One usually doesn’t hear the words ‘strippers’ and ‘funeral’ mentioned in the same sentence. On occasion when they are, the context involves a wife or fiancée killing her husband or soon-to-be-husband if she knew what he did with the scantily clad exotic dancers. However, China has found a way to combine the two concepts in a bizarre, but somehow understandable tradition.
Many people spend a lot of time trying to make friends. Coworkers, neighbors, and fellow students all seek out people with similar interests and passions. Partly this is to create a social support network. Other times, it is simply a desire to increase popularity. The Chinese tradition of having strippers at funerals definitely falls into the second category. The same practice occurs frequently in Taiwan. For centuries, dancers performed at funerals to increase attendance and make the deceased appear more popular. A large group of mourners also suggests success and riches for the dead person in the afterlife.
The strippers, however, are a relatively new addition. Their existence has been highlighted by a series of videos circulating on social media. The most popular videos are of the 2015 funeral for a Mr. Jian. They show two strippers in black leather bikini tops, thongs, and knee high leather boots gyrating and dancing around Jian’s coffin. The Maroon 5 song ‘Moves Like Jagger’ blares in the background. As the two dancers hump and straddle the coffin, a large image of the deceased, illuminated by blue and green disco lights, looks on from the back of the chapel. Three more songs played, with the strippers continuing to attract mourners, before the family moved the casket to a more private location.
The Ministry of Culture decried the actions of the strippers and proclaimed their moves ‘uncivilized.’ At least these strippers kept their tops on. At a funeral in the Hebei Province, a stripper removed her bra in violation of China’s obscenity law against public nudity. The government fined both the stripper and the entertainment company for the indecent behavior. Similarly, strippers who performed at the funeral of a six-year-old boy in Jiangsu province received fines from the government. While Chinese authorities are eager to clamp down on the action, men nearing death are not. Some complain about losing the chance to gain greater status. Others are simply creepy. A Mr. Jong, featured in a National Geographic video, demanded a hole be cut into his coffin so he could watch the strippers from the afterlife.