Chinese authorities are cracking down on the practice of hiring strippers as funeral entertainment, a technique some rural families use to increase the turnout at a loved one’s final farewell.
The country’s Ministry of Culture said late last month it would be targeting “striptease” and other “obscene, pornographic and vulgar performances” at funerals and other gatherings across Henan, Anhui, Jiangsu and Hebei provinces.
It has urged witnesses to call a special hotline to report any performances, with rewards on offer for informants, according to the state-run Global Times newspaper.
“The crowd is pushed to climax, roaring with laughter, whistling, applauding and cursing,” state media said.
“As the performers saunter into the audience to jiggle their breasts and rub men’s crotches, a reminder of ‘no photographs allowed’ can occasionally be heard.”
Hiring entertainment for funerals is a longstanding practice in rural China, as ensuring a high number of mourners attend the ceremony is a way of showing respect to the dead, the Global Times reported.
“Chinese rural households are more inclined to show off their disposable incomes by paying out several times their annual income for actors, singers, comedians, and — most recently, strippers — to comfort the bereaved and entertain the mourners,” state media said.
Strippers are also sometimes hired for weddings and temple fairs.
‘Fertility worship’ or ‘cultural atavism’?
An expert quoted in the newspaper partly attributed the practice of hiring exotic dancers to “fertility worship”, as the erotic elements at funerals “convey the deceased’s wishes of being blessed with many children”.
“According to the interpretation of cultural anthropology, the fete is originated from the worship of reproduction,” another media expert said.
“Therefore the erotic performance at the funeral is just a cultural atavism.”
This is also not the first time China has tried to stamp out the practice.
In 2015 two villages in the provinces of Hebei and Jiangsu made headlines with viral photos of strippers at funerals inviting “grieving” men to come on stage and undress them — seniors and children are seen standing nearby watching attentively.
The Ministry of Culture also released a similar statement to this report in 2015 describing the hiring of strippers at funerals as “uncivilised”, Xinhua news agency reported at the time.
The BBC also reported a similar crack down in Jiangsu province in 2006, which saw five striptease troupe leaders detained by authorities.