Drop Dead Sexy

By Cao Siqi Source:Global Times Published: 2015-4-2 20:38:01

Some village funerals featuring strip shows

Villagers, including kids, watch a strip show at a funeral in Cheng'an county, Hebei Province. Photo: Courtesy of Zhang

During this year's Spring Festival holidays, a man surnamed Zhang watched a strip show somewhere he didn't expect, at a funeral in his hometown in Cheng'an county, Hebei Province.

"Two strippers wearing revealing clothes danced on a stage at a public square in our village at night on February 15. They first danced passionately and then took off their clothes piece by piece. Behind them, an electronic screen was displaying a picture of the deceased with elegiac couplets on either side," Zhang told the Global Times Tuesday.

Zhang took several pictures of the hot show and posted them online on March 23, which quickly triggered a storm of discussion and questions among Net users and media outlets.

One question on everyone's minds: How have funerals, which are supposed to be sad and solemn, gradually been reduced to a mere strip show or other vulgar performances in recent years in some rural areas? The phenomenon has raised concerns over how to supervise and shut down the illegal performances.

Hot strip tease

"In recent years, our village has seen a lot of shows like this, since we have a tradition of holding large funerals, especially on the three-year anniversary [of the person's death]," said Zhang. "It is really shocking." 

As Zhang describes it, at about 7 pm on a recent evening, a performance troupe set up a stage in the village's public square, with loud dancing and music attracting hundreds of villagers.

A male host then played funeral music and introduced the deceased to the crowd. After that, strippers stepped onto the stage and began to sing and dance. The host sometimes interacted with the dancers with sexually-suggestive acts such as touching their breasts.

"The dancer took off her bra and several layers of panties, stopping at the last one," said Zhang.

Pictures posted online showed local villagers, including elderly people and children, standing in front of the stage, watching the show attentively. Strippers wearing sexy dresses and boots danced while young children stood by the stage watching her.

Behind the stripper, an electronic screen hung from a backdrop showed a picture of the deceased. Text at the bottom of the screen read, "we offer profound condolences for the death of Mr Chang."

During the performance, the host also announced to the public that the show was sponsored by Chang's daughter, "as a way to show off his large family," said Zhang, adding that many villagers were accustomed to the shows, while others felt it was inappropriate, and refused to let their children watch.

Zhang said that the show cost 3,000 yuan ($480) as it was held during the Spring Festival holidays, saying that the shows are cheaper at other times of the year.

Growing popularity

On Tuesday, the Cheng'an county government denied that any funeral strip shows had been performed in any villages under its administration, while the government of Handan, which administers Cheng'an county, confirmed the incident to the Global Times.

"We are investigating the case but did not find the village that the Net user exposed online," an employee at the Cheng'an publicity department told the Global Times.

Zhang added that the performance group in question does business in local villages, and that the performers have local accents.

Meanwhile, the performing group "Rose Song and Dance Troupe" could not be reached for comment as of press time.

Similar shows are a frequent occurrence in villages across China.

A performer surnamed Wang, the organizer of a song and dance troupe in Shuyang county, Jiangsu Province was detained by local police for organizing and performing strip dances at funerals, reported the Jiangsu-based news portal xichu.net on March 10.

"Dancers conducted erotic performances on the stage with sexual organs exposed and imitating sexual acts. There were five hundred residents, including women and children, causing a powerful negative impact," a police officer Tang Jinyang told xichu.net.

Stopping uncivilized practices

Zhang also expressed his confusion about the changes, saying that local residents used to hire Henan Opera performers or play films at funeral ceremony. However, strip dances are gradually becoming a custom, with local residents spending large sums of money to show off to others.   

"[People feel like] if they don't do the same thing, others would think the deceased has no family members, and it's a shame that they'll pass away so quietly [with no one mourning them]," Zhang told Global Times.

Organizing strip show or other pornographic performances is illegal in China. China's Criminal Law stipulates that recruiting, forcing, seducing or allowing others to conduct pornographic performances is punishable by up to 10 years in jail. Any shows that generate profit without a government-issued license are forbidden.

State cultural authorities and the Public Security Ministry have launched several campaigns since 2002 to crack down on strip performances, forbidding any advertisement to attract audiences, reported the China News Service.

However, the cleanup does not appear to have been completely successful.

Insufficient supervision by local authorities is a key reason that such campaigns have been ineffective, said Xie Zhiyong, a law professor at the China University of Political Science and Law.

"Some authorities even indulge or tacitly permit the performance as they accept bribes or have relationships with the performing groups," Xie said.

Experts suggested that judicial organs and higher level public security authorities should strengthen their supervision of grass-roots officials and more harshly punish any violators.

Moreover, experts also noted that a lack of cultural activities in villages may have triggered the popularity of some pornographic shows.

Local authorities should try to maintain and promote excellent local cultural traditions and foster new entertainment activities to enrich villagers' lives, which could be a better way of preventing the spread of pornographic shows, said Xiao Fang, a professor at Beijing Normal University.

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