April 07, 2007

Thursday this week was QingMingJie (清明节), or the Tomb Sweeping Festival, in China. Although my students and I didn't have any time off to sweep tombs, students at another middle school in town were given the afternoon off to take care of their ancestors tombs.
This time of year you often see a lot of people on street corners at night burning Hell Money for their dead parents. You do see them burning money all year long, but especially around this festival. People will also clean up the graves and sometimes offer fruit or alcohol to the dead, always left in groups of four (i.e. four bananas). My guess is they're left in groups of four because the words for "four" (四) and "death" (死) in Chinese are both pronounced "si".
In China cremation is highly suggested by the central government, as a way of preserving land in this overpopulated country with a lack of arable land. But of course people still want to be buried, which has lead to skyrocketing prices of funerals to between 10,000RMB and 20,000RMB ($1,300 and $2,600) in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai according to an interesting news article about pressures on the funeral system in China. Not to be morbid, but with a current population of 1.3 billion it will be interesting to see where all the bodies are put after they pass away.

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