In many areas of rural China, pig feasts have long functioned as a vital ritual exchange among codependent farm households. Called sha nian zhu (roughly translated as “killing the year's pig”), the annual reciprocal feast has traditionally served to maintain community identities, provide aid, and strengthen social ties. Based on interviews with farm households in Zhenlai County in northern Jilin Province, we study the benefits that the annual pig feast provides communities. While some farmers believe this tradition will endure indefinitely, trends of urbanization and privatization—e.g., the peri-urban encroachment and confiscation of village land, the temporary and permanent migration of rural villagers to cities, the industrialization of pig production, and the year-round availability of meat—could lead to the transformation and marketization, or even abandonment, of this ancestral tradition.

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