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No more tears in heaven, but at funerals
(Beijing Today)
Updated: 2004-04-21 10:33

It's traditional for sons and daughters to cry at their parents' funerals. Society sees this as showing their filial piety for their parents. In Wuhan, capital of Hubei Province, a somewhat less traditional activity is becoming common.

Gao uses a microphone to express her grief for her clients.
Families are hiring people to cry at their parents'funerals. Ms. Gao Xiumei, 46, is well-known locally for her professional funeral crying services. Perhaps her gift for acting cring comes from her parents who were opera performers.

Guo can cry whenever she has to.
She thinks there's nothing strange of the job. Anyway, she needs to make some money for her poor family. Gao cries along with the funeral music.

As China opens up, many new careers and industries are emerging, candling both praise and criticism. Now you can find professional exam takers, companies that apologize on behalf of their clients, even companies whose staff are paid to be beaten. People say some of these new careers are challenging China's tradition. Others say it's nothing more than social development.

Mr. Wang, 47, a retired worker in Beijing

There's nothing strange in a money-dominated society allowing people to buy anything they want. It's the same with prostitution. But I find it unacceptable to hire someone to cry during a funeral. I would not want to attend such funerals. I would like to express my own mourning and love in the traditional way. If the sons and daughters do not love their parents when they are alive, any kind of funeral is no other than phony.

Mr. Wang Zhiqiang, 32, a member of China Funerals Association

I can't accept the idea of professional criers. It shows the lack of love and sincerity between people. It is sure to be a social setback. Anyway, it is not only through loud crying that people can express their love for the dead. And I think the professional apology companies allow people to avoid being sincere.

Mr. Wu, 41, a manager in a Beijing IT company

It is quite normal for society to produce different services and companies, and I can understand things like crying at other's funerals because some people need the service. It was the same for house moving companies a few years ago; people just come to accept it.

Chinese traditional concepts force people to perform a grand funeral, and the loud crying shows the splendor of the funeral and the deep love for the deceased. I think such big funerals are a big waste of money, and have nothing to do with paying respect to the dead. This new service will be accepted by society after a while, but I am sure it won't become widespread in China.

Ms. Li, 32, a doctor with Beijing Chaoyang Hospital

I have to admit, it takes a lot of courage for Ms. Gao to cry at others' funerals, and it is quite understandable regarding her need to make money. But I think it is unacceptable in a moral way. It is insincere to exhibit such so-called grief. I would never hire someone to cry, and I would strongly discourage any of my friends from such a thing. It is normal for a capitalist society to develop through different phases, but such immoral acts will be flushed out eventually.

Li Heng, 28, an editor with China Science and Technology Publishing House

Hiring a person to cry at a funeral is hard to imagine. I cannot understand how people can tolerate such a performance. Treating a funeral as a performance is disrespectful to the dead because this kind of behavior is like acting in a play. It's hypocritical.

Secondly, it's disrespectful to the mourners, like buying someone's sympathy with money. Some false acts can be accepted in life, such as magic arts, or science fiction films. But I cannot accept the act of hiring some to cry at a funeral.

Mr. Li Xinliang, a postgraduate student majoring in management in Beijing

I don't have a problem with asking somebody to take part in exams for me. In fact I want to find such a person to beat the various exams arranged by my department, especially the English test, the most difficult one for me. It is a tiresome job for a student to deal with numerous tests. And some of the tests cannot judge a student's learning. A faulty examination system is of course accompanied by some malpractices. But otherwise how can I get a good mark in the exams? What can I do if I still want the scholarship?

Lin Guozhang, a psychology professor with Beijing Normal University

This phenomenon is part of society's development, and people should think of it from its positive side. It could work to make up the deficiencies of the current labor division. We cannot deny it, but we should not allow it to overdevelop either. Some professional apology makers are clogging the channels for person-to-person contact and genuine exchange.

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