Tomb sweeping is usually a very somber affair, usually. Now in a surge to promote eco-friendly “burials” and body disposals, China has gamified the tradition.
Due to growing concerns about property ownership (you can only own land for 70 years in China) to the cost of funeral plots, China has been urging its people to conduct eco friendly burials by recommending land saving methods of interment by sea, tree and floral burials for the deceased
Traditionally the tomb sweeping holiday is a ritual used to appease and show respect to deceased ancestors and loved ones. Families would get together to visit grave sites with food and wine. They would sweep and clean the grave marker, burn some incense offer a quick prayer and burn some paper money or tokens. There has even been burning tokens of paper BMW’s and paper ipads to show respect.
The idea is that the burning of the paper token in this world means that those in the afterlife will have extra “ghost money” or a ghost iPad. However because of the recent push towards sea, tree and flower burials, there may not be a grave marker or a tomb site to sweep at all.
Happily, practical Chinese leaders and Hong Kong businesses have come out with a new solution. They invented E-tomb sweeping, which as been around since 2006. The process of e-tomb sweeping is simple: mourners can set up an online memorial and pay their respects online by burning virtual incense and pouring virtual tea.
One big government sponsored online cemetery is Heaven Cemetery which was founded in 2009. For basic features completely free service is offered. Users can post a few pictures of the deceased and write as many words as they see fit. If a user decides to upload more pictures – or even audio and visual – it will start costing money. According to Heaven Cemetery’s website, each memorial comes with a personalized URL, and can be either public or private.
In addition to the site’s solemn intentions there are some visitors who’ve been having a little “fun”, making memorials for passed celebrities and the like. A quick glance over many of the public memorials and you can find one for people such as Steve Jobs and Whitney Houston.
The current trend of online tomb sweeping becoming popular in cities across China is aided by the fact that it’s becoming a convenient way for Chinese working faraway from home to pay their respects without having to travel.
Last year, a Shanghai based company called “Eternal Home” set up China and arguably the world’s first 3D online cemetery.