Pre-need Tomb Buying Highlights Chinese

| April 6, 2011 | 0 Comments

While they are still alive..

.. many people nationwide are buying burial plots for themselves and loved ones amid concerns that soaring tomb prices will significantly add to overall funeral costs in the future.

Tomb Sweeping Day, which fell on Tuesday this year, is a 2,500 year old tradition observed in China to mourn the deaths of ancestors and loved ones.


In Jinan, the capital city of east China’s Shandong Province, many residents went to cemeteries for purchase consultations ahead of the festival, fearing grave prices could rise further.

Wang Jun was one of the prospective buyers. “In the past, I didn’t agree with purchasing grave plots in advance,” said the 52-year-old at a cemetery in the southern suburb of Jinan.

“But there are rampant rumors of price hikes nowadays. So if the price is right, I’ll buy one. Otherwise, my child will have to pay much more when I die,” he told Xinhua.

A common grave in the cemetery is priced at 20,000 yuan (3,060 U.S. dollars) this year, compared to 7,000 yuan in 2007.

Jinan is not alone in surging grave prices. A cemetery in northwest Beijing’s Haidian District saw prices of common graves covering 0.5 square meters of land per unit soar from 2,000 yuan in 2002 to 46,000 yuan, the Beijing Evening News reported.

These prices guarantee a 20-year use right and, when the term expires, additional management fees must be paid for term renewals.

Experts attribute this price surge to dwindling land resources and demand for graves adhering to principles of “feng shui,” an ancient Chinese study of aesthetics used to orient buildings and, often, grave sites in an auspicious manner.


Price hikes prompt more people to buy tombs while they are still alive, thereby sparking further price increases.

Regulations unveiled by the Ministry of Civil Affairs in 2009 allow the purchase of tombs for widows, critically ill patients and those over 80 years old, but prohibit purchases for other healthy people.

Despite these regulations, pre-need buying continues through illegal sales promotions and lax government supervision.

“You can buy in advance,” a salesman at a cemetery in Jinan said when asked if graves could be purchased for living parents. “Prices of all things go up nowadays and so do prices of burial grounds. A six-cave family grave costs over 100,000 yuan.”

The irrational advance consumption fuels bubbles in the cemetery market and triggers more social problems, said Wang Zhongwu, professor of sociology at Shandong University.

Illegal, pre-need buying and strong expectations for price hikes have even created room for market speculation.

A woman surnamed He was looking to cash in on an investment in 10 grave plots she bought 10 years ago based on recommendations from a broker in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, the Southern Daily reported last week.

The graves were valued at 450,000 yuan, 28 times her initial investment of 16,000 yuan. Other options with cremation urn.


High prices and lax government supervision have triggered widespread backlash from a public already struggling with rising living costs.

“While alive, we cannot afford housing. Now we cannot even afford to die,” some Chinese Internet users wrote on Twitter-like microblogging services, like Sina Weibo.

Housing prices have hit largely unaffordable levels in the country’s major cities and have become a major source of public complaint. Many are called “slaves of housing” after borrowing huge sums to pay for homes.

“While the term ‘slave of housing’ is still popular, the new term, ‘slave of grave,’ has been coined,” wrote an internet user called “Shake.” “From birth to death, it is like a life in slavery.”

“Where should a disturbed soul be put as grave plots are becoming unaffordable,” another wrote.


With no quick remedy for the high prices, many have called for the government to build affordable, subsidized graves, much like the government plans to cool the red-hot property market by building low-cost public housing.

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Meanwhile, the public has been urged to consider “green burials,” like less expensive tree burials, grass burials and flower burials, as well sea burials which are usually free.

The relatives of 800 dead people have applied to attend government-funded sea burials scheduled for mid-April in the eastern coastal city of Qingdao. This is the largest number of applicants to date.

These 800 burials along with 427 others from government-organized sea burials held last October only account for about 2.3 percent of the city’s total burials per year, said Guo Kehuang, an official at the city’s civil affairs bureau.

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Once the cremation is done some people will have the ashes put into an urn that you purchase. You would have the service with the urn after the cremation.

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