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Ghost Marriage: When Tradition Becomes Corpse Trafficking

Ghost Marriage: When Tradition Becomes Corpse Trafficking

Ghost marriage allegedly dated back to the Qin Dynasty of China around 221 B.C – 206 B.C. The tradition still carries on in some parts of the world. This ancient practice is to ensure that a dead man or woman will have a partner in their afterlife. This not only protects the afterlife of the dead but also to give the family blessings.

Ghost marriage: Love for the Deceased and Happiness for the Living

The most common and acceptable ghost marriage was to wed a dead man and a dead woman. Regardless of the fact that they had not been engaged previously, their family can hold a wedding party for them. But there were times that this ritual went beyond its original purpose. In other words, this ritual was not merely to ensure the happiness of the pair in their afterlife.

Chinese ghost marriage between a dead man and a dead woman
Chinese ghost marriage between a dead man and a dead woman

Legend had it that the dead bachelor and spinster would haunt the whole family if they were not granted a wedding.

The offspring or the young generation of the haunting family would meet a downfall in both family name and fortune. Accordingly, the ghost marriage was not to serve the happiness of the dead in afterlife but also to ensure the wealth of family in the future.

Ghost Marriage with the Living

The tradition astonishes many readers as it could also be a wedding between a dead and a living.

Chinese ghost marriage
Chinese ghost wedding was not only to protect the happiness of the dead but also to secure wealth of the family

If a man died young leaving behind his fiancee, his fiancee could still hold the wedding party and the groom could be anyone standing in the ceremony. It means whoever the man standing in the wedding was, the fiancee was married to the dead man. That man standing was to represent the dead man. Thanks to this, the fiancee became the wife and the daughter-in-law of the dead man’s family. This would ensure her a home and protection from the new family.

However, if the fiancee died prior to her wedding, she might not be given a proper funeral, not to say a wedding. Because it was the responsibility of the spouse’s family, not her birth family. That living man could go through a wedding with his dead fiancee but his marital status was of no importance to his life. The man always had a lot of freedom whether he were single or married.

This practice only goes wrong when the corpse bride trafficking takes place in China. On one occasion, a Chinese parents lost their beloved bachelor son, they wanted someone already dead and spinster to be their daughter-in-law. On their way to find out the suitable daughter-in-law, they came up with an idea of buying a girl’s corpse. The price was high because it included the most immoral and inhumane action – digging up the grave to take the corpse. A bride corpse would cost up to 25,000USD which was not a small amount in Renminbi (Chinese official currency).

Ghost marriage in Neur tribe

Neur tribe is an ethnic tribe primarily living in Nile Valley. This ethnic tribe also had the practice of holding a wedding between a dead and a living.

The fiancee could still carry on her wedding with the brother of her dead fiance standing in position. Indeed, commonly the brother of the dead fiance would be a stand-in. More importantly, that brother could also be the husband of his “brother’s fiancee”. If this pair had children together, they would be the children of the dead groom and the wife, not the living brother.

French Posthumous Marriage

China is not the only country that has the practice of ghost marriage. A similar practice appeared in France during World War I. A woman who lost her fiance in war could come to authority asking for the wedding permission. She could not do it on her own. Rather, she had to contact with the authority to gain a martial status with the fallen soldier.

French authority allows ghost wedding for some occasions
French authority allows ghost wedding for some occasions

Forty years after the French practice of ghost marriage, a woman asked to be able to get married to her dead fiance who died in an accident. Since then, this practice has been under protection of French law. And its permission would only be granted for a few reasons.

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