For those who might not be familiar with Zongzi, it’s also called sticky rice dumpling, traditionally we eat them during the dragon boat festival.
Okay, I’ll try to explain the tradition a little bit (hope it won’t put you into sleep): Very long time ago, in Warring State period–when Qin is on its way to be the first emperor in Chinese history, a famous poet Qu Yuan lived in Chu, a neighbouring city with Qin, when his warning of Qin’s ambitious expansion was neglected and to be honest, there’s nothing he could do to change the whole situation, he got very overwhelmed by his patriotism and decided to jump into the river and killed himself. As a very beloved poet by his people, packets of rice (the prototype of Zongzi) were thrown into the river, hoping the fish won’t eat the poet’s body.
And then, the tradition passed on, in memorial to the poet, only nobody now throw Zongzi into rivers. (Certainly not here in Shanghai, we got plenty of dead pigs in the picture.)
A bunch of rice dumplings tied together with twine
Southern-style (left) and Northern-style (right) zongzi
Zongzi both ready to eat (left) and still wrapped in a bamboo leaf (right)
Zongzi (or simply zong) (Chinese: 粽子) is a traditional Chinese food, made of glutinous rice stuffed with different fillings and wrapped in bamboo, reed, or other large flat leaves. They are cooked by steaming or boiling. In the Western world, they are also known as rice dumplings or sticky rice dumplings.
Burmese (who call it Pya Htote), Cambodians (nom chang), Laotians and Thais, (Bachang) have also assimilated this dish by borrowing it from the local overseas Chinese minorities in their respective nations. In Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia, they are known as bakcang, bacang, or zang (Chinese: 肉粽; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: bah-chàng), a loanword from Hokkien, a Chinese dialect commonly used among Indonesian-Chinese, rather than Mandarin. Along the same lines, zongzi are more popularly known as machang among Chinese Filipinos in the Philippines.
Zongzi (sticky rice dumplings) are traditionally eaten during the Duanwu Festival (Mandarin: Duānwǔ; Cantonese: Tuen Ng), which falls on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar (approximately late-May to mid-June).
A popular belief amongst the Chinese of eating zongzi involved commemorating the death of Qu Yuan, a famous Chinese poet from the kingdom of Chu who lived during the Warring States period. Known for his patriotism, Qu Yuan tried unsuccessfully to warn his king and countrymen against the expansionism of their Qin neighbors. When the Qin general Bai Qi took Yingdu, the Chu capital, in 278 BC, Qu Yuan's grief was so intense that he drowned himself in the Miluo river after penning the Lament for Ying. According to legend, packets of rice were thrown into the river to prevent the fish from eating the poet's body.
Although it may have originally been a seasonal food, zongzi are available year-round in most major cities with a significant Chinese population.
Duanwu Festival (端午节)
Hong Kong Discovery Bay's dragon boat races
Duanwu Festival, also known as Dragon Boat Festival and the Double Fifth, is a traditional and statutory holiday originating in China and associated with a number of East Asian and Southeast Asian societies. In Mandarin, it is known as Duānwǔ Jié; in Hong Kong and Macau, by the Cantonese name Tuen Ng Festival; in Hokkien-speaking areas like in Malaysia and in Singapore, by the names Gō͘-go̍eh-cheh/Gō͘-ge̍h-choeh (五月節) and Gō͘-ji̍t-cheh/Gō͘-ji̍t-choeh (五日節).
In 2008, it was recognised as a public holiday in mainland China for the first time since the 1940s. The festival has also long been celebrated in Taiwan, Singapore, and Malaysia. Equivalent and related festivals in Asia include the Tango no Sekku in Japan, Dano in Korea, and Tết Đoan Ngọ in Vietnam.
The festival occurs on the 5th day of the 5th month of the lunisolar Chinese calendar. This is the source of the alternative name of Double Fifth. The date varies from year to year on the Gregorian calendar. In 2011, this fell on June 6 and in 2012 on June 23. In 2013, it's on June 12th.
The focus of the celebrations includes eating rice dumplings zongzi, drinking realgar wine xionghuangjiu (雄黃酒), and racing dragon boats.
The sun is considered to be at its strongest around the time of summer solstice ("mid-summer" in traditional East Asia) when the daylight in the northern hemisphere is the longest. The sun, like the Chinese dragon, traditionally represents masculine energy, whereas the moon, like the phoenix, traditionally represents feminine energy. The summer solstice is considered the peak annual moment of male energy while the winter solstice, the longest night of the year, represents the peak annual moment of feminine energy. The masculine image of the dragon is thus naturally associated with Duanwu.
The Duanwu Festival is believed to have originated in ancient China. A number of theories exist about its origins as a number of folk traditions and explanatory myths are connected to its observance. Today the best known of these relates to the suicide in 278 BCE of Qu Yuan, poet and statesman of the Chu kingdom during the Warring States period.
Qu Yuan - The best-known traditional story holds that the festival commemorates the death of poet Qu Yuan (c. 340–278 BCE) of the ancient state of Chu during the Warring States Period of the Zhou Dynasty. A descendant of the Chu royal house, Qu served in high offices. However, when the king decided to ally with the increasingly powerful state of Qin, Qu was banished for opposing the alliance; he was accused of treason. During his exile, Qu Yuan wrote a great deal of poetry, for which he is now remembered. Twenty-eight years later, Qin captured Ying, the capital of Chu. In despair, Qu Yuan committed suicide by drowning himself in the Miluo River on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month.
It is said that the local people, who admired him, dropped sticky rice triangles wrapped in bamboo leaves into the river to feed the fish. The rice was wrapped so that fish would not eat Qu Yuan's body and eat the rice instead. This is said to be the origin of zongzi. The local people were also said to have paddled out on boats, either to scare the fish away or to retrieve his body. This is said to be the origin of dragon boat racing.
Zongzi and the Dragon Boat Festival
Chinese culture has many, many festivals, commemorating some rather unusual events. Dragon Boat Festival is one such festival. This year, it fell on June 11, 2013. The main thing to do on this day is to eat zongzi, the glutinous rice dumpling, as it is translated into English, though I think that scarcely describes it.
In some places, they actually do have races of boats that are colorfully decorated with dragon designs, but I have never seen such a race. I have, however, eaten lots of zongzi. I was given several this year. You can buy them commercially and they are commonly eaten as a snack food, but at this time of year, you are likely to receive homemade ones. The rice is a glutinous rice and is very sticky. The rice may be white, as shown above, and it may have some red bean paste inside, though the ones you see here had nothing inside. Sometimes the rice is brown from a sauce and inside is a small chunk of ham. In any case, each one is wrapped in reed leaves and steamed, I suppose, for a long time. At first, I thought they were rather tasteless, but I have developed a taste for them now, and I like to eat them, though once a year is enough.
The origin of the zongzi is as strange as the food itself. It seems that there was a Chinese poet and official (Chinese officials in ancient times were always poets; that was the mark of an educated and capable person) named Qu Yuan (pronounced a little like "chew you ann.") He was an official in the kingdom of Chu, in about 340-278 BC, which was before China had been unified into a nation. China has a tradition of ministers who give advice to the king, or emperor, and Qu Yuan was such a minister. Qu Yuan advised the king of Chu to prepare for war because the state of Qin was poised to devour his state. But the king thought he was safe, since the emperor of Qin seemed to be focusing on other, weaker, states. But, eventually, Qin did attack Chu, and the Chu kingdom was defeated.
Qu Yuan was so distraught over this that he committed suicide by jumping into the Miluo River. His countrymen, upon learning of this tragedy, rushed to the scene in small boats and tried to find his body. They failed to find it, so they made the dumplings wrapped in reed leaves and threw them into the river so the fish would eat the dumplings and not Qu Yuan's body. Later, it became a ritual to eat the zongzi on the anniversary of Qu Yuan's death and to hold dragon boat races.
I am always amazed that Chinese remember so many small things from their very long history, and that these traditions can be passed down generation by generation.
Zongzi (Chinese: 粽子)
Zongzi is a traditional Chinese food made of glutinous rice, stuffed with different fillings, and wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves. It is the most popular food of the Dragon Boat Festival. Zongzi is steamed or boiled.
A variety of Zongzi Fillings
- Egg Yolk
- Lotus Seed
- Red Bean Paste
- Fat Pork
Variations - Zongzi, a traditional Chinese food, differs not only in shape but also in taste from one place to another across China. There are mainly two tastes to Zongzi, sweet and salty. Sweet Zongzi flavors include plain Zongzi, red bean Zongzi, horse bean Zongzi, date Zongzi, rose Zongzi, melon Zongzi, red bean and lard Zongzi, and date paste and lard Zongzi. Salty Zongzi flavors include salted pork fat Zongzi, sausage Zongzi, ham Zongzi, dried shrimp Zongzi, and diced meat Zongzi. Nowadays, people even make Zongzi with mixed fillings. Such a variety of tastes makes the Zongzi family a splendid legacy.
Duanwu Festival, also known as Dragon Boat Festival, is traditionally celebrated on the 5th day of the 5th month on the Chinese lunar calendar. This year’s Duanwu Festival falls on June 16, 2010
Duanwu Festival has a long history in China. It originated in ancient China for over thousands of years. There are many versions about its origins, but today the most commonly accepted one is to commemorate the life and death of the poet and patriot Qu Yuan. Qu Yuan (340 BC – 278 BC) was a loyal minister in the ancient state of Chu. He wrote a great many of poems in his life, which are passed from generation to generation.
However, in 278BC, learning of the capture of his country’s capital, he committed suicide by drowning himself in the Miluo River. That day was the fifth day of the fifth month of Chinese lunar year. During this festival, to commemorate Qu Yuan, people usually do two things – Eating Zongzi and having dragon boat races
Dragon Boat Festival 2013
Dragon Boat Festival, as known as Duanwu Festival, is a traditional and statutory holiday in China, occurring on the 5th day of the 5th month of the lunar calendar. Main customs of the celebration include eating the rice dumpling (zongzi), hanging calamus, Artemsia argyi, smoked herb and Angelica dahurica, drinking Realgar wine (xionghuangjiu), and racing dragon boats.
The festival was long marked as a traditional holiday in China. On May 20th 2006, it was selected into the first batch of national intangible cultural heritage items; in 2008 it was celebrated as a public holiday in China; on October 30th 2009, it was chosen into the UNESCO World Non-Material Cultural Heritage List.
The Dragon Boat Festival used to have many interesting customs that are no longer commonly observed, though you may still find them practiced in some rural areas. The most popular activity done during the Dragon Boat Festival is the racing of Dragon Boats. Dragon boat racing is held at that day each year in many cities in southern China. Read more
Dragon Boat Racing
The most popular activity done during the Dragon Boat Festival is the racing of Dragon Boats. The local people were also said to have paddled out on boats, either to scare the fish away or to retrieve his body. This is said to be the origin of dragon boat racing. The dragon boat races represent the attempts to rescue and recover the body of Qu Yuan. Qu Yuan, who named Ping and styled himself Yuan, was Chu person of Warring States over 1,700 years. He was the earliest famous poet in China. See Qu Yuan Ancestral Hall and learn more of Quyuan.
The custom of Dragon Boat Race might begin from the southern China. They selected the 5th lunar day of the 5th lunar month as the totem ceremony. The dragon was the main symbol on the totem, because Chinese thought they were son of dragon. They also made dragon-like canoe. Later, Chinese connected this custom with Duan-Wu festival. Since this was the event only in the southern China，his might be why Dragon Boat Race doesn't that popular in entire China today. But we can see yearly Dragon Boat Race events in Honk Hong and Taiwan. The picture shows a person lying on the top of dragon head of the boat to prepare to catch the flag of target to win the race.
Now, the Dragon Boat Race becomes an international event. This sport is popular in USA, Canada, Europe, Australia, Taiwan, Honk Hong, Singapore etc. Some organization's events aren't held around the Dragon Boat Festival. Some are in July, August or September. You need to check their websites for the schedules. China Highlights can help you design a tour to see a dragon boat racing and other highlights of China.
Dragon Boat Races
Traditionally, dragon boat races are held as a part of the activity during the Duanwu Festival, also known as Dragon Boat Festival.
Legend says that hearing Qu Yuan’s suicide, the local people ruched in their fishing boat and tried desperately to save him. Meanwhile, in order to frighten away the fish and the evil water spirits, they beat drums and splashed the water with their paddles.
Later, dragon boating became the national sport of China. It is said that over 30 million dragon boaters who take part in races every year. Today, it is also one of the most exciting sports in the world wide.