For thousands of years, it was a Chinese tradition to be buried in an elaborate tomb -- a custom which was extremely wasteful of land. However, a new trend has emerged.
Zhao Yuhuan, 80, who lives in north China's Shanxi Province, has chosen a different form of burial for herself after death: having her bone ashes buried under a tree after cremation, namely a "tree burial".
Zhao is one of the advocators of "tree burial" in the province. Each month, Zhao makes copies of tree burial materials and mails them to people who cherish the same idea.
"Tree burial is the best form for China's funeral reform," Zhao and her supporters say in a written proposal calling for the spreading of tree burial idea. Twenty-two people have signed the proposal so far, the oldest being 83.
They express their serious concern over the situation China is facing. Each year 10 million babies are born, but usable land resources are shrinking year by year due to serious soil erosion, encroachment by deserts and large areas of land being occupied by new buildings.
In 1956, then Chinese leaders Mao Zedong, Zhu De, Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping advocated cremation, which became a milestone in China's burial reform. Now, the majority of Chinese people have accepted cremation.
In some rural areas, tombs take up a great deal of farmland. In east China's Zhejiang Province, it is calculated that if a tomb occupies ten square meters, at least 29 million square meters of land will be taken up in the coming ten years.
According to Jia Guangsheng, an official with the civil affairs bureau of Taiyuan, capital of Shanxi Province, the city government has been encouraging tree burial among local people for the past few years, for tree burial can save farmland and increase green areas.
Many other places of China have also joined the efforts to publicize tree burial among local people, and the number of people who accept the practise is growing rapidly.
The municipal government of Shanghai has taken a series of measures to control the number of commercial cemeteries, appealing local people to choose tree burial or sea burial. The government also encourages commercial cemeteries to support tree burial for the sake of social benefits.
Some cemeteries in Hangzhou City in east China are able to provide free environment-friendly urns for bone ash. The Anxian Cemetery near Hangzhou offers lawn burial, flower burial and other forms of burial.
The memorial park of Zhongshan District in coastal Dalian City in northeastern China is the first park in Dalian to offer tree burials. At present, nearly 10,000 trees in the park have been used for this purpose.
Park sources said that the park will hold more than 100 tree burials around this year's Tomb-sweeping Day which falls on April 5, a special festival for commemorating the deceased.
It is learned that in the cities of Beijing, Tianjin and Shenyang, the fee for each tree burial sponsored by the government is only 200 to 300 yuan.
"I will work harder to encourage more people to adopt this more civilized form of burial," said Zhao Yuhuan.