Funerals in rural China have long been seen as more than just a day to bury the dead. In addition to more traditional ceremonies, funerals often double as entertainment, particularly in areas where there is a noticeable lack of community events. Because many rural Chinese believe that a large attendance at a person's funeral translates into respect and honor for the deceased, it has not been uncommon for funerals to also include performances, such as operas and a viewing of a movie on film.
Funeral strippers, however, are a fairly new phenomenon, and the Chinese Ministry of Culture is launching a campaign to crack down on the new trend that is described as "thriving."
Last month, pictures of a dancer removing her scant clothing while assembled funeral goers -- including children -- watched during a funeral in the northern province of Hebei became widely circulated online, prompting the crackdown on such shows.
"Such illegal operations have disrupted local entertainment markets and corrupted social mores," the ministry said.
Those involved in the practice of funeral strippers -- from those who hire the strippers to those who perform -- will be punished.
An incident involving funeral strippers has already been investigated and the perpetrator punished. When six performers arrived in order to perform at the funeral for an elderly man, investigators were dispatched to the event and found that the lewd performance "violated public security regulations." The person in charge of the performing dancers was detained for 15 days and then fined 70,000 yuan (about $11,300) for his part in "corrupting the social atmosphere."
One villager defended the practice of hiring lewd performers for funerals, explaining that the point of hiring strippers -- some of whom reportedly perform with snakes -- is to attract a large crowd to the funeral, which is very important in Chinese culture. It is seen as a "harbinger of good fortune in the afterlife," the villager explained.
"It's to give [the deceased] face. Otherwise, no one would come."
An investigation by Chinese television station CCTV uncovered about a dozen "funeral performance troupes" that offered stripping services for funerals and estimated that the troupes performed as many as 20 shows a month.
"This has severely polluted the local cultural life," CCTV said in its report. "These troupes only care about money. As for whether it's legal, or proper, or what effect it has on local customs, they don't think much about it."
As shocking as it may seem to have strippers at a funeral, this may not be the oddest funeral practice observed in rural China. Click here to read about China's tradition of so-called "corpse brides"and "ghost marriages," and tell us -- do you think strippers at a funeral should be seen as illegal?
[Image via Shutterstock]