The Cost of Death in China

April 16, 2015 Last Updated: April 16, 2015

For the Chinese, resting in peace can be pricier than remaining in the mortal realm. According to mainland Chinese reports, high graveyard rents in urban areas sometimes far outstrip those of housing in the same area.

In China, all land belongs to the state. A plot in the cemetery of about one square meter is rented for 20 years for a lump sum.

The Chang’an cemetery in Shanghai’s Jiading District charges between 50,000 yuan (about 8,000) and 80,000 yuan for that one square meter, depending on the quality of the gravesite. By comparison, a 70-year lease on a typical housing unit in the same district is between 10,000 and 20,000 yuan.

Fu Shenqi, an overseas democratic activist from China, told Epoch Times that “China has many social abnormalities. One is that average people cannot find a place to live. But for wealthy people, a graveyard can be turned into a luxurious construction. This is a sign of extreme social disparity and uneven distribution of wealth.”

In January, Ji Jianye, former mayor of Nanjing, purchased a 150-square meter cemetery plot  with a price of 500,000 yuan (about $80,000) below the market value.  

According to a report by Beijing News, a grave in Beijing carries a hefty pricetag—30,000 (about $4,833) to 100,000 yuan. This does not include the costs of tombstone inscriptions, decoration or an annual cemetery management fee.  

The prices are so high that many Beijing residents have chosen to bury their deceased relatives in Hebei, a province of 73 million that surrounds the Chinese capital.

“The Chinese funeral business has long been controlled by local civil affairs bureaus,” Dong Ming, a political and economic commentator told New York-based New Tang Dynasty Television. “Some bureau directors even run funeral parlors personally. Others amass illicit wealth by selling the land dedicated for cemetery purposes to real estate developers at very low prices.”

“Unless the interest chain between the civil affairs bureaus and the real estate developers is cut off, graveyard prices will never be lowered. But there won’t be any change under the current regime because people refuse to give up their power,” Dong said.

“We are living people and we cannot find a place to live, but the dead rest in luxurious and ostentatious places,” Li Qiqun, a villager in southwest China’s Sichuan Province, told Epoch Times.  

Li’s home was among hundreds demolished by local authorities in 2007.