China / China

Pianist launches pet funeral parlor

By Feng Zhiwei in Changsha Andhou Liqiang in Beijing (China Daily) Updated: 2016-08-03 07:43

Yu Zhu started to learn piano when she was 4 and her enthusiasm for music stayed with her all the way from high school to university. Her parents thought there could be no better choice of career for her than a piano teacher or musician.

Yu, however, was more interested in starting a new business: the 30-year-old has opened the first pet funeral parlor in Changsha, the provincial capital of Hunan.

After graduating from a university in Moscow and returning home, Yu found her pet dog Wangwang was nearing the end of its life. Anxious about what to do once her pet had died, Yu asked her friend Zhou Xiaofeng, whose dog was also old, and the idea of opening a pet funeral parlor occurred to them.

At first, Yu's parents thought the idea "funny" and "comical", so she asked them: "After Wangwang has passed away, do you want us to bury the dog ourselves or hope to find an agent that can help hold a farewell ceremony?"

Their answer of "hope to find an agent" made Yu even more determined to put her idea into practice, but she never expected that finding a site for the funeral parlor would take her several months. According to regulations designed to prevent epidemics, funeral parlors can only be located in rural areas, away from rivers and schools.

This makes finding a suitable site difficult, which is compounded by traditional sentiment in China that shuns funeral parlors. Opposition doesn't necessarily come from landlords, but from neighbors and local village committees.

After months of searching, Yu finally met what she described as an "open-minded" landlord. The 50-year-old not only rented her his 150-square-meter house, but also helped to persuade neighbors and the village committee to accept the funeral parlor. He even helped Yu assemble the equipment she had purchased.

The pet funeral parlor opened on June 3, 2015 and Yu named it Bodhi Tree, after the tree which the Buddha is said to have sat under to attain enlightenment.

She described her first funeral service as "a little bit frightening" and said she had struggled to maintain her composure. "I thought it might not be good to use the elevator, so I held it and went downstairs on foot. The dog owner cried all the time and I had to comfort her while driving," Yu said.

The pet funeral parlor charges by weight. A service for pets under five kg costs 580 yuan ($87), while for dogs weighing more than 60 kg it costs at least 2,000 yuan.

Yu said building up the business has been a struggle and her income is only just enough to support herself. To make matters worse, her business partner left. But Yu is not ready to give up yet.

"As long as I am able to continue, I will do," she said.

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