Starting yesterday and continuing through tomorrow hundreds of thousands of Kunming households will observe Qingming Festival by visiting the graves of their deceased family members to tidy things up and leave offerings for the afterlife.
The origins of Qingming Festival, often called Tomb Sweeping Day in English, stretch back thousands of years. But this year there is a surprising new twist on the annual pilgrimage, according to local media reports: the grave plots that family members are visiting may have cost more per square meter to purchase than the house they live in.
The minimum price of a plot capable of housing the remains of one to two people nearby Kunming is 8,000 yuan (US$1,220), according to a recent Kunming Daily report. And the average price per square meter of graveyard plots has shot up in recent years to be significantly higher than Kunming's average per-square-meter housing price of 7,390 yuan, stated the report without giving a specific average square-meter price for cemetery plots.
There is also ample opportunity in Kunming to spend large quantities of money on sending off the deceased in style, with some "luxury" 15-square-meter plots capable of housing a whole family going for up to 300,000 yuan each.
"Fortunately I bought my plot five years ago," a septuagenarian Kunming resident surnamed Zhang told Kunming Daily. "Otherwise we wouldn't be able to afford it now." Zhang and his children bought the 10-square-meter plot in 2006 for 10,000 yuan, but estimate it would be worth 100,000 yuan today.
In the long-term the government is hoping it can convince more people to abandon traditional burial practices and embrace the cremation of remains. Kunming has made significant progress in this area, with cremation rates rising from 48 percent in 1996 to 84 percent today, according to official figures.
Skyrocketing prices for grave plots nevertheless show that burial continues to be a popular first choice in Kunming for those that can afford it, and the city still lags behind populous east coast cities that have cremation rates of 95 percent.© Copyright 2005-2020 GoKunming.com all rights reserved. This material may not be republished, rewritten or redistributed without permission.