The Problem of Strippers at Funerals

The Problem of Strippers at Funerals February 22, 2018

In China, a large attendance at a funeral is a way to honor the dead.  So to increase the number of people who come to the funeral, families are hiring singers, comedians, and even strippers.  The government, concerned with the effect on public morals, is cracking down on the strippers.  I bring this up for a reason. . . .

From The Independent (UK):

China has launched a fresh crackdown on funeral strippers.

The Ministry of Culture said it would target “obscene, pornographic and vulgar performances” at funerals and weddings.

It followed reports in the state run Global Times newspaper about roaring crowds, applauding and cursing as women performed at funerals. . . .

Some rural communities in China believe hiring performers can increase attendance at funerals, with high attendance seen as a way of honouring the deceased.

In a bid to show off their disposable income and boost numbers, some households pay out more than their annual incomes for strippers, but also actors, singers and comedians, the Global Times reported.

Scantily clad women in sexy lingerie and revealing clothes showing off their bodies in front an electronic screen displaying a black-and-white headshot of the deceased with text reading “We offer profound condolences for the death of this man” are now a modern part of funerals in some rural areas of China. . . .
It has been a long tradition for Chinese rural residents to hire local opera performers for funerals to allure mourners and show respect to the deceased. By hiring performers, people can ensure a higher turnout at the deceased’s funeral as a way of honoring the dead and showing “filial piety.” . . .
A journalist from the China Society Journal investigated erotic funerals in eastern Anhui Province in 2006, finding that some clever merchants had started to recruit young, sexy girls as funeral entertainment. Opera singers soon lost their market as more and more locals became fascinated with striptease and shibamo (eighteen touches), a traditional Chinese folk song that is flirtatious, bawdy and erotic in nature. . . .

On social media, many critics say the current countryside is fully corroded and was invaded by low culture and vulgar elements.

But the villagers themselves do not seem guilt-ridden about the erotic events. According to one netizen, it all comes down to one thing: “as long as everyone’s happy, it’s all good!” . . .

As early as the Qing Dynasty, China has had a tradition of entertaining mourners at funerals. Especially among certain ethnic minorities, such as the Tujia people, there is a tradition of “being happy at the funeral but sad at the wedding.”

But the striptease was only added to the funeral entertainment menu in the 1990s. Experts partly attribute such a phenomenon to fertility worship.

Whether having strippers at funerals is an intrusion of modern decadence into venerable traditions or whether it is a “cultural atavism” going back to the fertility religions, the still-Communist government has proclaimed that it will henceforth be “severely punished.”  I am curious about the “happy at the funeral but sad at the wedding” custom.  Note, though, that strippers are also becoming common at weddings, which works against the traditionalist explanations.
I am pretty sure that all Christians and most non-Christian Americans would consider strippers at a funeral to be a violation of decorum. And yet, I have been to funerals, as well as weddings, that feature what I consider to be much less extreme but still painful violations of decorum.  And the principle “as long as everyone’s happy, it’s all good” is commonly applied in this country as well as rural China.
If strippers are not appropriate at funerals and weddings, what else is inappropriate?
If funerals should project a certain solemn, reflective mood, punctuated perhaps with moments of happy memories and the joy of hope, can we agree that a worship service, say, should be conducted in a mood of reverence and awe?
Photo, “Coca-Cola Coffin,” by Emilio Labrador via Flickr, Creative Commons License
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