08 December 2009


The other day, while walking past the graveyard behind the village, I noticed this little stone plaque on the side of a family tomb. It's an advertisement for the local stoneworking company that built it.

Chinese graves consist of more than just a headstone. They're miniature architectural marvels, more like mausoleums, made of concrete and stone and usurping far more forest and covering more virgin hillside than any one person, especially a deceased one, deserves to. Nevertheless, the craftsmanship and elegant design of these local graves can't be denied, so who can blame the stone company for putting their contact details on the side? What if some passing hiker sees it and says, "Hey, that's a pretty cool grave. Think I'll order one!"

What interested me is that below their shop telephone number is their mobile phone number, as if someone might need an emergency tomb after business hours. "Help! My uncle just keeled over. Got to plant him before auntie finds out!"

Think of the ramifications of placing advertisements on burial sites. Ads are everywhere else these days, so why not here? Instead of visiting Ah-ba's grave twice a year and burning paper money for him to use in the spirit world, why not rent out one wall of the tomb to advertisers, who can pay their fees by directly burning offerings at their local temple? Ah-ba still gets his spirit money and his descendents are saved a bothersome trip. There are plenty of brands that might be interested. This death brought to you by Marlboro.

If you're going to spend all that money building a fancy grave, might as well make some profit out of it. That's the Hong Kong way.

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