The current box office hit in Taiwan, the Bride (屍憶), is based on the topic of ghost marriages–also known as netherworld marriages. The main character in the movie is portrayed as a victim, terrorized by an undead bride after picking up a red envelope on the street.

I thought the concept of haunted red envelopes was bit on the hilarious side, and I’ve seen my share of bad horror movies–like ghost babies in lockers suddenly turning into teenage boys, and then back into babies again. But after researching more into this topic. I found out that people (families of the bride), do leave traps in hopes of finding a husband for their daughters–who are already dead, of course.

So how do these red traps work and how to get out of them?

According to a blogger who’s picked up an envelope before, the envelope always contains the birthday (生辰八字) of the dead. And there was someone hiding nearby checking if he’d picked up the envelope.

That night, a very beautiful woman with pale skin actually came to visit him in his dreams and asked him if he’d like her parents to pay him a visit about their “engagement”. He told her that his parents wouldn’t allow this sort of thing to happen in the household, and he was very firm in his stance throughout this entire situation.  The ghost and her family bothered him some more; but in the end, they asked for their money back. The blogger also was told to put some money in as well.

He was told that next time if he picked up another red envelope and a person had immediately rushed up to him to coerce him into a marriage and he didn’t feel like being the puppet in all this, he could also put some money into the red envelope and congratulate the person. He said that by doing this, you are making yourself a bystander and not the groom anymore.

The way he described the entire situation was like he was going into a bar and trying to talk to hot chick, but her all right looking friend, and then somehow her uncle were also trying to join in on the conversation. In the end, it just made him want to cringe and walk away–without ever looking back again.

This person chose to stay away from the ghost marriage tradition. But I found a group online that embraces this facet of Taiwanese culture.

And there are sombre rules to follow if you want to join in on the fun:

  1. the ghost must be the first wife
  2. the first-born of the family must be adopted as the child of the ghost
  3. the husband cannot cheat (hard one to follow)

It was interesting to see all the people in the forum trying to be as respectful as possible to their ghost relatives, calling them “Mother (大媽)” and even yielding rooms and seats at the table to them.

Having a ghost in the house means one has to tread carefully all the time, or else sickness will be brought upon the entire household. So why take the risk? Some do it out of kindness for the family, but most do it for the money. According to the forum, having a ghost wife can generate wealth. A user on the forum said that her grandfather was visited by a lonely ghost after he’d commented on her graveyard. And after he’d married her, he started becoming wealthier.

It’s good to have money, but would you risk you and your wife’s relationship for an unknown entity? And let it take over your wife’s bed and place? Plus, the entire thing is a bit sexist, doesn’t anyone agree? Why can’t a woman have a ghost for a husband? What about the LGBT community? I wonder what Caitlyn Jenner thinks of all this?

 

 

 

About The Author

Wendy Chen

Wendy Chen is a blogger, freelance.

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