Hong Kong filmmaker Johnnie To will produce a trilogy based on the popular Chinese online novel series Gui Chui Deng, about grave-robbing, treasure-hunting and ghosts, for Shanghai-based Meridian Pictures.

'We have bought the rights of the four books and plan to make three films,' Meridian 's director of int'l distribution and co-production, Bill Hwang, told Screendaily. He added that Johnnie To will also direct one of the movies.

Gui Chui Deng (which literally means Ghost Blows Out The Light) was first published online in March last year. In April 2006, games company Shanda Interactive Entertainment bought the rights from author Zhang Muye and published the novels on its own web-site - Chinese Magic Fantasy Union. The novel series soon became one of the most searched for Chinese stories online.

The stories revolve around two veteran Chinese soldiers' adventures in ancient tombs in Manchuria, Xinjiang, Yunnan and Tibet. One of the ancient rules for tomb robbers is to light a candle on the north-east side of the tomb. If the light goes out, it means that the host of the tomb is not happy to have an intruder.

The print version of the Gui Chui Deng series was published last October and sold over 500,000 copies in China.

According to Hwang the trilogy is at the planning stage and it will take six months to finish the scripts. Meridian plans to start production in mid-2008 and is aiming for a 2009 summer release.