In some regions of China, people engage in ghost weddings for many different reasons, one of them is to secure their departed some company in their afterlife.
Today, the idea of marriage has changed quite a lot. Okay, maybe not that much, but I have the impression that in the past years we’ve seen many cases that go beyond our imagination. From people marrying anime characters, their dogs, themselves, and many other cases, it would seem that the idea of marriage has evolved quite a lot in our modern era. But one of the cases that caught my attention the most is one I read just last week. It was the story of a woman who had literally married the ghost of an eighteenth-century pirate called Jack Teague. That wasn’t that shocking; as I said we’ve seen other peculiar cases. What I really liked was how she talked about her married life and how the happy couple is planning on writing a book on their relationship. Now, don’t ask me why, but I felt an urge to research more on the case and found something called “ghost marriages,” and I had to tell someone about this.
This is actually a tradition that has been practiced in China for thousands of years. The belief is that, in order to give the unmarried dead a peaceful farewell, the family has to find a spouse for them, who is also deceased, so they wouldn’t end up feeling lonely in the afterlife or worse, end up wandering in the realm of the living. So what are these ceremonies like? In some regions of China, the ritual is quite similar to a regular wedding: there’s eating, dancing, and drinking.
The difference here is that both the corpse of the bride and groom are unearthed and once the ceremony is over, buried together for eternity. As it happens in some traditional weddings, the family of the groom gives a gift to the bride’s family, which in most cases is money. At the same time in some cases there’s even a dowry that strengthens the bond between both families, which will become one from now onwards.
Since this is quite an old tradition, you can imagine why many of the customs might seem a bit outdated for us. For instance, some families more ingrained to the tradition look for a matchmaker to find the perfect spouse for their deceased, and they even consider matters like family background, finances, or the moral image of the family in the decision making.
Now, this was the "ideal," so to speak, scenario for ghost marriages. However, there are cases where this has become quite macabre. Such is the despair to find their relatives a spouse that even when the practice was banned in 1949, people were eager to continue with the practice. This has led to innumerable of crimes that can go from simply unearthing corpses to actually killing people to sell their bodies for suitors, something that’s still happening in some regions of the country.
Now, there are also cases where living people actually get married to corpses, either to secure their family name or just to follow the traditions and not bring misfortune to the family. For instance, in some remote towns, there’s continues to be the belief that elder siblings have to be married first, so if one of their younger siblings has a formal relationship, the elder one must marry a ghost to keep with the tradition. There are also cases where women who were already engaged lose their fiancés and still decide to carry on with the ceremony. For them this implies a traditional marriage, meaning that they have to move with their fiancé’s relatives and follow a life of celibacy and purity.
This is a tradition is still carried on in a wide part of the Chinese territory, especially in northern and central China, although there have been reported cases of this happening in southern communities. What’s alarming isn’t actually the tradition itself, but that in order to carry it on, it has become a source of different crimes pushed by the banning of ancient traditions. So, forbidding these customs that don't harm anyone will lead to modernization? Or has it become just an incentive to break the laws?
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