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December 23, 2010

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Crowds make solstice visit to tombs

TRAFFIC jams and mishaps with firecrackers were among the hazards facing visitors to the city's cemeteries yesterday to mark the Winter Solstice.

More than 1.02 million people traveled to cemeteries to visit the graves of their deceased relatives and friends, up about 11 percent on last year. More than 17,000 caskets of ash were buried in tombs yesterday, up about 5 percent, according to the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau.

In China, the Winter Solstice is a traditional day for visiting cemeteries and an auspicious day for burying ashes.

Officials said the dry weather encouraged more people to visit the cemeteries. Highways between downtown area and Minhang, Qingpu and Jiading districts were gridlocked all morning, transport authorities said.

The ceremony for burying ashes involves burning paper offerings and lighting firecrackers, even though cemeteries warn against this on safety grounds. At Xianhe Cemetery in Minhang District, more than 800 caskets of ash were buried yesterday, and almost every family lit firecrackers.

"Although we try to dissuade them, the power of tradition is irresistible," said Jin Lijuan, a cemetery official.

An elderly woman injured her face lighting firecrackers in the cemetery during the morning. She was rushed to the hospital.

In another incident, a tree caught fire as a family burned paper offerings.

"We hope that people can stop these bad habits, despite tradition," said Zhao Xiaohu, manager of Binhaiguyuan Cemetery in Fengxian District.


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