Lavish funerals go up in smoke as China orders frugality
This picture taken on November 25, 2012 shows tombstones at a public cemetery in the suburb of Zhoukou, central China's Henan province
With concerns mounting that official funerals had become a "platform to show off wealth and connections", party members and officials have been instructed to "set an example with simple, civilised" ceremonies, the state Xinhua news agency reported.
Rising displays of opulence and a trend for the number of mourners in attendance to be seen as a sign of the deceased's "achievements" were sparking competition among the living, prompting Communist Party leaders to call for more modest ceremonies, it said.
Officials have also been banned from collecting "condolence money" from attendees and from "superstitious practices".
"Party members and officials should set an example with simple, civilized funerals," Xinhua quoted a document issued by China's State Council and the Communist Party's Central Committee as saying.
"No funeral parlours should be set up in resident communities, streets and public venues," the memo said. "Superstitious practices should be avoided."
The document also suggested officials donate their organs after death, choose "cremation or other environmentally-friendly form of disposal", and ensure gravestones do not exceed "set standards".
Land in cemeteries in Beijing and Shanghai can hit tens of thousands of US dollars per half-metre plot, exceeding even the cost of housing in the cities, Xinhua news agency said.
Beijing's year-long drive against the decadence practised by Communist Party officials has seen popular delicacy shark fin banned from banquets and party members warned over accepting expensive gifts such as traditional baijiu liquor.