin and demon have extra context in Western source and might not be suitable for generic use.

Spirit is in another dimension. Spirit itself has no context of bad or good, weird or not. In Western sense, any human do have one's own spirit. It it non-physical. When one is dead, one's spirit is in form of ghost. Not only human, everything could have spirit its own.

In Christianity, there is Holy Spirit and you can't associate it with 妖怪. 妖怪 has spirit or is a kind of spirit. It is not good for translation for generic use.

妖怪 can practise hardly to 仙, the higher class of supernatural in the heaven. But it is another story.

In general monster by itself is pretty enough to translate 妖怪. It'd better look into the context before doing any precise translation.


Many myths have it this way:

妖 - Objects or living things, through absorbing spiritual energy (from the death / nature ) and training to 'evolve' and achieve greater powers. Depends on the level they evolved, they became 妖:

妖怪 - pretty much a failure. They do achieve power such as longevity and extraordinary strength, but that's about it. Usually they lacks intelligent and are usually more ugly.

妖精 - the success. On top of a 妖怪's power, they also process magic / takes form of human being, same level or above human's intelligent. Some have the power to possess other human being as a spirit, thus where is your question comes from. Most of them appears as better looking female as it is easier for them to seduce (usually male) human, be it for feasting or other evil intends.

So, Should it not be a combination of spirit and monster? 妖 is not a spirit, so I would say no. But some of them could have the power to take spirit form as well, so it is hard to give a definite answer.

Edit: it's worth noting that, 怪物 is differ from 妖怪, where it is one of the 4 'supernatual' or 'mythical' beings: 妖,魔,鬼,怪


I agree mostly with Jacky X.

The word 妖 itself has the character 女 in it, which means female, and in traditional Chinese folklore there are female monsters called 女妖 ("female monster") who may seduce men.

Traditional Chinese monsters are referred to as 妖怪, and I've noticed that Japanese monsters (like the ones in Japanese folklore or anime) are often translated as 妖怪 in Chinese as well, while Western or European monsters like dragons, vampires, or the creatures in Harry Potter for instance tend to be translated as 怪獸 or 怪物 ("monster"). 獸 means beast, so the term 怪獸 would have more of a "beast-like" connotation to it. If you type "妖怪" in Google search for pictures, it's likely that you might get more Japanese anime-related results than 怪獸.

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