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China: Around The Nation

Chinese e-merchants make their living by honouring your dead

Too busy to make the trip back to family grave site at Ching Ming? For a fee, someone will tailor a custom-made appearance on your behalf

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 April, 2017, 8:18pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 April, 2017, 8:18pm

Young Chinese e-merchants have been making money by offering substitute relatives or friends to sweep tombs ahead of the Ching Ming Festival, according to a local news website.

Ching Ming, or grave-sweeping festival, is an important Chinese tradition where families remember and honour their ancestors or other deceased beloved ones at their grave sites, Huanqiu.com reported.

Young and old pray before the ancestors, sweep their tombs and offer food, tea, wine, chopsticks, joss paper or libations to the ancestors. Families often have a picnic of the offerings at the tomb.

People normally sweep tombs themselves, but for those who are busy with work or far from home they can find someone to sweep the tomb on their behalf via Taobao, a mainland online retailing site

similar to eBay and Amazon, which provides products and services.

“I do not consider substituting others to honour their beloved ones a ‘business’. It’s just helping others who cannot express their condolences and achieve their wishes,” said Qiao Luonan, who has been offering the service on Taobao for several years. The report did not mention where he operates.

For a 15-minute remembrance ritual, Qiao usually prepares for three days because he has to customise his service to every client.

He needs to know beforehand the location of the tomb, buy things and design a unique procedure tailored to the deceased relatives or friends.

Locating the tomb, especially old tombs in the wild, is very difficult – even the relatives often do not know the exact location, Qiao said.

Qiao broadcasts his remembrance ritual on a live-streaming channel, where clients can view Qiao’s words and actions.

The highest fee Qiao received from this service was 800 yuan (US$116).

However, substituting others to sweep tombs is not a lucrative business.

“It is not a thriving business, because most people still want to honour the dead by themselves,” said Little Ke, another e-merchant offering a similar service on Taobao.

“I don’t count on this to earn big money, but I will keep providing the service online,” he said.