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NEWS//China changes funeral traditions

NEWS//China changes funeral traditions

The Chinese government is changing the country's funeral traditions. The reforms are being rolled out in key cities.

Traditional funerals

Traditional funeral expectations have included wakes that could extend over several days and that involve chanting monks and professional mourners. A person's worth in life is frequently valued by the number of mourners at his funeral.

In a district of Wenzhou these funeral practices are now replaced by standardized funeral packages at government certified funeral homes. These packages are available in high, middle and low-cost ranges.

Traditional burials

In-ground burial is another funeral tradition that the government is working to change. Cremation is the approved alternative.

However, for many older Chinese, especially those living in rural China, end-of-life planning includes purchasing their coffins. They anticipate burial near their ancestral home where relatives will be able to honor and care for them after their death (see this article on the Qingming Festival).

In defense of tradition

The Caixin Global Business News site has reported that "enforcement teams have entered village homes, seized empty coffins, and smashed them with excavators…. Many elderly people, who by local custom have saved up for many years to purchase their own coffins, have been reduced to tears by this violent form of law enforcement."

The article warned, "The lack of mass acceptance exposes reform to the risk of collapse…. .Chinese society has long been ordered around a series of ethical rules, which are closely related to the practice of ancestor worship…. Even today, ancestor worship still has active relevance, and funerals serve as important tools for maintaining social order and helping people find psychological stability."

Sources: Caixin Global Business News, Radio Free Asia, The Federalist, U.S. State Department, The Guardian