In China, Digital Burials and Funeral Services Are Replacing Gravestones with Technology

digital memorial fu shu yuan

What do you get when you combine an aging population with high population density and technology?

In China, the problem of land scarcity has led to the rise of so-called “digital burials” and funeral services, where families of the deceased can visit a tablet instead of a gravestone.

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Beijing funeral homes are not pioneers of actual digital graveyards. Last year, Shanghai opened a digital cemetery which offers digital memoirs in the shape of life microfilms or photo reels of the deceased. The same company offering those services also created digital replicas of the deceased (pictured above), based on footage provided by the families, which could interact with memorial service attendees.

In the case of Beijing’s digital memorial services, families of the deceased deposit their ashes in a compartment like a bank deposit box, then gather together alongside loved ones to pay homage to the departed by watching images of them on screens.

a digital memorial for the deceased in Shanghai

From a Bloomberg report:

Zhang Yin, a local resident in her 40s, chose a very different burial rite when her grandmother died earlier this year: She had her ashes stored in a compartment of a large room at Beijing’s Taiziyu Cemetery, almost like a safe deposit box at a bank. An electronic screen on the door of the compartment displaying pictures and videos of the deceased replaces the traditional headstone. It’s a land-saving option that’s also more affordable and dovetails with the growing trend of Chinese families wanting more personalized funerals for their loved ones.

“Traditional cemeteries are outdoors, exposed to the wind and sun,” Zhang says. “If you bring your kids there, they will only see bare graves, which has no meaning to them. For digital cemeteries, families can watch the photo display of deceased relatives together in a hall.” Zhang says her grandfather gave his approval for the digital funeral because he’s very receptive to new things — and, by coincidence, the niche storing her grandmother’s ashes is the same as the number of her grandmother’s old house. 

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