In China there was a tradition of ghost marriage where the family of the dead arrange a marriage from beyond the grave, and there are still cases where the old tradition is not quite dead. 

The practice of mínghūn (冥婚), yinhun (阴婚) or Ghost Marriage in China, has been practise for over three millennials in some form in the country. There have also been found forms of Ghost Marriages in Sudan, India and France, Germany in various forms, but not like in the traditional sense that mínghūn is considered to be. 


The mínghūn is used about a marriage when one or both of the parties in a marriage are deceased at the time of the wedding. The bride’s family demands a dowry, all in the form of paper tributes, which is what you offer the dead. 

There is even a ceremony and a banquet to marry the two for eternity. The one thing that sticks out from a normal wedding between two living people is the digging up the bones of the bride if she was buried to place them inside her new groom’s grave. 

Why Marry The Dead

The reason for the Ghost Marriages is so that the dead won’t be alone in the afterlife. Many elders particularly believe that people dying without fulfilling their wishes to get married will not rest and come back to haunt the living. There is also the case of connecting family bonds for the living. 

In China there was a tradition of ghost marriage where the family of the dead arrange a marriage from beyond the grave, and there are still cases where the old tradition is not quite dead. 
The Horror Marriage: The Ghost Marriage or mínghūn have strong traditional ties that are still hanging on in modern day China. It is often used a motifs in Asian horror movies and series. Here from the movie, The House That Never Dies (2014), featuring a Ghost Marriage. Read here about the haunted mansion it is set in.

One of the more practical reasons for marrying off your dead relative in a Ghost Marriage, was the custom that dictated that a younger brother shouldn’t marry before the elder one was. And if the elder brother was dead, a Ghost Marriage would be proper to not disturb the brothers ghost. 

In many cases, Ghost Marriages were and are means to bury their loved ones in a proper way. A nice idea and sentiment, but can this practice be dangerous for the living or even the unvilling dead?

An Old Tradition that Lives On

Although the origin of this practice and the ritual is mainly unknown, there are still some cases that still uphold the tradition of Ghost Marriage, especially in northern China and other more rural parts. 


In 2015, there were no less than 14 female corpses stolen in one village in the Shanxi province to meet up the demand of corpse brides. There was a market for it, and so was the opportunity of making money from it as the price of a corpse of a young woman has skyrocketed, and could go for up to 100 000 yuan, even if the sale of corpses was made illegal in 2006. 

The price is determined by how complete the bones are, how pretty she was, family background, and cause of death. For example would a woman that died of an illness be worth more than one that died in a traffic accident. 

Stealing and Murdering for the Dead

In China there was a tradition of ghost marriage where the family of the dead arrange a marriage from beyond the grave, and there are still cases where the old tradition is not quite dead. The Ghost Bride (2017) - IMDb
The Living Ghost Brides: In modern media, Ghost Marriages are often presented were a living woman is being sacrificed to a dead man as his wife. Here from the Filipino horror movie, The Ghost Bride (2017).

In 2021 the ashes of a popular live-streamer were stolen from Shandong province in eastern China. The internet celebrity named Luoxiaomaomaozi had taken her own life during a lifestream, but her ashes were stolen by a staff member of the funeral home to be sold to a local family as a ghost bride to their dead son. And this is not the only case in recent times where some went too far to get a body.

Like a case from April 2016 were a man was charged with the murder of two women with a mental disbility, claiming he wanted to sell their corpses to be used in ghost weddings. This happened in Shaanxi province, north-west in China, but it isn’t the only place. 

In 2015, a man in Inner Mongolia was arrested because he killed a woman so he could sell it to a family, looking for å ghost bride. The man, only known as Ma, had promised the woman to find them husbands, but ended up killing them instead to sell their corpses. 

Why are these cases so prominent in northern and central China such as Shaanxi, Shanxi, Henan and Inner Mongolia provinces? There are several factors included here as well as cultural beliefs and strong traditional practices. There are also very practical reasons. The ratio of men to females is extremely high, and the coal mining community sees many young men die before their time and before their marriage. A gift from a ghost bride seems like a small compensation.

How to Arrange a Ghost Marriage

Although the practice was banned in 1949 by the Chinese Communist government, there are still those who practice this in secret, and in many cases it is considered almost a profitable business. There are several ways the Ghost Marriage can be arranged. 

Often it is a standard arranged marriage where the parents seek a matchmaker to find a suitable spouse for their child. In fact, ghost marriage matchmakers have seen a big profit in their business over the years. 


Sometimes, the family of the deceased goes to a divination and hears about the wishes from beyond the grave that the family member is seeking to be married or they have a dream themselves. Then it is up to the family to seek out a suitable spouse the deceased already has pointed out or help in the quest of finding one. 

Then when the two families are all agreed, it is just to host the ceremony, where they give gifts to the couple. They do this by burning either paper money or paper pictures of things they would need in their home, like a fridge, chairs, a bed, tables. They burn these papers as the costume is to bring it to the spirit world where they can use it. Then there is the banquet and a feast to join the two families. And then the similarities between the marriage of the living and the marriage of the dead ends. 

Then the rest of the marriage ceremony takes a darker turn. Because then all that is left is to dig up the corpses and bury the two dead together in a grave where they will be together for the rest of time. 

Variations of the Ghost Marriages

However, in recent times, some have begun to practice to marry off a living person to the dead. If the girl’s fiance died before their wedding, she could choose to go through with it to be married. This is not only seen in China, but also in places like Korea and Japan. Some would be hesitant to this though as it would require her to go through with a funeral ritual as well as take a vow of celibacy and live with his family. 

It is not only in mainland China where this practice is held. In Taiwan, there is also a tradition of marrying off an unmarried woman, although no bones dug up are necessary. 

In this tradition, the family of the woman places a red envelope with paper money, a lock of hair or a fingernail in the open and waits for a man to pass by and pick it up. The first man is the winner and it is seen as bad luck to refuse the marriage. He may be allowed to marry a living woman later in life, but the ghost bride should always remain as the first and primary wife. 


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