“My husband is an ideal partner. He never runs after girls, he always faithful. He never thinks of divorce, he never goes to pub, he never quarrels with me. But he has a small fault: he doesn’t live.”
There were such and similar discourses among women in an ancient China. There was – and there is today – tradition of ghost marriage. It had different forms: between dead man and living woman, between dead woman and living man, but between two dead people also if the welfare of the family required it. The origins of ghost marriage has remained mystery. However it had tradition in some countries but it was the most spread in China where the people – because of social demands – always found cause to got marry with a dead. For example, when two families arranged a prospective marriage, but the groom died suddenly. It would have been discomfort to give up the marriage because of this. So they replaced the ghost marriage with the real marriage. The young woman moved to her husband’s family, she got everything. She mourned her husband’s deadth and she was faithful all her life. In these Chinese household there is an altar where the spirit tablets of the ancestors and images of gods are prominently displayed. The spirit tablet of a married woman is maintained at her altar of her husband’s family.
When to be single is shame
A chinese woman in any case had to get marry. And this social pressure helped to spread the ghost marriage. They believe that it is unlucky or even dangerous to allow someone to remain buried without a spouse. If a woman dead before the marriage this tradition assured that she didn’t in shame after her death. The ghost marriage was better solve for a woman who hadn’t suitor than she never got married and became a disgrace to her family. The family consults with a priest to find a suitable spouse. In the case of men always the oldest man had to get married first. If a younger son marries first, this is viewed as inauspicious. But when he dead as an unmarried his family looked for a woman who got a ghost married with him. She got dowry from family of the dead and she could to adopt a child from her other-worldly husband’s family, so his blood-line remained. After this ceremony his youngest brothers could to get married. There were lots weddings where both member of the couple was dead. Says that their sent messages from the other-world that they want to get married. Of course this platonic love was in their families interest. But some families hold marriages to appease angry spirits. On the ceremony there were pictures of the couple and somebody said the yes in their names. After the ghost wedding the family had wedding party.
Tradition of ghost marriage didn’t disappear. There is still in some areas of China, but in India and Sudan as well. The practice is linked to complex beliefs about the spirit world and centuries of tradition.
Written by Ilona Kaszanyi