Visiting graves during Qingming is a time-honored tradition in China, and not going is a sign of disrespect to the departed. That’s why some people hire others to do it for them.
More than 20 online stores are offering tomb-sweeping packages, but little interest has been shown so far.
By paying 500 yuan ($80), customers can hire someone to kowtow, mourn, weep and clean the gravesite, as well as offer sacrifices and flowers for the deceased.
The owner of one such shop said professional mourners are required to bow three times and give eulogies to the deceased.
“Professional mourners should wear mourning suits,” said the shop owner, adding that services like kowtowing and sobbing require extra fees.
Unsurprisingly this practice has drawn flack for being a shameful way to put a commercial face on a sacred festival. Heck, it makes those dancing Christmas trees at the mall seem like the manger scene from the Bible.
Still, professional mourners or moirologists have been utilized throughout history, notably in Europe and the Middle East during the Middle Ages. 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.
However, in this day and age, it seems a bit hokey and in poor taste (even if you’re Kim Jong Il).