On April 13 a group of retirees from Chongqing boarded a bus for what they thought was going to be a trip to a scenic spot. They had paid Rmb18 ($2.80) each for the tour and put on their best clothes for their day out.
But when they arrived at their destination, they were horrified to discover it was a cemetery and that their ‘tour guide’ was actually a cemetery sales rep.
The group was furious with the tour operator and the neighbour who had organised the visit.
“You can’t trick us into visiting a graveyard by telling us it’s a sightseeing trip,” the Global Times quoted one of the participants as saying.
“This is so insensitive! Haven’t you got parents yourselves? How could you do such a thing?” asked others of the tour leaders.
China is no stranger to ‘the-sales-disguised-as-tourism’ scam or “forced shopping” as the trick is also known locally. In 2015 a mainland man was beaten to death in Hong Kong after his tour group was taken to a jewellery shop in the city, leading to an altercation between people who didn’t want to purchase anything, and the tour guide, who was determined that they do some shopping.
A 51 year-old from northeastern China intervened in the fracas but two unknown men dragged him out to the street and beat him unconscious.
More recently a tour guide in Guilin was stripped of her licence after ordering her group to start spending at a souvenir market. “I don’t care why you have come to Guilin… get off the bus and spend 20,000 yuan in an hour,” she was recorded as instructing them.
Last year an elderly couple from Henan were also taken to a cemetery instead of the promised day out at a beauty spot. The firm behind the tour was the management company for the cemetery and staff there convinced them to spend Rmb8,000 on a burial plot.
The Chinese authorities have encouraged people against buying burial plots in recent years, asking them to scatter their loved ones’ ashes instead. Families that do buy burial plots only have the rights to keep them for limited periods of time such as 20 years – hardly a long-term commitment to the hereafter.
Burial customs are deeply embedded across society and it is a tough task convincing the public to think differently from tradition. Someone making headlines earlier this year for trying was Ren Sainan – a young woman who makes bespoke garments for the dead. Of particular fascination for the media was that Ren even models the outfits herself on livestreaming sites, shattering taboos around the discussion of death in daily life. Because of these superstitions many of her friends were appalled when Ren started her business. Yet she says that choosing a beautiful garment for a cremation is about honouring the deceased. Unlike more traditional shrouds, her designs include styles inspired by the hanfu or the qipao, as well as a variety of more modern outfits.
“My demonstration can help relieve their negative emotions,” she explained further to the China Daily on the benefits of her apparel for the deceased person’s family.
“We can’t change death, why not leave the world in a decent manner, wearing beautiful clothes?”
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