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Zongzi and Duanwu festival

Date: June 24, 2013 Author: Jing Wang Categories: Chinese Cultures & Traditions

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My sister Hong made some Zongzi last week to celebrate Duanwu festival. The delicious Zongzi has reminded me of how we celebrate this festival in China. So I thought I’d like to share some details about Duanwu festival with you.

Here are the Zongzi my sister Hong made last week. The students at our Lewes classes were lucky to take some home. I forgot to take some photos to present what the inside look like. They are so yummy and we ate all.

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The 5th day of the 5th lunar month is a very important day in China. The day is called Duan Wu Festival (端午节)or Dragon Boat Festival(龙舟节)in other countries, celebrated everywhere in China.

The festival is in honor of Qu Yuan(屈原), a famous scholar in the Chu State during the Warring States Period (476-221 BC).

According to the legend, Qu jumped into the Miluo River to show his loyalty to the king of Chu State.
As soon as locals heard the news, they got into boats and tried to save him. They threw rice dumplings into the river to prevent fish from eating his body.
This legend is the origin of both dragon boat races and zongzi. Besides zongzi, people drink Xiong Huang wine which is made from Xiong Huang (A Chinese herb) and rice wine.

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Dragon Boat Race in Southwest of China, Guizhuo Province, in June 2012.

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Bamboo Drift Race in Southwest of China, Guizhou Province, in June, 2012.

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The traditional food of the Dragon Boat Festival is zong zi — glutinous rice dumplings filled with beans, smoked meat, fresh meat, ham, chestnuts, dates and dry fruits wrapped in bamboo leaves, reed or other plant leaves.

Depends on the regions and provinces in China,  the zongzi is different from ingredients, flavours to shapes. I have made a collage to show you some of them.

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My mom would make rice dumplings for this day.  The preparation for dumpling making is quite a lot.  It took her two to three days just for it; from going to the market to buy the ingredients to the actual making of it. The bamboo leaves have to be trimmed, boiled to soften and wiped clean piece by piece.  The filling has to be cooked separately.

The region we lived is famous for its Hui zongzi (gray rice dumplings) which the rice being mixed with rice straw ashes. Based on Chinese herb medicine, this particular rice straw is a type of herb medicine and the rice straw ashes are good for digestion when eating glutinous rice. Also the rice straw ashes give the Hui zongzi a natural flavour which is all other zongzi cannot compete. This Hui zongzi is savoury with smoked pork and chestnuts inside.

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Once zongzi has been wrapped and tied, it is ready to be steamed or boiled for an hour or depending on how the rice is made prior to being added too, along with the fillings.  Side dishes may be added along with zongzi as well.  I like to have my Hui zongzi with a pot of nice Chinese tea and some pickles.

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I remember, in the early morning on this day, my mum used to take me and my sister to visit our local herb market.  The market sells all sorts of fresh herbs, including moax. My mum would definitely buy some 艾叶 moax and 菖蒲 calamus, also other herbs enough for lasting for a year.

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Most of the families would hang the moxa and calamus on the front door. This is also to ward off evil.

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Zhong Kui(a guardian who could fight off evil spirits) is the exorcist par excellence. His picture, a fierce-looking male brandishing a magic sword, used to be hung up in Chinese houses in order to scare away evil spirits and demons, especially in the time of Dragon Boat Festival.

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Drink Xiong Huang Wine (only if you are of age); legend has it that it can fend off diseases. The wine is made from Xiong Huang and rice wine.

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Children can carry fragrant silk pouches around their waist to ward off evil.

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In some parts of China, people hold an egg standing contest (立蛋比赛, lì dàn bǐsài). The aptly titled egg standing contest consists of players attempting to get a raw egg to stand up.

People had looked for the scientific explanation. The egg can standup easily is because the Dunwu Day is close to the summer solstice, which is the longest day of the year. The summer solstice occurs when the Earth’s axis tilts the most toward the sun, causing the sun to be farthest north at noon. Sun reaches to the Tropic of Cancer in the northern hemisphere on the day of summer solstice. Before sun travels back to the southern hemisphere, it seems as if the sun stands still. When the gravitation between sun and earth are pulled each other to the most, an egg can stand up easier.

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