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Zongzi 粽子 are wrapped in leaves

Zongzi 粽子
Qu Yuan

Zongzi are a traditional treat made for the Dragon Boat Festival, although they appear weeks before and remain popular after the date. In fact. you can eat them just about anytime in the market, but families usually make them for the holiday.

There is a story behind the zongzi. Long ago during what is called the Warring States period there was a kingdom called Chu. There were other kingdoms in China during that period and they had frequent wars and minor battles. In Chu, there was a government minister called Qu Yuan 屈原 (Qū Yuán, 340 BC - 278 BC) who advised his king to try to increase the wealth of the people and to build a strong military. He saw a major threat looming from another State called Qin. The king had other ministers who said that the king shouldn't worry and that he could continue to have fun and enjoy himself. They were jealous of Qu Yuan and convinced the king that he was a traitor who gave seditious advice. The king exiled Qu Yuan from the court and he went to his hometown in the countryside.

Even there, he continued to think about the danger and the love he had for his country and expressed his thoughts in poems.

Nine Songs

The Great Unity, the Sovereign of the East
On this auspicious day, at the felicitous hour,
Joyously we entertain the sovereign Lord,
With long swords and jade guards in our hands,
With girdles of lapis-lazuli tinkling ling-lang,
We offer jade gifts on mats of fairy grass,
Holding up fragrant grasses and jades.
We pour libations of pepperjuice and cinnamon wine.
The drum-sticks are raised; we beat the drums.
Psalters and zithers unfold in a great harmony.
The ministrants dance in flowing silks and resplendent robes.
A wafting fragrance fills the spaces of the hall,
And the five tones in crowded chorus sing:
Glory and gladness to the happy lord!

China Index >> Modern Culture in Beijing >> Making Zongzi

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Last update: September 2009 2008
© Marilyn Shea, 2009