As far as Chinese cities go, Shanghai is relatively compact, or at least compact compared to the sprawl that has become Beijing. What this means is that the citizens of Shanghai, both alive and otherwise, have to live together in a very small area, and with Shanghai’s population continuing to surge as it has been for the better part of the last three decades, burial space is becoming a hot commodity.
So hot, in fact, that the city of Shanghai has resorted to turning the ashen remains of its deceased into diamonds. For the low low price of 18,000 redbacks.
This push for alternative burials is not new. In fact Shanghai’s government has been urging its people to embrace alternative burials for roughly 26 years. As a consequence, cremations, burials at sea, and other so-called small-scale burials now occupy about 28% of burials, while 80% of all new burial sites aim to cater to this new model, according to report from Tencent.
The city estimates that in 30 years its deceased population will peak, and that to accommodate the legions of the dead, Shanghai will have to add more than 2,000 acres of space at a rate of 200 acres per year, which means that all 2,000 acres will be depleted in a mere 10-15 years.
Which brings us, dear readers, back to diamonds. As part of its promotional efforts, the city claims that crystallizing the ashes of loved ones will afford people with unique opportunities to honor the deceased, such as wearing them as fashionable jewelry or using them to decorate the home. Or for the more conventional, leaving it in a tiny plot at the local temple.
Also, on the plus side, it dramatically reduces your loved one’s chances at being dug up and used as a bride in a “ghost marriage,” though it probably makes them more of a threat for theft overall.
In all seriousness, such efforts to change people’s behavior may prove difficult. Chinese traditionally prefer to keep their deceased entombed in specific locations in accordance with custom, and one of China’s biggest holidays, the Tomb Sweeping Festival, is entirely based around the concept of visiting, cleaning and offering sacrifices (as well as scavenging of said sacrifices) to one’s ancestors.
Besides, everyone knows diamonds are basically just hunks of useless carbon. Would it not be more productive to somehow recycle all that dead flesh into something with more utility?
Soylent Green, anyone?
By Stanley Yu