Chinese “Body Fishers”: The Business of Selling Corpses Pulled from the Yellow River

A Lanzhou business journal wrote in 2006 about a local firm that got a call from a body fisher who’d found a corpse floating in the river with employee identification. When a company representative, identified only by the surname Wang, went to collect the body, he was told that it would cost 200 yuan (about $30) to view the face and 6,000 yuan ($895) to take the dead man away. Wang and the body fisher argued, finally settling on 4,000 yuan ($597). The news article expressed outrage at the situation and quoted police as saying there’d be a crackdown, something that almost four years later has yet to happen.

Body fishing is by all accounts a thriving business in Gansu province; practitioners advertise their names and phone numbers by painting them on the sides of buildings near the river. Chinese newspapers and news websites have run stories recently about body fishers working from the southwest mega-city of Chonqing to the eastern coastal province of Shandong.