China’s ‘Ghost Marriages’ Spike Body Thefts

by | April 3, 2012 at 10:58 AM | General

The ease of Communist Party rule in China is fueling the reincarnation of some ancient cultural practices, including that of postmortem “ghost marriages,” The Economist reports.

Such ghost marriages – ceremonies that combine wedding and funeral rituals to assure unwed decedents aren’t lonely in the afterlife – also feed a body-snatching economy as the value of single cadavers soars.

It’s all part of Qingming, a springtime festival known as “tomb-sweeping day” that was legally reinstated in 2008. This year, the festival falls on April 4. Besides relatives cleaning off graves, Qingming also coincides with a surge in ghost marriages – and body-snatching, says The Economist.

In one recent incident, a pair of teens who died early deaths were wed after the boy’s family paid $5,600 for the bride’s body.

The afterlife nuptial was quickly interrupted, though, when grave robbers snatched the girl’s body – only to sell her into another ghost marriage, according to The Economist.

That theft left the family of the dead boy feeling cheated.

“I hope the robbers get the death sentence or 20 years in prison,” the mother of the deceased young man told The Economist.

The lift in the ban is credited with creating a soaring demand for female corpses, with prices up 25 percent in the last five years. Authorities have also been active in breaking up lucrative grave robbing rings.