Published: 11:55, October 26, 2022 | Updated: 17:55, October 26, 2022
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Eliminating outdated rural customs
By Cheng Si

Campaign launched to curb excess in ceremonies 


The central government launched a campaign earlier this year to curb outdated customs in rural areas, such as exorbitant dowry demands and lavish burials, in an effort to relieve the financial burden on rural residents and foster traditions of diligence and filial respect.

The campaign was jointly launched by eight central departments, including the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, the Publicity Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the Ministry of Civil Affairs. It started in August and will run until December 2023.

We have rewritten the village rules and the cost of meals per table at a wedding banquet is not permitted to exceed 300 yuan ($41).

Cao Gongyi, Party secretary of Caoliji village, Zhoukou city, Henan province

According to a notice issued late last month, the campaign is mainly focused on curbing excessive dowries, extravagance and waste, along with other outdated habits in rural areas.

The campaign will encourage rural residents to be more frugal when arranging weddings and other ceremonies, and not pay or request exorbitant dowries. Expensive gifts in lieu of cash are also being dissuaded, as well as banquets or parties thrown for the purpose of collecting money to relieve financial burdens. Other feudal or superstitious funerary events, such as "ghost marriages" and luxurious burials, are also to be eliminated.

The notice also prohibits long-lasting and over-the-top banquets for marriages or funerals, which may result in waste. Local authorities are required to deal with complaints arising from such instances of extravagance.

To better tackle the issue, county-level officials have been instructed to visit villages to engage in fact-finding and solicit advice from residents, after which plans should be put in place to deal with any issues by the end of this month.

According to the notice, county governments are required to set an example on these issues for rural dwellers, explaining how best to organize affordable, appropriate weddings, funerals and other ceremonies, and to release a set of regulations governing these issues by the end of the year.

Party members in rural areas are tasked with taking the lead in ending bad habits and customs. According to the notice, families adopting the new approach will be recognized or rewarded.

However, government officials are also asked to respect the will of villagers and their customs while implementing the campaign. For example, performances and events should be held in villages in the offseason so that cultural heritage retains its importance.

Agricultural departments have been tasked with summarizing their efforts to address the issues and report to central authorities in late December and once again at the conclusion of the campaign in December next year.

Eliminating outdated rural customs has long been a governmental focus, as it plays an important role in national rural vitalization work. For example, Henan province undertook a three-year campaign to push forward the transformation of outdated customs and bad habits at the village level in 2017.

Cao Gongyi, Party secretary of Caoliji village in Zhoukou city, told Henan Daily, the province's official news outlet, that he has witnessed great changes in the village over the past 10 years as old-fashioned customs have been eliminated.

"Some of the villagers liked to compete in organizing evermore lavish wedding parties or funerals, which placed heavy financial burdens on them and resulted in waste. But now, we have rewritten the village rules and the cost of meals per table at a wedding banquet is not permitted to exceed 300 yuan ($41)," he said.

Jiangyong county in central Hunan has also helped rural residents change their bad habits over the past few years and carried out additional work to break with outdated customs this year. County officials are encouraging women to join the ongoing campaign and have hired retired officials as volunteers to help mitigate any conflicts or problems that may occur during implementation.

In addition to curbing bad habits and customs, the county has organized lectures on traditional culture, such as respecting the elderly and developing morality. Official figures from the county's authorities show that by June, they had organized 80 lectures which attracted some 60,000 attendees.

Local authorities have also invited celebrities and dignitaries to the villages to discuss ways of properly organizing wedding parties and funerals.

This month, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs and the National Rural Revitalization Administration released a list of examples of dealing with outdated customs. Thirty-eight villages are included on the list.

For example, Gutai village in Qinxian county, Shanxi province, set up two committees — one to instruct village residents on how to organize wedding parties and another on organizing funerals. It has also limited the duration of events as well as the number of invitees to reduce the financial burden on villagers and prevent waste.

Gutai residents have also been encouraged to spend their money on organizing charitable events instead of on sumptuous wedding banquets and funerals.