Funeral stripping in China, Taiwan: rural tradition vs urban modernity
May 14, 2015 11:46 AM   Subscribe

[Note: *starred* links contain images of scantily clad women, making them possibly NSFW] If you've caught some of the *shorter "Crazy China" articles* circulating around recently, you've heard that the Chinese government is trying to crack down on stripping at funerals in rural communities. While you generally won't find stripping mentioned in descriptions of Chinese funeral traditions, other sources like *CNN* and *NPR* try to add context to this news. NPR notes that this **also occurs in Taiwan (Nat. Geo. video)**, but the article doesn't delve further. Luckily, we have the *research from University of South Carolina anthropologist Marc L. Moskowitz* to elaborate, capturing the more varied and complex reality of Taiwanese Electric Flower Cars and *the culture of dancing for the dead.* There's also a great Q&A recorded at the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), which addresses questions of class division, safety of the women, gender equality, and other related topics.

Dancing for the Dead, previously; Chinese funeral practices previously: Hell Bank Notes.
posted by filthy light thief (18 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
Let's put the "fun" back in funerals!
posted by bgribble at 11:51 AM on May 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


The documentary Dancing for the Dead was covered previously, and while the 40 minute docu isn't online for free (you can rent or buy it on Amazon), the new 45 minute Q&A seems to cover quite a bit of the same ground, clarifying that this is more than making funerals fun (but that is an element, and apparently not as sexist as it sounds).
posted by filthy light thief at 11:53 AM on May 14, 2015


Strippers...... strippers and 'obscene' performances at funerals. Sigh. And I remember how tacky my mother thought it was when some of my cousins wore jeans to a family funeral --- I can only imagine how appalled she'd have been by strippers.
posted by easily confused at 12:14 PM on May 14, 2015


Folk religion is what most people think of as actual religion, even outside of Taiwan.
posted by GuyZero at 12:21 PM on May 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


I was imagining women rending their clothes, not strippers doing pole dances. Huh.
posted by Dip Flash at 12:22 PM on May 14, 2015 [4 favorites]




On the "why" (religious or otherwise), Moskowitz provides an interesting response in the io9 interview:
Do people appreciate the supernatural component of the striptease and the way it relates to funeral traditions, or has it become mostly a secularized practice?

One of the things that I found to be really interesting about this practice was that people's explanations for why people hired Electric Car Performers varied tremendously. One person I interviewed told me that it was because a new ghost would get picked on by older ghosts so the performance was to distract the older ghosts to give the newer ghost time to get used to his environment without being harassed. Other people told me that the lower gods liked this kind of entertainment so that it was for them. Yet others said that the deceased liked that kind of activity when living so they wanted to send him off in style. Most people agreed that an important component of this is the Chinese and Taiwanese emphasis on hot and noisy (rè​nao) which is the excitement of public events. In the West, we have this in rock concerts or amusement parks, in that the noise and the hustle and bustle is part of the fun. In Taiwan, all public events need to be hot and noisy to be a success, ranging from going to the beach to funerals, so temple events that we filmed frequently had Chinese Opera performing on one stage, Electric Flower Cars singing on another, and people noisily selling stuff all around them. It's really a sight to see.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:34 PM on May 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


I found this particularly interesting: One person I interviewed told me that it was because a new ghost would get picked on by older ghosts so the performance was to distract the older ghosts to give the newer ghost time to get used to his environment without being harassed.

It is necessary to distract other chickens when new chickens are being added to the flock so they don't get harassed. I wonder if this is where that theory comes from!
posted by Sophie1 at 12:36 PM on May 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


The interview with the anthropologist doesn't make this clear - is this practice native to Formosan ( i.e. the island & culture that preceded Taiwan's arrival ) folk culture or does it have long original roots in Chinese culture ?
posted by Bwithh at 12:38 PM on May 14, 2015


Folk religion is what most people think of as actual religion, even outside of Taiwan.

Yes. Thank goodness that here in the West the dominant religion doesn't have any weird rituals involving things like eating the Savior or drinking His blood.
posted by The Bellman at 12:42 PM on May 14, 2015 [11 favorites]


Bhwithh, in the io9 interview, Moskowitz notes that this practice is considered to appeal to "lower gods," as compared with "higher gods, like Guanyin or Matzu." The former is venerated by Mahayana Buddhists, while the latter was originally outside of Buddism and later pulled in through some retconning. In other words: unclear.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:03 PM on May 14, 2015


If there wasn't a funeral stripper tradition in China I reckon the CCCP would have been pretty ruthless in stamping it out, what with the threat to public morals and fuck Taiwan and whatnot.

I like the concept of rennao, hot and noisy, that is desirable for all public events in Taiwan. It's totally evocative of a good festivity.
posted by fido~depravo at 1:09 PM on May 14, 2015 [1 favorite]



I found this particularly interesting: One person I interviewed told me that it was because a new ghost would get picked on by older ghosts so the performance was to distract the older ghosts to give the newer ghost time to get used to his environment without being harassed.


There's a sort of logic here I can't argue with. It's ghosts, what are you going to do?
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 1:40 PM on May 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


This is relevant to my interests.
posted by ColdChef at 2:30 PM on May 14, 2015 [9 favorites]


It is not unknown, in Viking funerals , to have a good time, which includes fornicating and then sacrificing the young woman. So stripping seems kind of tame.
posted by jadepearl at 2:54 PM on May 14, 2015


If there wasn't a funeral stripper tradition in China I reckon the CCCP would have been pretty ruthless in stamping it out...

What does the Soviet Union have to do with this?
posted by johnnydummkopf at 6:51 PM on May 14, 2015


The concept should be not quite alien to anyone who can remember the dance troupe from The Running Man (1987). Although their clothing remained in place, their performance at the death of Iceman Subzero was far more erotic than thanatotic.
posted by fredludd at 10:41 PM on May 14, 2015


Yeah, so much more bizarre than an wake where your whole family and all your friends get really drunk.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:28 AM on May 15, 2015


« Older Bones!   |   Playground Purgatory Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments