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Shanghai residents turn to ‘cloud tomb-sweeping’ amid COVID-19 prevention

Group tribute, online tribute, VR tours and more

Photograph: Suhyeon Choi via Unsplash
Next Saturday (4 April) is Qingming Jie or Tomb-sweeping Festival. As a precaution to the COVID-19, Shanghai civil affairs authorities advise the public not to visit cemeteries and columbarium during the period. Instead, the city offers three alternatives to pay tribute to the deceased remotely.

Most cemeteries will conduct group tribute sessions which will be performed on a certain day by the cemetery staff. In addition to that, online tribute is available where people can type the name or the tomb number to find a ‘digital tomb’ online. Friends and families of the passed can edit info, upload photos, send digital stickers of flowers, incense, wine and cigarettes and write tributes. A paid service for staff at the cemetery to visit the tomb is also available for about 35RMB (5 USD). Some cemeteries even provide VR tours.

For people who need to visit the cemetery between 28 March and 12 April who can provide valid reasons, a reservation system will be available from 26 March. Visitors should come on the exact date and time as they indicated. A maximum of ten will be permitted at interments ceremony and a maximum of five will be allowed to ‘tomb-sweep’. Same as entering any other public areas these days, the Shanghai Health Code is needed to enter.

Though it is fine to sweep tombs at any time of the year, the tomb-sweeping peak usually begins a week before the public holiday and ends a few days after. According to SHINE, last year, 2.2 million show up at Shanghai’s 54 cemeteries and columbarium on Qingming Day and about 6.3 million people paid a visit from 30 March to 7 April.

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