Otto Bjornik’s Bai Lan

You may remember the Bai Chu (2015) piece from my previous review (see here), but it has recently been joined by a companion work, Bai Lan (2017). Both created by artist Björn V. Eding, who is better known by his moniker of Otto Björnik, this pair compliment and contrast each other by their relationship to jiangshi folklore and fiction.

What is a Jiangshi

For those unfamiliar with the term, jiangshi are Chinese hopping vampires, which have become popularized through films like 1985’s Mr. Vampire. Their iconic appearance is almost more comedic than horrific, these undead creatures moving by hopping, their arms outstretched before them. And much like how Dracula was countered by the hunter Van Helsing, the jianshi Bai Chu’s opposite is a Taoist priestess, or Daoshi, a role that Bai Lan fits perfectly.

My Impressions of Bai Lan

Adorned in the traditional robes of her office, the five-and-a-half inch tall Bai Lan’s pointed Zhuangzi jin hat perfectly frames her face, drawing attention to the hand-painted detailing on this rotocast resin figure, especially her soulful eyes with their immaculately formed brows. But one thing you might prominently notice is the positioning of her arms; the outstretched nature mimicking Bai Chu while being highly associated to her task of stopping him.
You see, one of the weapons in any jiangshi hunter’s arsenal is their very own fingers. Typically bitten to draw forth a bit of blood, a simple touch causes a jiangshi to stop in its tracks. On the other side, Bai Lan is grasping a handbell, which she would be able to toll, every ring of it causing any undead she’s subdued to move under her control.
So, as you can see, Bjornik really conceptualized Bai Lan to be the embodiment of a priest that hunts jiangshi, every little nuance alluding directly to that cause. Which makes sense, given that her name was derived from the word “babaylan”, which means a priestess or shaman in Bjornik’s native Filipino tongue.
But Bai Lan holds one more secret within her immaculately sculpted form. If we open up the piece’s packaging, which is rather plain but highly protective, the foam insert houses an alternate hand for the figure. Able to be exchanged due to strong, hidden magnets, this new hand holds forth a blood orange, which holds — as far as I know — no meaning in jiangshi folklore or fiction. It does, though, relate to a backstory between these two characters.
According to Bjornik, Bai Chu and Bai Lan were once childhood sweethearts, so she knows that blood oranges are one of his favorite tasty treats. After undertaking the task of tracking down and stopping her once beloved, Bai Lan encounters a ravaged field of the fruit, picking up one of the crop to bring with her. Will it remind Bai Chu of his humanity and all they once shared? Or is this creature too far gone, forcing Bai Lan to stop him by more traditional means?

Editions of Bai Lan [show]

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