More expensive to die than live: Beijing graveyard prices surge

Rising prices are overtaking cost of local housing

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 January, 2014, 11:35am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 January, 2014, 11:55am

Prices in Beijing’s major graveyards have doubled and in some cases tripled in recent years, according to media reports. Local media said the inflation was due to outdated regulations on the funeral industry and that some have called for the rules to be relaxed to allow private investment.

The rising price of graveyard land in Beijing is surpassing the cost of local housing and makes the cost of burial a huge liability for relatives, Legal Weekend reported. In certain areas, the land price of a one square metre area in a graveyard has risen as high as 400,000 yuan (HK$509,000) – double the highest price for the same size area in a residential flat: 200,000 yuan. The lowest graveyard land price was found to be 40,000 yuan per square metre.

The government has talked of reforming the Regulations on Funeral and Interment Control since 2005, but so far hasn’t made any progress. The regulations are largely in principle and do not include implementation details.

Moreover, the current regulations only empower local civil affairs departments to grant access to local funeral and graveyard businesses. Private investment is normally not allowed. The growing profits are shared by the government and enterprises which have ties with them.

Profits of the funeral and graveyard industry have soared due to the Chinese traditional preferences for burial, where the quality and price of casket, gravestone and graveyard reflect the level of social status and wealth of a family.

Experts say advocating burial at sea and arbour burial (burial under a tree) would help to ease the land price of graveyards.