A Taiwanese politician’s funeral featuring 50 pole dancers is the talk of the Chinese internet this week. Each of the Jeeps in Tung Hsiang’s funeral procession on Tuesday was equipped with a vertical pole and a dancer.
It also had a drumming troupe, more than 100 imported luxury cars, performers dressed as gods and giant puppets.
A Taiwanese town may have lost their popular local councilor, but they won’t soon forget his funeral. Hsiang’s son said his father appeared in a dream and told him he wanted his memorial to be “hilarious,” according to CNN affiliate SET TV.
Erotic dancers would be a little.. awkward at a Western funeral, but in Chinese and Taiwanese society there’s a tradition of celebrating someone’s life with entertainment. The quality of the deceased’s afterlife is apparently influenced by the attendance at his funeral, so having five people mourn by your grave might result in a grim reincarnation.
If you’ve got 5,000 people in attendance, however, your chance of reaching Nirvana multiplies. Since it’s hard to beat strippers as a crowd draw, hiring some to dance at your funeral became increasingly popular in (rural, poorer) Taiwan. A lively and noisy celebration doesn’t just “gives face” to families during a funeral, it is also a status symbol for temple practitioners who attract large crowds to their event.
The tradition started 20 years ago when the Taiwanese mafia got a chokehold on the island’s funeral business. They offered strippers from their clubs for a cut rate to anyone who booked a funeral with them.
Scantily clad women on “electric flower cars” (電子花車, diesel trucks refashioned with a stage and special lighting), would gyrate to pop songs to send off the recently deceased — with a smile?
The original idea was that, besides attracting extra mourners, the strippers would act as gifts to lower gods. Lower gods are believed to still quite human in the vice department, such as gambling and womanizing.
Marc L. Moskowitz, who made the documentary “Dancing for the Dead: Funeral Strippers in Taiwan” points out:
there is something quite pleasing about wanting to celebrate someone’s life rather than mourn their passing at a funeral…in many ways the practice speaks to a conception of the world in which the living and the dead are not really that far apart. But these events are providing live entertainment for a group of people who would normally be excluded from, say a live performance of Taiwan’s latest pop songs, because they couldn’t afford to buy a ticket.
The American ‘Funk the News’ even made a feature song about strippers at Chinese funerals.
In China, the government has officially forbidden villagers to hire strip dancers at local village funerals. The Chinese seem to be enjoying the party, anyway.
“Now this is what I call a funeral!” wrote one user of China’s version of Twitter, known as Weibo.
Another person joked: “The city’s residents are asking: please die one more time!”
H/T: BBC News
Siobhan is a freelance writer, research addict and lover of twisted history. If you like horrible but amazing history, check out her website www.interesly.com or Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/interesly. Or you can reach her through www.siobhanoshea.com.