April 4, 2006

Ancestor Worship a Mouse Click Away in China

BEIJING -- Virtual carnations, memorial messages and tribute songs are some of the online services available to China's Web surfers too busy on Wednesday to pay proper respects at the graves of their ancestors.

As China passes Tomb Sweeping Day -- a traditional festival where people pray, offer food and burn paper money at relatives' graves -- authorities are urging people to care for the environment and honor relatives online instead, Xinhua news agency said.

Several cemeteries and funeral companies in China have heeded the call, establishing online memorial halls promising access to relatives within seconds, 365 days a year.

Shanghai Funeral Service Center claims to have had 40 million visits from respectful relatives grateful to pay respects at the click of a mouse since the service was introduced in 2001.

The Qing Ming festival is a public holiday in Hong Kong and Taiwan, and members of China's parliament have urged the government to reintroduce the holiday after it was scrapped in 1949 when the atheists Communists swept to power.