There is a lot to be said for the shroud or at least the pall

We can always improve on current practice, be it in the ways we prepare for our ending – medically speaking, or arranging our departing – funeral speaking.  Having said that, we are pleased that we don’t have hard line bureaucracies to contend with, which is the case for thousands of Chinese families right now.

ABC News journalists Michael Walsh and Jason Fang  report that ‘Authorities in China’s south-east have confiscated, destroyed, and even exhumed coffins in accordance with a controversial “zero burial” policy, according to local media reports.’

In   ‘Barbaric’: coffins destroyed, seized as Chinese province executes hardline ‘burial-free policy’ (ABC News, Thursday 3rd August 2018)  Walsh and Fang report that:

  • Officials confiscated more than 5,000 coffins last month;
  • Some rural families have to save for years to buy the coffins;
  • Footage on Chinese social media showed authorities using force to seize coffins.

The Jiangxi Provincial Government wants locals to only cremate their loved ones’ remains, but poor families in rural areas of China often spend a fortune saving up for coffins and expensive burial rituals.  Families who voluntarily gave up their coffins received compensation, but those who resisted received no money and could even face fines.

Reports from earlier this year suggested the amount in compensation was less than what many paid for the caskets.

Let this be a reminder to us that what should be a simple returning to mother earth either by the decomposition of our mortal bodies in a burial or by incineration and vaporisation of our remains in a cremation (or by dissolving as in aquamation, or by composting as in recomposition), it is only culture and tradition that govern our choices.

In the great scheme of things it wasn’t all that long ago that the shroud was common. When coffins were first introduced they were community owned and in many cases the possession of the local parish church.  It was a one size fits all. Regardless of status the coffin was draped in the parish pall – hence pall bearers.

So why not rewrite the rule book (if we have to have a rule at all) and revisit these not so ‘ancient’ traditions.  We might find it less competitive, easier on the purse or hip pocket and kinder to our earth mother, all at the same time.



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