Stop condom pyres, mourners told


The Times April 26, 2006

Stop condom pyres, mourners told
From Jane Macartney in Beijing

CHINESE funeral practices have taken on a distinctly modern, if not capitalist, tinge. For centuries, mourners have burned paper money to ensure that the dead have plenty of cash on hand to spend eternity.

But with rising wealth, families want to ensure that their loved ones take into the next life all the pleasures that they can expect in this one.

Over the past two years, officials have discovered people burning paper offerings of the potency drug Viagra, their mistresses and even Supergirls dolls modelled on winning contestants of the hugely popular Pop Idol spin-off on Chinese television, Supergirl.

But it has all become a bit too vulgar for the countrys communist rulers, and the Government moved this week to end the revival of customs deemed to be feudal superstition.

At the top of the list of new regulations is a ban on the burning of paper models of such items as condoms and karaoke hostesses.

Dou Yupei, the deputy party secretary of the Ministry of Civil Affairs, said: The burning of luxury villas, sedan cars, mistresses and other messy sacrificial items . . . will be investigated and punished.

Under the new funeral and interment regulations, citizens whose offerings are deemed to be vulgar could face fines.

In the run-up to the latest Tomb Sweeping Festival this month when paper models are burned at ancestors gravesides state media hailed a new trend in e-Tomb-Sweeping as a convenient online method of beating the crowds at cemeteries and crematoriums. However, most people still visited family graves.

Mr Dou said: The tomb-sweepers feelings are understandable. But burning these messy things not only is it mired in feudal superstition but it just appears low and vulgar.

It is not filial piety alone that prompts families to spend lavishly on equipping loved ones after death. Many families hold elaborate ceremonies to show off the new wealth that has come with economic reform.

The tradition dates back for hundreds of years and is most vividly recorded in the 18th-century novel Dream of the Red Chamber, in which the family spends 49 days and huge sums of money on funeral rites for a daughter-in-law, in a show of power and wealth. Perhaps the most extravagant example of ensuring all the wants of an ancestor in the afterlife is the terracotta army buried around the tomb of Chinas first emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi.

A second law intended to stamp out a centuries-old funerary practice was also implemented this week, banning officials from inviting any but their closest relatives to a funeral to prevent corruption.In imperial times, officials would invite huge numbers of mourners, giving their guests the opportunity to make a financial donation.