"tall Chinese man, with a rope of tiny skulls around his neck."

This is Sha Wujing who appears in the Chinese story Journey to the West also known as Monkey.

Also known as Sand or Sandy, Sha Wujing was banished by the Jade Emperor to earth, where he became an awful sand-eating demon. He carries a double-bladed staff with a crescent moon at one end, and wears a necklace of skulls.