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China issues green burial guidelines

China has issued new guidelines to encourage ecological burials, according to a government document released Wednesday.
The document was released by China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs, together with eight other Chinese ministries including the National Development and Reform Commission, Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Land and Resources, Ministry of Environmental Protection, Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, Ministry of Agriculture and State Forestry Administration.  

While the government has been encouraging people to utilize green burial methods rather than the traditional practice of ground burial since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, it is the first time that the government has released a written document on ecological funeral reform.

The document also stipulates that the Party members should play a leading role in promoting the funeral reform, and the use of traditional method for burials, especially for deceased top leaders, or construction of cemeteries in violation of the regulation would be investigated in accordance with the law.

While the initial goal of the new guidelines is to optimize the land utilization and push forward eco-cemetery construction, it will also help to save resources and protect the environment by encouraging people to use green burial methods such as tree and flower burial, sea burial, deep burial, or inlaying ashes in walls.

Since the concept of green development was put forward during the Fifth Plenary Session of the18th Central Committee of the CPC in 2015, China has been trying to take measures to push forward ecological development.

Chinese traditionally believe that the soul of a person can only rest in peace if the body is covered by soil. Due to land scarcity and pollution, ground burials are banned in most cities.

However, it is still allowed in many rural and minority areas. The national cremation rate was 45.6 percent in 2014, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

Although there are more and more burial options and people are becoming more open to using them, it will still take a long time for all Chinese people to adopt eco-burial, according to the document.

In order to encourage people to use eco-burial nationwide, the government would also reward those who opt for green burials.

The news has triggered a wave on Sina Weibo, China’s largest social media, with some people voting for it, while others opposing it.

As the new trend of eco-burial in China has also been caused by the high cost of entombing service in recent years, many people commented half-jokingly that “the problem that they could not afford to die due to the high burial costs has finally been solved”.

In Beijing, a tomb site for preserving the cremation urn can cost from $3,000 to more than $30,000, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

“It seems that the government has been worrying about us too much, because they are not only controlling how many kids we can have but also how we should rest ourselves after we die,” said @ 朵一多, “Of course, we can take good care of ourselves.”

Last year, China decided to end its 35-year long one-child policy and allowed all couples in China to have a second child.

As the new guideline encourages people to choose burials that do not need to keep ashes like tree and flower burials, some people felt that it was against Chinese tradition in which ashes help people to memorize their deceased loved ones forever.

Those who supported the new guidelines thought that it was not only a good way to protect the environment and save the land, but also to help stop unnecessary traditional rituals.

“Actually I think tree burial is a good idea. It can not only help to protect the environment and save the land, but growing trees also means hope and represents the continuity of life,” said @於濤.

“Buying a cemetery will soon become more expensive than buying a house. It seems that the meaning of respecting our deceased loved ones has changed, turning into a meaningless ritual. I hope we can give better care to the elders when they are alive,” noted @ 变形叮叮.

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