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 the ghost marriage was recorded dating back to Qin and Han Dynasty (221 BC – 220 AD), ghost marriages are gradually uncommon in modern China, Mao Zedong tried to eradicate it when he attainted power in 1949 but they are still practised in rural parts of Shaanxi, Shanxi, Henan, Hebei and Guangdong areas. Chinese acknowledges the eternal soul that dwells 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 in 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 is sustained, 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 wed a girl who had lately died in Ipoh, Perak. His mother employed a spirit medium to disclose the name of the girl, her age and her horoscope details to see if she is compatible with him.

 

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In Cantonese vicinity of Singapore and Taiwan, if an unmarried woman passes away, her family place red envelope with cash, a lock of hair, a fingernail out as bait in the open and wait for a bystander 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, jewellery, 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 as an alternative to classic white gloves.

In homes, an altar is conspicuously flaunted 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 honoured within her family’s home. So, women are only able to gain admission in lineage through matrimony, therefore, ghost marriage happens to be a viable solution to safeguard that unmarried, deceased daughters still had an association to a male descent line and could be fittingly honoured after her death.

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By tradition, unmarried women were regarded as an embarrassment, concern, 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 war and the Japanese conquest of Manchuria. 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 martyr. Some women were cautious to participate in the funeral ritual, mourning customs, celibacy, and instantly to reside with his family. She and husband’s relatives become the social instrument to adopt a young child, if possible, through a brother naming through a contract his own son to the lineage of the deceased and then placed under the dead man’s tablet. As an adopted son, his 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 state 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 bad luck 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 realization and noisily banged on her coffin walls during the burial ceremony and alerted the startled family of the deceased man. In Shanxi hospital, an employee reported that the death of young women spreads like wildfire, many families who lost their sons would conduct an auction war for the 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, fortify the tombs with sturdy concrete, or construct tombs 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 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.  

47 thoughts on “The Ghost Bride

  1. Very interesting story and I wasn’t even aware that it is still practiced in some parts of China. I want to watch the series Ghost Bride. I wonder if they have it on Netflix. I will have to check that out today.

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  2. Woah that is super interesting. It is so amazing to learn about cultures, superstitions, phenomena, etc. Great post and subject matter as always! 🙂

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  3. Amazing blog post. This reminds me of a photo I saw the other day of two little girls back in the 1800s who posed together and one of them was deceased. Thank you for sharing. You always have great stories.

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  4. I found your post to be very interesting, as I’ve never heard of this. I’ll have to look for this show on Netflix, to get a better understanding.

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  5. Oh yikes! Ghosts can freak me out. I hadn’t heard of ghost brides. But I did hear about a lady who married her zombie doll before and I was like ???

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  6. Okay. This is fascinating but also creeping me out. The traditions and cultural beliefs in other countries are so foreign to me. I kind of see this as the family of the deceased wanting to capitalize off her demise and to me, that’s kind of shady.

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  7. I have never heard of such a thing. The Netflix series would be interesting to watch and to learn more about this. Interesting that the people are divided in their thinking about ghost marriages.

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  8. That is really interesting. I can understand why someone would want to be united with a fiance or boy/girlfriend who died, but the idea of trapping an unsuspecting person is really weird. From your research, did that mean that that person would not be able to marry a living person after being forced to marry a ghost bride/groom?

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  9. I’m not familiar with ghost brides, but the series does sound interesting. Looking more into this one after some research.

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  10. I haven’t heard of this tradition, some countries in the world has some really unusual tradition. I will definite check out that series to learn more about it.

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  11. I have never heard of this before, and it is very strange and creepy. But it also has an element of sadness to it. It is hard to believe that any culture believes and acts on beliefs like this in our current day. I would be interested to watch the Netflix show.

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  12. I didn’t really know that something like that happens in China! It’s something totally new to me, but sounds really interesting. Hope to watch this TV series at the weekend! 🙂

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  13. This seems so strange!! why would someone want to united with a fiance who died. I always get amazing reading about such things. Got to say, China has some amazing or i should say strange culture

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  14. This is so wild! It’s crazy that even in death a woman had to be married to be “honorable”. As a Westerner I can’t even fathom that. This was so cool to read though – super creepy and compelling.

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  15. I remember the horror movie that I’ve watched because of this post the Ghost Bride but the Philippine version and the story twist the same for this Malaysia movie. I would love to check this one! Thanks for sharing.

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  16. This is really an interesting fact. And until now, I still heard stories of ghost wedding. Most of these stories chose to marry their love ones who met a sudden death because of their undying love commitment.

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  17. I’d seen the show on Netflix but didn’t know the story behind it. Now I really can’t wait to watch it. Completely fascinating!

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