Consider China and land for graveyards.
Today millions will go to their parents’ gravesides, sweep away the autumn leaves, burn wads of fake paper money and place offerings of small items once enjoyed by their loved-ones – a fistful of a favourite brand of cigarettes or a slice of homemade cake.
However mourners are becoming increasingly bitter about the price of graves. In the southern manufacturing hub of Guangzhou a small 16 sq. ft plot in a high-end cemetery is now reported to be selling for almost GBP5,000 while a larger 50 sq. ft plot – suitable installing the plinths and marble sculptures favoured by China’s new rich – costs upwards of GBP10,000. [Note: GBP = Great Britain Pounds] [More]Meanwhile 99% of Japanese deceased are cremated.
Driven by limited space and government nudging, the percentage of Japanese who are cremated has grown steadily, reaching 99 per cent in 2009.
Cremation is also considered a purification rite before the next life. Some people interviewed by Japanese news media over the last week said they faced a life of despair if they didn’t find their relatives’ bodies. Others fear their loved ones’ spirits will haunt them without a proper burial.“Indeed, some people believe ghosts of the dead killed violently that are not cared for can cause problems,” said Ian Reader, professor of Japanese studies at Britain’s University of Manchester. “And places like Tohoku, with an aged population and a more ‘traditional’ orientation than, say, Tokyo, might hold to such views more strongly.” But cremation requires 10 or more gallons of kerosene, which is in short supply, and some local governments have started burying the dead, an option some consider unclean. A further complication is that many of those grieving have no place to store an urn containing a loved one’s ashes. “We’re trying to preserve their memories,” said Wataru Takahashi, 36, whose cousins, a mother-in-law and a sister-in-law are missing. “But we need a house first.”Some say kerosene should be used for the dead even if it leaves the living cold and hungry. “I’ll do what it takes to get the fuel, and I don’t care if they say I’m a bad guy,” said Bunkai Abe, chief priest of the Jouan Temple in Miyako, which was relocated in 1618 up a steep road from the port after being flattened by a tsunami. [More]
I wonder if Chinese culture will bend to accept more cremations. Economics can force belief changes. Just like politics.