Jiangxi village authorities smash coffins to comply with burial ban

Funeral reforms mandate cremation in an effort to go green and reduce waste

Local authorities in a Jiangxi village destroyed 500 coffins earlier this week in an effort to promote funeral reform initiatives in the province. The destruction is part of larger nation-wide push to promote cremation, preserve land, and reduce waste and exorbitant spending on funerals in China.

The coffins were reportedly turned over willingly by their owners, many of whom had prepared the coffins decades in advance. Officials plan to use the wood for local power generation.

Jiangxi authorities held a press conference earlier this month to promote their “green burials” initiatives. The reforms are “incentive-based”, offering free cremation services and compensation for those who turn over their coffins willingly. They are shooting for “The Three 100%s” — 100% coffins collected, 100% cremation rate, and 100% burial of remains in public cemeteries (rather than in the countryside.)

The cultural desire for a burial and lavish send off runs deep in China, where many believe that the quality of funeral and burial reflects both your status in this life and your wellbeing in the afterlife.

Rushing funeral reforms, setting deadlines, and pushing cremation quotas in the past has led to a number of morbid outcomes. In 2014, elderly in Anhui Province committed suicide to beat a cremation policy deadline, and police in Guangdong purchased corpses from grave robbers and burned them to meet cremation quotas.

This had lead a number of commentators to urge caution in this round of reforms, with one widely-circulating article criticizing the damage of a “one-size-fits-all” approach to funeral reform. Jiangxi authorities have currently set a July deadline for enforcing 100% cremation, no matter your location or your status.

With some officials claiming a national target cremation rate of 100% by 2020, it’s going to take an enormous effort by local governments to change the hearts and minds of the public.

In other words, they’ll have to urn it.

[Images via Chinanews]

This article was written by Jessica Colwell.