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Former Housewife Recalls Setting up First Private Restaurant in 80s

Viewed 392 times 2018-12-24 20:20 |System category:News

Former Housewife Recalls Setting up First Private Restaurant in China in 80s
Liu Guixian, the owner of the first privately-owned restaurant []


Liu Guixian, the owner of the first privately-owned restaurant in the People's Republic of China, still attracts customers from all over the world who come to savor the food and soak up the evocative atmosphere of the 80s.

Liu, 84, was born in Suxing county, north China's Hebei Province. At the age of 18, she went to Beijing with her husband in order to earn a living.

She took several part-time jobs to raise her five children, whilst her husband worked in a state-owned enterprise as a chef. The family was often short on cash in those days.

One of her part-time jobs was to cook for a leading official. Later, her host suggested that she set up a restaurant with her outstanding kitchen skills.

In April 1979, China's State Council encouraged private economic activities for the first time. Liu was intrigued and her husband wrote an application for her to open a restaurant.

However, it was difficult to get the license. China was still under the planned economy system at the time and there were no privately-owned restaurants yet.

Liu went to the Industrial and Commercial Bureau, but the officials would not grant her a business license.

There were also many other people who were applying for a business license, and no one appealed after a rejection from the Bureau. Finally, after one-month of consistent effort, Liu got special approval to open her restaurant.

Liu started to prepare for the opening of business. She bought a refrigerator, tables, chairs and cooking ingredients with a loan of 500 yuan, which was a huge sum at the time. The new restaurant was named Yuebin, which means "welcome to my restaurant", and made 38 yuan in profit on the very first day.

The opening of Yuebin was big news locally and globally. In addition to ordinary customers who dined there, journalists from home and abroad also flocked to interview her.

Meanwhile, many people criticized Liu, because individual business was regarded as a restoration of capitalism. But with the deepening of economic reform, an increasing number of self-employed entrepreneurs emerged.

In Spring Festival of 1981, then-vice premiers of the State Council Yao Yilin and Chen Muhua went to the restaurant for a New Year visit. Only then did self-employed entrepreneurs like Liu feel more reassured.

It was not easy to make a successful restaurant. Liu had to get up at 3 a.m. to prepare cooking ingredients and wash dishes until midnight. At times, she would catch the earliest train at 5 a.m. to source the freshest ingredients from the provincial bazaar.

For 38 years, Liu has adhered to the service principle of using the freshest ingredients to create tasty authenticity. Shoddy and fake ingredients are absolutely banned from her restaurant. That is the secret of the restaurant's long-lasting popularity, she says.

(Source: and edited by Women of China)

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)




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