Shanghai government grows subsidy for burial of cremains at sea

Scattering ashes of a loved one mixed with flower petals

The local authority has announced a fivefold increase, from 400 yuan/$64 to 2,000 yuan/$320, in subsidies to encourage Shanghai residents to consider the sea option.

Starting next year, Shanghai will subsidize families choosing a sea burial by 1,000 yuan and the another 1,000 yuan will go to pay service providers to cover costs such as ship tickets and insurance, Lu Chunling, director of funeral management under Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau, said…”Those opting for burial at sea will save 1 square meter of land in Shanghai, and that would cost about 24,000 yuan if it was a burial plot,” said Lu.

With an increasingly elderly population and 110,000 deaths annually, Shanghai authorities and cemetery operators have been promoting sea burials since 1991…However, most people still shun the option because it is traditionally believed that the soul can find peace only when the body is buried on land…

“Sea burials in Shanghai have increased by 5 to 8 percent each year since 1991,” said Lu. The local government offered a 200 yuan subsidy for each sea burial from 2002 and raised the amount to 400 yuan in 2007.

It’s not all about money, there are cases of people opting for a sea burial without claiming anything,” said Lu. “We’re just sending the signal that it’s the most environmentally friendly way of burial and our government is encouraging residents to do it.”

Shi Hong, 34, from Zhoushan, Zhejiang province, lost his wife last year and said he chose burial at sea because both he and his wife were Buddhists and that was her last wish…”She liked the idea of a sea burial because Zhoushan (the site of one of Buddhism’s sacred mountains in China) has a relatively good location for the ceremony,” Shi said.

Makes good sense all round. Death in all societies is associated with the stoniest of primitive and superstitious beliefs – it still ain’t an easy task growing acceptance, suggesting change.

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