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Chinese ghost marriage was usually set up by the family of the deceased and performed for a number of reasons, including the marriage of an engaged couple before one member's death, to integrate an unmarried daughter into a patrilineage, to ensure the family line is continued, or to maintain that no younger brother is married before an elder brother.
In the latest alleged instance, Shanghaiist reports the accused are said to have retrieved a woman's body from a grave in Shandong province three months after her death and sold it to a middleman for about $3,000. The middleman kept the body in a hospital's mortuary before selling it to a family in the city of Wuan for roughly $6,200. "Years-old carcasses are not worth a damn, while the ones that have just died, like this one, are valuable," says the group's supposed ringleader, identified only by the surname Wang.
The gruesome tradition of arranged marriages for the dead died out after the communists took power in 1949, but it's said to be making a comeback. The killer said he origninally tried grave-robbing, but found murder to be easier. Several of the women had been hired as housekeepers. "Killing people and selling their bodies was easier than stealing bodies from graves," he said.
Ghost marriages are an ancient custom, but instances of the practice being carried out are occasionally still reported today. There are generally two types of ghost marriages: one which is held between two deceased people, and the other between a dead and a living person.
Traditional belief has it that a dead person who is buried single and alone in a grave brings bad luck to his or her descendants. Therefore, some bereaved families seek a corpse to hold a ghost marriage for the deceased.