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Chinese city juggles honoring the dead and preserving farmland


20:08, April 02, 2013

ZHENGZHOU, April 2 (Xinhua) -- Zhao Meizhi and her sisters dutifully visited their mother's grave at a new cemetery in central China's Henan Province two days ahead of Tomb-Sweeping Day, which falls on April 4 this year.

Tomb-Sweeping Day, also known as the Qingming Festival, is a traditional Chinese holiday that calls for surviving relatives to tend to the graves of their loved ones by leaving food and liquor at their burial sites and burning fake money as an offering.

After laying fruit and cakes in front of the tombstones of their relatives, Zhao, a resident of Kanglou Village, Zhoukou City, burnt incense and paper money in memory of her beloved mother.

"It's a tradition of Tomb-Sweeping Day that we can hardly change, but we did these things at the cemetery this time, not at the tombs in the farmland," Zhao said.

Zhao relocated the tombs of her relatives to the Fushouyuan Cemetery in Guzhuang Village last year during a massive tomb-clearing campaign launched by the city government.

"The graves at the cemetery are much better than the old tombs. And the farming work will not be affected anymore," Zhao told Xinhua.

In addition to traditional graves, the cemetery also features trees, flowers and lawn burial sites, a member of the cemetery staff said.

So far, over 1,700 people have been buried in the cemetery, most of whom were relocated from neighboring villages, the worker said.

However, not all the villages in Zhoukou have built cemeteries for the relocation of the tombs. In Daliu Village, Shangshui County, villagers removed the burial mounds of 1,346 tombs in the farmland without relocating the coffins.

Liu Jincai decided to burn paper money near the farmland where his father is buried to pay homage to him for Tomb-Sweeping Day. "Burning incense and paper money is just a traditional way to honor our family members who have passed away," Liu said.

Liu said he wants to take good care of his mother, hoping this will help her live a happy life. "That's better than burning so much paper money for the deceased," he added.

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