Guards of honor

Updated 2017-04-15 14:00:41 China Daily

Some of the Chinese time-honored brands that have been bywords for older generations faded from view but have then made spectacular comebacks.

In many cases they have built their reputations over hundreds of years, and they have become names that millions of Chinese love, respect and most of all buy.

At least once a year Meng Wei visits several shops in Beijing that specialize in traditional goods, looking to buy something for his family in Xi'an.

"It's a routine I go through before I head home for big holidays such as Spring Festival," Meng says.

Among the perennials on his shopping list are Daoxiangcun pastries and Niulanshan erguotou, a 65 proof white spirit made in Beijing.

"My mother has a sweet tooth and she always has a craving for Daoxiangcun, and my uncles love the kick of erguotou," Meng says.

A trust in quality and a hankering for things of the past are among the reasons why many people buy these time-honored brands.

"Time-honored brands" refers to old products, techniques or services that are unique in a particular way and enjoy an excellent reputation and culture cachet, says Zheng Wen, head of the Ministry of Commerce's circulation development division.


Some of the Chinese time-honored brands that have been bywords for older generations faded from view but have then made spectacular comebacks.

However, with such brands one characteristic stands out above all else: Their popularity has endured for years, decades and in many cases centuries.

That popularity was evident in the attention the public gave to them in a survey of time-honored brands in Beijing last year, which drew more than 4 million respondents.

Yili, a century-old pastry brand, came out on top as the favorite. There are some old brands, too, that have been bywords for older generations, faded from view but then made spectacular comebacks.

One of these is Beibingyang (Arctic Ocean) a soft drink that was the first commercial beverage many Beijingers tasted. It disappeared from the market for 15 years but resurfaced in 2010. It again proved to be a hit, many people saying it took them back to the 1960s and 1970s, and was a natural reference point as older people started recounting childhood stories to their children.

"Such brands are the product of market competition and real quality," says Yin Jie, an official with a committee of experts charged with revitalizing Chinese time-honored brands.

These brands are 230 years old on average, and some were highly popular back when the country enjoyed great prosperity hundreds of years ago, Yin says.

"To this day what China contributes to these brands is certain rare natural ingredients, and that keeps them going."

A guardian of one Chinese time-honored brand is Yin Zhiqiang. However, the day China Daily visited him on duty he looked more like a decontamination expert than a guard, wearing a face mask and dressed in a blue gown that covered most of his upper body. He was teaching apprentices about the process of making ink, and some of the methods he uses are as old as Yidege, the company he works for, which celebrated its 150th anniversary two years ago.

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