Chinese undertaker offers fake funerals for the living – a step too far?

15 May

Chinese undertaker offers fake funerals for the living - a step too far?

A Chinese funeral parlour has courted controversy by laying on tearful farewells for the living. Last month, 24 pretend funerals were held at the Shimenfeng Celebrity Culture Park cemetery in the Chinese city of Wuhan. The fake funerals were the brainchild of Zeng Jia, a 20-year-old student, who became the first to lie down in a coffin during her fake wake at the end of March.
Despite the absence of genuine cadavers, Ms Zhang said the funeral services were realistic, involving coffins, floral bouquets, mourners, photographers and even emotion-packed speeches from friends of the ‘deceased’.
“The service has two parts – a 20-minute memorial service and a 15-20 minute ‘life-death experience’,” she said. A rendition of a Chinese pop song called “Angel” is also included in the package.
The unconventional services have been widely criticized online for being morbid and disrespectful to the dead. But Ms Zhang insisted the mock funerals were therapeutic.
Should we take a leaf out of Ms Zhang’s book, or is this a bit too morbid for British culture?


3 Responses to “Chinese undertaker offers fake funerals for the living – a step too far?”

  1. ags2g09 May 16, 2013 at 12:10 am #

    What a strange phenomenon! The traditional Western view of funerals as occasions to be avoided for as long as possible, sombre ceremonies performed only out of necessity and associated with the colour black and tears is completely turned upside down by Zeng Jia. Why is this becoming so popular? In any case, it is popular enough to spark a media frenzy, so it cannot be an isolated incident. Is it just another peculiar instance of Chinese cultural differences? Perhaps not – Zeng Jia herself has said that the experience gives the ‘deceased’ the chance to reflect upon their life and ‘find themselves’. Considering that this philosophical aim in life is something that people devote years of their lives too, it might be actually that if a 20-minute fake funeral is able of accomplishing such a feat that it is a revolutionary concept that all other countries will take after!

    Already, in fact, ‘fake mourners’ are being purchased in the UK and the USA for various reasons, such as making the deceased seem more influential, or to give the families some comfort. If mourners can be bought, why not fake the whole service? What might at first seem a bit perverse could, with a bit of imagination, be seen to have the therapeutic effects that Zeng Jia claims.

    I am not sure I agree with the claims that such services are disrespectful to the dead – no particular dead person is referenced, and if anything, the funeral ceremony is being lauded rather than mocked. However, that said, I think I would answer the question at the end of question with an unequivocal ‘yes’ – it is a tad morbid for British culture – I’m not sure the concept of a ‘fake funeral’ would be popular – it would be seen as distasteful.

  2. jc35g10 May 16, 2013 at 7:13 am #

    I feel this concept is far too bizarre to be witnessed in any other culture, and I am surprised that the Chinese have adopted such an experience. Although some may argue that it is the perfect opportunity to be able to reflect upon your life, leading you to appreciate what you have more and perhaps leave this ‘fake funeral’ with a new mindset, overall I feel the majority of witnesses and the general public would find the whole situation disturbing and distasteful. It seems to offer no true purpose than to give the individual partaking in the experience a few moments to think about their life thus far and realise how grateful they are. I feel that there would be many other, more appropriate ways to exercise this and do not feel that ‘playing’ with death is the answer.

    • jk10g11 May 16, 2013 at 11:40 am #

      As absurd as this article and phenomenon is, it is by no means a simply modern Chinese trend.
      Paolo Coelho, a South-American author famous for his spiritual and motivational books, describes one such experience when he does the road to Santiago di Compostella, an ancient pilgrim way. On this way he is shown a certain ritual which brings you close to your death. He said, once he had experienced it, he was not afraid of it anymore. This does not mean that I agree with this practise, or any other creation of near death experiences for that matter. This comment aims to point out that the recreation of near death experiences, the own funeral, is no new method.
      There are numerous websites and articles to be found on the subject of near-death experiences and their positive effects on people. This popular culture and merchandise around this phenomenon is however, more disturbing.
      For further reference

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