Ghost Marriages

ghost marriage2Most brides and grooms promise to be together “til death do us part” and “as long as we both shall live.”  But what if death wasn’t the end but rather the beginning?

The Chinese custom of “ghost marriages”, or as the Chinese call it “minghun”, shows that death can be the start of a relationship.  Most people would find this odd, but it is still practiced in the  Chinese culture. 

On February 4, 2010, 26-year-old Zhuang Haugui planned to marry his girlfriend, 21-year-old Hu Zhao. But before the wedding, Zhao was murdered by thieves who broke into her apartment.   Instead of letting her go off into the afterworld a spinster, Haugui proceeded with the wedding and married his dead girlfriend.  The wedding took place at a funeral parlor in Zhangzhou, Fujian China.  Family and friends from both sides attended.

“Ghost marriages” can be performed between one or two  people who are no longer living.  Either both are dead or one person is a corpse and the other is still living.   The Chinese are very heavy believers in the afterlife; therefore this is a common nuptial ceremony.  The Chinese believe that if a person dies and they aren’t married, they will forever haunt the family members, so it is the living relatives duty to find them someone who they can share a happy life with in the afterlife.  Ghost marriages were outlawed in 1949, but are still practiced in some regions that are rural.  In fact, since China’s economy has excessively improved, ghost marriages are making a way back into their culture. 

When imaging a ghost marriage, you wonder how it works.  Believe it or not it is the same way a wedding would be between two live humans, with a little twist.  The family members do the usual at a wedding; they dance, eat drink and socialize.  The family of the groom also gives the bride’s family a gift and they will forever be united after the wedding.  The twist in it all is if both are deceased, the family of the  bride digs up her remains, and places her near her husband’s burial site.  They then have a graveside ceremony where they are pronounced husband and wife. 

Professor Chen Huawen, who is an expert in Chinese burial customs, says that the demands for bride corpses are very high.  He says that “the reason is, is that many young bachelors work as coal miners in provinces where ghost marriages persist.  Coal mining is dangerous and leads to death. “  According to Huawen, the families of miners will get compensated $50,000 when they die, and this is often spent on the corpse of a bride.  Because there is such a high demand, bride corpses can be priced at as much as $30,000.  The shortage of bride corpses has led to the crime of grave robbing.

Grave robbing is pretty self-explanatory.  What people do is they dig up graves and steal the corpses to sell on the black market to people looking for them.  There have been numerous arrests of people getting caught doing so.  It is high illegal but it is a very common act that is done.  Some have even gone beyond to the point of plastic surgery and dyeing of the hair to make them look younger for higher prices.  Even though asking for a corpse is an insane request, the Chinese take pride in ghost marriages.  At the end of the day, a ghost marriage is a stable marriage that will last forever. 

In my novel, Shanghai Love, Peilin marries a ghost.  Experience her inner most thoughts as she is wed to a corpse by picking up a copy today.

 

 

 Resources

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/25/ghost-marriages_n_2950484.html

http://funkydowntown.com/chinese-man-married-dead-bride-who-died-for-8-days/

http://behindthewall.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/03/24/17389580-search-for-love-in-china-fuels-ghost-marriages-grave-robbing?lite

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