Across China: Changes in Spring Festival in northwest China
YINCHUAN, Feb. 20 (Xinhua) -- Watching his children and grandchildren sitting around, eating, and laughing in front of delicious dishes during the Spring Festival holiday, Shen Kejian felt happy, if a little sentimental.
"It's like we are celebrating festivals every day because we can eat whatever we want these days," said Shen, 77. "Life has become better."
Shen lives in Shenjiahe Folk Culture Village in the Yuanzhou District of Guyuan City in northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. It was once a poverty-stricken village in Xihaigu, one of China's most impoverished areas, until recent years.
For many locals around Shen's age, their memories of poverty were all about water shortages, which left them starving most of the year. It was an extravagant hope for them to eat a plate of carrot dumplings or a "potato feast" on the Chinese Lunar New Year's Eve dinners in the 1980s.
"I wished to eat as much meat as possible in the past, but now I eat less meat and more vegetables concerning my health," said Shen.
Shen stuffed his refrigerator with fresh vegetables like celery, cucumber, chili, and spinach a few days before the festival. His children also bought him festival gifts such as apples, oranges, and candies.
But Shen insists on frugality because he experienced times when food was scarce.
"In the early days, the Spring Festival was a challenge for us because we simply did not have enough food for the festival," he said.
Hao Laiwu, 48, also lives in Shenjiahe but didn't experience hardships as Shen did. Though life was still hard when he was a child, Hao always looked forward to the Chinese Lunar New Year because he and his peers could get some firecrackers to celebrate the holiday.
"Life is so much better today," Hao said.
These changes happened amid China's national campaign against poverty. Official figures show that nearly 100 million impoverished rural residents escaped poverty since the 18th Communist Party of China National Congress in 2012.
As he can't work due to old age, Shen now receives governmental subsidies of 800 yuan (about 124 U.S. dollars) per month. Thanks to China's healthcare policies, it only cost the family about 1,000 yuan after his wife was hospitalized for several days because of coronary heart disease just before the Lunar New Year.
"Most of the medical expenses have been reimbursed so we could get timely help," said Shen.
As home to various forms of intangible cultural heritage, including paper-cutting, painting, and Chinese calligraphy, Shenjiahe has massive potential to develop cultural tourism, Hao said.
"I plan to build eight cave dwellings and develop rural homestays. I have so much to look forward to now," he added. Enditem