By Benjamin Cost
A budding company is now offering to mourn your dead ancestors this Tomb Sweeping Day if you either can’t attend or just need some extra tears on site to show you
know how to appear like you really care. Shanghai Daily reports:
A group of lively entrepreneurs have decided to cash in on people’s hectic schedule this Qingming Festival by offering to mourn on your behalf for less than one hour for 3,000 yuan ($475) a time, enorth.com.cn reported Thursday.
An advertisement posted on a wall in Tianjin offers to carry out sacrificial offerings, burn joss sticks and even cry on your behalf at the graveside of your relatives for the rate for 30 to 45 minutes.
This is just one of a number of agencies that have sprung to life in recent years offering to honor the dead on behalf of strangers.
When contacted by a reporter, the advertiser surnamed Li confirmed the normal charge is 3,000 yuan, but added the service is not just for those who are too busy to honor their ancestors.
“Not all people need our service because they are too busy. Some need us to add to face. You see, if a crowd of people cry for the deceased, you’ll feel proud,” said Li.
While most would frown upon the idea of hiring professional mourners to grieve for ancestors in their stead (especially in a culture that places such great emphasis on filial piety), there are many conflicting opinions regarding the notion of mourners accompanying people in mourning.
Some feel that it dishonors tradition while others, like the aforementioned advertiser, believe employing an entourage of mourners is an important demonstration of “face.”
However, even though mourning ancestors on a holiday may be, by nature, more impersonal than grieving the recent deaths of family members at a funeral, there still seems to be an element of soullessness to using hired crocodile tears for any familial occasion. We refer you to the orchestrated mourning for “dear leader” Kim Jong Il, which appeared hokey even for the death of a nation’s leader, let alone a close family member.
But professional mourners or moirologists have been utilized throughout history, notably in Europe and the Middle East during the Middle Ages, and people still practice moirology in parts of the world, though it’s largely disappeared from Western Culture (we’d hate to see a “screamo” band caterwauling at some celebrity funeral). In fact, some rural Chinese still hire mourners to perform pre-burial rituals.
So we guess the new mourning services are not entirely distasteful (unless their company name is a morbid pun like the “Grim Weeper”). And there are definitely worse ways to cash in on death, such as alerting funeral parlors of your dying patients in exchange for cash.