Senryu : atavism

throwback to before
officials going crazy
strip tease funerals

senryu by M. Nakazato LaFreniere

It’s interesting to me that when city and country customs evolve in different ways, city folks define country ways as backwards.  Not just different but backwards.  And in some nonWestern countries, it makes governments very uncomfortable if those country standards are too different from American or European definitions of civilized. And what happens if the country folks don’t give a damn about what other countries think?  The city folk in the government crackdown or pass laws.

Let’s take funerals.  There is a furor going on in China as officials crackdown on the practice in the country to bring in strippers to entertain funeral goers.  See if the surviving family can bring in a big audience for the funeral, it shows respect.  The more people who attend your funeral, the better your afterlife will be.  So if your family only drums up 5 people to go, you obviously have no friends and your afterlife will be sad.  But if 5,000 attend, then you’ve a good shot at Nirvana.

Families and funeral directors used to hire the local Chinese opera troupe, actors, singers and comedians to entice funeral goers.  It is so important to give a good sendoff that families would pay several times their annual income to hire entertainers.  So in the 1990s, people in the Chinese rural communities started hiring strippers.

The custom may have spread from Taiwan who had strippers dancing on the funeral procession electric flower cars as early as the 1960s. By the 1980s, Taiwan’s local mafia cornered a huge chunk of the mortuary market.  Since they owned some stripper clubs, they offered strippers at a discount to people booking a funeral.  It worked like a charm bringing in new business because yep, people being people, they followed the pole dancing on the trucks back to the funeral whether or not they knew the guy.  The Taiwan funeral homes also pitched that the strippers did double duty: bringing in people and as symbols of spiritual fertility celebrating the life cycle to please gods and spirits (some who apparently love sexy dancing) so that the deceased will get a happy welcome in the spirit realm.

Anthropology professor Marc L. Moskowitz (University of South Carolina), filmed a documentary Dancing for the Dead: Funeral Strippers in Taiwan. Many of the young women come from a long line of funeral strippers. Funerals last for days so the funeral strippers are not the only entertainment.  Comedians, actors, singers and opera troupes also get hired as they celebrate the deceased’s life.  Funerals are seen as happy occasions while weddings are somber. Moskowitz told that though an “American’s first reaction” may be “laughter or outrage,” he too has come to appreciate the practice. “As I watched these performances I came to appreciate the idea of celebrating someone’s life to help assuage the feelings of grief,” he said. (2)

One  media professor, Kuang Haiyan, hypthetisized, “According to the interpretation of cultural anthropology, the fete is originated from the worship of reproduction. Therefore the erotic performance at the funeral is just a cultural atavism.” Yep, “cultural atavism” is a nice way of saying the people living in the rural areas are backwards. Some called it a throwback to “fertility worship.” Others denounce it as an unwanted cultural import from Taiwan so having nothing to do with Chinese cultural traditions.

The Chinese government displeased with this new trend cracked down on it three times: 2006, 2015, and now 2018.  Their crackdowns target the strippers who get jailed.  The officials have installed a hotline with a reward for people who report “funeral” misdeeds in Henan, Anhui, Jiangsu and Hebei provinces. In 2015, the Ministry of Culture was determined to crush the “bizarre and increasingly popular” performances for “corrupting the social atmosphere.” (1)
The latest was triggered by a video making the internet circuit.  The Xinhua News Agency mourns, “Having erotic performances of this nature at funerals highlights the trappings of modern life in China, whereby vanity and snobbery prevail over traditions.” (1)

Trying to improve the social morale, the government opened 600,000 rural bookstores but filled them with unsalable rejects from publishers.  Not many farmers wanted to read “The Philosophy of Business Banquets.”  I wonder if the rural bookstores are actually libraries.  It’s too bad they didn’t do a study of what kind of books people actually want to read.

And before you get judgemental, think about how our Christian funeral practices might look to an outsider.  We lock a dead person into a box as if we are afraid they might leave.  (Caskets are bolted down rather than locked actually but “bolt down a dead person” doesn’t make sense linguistically so …. ). The boxes are laid out in the ground, taking up acres and acres for centuries even after no one has visited for decades piled on decades or the family has died out.  If the land becomes too valuable, the boxes get moved to a new location. Even once a deceased is cremated, they get put in a box and most of them get tucked away into niches.

Bill Standley in his glass casket, photo by AP

It is as if we think the spirit/soul is still attached to their bodies whereas we purport to believe either there is nothing (atheist) or they go to heaven or hell.  Even people who believe in ghosts tend to think ghosts haunt places or people rather than hanging around their previous body.  A small new trend has developed where people take the ashes and throw them into the sky, the sea, the river or add them to soil which would seem more logical to an outsider as then the remains are returned to nature.

Boxed dead people not strange enough for you?  Tupac’s friends smoked his ashes mixed with marijuana. Billy Standley was buried in a glass casket on his Harley. George Swanson’s wife put his urn in his Corvette’s driver’s seat so he could be buried with his beloved car. The embalmed boxer Christopher Rivera Amora stood in a corner of a boxing ring at his funeral. Or a Dallas man who loved Christmas sitting under a tree, dressed as Santa sitting in a chair.  A deceased Steelers superfan had his favorite recliner and TV taken to the funeral home so he could sit up with his remote to watch a Steeler game.  In Europe some families hire funeral clowns to cheer people up.  I don’t know though — the clowns probably would scare me after the IT movie.

So I honestly think we should not judge. We’ve got our own strange thinking going on with funerals here in the “civilized” countries.

On Amazon:

Dancing for the Dead: Funeral Strippers in Taiwan. The Perfect Stranger’s Guide to Funerals and Grieving Practices: A Guide to Etiquette in Other People’s Religious Ceremonies Funerals to Die For: The Craziest, Creepiest, and Most Bizarre Funeral Traditions and Practices Ever


Ragtag Daily Prompt
Tuesdays by Martha from I’m a Writer, Yes I am!
on Ragtag Community

The Ragtag Daily Prompt now has it’s own blog site called the “Ragtag Community“.  Each day of the week a prompt is presented by a different person.  Today’s is “atavism” by Martha of I’m a Writer, Yes I am!  Come and participate by posting writing or images evoked by the word and add your pingback or link to the comments there.  Hope to see you at Ragtag Community!

Why do some Chinese funerals involve strippers?
By Yvette Tan, BBC News , February 24, 2018

(1) China vows to crack down on rural custom of hiring strippers for funerals
By Hu Yuwei,, Feburary 20, 2018

China to stamp out ‘funeral strippers,’ a modern tradition originating in Taiwan 
By Duncan DeAeth,Taiwan News, February 25, 2018

In Taiwan They Have Strippers at Funerals
by Chloe Cross, Vice, October 5, 2012

(2)  Taiwan’s funeral strippers dance for a dead crowd
by Cyriaque Lamar, io9, July 9, 2011

The 13 strangest funerals – where the corpse attended their own ceremony NOT in a coffin: Funerals homes are being asked more often to help families have a funeral where the deceased can attend
By Amanda Killelea, Mirror, March 12, 2016

12 Strange Funerals and Funeral Traditions
By Amanda Green, Mental Floss, January 11, 2016

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