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People dying for a funeral are rising again

A Chinese funeral parlour has courted controversy by laying on tearful farewells for the living.

Last month, 24 pretend funerals were held at the Shimenfeng Celebrity Culture Park cemetery in the central city of Wuhan.

"It was the first time we ever offered this kind of service," said Zhang Bei, the mortuary's 30-year-old 'cemetery designer', who argued that the experience could help people better appreciate their lives.

The fake funerals were the brainchild of Zeng Jia, a 20-year-old student, who became the first to lie down in a coffin during her fake wake at the end of March.

Ms Zeng, who is studying to be an undertaker, said she had come up with the idea after a relative suffered a brain haemorrhage and died in 2011. "I was so touched by this incident," she said.

Confused

Workers at the cemetery were initially confused by Ms Zeng's idea but were eventually convinced.

"We were really surprised but found the concept new and interesting," said Ms Zhang.

Despite the absence of genuine cadavers, Ms Zhang said the funeral services were realistic, involving coffins, floral bouquets, mourners, photographers and even emotion-packed speeches from friends of the 'deceased'.

"The service has two parts – a 20-minute memorial service and a 15-20 minute 'life-death experience'," she said.

A rendition of a Chinese pop song called 'Angel' is also included in the package. "The atmosphere is quite light-hearted, just like a party," said Ms Zhang.

Of her "funeral", Ms Zeng said: "Twenty of my classmates attended the service. They told me what they really thought of me, giving me a better understanding of myself and how I am seen by others."

The unconventional services have been widely criticised online for being morbid and disrespectful to the dead. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent