China / News from across China

Eco-friendly burials on the increase in Beijing

By Zhang Li ( Updated: 2016-03-23 15:46

Ecological burials are gaining popularity in Beijing as local authorities respond to a severe shortage of cemetery space.

Traditionally, most Chinese believe that the deceased must be buried but over the past two decades, new methods have been increasingly promoted in a bid to save space.

These ecological burials include scattering the ashes at sea and flower or tree funerals, which involve burying the ashes inside a degradable box underneath plants.

"Eco-friendly burials accounted for 45.88 percent of the total burials last year," said Li Hongbing, deputy director of Beijing Civil Affairs Bureau, at a recent news briefing.

"It is a sort of spiritual revolution as it breaks with our thousands-year-old practice."

People are embracing the new types of burial as it is in line with national policy, saves land and is more environment-friendly, Li said.

Beijing also offers subsidies to encourage people to have an ecological burial, with the families of the deceased receiving 4,000 yuan ($616) if they decide to scatter the ashes at sea.

Official figures from Li's bureau show that the number of burials at sea increased from 307 in 2009 to around 2,000 last year.

The price of traditional burial plots, which can fetch 40,000 yuan per square meter, is another mitigating factor.

"In the following five years, we will continue to offer subsidies and support and promote ecological burial services," Li said.

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