Funeral strippers in Taiwan


A female dancer performs at a club in the Chung-Li area of Taoyuan county, north of Taipei in northern Taiwan on April 3, 2010.


Sam Yeh

Funeral stripping in Taiwan isn't new.

By some accounts, it's been going on since the 1800s. In the '50s and '60s, nobody would have dared report the practice, but hel-lo internet!

The more titillating the better.

But as the practice becomes more widely known, many Taiwanese have begun to voice their discontent. It was all right, so long as nobody in other countries noticed, the logic goes, but it's quite another matter to have funeral strippers associated with the Taiwan's image abroad.

What the practice consists of is basically what you'd see at a strip club — scantily clad dancers gyrating around poles, flashing lights and blaring pop music — except it's on the back of what they call "electric flower cars," which are basically floats like you'd see in a parade.

What could be a better send off?

(GlobalPost in Shanghai: Pole-dancing steps into the spotlight in China)

By many accounts, Taiwan's take on religion can be quite casual. Worship usually consists of an amalgam of Buddhist, Taoist and folk traditions. Temples are rowdy places, with cell phone ring tones mixing with the clacking sound of divination blocks hitting the ground.

In a new documentary, "Dancing for the Dead: Funeral strippers in Taiwan," Marc L. Moskowitz, an anthropology professor at the University of South Carolina, puts funeral stripping in this religious and cultural context.

Like many things in Taiwan, funeral strippers can be traced back to gangsters.

(GlobalPost in Taipei: Taiwan's gangsters are real-life Sopranos)

Moskowitz told the Taipei Times that it has to do with gangsters flaunting their power in the face of authority.

To a certain extent they are saying: Look at what we can get away with. It attests to their symbolic capital. On one of the occasions that I was filming there were police videotaping and I was backstage and I told the manager that the police were there with a camera. He had this sort of mischievous smile on his face and he said, “You know, we are fine. We are not going to cross over any boundaries.”

Watch a trailer from the doc: