by Xinhua writers Zhao Zhao, Li Jingya
GUIYANG, Nov. 25 (Xinhua) -- Festivals, birthdays, weddings, funerals, house warmings, graduations of children and so on. Extravagant and wasteful banquets used to be held one after another in rural areas of southwest China's Guizhou Province, imposing burdens on both hosts and attendees.
"I attended over 50 banquets in 2014, for reasons such as celebrating the birth of a child, moving into a new home, and even installing a new door. I spent a total of 5,700 yuan (about 799 U.S. dollars) on gift money, almost one third of my annual income," said Tao Zhengyan, who is from a village under the Qiandongnan Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture.
In rural areas, a banquet served as a window on the wealth of the hosts. Wealthy households could afford to serve 15 dishes a table and expensive cigarettes worth 50 yuan per packet. Those who served less food and cheap cigarettes may feel the pressure of losing face.
Locations of such banquets caused another headache -- as most of them could only be held in open spaces in front of the hosts' homes, offering poor sanitary conditions.
To rectify unrestrained, wasteful and unsanitary rural banquets, authorities in Qiandongnan have worked to establish village banquet halls and formulate standards on the scale and budgets of the banquets.
The two-story banquet hall in Sanmentang Village was built in 2020, and is capable of serving 200 guests. After consultation with villagers, the village committee set the rules concerning the scale and expenses of banquets.
Only weddings and funerals are allowed to be hosted at the banquet hall, with no more than 30 tables for each event. For each table, the number of dishes should not exceed 12, with a total price of no more than 200 yuan. Even the price of cigarettes is capped at 13 yuan per packet, and wine at 20 yuan a bottle.
The number of banquets has plunged since.
Tao attended no more than seven banquets under the new rules, which has greatly eased his debt of gratitude, as he doesn't have to spend as much gift money or worry about hosting banquets in return.
Peng Zewei, 47, a villager with a meager income, held a decent funeral in memory of his mother in the new banquet hall this April.
"I served eight dishes and one hotpot per table, which didn't cause much waste. The guests were pleased with the food," said Peng. The 15-table banquet cost Peng just 4,000 yuan. "While having saved a lot of money, I also didn't feel the social pressure to compare with others."
Tables, chairs, and cooking equipment are prepared and no rent fee is needed for the hall. Most banquet halls are run and supervised by village committees. They can also be used for training, conferences, and cultural and social activities.
So far, Qiandongnan has opened 408 village banquet halls, and held over 8,000 banquets, with each banquet saving more than 10,000 yuan on average for the villagers. ■