Time-honored status removed from unfit businesses to better protect prestigious brands
Published: Nov 16, 2023 09:42 PM
Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Lately some customers in Beijing were "shocked" to hear that Daoxiangcun, a store that sells everyday snacks, would no longer be listed as a laozihao, or time-honored brand. Fortunately, it turned out that it was a same-named store in Tianjin, rather than the renowned store in Beijing, that would lose the honor. 

Together with the Tianjin Daoxiangcun, 54 other Chinese time-honored brand stores would be removed from the list of Chinese old and famous brands, including Xinluchun restaurant in Beijing, Laobanzhai restaurant in Shanghai, and Guanshengyuan store in Chongqing due to long-term poor operation, bankruptcy or loss of trademarks, according to a recent notice issued by China's Ministry of Commerce (MOC). 

China's time-honored brands refer to quality products, excellent techniques or reliable services that have been passed down through generations. With distinctive regional characteristics, most of them have been widely recognized in all sectors over 100 years. In 1991, more than 1,600 businesses were conferred with this title, and in 2006 and 2011, another 1,128 enterprises were added.

According to the MOC, this move aims to improve the protection and inheritance of time-honored brands and build a long-term mechanism for their innovation development, setting well-operated ones as standards and examples for other time-honored brands.

However, some of the brands have lost their advantages due to the changing times, while their standards have fallen. 

Tianjin Daoxiangcun, established in 1988, has a reputation for selling high-priced but poor-tasting pastries. Xinluchun restaurant in Beijing used to be well-known in the 1980s for serving savory steamed buns, which some Beijingers still miss. However, after it shifted to regular dishes, its business deteriorated. 

Like customers in Beijing, Shanghai residents were also dumbfounded by the removal of the popular and familiar restaurant Laobanzhai. While some expressed regret about the change, others consented saying, "Laobanzhai's environment, services and dishes no longer deserve its status." Some moaned that "short-sighted operators have ruined the business of their ancestors."

Established in 1905, Laobanzhai restaurant serves pastry and Huaiyang cuisine, known for its light and fresh flavor and intricate cooking techniques. It was listed as a time-honored brand in 2006. 

To respond to the quality of their services, the manager admitted that a few senior staffers have retired, which "may have caused some problems. But we are trying to improve our services, and at least the quality of the food we serve is guaranteed, and the variety is still popular." 

 "Now we are striving to reexamine ourselves," the manager said.

While sifting out the unqualified, quite a number of qualified businesses have remained on the list, among which the Daoxiangcun store in Beijing is a good example. 

First established in 1895, Beijing Daoxiangcun was the first store to sell dishes from southern China, including pastry, meat and special food for traditional Chinese festivals such as moon cakes as well as frozen food. In 1993, it was listed as a time-honored brand, and in 2004, it won the title of "famous Chinese brand" due to the good quality and reputation of its food and products. 

To protect time-honored brands, the list has been increasing instead of decreasing. In August, there were 238 old and famous brands from Beijing on the list with an average age of 140 years, an increase of 15 enterprises , including a traditional Chinese medicine company. Including the Capital Automobile Group, Beijing Tongren Optometry Store and Beijing Ruizhenhou Restaurant, they are part of the eighth batch of businesses on the list and cover more diverse sectors. 

Time-honored brands do not just represent the best of the business world, they also have profound cultural significance. 

Before a brand was set up, choosing the right name was a major priority as an auspicious name carries the great expectations of the owner of the business.  

Normally, owners selected names from famous verses in ancient Chinese literary works such as Dream of Red Mansion to pray for a thriving business, or to show their political aspirations such as jianhua, meaning "building the Chinese nation." 

Some entrepreneurs in southern China named their stores with a distinctive local style. A catering business in Suzhou, East China's Jiangsu Province, located in a typical waterside building was named Caizhizhai, or "Collecting Water Lilies." It also serves various, exquisitely made pastries that have been well-received all over the country.

Besides cultural connections, these businesses also uphold customer-centered principles. For instance, each season, Beijing Daoxiangcun will promote different foods to customers and remind them of Chinese traditions. 

These time-honored brands represent the best of traditional Chinese culture. Those who have remained on the list demonstrate their success in maintaining the businesses of their ancestors, the continuity of their products and services, and the inheritance of traditional Chinese culture. Those who have vanished must learn to catch up and adapt to the changing times. In this way, they can not only preserve their brands, but also do their bit for the protection of the traditional Chinese culture.