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Family continues 300-year-old tradition of offering free drink to pedestrians

(People's Daily Online)    14:58, July 03, 2020
Family continues 300-year-old tradition of offering free drink to pedestrians
Tong Songda and his daughter-in-law serve sour prune drink to passers-by. (Photo/Ningbo Evening News)

A family from a town in Ningbo city, east China’s Zhejiang province, has been offering free tea to pedestrians for 300 years, since the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). What is it that made them want to pass on this family tradition?

Suanmeitang, or sour prune drink, is one of the most popular drinks consumed in Chinese communities in summer. At 10 am, Tong Songda, who is now in his 80s, puts dried orange peels, liquorice roots, smoked plums, and other ingredients into water and brings them to a boil. Then, he adds rock sugar to the liquid and lets it simmer for a while.

After the drink cools, the octogenarian and his daughter-in-law, Hu Yali, take the drink to a market and serve it to pedestrians.

In the past, people liked to drink cups of tea on the roadsides at the market. Nowadays, the market’s golden era is long gone, but Tong’s family has never stopped serving tea.

The old man has two sons. The elder son passed away many years ago, and because he suffers from cerebral infarction, Tong himself is unable to walk long distances. As a result, Tong’s elder daughter-in-law took over the job from him.

“Our family has been doing this job for the last ten generations. We must carry on this good family tradition,” Hu said.


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