Superstitions that led a man to steam his wife to death

By Neil Connor

Beijing is waging a war against superstition, having vowed to eradicate poverty and improve education among the country's alienated rural citizenry. Photo / AP
Beijing is waging a war against superstition, having vowed to eradicate poverty and improve education among the country's alienated rural citizenry. Photo / AP

After other black magic rituals failed to cure his wife's ailments, Yan Yingmao relented to the Chinese witch doctors' wishes: she would be steamed alive until the "ghosts" were dispelled from her body.

The two men who had been "treating" the woman proceeded to place her inside a wooden barrel suspended over a large vat of slowly boiling water.

"She seemed okay at first," said Yan, who lives in the remote village of Guangyuan deep in the mountains of south-western China.

As scalding vapour began to pass through the barrel, "the screaming began", Yan said. He remonstrated with the two witch doctors to stop. "But they said it was the sound of demons leaving her body," he said.

After pulling her blackened body from the barrel and cradling her in his arms, he knew it was too late. "I looked at her face, and it was purple.

She told me she wouldn't make it," said Yan, 45.

The pair of witch doctors then slipped away and ran to the green mountains surrounding the family home, but were later arrested.

This incident in Sichuan province shows how belief in the supernatural and adherence to ancient rituals still runs deep in rural China.

Beijing is waging a war against superstition, having vowed to eradicate poverty and improve education among the country's alienated rural citizenry.

But people living in Yan's community speak openly of their belief in the power of spiritual healing for physical ailments, while some blame "ghosts" or "devils" in the body for health defects.

The death of Yan's wife - whose name he would not disclose - follows other lethal "exorcisms" in China.

In the southern island of Hainan, three brothers were charged with murder in 2013 after they killed their mother in attempt to treat her painful joints.

Gao Yongchuan, a self-proclaimed "legendary doctor subordinate to the Jade Emperor, Taoist ruler of heaven" had force-fed the 61-year-old woman with a concoction of distilled liquor and the blood of pigs, chicken and dogs.

When she fell unconscious, he ordered her sons to beat her to death, burn the body and bury it. She would then climb from the ground, he promised them.

China's booming coastal cities have also witnessed extreme "healing". In 2013 a self-styled "ghostbuster' persuaded a woman to sleep with him by saying that he could only exorcise her demons with his penis.

Those accused of committing crimes through "dispelling ghosts" have been accused of distorting the art of shamanism. Shamans, or "spirit masters", are considered by some communities to be the intermediary between the spiritual and human worlds, often offering advice in the form of fortune telling.

Yan now lives in despair, trying to cope with the loss of the mother of his two children, and also the guilt that he was partly responsible for her death. "I would have rather died than let this happen. How could I have intentionally killed my wife," he said.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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