The 3,000-Year-Old Tradition Of Ghost Marriages

Laura Heggs | July 8th, 2018

In China, single bachelors or bachelorettes face an enormous amount of social pressure to get married. Often they are referred to as bare branches or leftover woman, the immense social pressure mostly comes from their parents who traditionally play a part in choosing a spouse.

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But it is even bigger than that, in some parts of China the old tradition of ghost marriages still happens regularly. This is the marriage between two deceased people, an agreement of living together in the next world. Apparently, it is a cultural tradition that goes as far back as 3,000 years.

Biang Xiao a journalist from central Henan province has actually experienced first hand how such an arrangement works. His friend Li died of leukemia in 2009, and his mother actually found her dead son a bride from the same village who was a couple of hours away from death due to kidney failure one year later. The two families then grieved together, weeping and hugging during the funeral. A sort of grieving with celebrating at the same time.

The marriage actually plays a big role for the family in terms of being able to let go and grieve correctly, because before being married Li was not allowed to be buried in the family grave. Dying as a bachelor is shunned in Chinese culture, this is due to passing away without continuing the family line. And for a female, it is even worse, without being married their daughter would not have been allowed to be buried anywhere.

Despite being told by the ruling Communist Party to not believe in sorcery and that all deaths should be cremated. This is far from the reality, the older traditions still persist and play a very important role in Chinese culture. Being alone in the afterlife is a big fear, which means that ghost marriages are here to stay.

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