Grave situation

0 CommentsPrint E-mail China Daily, December 4, 2010
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A grave can indicate the wealth of the person buried in it. Rich people who live in luxurious villas and are high up on the economic and social ladder want a magnificent final resting place, too.

The cost of dying was always high in human terms. Today it is also high in monetary terms, because funerals have become big business. The industry built around death is growing every year, as is the cost of funerals.

In some areas, the cost of a grave is as high as that of a villa. It would be no exaggeration to say that the funeral industry is robbing the living of the duty to bury their dead.

The decision of some local authorities - in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, for example - to demarcate areas for cemeteries where the cost of burying the dead would be low has come late. But it's better than never.

Tending the grave of one's parents is the foundation of Chinese family traditions. But the cost of burying one's loved one today is beyond many people's reach.

Chinese emperors had the power and luxury to select their own burial sites complete with tombs and mausoleums while they were still alive. Common people never had that power or luxury, but they could at least bury their loved ones in graves. But with cemeteries turning into business, many people cannot afford to do so today.

Incomes have increased, so has spending on funerals. It is not unusual to see a rich family spend the equivalent of several years' income of an ordinary person on a funeral. No wonder, the funeral industry is regarded as one of the 10 most profitable businesses in the country.

That's why the free basic funeral services offered by some local authorities to help low-income people bury their loved ones need to be encouraged. The traditional practice of burying loved ones in graves will not die out any time soon because Chinese people believe earth is the best shelter.

Mao Zedong encouraged people to cremate the dead to save land. Other leaders such as Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping were cremated. Deng's ashes were scattered over water bodies, and that practice has become popular to some extent.

But cremation is not necessarily a solution to the land shortage problem, because some people are known to build huge tombs to house the urn with the ashes of their loved ones.

Burial grounds are different from other land plots because they are a special necessity and, hence, market price should not be applied to them. And cemeteries should be de-commercialized.

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