Humble rice dumplings dressed up to thrill
Pricey traditional foods have triggered public complaints during previous Dragon Boat festivals, and this year is no exception.
Professor Hu Xingdou, a political commentator at the Beijing Institute of Technology, said rice dumplings, eaten to honour the poet and statesman Qu Yuan, who threw himself into the Miluo River in Hunan province to protest against corruption 2,300 years ago, were being used for bribes.
'Today's rice dumpling gifts include not only rice but also many strange items that people use to please and bribe officials,' he said.
In Beijing, the Imperial Palace Food Company launched a rice dumpling gift pack it claimed was approved by the Palace Museum.
The dumplings are made using a recipe from the Qing royal family and the pack costs 1,888 yuan (HK$2,320), Xinhua reported.
As well as 12 rice dumplings, the pack includes two tins of Chinese tea, a tureen, 12 tea cakes and other adornments in small iron boxes.
The gift packs have triggered a public outcry, with some internet users questioning how much the Palace Museum had earned from selling the right to use its seal of approval over the past few decades. They also wonder why such a common food is served up with so many 'strange and luxury items'.
The museum has denied giving the food company permission to display its 'seal of approval' on the gift box. But the company insists it has.
The permit expired this year based on an agreement signed between the museum and the company in 2002, the state-run China Economic Weekly said.
For those who think a royal touch is not enough for a festive gift, a five-star international hotel chain is offering a gift set that includes nine dumplings made with different ingredients, a bottle of Remy Martin VSOP, a tin of XO sauce and a pack of Longjing tea, for 2,888 yuan.
Citing a spokesman for one of the chain's hotels in Wuhan , Hubei province , the report said hundreds of these gift sets had been sold, with customers often from government institutions, insurance companies and banks.
Regular people still have affordable choices.
In Nanchang, the capital of Jiangxi province, local media said rice dumplings were being sold at three to four yuan in supermarkets, slightly up from last year due to the rise in labour and material costs. But prices for fancier gift sets have dropped below 500 yuan this year, compared with more than 1,000 yuan last year, suggesting the craze for luxury rice dumpling gifts was on its way out.