In China, the traditional belief is that a person’s soul can only rest in peace if their body is buried underground in a coffin. Those that were cremated or opted for another method would have restless souls. However, as time moves on, more and more Chinese are finding this belief to be antiquated. The younger generation in particular believes that a soul may rest in peace regardless of what happens to their body, and that it’s more important to respect the wishes of the deceased than it is to follow tradition. This has lead to an increase in the amount of people who choose to have cremation services, followed by their friends and family scattering ashes.
Tomb Sweeping Day
Every April 4th, the Chinese participate in the Qingming Festival, also known as Tomb Sweeping Day. During this festival, the relatives of the deceased gather around their grave and celebrate the life of the departed by leaving offerings of liquor, food, and burning fake money. The Chinese government made Tomb Sweeping Day an official holiday in 2008.
Tradition encourages them to remember their ancestors by laying out food at their grave sites, and burning paper replicas of daily necessities, such as clothes, money, cars, and houses. This year a few new items have been added to that list of necessities: the iPad and the iPhone.
The tradition – which dates back thousands of years – dictates that the paper goods can be used by their ancestors in the afterlife, and the offerings have evolved to fit in with modern life. As such, paper replicas of iPhones and iPads – which are hugely popular in China – have become all the rage.
British broadsheet The Telegraph reports that paper replicas of Apple’s hugely popular iOS devices are selling “like hot cakes” in China, as millions of people prepare to honor their ancestors by burning paper goods that they believe can be used in the afterlife
Cremations are becoming more popular in China as the culture changes. While traditionalists still hold to their desire for a more traditional coffin and burial, others see cremation as a way to help out future generations. Cemetery overcrowding is a growing concern, especially among the more developed areas near the coast. By holding cremation services and scattering ashes, the surviving relatives save money. Another benefit of cremation is that it’s much more environmentally friendly, as ashes are nothing more than minerals purified by the heat of fire. Regular caskets are left in the ground to erode over time and can potentially pose a health hazard if not cared for properly. Cremation has none of these risks.
The Chinese government encourages cremation in the form of subsidies offered to those who opt for cremation services. As cremation is an eco-friendly option, the government wants people – traditionalists and otherwise – to seriously consider it as a viable alternative to burial. While traditional burial has the potential to hurt others in the future, cremation leaves no impact.
People are chooseing cremation over traditional burial for many reasons. The most common reason is that it’s the request the deceased left in their will – and no one wants to risk being haunted by an angry loved one. New trends like biodegradable urns make cremation more and more to the environmentally friendly, those concerned about the future of the planet like the low impact cremation has on the environment as compared to traditional burial. A third reason is the expense. By the time all is said and done in China, a traditional burial can cost a small fortune, leaving the surviving relatives with a hefty bill that they may struggle to pay off. Cremation costs much less, and in some places – like China – governments may even subsidize the cost of the both the urn and the cremation services.
A scattering ceremony has a lot in common with a traditional burial, but a lot of differences as well. As with a traditional funeral, loved ones will gather at a central location and share their memories of the deceased. A priest may or may not be in attendance, depending on the beliefs of the family and the deceased.
A location is chosen early in the process. This place may be requested in the will of the deceased, or it may hold some significance in their life. For example, someone who spent their entire life on a farm may choose to have their ashes scattered over their wheat field. A golfer may opt to have their ashes spread at their favorite golf course. Note that in certain circumstances (like the golf course), a permit will be required to hold the scattering ceremony.
After the ceremony is conducted, the ashes are released. A few final words may be spoken, then those gathered watch as the ashes fly into the breeze. Unfortunately, for those not prepared, the process can be quite messy. That’s where a scattering urn comes in.
Traditionally, those wanting to spread the ashes of a deceased loved one were forced to carry the ashes in a plastic box or a bag not too different from a garbage bag with a twist tie. Naturally, this removed some of the beauty from what should be a beautiful process. A scattering urn isn’t designed just to hold ashes, but to help spread them as well. Scattering urns can be symbolic – an avid bird watcher could find themselves with an urn for scattering ashes that converts into a bird house. Some urns are biodegradable and can be set out to sea or buried in one of the deceased’s favorite spots.
There was nothing the deceased liked more than waking up before the sun did then heading out for a long day of sailing on the ocean. In their will, they’ve requested that their ashes be spread over the rolling waves of the Pacific. Unfortunately, their loved ones don’t have access to a boat. That’s where a scattering service comes into play. A scattering service will help the loved ones fulfill the wishes of the dearly departed. If the family of the deceased doesn’t have the means to complete the scattering request, they can hire a scattering service.They can do anything from helping with the whole ceremony to hiring a small plane to spread the ashes over a forest while loved ones watch from the ground.
Tomb sweeping day remains popular in China as a way of respecting and honoring the dead. It is much like Memorial Day in the U.S.A. Cremation services followed by a scattering of ashes continues to grow both in China and the United States as it becomes an increasingly popular method of memorializing the deceased. Join The Author Jeff Staab On Google Plus