Ghost Marriage is not something we only read about in fictional books and watch in horror movies. Sometimes the fiction is inspired by the truth, like with the Malaysian book, ‘The Ghost Bride’ from 2013.

Malaysian author Yangsze Choo heard many types of lore, legends and myths when she was growing up in Malaysia. Being a fourth generation Chinese Malaysian, many of the stories she heard were rooted in Chinese tradition. And when she wrote her book, ‘The Ghost Bride’, she wrote a fictionalized version of a real thing based on the stories she heard about Ghost Marriages. 


Set in 1890s Colonial Malacca, a Malaysian Chinese woman accepts a marriage proposal from a wealthy family to be the “ghost bride” to their deceased son who died a mysterious death to save her family from going bankrupt. Desperate to escape the situation, she needs to battle both the dangers of real life as well as the dangers of the afterlife and the hauntings of the dead. 

Her book was a great success and even got its own Netflix tv-series adaptation. Although a fictional story, the concept of Ghost Marriage is anything but.

Ghost Marriage or Mínghūn 

The tradition of Ghost Marriage or Mínghūn 冥婚 is an ancient Chinese tradition in China and chinese communities abroad. The family of the dead arrange a marriage for them in the real life so that they will be together in the afterlife. And although not as common as it used to be, the actual weddings for the dead ones are still a real thing happening in this day and age.

When she researched for her book she remembered all of these stories she had heard about and read in the papers. She also learned that her friend’s family had been involved with a Ghost Marriage many years ago in the 90s or early 00s. 

The Wedding of the Dead

Book Cover
The Ghost Bride: The cover of the book that Yangsze Choo was inspired to write after the old tradition.// Photo

One night, the grandmother woke up from a dream. She said to the family the next day that it was her son who had visited and told her that he had met a girl in the underworld and wished to marry. 

He gave his mother the girl’s name and address to her family so that the grandmother could go see for herself. So she went to the address she had gotten in her dream and found the family. 

When she talked to the mother of the girl who had died, it turned out that she had the same dreams as the grandmother had. She had been visited by her dead daughter in the dream and said that she wished to get married. 

The two families got together and held a wedding for their belated children. Just like they would have if they were alive they had a ceremony with Chinese bridal sedan chairs as well as a feast after they had taken their vows and they got their soul tablets. 

After the wedding the two families were joined and worked as any extended family would, joining them for large family happenings. 


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Featured Image: Netflix ‘The Ghost Bride’ (2020)

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