Spirit Marriage & Phantom Heroines: From Chinese Literature to East Asian Film & Media

7:00–9:00 pm
​LT1 Swire Hall, CUHK


Prof. Judith Zeitlin, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor in the Department of East Asian Languages & Civilizations and the College, will explore how the age-old Chinese ritual of spirit marriage is imaginatively reconfigured in traditional tales of the strange and visually transformed in film and TV. “Spirit marriage” (youhun 幽婚、minghun 冥婚) refers to the custom of arranging a posthumous marriage for a son or daughter who died unmarried. The influence of spirit marriage is often evident in the literary tradition of the ghost romance, in certain tales where a female ghost enters into a sexual liaison with a human male. 

Rather than simply reading such ghost stories as vestiges of this cultural practice, the talk argues that the interest of such narratives lies in their ability to animate ritual fictions, to play out the imagined consequences of ritual actions. Film and TV provide a particularly fertile medium for reinterpreting spirit marriage to explore issues of contemporary relevance such as colonialism and gender non-conformity.

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