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Four Grave Robbers Jailed in China for Attempting to Sell Corpses for 'Ghost Marriages'

Update Date: Mar 04, 2013 02:13 PM EST

Four people have been jailed in China for allegedly digging up female corpses in order to sell them as brides for traditional "ghost marriages".

Ghost marriages are a millennia-old tradition, where single men, typically young adult males, are buried with women so that they do not become lonely in the after-life. Typically, families perform a small wedding ceremony before the corpses are buried side by side. According to the Guardian, the ceremony may date back as far as the 17th century BC and is increasingly rare in modern-day China, especially since late ruler Mao Zedong attempted to eradicate the practice when he took power.

However, the practice still occurs in some provinces in China, namely the rural parts of the Guandong, Hebei, Henan, Shaanxi and Shanxi provinces. Normally, the marriages are arranged as families use matchmakers for their late loved ones. However, as families in the provinces have come into quite a bit of wealth, many remain superstitious - and pay for corpses for their loved ones to marry.

According to the Agence France Presse, the group stole the female corpses, cleaned them and fabricated medical documents so their bodies would fetch a high price. The gang earned about $39,000, or 240,000 yuan, from the purchases of these bodies.

The members of the gang were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 28 to 32 months. The court said that the four men, with surnames of Pang, Bai, He and Zhang, took advantage of bad traditions in the area.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time that intermediaries in the ghost marriage trade have found themselves on the wrong side of the law. Last year, a woman's body was sold by her family to wed a recently deceased young man. A grave robber was found attempting to exhume her body to sell to another family.

Less affluent families often use less exorbitant measures to continue the long-used practice. While some purchase rotting corpses, dress them up and reinforce their skeletons with wire, some other families settle for a silver statuette or a piece of dough with eyes made out of black beans.

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