Jun 13, 2010

Why people eat rice dumpling (zongzi)

In Singapore, I can see zongzi / rice dumplings are sold everyday whenever you are craving to eat it you can buy it. It is supposed to be a special occasion only made snack. It has become no so special after all.

I remembered when I was still living in my hometown kampong Bengkalis, a small island (but could be said bigger then Singapore) in Indonesia, we can only smell and eat zongzi during duanwujie/duanwu festival also known as dragon boat festival which only happens on double fifth or the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. This year the Duanwu Festival will be on 16 June 2010.
The feeling of the past is still the best, because special thing only happens on special day, so the feeling is so much different.
Duanwu commemorates the life and death of the famous Chinese scholar Qu Yuan, he was a loyal minister that served the King of Chu during the Warring States Period in 3 centuries BC. Initially, his sovereign favored Qu Yuan, but over time, his wisdom and erudite ways antagonized the other court officials. And then he was Trumped up a charge of conspiracy, and ejected by his sovereign. During the exile, Qu Yuan made many poems to express his anger and sorrow of his sovereign and people.

At the age of 37, Qu Yuan drowned himself in the Milo River. He clasped a heavy stone to his chest and leaped into the water. Knowing that Qu Yuan was a righteous man, the people of Chu rushed to the river to try to save him. The people desperately searched the waters in their boats looking for Qu Yuan, but they were unsuccessful in their attempt to rescue him. Every year the Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated to commemorate this attempt at rescuing Qu Yuan.

When it was known that Qu Yuan had been lost forever, the local people began the tradition of throwing sacrificial cooked rice into the river for their lost hero. However, a local fisherman had a dream that Qu Yuan did not get any of the cooked rice that was thrown into the river in his honor. Instead, it was the fishes in the river that had eaten the rice. And so, the locals decided to make zongzi to sink into the river in the hopes that it would reach Qu Yuan's body. The following year, the tradition of wrapping the rice in bamboo leaves to make zongzi began.

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