A knocking sound from inside the coffin was the last thing guests at a wedding in Henan expected — until the bride herself rose from the dead.
The police investigation that followed determined that the bride, thought to be deceased, was a mentally disabled woman who had been trafficked, drugged, and sold to the groom’s family in a comatose state. Public prosecutors have filed a lawsuit against five suspects for the crimes of human trafficking and intended murder, the Procuratorate Daily, an official judicial newspaper, reported Thursday.
“Ghost weddings” are a centuries-old tradition in many parts of rural China, intended to comfort the souls of the deceased through marriage. But the morbid superstition has also ushered in a black market for corpses. Officially outlawed in 2006, the corpse trade is nonetheless sustained by desperate families in the country’s less-developed regions, particularly in the north and northwest.
This case, however, happened in Linzhou, a city in the central Chinese province of Henan. A man, Miao Taijiang, decided to purchase the body of an unwed woman thought to be deceased to “marry” his nephew, known to be deceased.
In July 2016, one of Miao’s acquaintances, Hu Alian, told him that back in her hometown, there was an unmarried woman who was ill and dying, and that her family had already decided to sell her body. Later, Miao and the woman’s family agreed on a price of 32,000 yuan ($4,700), which included transporting the corpse to Miao’s family.
The ghost wedding was held on the afternoon of July 14, 2016. At around 7 p.m., as the guests prepared to bury the coffin, they heard the sounds of hands and feet pounding against the wood. When they opened the casket, they found the corpse bride very much alive — and called the police.
During their investigation, the police discovered that the acquaintance, Hu, and the family members of the woman thought to be dead were human traffickers who targeted the mentally disabled and interlopers with few local relations under the premise of providing accommodation. Hu played the role of intermediary, and the others posed as the victim’s family.
And business had been good, with Hu and her co-conspirators raking in profits. Police determined that they had previously sold two living mentally disabled women from Hunan province, also in central China, to clients in Linzhou for 48,700 and 50,000 yuan, respectively — more than 30 times the average monthly wage in the region.
Having given the victim strong sedatives, the traffickers knew that she was still alive when they sold her to be wedded and buried.
In 2016, a man was found guilty of murdering two mentally disabled women for the purpose of selling their corpses for ghost marriages. The high-profile media coverage that followed served to raise public awareness of the perils of such superstitious customs.
The Procuratorate Daily’s report cited the imbalanced sex ratio in rural regions as a contributing factor to the black market for trafficked women, as the surplus of men in these areas means they often have difficulty finding suitable mates, a problem compounded by family members who pressure them to marry.
Editor: David Paulk.
(Header image: Xiao Muyi/VCG)