By October 25, 2007, the
figure of unidentified corpses held in Guangzhou funeral parlors
amounted to 1,855, according to the Guangzhou Funeral and Interment
Service Center. Furthermore, in the city's crematorium, some 6,000
funeral urns still remain unclaimed. The Guangzhou Daily
reported from east China's Guangdong Province.
The preservation and
treatment of numerous unidentified bodies and unclaimed funeral
urns consumes plenty of manpower and material resources annually.
To regulate the management of the funeral and interment industry,
authorities in Guangzhou have recently issued the Administrative
Methods on Cremains Management (hereinafter referred to as the
Administrative Methods). This document states that the body and
bone ash kept in funeral parlors and crematoriums shall be cremated
or buried if no one comes to claim them within a prescribed period
of time. The Administrative Methods ruling goes into effect as of
December 1, 2007. The proper authorities are now appealing to the
public to claim the bodies of their dead friends or relatives as
early as possible.
Every year, funeral
parlors in Guangzhou receive 1,600 or more unidentified bodies. Of
them, some were not permanent residents in Guangzhou; some died in
accidents like drowning, traffic accidents or murder; and some were
even foreigners. All of these unfortunates had no identity
documents on them when they died.
Previously, there were
no rules in Guangzhou regulating management of such bodies and bone
ashes. When the bodies of unidentified foreigners were sent to
funeral parlors, morticians sought help from the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs. Despite all the efforts they made, currently there
are still bodies of foreigners waiting to be identified.
With regard to bone
ashes, according to the statistics from 2001 to 2005, more than
8,000 unidentified funeral urns have been sent to the Guangzhou
Municipal Crematorium and have been stored there ever
Even under freezing
conditions, a body would decompose after 15 days. To preserve all
these bodies and funeral urns, the Guangzhou funeral and interment
department spends over eight million yuan every year.
In Guangzhou funeral
parlors, although various aseptic treatments have been given to the
unidentified bodies, the bodies will not always be easy to
identify. In particular, when people perish in car accidents, fires
or other disasters, funeral parlors must apply additional
treatments to these bodies in an attempt to restore a normal
appearance to the corpse.
In the crematorium,
there are two warehouses earmarked specially for the unclaimed
funeral urns. Some of them have been sitting since 2003; some
looked rather luxurious and expensive.
Currently, the Guangzhou
Municipal Crematorium has no more room for unclaimed funeral urns.
Even though the crematorium buried some of the long unclaimed in
2002, the crematorium's vacant rooms were soon fully occupied
Moreover, since the
Chinese people hold a strong tradition of showing respect for the
dead, funeral and interment department staff members are quite
reluctant to cremate a body or bury a funeral urn when the identity
of the decreased is unknown. Frequently they exert great efforts to
keep these bodies and funeral urns for as long as
Authorities plan to post
information about the first group of unidentified bodies and
unclaimed funeral urns on the city's funeral parlor website. The
same notice will also be put up on the gate of the Guangzhou
Funeral and Interment Service Center (also known as Yinheyuan to
unidentified bodies of foreigners, authorities revealed that the
Ministry of Civil Affairs, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and
other related departments are cooperating together to find an
appropriate way to solve the problem.
According to the
Administrative Methods, the funeral parlor (or crematorium) shall
keep bone ash at no charge for 30 days after the body is cremated.
A preservation fee will be charged thereafter. When the bone ash is
not claimed within six months after cremation, the funeral parlor
(or crematorium) shall issue a public notice seeking relatives of
the deceased. If no one comes to claim the bone ash within 30 days
after the posting, the funeral parlor (or crematorium) shall bury
the remains after undertaking due registration
(China.org.cn by Chen
Xia, October 30, 2007)