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Shanghai Considers Change to Cemetery Plots
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ASH box storage plots may be two-thirds smaller than before at Shanghai's cemeteries starting later this year, the funeral industry watchdog said yesterday.

The original standard allowed two boxes to be buried in one plot measuring three square meters. The plot will be downsized to one square meter - still for two boxes.

"Land is so scarce," said Liu Chunlin, director of the Shanghai Funeral Administration Bureau. "If we don't make the holes smaller, soon everyone will have to scatter their ashes in the ocean."

The central government promoted cremation 50 years ago. The national cremation rate is about 51 percent. But the rate in Shanghai reached 100 percent in 1999.

"The city has run out of big open land for cemeteries," Liu said.

According to the bureau, there will be no burial space in less than 10 years, if the space is kept at three square meters.

Details of the plan are still being discussed. Liu said the bureau wasn't sure how the public would react if the city carried out the plan.

The annul Qing Ming Festival, or tomb sweeping day, is on April 5. But many people will set out a few days earlier or later. The high season is said to be from April 1 to 10. Seven million people are estimated to visit the tombs of ancestors during the festival, 200,000 more than last year, according to the bureau.

To prevent chaos and fire, firecrackers are banned at all cemeteries this year. Instead people will be given free flowers and balloons.

In addition free doggy bags will be available to help keep cemeteries clean. According to tradition, people leave a cooked dish on the headstone for the dead to eat. The food usually spoils.

The bureau hopes visitors will make the food offering, but put it in the doggy bag when they leave.

(Shanghai Daily March 15, 2006)

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