Killing and selling women as "ghost brides"

The high demand for afterlife wives in some rural Chinese villages led one man to commit murder.

Published January 26, 2007 8:15PM (EST)

It seems the practice in certain remote Chinese villages of arranging postmortem marriages has led to even more than just illegal corpse commerce and grave robbing. Three men have been arrested in connection with the murder of two women intended to be sold as "ghost brides," the Associated Press reports.

Farmer Yang Dongyan bought a woman for $1,600 with the intention of selling her as a live bride. But then he discovered that the woman could command $2,077 as a "ghost bride" to be buried alongside a deceased man and provide companionship in the afterlife. So he "killed the woman in a ditch, bagged her body, and sold her" to an undertaker. Wiser to the superior moneymaking possibilities of selling dead woman rather than live women, Dongyan then killed a prostitute he had "used before" and sold her for a lesser $1,000 (because she was less attractive than the first victim, he told a local paper). It's no surprise that Dongyan had every intention of continuing his disturbing scheme: "If I had not been caught this early, I would've done it again."

It has to be noted that -- while still unsettling -- the practice of "minghun" in certain rural villages is most often an arrangement between the families of those who are already dead. The family of a dead bachelor will search for an unmarried woman who has died recently, the Times reported a few months back. In many of these rural areas it can be hard enough to secure a live bride because "many women have left for work in cities, never to return, while those women who remain can afford to be picky." This, of course, only fuels the practice of "bride selling" and the high demand for afterlife marriages -- a final attempt to secure a son's happiness.

We've said it before and we'll say it again: It is no quirk of fate that women are so in demand later in life considering the spate of sex-selective abortions as a result of the country's one-child limit. The recently announced crackdown on sex-selective abortions might slightly improve the situation, or, as we've suggested before, just force the practice underground. But the cultural primacy of boys and men is the larger issue and it doesn't seem likely to vanish any time soon.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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