Tomb sweeping goes online for COVID-19 prevention

Hu Min
Cemeteries in Shanghai are hosting online memorial services to mourn the dead as the Qingming Festival nears in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Hu Min
Tomb sweeping goes online for COVID-19 prevention
Ti Gong

A live-streamed memorial at Haigang Lingyuan Cemetery in the Pudong New Area on Sunday.

Cemeteries in Shanghai are hosting online memorial services to mourn the dead as the Qingming Festival nears in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.

This year's Qingming Festival, a time traditional for Chinese people to pay respects to their ancestors, falls on April 5.

During last year's Qingming tomb-sweeping peak season, Shanghai's 54 cemeteries and columbariums were visited by 3.43 million people.

Shanghai's civil affairs authorities has called on residents to choose a non-cemetery visit way to remember their deceased ancestors during the key COVID-19 prevention and control period.

"It is hoped that residents consider memorial services not at the scene this year as a priority giving consideration to the health of themselves and their families," said Zeng Qun, deputy director of Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau.

The call has been echoed by local residents.

"My sister and I are not under lockdown, but we have decided to delay tomb-sweeping visit due to the current COVID-19 prevention and control situation," said a local resident surnamed Zhang. "It is not an easy decision because it is a tradition."

On Sunday, an online memorial event with live-streaming was held at Haigang Lingyuan Cemetery in the Pudong New Area to mark the 14th Shanghai Public Memorial Day.

Tomb sweeping goes online for COVID-19 prevention
Ti Gong

The picking of willows signifies departure and missing in Chinese belief.

It was only attended by staff. The event paid tribute to deceased residents who were buried in eco-friendly and land-saving ways, and those who made contributions to the development of Lingang area.

The audience expressed their tributes and sweep tombs online.

Traditional rituals such as tea serving and willow picking to signify departure were followed.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed people's memorial ways to some extent.

Fushouyuan Cemetery in Qingpu District has established an online platform for people to express their grief, love and memories, promoting new ways to pay tribute and controlling the number of visitors to prevent gatherings amid the pandemic.

The memorial enables users to create a memorial venue for their own family with old photos and memoirs of their ancestors.

Family members are able to light candles, lay flowers, edit the biographical details of their relatives, upload photos and videos, and offer virtual sacrifices and commemorative items via the platform.

Reservations are mandatory for tomb sweepers who plan to visit city cemeteries during peak times for this year's Qingming Festival, an effort to stagger visitors.

Reservations can be made beginning on March 18 via WeChat or by phone for the four peak days – April 2, 3, 4 and 5.

A negative nucleic acid test report taken within 48 hours prior to entry, as well as a green health QR code and a green travel history code are required for the city's tomb sweepers.

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