'Grave' warnings fail to stop Web worshippers

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Grave warnings fail to stop Web worshippers
By DAVID RENNIE in Beijing

Thousands of Chinese urban professionals are building virtual "memorial halls" for their ancestors on the Internet, joining a nationwide surge in enthusiasm for paying respects to the graves of family members.

After decades of enforced atheism, traditional rites and beliefs have been soaring in popularity as Chinese, shaken by the collapse of the old Communist certainties, seek a new spiritual direction.

Despite continued government warnings against "superstition", and calls for citizens to cremate their dead rather than waste precious land with graves, many of the new rich are lavishing money on their departed.

Thousands of Internet users are logging on to a new Web site devoted to ancestor worship, founded by a group of Beijing computer graduates with Singapore Chinese investment, in time for the annual festival of Qing Ming (Tomb Sweeping Day) today.

The Web site has provoked approving newspaper headlines, and claims to have had 300,000 visits in the first few days of operation.

Today will see pious families cleaning graves, making offerings of cake, fruit and incense, and burning paper funeral money to give the dead something to spend in the afterlife.

Provincial Communist cadres have been caught erecting vast mausoleums to their own memories. Beijing issued a stern warning that all memorials built with public funds had to receive government approval.

But a growing number of well-educated Chinese have found work far from their home towns, and cannot return home for "Qing Ming".

The new Chinese-language Internet site offers urbanites the chance to construct their own "memorial halls" for family members, choosing from a variety of architectural and religious styles.

Photographs can be posted in the hall, as well as poems, prayers, obituaries and brief snatches of appropriate music.

Visitors may light virtual candles and lay virtual flowers. Halls are free for the moment, though the company aims to charge wealthy patrons for the construction of elaborate memorials. More than 1,000 "halls" have been built so far.

Mr Lin Xiaodong, a director of the Web site company, Netor, said people's "spiritual needs are growing stronger and stronger. But it is almost impossible for those who moved away to return to the tombs of their loved ones for the tomb-sweeping ceremony. We are taking advantage of the Internet, which has no limits of time and space."

The Internet also offered a new equality, Mr Lin said. "Chinese people pay special attention to their families and forefathers. But only great people have memorial halls. Every single life is unique and should exist for ever. Our slogan is: 'Bury your body in earth, but keep your spirit on the Net'."

The Telegraph, London


Posted to show another facet of 'net' culture - ancestral respect by tomb brooming. At least the Chinese do have enough of 'em to broom tombs. In my case I doubt any attention later on. There's a certain wealth in the thought someone actually cared enough to broom a tomb. As for this Saxon Celtic Presbyterian the troops cannot wait to spend the profits of my demise. There's poverty in departure then. Yep. I'm going as poor as possible. It's my democracy and dust.

Regards from Down Under - 6'

-- Pieter (zaadz@icisp.net.au), April 04, 2000


This post would be appropriate for the Culture thread that has been started here.

Thanks for the post. I always like finding out the idiosyncracies of other cultures.

-- FutureShock (gray@matter.think), April 05, 2000.

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