A greener way for Tomb-Sweeping Day

Updated: 2011-04-02 07:08

(China Daily)

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A greener way for Tomb-Sweeping Day

Students hold candles to pay tribute to revolutionary martyrs at a primary school in Dexing, Jiangxi province, on Thursday. In the center are more than 500 paper cranes forming the Chinese character ji, which means to pay tribute to the dead. [Photo/China Daily]

BEIJING - As green concepts become increasingly popular, more Chinese are opting for environment-friendly ways to pay tribute to their ancestors and deceased loved ones.

"In the past we would burn fake paper money for our ancestors on this special occasion," said Zhong Xiaoxing, a resident of Hohhot city in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region. This year, however, the 55-year-old bought silk flowers to offer to his deceased father on Tomb-Sweeping Day, which falls on April 5.

"Presenting flowers - real or silk - began gaining popularity in Hohhot last year and we have decided to shift to the new way of doing things," Zhong said.

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"It is more environment-friendly," Zhong added.

Many Chinese people believe that burning fake cash will make their ancestors prosperous in the spirit world.

However, this tradition is sometimes seen as a contributor to pollution, especially in cities where people burn paper money on sidewalks or at intersections, rather than in cemeteries.

"At this time of year, people burning thick wads of yellow paper cash can be seen on the streets. The ashes make the streets dirty and the air sometimes becomes suffocating," Zhong recalled.

According to statistics from the China Consumers' Association, more than 1,000 tons of yellow paper are burned each year on Tomb-Sweeping Day, a tradition that dates back more than 2,500 years.

The association also estimates that purchases of paper money and other sacrifices on Tomb-Sweeping Day reach about 10 billion yuan ($1.5 billion) nationwide.

Some shops in Guangzhou selling sacrificial offerings have put paper versions of Apple products on their shelves.

A package of two iPads and four iPhones in different colored paper goes for 6 yuan at a shop named Yongxinghang. A MacBook also costs 6 yuan.

The names of the products printed on the package closely resemble the printed names of iPhones and iPads, but the brand is mingwang, or "the king of the dead".

Also available are paper versions of Panasonic LCD TV sets, and every electrical home appliance one can think of, as well as the more traditional cash, credit cards, clothes, air tickets, seafood, cars, villas, face wash and aftershave.

The widespread use of the Internet in China is also having an effect as the tech-savvy younger generation builds online memorials as an economical alternative to tomb-sweeping.

Memorial website, which was launched by the Beijing Funeral Administration in 2005, offers registered members virtual flowers and songs for loved ones with just a click of the mouse.

Users can also upload pictures or memorial essays about loved ones to share with family and friends.

An Internet user named Rush Hour said that the online memorials should be more popular because they are convenient, economical and environment-friendly.

"The tradition of tomb-sweeping should be preserved because it helps strengthen the unity of the nation through the veneration of our ancestors," said Wan Jianzhong, a professor at Beijing Normal University.

"In spite of the changes in tomb-sweeping, the core spirit of expressing our gratitude to our ancestors should remain the same and be long-lasting," Wan said.

China Daily - Xinhua



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