PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 April, 2013, 10:23am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 August, 2013, 4:13am

Chongqing's dead get spa treatment in afterlife


Patrick Boehler has published on China and Southeast Asia in four languages for publications in the US, Europe and Asia. After stints with Austria's ministries of defence and foreign affairs in Vienna and Beijing, he began his reporting career in Kuala Lumpur with the Malaysian online news portal Malaysiakini and, later, The Irrawaddy Magazine, a Myanmar exile publication in Thailand. He holds a doctorate in political science and has taught journalism at the University of Hong Kong. Follow him on Twitter: @mrbaopanrui

A funeral parlour in Chongqing is seeking to attract more customers by offering foot massages to its dead clients, leading to widespread criticism online. 

The "homage respecting the body" spa service includes a hair wash and a foot massage. The relatives of the diseased can take part in the washing ceremony as a way to pay their last respects in an innovative way, said a Xinhua report on Tuesday that spread on weibo.

The spa treatment is offered as an addition to cremation services and costs more than 1,000 yuan (HK$1,250). The funeral parlour conducts the washing ceremony about 10 times a month, said the Chongqing Funeral Management Centre's deputy director Yang Yanmei.

Yang said the parlour had hired a professional, who had assisted in the making of the 2008 Oscar-winning Japanese movie Departures, about a mortician coming to terms with his work.

While some netizens said the service could help Chongqingers bid farewell to their loved ones, most castigated the parlour for finding yet a new way to monetise people's grief.

"They really have guts, or they have lost their mind trying to make money," one person commented. "Are they not afraid of nightmares?"

"This is just fake filial piety," a netizen said.

"Where there is demand, there is supply," another wrote.

The report comes amid a debate about the rising cost of dying in China. Tomb sites smaller than a square metre can cost up to 30,000 yuan in major cities, amounting to several years of income for an average blue-collar worker.

The Ministry of Civil Affairs countered critics with a study last month saying state-run funeral parlours are charging low government-mandated prices and two-thirds of them are operating with only neglible profit or even at a loss. 



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