CHINA TIMES, ECONOMIC DAILY (Taiwan); XINHUA (China)
WUHAN - In a booming economy, even the dead can help you turn a profit.
Friday was Tomb Sweeping Day, or the Qingming Festiva, in China. Set officially as a national holiday on April 4 or 5, this has traditionally been a family day on which people pay respects to their ancestors by cutting the grass, tidying up the graves and conducting an offering ritual.
In the past, burning incense and fake paper money -- also known as Ghost money -- were common practices for venerating the deceased at this special occasion. However, in recent years China has seen more and more multifarious offerings to make sure that their loved ones have lots to enjoy in the realm of the afterlife, the China Times reported. The list of, well, goodies, includes papier-mâché items of consumer electronics, and even paper-girl figurines to symbolize mistresses of the departed.
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"Basically, the fashion in offerings follows that of the living. We sell whatever goes with the trend,” a shop keeper specialized in funeral ritual equipment said to Xinhua. Apart from the traditional items such as food or paper money, recent hot trends have included paper houses and cars, as well as faux techgadgets such as MacBooks, iPads and iPhones.
Since having a mistress is considered as one's talent by a lot of China's rich and powerful, burning the very imaginative paper-made girls is also one of the preferred new sources of homage by more open-minded family members.
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But China's quick-thinking businessmen aren't done yet. Some have also come up with new services of paying respects to the tombs on behalf of the families, according to the Economic Daily.
A deluxe grave-sweeper’s service can include tomb cleaning, lighting incense to burn, putting flowers and paper clothes at the grave, and just some living company. "We'd even do the kowtow as long as you pay!", one valet sweeper assured. According to the Economic Daily, China's major cities are now full of agencies that provide these kinds of services to China's massive migrant worker population who can't make it back home.
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And now the latest addition to the grave economy, as some call it, has a digital-virtual component. With the help of the Internet, the netizens who can't make it to the real tombs can now just log on the online grave-sweepers platform to pay their homage. For as little as 40 Yuan ($6) visitors can set up their own virtual tomb and choose to leave a message, sing a song, light e-incense or candles, or offer pixilated flowers, wine, or anything else they fancy.