What is a 'ghost' bride?
In the days dating back to before the Han dynasty, when a single man passes away, custom calls for him to be married posthumously to a deceased single woman so that he will not be alone in the afterlife. It was believed that if the deceased man is unmarried, he can come back to haunt their living relatives and cause misfortune.
The tradition is still in practice today. In 1998, a farmer was caught stealing female corpses from their graves, mostly freshly upon their death. He sold the bodies for less than 4,000 yuan each to traffickers, who passed them to intermediaries, known as matchmakers for ghosts, who marked them up more than three times for the final customers.
Female corpses have become comparatively rare due to the substantial gender imbalance brought on by China’s one-child policy.
In January this year, the tradition took a heinous turn when police in northern China detained 3 men for the killings of two women whose corpses were then sold as "ghost brides". Yang Donghai, a 35-year-old farmer in western China's Shaanxi province, confessed to killing a woman bought from a poor family for 12,000 yuan last year. She thought she was being sold into an arranged marriage, but Yang killed her and sold her corpse for 16,000 yuan. He and two accomplices then killed a prostitute and sold her for 8,000 yuan (£523) before police caught them.
The corpses were apparently being sold to Li Longsheng, an undertaker who police said specialized in buying and selling of dead women for "ghost weddings".