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Shanghai set for debut of funeral planning

By WANG ZHENGHUA in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2016-12-17 06:51

People in Shanghai can now plan their own funerals by signing a prepaid contract with a funeral services provider detailing arrangements for their last rites.

Fu Shou Yuan International Group, the largest death care and funeral services provider in China, has started to offer reservations for such a service in Shanghai. It plans to officially launch the program next year, a pioneering move in a culture where people generally shun topics about death.

"We want to provide family members with peace of mind and ensure that elderly people have no regrets in life," said Xing Weidong, assistant to the general manager of Fu Shou Yuan in Shanghai.

"Many young people in China are the only child in their family, so a young couple needs to take care of four elderly people. They might be at a loss as to what to do when their loved ones pass away. This is when we step in and help," Xing said.

Funeral planning is common in Western countries and has gained popularity in Japan in recent years.

In Shanghai, Fu Shou Yuan offers three funeral-planning packages priced at 6,800 yuan ($977), 12,800 yuan and 21,800 yuan.

People can pick everything from the burial clothing to cremation urns to flowers. The purchase of cemetery plots is not included.

Clients need to pay the service fees in a lump sum. Supervised by the government, the company will set up a trust fund to hold the payment, which will be used when client dies. The flow of money can be tracked by clients via the company's online system.

The contract has no time limit, so people can plan decades in advance, and details can be updated as needed, Xing said.

Earlier this year, the company started a pilot program in Hefei, Anhui province, and received more than 300 orders in eight months. About 80 percent of the orders have been for people between ages 65 and 70.

Statistics show that more than 36 percent of Shanghai's registered population will be 60 or older by 2020.

Song Meixian, an 82-year-old woman at a nursing home in Shanghai, is considering buying the service.

"I have seen many old friends around me pass away without being properly attended to, so I think this service can be really helpful. It can ensure that I have the funeral I want," she said.

China's elderly population will double from 212 million in 2014 to around 400 million by 2050, according to the National Health and Family Planning Commission.

Some people are reluctant to embrace the plan.

Xue Guoming, a 58-year-old Shanghai resident, said he did not like the idea. "Dwelling on arrangements related to death will give me bad luck."

Wu Shiqing, a 24-year-old woman, said the service sounds appealing, but she would not buy it for herself.

"The packages with price tags are too commercial for a sensitive topic like death," she said.

Wu Yiwei contributed to this story.

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