Wan notes that Guangzhou recently offered a $160 bonus for families that scatter ashes at sea. This figure is dwarfed by reports from other cities however — $320 in Shanghai, $800 in Shaoxing and $1,290 in Wenzhou. Families get a government-funded boat journey too.
The problem is simple — graves are expensive.
Chinese cities already require cremation by law, but even small graveyard spots for ashes are so scarce that a top spot in a Beijing cemetery can reach at least $16,000, Wan writes. That's an astronomical sum — even in the relatively wealthy Beijing it's almost double the average annual wage of $8760 in 2011.
China's growing land value is a big issue, as property developers buy up plots for new buildings. Data released last month shows that on a month-over-month basis home prices were up in 53 of 70 cities in January.
Last year one startling land deal in saw one plot in Shanghai's Hongkou District sell for for 5.68 billion yuan ($908.8 million) — around $37.32 per square meter, and 21 percent higher than the starting price.
Developers aren't above buying graveyards and moving the graves either, as one memorable "nail grave" case in Shanxi Province reminded us last year. In this case, the families who owned the grave were given 800 yuan ($128) to have their grave relocated by developers who wanted to build a luxury apartment building.
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