Move over Mao: Beijing tomb sweepers preen pampered pets' graves

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Move over Mao: Beijing tomb sweepers preen pampered pets' graves
Tomb of pet cat Pangmi, with its picture, is seen at Baifu pet cemetery ahead of the Qingming Festival on the outskirts of Beijing, China March 26, 2016. China celebrates the Qingming tomb-sweeping festival on April 4 this year, with much of the ceremonial ritual of honouring the dead these days not geared towards beloved relatives, but beloved pets. Once banned by Communist leader Chairman Mao Zedong as a bourgeois pastime, having a pet has now become a symbol of financial success in China. REUTERS/Jason Lee SEARCH "PET CEMETERY" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A bear doll is seen beside the tomb of a pet dog ahead of the Qingming Festival at Baifu pet cemetery on the outskirts of Beijing, China March 26, 2016. China celebrates the Qingming tomb-sweeping festival on April 4 this year, with much of the ceremonial ritual of honouring the dead these days not geared towards beloved relatives, but beloved pets. Once banned by Communist leader Chairman Mao Zedong as a bourgeois pastime, having a pet has now become a symbol of financial success in China. REUTERS/Jason Lee SEARCH "PET CEMETERY" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Tibetan prayer flags wave above a pet dog's tomb at Baifu pet cemetery ahead of the Qingming Festival on the outskirts of Beijing, China March 26, 2016. China celebrates the Qingming tomb-sweeping festival on April 4 this year, with much of the ceremonial ritual of honouring the dead these days not geared towards beloved relatives, but beloved pets. Once banned by Communist leader Chairman Mao Zedong as a bourgeois pastime, having a pet has now become a symbol of financial success in China. REUTERS/Jason Lee SEARCH "PET CEMETERY" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A collar is placed on the tomb of pet dog Logan at Baifu pet cemetery ahead of the Qingming Festival on the out skirts of Beijing, China March 26, 2016. China celebrates the Qingming tomb-sweeping festival on April 4 this year, with much of the ceremonial ritual of honouring the dead these days not geared towards beloved relatives, but beloved pets. Once banned by Communist leader Chairman Mao Zedong as a bourgeois pastime, having a pet has now become a symbol of financial success in China. REUTERS/Jason Lee SEARCH "PET CEMETERY" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A doll is left at the tomb of pet dog Logan at Baifu pet cemetery ahead of the Qingming Festival on the out skirts of Beijing, China March 26, 2016. China celebrates the Qingming tomb-sweeping festival on April 4 this year, with much of the ceremonial ritual of honouring the dead these days not geared towards beloved relatives, but beloved pets. Once banned by Communist leader Chairman Mao Zedong as a bourgeois pastime, having a pet has now become a symbol of financial success in China. REUTERS/Jason Lee SEARCH "PET CEMETERY" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Baifu pet cemetery worker Du Huanying decorates a new pet tomb ahead of the Qingming Festival on the outskirts of Beijing, China March 27, 2016. China celebrates the Qingming tomb-sweeping festival on April 4 this year, with much of the ceremonial ritual of honouring the dead these days not geared towards beloved relatives, but beloved pets. Once banned by Communist leader Chairman Mao Zedong as a bourgeois pastime, having a pet has now become a symbol of financial success in China. REUTERS/Jason Lee SEARCH "PET CEMETERY" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A pet owner stands next to a tomb with a dog statue at Baifu pet cemetery ahead of the Qingming Festival on the outskirts of Beijing, China March 27, 2016. The Chinese characters on the gravestone read: "Gently you left, but will be in my heart forever."China celebrates the Qingming tomb-sweeping festival on April 4 this year, with much of the ceremonial ritual of honouring the dead these days not geared towards beloved relatives, but beloved pets. Once banned by Communist leader Chairman Mao Zedong as a bourgeois pastime, having a pet has now become a symbol of financial success in China. REUTERS/Jason Lee SEARCH "PET CEMETERY" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Toy cars, water and food are left around the tomb of pet dog Zhang Xiaoqiu at Baifu pet cemetery ahead of the Qingming Festival on the out skirts of Beijing, China March 26, 2016. China celebrates the Qingming tomb-sweeping festival on April 4 this year, with much of the ceremonial ritual of honouring the dead these days not geared towards beloved relatives, but beloved pets. Once banned by Communist leader Chairman Mao Zedong as a bourgeois pastime, having a pet has now become a symbol of financial success in China. REUTERS/Jason Lee SEARCH "PET CEMETERY" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Pet owners walk among graves at Baifu pet cemetery ahead of the Qingming Festival on the outskirts of Beijing, China March 26, 2016. China celebrates the Qingming tomb-sweeping festival on April 4 this year, with much of the ceremonial ritual of honouring the dead these days not geared towards beloved relatives, but beloved pets. Once banned by Communist leader Chairman Mao Zedong as a bourgeois pastime, having a pet has now become a symbol of financial success in China. REUTERS/Jason Lee SEARCH "PET CEMETERY" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A pet owner (2nd R) and her relatives set up decoration flowers for her pet dog Li Naonao at Baifu pet cemetery ahead of the Qingming Festival, also known as Tomb Sweeping Day, on the outskirts of Beijing, China March 26, 2016. China celebrates the Qingming tomb-sweeping festival on April 4 this year, with much of the ceremonial ritual of honouring the dead these days not geared towards beloved relatives, but beloved pets. Once banned by Communist leader Chairman Mao Zedong as a bourgeois pastime, having a pet has now become a symbol of financial success in China. REUTERS/Jason Lee SEARCH "PET CEMETERY" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Baifu pet cemetery worker Zhang Youwang cleans the tomb of pet dog Baobao, which died at the age of 13, during his daily work ahead of the Qingming Festival on the outskirts of Beijing China, March 26, 2016. China celebrates the Qingming tomb-sweeping festival on April 4 this year, with much of the ceremonial ritual of honouring the dead these days not geared towards beloved relatives, but beloved pets. Once banned by Communist leader Chairman Mao Zedong as a bourgeois pastime, having a pet has now become a symbol of financial success in China. REUTERS/Jason Lee SEARCH "PET CEMETERY" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Pet owner Qingqiu gestures to her dog, Little Huoban, after she swept the tomb of her previous dog Huoban (which means "Buddy" in Chinese) who died at the age of 15, ahead of the Qingming Festival at Baifu pet cemetery on the outskirts of Beijing, China March 26, 2016. China celebrates the Qingming tomb-sweeping festival on April 4 this year, with much of the ceremonial ritual of honouring the dead these days not geared towards beloved relatives, but beloved pets. Once banned by Communist leader Chairman Mao Zedong as a bourgeois pastime, having a pet has now become a symbol of financial success in China. REUTERS/Jason Lee SEARCH "PET CEMETERY" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Food is placed on the tomb of pet dog Xixi at Baifu pet cemetery ahead of the Qingming Festival on the outskirts of Beijing, China March 26, 2016. The Chinese characters on the gravestone read: "Mommy's only good son." China celebrates the Qingming tomb-sweeping festival on April 4 this year, with much of the ceremonial ritual of honouring the dead these days not geared towards beloved relatives, but beloved pets. Once banned by Communist leader Chairman Mao Zedong as a bourgeois pastime, having a pet has now become a symbol of financial success in China. REUTERS/Jason Lee SEARCH "PET CEMETERY" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A dog doll is placed on the tomb of a pet dog ahead of the Qingming Festival at Baifu pet cemetery on the outskirts of Beijing, China March 26, 2016. China celebrates the Qingming tomb-sweeping festival on April 4 this year, with much of the ceremonial ritual of honouring the dead these days not geared towards beloved relatives, but beloved pets. Once banned by Communist leader Chairman Mao Zedong as a bourgeois pastime, having a pet has now become a symbol of financial success in China. REUTERS/Jason Lee SEARCH "PET CEMETERY" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Pet owner Ma Ying cleans the glass covering her dog Liu Dazhuang's tomb, with bathtub, dolls and decoration flowers placed inside, ahead of the Qingming Festival at Baifu pet cemetery on the outskirts of Beijing, China March 27, 2016. China celebrates the Qingming tomb-sweeping festival on April 4 this year, with much of the ceremonial ritual of honouring the dead these days not geared towards beloved relatives, but beloved pets. Once banned by Communist leader Chairman Mao Zedong as a bourgeois pastime, having a pet has now become a symbol of financial success in China. REUTERS/Jason Lee SEARCH "PET CEMETERY" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Pet owner Qingqiu smokes next to the tomb of her first dog Huoban (which means "Buddy" in Chinese), who died at the age of 15, ahead of the Qingming Festival at Baifu pet cemetery on the outskirts of Beijing, China March 26, 2016. China celebrates the Qingming tomb-sweeping festival on April 4 this year, with much of the ceremonial ritual of honouring the dead these days not geared towards beloved relatives, but beloved pets. Once banned by Communist leader Chairman Mao Zedong as a bourgeois pastime, having a pet has now become a symbol of financial success in China. REUTERS/Jason Lee SEARCH "PET CEMETERY" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
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By Joseph Campbell and Yanting Feng

BEIJING, March 31 (Reuters) - China celebrates the Qingming tomb-sweeping festival on Monday, with much of the ceremonial ritual of honoring the dead these days not geared towards beloved relatives, but beloved pets.

Once banned by Communist leader Chairman Mao Zedong as a bourgeois pastime, having a pet has now become a symbol of financial success in China, which has seen the emergence of dedicated pet cemeteries in the last few years.

Qingqiu was among tomb-sweepers at one such Beijing cemetery to pay tribute to her fluffy Pomeranian "Huoban," who died at the grand old age of 15.

"It's like a heaven for pets," Qingqiu said of the Baifu Chongwu Tiantang cemetery, or "Hundred Fortune Pet Heaven."

"Huoban was very smart. He could pick up moves I taught him very quickly... Visiting the cemetery gives me a feeling that we did not lose our connection."

She said Huoban had witnessed her fall in love, get married and have a child. "I want to meet you again in the next life" is engraved on his tombstone.

Tian Peiheng, 66, paid respects at her Pomeranian's grave, along with her husband and daughter.

"I have deep feelings for her... After she was gone, it was just like losing my own baby," Tian said.

Beyond the intimacy of such tomb-sweeping visits, the pet cemeteries are also making money.

A single plot at Baifu costs between 2,000 and 5,000 yuan ($308 and $770) for 30 years, with an additional yearly management fee of 50 yuan ($7.70), according to gravestone designer Zhang Youwang. Gravestones can cost anything between 2,000 and 20,000 yuan.

"For those who do not have dogs or other pets, it's difficult for them to understand," Zhang said. "...but pets are just like people. They are people."

Such sentiment is relatively new in Communist Party-ruled China. Pets have become fashionable in major cities in line with rising incomes. Up until the 1980s, pet dogs were illegal in Beijing.

In some parts of China, dogs are still being eaten and transported in overcrowded crates to events such as the annual Yulin dog meat festival in southern Guangxi province which triggers international and local protests.

China's growing middle class has started to fight what it sees as barbarous abuse of man's best friend.

($1 = 6.4765 yuan)

Chinese sweep pets' tombs in Beijing

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