The Ghost Bride

Welcome back, fellow humans.

Have you heard about Ghost marriages?

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What is dead may never die.

The tradition of ghost marriage dates back to Qin and Han Dynasty (221 BC – 220 AD), however ghost marriages are gradually uncommon in modern China, Mao Zedong tried to eradicate it when he attained power in 1949 but they are still practiced in rural parts of Shaanxi, Shanxi, Henan, Hebei and Guangdong areas. Chinese people acknowledge that the eternal soul dwell in the netherworld after death, the king of the underworld (mingwang, 冥王), a currency system (mingbi, 冥币) and a social structure parallel to the real world. Deceased souls have social desires such as marriage and companionship that reflected those of the living. There is a Chinese tradition called 冥婚; pinyin: mínghūn which translates to spirit marriage that involves the marriage of two single deceased people or a living person being married to a corpse to unite an unmarried daughter into a patrilineage to safeguard the family line, and to preserve that no younger brother is married before an elder brother to avoid inviting any disapproval from his brother’s ghost. The story of one 14-year-old Cantonese boy who perished, he spoke to his mother in a dream saying that he requested to be married to a girl who had lately died in Ipoh, Perak. His mother hired a spirit medium to disclose the name, age and horoscope of the deceased girl to see if she is compatible with him.

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In Cantonese parts of Singapore and Taiwan, if an unmarried woman passes away, her family places a red envelope with cash, a lock of hair, a fingernail out as bait in the open and wait for a passerby to pick it up. The family will emerge from hiding nearby when the man picks up the envelope, they reveal that he is chosen as the groom.

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In ghost marriages, the woman’s family demands a wedding gift including money, jewelry, clothes, a little villa and even servants made of paper for the dead to use in the netherworld. After the marriage ceremony is complete, all the paper possessions are scorched to be delivered to the spirit world to be utilized by the couple. If a living groom is wedding a ghost bride, he wears black gloves rather the typical white gloves.

In homes, an altar is adorned with the spirit tablets of the paternal forefathers and the illustrations of gods. A married woman’s temporary paper tablet is held at the altar of her husband’s family. Nevertheless, an unmarried woman passes away with no children, her spirit tablet cannot be honored within her family’s home. So, women are only able to gain admission in lineage through matrimony, therefore, ghost marriage is a solution to protect unmarried, deceased daughter to join a male descent line in matrimony and could be fittingly honored after her death.

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By tradition, unmarried women were regarded as an embarrassment, concern, and threat to the entire family. Even in modern Hong Kong, an unmarried female aged 30 is to be a “leftover woman or bare branches” were believed to have mental challenges because no ordinary person would stay unmarried willingly. A ghost marriage instigated by a living bride was a popular resistance custom that permitted them to stay single while still being incorporated into a family. 

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Chinese-style ghost marriage previously took place in Japan but was substituted in the 1930s by a deceased person wedding an inanimate doll due to an upsurge in young, single men perishing during the Japanese conquest of Manchuria and the war. During the wedding ceremony, a photo of the dead man is positioned in a glass holder alongside the doll to symbolize their union and companionship.

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A woman agrees to marry a deceased man because she loved him dearly. She would be widowed instantly upon marriage and subsequently live chastely with her husband’s living family. It is deemed as an act of feminine integrity and martyrdom. Some women were cautious to participate in the funeral ritual, mourning customs, celibacy, and instantaneous residence with the deceased person’s family home. She and her husband’s relatives become the social instrument to adopt a young child, if possible, through a brother, officially naming his own son to the lineage of the deceased. The adopted son responsibilities were to make offerings on his birth and death dates and receive his deceased father’s portion of the family wealth.

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On the 2nd of December 1959, the French Malpasset Dam collapsed and killed 423 people. Irène Jodard begged to marry her dead fiancé when President Charles de Gaulle visited the ruined Malpasset Dam. On December 31, the French parliament approved the law allowing posthumous marriage. In 2009, 26-year-old Magali Jaskiewicz wed her deceased fiancé, Jonathan George, who died at 25 in a car accident. The living person must show that the couple planned to marry and has acquired consent to wed from the deceased’s family. However, the living partner does not obtain the dead person’s resources or estate but if the woman is pregnant during her partner’s demise, the child born is deemed as an heir.

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In southern Sudan, the Nuer woman marries a living man, who publicly acts like the deceased husband to provide the societal demand by reallocating fortune and estate. The children biologically fathered by the living husband are regarded as the offspring of the dead man. The woman obtains compensation (bride price or blood wealth) that may include money from those accountable for the demise of the man.

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The Chinese government treats ghost marriages as antiquated and inoffensive superstition, but grave robbing is a crime punished with up to three years of incarceration. A short time, it was common for the deceased bride to be replaced with an image or replica composed of paper or dough but the representational dough brides were not enough to avoid misfortune therefore grave robbing still exists and selling them to the families of deceased men, frequently for high prices. In Shanxi Province, a 72-year-old man heard about a young deceased woman, he and his co-conspirators tried to rob her body in the middle of the night. They agreed to sell the corpse to the family of a deceased man for 25,000 yuan. A recently deceased corpse gathered a considerably higher price than barren bones. In Hebei province, a man killed six women so that he could sell them as ghost brides. In Shaanxi province, a man slaughtered a pregnant woman for the same intent. He was punished for the crime. In Gansu Province, three men killed two mentally disabled women and traded each body for 40,000 yuan for ghost marriages. In late 2016, a mentally disabled woman was fed potent sedatives to kill her, she regained consciousness and noisily banged on her coffin during the burial ceremony and alerted the startled family of the deceased man. In Shanxi hospital, an employee reported that the deaths of young women spreads like wildfire, many families who lost their sons would conduct an auction for their corpses. There are many matchmaking enterprises established for families to put together deceased unmarried man with a woman’s corpse. Some rural inhabitants sleep near their female kin’s graves for weeks, fortifying the tombs or constructing crypts within their communities to prevent tomb raiding. 

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I absolutely loved this supernatural-themed Netflix show called The Ghost Bride, which is an adaptation of The Ghost Bride written by Malaysian author Yangsze Choo’s 2013.

The Ghost Bride series was filmed in Malaysia, including locations in Penang, Ipoh, and Johor Bahru. It is set in the traditional and modern Peranakan culture, follows a 20-year-old woman being pressured to marry the deceased son of a wealthy family to save her family from falling into debt.  

Thank you for reading, fellow humans.  

63 thoughts on “The Ghost Bride

  1. Netlix is a blessing these days :). I havent heard of the Ghost bride. Will check it out. I am not very found of ghost stuff but I am sure this one can be a good timepass

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  2. OMG! You are so knowledgeable. It’s funny how we got hooked on things that we don’t usually spend time on when we just stop for a sec. and let our mind wander. I definitely want to learn more about it. Netflix seems a good option. Thank you for sharing.

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  3. I had no idea that ghost marriages existed. This was such an interesting read. Now I’ll have to watch The Ghost Bride, hehe.

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  4. Wow! I’ve never heard about ghost marriages before. It makes me really sad though that some people are killing others just to sell them for ghost marriages.

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  5. I’m Chinese-American, but I’d never learned about ghost bride practices before till now. Hahah, gonna ask my parents about it to see if they know of any friends or distant relatives who’ve witnessed such a marriage. This was truly a fascinating read from beginning to end.

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  6. I never Herd about this type of content it is scary, while reading I imagine whats going on, OMG! what writing content you have with the thought. but you doing good research and good work.

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