June 7 - In China, young undertakers are giving new life to the art of preparing the dead. Julie Noce reports.
A class of university students in China are learning how to file... trim... and massage their clients. But they're not learning how to become spa technicians. Theyre learning how to prepare dead bodies. Long considered a contemptible profession in Chinese culture, the funeral industry is seeing a surge in new employees as more and more young people choose to become undertakers. (SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) 22-YEAR-OLD STUDENT UNDERTAKER, ZENG LIANGLIANG, SAYING: "We are all young people and we think differently. For me personally to be involved in this profession, I feel that looking back, the undertakers were not too respectful in the past to the deceased. So through our service, we hope that the deceased leave this world in a more dignified way." There are four technical colleges in China that offer courses in funeral services. New graduates can earn more than 750 dollars a month as a mortician-- and are almost guaranteed a job. But they face strong social resistance over their career choice as the topic of death is considered a major cultural taboo. (SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) TAIWANESE UNDERTAKER COURSE INSTRUCTOR, LIN PEIJIE, SAYING: "Traditionally, older folks would say this is only for those people who are not married, have no children, and have no choice but to take up this profession. In fact, we hope that more young people take up such a profession and show others there is nothing to fear when becoming an undertaker." The death industry is amongst the top ten most profitable businesses in China raking in 31 billion dollars a year. Julie Noce, Reuters