Thursday, December 22, 2011

New burial plots, and exhumation of skeletal remains.

Though he is largely illiterate, he is a very likable fellow, and never pretends to be anything but a simple village peasant farmer. He no longer works on the land. His new calling is repairing or making new burial plots, and exhumation of skeletal remains. We ask him what are the kind of things he would find in the graves. He says there are usually gold rings, jade bracelets, and earrings. Sometimes, a pearl may be found in the jaws of the skull. Jade bracelets attain rich colours after a long period buried underground with the dead, and are said to possess special qualities which repel evil spirits. They are very much in demand.

Normally, the hirers want the burial items returned. Others are quite happy for the grave exhumers to keep them. On one occasion, he and his helpers were excavating the grave of a village clan's progenitor. The grave dated back to the Ming Dynasty, and in it were three exquisite porcelain wine goblets. Two of his helpers kept one each, the third one was given to another helper who asked for it, and gave him a small sum . The goblets would fetch big bids in any auction house.

He makes no secret that he had a good year this year. He made about RMB 60,000 or close to US$10k. He hires migrant labourers if the job is too big for one man. He says fellow village labourers demand equal share of the profits. For the migrant workers, he pays them an agreed amount, plus lunch, dinner or foot massage treats for a job well done. Most hirers also hand out red packets to all. (Doug L - on a recent visit to his home turf)

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