CHINA - Sales of high-tech products made from paper, including smartphones, tablet computers and Wi-Fi routers, are booming in Guangzhou this year.
The paper items are competing with traditional offerings such as villas, cars, money, cosmetics, cigarettes and wines for the Qingming Festival in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province, this year.
The festival, which is also known as Tomb-Sweeping Day, is a prime occasion for providers of funerary services to cash in, as people visit the tombs of their relatives to burn paper offerings and light joss sticks.
"The 20-yuan (S$4) iPad set is a new product this year. It includes an Apple iPad, a Wi-Fi router and a charger," the manager of a store on Guangxiao Road told customers on Thursday.
Located in Guangzhou's Yuexiu district, Guangxiao Road, which is home to the famous Guangxiao Temple, houses a large number of stores that sell paper offerings for the deceased.
"If the buyers aren't satisfied with the products in my store, I can quickly produce tailor-made products, such as paper mistresses," said the manager, who gave her surname as Chen.
"As society progresses, the paper offerings keep pace with the times, too," she said.
Chen said business had been brisk during the past week, and the new and high-tech products mainly attracted younger customers.
Li Chongzhen, a white-collar worker, said she would buy the iPhone and iPad products for her father, who died more than a decade ago.
"My father never used high-tech products like these, but I think he would quickly learn how to use them as he was a science-conscious man," she said.
Many Chinese believe their ancestors will be able to use the products burned for them during the festival.
In addition to the high-tech offerings, other sacrificial paper goods available in the stores include villas, sedans, garments, cosmetics, wines, cigarettes, seafood, pianos, violins, and other "traditional and luxury goods".
The price of paper sacrificial offerings rose by 10 to 20 per cent ahead of the Qingming Festival in Guangzhou this year, mainly as a result of the rising costs of raw materials and labour.
"A paper villa now sells for 40 yuan in many sacrificial-offering shops on the Guangxiao Road, a rise of 10 per cent compared with the price a year ago," said a store boss surnamed Wang.
"But I'm not concerned that business will be affected, because very few Cantonese, who usually pay a great deal of attention to Qingming Festival, will refuse to spend money to worship their ancestors during the festival," he added.
The prices of fresh flowers have also risen by about 10 per cent this year, according to a local florist who declined to be named. A bouquet of lilies, chrysanthemums and carnations sells for between 15 and 50 yuan, said the florist.
According to the Ministry of Civil Affairs, an estimated 120 million people annually mourn the deceased at graveyards or memorial parks during the festival.