An Dongliang, 79, wants his remains buried under a tree when he dies, and signed an agreement recently to ensure this happens.
The retired teacher of Hebei Normal University thought it would be eco-friendly and simple, but he refuses to be buried in the only tree burial area in Shuangfengshan Cemetery.
"Shuangfengshan Cemetery is a profit-making place. Though it provides tree burial services, the high funeral charges, land resources wasting and environmental pollution as a result of relatives burned joss sticks and fake paper money for memorial in a traditional way, make it far from the burial that I want," said An.
The tree burial area covers an area of 10 mu (about 6,700 square meters) at the cemetery in Shijiazhuang, provincial capital of Hebei.
A cemetery worker said the ashes of the deceased will be buried between two trees with a headstone in a less than 1 square meter of graveyard. The burial services will cost 18,000 yuan (2,900 U.S. dollars) in total.
But An wants no gravestone, no pit, only for his ashes to be buried under a tree and, hanging from it, his name on a little plate.
He found an ideal place, near a riverbank and considered investing some money to build it into a non-profit tree burial cemetery, but he was told that it would be illegal to do so by the local funeral department.
The government has recently been promoting eco-friendly burials -- like scattering ashes at sea or burying them under trees -- as it wants to conserve land and protect the environment.
But people still prefer to be buried in the ground.
A collective niche graveyard for placing ash caskets in Shanghai only received one "customer" after it opened in 2008.
Moreover, a 1,000-square-meter tree burial cemetery in Shanghai only has 12 people's remains buried in it while it has had more than 2,000 available pits since 2008.
Shanghai began to advocate green burials, or natural burials early in 1980s. So far, 80 percent of burials are still conventional inhumation, 19 percent were tree, niche and bio-degradable burials, and 1 percent were sea burials, according to Lu Chunling, an official with the Shanghai Bureau of Civil Affairs.
According to official statistics, Shanghai has held 188 collective sea burials over the past 21 years, scattered ashes of 23,455 dead. Thus, about 35,000 square meters of lands have been remained and 10,000-cubic-meter stone materials have been saved.
To encourage eco-friendly burials, relevant departments have made some efforts to offer free or low-price services in the 44 cemeteries in Shanghai to residents, especially the poor and low-income people.
"Nevertheless, the occupancy rate of the new burials accounts less than five percent," said Wang Hongjie, president of Shanghai Funeral and Interment Trade Association.
While An was still expecting to perfect his life in an environmental-friendly way, the deputy secretary of the funeral industry association of Hebei, Zhang Tiejun said An's efforts might be in vain.
Zhang said even though the country advocates green burials, there's no detailed regulations to realize non-profit green burials in cities as land resources, management and security cannot be ensured.
"People cannot bury ashes under any tree at random, that must be strictly forbidden," Zhang added.
An said he hoped that government and relevant departments should conduct coordinated enforcement to curb the profit chain in the funeral industry and carry out some pragmatic actions to support the green burials.