It is the time of the year where you would see many Chinese selling, buying and eating ZongZi/Bak Chang (also known as rice dumpling). Do you know the significance of this festival and the story behind its origins?
Well, like many other traditional cuisines, the Chinese rice dumpling was created to honor a legendary figure in China’s history – the poet Qu Yuan (340 B.C to 278 B.C.)
Known for pioneering the art in ancient China, Qu Yuan was also known to be a beloved minister and a former advisor to the King of Chu of China, during the Warring State period of Zhou Dynasty. However, he was then exiled by the King after his reputation was defamed by corrupted officials.
And despite his circumstances, Qu Yuan did not stop to write some of the greatest poetry known in the Chinese literature of which he expressed concern for both his country and people.
However, regrettably, Qu Yuan’s hometown was invaded in 278 B.C. where he was then stricken with grief and decided to drown himself in the famous Mi Luo River in Hunan province.
Upon hearing the news of his tragic attempt, villagers rowed their boats to the river to look for his body. However, when they failed to find his body, they started beating their drums to make loud noise to scare the fishes and sea creatures away to prevent Qu Yuan’s body being consumed. Others then started making rice dumpling wrapped in leaves to throw into the river believing that the fishes and sea creatures will consume the dumpling instead of the poet’s body. Because of the story of rushing to rescue Qu Yuan with the boats, it is also said to have been the inspiration or the origin of Dragon Boat races, a team paddling sport where the participants use a dragon boat. In other words, the Dumping Festival is also commonly known as the Dragon Boat Festival.
Ever since then, on the 5th day of the 5th month of the lunar calendar, it had known to Duan Wu Jie (Dumpling Festival) and it is a customary for Chinese families to enjoy rice dumplings in memory of Qu Yuan’s legacy.