So there’s an awful lot of dead people in Hong Kong, and I mean that with the utmost respect – burial really is a big issue due to overpopulation. To combat this, the Chinese government has opened a virtual cemetery.
Yes. Yes, that is exactly what they have done.
Mourners can register a departed loved one, upload photos and video, and give offerings in the form of emoticons including candles, flowers, roast pig, and most traditional offerings. Seriously, if I find a list of these emoticons, I will absolutely update this post with them. The site claims that its purpose is to “[facilitate] the public to pay tribute and show condolence to their beloved ones at any time, and from anywhere”. Handy.
But isn’t this cheating? Where once you were truly made to reflect on the memory of your loved one by making the physical trek to their grave, you can now just hit your bookmark bar. I’m not even a very spiritual person, nor terribly attached to my extended family, and I still don’t know how well I’d feel about setting up grandmasdead.com (I’m not going to bother to check if that’s a real website, but if it is, feel free to let me know).
“The tradition is about families making an effort to visit the graves of their loved ones at least once or twice a year to make offerings and pay tributes,” says Ng Yuen, who runs the Hong Kong United Taoists Association. I tend to agree, but then again, considering the unrealistic cost of leasing a plot in Hong Kong, this might not be such a bad idea going forward.
I’m aware the image is not a Hong Kong cemetery.