Funeral Industry News

Coffins You Wouldn’t Be Seen Dead In

May 25, 2011

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Coffins You Wouldn’t Be Seen Dead In

As the Asia Funeral Expo kicked off in style in Hong Kong today, over a hundred traders showed the latest weird and wonderful burial products on offer.

Coffins lined with silk or sheepskin, or made out of paper; a dead loved one’s DNA captured in a pendant; a headstone in the shape of a motorcycle – products such as these can all be found at the exhibition which attracts funeral professionals from around the world.

The expo is the key annual event for international funeral parlour, with around 130 companies exhibiting their wares in the hope of starting a trend that will catch on.

Fort Knox: Funeral professionals examine a secure looking coffin. Around 130 companies from around the world are exhibiting this year

Suits you sir: a man tries a coffin for size and, er, comfort at the Asian funeral Expo which kicked off today in Hong Kong

Funerary customs can be quite complex in Asian countries, and vary greatly from region to region.

They can incorporate elements of Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism, shamanism, local folk religions, ancient ancestor worship traditions and Communist ideology.

In recent years, ostentatious funerals have made a comeback, the Chinese media has reported.

Spending on funerals is considered important and it is not unusual for a family to spend the equivalent of several years’ income on a lavish funeral.

Intricate detail: A paper model house with a garden made by a Taiwanese company is designed to be burnt for ancestors

From cradle to grave: A couple of funeral parlour workers examine the cosy, lined coffin complete with squishy pillow

The funeral industry is reported to be one of the most profitable business sectors in China.

On the other side of the coin, reflecting the growing interest in ‘green’ funerals, some companies showed low emission or zero carbon coffins, or coffins made in part of recycled materials.

Overcrowding in Hong Kong, lack of burial space and fears for the environment have led some Hong Kong companies to champion coffins made simply from paper, a trend that is steadily gaining converts.

Eco credentials: Natalie Verdon of Life Art International shows a lightweight, low emission coffin made in part of recycled materials for cremation

Coffin linings are still very popular in Asia, with hundreds of designs to choose from.

In Asian countries most people believe that making a person comfortable in the afterlife is of the utmost importance and that if dead ancestors are taken care of they can bring happiness and prosperity to their caretakers.

It may seem odd to Westerners for comfort to be so important for the dead, but sheepskin, silk and even fur linings are popular with many families.

Meet your maker: A visitor stands in front of a tombstone in the shape of a motorcycle. Perhaps this would attract a daredevil who believes he might die on the road

Visitors to the exhibition are often able to take away souvenir coffins from particular companies to display at their funeral parlours for clients to examine. In urban areas of China, cemeteries are rare because they are considered a waste of space and most people cannot afford a funeral, burial and tomb for their loved ones.

The number of cremations continues to rise although in the countryside old beliefs about burying the dead still hold sway.

By one estimate 70 percent of China’s dead in rural areas are buried, but burial sites are becoming increasingly scarce.