Beliefnet
SINGAPORE, April 5 (AP) -- Computer-generated smoke wafts up from joss sticks, and digital candle flames flicker before images of fruit and flowers on an online altar as the ancient Chinese rite of ancestor worship goes on the Internet.

Chinese people around the world on Thursday marked Qing Ming Day, a holiday honoring the deceased, with solemn offerings at ancestral tombs and altars.

And in the affluent, mainly ethnic Chinese city-state of Singapore, a company is putting the process online.

Users of Ji Le Memorial Park's Web site type in an ancestor's name to get a picture of the deceased on the screen.

With the click of a mouse they select a worship package, ranging from a simple bouquet to an elaborate array of food, incense and candles, and pay online by credit card or from an account with the company.

Within seconds, the site creates an on-screen altar with the offering laid out before the picture of the departed.

At Ji Le Memorial Park itself, Buddhist monks or Taoist priests place the real offering before a plaque bearing the ancestor's name, or in front of an urn containing the ashes of the deceased, and chant prayers.

``We've computerized the old way of doing things,'' said Chia Yoong Hui, director of the Web site.

Some traditionalists balk at the idea of taking ancestor worship online. ``They feel it's cheating the ancestors,'' Chia said.

Singapore is known for its hectic, hardworking lifestyle. Singaporeans travel a lot and can't always make it to ancestral tombs or altars, Chia said.

``If I'm in the United States and today is my grandfather's death anniversary, I can go online, make my selection and make my payment,'' he said.

``This is to cater to the city life, the busy people,'' he said. ``Otherwise, if people are too busy, they might skip the offering of prayers.''

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