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- Beijing is encouraging digital burials instead of traditional ones, Bloomberg reported.
- The push comes as urban land becomes increasingly scarce and expensive.
- People in China spend more than 45% of their annual salary on funerals, according to a report by SunLife.
When someone dies in China these days they’re typically cremated, but land burials still play an important role in death rites. Rapid urbanization and a huge, aging population, however, have made outdoor burial plots scarce, and pricey.
To solve the problem, Beijing has started encouraging people to grieve their loved ones in digital funeral spaces instead of traditional burial sites, according to a recent report from Bloomberg. The State Council said that by 2035, Beijing will try to reduce the amount of land public cemeteries occupy by 70%.
What is a digital burial?
At Beijing’s Taiziyu Cemetery there are compartments for storing ashes that also display digital pictures and videos of the dead on their doors, Bloomberg reported. Since the start of 2023, more than 500 digital plots like these have been sold in Beijing, Bloomberg reported, citing Beijing Jiuli Digital.
Beijing also has a “green burial” program where ashes of the deceased can be buried without a gravestone or mausoleum for free, and relatives will receive a commemorative plaque with a QR code they can scan to access the information of the deceased at any time, CGTN, a local state-run news channel, reported. (The government has also sponsored initiatives that encourage families to scatter ashes at sea.)
Beijing is not the only city where digital burials are gaining traction. In Shanghai, an online mausoleum called Fu Shou Yuan that recently opened allows people to conduct virtual burials for their loved ones, Bloomberg reported. Fu Shou Yuan’s “Heaven on the Cloud” project lets people create “virtual islands” with their loved ones’ pictures, digital assets, and sound files, Bloomberg said.
Digital funerals save money and space
According to a report from SunLife, a UK-based life insurance company, the average funeral in China costs about $5,400, and people spend more than 45% of their average annual salary on them. (For context: Those in the United States spend a little more than 12% of their salary on funerals while the global rate is 10%, according to SunLife’s report).
Traditional burial rates in the country’s capital of Beijing can go far beyond that. A digital burial at Beijing’s Taiziyu Cemetery costs more than $7,700, which is a third of the cost of an outdoor burial plot in the same area, according to Bloomberg.
Digital burials save space, too. A digital cemetery that’s about 215 square feet can house more than 150 plots, while a site that size might only house six traditional gravesites, according to Bloomberg.