There is no truth in the world like death. While everyone is shocked by the news of the death of a loved one, death also brings with it certain rituals. Depending on the religion, a person leaves the world forever, sometimes through janaza, sometimes through cremation or cremation.
In earlier times, if the husband died, the wife was also burnt in the pyre. Due to the efforts of social reformer Rammohan Roy, the practice of sati-immolation has been eradicated for many years.
But have you ever heard of dead people getting married! Even with another dead man! An attraction to corpses called ‘necrophilia’, is this marriage like that?
In our Asia, there are cases of surprise marriages like marrying dead people. In China’s Shaanxi province, such marriages are called ‘ghost marriages’ or ‘ghost marriages’. This practice of marrying a dead person is called ‘Miang Khun’. Such custom has been celebrated for more than 3,000 years in various areas of northern and central China, Shaanxi and Henan provinces. According to Chinese belief, a dead person has the same desires as the living. They are given in marriage so that they are not left without a partner in the afterlife. If the afterlife is not happy enough, the spirit of the deceased will haunt his family. That is why a companion is given to the soul of the deceased to please him. Such strange custom applies only to ‘unmarried’ dead persons.
All the customs that exist in the world are born from people’s beliefs, fears and superstitions. Sometimes the ruling group imposes the burden of good and bad on the common people, which is observed as ‘customs’ or ‘rules’ for ages.
It is believed that China’s Song dynasty (1600-1046 BC) first introduced the practice of ‘marrying the dead’ called miang khun. When the 12-year-old son of Chao Chao, the warlord of that empire, died, the emperor buried a living daughter with his dead son to continue his son’s legacy. It is believed that ghost marriages have been celebrated in Chinese tribal society ever since.
How ghost marriages happen
In China, the bride and groom are usually both dead people, but the Nuer and Atut peoples of Africa generally practice the practice of marrying a living girl to a dead boy. After marrying a dead man, the girl lives as a widow in her husband’s house for life.
However, with the change of era, economy is acting as a major influence here, rather than religious rituals being effective in ghost marriage. The bride’s family receives a large amount of dowry from the groom’s family. Although the issue of dowry depends on age, class and clan status.
This ghost marriage is done in consultation with a priest. Currently, ghost marriage rules are somewhat relaxed in China, like some parts of Africa. Nowadays, instead of the dead body, the living person is also married. A kind of ‘trap’ in the selection of bridegrooms occurs when a dead unmarried woman is given a ghost marriage. The money was put in a red envelope and left in the middle of the road and the family of the deceased watched from behind. If a man removes the envelope, he is forced to marry the dead woman. Even money is collected as dowry from the groom’s family.
The most terrible thing is that many people steal dead bodies from graveyards for ghost marriages without finding a bride and groom. In 2015, the bodies of 14 women were stolen from a village in Shaanxi province for ghost marriage. These bodies are stolen and sold at a high price to families who need ghost marriages. In 2019, Henan province installed CCTV and concrete coffins in some cemeteries to prevent body theft.
In 2016, a man named Ma Chonghua killed two mentally challenged women and sold their bodies for $8,300 for a ghost marriage.
This superstition is so deep-seated in various provinces of China that the marriage of the dead takes precedence over the pain of losing a loved one.
Yang Yang, an official at China’s Sangxi Hospital, said in an interview, ‘Whenever an unmarried young woman dies in the hospital, her body is immediately auctioned off for ghost marriage. The families of the dead boys engage in bidding war to get the girl.’
Most of the time, the bodies of the dying girls are sold for ghost marriage. Many people also try to search for these dead girls.
Just like a normal wedding, a ‘ghost wedding’ is celebrated by organizing a festival. After a whole day of ceremonies and wrist dipping, the funeral of the deceased is completed. In this case, the bones of the dead woman’s body are placed in the man’s grave. Although the two have separate burial provisions. The Chinese do a lot of business with these bones.
Huang Jingchun, head of the Chinese department at Shanghai University, said brides’ bones cost a lot, especially if they are young. According to research, the bones cost the boy’s family 30,000 to 50,000 yuan. It can go up to 1 lakh yuan in many cases
In ghost marriages, dead bodies are also dressed up like the living. At the time of marriage, the dead woman is dressed in a white gown and adorned with heavy ornaments. Groom is also decorated neatly. Dolls of the bride and groom are made of paper and bamboo, along with furniture, food and all the food that will be used in their afterlife. At the end of the ceremony, everything, including paper dolls, is burned in the belief that they will reach the corpse.
The influence of custom
Although it is a 3,000-year-old custom, ghost marriage still continues in some backward villages of China in the 21st century. However, this superstitious practice has several dark sides. Which is affecting not only that place or province but the entire country.
China’s ‘one child policy’, which began in 1979, and female infanticide continue to result in an unusually low number of girls. Among them, the practice of ghost marriage has become a major problem.
Thousands of young people work as coal miners in rural China. They often died young and unmarried in mining accidents. Searching for girls for so many corpses gives an idea of the current situation in China.