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This Netflix Show Is Based On A Real-Life Old Tradition Of Ghost Marriages In Malaysia

'The Ghost Bride' tells the story of a girl who is asked to marry the recently deceased son of a wealthy family.

Cover image via Netflix Asia/YouTube

Launching on 23 January 2020, 'The Ghost Bride' is an original Netflix series that features Malaysian settings and culture, and we couldn't be more excited to watch it!

Check out the exciting trailer below:

Adapted from a book of the same name and set in 1890s Melaka, the story revolves around Li Lan, a girl who is asked to marry the recently deceased son of the wealthy Lim family.

Doing so will save her family from a lifetime of debt, but doom Li Lan to spend the rest of her life haunted by a ghost husband. In her efforts to escape her dark fate, she soon finds herself trapped in an otherworldly kingdom where things are never as they seem.

The idea of a living person having to marry a ghost may sound terrifying and like it's completely made up, but ghost marriages are actually a legit thing

'The Ghost Bride' is adapted from a book of the same name, which is Malaysian author Yangsze Choo's bestselling debut novel. In her book's notes section on Goodreads, she details how she drew inspiration for the concept from various real stories about ghost marriages.

"Growing up, I once read a local newspaper story about the occurrence of such a marriage. This was so bizarre that I thought about it for a long time afterwards. Who decided to participate in such a ritual? And what did it mean to them; what sort of lives did they lead?"

Yangsze Choo, author of 'The Ghost Bride'.

Image via Options, The Edge

"Later, I heard more stories about ghost marriage. Usually, the dead married the dead (one of my Singaporean friends told me that his uncle had been married to another ghost in a proper ceremony, with all the food, costumes, and trappings), but more rarely, the living married the dead."

"I’d been working on a different novel for eight years prior to writing The Ghost Bride (I’m a very slow writer), and one day, I was reminded of this strange practice of marrying dead people. I sat down and wrote the first chapter of this novel, very much as you see it right now."

Ghost marriages aren't just a Malaysian thing, they take place all around the world in different forms

For example, France has been practicing posthumous marriage since 1959, and South Sudan also has their own type of ghost marriages.

It's not all just back in the day either, there have been some modern day instances of it too. According to Malay Mail, there was a string of grave robberies in rural Shanxi province in 2016, due to the resurfacing of ghost marriages.

Another incident was reported on by The Star, in which a paranormal TV show produced by Hong Kong Cable TV faced backlash in 2013 for trying to boost ratings by arranging ghost marriages for deceased celebrities.

The version we see in 'The Ghost Bride' is Chinese ghost marriages. Besides Malaysia, this version is also carried out in countries like China and Hong Kong.

In Chinese tradition, a ghost marriage is a marriage in which one or both parties are deceased. They are usually set up by the family member of the deceased, and take place for a few different reasons.

Here are some of the usual reasons for a ghost marriage:

  • The couple was previously engaged before the death of one person. The bride or groom can choose to go through with the marriage to their deceased fiancée.
  • To integrate an unmarried daughter into a patrilineage. This was done for both deceased and living Chinese women who either passed away before they could marry or chose to remain unmarried.
  • In the case that a family's son dies before getting married, a ghost marriage is carried out to provide him with his own descendants and ensure the continuation of the family line.
  • Upon request by the deceased. Their spirit may appear to a family member in a dream and request a spouse, or they could cause misfortune unto the family until their marriage is carried out.
  • To ensure that no younger brother is married before his elder brother, as per Chinese custom. If the groom has an older, deceased brother, a ghost marriage may be arranged just before the groom's wedding.

The ghost marriage in 'The Ghost Bride' seems to fall under the fourth category

In the book, it is Tian Ching (the Lim family's deceased son) himself who requests the ghost marriage to Li Lan, having wanted to marry her ever since he saw her at a festival before his death.

He repeatedly haunts her dreams, attempting to woo her through them and insisting that she will be his bride (despite her refusals) every time they "meet".

As you can probably tell, Li Lan is the heart of the series, with the entire show centering around her journey

From the very start, it is her journey that we follow, as she attempts to navigate through this strange new world and come to terms with everything she discovers.

Emerging Taiwanese actress Huang Peijia who plays Li Lan, says that the character is "a little unique." According to her, Li Lan is "fascinated with this world and its infinite possibilities."

As the story continues to unfold, audiences will find themselves both relating to and rooting for this strong-willed female lead who refuses to simply accept her fate and actively attempts to save herself.

Will Li Lan end up going through with her ghost marriage or will she find a way out? Watch how everything unfolds on 23 January 2020 when 'The Ghost Bride' releases on Netflix!

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