Posthumous marriage in north China's Shanxi Province

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A family in north China's Shanxi Province has held a so called "Ghost Wedding" for their son who died unmarried three years ago.

The poster of 'The House That Never Dies'. The thriller features a 'Ghost Wedding' happened early last century. [Photo:]

The poster of "The House That Never Dies." The thriller features a "Ghost Wedding" which happened early last century. [Photo:]

Posthumous marriage is an ancient and popular custom in rural Shanxi, where the practice is often dictated by tradition, and many locals consult fortune tellers who say the family will be cursed if a family member dies unmarried.

As a result, parents who lose a son will often go to great lengths to secure a so-called "ghost daughter-in-law" no matter how large the financial burden may prove.

Traditionally parents see it as an obligation to help their sons settle down in a marriage. For the family of a deceased woman, a "ghost wedding" is regarded as a good outcome for a deceased daughter, who otherwise would not be allowed a proper burial.

The local death rate among young men is higher than for women due to the number of accidents in coal mines, but that also means there is often a lack of female bodies available for posthumous weddings.

There have been recent cases of criminals raiding tombs for the bodies of women which they can then sell on to the family of a dead son for a "Ghost Wedding."

It's reported that the body of the "bride" in this latest case was secured at a cost of 180,000 yuan, or US$27,000, which was considered a bargain.

The family was apparently charged less because they were local to the county, and the brides' village-farmer parents believed it would be a good social match.

Chen Wenhua, a professor at Zhejiang Normal University, says the government should take measures to regulate the posthumous marriage market, but believes that a complete ban will do little to end the ancient social custom. Chen has suggested instead that the authorities try to gradually change the way people think.

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