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Soaring cemetery plot prices a grave concern to Chinese
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  • http://english.dbw.cn   2011-04-06 14:29:55
     

    Buying a cemetery plot for relatives has become a headache for Chinese workers on low to average salaries, with the rapid urbanization soaking up land in cities.

    At present, 0.5-square-meter plots at the five major cemeteries in Beijing start at 70,000 yuan (10,683 U.S. dollars), while many in Shanghai charge a minimum of 40,000 yuan, the China Daily newspaper said Tuesday.

    By contrast, an apartment in downtown of both cities can be purchased for around 30,000 yuan a square meter, roughly one-fifth the cost of a grave.

    In 2009, trade union worker Sun Li spent 60,000 yuan, more than the entire annual income of his family, for a 0.5-square-meter cemetery to inter his father-in-law's ashes. Today, a similar plot in the same place costs about 100,000 yuan.

    "I wish I could have bought a bigger place for my father-in-law, but I did my best," the newspaper quoted Sun Li saying.

    Roughly 9 million people die every year in China, with half of them cremated, Zhang Hongchang, vice president and secretary general of the China Funeral Association said in a speech.

    However, many areas are struggling to meet the demand for burial plots with just 1,792 burial sites existing nationwide by the end of 2009, according to Zhang.

    Funeral and cemetery businesses are extremely lucrative and the industry is attracting some major players.

    Last August, China Healthcare Holdings, a company listed in Hong Kong bought Mascot Land, which owns five graveyards across China.

    The newspaper quoted an insider with a Shanghai private equity as saying that the price hike is due to the "scarcity of land," which has helped drive up speculation.

    According to recent media reports, cemeteries in Shanghai, one of China's most populous cities, may run out of room in the next decade. Residents in eastern China's Jinan City are investing in plots in the hope of profiting from future price rises.

    Another factor that pushes up cemetery prices is the significance of filial piety for Chinese, a traditional value that has long been imprinted into every Chinese people's mind.

    "When potential buyers ask for a discount, we usually use the excuse that there should be no discount on filial piety," a salesperson told Xinhua, adding that this sales method always works.

    Today is Qingming Festival, also known as Tomb-Sweeping Day. Chinese people will go to the graves of their lost loved ones and ancestors, leave offerings of food and wine, and burn paper money to be used in the afterlife.

    Author:    Source: xinhua     Editor: Yang Fan

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