'Online tomb-sweeping' grows in popularity
Shanghai cemeteries have extended their "online tomb-sweeping" services by including more items such as memoir tributes to meet the demand of people who cannot visit tombs on dongzhi, the Winter Solstice.
Winter Solstice, like Qingming Festival, is a time for Chinese people to pay respects to their ancestors. It falls on Monday this year.
Peak days for tomb visits are December 19, 20 and 21, when close to 1.3 million visits are expected, bringing an extra 203,000 vehicles onto city streets, according to the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau.
On the three busiest days, tomb-sweepers are required to make reservations in advance. This year, the number of sweepers will be kept below 50 percent of the daily maximum capacity of cemeteries to prevent gathering to curb the spread of coronavirus.
The Fushouyuan Cemetery in Qingpu District and Haigang Lingyuan Cemetery in the Pudong New Area, both operated by Shanghai-based Fu Shou Yuan International Group, are offering online lighting up, yellow ribbon hanging, and memoir writing services for the public who cannot visit in person but still want to follow tradition on dongzhi.
The cemeteries opened online sweeping channels during Qingming Festival in April.
Online tomb sweepers are able to edit the biographical information of their deceased relatives, upload photos and videos, and offer virtual sacrifices and commemorative items.
Other cemeteries of the group, a funeral and interment service provider and cemetery operator, in around 30 Chinese cities are offering similar services.
As of the end of last month, 580,000 people have paid tribute to their deceased relatives via online channels.
Cemetery staff can also sweep tombs for families if requested, following procedures such as cleaning graves, bowing and laying flowers. Live broadcasts and photographs can be provided.
The online platforms also receive such requests.
"'Cloud tomb-sweeping' enables people to honor the dead in the special period of the epidemic," said Yu Hao who is in charge of the program with the group. "Quarantine can not separate missing and love."
The new practices are also an improvement on traditional practices of letting off firecrackers, burning tinfoil and lighting up candles, said Yu.
"Online tomb-sweeping platforms will be improved and cemetery staff can also sweep tombs for families if requested," confirmed Zeng Qun, deputy director of the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau.