Thousands of deceased Chinese have been exhumed by their descendants and reburied in places like New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, often places they had never visited in life The practice reverses a tradition that dates to the gold rush, when Chinese-Americans would dig up the laborers who had perished in California and ship them back to their ancestral villages, reports David W. Chen of The New York Times. Reports Chen, Woo Mu-chuan was forced to move to the countryside in 1988, when the country town of Mudu began to blossom, Mr. Woo moved again, this time to San Francisco, even though Woo was not alive to see any of this happen. Chen gives another story: In the mid-1990's, when Ms. Lee traveled to Guangzhou to visit her grandparents' graves, she noticed a roadside mass of discarded ginger jars, which are often used to store human remains. Fearing a similar fate for her grandparents, the next time she returned to China she and other relatives packed her grandparents' ashes in plastic bags as carry-on luggage, and reburied them at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, Calif.
In Los Angeles, Universal Chung Wah Funeral Directors handles 50 to 100 reburials a year; five years ago, the volume was one-third of that. At Rose Hills Memorial Park, in Whittier, Calif., the number of reburials last year was estimated to be 182 -- below the record of 242 in 1999 but far above the handful of annual burials in the mid-1990's. (Source: The New York Times, August 10, 2003).