Ghost Marriage Revival

Posted by Sharon Deans on February 23, 2012 in Uncategorized tagged with , , ,

From today’s Times:  Grave Snatchers: Ghost Marriage Revival Sparks Web of Ghoulish Players

Leo LewisBeijing

February 23 2012 12:01AM

A gang in northern China has been caught trying to re-sell and re-marry a girl who had been sold and married just a few days earlier – despite being stone dead on both occasions. The lack of pulse, however, was not something that troubled either the girl’s first husband or groom-in-waiting, who were also both dead and – according to centuries-old superstition – in desperate need of a spouse with whom to share an eternity in the afterlife.

The arrests in Hebei province have shone a light on China’s secretive and continuing revival of the tradition of “ghost marriages” for men who die young and unwed. With that revival, which comes as part of a broader rise in spirituality in China, has arisen a thriving and rather more murky market in corpse brides. The resumption of ghost marriages follows a protracted attempt to stamp out the practice initiated by Chairman Mao soon after the Communists took control in 1949. But in 2012 the strength of the corpse bride market in certain pockets of rural China, say experts, has generated a complex web of institutions and players – from cadaver brokers and matchmakers for the dead to body-snatchers, bent morticians and grave-robbers.

The trade has also evolved its own mix of price-fixing, inflation and corruption. A few years ago, a dead but reasonably fresh bride commanded a price of around £1,500; now a body can fetch more than twice that.  The increasing sums of money involved have even prompted some to commit serial murder.  One man, Song Tiantang, explained after his arrest in 2007 for strangling and killing six women that “killing people and selling their bodies is less work than stealing them from graves”.

Ghost weddings are most common in northern provinces with large coal-mining industries, where many young women have migrated and left large numbers of  bachelors working in dangerous jobs.

The latest incident in Hebei province began earlier this month when a family surnamed Wu, sold their recently deceased daughter for RMB35,000 (£3,500) to a man, Mr Liu, who saw her as the perfect match for his recently deceased brother. A spirit wedding was conducted and the two were buried together in line with a tradition dating back centuries.

Mr Liu later found discovered that his brother’s grave had been raided and his inanimate sister-in-law had vanished – a disappearance that police later discovered was part of a planned elopement with a corpse groom from another town. The gang of five was caught attempting to sell the girl to another bereaved family for RMB30,000, the discount reflecting several days of mild putrefaction since her previous nuptials.

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