A cemetery in Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu province, has launched a live-streaming service for people unable to visit a loved one’s grave on Tomb Sweeping Day next Monday.
April 4 marks a traditional day when people are expected to pay their respects to their ancestors by sweeping their graves and burning paper money for use in the afterlife.
However, people are often unable to carry out the custom due to illness, work commitments or the fact they have moved elsewhere.
To help such people, Nanjing’s Yuhuatai Cemetery has launched a service on its WeChat account through which its employees, dressed in black suits, will sweep the tombs and lay flowers for them, which will be streamed live via the social media app.
There will be no extra charges other than the cost of the flowers, according to Hu Jing, the cemetery’s director, who said traditions should be adapted to modern lifestyles.
“The service has been welcomed,” Hu said. “Many people have submitted applications. Due to sickness and distance, some people cannot come personally, but the desire to honor their loved ones remains the same.”
Hu said the idea was thought up after her employees noticed how popular social media apps have become, and they realized how many people would benefit from the service. Relatives of more than 100 people interred at the cemetery live abroad or in other Chinese cities, she said.
Cao Cui, director of Nanjing Runmi Internet Technique Co, which partnered with the cemetery to create the app, said the privacy of applicants and their loved ones can be ensured.
“At an agreed time, applicants can watch a live stream by entering a password given to them by the cemetery. Only those with passwords can watch the tombs being swept.”
Since 2010, cemeteries in Nanjing have provided online “cloud tomb sweeping” services, through which people can review photos and videos on smartphones and computers at any time.
In addition, more than 1,000 people in the city have exclusive online memorial “halls”, including one that has been visited 2 million times. Some cemeteries have placed QR codes on tombs so people can scan them and view a memorial online.
Changsong Temple Public Cemetery in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, also allows people to pay tribute to their ancestors via WeChat. People can post messages on a special WeChat account that is then displayed on an electronic screen in front of the tomb, Chengdu Business Daily reported.
In addition to cemeteries, online traders have realized a business opportunity. On Taobao, an online marketplace targeting customer-to-customer trades, about 100 stores offer tomb-sweeping services priced at about 300 yuan ($44).
Guo Jun contributed to this story.