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Accepted Paper:

Hierarchy, Morality, and State Deference in Chinese Cemeteries  
Andrew B. Kipnis (Chinese University of Hong Kong)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines how Chinese cemeteries simultaneously respond to state demands for loyalty to the Party and customer demands for facilitating practices of distinction, ethics and love when treating the dead.

Paper long abstract:

In China, the cemetery business is an extremely political one. Cemeteries must satisfy state regulators that threaten to limit or even shut down their businesses at the same time that they make money by appealing to wealthy customers. As various actors within the Chinese Communist Party frown upon the “superstitious” activities that often surround death, view cemeteries as unproductive land, and fear the potential political disruption that memorializing or commemorating the dead can entail, cemeteries must take great care to demonstrate their pro-Party loyalties. At the same time, the highest paying customers seek opportunities to distinguish their deceases loved ones, to demonstrate their own morality, and to ethically enact beliefs about souls, spirits, love, and the afterlife. Cemeteries respond by claiming filial piety as a form of morality supported by both people and the Party, reinforcing hierarchies of memorialization that place Party members at the top, and sacralizing the spirit of the dead without invoking their souls. This paper details examples of how this is done in cemetery architecture, artwork and publicity materials, especially those from the Fu Shou Yuan, one of the most upscale cemeteries in all of China.

Panel Mora04a
Life at the cemetery I
  Session 1 Monday 29 March, 2021, -