Attack of the 粽子 (zongzi)!

In a rather strange turn of events I have decided to make two posts today. This post is not included in the ’50 Posts for 50 Days.’ It also works to appease my sister who has been demanding that I make two posts a day.

Today is the Dragon Boat Festival in China.  It’s an older, traditional festival that was recognized as a national holiday by the Chinese government in 2008 for the first time since the 1940s. The festival occurs on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month.

According to Wikipedia, there are a number of origin stories regarding the Dragon Boat Festival. The best known of these stories is about a poet and statesman named Qu Yuan who, in 278 BCE, committed suicide during the Warring States period.

Here’s the story, excerpted from Wikipedia:

The best-known traditional story holds that the festival commemorates the death of poet Qu Yuan (Chinese: 屈原) (c. 340 BCE – 278 BCE) of the ancient state of Chu, in the Warring States Period of the Zhou Dynasty.[5] 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. Qu Yuan was accused of treason.[5] During his exile, Qu Yuan wrote a great deal of poetry, for which he is now remembered. Twenty-eight years later, Qin conquered 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, threw lumps of rice into the river to feed the fish so that they would not eat Qu Yuan’s body.[5] 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.

So there you have it. In places cooler than Kaifeng there are some fun dragon boat races happening now. Here, though, the festival mainly revolves around eating the zongzi. Here are some pictures of the zongzi my student Ning brought to me:

Zongzi are traditionally wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves.

This is the unwrapped zongzi. It is filled with glutinous rice containing peanuts and a small, unidentifiable fruit. Despite its unappetizing appearance, it is really quite delicious. It is incredibly sticky though!

It was nice of Ning to make me some vegan zongzi!

Follow these links for more information on the Dragon Boat Festival or zongzi!


According to my student Joe Ma, zongzi also means zombie in Chinese slang. Hence the title of the post. 🙂

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