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Dead Busy

Canny Li Ch'in, has dug up a fortune providing mourners to cry at the graves of the dearly departed for people too busy to visit their loved ones' tombs in person.

Li, 36, - from Tianjin city, northern China - has a cast of more than 30 out of work actors and hires them out for funerals and special events like this month's (April) tomb sweeping festival, where people are supposed to visit their family graves.

"Sadly these days people work too hard to be able to keep up the traditions, but don't want to lose face in the community or insult their ancestors, so my mourners will go for them," explained Li.

The basic package of four mourners costs 300 GBP for a one-hour service - that also includes burning joss sticks, placing a ritual food offering at the grave, reading a eulogy and crying loudly in front of the tomb.

"I charge by the 10 minutes for the crying - that's the most expensive bit. My staff are very skilled wailers. I teach them all how to cry, wail, and sob at the drop of a hat so they sound very mournful," he added.

Li explained: "Official mourners go back to the old emperors of China. Now our people are all equal, we can all have our own mourners."

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