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September 21, 2012

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Damaged tombs spur hunt for families

CEMETERY managers in Ningbo, a popular graveyard choice for Shanghai residents, are looking for families of the departed after tombs were seriously damaged by a typhoon last month.

More than half the tombs had cracks or fallen gravestones, a taboo showing disrespect to ancestors in Chinese culture. But as most tombs date from the 1950s to the 1980s, family contacts are sometimes missing.

Also, average repair costs of about 5,000 yuan (US$806) are a problem. Tomb insurance isn't offered, according to Shanghai's funeral service association.

The Ningbo Yong'an No.1 Cemetery, the largest in the city, has over 10,000 tombs. Typhoon Haikui damaged more than 1,000 tombs there, with some 300 seriously damaged, said Zhou Weide, a staff member of the cemetery. Zhou said a landslide caused by Haikui hit a few tombs, causing them to crack and tombstones to fall and fracture. About 50 percent in the graveyard were Shanghainese.

"Fortunately we've not found any cremation urns missing yet, but people also care about the tomb itself very much," said Zhou. "Departed relatives' tombs often mean a lot to Chinese."

The cemetery insists family members cover most costs.

"Family members have already paid management fees, thus the cemetery has the responsibility to repair them," said a Shanghai resident surnamed Wang. "As it is a natural disaster, the issue should be solved through mediation," Wang said.

Wang Hongjie, director of Shanghai Funeral and Interment Association, said cemeteries should pay. "It is a common practice in Shanghai that cemeteries cover the fees of repair if tombs are damaged," he said.


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