Saturday, 21 December 2013

Dongzhi 冬至 (Winter Solstice Festival)

Dongzhi / Winter Solstice Festival 2013 / 冬至


The Dong Zhi (冬至) or Winter Solstice Festival is one of the most significant festivals celebrated by the Chinese and many other East Asian nations. It is usually celebrated during the Dong zhi solar term (winter solstice) on or around December 22, where the sunshine is usually at its weakest and the daylight shortest.

The concept of the festival traces back to the Yin and Yang philosophy of balance and harmony. After this celebration, it is said that there will be days with longer daylight hours, also an indication of the increase of positive flow of energy. Unlike most Chinese festivals that are based on Chinese lunar calendar, Dong Zhi celebrates the winter solstice which occurs when the Earth’s axial tilt is farthest away from the sun and thus is based on the Gregorian (Western) solar calendar.


Dongzhi is an important festival for Singaporean Chinese. Chinese families gather during Dong Zhi to pay homage for a good year, and celebrate it by eating tang yuan, a traditional food made out of rice flour stuffed with sesame seeds or red bean paste served along a clear soup made of sugar and water and seasoned with pandan leaves and ginger. It is also a time for them to be with their families and friends and to rekindle old friendships.

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The Dongzhì Festival /Tang Chek Festival or Winter Solstice Festival 冬至


This festival originated from China, as early as 770-476 BC.  Ancient Chinese astronomers divided the whole year into 24 solar terms according to climate changes. The Chinese also found that the Winter Solstice was the shortest daytime and longest night time in the whole year.  After winter solstice, daytime will grow increasingly longer as the sun slowly moves back to the northern hemisphere.  Hence, Winter Solstice is a solar term in Chinese lunar calendar and often falls on December 22 or 23 (solar calendar) every year.

The festival that fall on this date is known as Dongzhi Festival or Tang Chek (in Hokkien). During the Tang and Song Dynasties, ancestor worship was performed on the Winter Solstice. Today this tradition of celebrating Winter Solstice is a cultural practice for many Chinese worldwide and it is considered as an auspicious celebration.

In Malaysia and Singapore, the Dongzhi Festival is celebrated as family get together event.  It is the time where families gather to make and eat tangyuan (湯圓) or balls of glutinuous rice balls, which symbolize reunion. Tangyuan are made of glutinuous rice which is grounded to a flour and then coloured.  The flour balls may be plain or stuffed (with a sweet bean paste or ground nuts). They are cooked in a sweet light syrup or savoury broth. Some Chinese Taoist and Buddhist will make tangyuan offering to their ancestors on this day. Many Chinese also consider this a cultural event, a time for a family gathering.

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Dongzhi Festival


The Dongzhi Festival, also called Winter Solstice Festival, is one of the most important traditional festivals in China. It is a solar term in Chinese lunar calendar and in the solar calendar, it always falls on December 22 or 23 each year.

As early as more than 2500 years ago, winter solstice was mensurated by Chinese via observing movements of the sun with sundials. During the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD), it became a festival of great importance for the Chinese people. On that day, all the family members would get together and have meal together.

Ancient Chinese also regarded this day as a day to offer scarifies to heaven and their ancestors. In the southern parts of China, all the family members would make and eat Tangyuan, a kind of stuffed dumpling ball which is made of glutinous rice flour, symbolizing reunion in the Chinese culture. In some parts of the northern China, people would eat dumplings, believing that doing so would keep them from frost in the upcoming winter.

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Dongzhi Festival


The Dōngzhì Festival or Winter Solstice Festival (Chinese: 冬至; pinyin: Dōngzhì; literally "the Arrival of Winter") is one of the most important festivals celebrated by the Chinese and other East Asians during the Dongzhi solar term (winter solstice) on or around December 22 when sunshine is weakest and daylight shortest. It occurs on Friday, December 21, 2012.

The origins of this festival can be traced back to the yin and yang philosophy of balance and harmony in the cosmos. After this celebration, there will be days with longer daylight hours and therefore an increase in positive energy flowing in. The philosophical significance of this is symbolized by the I Ching hexagram (復, "Returning").

Traditionally, the Dongzhi Festival is also a time for the family to get together. One activity that occurs during these get togethers (especially in the southern parts of China and in Chinese communities overseas) is the making and eating of tangyuan (湯圓) or balls of glutinuous rice, which symbolize reunion. Tangyuan are made of glutinuous rice flour and sometimes brightly coloured. Each family member receives at least one large tangyuan in addition to several small ones. The flour balls may be plain or stuffed. They are cooked in a sweet soup or savoury broth with both the ball and the soup/broth served in one bowl. It is also often served with a mildly alcoholic unfiltered rice wine containing whole grains of glutinous rice (and often also Sweet Osmanthus flowers), called jiuniang.

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Tang Yuan 湯圓


Tang Yuan, also called Yuan Xiao, is a kind of stuffed dumpling ball which is made of glutinous rice flour. Its history can date back to the Song Dynasty (960–1279).

In Chinese, the pronunciation of Tang Yuan is similar to the word Tuan Yuan, which has the meaning of reunion and happiness in Chinese. Therefore, Tang Yuan is traditional served on the Dongzhi Festival and the Lantern Festival. It is also commonly found at Chinese weddings. It is believed that the new couple will have a sweet and round (no conflict) life.

It can be filled or unfilled and its fillings can be chopped peanuts, red bean paste, sesame paste, etc. Besides the wide choice of its fillings, you may also found Tang Yuan of various colors in the market nowadays.

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Tang Yuan 湯圓


Dong Zhi 2013 / Winter Solstice Festival 2013 / 冬至 2013 will fall on Saturday, 21 December 2013