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China – End of Life Issues

China is the most populous country in the world, with a population of over 1.4 billion people. The country has a unique culture and customs surrounding death and dying, and end-of-life care in China is different from other countries. In this article, we will explore hospice care in China, local customs and practices when someone dies, and what you should do when someone dies in China.

Hospice Care in China

Hospice care in China is still in its early stages of development, and the concept of hospice care is not widely understood or accepted. However, the Chinese government has recognized the importance of palliative care and has made efforts to improve end-of-life care in the country. In 2016, the Chinese government released a five-year plan to improve palliative care services, which includes the development of hospice care facilities and training programs for healthcare professionals.

Despite the government’s efforts, hospice care in China is still not widely available, and there is a shortage of trained healthcare professionals in the field of palliative care. The majority of end-of-life care in China is provided by family members, and many people die at home without professional medical assistance.

Local Customs and Practices when Someone Dies in China

In Chinese culture, death is considered a natural part of life, and there are many customs and practices surrounding death and dying. These customs and practices vary depending on the region and the individual’s religious beliefs.

Mourning Period

In China, the mourning period for the deceased lasts for 49 days, which is divided into three stages. During the first seven days, the family will not leave the house, and friends and family members will come to pay their respects. The second stage lasts from the eighth day to the 40th day, during which time the family will continue to mourn and perform rituals to honor the deceased. The final nine days are a period of closure and transition, after which the family is expected to resume their normal lives.


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Burial Customs

Traditionally, burial is the preferred method of disposing of the deceased in China. Cremation is becoming more popular due to land shortages and environmental concerns. In some regions, the deceased is buried with their personal belongings and even their favorite foods and drinks to sustain them in the afterlife.

Funeral Rites

Chinese funeral rites vary depending on the individual’s religious beliefs and the region. However, there are some common practices, such as burning incense, offering food and drink, and presenting white paper money (Joss paper) to the deceased to ensure a smooth transition to the afterlife.

What Should You Do When Someone Dies in China?

If you are in China and someone dies, there are certain procedures that you must follow. Here are the steps you should take:

  1. Contact the police or the local hospital immediately: In China, it is mandatory to report any death to the police or the local hospital within 24 hours.

  2. Obtain a death certificate: You will need to obtain a death certificate from the local police station or the hospital. This certificate is required for legal and administrative purposes.

  3. Notify the deceased’s family: It is customary to notify the deceased’s family members as soon as possible. In China, it is the family’s responsibility to make funeral arrangements and perform mourning rites.

  4. Make funeral arrangements: The family is responsible for making funeral arrangements, including choosing the burial or cremation site, preparing the body, and arranging for a funeral service.

  5. Register the death: The family must register the death at the local civil affairs bureau within 15 days. This is necessary for legal and administrative purposes.

  6. Settle the deceased’s affairs: The family must settle the deceased’s financial affairs, such as paying outstanding debts and canceling subscriptions or services. They should also notify any relevant government agencies, such as the deceased’s employer or the tax authorities.

  7. Observe mourning customs: The family should observe mourning customs according to their traditions and beliefs. This includes the mourning period and funeral rites discussed earlier.

  8. Consider organ donation: Organ donation is not common in China due to cultural and religious beliefs, but it is possible in some cases. The family should discuss this option with medical professionals if they are interested in donating the deceased’s organs.

  9. Seek professional help: The family may need professional help to cope with the loss of their loved one. There are counseling services available in China, and the family can also seek support from their community or religious organizations.

In conclusion, end-of-life care in China is still developing, and there is a need for more hospice care facilities and trained healthcare professionals in the field of palliative care. Chinese culture has unique customs and practices surrounding death and dying, and it is important to respect and observe these customs when someone dies. If you are in China and someone dies, it is important to follow the procedures outlined above to ensure that the deceased’s affairs are settled and that the family can properly mourn and honor their loved one.


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