The annual Qingming Festival is here again. Also known as Tomb Sweeping Day, Ancestors’ Day or simply Ching Ming, it is a traditional Chinese festival to remember and honour their ancestors by cleaning up their tombs and offer food, tea, wine, or simply other accessories. The accessories are essentially anything that the dead may find useful in the afterlife, and family members ritually burn paper versions of it.
Traditionally, paper money – trillions of hell dollars – together with paper cars, paper bunglows, paper jackets and even paper young women were being offered. Electrical appliances together with computers, iPads, iPods, iPhones and even Apple Watch have now joined the most popular offerings. Every year, people would shop for such items before rushing to their ancestors’ grave sites.
In China, people have embrace technology to the fullest. The Chinese here have become materialistic hence in order not to waste time visiting bricks and mortar shops, which otherwise could be spent on making money, they prefer online shopping. Needless to say, Alibaba’s Taobao was the preferred shopping destination. Amazingly, over the years the Chinese tradition of qingming has seen its values slowly losses the shine.
Some Chinese figured it would be too dumb to travel halfway across the country to visit their family’s gravesite just to burn some fake money before turning back towards the city. So they would spend money to have someone else visit on their behalf. As shameful as it may sound, you can hire professional mourners to clean gravesite, kowtow, mourn and even weep for about 500 Yuan (US$80, £54, RM296).
Online stores were flushed with tomb-sweeping packages as if they were McDonald’s value meal deals. One vendor in Hengyang, Hunan province said a three-minute “weeping session” will cost a customer around 100 Yuan (US$16, £10, RM60). For a collective wail from the “group weeping” service, consisting of at least 10 mourners, customers can get a deal by paying 90 Yuan per person for a three-minute session.
As laughable as it may sound, the so-called Chinese entrepreneurs are dead serious about their proxy tomb sweeping services. By the way, if you’re interested in the “group crying” service, you have to make a booking – at least 5-days in advance (*grin*). For tomb-sweeping process which usually lasts 20 to 30 minutes, the service includes taking 10 photos of the process and have them sent to you, as proof of job well done.
If photos are not enough as proof, they can even send you video to further prove it. Sure, getting some strangers to do the work is absolutely insincere, not to mention disrespect for ancestors. But to some people in China, it’s better than not able to do the tomb sweeping at all. Perhaps they thought by burning iPhone-7 (yes, ancestors in afterlife do get more advanced iPhones), their ancestors would be pleased (*tongue-in-cheek*).
Okay, here’s a joke about Qingming – Mr Chow Ah Beng went to buy joss sticks and paper offerings for his ancestors. The shop owner asked him if he wants to buy paper iPhone-7 for his ancestors. Mr Chow asked if those in afterlife know how to use such a gadget. The reply was that since Steve Jobs was already there, he can teach them. Subsequently, the shop owner convinced Ah Beng to buy charger, battery and even bluetooth, all sold separately.
Before making payment, Mr Chow Ah Beng asked for the shop owner’s business card. Taken aback, the owner asked why the customer needs his name card. Mr Chow clarified he wanted to burn it for his ancestors as well, as warranty claim, in case they want to contact the shop owner – directly (*grin*).
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