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China: Our Cemeteries Are Full. Mind Burying Your Loved Ones Standing Up?

China is asking citizens to reconsider their burial practices to preserve space.

This picture taken on November 25, 2012 shows tombstones at a public cemetery that was built for the "flatten graves to return farmland" campaign in suburb Zhoukou, central China's Henan province. Zhoukou has halted a campaign to clear graves for farmland after the demolition of more than two million tombs sparked outrage in a country where ancestors are traditionally held in deep respect. CHINA OUT     AFP PHOTO        (Photo credit should read AFP/AFP/Getty Images)
This picture taken on November 25, 2012 shows tombstones at a public cemetery that was built for the "flatten graves to return farmland" campaign in suburb Zhoukou, central China's Henan province. Zhoukou has halted a campaign to clear graves for farmland after the demolition of more than two million tombs sparked outrage in a country where ancestors are traditionally held in deep respect. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

As the world’s most populous country, China has for years faced challenges ranging from land distribution to government regulation of family size to discourage overpopulation.

Now, the country of more than 1 billion people is running out of places to bury the roughly 10 million who die there every year.

This week, nine of China’s governmental departments issued new guidelines for burials that encourage cremation, spreading ashes at sea, and even vertical burial. Yes, that’s right: China wants you to bury your loved ones standing up.

This isn’t the first time in recent years that the Communist government in Beijing has urged non-traditional burial practices to preserve land space. In the 1950s, Communist leader Mao Zedong — whose uncremated body is now on display in a mausoleum in Beijing — insisted that traditional burials be abandoned for cremations.

Last year, the government even hosted a cremation competition pitting 50 of the country’s top cremators against one another in a challenge demonstrating their technical skills and diligence.

This year, they’re not joking around. According to the BBC, Communist leaders have been told to either take the lead on alternate burial programs — or face undescribed consequences.

Photo Credit: AFP/AFP/Getty Images

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