Most would consider a traditional funeral service to feature mourning, commemorations, prayers, and rituals including gift-giving. Gifts may include flowers, mementos, money and things of that sort. Customs certainly vary between cultures and religious affiliations. However, if we search far and beyond we may be surprised by some of the funeral practices we discover. Let us turn our attention to say, East Asia. Interestingly enough, in the rural parts of Taiwan, a typical funeral service involves colorful lights, loud hollering and showgirls, or more commonly known as funeral strippers. Now, most would find that funerals and stripping should have no relation whatsoever. I would also assume that many would question how funeral stripping is in any way beneficial to the memory of the deceased. According to Taiwanese culture, death should encourage members of society to celebrate, rather than persistently mourn the loss of a loved one. Pole dancing and stripping in front of men, women, children, and the dead corpse, during the funeral procession, is another method of ancestral worship. Funeral stripping is a common practice used to help overcome the grieving process, honor the dead person and most importantly to “appease the wandering spirits,” the latter reason often the most quoted.
There has certainly been a considerable amount of opposition towards this Taiwanese practice, including from those who reside in the urban centers of Taiwan. There have been efforts to ban funeral stripping in Taiwan. Many claim that those who either engage in or approve of such practices are clearly struggling with the separation between sexuality and religion. The Young Turks, an online show, covered a story on this ritual practice and hosts, Ana Kasparian and Steve Oh, brought up a very good point as to why this ritualistic practice became so popular in rural Taiwan. They stated that urban centers do not need funeral strippers because plenty of sexual outlets are available to the public at their discretion. Rural areas, on the other hand, are not as developed as their counterparts and are perhaps more sexually deprived therefore it is no wonder the opportunity to include sexuality in traditional funeral customs was rapidly embraced. In fact, those who participate in funeral stripping claim that this ritual is not only an offering to gods and dead spirits but it also makes for a more entertaining and memorable experience.
Click here for TheYoung Turk story on funeral stripping in Taiwan:
The concept of anti-structure definitely applies to this ritual performed by funeral strippers. This practice was carefully planned to take place during a very serious and traditionally structured ceremony. As we now have been informed, many cultures find that it is during this time of death and the preparation of the dead corpse, chaos and disorder, typically considered to be unacceptable, become part of the norm. Individuals do not have to seek approval to exhibit irrational behavior. The death of a person can be a very depressing and emotional period for those related to or in some way impacted by the deceased. I am certain the usual perception of mourning is not completely absent from Taiwanese funerals. However, Taiwanese funerals are more so characterized by very abnormal social conduct, or anti-structure. Although this practice is considered taboo in many communities, those who acknowledge this practice find it essential and extremely valuable to their traditional funeral rites.
Please refer to the following Huffington Post article for more details about Taiwanese funeral stripping: