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March 27, 2020

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Coronavirus has changed how we do Qingming

Online reservation systems for several Shanghai cemeteries crashed almost immediately yesterday as people scrambled to book Qingming Festival visits.

Qingming, on April 4 this year, is when Chinese clean family tombs and pay tribute to their ancestors. This year, visitors to cemeteries will be controlled via online reservations to prevent crowds amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The city’s 54 cemeteries and columbaria began taking reservations on their WeChat accounts at 8am yesterday with four two-hour time slots available each day between March 28 and April 12.

Only half of the systems worked smoothly because the high level of traffic caused gridlock before returning to normal, city officials said.

By 4pm, 68,500 residents had made reservations, the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau said, and almost all slots on April 4, 5 and 6, the Qingming Festival holiday, have been fully booked,

It’s a tradition

Echo Jiang, a Putuo District resident in her 20s, was among those who struggled to make a reservation.

“It’s a tradition for me and my parents to sweep my grandfather’s tomb at the Binhai Guyuan Cemetery in Fengxian District every year, and my father asked me to make the reservation because he didn’t know how to do it,” Jiang told Shanghai Daily.

“I learned how to make a reservation on Wednesday and set an alarm to wake up early yesterday.

“I had been trying to make a reservation since 8am. At first, the page was shown as non-existent, but then it failed to load again and again as I refreshed it.”

Jiang said that a few times she was able to select a time and date, but she either failed to receive a verification code or the service crashed before it could proceed further.

The most sought-after date for tomb-sweeping was April 4, the day of the festival.

Jingyuan Cemetery in Qingpu District and Baoluo Mingyuan Cemetery in Baoshan District quickly became fully booked.

“We offer 5,000 reservations for each of the four time slots, and by 8:30am yesterday, the slot between 8am and 10am on April 4 was fully reserved,” said Chen Beiqi, assistant manager of the Shanghai branch of Fu Shou Yuan International Group, which operates cemeteries in around 30 Chinese cities.

Less than 30 minutes later, the time slot between 10am and noon for April 4 was also completely booked, Chen added.

“We are telling tomb-sweepers to avoid peak days to pay their visit,” he said.

During last year’s Qingming Festival, Fushouyuan Cemetery received 75,000 visitors.

Wang Xiaoming, a resident of Hongkou District, had better luck than some. She was determined to book a visit on April 4 to Baofeng Mingyuan Cemetery in Baoshan.

“This is the first Qingming Festival since my grandfather’s urn was interred, so our family has to pay a visit on the day,” she told Shanghai Daily.

Fortunately, she secured a reservation. “I saw the reservation vacancies were fully booked within three minutes,” she said.

A maximum of 10 participants will be allowed at each interment site.

Visitors will need to have their temperatures checked and present their health QR codes and reservation confirmation for entry, said Zeng Qun, deputy director of the civil affairs bureau.

Cemeteries have been ordered to set their reservation limits based on their capacity.


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