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Paper-made ‘luxury’ for the dead

By Liu Xiangrui  (China Daily)

08:08, April 02, 2013

(China Daily/Cao Boyuan)

Paper-made consumer goods replace paper money as top offerings to the dead during Qingming Festival, Liu Xiangrui reports.

Shoppers might think they have stumbled upon the deal of the century when they see an iPhone 5 advertised online for only 40 yuan ($6).

But to take advantage of this particular offer, you have to be a member of a select group — the dead.

The iPhones that online stores are promoting are not the shiny, expensive gadgets coveted by the nation’s growing middle class but rather paper objects that are burnt as gifts to dead relatives during Qingming Festival, also known as Tomb-Sweeping Day.

Traditionally, paper money and other objects are burned during the festival because it is believed that anything burned can be used in the afterlife. Over the years, people have expanded the types of offerings to appeal to those deceased ancestors with more discriminating tastes.

On Taobao, a major Chinese online marketplace, many shops are selling paper versions of the latest digital devices, especially hot items like the iPhone 5 and the latest generation of iPad, and sales are picking up as the festival approaches.

Qingming, which falls on April 4 this year, is a time for all Chinese people to remember loved ones who have passed away.

According to estimates from the Ministry of Civil Affairs, more than 120 million people annually mourn at graveyards or memorial parks during the festival.

More than 1,000 metric tons of paper products are burned across the country as offerings during the festival period of every year, costing more than 10 billion yuan, according to the China Consumers’ Association.

The growing range of paper offerings available reflects the broad changes in Chinese society in recent years.

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