A man in northwestern China has been charged with murdering at least two mentally impaired women, reportedly to sell their bodies for a centuries-old superstitious ritual called “ghost marriages.”
Police in the city of Yulin in Shaanxi province, said the accused, identified only as Ma, is being held for homicide and human trafficking. He was arrested with two other men after a traffic policeman found a body of a woman in his van in April.
The discovery led to yet another murder that was also allegedly committed by the same man.
During investigation, it was revealed that both of Ma’s victims were mentally impaired individuals from the Gansu province. After the murders, he transported their bodies to Shaanxi to sell them as ghost brides.
He managed to receive 35,000 yuan ($5,263) for the first victim but he was finally taken into custody when he tried to sell the second corpse.
Ghost marriages are also known as “spirit marriages,” and may date back to the 17th century B.C. They involve the union of two, mostly unmarried, dead people so as to prevent them from being lonely in the afterlife.
Officially, the bizarre ritual was banned in China in 1949 but it still takes place in several rural provinces such as Shaanxi, Shanxi, Henan, Hebei and Guangdong.
Outlawing ghost marriages led to grave robberies, in which thieves dig up female corpses to sell them to buyers. And the demand is ever-increasing.
In February, the Strait Times reported corpse theft is on the rise, especially in Shanxi. Southern Shanxi's Hongtong county police department stated that at least three dozen thefts of female corpses were recorded in the past three years.