Ghost bride
Ghost marriages are common in China's mining communities [wiki commons].

A man in China has been executed for murdering a pregnant woman to sell her body as a "ghost bride".

Wang Hairong strangled the woman, known only as Luo, in May 2011 and then sold her body for 22,000 yuan (£2,300) so her body could be used in a so-called ghost marriage.

He was executed in the northern province of Shaanxi earlier this week, Legal Daily said.

Wang and two accomplices persuaded the woman to accept a lift in their car. They took her to a remote spot and killed her, the court heard.

They drove to a nearby town to sell the body to a family as a corpse bride for their dead son. Wang received 14,000 yuan for his part in the murder and the other two received 4,000 yuan each.

While the practice of ghost weddings is becoming increasingly rare in China, they are still carried out in parts of Shaanxi.

Earlier this year, four people were jailed for digging up corpses and selling them to families as ghost brides.

Ghost weddings take place when a young adult son dies before he is married. The belief is that a ghost bride will keep him company in the afterlife, protecting his family from misfortune.

A wedding ceremony is conducted and his body is then interred with that of the dead woman.

In 2012, it was reported that a revival of the tradition was fuelling a trade in bodies. It is thought this is particularly prominent in northern coalmining communities where men outnumber women and work in dangerous and often life-threatening jobs.

A fresh body can command high prices. Song Tiantang, who was arrested for strangling and selling six women as ghost brides in 2007, explained: "Killing people and selling their bodies is less work than stealing them from graves."

Ghost marriages have been illegal since 1949.