Three men in northern China have been arrested for raiding a tomb and attempting to steal a woman’s corpse. Chinese media reports say the three men intended to sell the corpse to the relatives of a young man who recently died, to be used in a “netherworld marriage.”

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An ancient folkore belief in China dictates that if a young man dies unwed, he’ll haunt or otherwise disrupt the lives of his living relatives. (It’s especially important for the eldest son to be married before his younger brothers.) And so there’s been a longstanding tradition in rural areas of burying a dead young woman alongside the man, to give him companionship in the afterlife.

According to the country’s official Xinhua News Agency, in a story we saw via the Guardian, when the chief suspect, a 72-year-old man from the Shanxi Province, heard about the death of a young woman, he jumped at the chance to play matchmaker. He and two co-conspirators are accused of meeting with the family of a recently deceased young man and posing as the woman’s relatives. They arranged to sell the corpse to the family for 25,000 yuan, or about $4,000. The trio’s plot was reportedly uncovered by villagers while they were in the midst of attempting to raid the woman’s tomb in the middle of the night.

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Grave robbing for the purposes of ghost brides is unfortunately common; four men were arrested in 2013 for running something of a ghost bride ring. They had been digging up graves and selling dead bodies since at least 2011, making off with 10 dead women before they were discovered. Things occasionally take a far more grisly turn: in 2006, a man from the Hebei province killed six women in order to sell them as ghost brides. In 2013, a man in the Shaanxi province murdered a pregnant woman for the same purpose. He was executed for the crime.


Contact the author at anna.merlan@jezebel.com.
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