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China Daily Website  

Smaller tombs please, Beijing tells the public

Updated: 2016-03-29 18:34

BEIJING -- Beijing will promote smaller tombs and other eco-burials as it tries to persuade people to stop renting big tombs for the deceased, officials said.

Beijing cemeteries will persuade people not to rent the traditional ground tombs and opt for more environment-friendly burials, according to the 2016-2020 plan for the Beijing funeral service sector.

Chinese traditionally believe that souls only rest in peace if their bodies are covered by soil. Old tombs use ground burials and occupy a few square meters. Large tombstones used to be considered a symbol of social status and represented the degree of filial piety of the offspring.

However, due to land scarcity and pollution, the public are being encouraged to use new entombing methods, such as tree, flower and sea burials. Smaller tombs or replacing gravestones with trees are also among the new methods.

According to the new plan, Beijing's 33 public cemeteries will ask people to choose smaller tombs once their rent expires. In Beijing, public cemeteries are rented for 20 years. Upon the expiration date, the relatives can ask for extension.

Under the new rule, they are being urged to move the ashes of the deceased into a more environmentally-friendly tomb, Li Hui, an official with Beijing Civil Affairs Bureau said.

Beijing currently offers 4,000 yuan (about $611 dollars) to every family who chooses sea burial for the deceased.

In the last 21 years, about 13,700 ashes were put to sea in Beijing. Last year, 2,000 bodies, only about 2.21 percent of the total number cremated, were sent to sea.

However the new policy has triggered backlash among the public, with some saying it is appalling to move the ashes of their ancestors. "Sorry, the tomb of your grandfather is out of service, please pay or move out," mocked one user on the popular Weibo microblog.

The government is therefore cautious. Li said the family will be informed before the tomb lease expires. "They can continue leasing if they insist," said Li.

Last year, 45.9 percent of total burials in Beijing used eco-friendly methods. The government wants to raise the percentage to 50 by 2020.

A ministerial regulation issued last month said facilities will be built to support eco-burial services across the country by the end of 2020. The cremation rate will also be increased.

China's national cremation rate was 45.6 percent in 2014.

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