More Than a Billion Chinese but So Few Coffins – Keith Bradsher
In China these days, just about every form of commerce is thriving, including decidedly illegal ones like prostitution and counterfeiting. But not coffin making.
For centuries, this city’s Longevity Lane was the best-known place in China to buy top-quality cedar coffins. Legend has it that the city’s reputation was established when Liu Zhongyuan, a great poet of ninth-century China, died here in domestic exile and his body was placed in a cedar coffin for shipment to his home province in northern China. After a journey of six months, the poet’s body is said to have been as fresh as the day he died.
Ask for a coffin here these days, though, and a visitor is sent to a department store, where miniature mahogany coffins sell for $2 apiece as unlikely good-luck charms. Instead – Western executives worried about illegal copying, please take note – a strictly enforced ban prevents the sale of coffins in the city.