Many years ago while holidaying in Singapore, I got caught out in a monsoon and had to find some cover quickly. Just off the pathway, I saw a temple surrounded by a small graveyard.
I sheltered in the doorway. As I pressed against the door it opened. Peering into the gloom, I saw a ceremony taking place.
As I watched I felt, I was imposing on something very private and should not be a witness to. But curiosity had the better of me, I pressed myself against the wall.
As the ceremony progressed, I realised I was watching a Chinese ghost marriage.
Recent reports of this tradition were dismissed as fiction and never verified. However, I did see in the Cantonese district of Singapore, a ghost marriage sign hung above the doorway of a Taoist, priests home openly offering to find a ghost bride or groom for this macabre act.
Many years ago if a son died before marriage, his parents arranged a ghost marriage to provide him with progeny to continue the lineage and give him his descendants by way of adoption.
A man did not marry so much for his own benefit as for that of the family: to continue the family name; to provide descendants to keep up the ancestral worship; and to give a daughter-in-law to his mother to wait on her and be, in general, a daughter to her.
Upon the death of her fiancé, a bride could choose to go through with the wedding, in which a white cockerel represented the groom at the ceremony. The bride had to take a vow of celibacy. Her duties for the rest of her life was to take care of the groom's parents and immediately take up residence with his family. If no bride was available a recently deceased girl would be dug up with the consent of her family and given up as a ghost bride. In ancient reference books, records are showing that it was indeed common practice.But there is no proof of such weddings still being performed Yet here I was watching one.
The ceremony itself took on characteristics of both marriage and a funeral, with the spirit of the deceased bride being “led” by a priest.
The families of both parties seemed to be rejoicing and content.
The bride was taken from the temple and laid beside the previously buried groom. Gifts were then piled on top, and the grave site recovered.
As I watched, I felt sick but couldn’t move away. Was this happening in this day and age?