Graveyard shift in China is a booming, profitable business

Beijing: With burial sites in most Chinese cities including Beijing reporting full, running a cemetery has emerged as a booming business in the most populous nation.

A cemetery in Shanghai, China. Pic/AFP

“Death has become a rather expensive business,” state media reported citing high profit margins of Chinese cemetery companies.

For example, the Lingshan cemetery reported a gross profit margin of 83.3 per cent in 2015. It aims to make 100 million yuan (Rs 102 crore) in profits this year, the company said. Fu Shou Yuan, which owns cemeteries in several Chinese provinces, has also reported a profit. Its average grave price was 80,211 yuan (about Rs 8,19,538) in 2015.

The Lingshan cemetery has 30,000 grave plots, and a third have been sold. Qiao Kuanyuan, an expert with the China Funeral Association, said grave plots have become expensive due to land scarcity, and government calls for eco-friendly alternatives have been countered by old beliefs.

The Ministry of Civil Affairs and eight other ministries jointly issued a circular about eco-burials and efficient use of burial sites in February. Hang Juan, an official of the Nanjing funeral reform and management department, said more campaigns will be organised to persuade the public to switch to environment-friendly burials.

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