China's e-graves a sweeping success
CNN Beijing Bureau Chief
BEIJING, China (CNN) -- On the annual Grave Sweeping Day many of China's families gather to sweep the burial sites of loved ones that have passed away.
Yet the cost and hassle for some families means that some are now turning to virtual cemeteries on the World Wide Web.
Others even believe that environmentally friendly E-tombs, which do not present a fire threat to cemetery hillsides, will be more popular with China's net savvy youth.
One family -- Zhang Jiabin's -- gathers each year to sweep his wife's burial site.
Three deep bows and burning incense in memory of the dead are part of the ancient rituals that have survived the Chinese drive to modernization.
"We come here four times a year during holidays," says Zhang.
The family tomb was built two years ago at a cost of $3,000 and represents not only a high price tag, but a lot of hassle to upkeep.
This represents just two of the reasons why some are moving online to pay their respects.
Like Netor.com, set up in Beijing two years ago, which now serves 12,000 subscribers.
"It's difficult for offspring to know details about their ancestors through traditional cemeteries. Internet offers a better way to commemorate the dead, " says Liu Yi, CEO of Netor.com.
Yang Tuan spent only $24 to open an e-tomb for her mother -- a famous Beijing writer -- complete with a biography, photos, essays and a chat-room.
E-cemeteries will not replace traditional graveyards, she says, but they offer a convenient alternative.
Yang Tuan, e-tomb sweeper, says "with the online memorial, we can pay our respect and show our love anytime we want."
Now with a click of the mouse, relatives can light candles, burn incense and offer flowers and songs.
They can also propagate the memory of their loved ones.
Since Yang opened her mother's e-tomb two months ago, it has attracted more than 2,600 visitors.
"Ninety nine per cent of them are strangers. I was very touched by the words they left on the web page in my mother's memory," says Yang.
"The most important thing in life," a Chinese saying goes, "is to get buried well."
Now, with the Internet, the buried may also be remembered well.
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