Deceased teenager, 16, auctioned for 66,000 yuan as a ‘ghost bride’ in China

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29th November 2023 – (Jinan) A chilling case in China’s eastern Shandong province has sparked fierce public debate over the ancient practice of ‘ghost marriages’. A man named Sun has claimed that his biological daughter, who was adopted by another family, was posthumously sold as a ‘ghost bride’ after she tragically took her own life. However, despite the transfer of a significant bride price, Chinese authorities state there is no legal basis for prosecution.

Sun’s daughter, Xiaodan, who was adopted in 2006 due to the family’s financial constraints, fatally plunged from her ninth-floor home last December at the age of 16. Sun alleges she was subjected to sustained emotional abuse by her adoptive parents, which led to her desperate act.

In the aftermath of her death, Sun accuses the adoptive parents of entering Xiaodan into a ‘ghost marriage’ with a deceased young man, surnamed Zhang. A bride price of 66,000 yuan was allegedly transferred from Zhang’s parents to the adoptive parents as per the tradition.

‘Ghost marriages’, a custom dating back 3,000 years, still persists in less developed rural areas of China. According to this tradition, a deceased single person should be wedded to another unmarried departed soul to ensure their blessings in the afterlife. As with conventional Chinese weddings, families exchange bride price and dowry and acknowledge each other as relatives by marriage.

The practice, however, is controversial. One online commentator described ‘ghost marriages’ as a “disgrace to the deceased and modern civilisation under the guise of love”. The custom has led to heinous crimes such as stealing and selling the remains or ashes of young women to become the ‘bride’ of a deceased man.

Sun alleges that Xiaodan was interred with Zhang to finalise the wedding ceremony. He demanded that the adoptive parents be penalised for domestic abuse and desecration of corpses.

Nevertheless, despite tracing the 66,000 yuan money transfer from Zhang’s parents to Xiaodan’s adoptive parents, the police found no evidence of a criminal offence, as reported by the Shanghai Morning Post.