Where the living face rocketing costs to bury the dead

In places like Beijing where land is short, graves cost more per square metre than flats

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 April, 2013, 8:25pm
UPDATED : Friday, 05 April, 2013, 4:44am

People on the mainland are finding death as unaffordable as life as prices of urns and graves soar.

A funeral supplies store at Beijing's Babaoshan graveyard now charges between 4,100 and 12,300 yuan (HK$5,100 and HK$15,400), The Beijing News reported. One carved white jade urn fetched a whopping 119,850 yuan.

The store bought the urns for less than one-tenth the price, according to the paper, which sent an undercover reporter to work at the store. The shopowner charged over 100,000 yuan for a batch of 19 urns he bought for 7,320 yuan, the paper found.

Most people on the mainland cremate their family members and bury ashes in urns. But costs are even higher for those who seek to bury corpses.

"It cost about 6,500 yuan when my uncle's remains were buried," one man told China Central Television. "But when I buried my father in 2009, I paid 22,000 yuan for the tomb."

Someone like Niu would have to pay a lot more to bury a loved one now.

Beijing Tonghui Cemetery charges as much as 600,000 yuan for a three-square-metre plot to hold six urns. The cemetery's cheapest plot - less than one square metre - costs 36,800 yuan.

Average burial plot prices per square metre in Beijing have even surpassed the city's booming home prices, which average somewhere between 35,000 to 40,000 yuan per square metre.

Moreover, because space in cemeteries is in such high demand, tomb leases are limited to 20 years. Users must pay up in two decades or see their family's remains forced out.

Tombs in the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing are even more expensive than in Beijing. A salesman at the Huaxia public cemetery said plots cost 40,000 yuan, excluding upkeep expenses, design fees and administrative costs.

Wang Jisheng, deputy administrator of the China Funeral Association, said the imbalance between supply and demand had driven up the price of plots.

"Australia has a population of 20 million, but it has over 10,000 cemeteries. America also has more than 50,000 cemeteries for a population of 300 million," Wang said. But China had only 3,000 cemeteries for 1.3 billion.