Sea Burials given a sense of dignity

By ZHANG XIAOMIN in Dalian, Liaoning | China Daily | Updated: 2020-11-20 08:33
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Bereaved families place ashes in urns made from marine clay on a table that is also used every day for meals by Chen's family and employees. ZHANG XIAOMIN/CHINA DAILY

Assistance sought

Sea burials have been sponsored and promoted by the Liaoning government since 1997.

Initially, amid reluctance to take orders for such ceremonies, a friend asked Chen for help.

"At the time, the tourism business was good, and I felt it was no big deal to conduct sea burials," Chen said. "But I could not return to tourism, as visitors no longer wanted to take our boat."

He added that with hindsight, he would not have chosen to enter the sea burial business.

"The funeral industry is taboo for Chinese people. One friend asked me 'Why are you doing this? It has too much yinqi (breaking the balance of yin and yang)'," he said.

Chen first used a coastal park as a berth, but local residents doing morning exercises complained that he would bring them bad luck, forcing him to find other locations.

In 2012, the Liaoning government stepped up efforts to encourage sea burials. With help from the provincial Civil Affairs Department, Chen was given a designated berth at Dalian Port.

"As far as I know, it is the only designated berth for sea burials in China," he said.

Encouraged by the substantial subsidies provided, and deterred by rocketing prices for grave sites, more Chinese are forsaking tradition and opting for change when family members die.

Chen and his family have witnessed the rapid rise in the number of sea burials, and his team has also grown to more than 20 employees.

However, the developer of a nearby coastal estate recently, complained again to Chen that his marine burial business could affect property sales.

"The truth is that we came here earlier than the developer," Chen said.

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