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Dying to afford a decent burial

Cost of funerals forces many to rethink how to bid farewell

Dying to afford a decent burial
A grand tomb in China reporters, Guangzhou

April 13, 2011

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People in mainland China are finding that dying can be quite a burden, with funerals becoming an occasion for people to show off their wealth. The price of a cemetery plot can reportedly surpass that of an apartment due to inflation and a widening gap between rich and poor. Currently, the price of a half-square-meter plot at major cemeteries in Beijing starts at 70,000 yuan (US$10,708). In southern Guangdong province, an ordinary funeral costs more than 20,000 yuan if people consult a fengshui master to select an auspicious burial plot, which is believed will bring good fortune for the deceased’s offspring. James, who lives in Hebei province, near Beijing, said ordinary people like him in rural areas have to spend at least 10,000 yuan for a funeral. While lamenting that they cannot afford to die, James and other Catholics say that one should express filial piety during one's parents’ lifetime rather than compete for an expensive cemetery plot for after their death. The dead need prayers, more than a luxurious tomb, they added. They also think it is unnecessary to splash out money building a grand tomb or organizing a lavish funeral since the dead cannot enjoy it. The salvation of the soul is more important, said one woman surnamed Xiao. Another Catholic, Peter, in southwestern Chongqing, ridiculed the belief that if people continue with extravagant funerals, there will be “severe competition for land between the living and the dead” eventually. Building a huge tomb not only wastes resources but also damages the environment, added Father Cao in Shannxi province, noting that he always reminds his flock to be thrifty in this aspect. Around nine million people die every year in China, with half of them being cremated. Due to the scarcity of land, the government has advocated 'green' funerals in recent years, including burial or scattering of ashes at sea or near trees. Despite this, it will be hard for many mainland Chinese to give up a long-held tradition of finding a plot of land where they can let their ancestors rest in peace. CH13919.1649
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