Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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April 5, 2014

China's tomb day: With no body, how to mourn?

ZIWEI VILLAGE, China (AP) — The Li family wonders how to spend Saturday's annual Tomb-Sweeping Day. The three Li brothers usually visit their mother's grave in their rugged village in northeast China, but absent this year is the youngest brother — a passenger aboard the missing Malaysian airliner.

Should they add 34-year-old Li Zhixin to those they should mourn? If so, how would they do that without a grave? And what if he is still alive?

Their state of limbo reflects one of the emotional struggles for the families of Chinese passengers aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. The culture places a strong emphasis on recovering the body of a dead person before closure can properly begin.

Li Zhixin, one of hundreds of thousands of Chinese men who venture abroad each year in search of better wages, was returning home from a disappointing 10-month trip seeking construction work in Singapore when his flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing vanished on March 8.

Authorities piecing together scant satellite and radar data believe the jet carrying 239 people, two-thirds of them Chinese, crashed in the Indian Ocean. No trace of the plane has been found despite an intensive, international search.

"You know, you either have the living body or the corpse when accounting for a person," said his 72-year-old father, Li Zhou'er. "But now we don't know where he is."

"There is nothing I can do but shed tears," he said. "We just want to see the body and bring him home."

The family home — five plain, adjoining rooms in a row — faces a mud yard opening into a narrow alley on the edge of the village, a three hours' drive southwest of Beijing. The smell of freshly plowed earth fills the air as expansive wheat fields begin to turn a lush green in the early spring.

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