Pet Cremation Services in East Asian Countries

 With the declining birth rate and aging population, East Asian countries are facing many questions about the sustainability of their societies. In recent years, South Korea has been mentioned as the country with one of the lowest fertility rates in the world, crudely around 0.7-0.9, and Japan has become the fastest-aging country in the world. People choose not to have children for multiple reasons. Low employment rates and inflation of housing prices make the cost of raising a child immensely high. Also, the cultural changes and the empowerment of women frees them from the used-to-be mandatory fertility responsibility. 

The fertility rate in East Asia, 2020

More and more people choose to own a pet to fulfill their emotional needs. And these pets have become so important to them in the urbanized society where the connection between people is so weak. With this, the pet cremation service started to flourish in these East Asian countries. According to the investigation poll from South Korea’s Animal and Plant Quarantine Agency, in 2018, 55.7% of the participants hoped to use animal cremation facilities when their pets died. The cremation fee can be charged as much as 500,000 South Korean won (430 USD), but people still choose to pay for the service and give their pets a proper goodbye. 

The rings with pet ashes

 After the pandemic, there is even a pet boom. More and more people are having pets and the diversity of the pet cremation service also increases. The ashes of the pets are made into diamonds instead of buried in a cemetery. From an anthropological point of view, this phenomenon might be caused by the shrinking home size and the expansion of the urbanized area. Modern people living in apartments don’t have private gardens where they can bury their pets, and the expansion of the city leads to less usable land for pet cemeteries, and the pet owners have to bury their pets in farther suburban areas. Thus, turning the cremated ashes into portable jewelry becomes a great idea. What’s more, pet cremation can be linked to the Buddhist tradition that is rooted in the East Asian cultural ground. The Buddhists treat every creature as equal, and they believe that animals can be transmitted to human beings in their next life if they are blessed with love and piety. The pet owners in East Asia could have adopted this idea unconsciously and be willing to believe that they will see their pets in the next life. Anyhow, humans are not superior to other animal species, and the world does not only belong to us. And I believe that pet funeral services will become more and more popular in the years to come.

The Japanese Buddhist Pet Funeral

Further Reading:

Work Cited:

News, D. (2009, July 28). In Japan, funerals offered for animals. Deseret News.

Kang, T. (2019, May 3). Why South Korea is seeing a boom in mobile animal cremation services. – The Diplomat.

UNESCAP. “Total Fertility Rates in East Asia in 2020, by Country or Region (in Average Number of Live Births per Woman).” Statista, Statista Inc., 9 Sep 2020,

The Christian and Jewish Catacombs under Roman Reign

Underneath the land of Rome, there are thousands of early Christian catacombs. Like Pompeii, these archaeological sites in Rome are not time capsules, instead, they tell the story of an active changing process in Christian and Jewish culture. 

The first approach archaeologists use to understand the catacombs is to analyze their locations. Professor Frank Korn, the Author of Hidden Rome and A Catholic’s Guide to Rome talks about why pagans, Jews, and Christians in the 2nd century all chose to build their cemeteries next to the main roads. They have to follow the Extra Muros (the Latin expression for “outside the wall”) law which forbids people from building burials inside the city walls for sanitation purposes. Thus, lots of catacombs are located near the main roads leading out of Rome. 

Some people argue that the Jewish and Christian catacombs were built underground and outside the city center to avoid Roman persecution. But this theory is likely very deviate from the truth. First, the scale of the catacombs is often huge, their capacity varies from several hundred tombs to 90,000 tombs. Frank Korn mentioned in his interview that “some archaeologists thought that if the tunnels were to be placed end to end in a straight continuous line, they would stretch longer than the boot-shaped peninsula of Italy itself, that is to say about 750 miles.” Such a large-scale catacomb can be easily found by the Romans if they were aiming for religious persecution of the Christians. 

Second, the funeral ceremony would take place in the catacomb. The Jewish and Christian ideas about the deceased and the afterlife are very different from those of the Romans who conducted cremation. Christians think that the bodies are very important because all the dead will be resurrected from the tombs and receive their last judgment from God during the last judgment. Thus, they preserve the bodies in the cells of the catacomb. Three types of features can be found in the catacomb: loculus, arcosolium, and cubiculum. Cubiculum also serves as a family chapel for ceremonies and religious activities and is often decorated with frescos and inscriptions. If the Christians were trying to keep the catacomb as a secret shelter, such a place for family gatherings would not appear as a part of the catacomb.

Figure 1. loculus, rectangular tombs to place the bodies.

In fact, the images painted on the walls of these early Christian chapels are influenced by Roman art, and some inscriptions are written in Latin and Greek. Archaeologists have found that the frescos of the famous “Greek Chapel” in the Catacombs of St. Priscilla share a similar art style with Pompeian art. For example, in Christ as the Good Shepherd fresco, Christ is surrounded by three sheep, a representation of the Trinity, and two doves resting on the trees. Sheep and dove are both common symbols in Roman art, and in this case, they were borrowed by the Christians is wrote their own stories and became new types of allegory.

Figure 2. Christ as a Good Sheperd fresco found in the Catacombs of Priscilla

The catacomb is a great treasure that contains numerous stories of the ancient past. Through the archaeological lens, we examine not only the artifacts and the features found in the sites but also relate them to their context and juxtapose them with other sites. The Christians and Romans are not always enemies. Civilizations nourish and learn from each other.

Further Research:


Leon, Harry Joshua. “New Material about the Jews of Ancient Rome.” The Jewish Quarterly Review 20, no. 4 (1930): 301–12.

Frank Korn, Richard Marranca, “The Roman Catacombs: The Labyrinthine City of the Dead.” Popular Archaeology, Jan 14, 2022.