HANGZHOU - On a high school's playground Lincoln Limos were parked, while an orchestra of 100 musicians played, with super-sized LEDs as a backdrop and glaring cameras everywhere.
A fleet of Lincoln limousines are seen during a funeral in Wenling, East China's Zhejiang province, March 4, 2011. [Photo/CFP]
But it was not a welcoming ceremony for a celebrity, nor a pop concert -- but rather a very fancy funeral.
This funeral held at Xinhe High School in Wenling City, east China's Zhejiang province, attracted nearly 10,000 people. Each person attending received cash plus two packs of pricy cigarettes as a gift.
The extravagant funeral, estimated to cost 6 million yuan ($9,312), has sparked controversy after it was held on Friday, at a school day for students.
Disturbance at school
Based on the information on the LEDs on site, the deceased was a woman aged 82, and it was her children who organized the funeral.
"She had five sons and one daughter, and each of them paid 1 million yuan for this," said a witness, adding her children had made their money from the real estate, hotel and industrial sectors.
The students' physical exercise classes were canceled on Friday and they were not allowed to set foot on the playground.
"It's very annoying. It's too noisy. We can't concentrate on our lessons," said a student.
The scene also disrupted nearby traffic and police had to come to direct vehicles.
"No matter how rich you are, it's definitely not proper to hold funerals at schools," a resident living nearby told Xinhua.
According to the Zhejiang Provincial Funeral Management Regulation, funeral activities should not disturb public order and should not be held in public places, including schools.
So far, the telephone of the school president's office remains unanswered, and how exactly the playground was made available for the funeral is unknown.
Deputy chief of the city's educational bureau surnamed Peng said he had not known that the school's playground would be used for the funeral ceremony.
"School resources are public property, and a school must obtain permission to lend out a field or pricy instruments," said Peng in a telephone interview.
He said a vice president of the school had been suspended over the incident, and investigations were under way.
Filiail piety of show-off?
For thousands years, China has a tradition of holding elaborate funerals to show respect to the deceased, but people nowadays are wondering just how much is "elaborate" enough.
On the Internet, netizens said the extravaganza, dubbed "the most expensive funeral in history," was absolutely unnecessary.
"It would have been much better if they had given the money to some charity on their mother's behalf," said a netizen on a local website called Taizhou Forum.
"Filial piety does not have to mean luxury funerals, and it is the greatest filial piety if children treat the elderly well when they are alive," said another. "If their mother knew (about the luxury funeral), she would not necessarily be happy."
"You (children of the deceased) are using your mother's funeral to show off your wealth," said a netizen named Hu Shaolin at China's largest microblog website sina.com. "You're the only ones who enjoyed this."
Lin Dayu, a son of the deceased, apologized Wednesday while accepting an interview with local media, saying that he did not foresee the funeral causing such a commotion.
"My father died early. It wasn't easy for my mother to raise us. I just wanted to bid a good farewell to her," said Lin, who is chairman of Zhengtian Group, an automobile and hotel company worth at least 500 million yuan.
"I didn't expect the consequence would be so bad," he said.