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On the day of the feast of the dead, Qing Ming Jie, a death simulator was inaugurated in Shanghai. A “project” created to suit the macabre curiosity of those who want to find out how it feels to die, then be cremated, and finally “be born again.”

Xinlai, the name of the device, is the Chinese translation of the Sanskrit term Samadhi, that is, ‘‘divine ecstasy’’, a state of bliss one reaches through meditation. In this state it is possible to “experience” death, cremation, and rebirth in advance. Even if the intention might seem to be of the noble kind – its inventor aims to make one appreciate life even more – the end result is quite disturbing and macabre.

It costs 444 Yuan (roughly 60 Euros) to partake in the experiment. The journey lasts about two hours and is offered as an RPG. Participants take a test with questions on matters of life and death. The one who gives the worst answer – according to the group – gets “killed.” But all of them share the same fate in turn. At this point the “dead” – who is pretty alive – lies down into a transparent coffin. He is left in total darkness and isolation, where he hears nothing but his heartbeat. Then, a conveyor belt takes him slowly to the cremation chamber. In this tunnel made of screens, images of high flames are projected all around one’s body. Moreover, strong jets of hot air pass through the tunnel to help give the feeling that one’s body is burning. In truth, temperature rises only to 40 degrees.

Yet, that is not the end of the game yet. After going through flames and hot air, they throw you into a kind of of “belly” filled with polystyrene balls. At this point you have to “fight to come back to life”: Tugging and kicking in a flood of plastic spheres, you will have to find the way out. To do so, you will need to pass through a narrow tunnel – which reminds a kind of virtual uterus – until you reach a strongly illuminated by white lights, furnished with soft cushions. After being “born again”, you can take a rest there from the “efforts” of death and cremation.

It took about four years to create Xinlai, developed by Ding Rui. His purpose is to put people in contact with their own death. Despite being a virtual experience, it is still realistic and is supposed to inspire people to meditate on the value of life.

Some participants have declared that the experience of virtual death has had an impact on their approach to life. But is it really necessary to lose one’s life and be cremated – even if it is only a simulation -, in order to appreciate what we already have? A slap in the face of all those people who need to die in order to live.

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