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Sutirtho Patranobis, Hindustan Times
Beijing, December 20, 2013
China has ordered officials not to hold lavish funerals, asking them to set an example by holding frugal last rite ceremonies and doing away with superstitious practices. The new order comes close on the heels of the government banning exotic and expensive dishes like shark fin soup and birds nest in official banquets.

“Party members and officials should set an example with simple, civilized funerals... No funeral parlours should be set up in resident communities, streets and public venues... Superstitious practices should be avoided,” said a document made public Thursday.

In China, large, lavish and well attended funerals are often seen as a sign of the family’s wealth and connections.

Funeral parlours are often set up in public spaces and larger the number of mourners, the better connections the family has it is assumed.

The government’s move is being seen as a step to limit the staging of showy funerals.

“Funerals are increasingly a platform to show off wealth and connections, with the degree of opulence and number of mourners symbolising the “achievements” of the dead, and setting a benchmark for competition among the living,” state media reported on the new order.

“Except in the case of stipulations from the state, special funeral arrangement groups and mourning memorials in general, should not be held for deceased Communist Party of China (CPC) members and officials,” the document as quoted by the state media said. The document was jointly released by the general offices of the state council, China’s cabinet, and CPC central committee.

The new rules aim to “regulate the use of public funding on receptions”. Tackling corruption has been one of President Xi Jinping’s top priorities, state media consistently reports.