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Tombs reappear in C China after relocation campaign


08:23, February 21, 2013

ZHENGZHOU, Feb. 20 (Xinhua) -- Some burial mounds removed in a funeral reform campaign last year in central China recently reappeared, highlighting a conflict between preserving farmland and upholding cultural traditions.

Some 100,000 burial mounds were secretly rebuilt during the Spring Festival holiday in Zhoukou City, Henan Province, after they were dug up and relocated to public cemeteries in a massive tomb-clearing campaign last year, according to the Civil Affairs Bureau of Zhoukou.

The rebuilt burial mounds account for about 7.7 percent of those that were removed, sources with the bureau said, refuting online rumors that 1 million such mounds were rebuilt.

The Zhoukou municipal government launched the campaign last February to encourage local villagers to relocate the remains of their deceased family members to public cemeteries so farmland could be reclaimed in the agriculture-dominated region.

The move, however, met with great resistance from local residents and aroused public concern that it contradicted Chinese traditional funeral culture.

Even so, more than 2 million of Zhoukou's 3.5 million burial mounds were relocated, allowing for 30,000 mu (2,000 hectares) of farmland to be reclaimed before the operation was called off in November, statistics from the city government show.

More than 300 scholars, experts and businesspeople have signed an online proposal that states the operation failed to uphold Chinese tradition.

They claim the tomb relocations were carried out "forcefully," went against Chinese traditional culture and caused emotional damage.

The local government denied the accusations, saying all villagers' participation in the tomb relocation efforts was voluntary.

Zhoukou has been dubbed the "barn in the east of Henan Province" due to its great grain production. Zhoukou's grain production accounts for about one-seventh of the provincial total, which is about one-tenth of the national total.

However, scattered burial mounds in the region have severely eroded the farmland and hindered the mechanization of farming, sources with the government said.

Civil affairs officials said breaking the funeral traditions that have existed for thousands of years is not an easy task and it is normal to see some changes amid reform.

A villager in Shangshui County said he followed others in digging up the tombs of his deceased family members last year.

"But now, they rebuilt the tombs, and so did I," he said.

A female villager said her family did not rebuild the tombs. "It is not bad to bury the ashes in public cemeteries. Without the tombs in the farmland, cultivation is easier."

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