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China: Around The Nation

Elderly Chinese paid for destroying their own coffins to be burned as fuel

Compensation of US$160 offered by local authorities, which say cremation is more eco-friendly and burning coffin wood is a useful power source

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 April, 2018, 4:54pm
UPDATED : Friday, 20 April, 2018, 4:54pm

Hundreds of elderly villagers in southeast China have agreed to smash their own coffins to be burned to generate power as part of a government initiative, according to news sites.

They were paid compensation for destroying their coffins and agreeing to be cremated rather than buried in a government push for eco-friendly funeral practices, reported Jiangnan City Daily.

Within five days, about 400 villagers in Shangrao county in Jiangxi province volunteered to use excavators to smash their own coffins under the watch of local officials last Sunday, it stated.

The newspaper site reported that 400 caskets were crushed, while the Global Times reported 500.

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The residents were each given 1,000 yuan (US$159) in compensation for volunteering their coffin, which can cost up to 5,000 yuan (US$796) to make, according to the Global Times. Some, however, were said to have been forced to part with their burial caskets, it stated.

As they did so, a sign was displayed that read “Chinese dream”.

Wu Zongxi, 80, the first to give up his coffin, said he wanted “to do something worthwhile for the community”, reported Jiangnan City Daily.

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“Cremation helps the environment and conservation of land,” he was quoted as saying. “Us older generation have to set an example and educate the younger generation to change their customs.”

Local authorities said the coffin wood would be burned to generate power, in line with the central government’s initiative to phase out resource-heavy burials and promote more eco-friendly funerals such as cremation.

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In parts of China people prepare their coffin years in advance and can be competitive about their cost. Some believe their bodies should be kept intact after death.

“My coffin was made 27 years ago,” a woman surnamed Gong was quoted as saying in the Global Times. “I was reluctant at first. But my children convinced me that cremation is better.”