Dthe entrance to Wan’an Cemetery in eastern Beijing is like a hospital emergency room. There are helpers in white protective suits everywhere. They even covered their shoes and hair. It is Qingming, the Chinese ancestral festival, one of the most important holidays in the traditional calendar. This year it takes place under difficult conditions. In order to avoid crowds of people, the authorities in many cities have severely restricted access to the cemeteries. Only those who have registered can enter. The seats were fully booked days in advance. Some have managed to burn a chunk of death benefit on the roadside for the ancestors in the afterlife.
For others who fear the way to the graves for fear of the corona virus, funeral directors have set up an online service. Helpers in white protective clothing offer to sweep a grave on behalf of relatives, lay flowers and put a livestream of them on the Internet. “For me, that was out of the question,” says an elderly lady standing in front of the Wan’an Cemetery with buckets, brooms and flowers. “I have to touch my brother’s grave with my own hands.” The cars park close together in front of the cemetery. After more than two months of tribulation and self-isolation, many Beijingers use the holiday and the nice weather to get outside. The longing for normality can be felt everywhere. But the authorities only gradually loosen the reins and then tighten them again.