In Rural China, Racy Parties for the Dead

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Some corners of the world—Ireland and New Orleans come to mind—know how to turn a funeral into a celebration of the life of the deceased. To that list we should also add rural China, as Lin Yang reports:

I took a road trip last weekend to the ancient town of Fenghuang in Hunan province, a village that has existed since the 17th century. It was nice to visit while free of the summer tourist crush, but what really made a lasting impression was a “stripper show” I came across on my way there.

The temperature was hovering around freezing when I saw a couple dancing and singing on a makeshift stage by the state highway. The girl was bouncing up and down, shaking off her jacket until she was clad only in a short pink satin dress. I could not make out what she was singing, but the tune was lively.

The audience was small, and they were dressed in white cloth robes and white headbands, the traditional garb of mourners here. In China, it is not unusual for funerals to be considered a happy occasion, especially if the deceased enjoyed a long life and died peacefully.

The prudes at state-run China Central Television have investigated the topic and concluded that funerals should not be bachelor parties. But why can’t they be a good time?