I think most Chinese would agree that the further from the center of political life the better. People living in capital cities have always been under more scrutiny so they tend to be more conservative when it comes to behavior. Living in some of the bigger cities, they also tend to see themselves as more modern and less superstitious.
So it’s no wonder that when the topic of wedding and funeral dancers (read strippers) comes up, big city people roll their eyes in disgust (they don’t actually roll their eyes but instead let out a kind of a nervous ‘How did you learn about that?” laugh). As I have mentioned before, people perform rituals and, a lot of the time, have forgotten why. I figure most city dwellers hearing about these countryside rituals just assume they are some new degrading and perverted custom of country-bumpkins (known as ‘SPP’ or ‘LKK’ in Taiwan).
I, on the other hand, am not so sure. I think it’s really easy to dismiss these kinds of customs as rude or vulgar but even Western society has linked naked women to fertility (the purpose of marriage in a lot of people's minds). Also, we know from Chinese custom that various paper household items such as cars, washing machines etc. are burnt at funerals (mostly of rich people now I am told since this practice is very expensive) for use in the afterlife. So why is it so improbable that the dancer custom could represent a final farewell to earthly pleasures.
These ideas are ‘fleshed’ out by funeral research:
Another mention and stripper theory is here:
http://farfromfrostburg.blogspot.com/ farfromfrostburg (see: What to wear to a Taiwanese funeral)
We, the Chinese included, tend to associate funerals with quiet and somber moods. But we also know of upbeat customs such as New Orleans style funerals. So I don’t think the researchers’ assumptions are so far-fetched.
What I would really like to know is how far back these customs go. Are they just a recent development or are there ancient precedents?
On a more upbeat note, I was able to experience some ‘electric flower cart’ dancers recently at a wedding of one of my ‘relative-in-laws’ in PingDong county in the south of Taiwan. People genuinely had fun at the performance, even the kids!