Enhancing final farewell

Updated: 2012-12-28 07:30

By Xu Wei (China Daily)

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Steeped in tradition, services for the dead to be more diversified, reports Xu Wei in Wuhan and Chongqing.

Tom Chiang was a funeral director for a decade in Taiwan before he moved to the Chinese mainland and began training workers at a funeral home in Chongqing.

Chiang had little problem adapting to funeral traditions in the huge municipality, because of his belief that the key work ethic as a funeral director remains the same, irrespective of location.

"The job is about someone's last few minutes in this world. It has to be perfect," he said.

"More important, the funeral cultures in Taiwan and on the Chinese mainland have the same roots. However, in Taiwan things are done differently because the island has adopted and combined technical details from the West with Chinese funeral traditions," he said.

On the Chinese mainland, most funeral homes only provide basic services, such as cremation and cleaning, dressing and transporting the body. In Taiwan, however, the funeral business is much more diversified and offers a variety of extra services such as embalming and even providing DVDs of the funeral.

Enhancing final farewell

Employees display their makeup skills on a model at a funeral expo in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, in November. Li Xi / for China Daily

Chiang was invited to Chongqing by Tony Liu, who is also from Taiwan and has a company, Sino-Life Group, listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

In a sign that funeral homes are attempting to provide more diversified services, several providers from Taiwan have made their way to the mainland's funeral homes as they seek to exploit the country's deep-rooted funeral traditions.

According to a green book - a 2011 government report into the funeral industry that serves as an important reference for the work of the Ministry of Civil Affairs, the funeral industry in China is worth 200 billion yuan ($32 billion) per annum. Data provided by the China Funeral Association show there are 1,745 funeral homes and 4,386 funeral service providers in the country.

However, of those funeral homes, few provide more than basic services, such as cremation and transportation of the corpse, according to Lu Jun, dean of the funeral service department at Changsha Social Work College.

The provision of different levels of service, targeting different income groups, is a trend that accords with the country's economic development.

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