Master thesis Research & teaching Ecosystems / Natural environments Layers / Grounds Livability / Social Practices
Pudong Xinqu
Shanghai, China

The place of Death in Chinese Megacities

Spatial reflections of Shanghai cemeteries under urban transformations
Original language
University course
Double Master's Degree Program ENSAS-CAUP Tongji
2019 [ENSAS - France] 2020 [CAUP Tongji - China]

The Chinese population, sedentary for millennia, has always been attached to funerary rituals and spaces. As the foundation of the traditional culture and philosophy, it is still today a structuring element of the contemporary society through filial piety and rituals observed toward ancestors. However, the acceleration of urban dynamics under the political and economic influence of the last century has disrupted funerary places, especially in megacities such as Shanghai. Cemeteries have been progressively excluded from active society, perceived as non-productive spaces under modernization policy. These spaces have gradually lost their strong symbolism in Shanghai daily life by simultaneously weakening the relationship between the living and the deceased. In addition, cemeteries are increasingly rationalized because of land constraints due to the exponential growth of the city and the aging population. To cope with their imminent saturation, the Chinese government is encouraging ecological burials tending towards the despatialisation of mourning places.

Through a trans-scalar study, this master thesis highlights the spatiality of cemeteries, but also their transformations during the last century under the influence of socio-political and economic factors due to urban development. This study is based on the analysis of funerary regulations, the study of representative cemeteries in Shanghai, as well as various interviews conducted to understand the evolution of the relationship of Chinese citizens with death in contemporary and future societies. This work tends to demonstrate the close link between the design of funerary spaces and the consequences on mourning practices. Finally looking at future issues related to funerary spaces, this study questions the cemetery of tomorrow and the evolution of mourning rituals in the increasingly mobile and virtual Chinese society. It therefore questions the role of architects and urbans planners in designing a new funerary landscape to meet the expectations of future generations.

Keywords Cemetery, Funerary Spaces, Shanghai, Deathscape, Morning social practices