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Daily Drip

People are Ancestor-Worshipping Online To Prevent Coronavirus Spread

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In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, China’s government is urging people to take their Qingming festivities online. 

Qingming Festival (清明节, or “Tomb-Sweeping Day”), which falls on the 15th day after the Spring Equinox, is a national holiday dedicated to honoring the dead. In China, that means taking a few days off to sweep the tombs of family members who have passed, leaving ritual offerings at their graves, and enjoying the spring weather. 

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But this year the spread of novel coronavirus Covid-19 means that come April 4, most families may be paying respects to their loved ones via online prayers and “cloud tomb sweeping” (“cloud” is a common term in China for the “online version” of real-world action).

On Friday, the Ministry of Civil Affairs released an official notice urging cities to “promote Internet funeral and interment services like online sacrifices and remote farewells.” Cities are now implementing their own prevention systems to ensure that people don’t gather in groups and possibly spread the virus. 

Beijing has instituted appointment-based worship periods of maximum three people, to be reserved through WeChat or online. The other option is an “Online Sacrifice Process,” in which families can choose memorial messages, candles, incense, and wine to be delivered to the grave on their behalf. 

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Shanghai, along with 30 other cities, is offering “cloud tomb sweeping,” a process where families are able to offer virtual sacrifices online. Graveyard staff can also perform these rites and livestream them for families to watch, complete with VR panoramic view.

Oftentimes, “professional” or “valet” tomb-sweepers can be hired to perform and livestream the memorial process for an elevated experience. Fushouyuan, the company hired by two major Shanghai cemeteries, is one such service.

Under one of Fushouyuan’s ads, one upvoted comment reads, “This is unnecessary! Sweep the grave after the epidemic has passed, your ancestors will not blame you!”

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“Cloud tomb sweeping” has been offered for several years now through various websites, apps, and e-commerce channels. However, the adoption of such services looks set to be more widespread than usual due to the effects of the virus outbreak.

Allison Jiang
    Allison Jiang is a Baltimore-based writer interested in the intersection of art and culture. She is passionate about big dogs, social justice, and stand-up comedy, among other things.