Urban graveyard

In my last post I talked about 清明节 Qingmingjie or the Tomb-sweeping Festival and how we went to the countryside. Today I want to post some pictures about the cemeteries in Suzhou. We went there last Monday, on the last day of Qingmingjie.

Cemeteries in the city are different from the ones in the countryside mainly because of two aspects:

1. Graves are smaller (what is buried is just the ashes) and the tombstones are neatly arranged in rows. A place in the graveyard costs a lot of money so all the space has to be used wisely.


2. In the city cemeteries you can’t burn your paper offerings in front of the grave. During Qingmingjie there are policemen in the entrance to the cemetery and you are not allowed to enter if you carry anything suspicious. But the inhabitants of these cemeteries also need to receive their money, so there is a special place called “the afterworld bank” where you can deposit your “cash”.

It is not in the picture but above the glass wall there is a sign that says 冥通银行. I had never seen the character 冥 ming before but C. says it can be translated as “afterworld”.


The red paper bags with paper offerings are put inside the smokey windows and then safely burned. But don’t forget to write the name of the receiver on the bag!


A lot of the graves are shared by couples who were married during their lives. But sometimes you can also find threesomes or foursomes…


One man and three women in the same grave! That is what I call happily ever after!


If in the tombstone the name is painted in black it means the person died. If it’s red it means the person is still alive but s/he already booked a place for eternity. After passing away, their descendants will paint the name black. The surname is left in red.

These people are still alive but they already prepared their tombstone with pictures and everything…


In the gravestone, Chinese people do not only write the name of the occupants of the tomb, but also the names of all their descendants. In the previous picture it is written in the smaller characters on the left.

When the paint is fading you have to re-paint:

I’m totally focused on my task.


It looks easy but it is not. Look at the mess someone made:

Looks like something taken from a horror movie.


I think cemeteries are fascinating places.