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    Sep 13, 2018 22:26:36(Sep 13, 2018)
  • LANZHOU, Jan. 19 (Xinhua) -- Gesturing to her fine tableware set, Gao Shumei picked up one of the bowls.

    "I buy new bowls and chopsticks every year for Chinese New Year. It is said that new tableware will bring bliss and longevity to the family," Gao, 75, said as she absent mindedly traced her fingers over the Chinese character "fu," meaning good fortune, which was printed on the bowl and repeated across the whole set.

    Gao lives in a remote village on the Loess Plateau in Gansu Province, This year her granddaughter bought the family's new tableware online. It was chosen and ordered in minutes.

    It has not always been this easy.

    Just three decades ago, Gao remembered, bartering was much more common place.

    In the late 1970s when travel was almost unheard of, villagers had to wait for traveling vendors, who would hawk their goods from village to village, often walking for miles in between.

    Each salesman would have their own sound, a bell or a whistle, something to alert the village of what they were selling.

    "I still get excited when I hear a rattle drum. I catch myself, even now, glancing to the window expecting to see the peddler arriving," Gao recalled.

    One year, Gao swapped a bag of grain grown on her family lot for a pair of blue-striped porcelain bowls. These bowls, however, were not meant for the annual reunion dinner.

    "We used them on the ancestral shrine," she explained.

    Over Spring Festival, Chinese would traditionally pay their respects to their ancestors and pray for a prosperous year. The practice continues in some parts of China, even to this day.

    "The blue and white bowls would be filled with a rich, meaty noodle dish, and left on the shrine as an offering," Gao recalled, adding that the family could only afford such a hearty meal once a year.

    Almost at the same time, China started the reform and opening-up period, leading to three decades of breakneck growth. Per capita net income of rural households, like Gao's, shot up to over 11,000 yuan (1,600 U.S. dollars) in 2015, from 130 yuan in 1978.

    When Gao's son got married in the 1990s, his wife, Wang Shenglan, took over the responsibility of getting new tableware for the annual family dinner.

    Wang bought her new bowls and chopsticks at the county fair.

    "She didn't have to wait for the peddler, but she did have to trek several miles to the county seat for the market," Gao explained.

    This annual shopping trip had to be planned ahead of time, and Wang would often make her new year purchases a month before the festival.

    "If it was a sunny day I would ride to the market on a tricycle," she said.

    The first year she bought six of everything. "Six is an auspicious number, you know," she recalled.

    This year, Gao's granddaughter Liu Lijuan took charge. The set she bought for her grandmother had been made in Fujian, a costal province thousands of miles away, but it only took a few days to be delivered.

    On the eve of the Lunar New Year, the whole family will sit down together and tuck into seafood that Liu also ordered online.

    "Compared with the old days, it's like celebrating Spring Festival every day," said Gao.

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