China embraces Year of the Ox as absolute poverty eliminated, epidemic under control


来源: 欧洲侨报   时间:2021-02-12 17:07:52





Wei Aizhen got up at around 5 a.m. on Thursday and drove an electric tricycle to a farm produce market near her home to stock up on apples, melons, and other fruit for her store, while her husband was busy pasting red couplets on the door.

"Today is New Year's Eve. Many locals will come to buy fruit, so I need to prepare enough goods," said Wei, a 36-year-old woman living in a resettlement community in Rong'an County, south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

Thursday marked the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival. The most important festival of the year, or "chunjie" in Chinese, means the start of the Year of the Ox, the second sign in the traditional Chinese zodiac cycle. In Chinese culture, the ox symbolizes diligence, dedication, endeavor, and strength.

China is ushering in the lunar year after a hard yet historic 2020, or the Year of the Rat. The country brought the domestic COVID-19 epidemic under control in a short period of time with swift and effective measures, and scattered cluster infections were quickly contained in the past few months.

In particular, China removed all its remaining 52 counties from the poverty list last year -- a historic feat for the world's most populous nation.

FESTIVAL AFTER POVERTY REDUCTION FEAT

Wei was once a farmer in a remote mountainous village. In 2014, her family was registered on the government's poverty list. She shook off poverty in 2018 by raising pigs. In a relocation-based poverty reduction move, the family moved to an apartment in a six-story building in the county in 2019. She first sold vegetables in a market and later opened her own store.

Many migrant workers nationwide chose not to return home for this year's chunjie to support the nation's epidemic prevention efforts. Wei's community was not as festive as in previous years, but the number of customers to her store was still much higher than usual.

"The Spring Festival holiday is a good time for my business because people purchase a lot," Wei said. Her store remained open on Chinese New Year's Eve and her husband, Lei Zhideng, who returned home from a local construction site, made preparations for the festivities.

Benefiting from poverty reduction programs, in the past five years, around 710,000 people like Wei in Guangxi have been relocated from remote and uninhabitable mountainous areas. Late last year, the regional government announced the last eight impoverished counties in Guangxi, including six autonomous counties, had eliminated absolute poverty.

Farmers who just shook off poverty last year have made special preparations for the Spring Festival.

Luo Haiguang, a farmer in Bahao Village, Dahua Yao Autonomous County in Guangxi, prepared pork and chicken for the festival. His village shook off poverty last year. Luo worked in Dongguan, Guangdong Province last year and this year he said he planned to find a stable job. "Our big family of 13 will share the dinner together," he said.

CELEBRATIONS AS EPIDEMIC CONTROLLED

Zou Guixing, a 50-year-old villager in Mulan County, northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, where a recent cluster of COVID-19 cases was reported, was also busy ahead of the new year. Zou had listed what he needed to do to welcome the Spring Festival one month ago. His list included cleaning the house, steaming bean buns, writing Spring Festival scrolls, and buying firecrackers, among other customs.

As a drummer of the village's yangko (a popular rural folk dance) team, Zou is also responsible for organizing a yangko event to ring in the new year. "We must preserve traditional culture," he said.

There are 26 yangko performance teams in the township and epidemic prevention and control measures will be in place during the performances, such as wearing masks and maintaining social distance, according to Wang Xiangdong, director of the township cultural center.

During the Spring Festival, the Heilongjiang Peking Opera Theater will broadcast opera performances on video-sharing platform TikTok so audiences can enjoy traditional arts from the comfort of their homes.

"To reduce gatherings, we record videos at home and communicate via WeChat, but it is a challenge for us," said Huang Lizhu, an actress of the theater, adding that this new experience also provides a new way to spread traditional Chinese culture.

In central China's Hubei Province, epidemic prevention measures are strictly observed in public areas. Nevertheless, cultural venues are open to the public.

Local cultural and tourism departments will initiate hundreds of online and offline activities for residents and migrant workers who stay put for the festival, said local authorities. People can also receive free Spring Festival scrolls and write the character fu, meaning "blessing," at the provincial library and museum.

A treasure-hunting game with the theme of the Year of the Ox is also taking place at the Hubei Provincial Museum. Bronze wares, lacquerware, and wooden artifacts, all engraved with ox designs, have attracted many visitors.

To boost Spring Festival consumption, Wuhan, the capital of the province, is providing people during the festival with coupons worth 100 million yuan (15.53 million U.S. dollars).

"I am lucky to get a 28-yuan coupon," said Li Xiaomei, a shopping assistant in charge of alcohol sales at a local Walmart.

"As a citizen of Wuhan, I witnessed the recovery of the city in all aspects after COVID-19. I wish Wuhan people live and work in peace and contentment in the coming year," she said.

 

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