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Restaurant offers free lunch, comfort to empty-nesters

By Sun Ruisheng and Liang Liang in Changzhi, Shanxi province | | Updated: 2017-11-17 17:11

Who says there is no such thing as a free lunch? On Nov 13, four women opened a vegetarian restaurant that provides dining service at no charge to the elderly, lonely and students in Changzhi, Shanxi province.

Since the Yuhuazhai Free Vegetarian Mutual Benefit Restaurant II began trial operations on Oct 15, nearly 530 people have been provided free lunches and almost 200 people dine every day.

One of the founders, Xie Danqin, was previously a contractor for a school canteen. In July, she and her friends went to volunteer for Yuhuazhai Free Vegetarian Mutual Benefit Restaurant I. They were deeply touched by the scene they saw: nearly 200 diners, including elderly people, students, and disabled people, came in without making much noise; with whispers and mutual courtesy, everyone quietly studied the Chinese traditional book Disciple Rules before lunch.

Since then, Xie was inspired to create a similar restaurant. Soon, she and her three friends, Wei Yanfang, Kang Xujing and Yue Xiaojing, put together more than 100,000 yuan ($15,000) to set up the restaurant.

Li Laiying, 86, always moves her stool outside after dinner and washes the dishes. "My husband died 30 years ago. I'm used to living alone and am not willing to live with my children. Now I feel at home, and I especially love Yuhuazhai's atmosphere," she said.

"There are so many elderly people. Many of them are empty nesters. There is no shortage of food and drink, but they are alone at home. They come to us and enjoy meals together with other people, feeling very happy. Some nice elderly people even leave money quietly when they leave," said Xie. Although the lunch is free, the production process is not sloppy.

Lunch is provided for nearly 200 people a day in Yuhuazhai, with an expenditure of between 500 and 700 yuan. Most of these costs are covered by the four and also from donations by people from all walks of life.

At Yuhuazhai, every dish is finished clean. This is consistent with the philosophy advocated by the charity restaurant: being grateful, showing filial obedience and being kindhearted - that is the only way to be content and happy.

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