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Tech firm finds new solution for public cemetery

Writer: Wang Jingli  | Editor: Holly Wang  | From:  | Updated: 2019-03-13

Editor’s Note:

In cooperation with Shenzhen Foundation for International Exchange and Cooperation, the Shenzhen Daily is opening a column called “City Plus” to introduce overseas entrepreneurs that have started businesses in Shenzhen.

In the coming two months, the newspaper will interview 10 startups that engage in intelligent control, IoT, e-commerce, trade, architecture, 3-D imaging and holographic technologies. The stories will showcase the city’s diversity, vitality and inclusiveness on its way to becoming an innovation city.

Although death might be a heavy topic, Song Shiyu, founder of FORE TECH, expressed that a hard fact that residents, especially those living in big cities, will have to face in the near future is that there is fewer and fewer land available for public cemeteries.

Song told the Shenzhen Daily that she first came to realize this issue while traveling in Hong Kong, where applicants for public plots usually have to wait five to six years. Inspired by this, Song chose the transformation of the design of future public cemeteries as the topic for her doctoral thesis while studying architecture at the University of Hawaii.

The idea also attracted the attention of two of Song’s classmates, Jaeho Choi from South Korea and Duc Tran from Vietnam. After graduation, they came to Shenzhen and established FORE TECH in 2017, which is said to be the first research and development company in China offering technological solutions for funeral products.

To address the issue of limited land for cemeteries, Song suggested combining the remains of multiple family members in the same grave as a possible solution. “Just like an underground parking lot, we store cinerary caskets there and utilize equipment to transport them to the ground at the request of visitors. In this case, there is no need to make room for each cinerary urn. Instead, a digital grave can be shared so people can mourn their deceased relatives or friends with photos,” said Song.

Additionally, Song said technology can be applied to make it more efficient. For example, cemetery parks can provide electronic cards for family members to use when they enter the park. Then the information stored on the card will direct the system to transport the correct cinerary urn to the ground. “I learned this from Japan and I know that many cities in Japan have already put this idea into practice,” said Song.

However, due to strong traditional beliefs held by Chinese people, especially those who were born before the 1970s, it will not be easy to realize this idea in a very short period of time, according to Song.

“As a result, we hope to conduct this step by step. For example, we know that in Chongqing, some companies have carried out ideas like this for animals, as it is more easily accepted. So maybe we can start by getting our hands on this as well,” said Song, adding that many companies offering funeral-related services have actually embraced the ideas, so they just need some time.

As for the reason that they came to Shenzhen, both Song and her partners said that Shenzhen has a favorable environment for entrepreneurs and is close to Hong Kong, which is convenient for conducting research. “Besides, the municipal government offers alluring subsides for people with doctoral degrees, like us, to start businesses,” said Song.

“We also cooperate with Shenzhen Innovation Development Hub Co. Ltd. (IDH) to help us do business in China. They provide a lot of useful information,” said Song.

At present, although traditional beliefs seem to be the major bottleneck for FORE TECH, Song believes that young people will be more open to the idea when the time comes.

It is positive to see that some people have already considered changing and are turning to more ecological methods, such as burial at sea and under trees, she said.