An age-old tradition takes centre stage on Netflix and what better timing than ahead of the Lunar New Year!
“The Ghost Bride”, an adaptation of Malaysian writer, Yangsze Choo’s New York Times best-selling novel of the same name which highlights an ancient tradition of ghost marriages in the Malaysian Chinese community will be aired on 23 January.
This intriguing tale set in 1890s Colonial Malacca features 20-year-old Li Lan who is pressured to marry the deceased son of a wealthy family to save her own family from falling into debt and the dark truth she has to face.
Ghost marriage, a union between either two deceased individuals or where one party is deceased, is quite a common tradition in the Chinese community in Malaysia for a number of reasons, in particular, for those who die unmarried, to avoid being lonely in the afterlife.
In fact, writer, Yangsze Choo was inspired to dive into the subject matter after reading about true stories of ghost marriages.
“Growing up, I once read a local newspaper story about the occurrence of such a marriage,” says Choo in one of her Goodreads notes. “This was so bizarre that I thought about it for a long time afterwards. Who decided to participate in such a ritual? And what did it mean to them; what sort of lives did they lead?”.
“…..Usually, the dead married the dead (one of my Singaporean friends told me that his uncle had been married to another ghost in a proper ceremony, with all the food, costumes, and trappings), but more rarely, the living married the dead,” Choo added.
The dark yet true stories of such incidents motivated Choo to complete the first chapter of her book after working on another novel for eight years.
Malaysians can beam with pride as the cast and crew of the production are largely Malaysians, too! The show is directed by award-winning Malaysian directors Quek Shio Chuan and Ho Yuhang and features Malaysian actors such as Kuang Tian, Angeline Tan, Jordan Voo, Jojo Goh and Susan Leong with other actors of Asian descent, Canadian-Chinese actor Ludi Lin (who was featured in ‘Aquaman’ and ‘Power Rangers’) and Taiwanese stars, Wu Kang Ren as well as Huang Peijia.
Shot in various locations across Malaysia such as Penang, Taiping, Ipoh and Johor Baru, this is Netflix’s first large-scale collaboration with Malaysia. At the press conference for the launch of the show, director Quek said, “many of the heritage sites we filmed in were so well preserved and suited the era. We had references that we could replicate.”
“We are thrilled to have this opportunity to share this modern interpretation of traditional Chinese folklore and local stories with a global audience,” he added.
Catch the trailer of ‘The Ghost Bride’ below:
If you thought ghost marriages only happens in Malaysia, think again!
Here are some other countries that still practice this bizarre tradition.
- France – Posthumous marriages or necrogamy is where women were married by use of proxy to soldiers that had died weeks earlier. Such marriages took place among civilians in the 1950s when a dam broke and killed 400 people in Fréjus, France including a man named André Capra, who was engaged to Iréne Jodart. Jodart pleaded with French President, Charles de Gaulle to let her go along with her marriage plans even though her fiancé had died (source: Wikipedia)
- Sudan – In this region, a ghost marriage is where a deceased groom is replaced by his brother. The brother serves as a stand in to the bride, and any resulting children are considered children of the deceased spouse. This unconventional practice is common among the Dinka (Jieng), Nuer, and Atuot people of Southern Sudan.
- China – This 3,000-year-old tradition dating back to the first imperial dynasty of China, the Qin Dynasty, lives on in many parts of China, in particular, rural China. The purpose of the tradition is to ensure that if a man or woman dies young and unmarried, they should still travel to the afterlife with a spouse, thus protecting both the name of their living family and guaranteeing company for the deceased in next world. (source: Ancient Origins).
*Edited by Archana Patrick
Featured image sourced from The Malaysian Reserve