China Focus: More Chinese opt for eco-friendly burials to bring life back to nature-Xinhua

China Focus: More Chinese opt for eco-friendly burials to bring life back to nature

Source: Xinhua

Editor: huaxia

2024-04-03 14:55:00

NANJING, April 3 (Xinhua) -- Xu Wei fulfilled his grandfather's final wish by burying his ashes under a tree in a public cemetery in the city of Wuxi, east China's Jiangsu Province. The tree, adorned with signs of his grandfather's name and epitaph, is surrounded by lush greenery and serene hills.

"We respect grandpa's last wish and let him return to nature by becoming a part of a tree," Xu said.

April 4 will mark this year's Qingming, a traditional Chinese festival that pays tribute to the dead and is a time for people to worship their ancestors. Public cemeteries across China have been welcoming visitors paying their respects, including Xu, who offered flowers to the tree in memory of his grandfather.

The concept of ecological burials, which is aimed at bringing the deceased back to nature, is gaining more popularity among Chinese people. In 2016, the country's Ministry of Civil Affairs issued a guideline to promote eco-burials, encouraging people to bury ashes or bodies through methods such as tree burials and sea burials.

"We've seen a significant increase in inquiries about eco-burials these days," said Wu Lidong, head of a cemetery in Wuxi. "In the past, some just believed that the size of the burial plot reflected the level of respect for the dead."

"Choosing eco-burials is no easy decision due to some outdated beliefs that hosting grand funerals demonstrates filial piety from the descendants," Wu noted.

In China, eco-burials comprise forms such as lawn burials, flowerbed burials as well as tree burials, which require minimal land. Sea burials and biodegradable urn burials that do not take up any land are also popular options.

In addition to environmental concerns and the growing desire to coexist with nature, the promotion of eco-burials is driven by some practical factors. Data from the National Bureau of Statistics show that China saw around 11 million deaths in 2023. If each burial plot were limited to one square meter, over 10 square km of land would be needed.

Last April, Jiangsu introduced new regulations for the management of public cemeteries, stipulating that eco-burial areas should occupy at least 30 percent of the total land of a newly-built cemetery.

Government incentives for such burials are implemented in various regions. Jiangsu has allocated about 180 million yuan (about 24.9 million U.S. dollars) in eco-burial subsidies over the past three years. In Beijing, families choosing public sea burials can be granted a subsidy of 4,000 yuan.

"These new burial methods actually reflect the shift in people's funeral concepts, which is to allow the deceased to return to nature and preserve their spirits in the hearts of their descendants," said Gao Wei, director of a department in funeral services management in Jiangsu's Xuzhou City.

Gao added that eco-burials offer more green spaces and higher standards of burial rituals compared to traditional burials. Ceremonial services including poetry recitals and flower offerings can create both a solemn and heartwarming atmosphere for the family.

"As awareness of the importance of caring for the elderly grows through life culture education, more and more people are realizing that they should show more love and care for these elders while they are alive," said Qian Qingyan, an official with the civil affairs bureau in Wuxi.