THEY can fetch up to $20,000 a body, and desperate relatives are more than happy to pay up to get a corpse bride. This is the alarming reality facing rural families in China, who shockingly regularly discover the bodies of loved ones have gone missing. The practice is fuelled by a belief that a newly deceased bachelor must be buried alongside a woman.
According to the bizarre tradition, which was outlawed under Communism, elderly single men are given a “bride” to be buried with when they die, with some considering it bad luck to pass into the next life without a female companion. Some believe a “ghost wedding” prevents their dead bachelor relative becoming restless and returning to haunt and bring misfortune to the family.
Ghost weddings date back 3000 years, but despite being stamped out by China’s ruling Communist party, the belief still exists, particularly in rural areas. The ghoulish ritual involves a corpse being reburied next to the dead man while drums are played in front of relatives.
Brides are more highly sought-after as desperate families look to complete their family tree, due to the country’s gender imbalance. Dongbao in China’s northern Shanxi province, has reported 15 corpse thefts since 2013, while another 15 have simply vanished, The Sunday Telegraph reported. Li Fucai told the paper his mother’s remains were among those stolen by thieves and his devastated family had no idea where they were.
“Who knows where they took my mother?” he said. “She is now ill-gotten gains for thieves.” Another man told how the remains of his great aunt and great-grandmother were stolen in recent months. “My grandmother must now be wandering other villages, experiencing a painful afterlife,” he said.
While body snatching is rare, it isn’t unheard of in other areas across China. Last October, police arrested three people in northern China on suspicion of stealing a woman’s corpse to sell as a bride in a ghost wedding. The main suspect had heard a woman had died in a nearby village in Shanxi province, and pretend to be her relative, negotiating a sale price of $4000 for her corpse.
However, the three men were caught by villages raiding her tomb, The Guardian reported. Ancestor worship is huge in China, with a strong belief in family. Relatives honour the dead and their gravesites in rituals that date back centuries.