The Corpse Bride (2005).
Four men have been convicted by a court in Shanxi province of digging up and selling the corpses of women for ‘ghost marriages’, a custom dating back thousands of years of burying deceased single men alongside newly deceased women (their ‘wives’) so that they won’t be lonely in the afterlife.
On Saturday, the Xi’an Evening News reported that the Yanchuan county court in Yan’an City, Shanxi province, sentenced each of the men to more than two years in prison for stealing 10 female corpses, cleaning them up and counterfeiting their medical records to boost their prices, and selling them on the black market for a total of £25,000.
Ritual ghost marriages, which may date back to the 17th century BC, are increasingly rare in contemporary China – Mao Zedong tried to eliminate them when he assumed power in 1949 – but they are still practised in rural parts of Shaanxi, Shanxi, Henan, Hebei and Guangdong provinces. Families often employ a matchmaker to help find a suitable spouse for their deceased loved ones.
The four men, with surnames Pang, Bai, He and Zhang, exhumed the corpses in the winter of 2011 from a smattering of arid, coal-rich counties in Shanxi and Shaanxi provinces.
In February 2012, a newly deceased woman was sold into ‘marriage’ twice, to the families of two different dead bachelors:
In this case, the family sold their dead daughter, receiving 35,000 yuan (£3,500), where a spirit wedding was conducted. The two were then buried together.
Grave robbers however dug up the bride’s body, and were caught by police marrying her off to a dead bachelor in another town for 30,000 yuan, it was claimed.
Believers in the superstition believe that the spirits of those buried alone will haunt their living relatives.