Beijing's anti-corruption effort helped the traditional Dragon Boat Festival this year come back to its roots, with prices of such traditional festival food as zongzi - glutinous rice dumplings wrapped in reed leaves - returning to a more affordable level.
In past years, elaborate zongzi sets have sold for thousands of yuan.
But on May 29, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection added a "Clean Dragon Boat Festival Holiday" section to its website, issuing bans on using public funds to buy holiday presents such as zongzi. As a result, luxuriously packaged or highly priced zongzi could hardly be found.
A pack of two rice dumplings filled with meat, from well-known Zhejiang brand Wu Fang Zhai, was priced at 11.9 yuan ($1.90) at the Tesco Express store on East Jinling Road in downtown Shanghai, and two dumplings with sweetened bean paste were only 5.9 yuan.
Lin Yuting, a shop assistant at the store, noted that the zongzi sold there this year came only in vacuum-packed plastic bags. No gift packages were available.
A similar scenario could be seen elsewhere. A pack of two dumplings from such local brands as Sunya, Xing Hua Lou and Shen Da Cheng ranged from 7.8 yuan to 11.9 yuan at the NGS Yongshou Road supermarket in central Shanghai. Shop assistant Chen Yuexia also said no luxury packs of the treat were sold there this year.
Even at higher-end supermarket chain CitySuper in downtown Shanghai, which mainly sells imported goods, the price of rice dumplings was still quite low. Two rice dumplings with salted egg yolk or meat fillings were priced at 19.8 yuan. A 180-gram dumpling of eight different fillings from traditional brand Gong De Lin went for 9.3 yuan.
"There is no gift package of rice dumplings sold here. All we have is the plainly packaged zongzi, which are fairly priced," said Ma Ziqiang, a salesclerk at the CitySuper store.
The Wu Fang Zhai snack chain stores belonging to the Shanghai Xinghualou Group seemed to be one of the only places to be selling zongzi gift packages this year. But a gift package of 12 rice dumplings of six different fillings was priced at 89 yuan, and the most expensive package of 15 rice dumplings cost only 198 yuan.
"The gift packages are much cheaper this year, which is a good thing for most ordinary consumers," said Gu Qiang, a store manager of the Wu Fang Zhai store on South Yunnan Road in central Shanghai.
"Discounts are also offered, with some packages 20 per cent off on the Dragon Boat Festival. Most of the buyers are seniors who buy these products to give to friends or relatives," Gu added.
Zhang Limin, 35, operations manager of a Shanghai-based fund company, found the rice dumplings sold this year, even on the official Tmall store of Wu Fang Zhai, to be much cheaper than in previous years.
"A gift pack of 20 rice dumplings of six different flavors is only priced at 119 yuan this year, which is at least 30 per cent cheaper (than last year). I bought these for my mother so she can be spared the trouble of going to the supermarket," Zhang from the fund company said.