Qingming coming up in China. Too busy to sweep the ancestral tomb? No problem:
An advertisement posted on a wall in Tianjin offers to carry out sacrificial offerings, burn joss sticks and even cry on your behalf at the graveside of your relatives for the rate for 30 to 45 minutes.
This is just one of a number of agencies that have sprung to life in recent years offering to honor the dead on behalf of strangers.
When contacted by a reporter, the advertiser surnamed Li confirmed the normal charge is 3,000 yuan, but added the service is not just for those who are too busy to honor their ancestors.
"Not all people need our service because they are too busy. Some need us to add to face. You see, if a crowd of people cry for the deceased, you'll feel proud," said Li.
This reminds me a bit of the Roman Uncles described at Neapolitan funerals by Norman Lewis, who were basically slightly decayed but dignified old men hired to pretend they came from Rome, where they supposedly men of substance and influence, and to stand around looking pompous while everybody else wailed and rent their garments. Here too the aim was to make the family look like it amounted to something.
I predict a merger with the flourishing rent a white guy trade, by a familiar process of horizontal integration.