Qian Mingqi was one of the pioneers of the refrigerated coffin rental industry, his half-sister says. He started the business almost 20 years ago in Fuzhou, Jiangxi province, earning around 200,000 yuan (HK$240,300) a year.
'My brother ran a shop that sold funeral wreaths in downtown Fuzhou for years, apart from the business of renting and selling refrigerated coffins,' Zhang Yilan said.
Qian closed the wreath shop after his wife died of cancer in 2006 and focused on the refrigerated coffin business, the 40-year-old Zhang said. He designed and made the coffins himself with the help of a reference book.
Gu Xuedong, who manufactures refrigerated coffins in Jiangxi, said the industry had become increasingly prosperous in recent years.
'Most of our potential clients are those who are going to file a lawsuit and, hence, want to properly preserve the remains of those who have been killed as a result of traffic or industrial accidents, medical blunders or violent clashes,' said Gu.
Use of refrigerated coffins has even become common among poorer families during periods of high temperatures. The business is particularly brisk in Fujian, Guangdong, Jiangxi, Hunan and Hainan, where temperatures rise above 30 degrees Celsius in summer.
'Patrons generally spend around 1,400 yuan to rent such a coffin for about a week,' Gu said. 'For those who are rich enough, they may buy one for 5,000 or 6,000 yuan.
'That's why shops of this kind are mushrooming, especially in rural areas in Jiangxi. Some owners of refrigerated coffin rental shops earn hundreds of thousands a year.'