Coronavirus: China honours ancestors digitally on Tomb Sweeping Festival
Qingming festival is one of the most important events in China to commemorate dead ancestors. But this year, due to the deadly coronavirus outbreak people are paying their respects to the dead digitally.
This year, people in China are paying their respects to dead ancestors digitally on the Qingming festival -- also known as Tomb Sweeping Day -- as the country continues to face the coronavirus outbreak. The Qingming festival is one of the most important dates in the traditional Chinese lunar new year calendar, and usually sees millions of families travel to tend to their ancestral graves, offer flowers and burn incense.
Amid fears of another outbreak, the Chinese government has advised people to stay away and maintain social distancing. In this situation, companies and burial places have turned to modern technology as they look for ways for families to continue the centuries-old tradition.
The restrictions are the strictest in Wuhan, which has been ravaged more than anywhere in China since the virus first emerged there last year. As of Friday, 2,567 people in the city had died of the virus while 50,008 were infected. In total, China has so far reported 3,322 deaths with 81,620 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Authorities in the city of 11 million have banned all tomb sweeping activities in its cemeteries until at least April 30. They have also told residents, the majority of whom are stuck at home due to lockdown restrictions, to use online streaming services which will allow them to watch cemetery staff carrying out those tasks live.
Li Quanxi, an official at Beijing’s civil affairs bureau, said: “We want to encourage people to transform social traditions amid the coronavirus outbreak.”
It is not completely unknown for pay their respects online, however, with the spread of the virus, there are now people who have no other option, the BBC reported.
"Cloud tomb sweeping" allows people to “virtually” clean graves and make offerings to spirits. While taking part in “cloud tomb sweeping” does mean you get to send offerings, it does not include the physical cleaning of a loved one's tomb.
So some burial spots in China are now offering relatives a chance to watch a member of staff clean the tomb via a live stream. Others will send you photographs of the cleaned grave.
One cemetery in Shanghai is offering packages where a “valet sweep” starts from as little as 35 yuan (£4).
Babaoshan funeral parlour, in Beijing, also offers live stream services, reported the BBC.
Zhou Weihua, deputy director of the parlour, told Chinese news agency Xinhua that live streaming could become a future trend.
“Helping clients sweep tombs and holding online commemorative activities not only meets the demand in this special period but also offers more options for people to remember their deceased family members in the future.”
Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday led the nation in observing a three-minute silence to mourn the martyrs, including the "whistleblower" Dr Li Wenliang, who sacrificed their lives in the fight against the coronavirus outbreak.
People paused and cars and air raid sirens wailed in mourning as the country observed a three minutes’ silence. During the commemoration, national flags flew half-mast across the country and in all Chinese embassies and consulates abroad and public recreational activities have been suspended across the country.
Meanwhile, Hubei reported four new deaths and one new case of COVID-19 on Friday.
The province confirmed 38 asymptomatic COVID-19 patients, bringing the total to 729 indicating that the battle against the virus is not over yet even though normalcy gradually returned with apprehensions of a rebound.
Hubei has so far reported 67,803 confirmed cases, including 50,008 in Wuhan.