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Soaring burial costs deepen China's grave crisis

Last updated on: May 24, 2011 15:57 IST

Soaring burial costs deepen China's grave crisis

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The Chinese are facing a grave crisis. The world's most populated country has no space for its dead.

The skyrocketing price of cemetery plots and funeral services has come as a shocker to millions of ordinary people.

Large scale urbanisation has led to a space crunch in cities, leading to a huge rise in cemetery plot prices.

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Image: A woman cries as she hugs the tombstone of her husband at a public cemetery.
Photographs: Reuters.
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Soaring burial costs deepen China's grave crisis

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According to the China Daily, prices for 0.5-square-meter plots at five major Beijing cemeteries, including Futian and Babaoshan, start at $10,760.

In Shanghai, people have to shell out a minimum of $6,148. Larger tombs are sold for more than $46,113.

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Image: A man walks past a monument that stands at the end of a main street in the city of Dongsheng.
Photographs: David Gray/Reuters.
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Soaring burial costs deepen China's grave crisis

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Burial plots at auspicious locations can cost more than 20,000 yuan per square metre. A grave in Xiamen in east China's Fujian Province was priced at a whopping $1.2 million.

Giving a comparison of the prices, China Daily says apartments in downtown Beijing and Shanghai can be bought for $4,611 per square metre.

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Image: A man reacts as he burns a paper villa as an offering in front of tombstones of his ancestors.

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Soaring burial costs deepen China's grave crisis

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The space constraint is set to turn into a major problem in Shanghai, one of China's most populated cities with about 23 million people.

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Image: Residents carry paper-made offerings as they pay respects at tombstones at a public grave.
Photographs: Reuters.
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Soaring burial costs deepen China's grave crisis

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Meanwhile, the cemeteries are turning out to be money spinners. China Healthcare Holdings, spent $430 million to buy Mascot Land, which owns five graveyards across China, says the China Daily.

Inronically, funeral-related services are turning out to be a lucrative business.

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Image: A Chinese woman walks among tombstones at Songhe graveyard in Shanghai.
Photographs: Reuters.
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Soaring burial costs deepen China's grave crisis

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According to a government diktat issued in 1992, burial plots have a usage cycle of 20 years. So people have to buy the plot on lease for 20 years and pay the cemetery fees as well.

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Image: Workers carry a tombstone at a public cemetery.
Photographs: Aly Song/Reuters.
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Soaring burial costs deepen China's grave crisis

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The 20-year period was specified as the maximum amount of time for which administrators could charge management fees.

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Image: A woman and her daughter pay respects at the tombstones at a public cemetery.

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Soaring burial costs deepen China's grave crisis

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People who bought burial plots do not need to repurchase them after 20 years, the ministry said, but only need to pay an extra management fee to extend the period.

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Image: A man holds a paper house as he prepares to burn it as an offering to his ancestors at a cemetery.
Photographs: Reuters.
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Soaring burial costs deepen China's grave crisis

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Meanwhile, people were bewildered to see some graveyard owners publish the names of the deceased as 'defaulters' for not paying the fees after 20 years.

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Image: A woman places flowers on the tomb of a relative at Babao Cemetery in Beijing.
Photographs: Claro Cortes/Reuters.
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In a bid to resolve this crisis, China has been trying to introduce 'green burials'. They have also declared 2011 the 'Year of Green Burial'.

The idea of saving land by burying ashes without tombs or graves to save land has few takers. Interestingly, people have started buying graves in advance.


Image: Man walks among gravestones at a public cemetery.
Photographs: Reuters.
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