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'Tomb-Sweepers' For Hire During Qing Ming In China
Can money buy family ties? Apparently it can - in China (CCSS Level: Grade 8, Words: 495)
Apr 5, 2017 Culture & Entertainment

April 4th is Qing Ming Festival, China's traditional day for ancestor worship. Also known as Tomb Sweeping Day, the festival is often marked with the burning of ceremonial money and paper effigies of practical items - such as cars, houses and even phones, for deceased relatives and friends.

In some places in China, Qing Ming festival is also called "Cold Food Day." Traditionally on this day, people did not use fire and only ate cold food, with sweet green rice balls being a typical food people often eat at this time. The food is especially popular in east China, such as in Shanghai and Zhejiang areas. They are made of a mixture of glutinous rice flour and green plant juice, and stuffed with sweetened bean paste.

This story was first published in The Straits Times on April 4, 2013, but is still attracting attention. Some Chinese people are too busy or unable to pay their respects at the graves of their parents and ancestors and so have hired "tomb-sweepers" to do so on their behalf. Several companies on China's well known site Taobao (online shopping website similar to eBay or Amazon) are offering services to those who cannot go to the cemeteries for Qing Ming. For a fee, representatives would go to the cemeteries where they will place fruits, food, flowers and paper offerings on behalf of their clients.

For about 30 minutes, the tomb-sweepers will light joss-sticks and burn incense papers before bowing to the dead. They will also clean up the gravesite, hence the term "tomb-sweeping." Those who want to show they are more 'filial' can pay their proxies 300 yuan (US$ 43.5) for 10 minutes of crying or the same amount to recite religious scriptures for half an hour. Video and photos of the ceremony will be sent to the clients to show the services have been rendered.

It is learned that such packages were priced at between 300 yuan (US$ 43.5) and shooting up to over 5,000 yuan (US$ 725). According to a client in Beijing, she had to use the service as she could not go back to her hometown in Wuhan for Qing Ming.

Still, the idea of tomb-sweeping by proxy has raised concerns about the commercialisation of the festival and declining family ties. Netizens have slammed the move, writing on the Sina Weibo microblog site: "Those who hire tomb-sweepers are more despicable than those who don't even bother to sweep the tombs."

Said a Weibo user who used the moniker "Dragon": "I was planning to hire a tomb-sweeper this year as I really have no time to return home. But my family got upset… What did I do wrong?"

Even scholars are divided. Renmin University sociologist Feng Shizheng thinks it is the heart that counts. His colleague Zhou Xiaocheng calls that idea "ludicrous."
"If commercialisation goes over the top, the country and our society will collapse", he commented.

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as said by






the people from whom one is descended



notices taken of something



offer something interesting to draw people in



to do with religion or power / the system of rules for a formal occasion



a special time to celebrate and event



fall down or in



a person with whom one works



making money



to make commercial in character, methods, or spirit



a day or time when people have a holiday and celebrate a special event



of or due from a son or daughter



the location of a person's grave



once around a race rack



placed in order by level or worth



a gift or present



while connected to a computer



things packed in boxes



a thick, soft, moist substance



to deliver or put forward something / now, at this point in time




the authority to represent someone else, especially in voting



to put out a book for sale



people connected with us



person chosen to speak for another or others



a person or thing that represents another or others



a feeling of high regard for someone or something for their quality



a specialist in a particular branch of study, especially the humanities



Holy writings, also called Holy Scripture



a social group, organized together



an expert in the development and functioning of human society



better or greater than usual



something done for a long time



the way things are done, handed down over time