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November 28, 2005

Heavy on the packaging

Somewhere in the Photo Gallery linked to this weblog, you can find a photo of a typical box of "yuebing," or mooncakes.

This is the food most associated with the Mid-Autumn Festival that occurs in September. In one sense, Yuebing is like fruitcake in the U.S. -- people give a lot of them as gifts, and a lot of them get recycled because of their dried-out, preserved taste. In another sense, the yuebing phenomenon is different though -- its packaging. While it is possible to buy modestly packaged mooncakes, in early September the shops create special aisles and displays for elaborately packaged ones. First, each little cake is sealed in a plastic bag. Then the bag goes into a colorful box, often tied with a ribbon. Finally, half a dozen or more of the little boxes go into a colorful master carton that looks like a display at a consumer products trade show.

As anyone who has spent s significant amount of time in China knows, this high "packaging to product ratio" is not unique to mooncakes. Often, it adds charm to the environment. For example, more and more Chinese streets are lined with beautiful trees, shrubs, and flowers. The skyline of Nantong is lit up beautifully at night, especially when viewed from the Hao River that encircles the downtown. There are other times, though, when one wants to scream for a halt to spoiling the environment (as several letter writers have down with regard to mooncake packaging) or wasting one's time. In an example of the latter, a couple of weeks ago, I took a team of colleagues to attend a demo of an enterprise software package. Surrounding maybe 30 minutes of content about the software were several hours of student dancers, student musicians, speeches by local government and universitites officials, and user testimonials that morphed into self-promoting ads. I've become patient, though, and try to enjoy the scenery.

-- Norty

Posted by now at 03:50 PM