‘Tis a grim headline, to be certain: “11 People Arrested for Supplying Dead Unmarried Men with Dead Brides”. To the other, there is always a little more to a story than we might glean from such a brief statement. Charles Mudede does, in fact, offer some fine insight into the custom of ghost brides—
Though the practice is very old and maintained mostly by people who live in rural China, it is by no means barbaric. Indeed, because civilization only begins when the living live with their dead—meaning, when the living are settled rather than nomadic, we can see in the ghost marriage something like the deep and wonderfully twisted roots of the modern urban consciousness.
The city is about a very close relationship between inhabitants who are made of matter and those made from the faintest stuff of memories—ghosts. Inhabited and uninhabited buildings, rooms, hallways, staircases are all haunted by those lost in the past of those buildings, rooms, hallways, and staircases. You can only remove ghosts by demolishing a building. This is why it is utterly ridiculous to fear ghosts in the forests. What is there to haunt? Trees? Moose? Mud? What nonsense. Humans are the haunted animal. Humans live in houses, apartments, castles, and the cities of their dead.
—except it is unclear that general perceptions of diverse death cults are so problematic insofar as it’s one thing for families to get together and marry a dead daughter to a dead son, as such, but quite another to go stealing corpses in order to facilitate the custom.
Which, in turn, raises a perverse question about human rights after death.
Mudede, Charles. “11 People Arrested for Supplying Dead Unmarried Men with Dead Brides”. Slog. 31 October 2014.