On the exterior window ledge in my apartment building’s hallway someone has burned the semblance of several thousand dollars in Chinese money. It is a common ritual meant to give the deceased a few extra bucks on their travels through the after-life. I guess dead Cantonese merchants don’t check the money as closely as they do in this reality. I learned from an article in the NY Times about a strange twist on attending to the needs of your dearly departed family members in a rural town located between Beijing and Shanghai: It is called “After Life Marriage” when Traditional Chinese families, worried that an unmarried dead relative may be unhappily alone, provide them a corpse bride. “To ensure a son’s contentment in the afterlife, some grieving parents will search for a dead woman to be his bride and, once a corpse is obtained, bury the pair together as a married couple.” A family searching for a female corpse typically must pay more than 10,000 yuan, or about $1,200 ( almost four years of income) for a bride. I would say that is rather stiff, but….Sorry. Poor families do what they can and sometimes make a matrimonial figure of straw and bury it next to the dead son to substitute for the spouse he never had or pay about 2,000 RMB for a body that has washed up on nearby river banks. According to the New York Times: “The Communist Party has tried, with mixed success, to stamp out beliefs it considers to be superstition. But the continued practice of the ancient custom in the Loess Plateau is a testament to the region’s extreme isolation. In other parts of rural China, it is difficult to know how often, if at all, the custom is followed.” It is at once the most compelling and chilling of Confucian customs and ancestor worship that demands familial loyalty even in death. It could become much more prevalent with the coming shortage of living, breathing eligible females.

By Lonnie Hodge of China Blog OMBW 

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