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Modern community revives village traditions
Last Updated: 2018-04-03 07:23 | Xinhua
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In a square, more than 3,000 people surrounded some 300 tables covered with piping hot dishes, waiting for a celebration to begin.

"Welcome to this year's neighborhood feast!" said a hostess on the stage, as the crowd cheered.

The celebration happened on Saturday in Julong community in Hui'an County, east China's Fujian Province, marking the 11th anniversary of the community's founding.

The annual event is organized by Julong Health and Development Company, developer of the property, in an effort to build the close neighborhood bonds often found in traditional villages.

"During my childhood, we knew all the neighbors in the village and visited each other frequently," said Guo Zhenhui, general manager of the company and a local resident.

"But nowadays as more people live in high-rise urban apartments, neighbors have less common space and occasions for interaction," he said.

Aiming to "challenge the unfriendly urban lifestyle," Guo's company created the community in 2007 in his hometown, a suburb of Hui'an County.

The company organizes neighborhood feasts on special occasions such as the anniversary and traditional Chinese festivals.

Each family brings homemade dishes to share with their neighbors. The number of attendees ranges from hundreds to thousands.

"It's a great way to get to know our neighbors and we often share cooking skills during the feast," said 70-year-old Xu Dangzhi, a resident who has participated in the event for three years.

Inspired by the annual event, Xu said smaller gatherings are held regularly between friends and members of more than 20 hobby groups in the community.

To make it easier, Julong has built a dining hall and a public kitchen, with kitchenware and seasonings donated by residents, for people to cook and eat together.

"Food and feasts are important parts of Chinese culture, through which we want to build a friendly neighborhood," Guo said.

BUILDING TRUST

Located in a picturesque valley, Julong is home to about 7,000 households from all across China.

Before settling in Julong, every resident must sign a "Code of Conduct," based on xiangyue, a form of consensus-based rule found in some ancient Chinese villages.

The rules to be observed include "greet people with smile in the community," "help neighbors, respect the elderly, and care for the young," and "actively participate in community activities."

"It is non-binding, but serves as a constant reminder for residents," said Guo. "However, we ask our employees to strictly follow these rules to set an example."

"Many people felt strange greeting strangers at first, but when they saw us doing it, it felt more natural," said Wu Wanping, one of the employees and also a resident of the community.

The employees are also required to remind residents of any misconduct. "For example, if people throw garbage on the road, we first pick it up and then advise them," said Wu.

Slogans such as "Residents here are not strangers but family" are displayed around the community and 100-meter-long billboards show the good deeds done by residents.

The company has also opened eight self-service grocery stores with no cashier or surveillance cameras in the last three years.

They sell fresh vegetables grown in the community and local specialties. In each store, a scale, a money box, a small blackboard, and some chalk are set beside the exit.

"People buy things, weigh them, pay, and leave," said Wu. "If they don't have any change, they can keep an account on the blackboard."

The store has run for three years and has seen only a few thefts, Wu said.

"Most of us know each other here and no one wants to risk their reputation for pennies," Li Yunfeng said after shopping in the store.

"The village traditions promoted here have helped build trust between residents," said Che Feng, a lecturer in Beijing Normal University who spent three months living in the community for her research.

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