Young people in China are opting at an increasing rate to become morticians. A funeral service center in Jiaxing, a city of eastern China’s Zhejiang province has particularly been popular with adults born after 1990. Training for funeral service is showing up in vocational schools around the country.
At a university in northern Taiwan, death is the focal topic in one of the classes. Since 2009, teachers from the school in Miaoli county have been teaching students about dealing with the deceased. The departments offers classes ranging from anatomy and funeral preparation to embalming, and corpse cleansing. Courses range widely from "Experiencing Death" to "handling corpses" and "mortuary makeup".
In 2012, Taiwan passed a bill to gradually establish a certification system for funeral directors.
The cultural issues in China affect aspiring morticians whose job is to help families through their bereavement and deal with the dead. Young adults who venture into this field are generally met with disapproval from family members. The archaic aesthetic views of older people in China lead to dissatisfaction when their children decide to build a career in the funeral industry. Beijing has 12 of these morticians schools.
A 21-year-old woman from Beijing named Xiao He (pseudonym) who works in Babaoshan Shengxuan Funeral Services hides her profession from friends and family. "Later, my father found out, and he couldn’t sleep for the whole night, the next morning he asked me, ‘Can you change your major?," said Xiao. It wasn’t until a relative died that her father approved of the career path.
Xian Hong became a mortician for pets in China to convince members of the country that pets have souls and should be cremated and buried when they die. Since starting her novel career almost four years ago, Xian has embalmed over 1,000 pets.
The cost of cremation for pets is 950 yuan to 2,000 yuan (US$150-$320). The entire procedure lasts two to three hours and Xian says clients are usually eager for it to begin. "Some clients ask us to hurry because they do not want to wait, and some even argue with us. Many still do not have enough respect for dead pets," said the mortician.
Too Much Profit
Since 2003, the funeral service industry has been selected as one of the "ten most lucrative industries" for three years in a row, according to Shanghai-based Oriental Radio Station. Private mortuaries and illegal hearses allegedly take the largest share of the industry’s profits.
The mortuary of the First Hospital affiliated to Peking University charges 300 yuan (US$43) for cleaning a body. Additional costs are 100 yuan for cutting toenails, 50 yuan for cutting fingernails, 150 yuan for dressing the body, and 600 yuan for holding a visitation.
These charges are excessive according to the Beijing civil administrative department, stating that the maximum charge for holding a visitation should range from 50 yuan to 600 yuan. Dressing the bodies should cost 100 yuan.
With the enormous financial prospect, the funeral industry’s increase among job seekers has risen rapidly. More than 5000 graduates competed for 400 jobs at the Shanghai Funeral Service Center’s first job fair in March.
The position of body dressers is one of the most talked-about in the media.