Epidemic prompts new approach to old customs


Heaven’s view: An aerial photo of the graves at a cemetery in Yangzhou, Jiangsu province, ahead of Tomb-Sweeping Day. — AFP

BEIJING: In recent weeks, the Covid-19 outbreak abated domestically, prompting authorities to lift bans on business and travel in regions less affected by it.

As part of the trend, cemeteries outside of Hubei province, which was ravaged by the virus, reopened just in time for the traditional Tomb -Sweeping Day, which occurred yesterday this year.

Normally, tens of millions flock to burial grounds in the period around the holiday to clear debris and leave food, flowers and imitation bank notes as offerings for dead relatives.

The age-old tradition received a major boost in 2007, when the festival, known in Chinese as Qing Ming, was officially recognised as a national public holiday along with the Dragon Boat Festival, which will fall in June, and the Mid-Autumn Festival, which is usually held in September or October.

Before the change, people observed the festivals after work if they fell on workdays.

The new status was aimed at bolstering people’s pride in traditional Chinese culture.

Through a rearrangement of workdays, tomb-sweeping relatives are entitled to a three-day break, which removes barriers to the celebration of filial piety.

According to the Ministry of Civil Affairs, about 9.78 million people visited cemeteries during the three-day period last year, a rise from the 9.72 million in 2018.

The holiday has also become increasingly popular as a prime time for spring tourism.

According to the China Tourism Academy, 112 million domestic tourist trips were recorded during the three days last year, a year-on-year rise of 10.9%, and tourism revenue during the period reached about 48 billion yuan (RM29.5bil), a rise of 13.7% from 2018.

Even though new infections in Hubei have fallen to single digits or even zero over the past few weeks, local authorities maintained a strict ban on tomb-sweeping activities to prevent large gatherings that could facilitate the virus’ spread.

Cemetery authorities will hold remembrance ceremonies to mitigate the absence of relatives at graveyards, the provincial government said. — China Daily/ANN

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