Why do Chinese mourn online?
On first reading, I thought that this story — also excerpted below — was intended to run four days earlier as part of the April Fool’s Day news package. But, on closer examination, Xinhua might, indeed, be serious about their report on the growing popularity of online mourning in China. Here are some tidbits: ...
On first reading, I thought that this story — also excerpted below — was intended to run four days earlier as part of the April Fool’s Day news package. But, on closer examination, Xinhua might, indeed, be serious about their report on the growing popularity of online mourning in China. Here are some tidbits:
…More than 5,200 people presented virtual flowers, alcohol, and ignited candles via a website to family members who fought and died during a war in Shandong Province in 1948, a year before the People’s Republic of China was founded.
…The Central Civilization Office of the Communist Party of China also launched a website on March 26 to encourage people to pay respects to fallen revolutionary heroes online.
…A survey initiated by the www.people.com.cn showed that 12.3 percent of 301 netizens prefer online mourning during the traditional festival, while 53.8 percent said they will return to the hometown to visit tombs of ancestors as of Saturday.
Perhaps I should leave analysis of the cultural significance of this innovative practice to anthropologists. However, I can’t resist pointing to an element of government-induced cybernationalism in this whole process. As far as I am concerned, paying respects to fallen revolutionary heroes sounds like a stepping stone for a larger and more ambitious campaign; For example, does anyone still remember the 2005 anti-Japanese demonstrations? For once, I am sure many would click “yes, I want to go and smash the Japanese Embassy” should a pop-up window prompt them to do so after they have presented their “virtual flowers.”
On a lighter note, I am thrilled by the attention that “The Central Civilization Office of the Communisty Party of China” seems to be paying to virtual space. Perhaps, the Internet is indeed central to that party’s future?
Photo by Mat Honan
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