Cemetery tests ban on paper money, ingots

Fushouyuan Cemetery is banning the burning of paper money and ingots in its efforts to fight pollution.

A cemetery in the city will trial a ban on the burning of paper money and ingots, a traditional way of mourning but one which pollutes the air and poses fire risks.

Fushouyuan Cemetery in Qingpu District will impose the ban from May. It has stopped sales of funeral money and is instead selling electronic candles, yellow ribbons and wish cards, and has turned part of its space into Shanghai’s first smoke-free cemetery area.

Residents who have the ashes of departed family members buried there are required to sign a letter promising they will not set off firecrackers or burn paper money when paying tribute.

In other areas, cemetery workers are persuading tomb sweepers not to burn tinfoil paper, which is similar to paper money, and are promoting the use of electronic candles and flowers as replacement. They are also distributing notices about the ban to visitors.

“Establishing a total ‘smoke-free’ cemetery is difficult thus a buffer period is set,” said Zhao Xiaohu, the cemetery’s general manager.

Several burning spots will be set up outside the cemetery in May and residents who bring funeral money or tinfoil paper will be guided there, he said.

Shanghai’s cemetery management regulations ban such acts of mourning but they are not strictly abided by, said Zhao.

“Imposing the ban is a challenge for us because it clashes with deep-rooted traditions of mourning,” Zhao said.

The paper money is supposed to ensure a comfortable afterlife. 

Some people also burn paper computers and mobile phones to ensure the ancestors stay “up to date.”

Zhao said small fire accidents are not rare at the cemetery.

“Some families burn a lot of paper money, which falls outside and ignites trees,” said Zhao.

Overall, the number of residents who use flowers to replace paper money and tinfoil paper is increasing year on year, and the “smoke-free cemetery” is a trend, he said.

Iris Ye, a local resident, said, “I think flowers convey the same message as a tribute to the beloved family members who pass away, and I can accept the ban given consideration to a clean and safe environment.”

Shanghai’s civil affairs authorities said the trial will be expanded to more cemeteries if it proves to be a success.

Dongzhi, also known as the winter solstice, is a key time for people to pay their respects to departed family members. This year’s dongzhi is tomorrow. 

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