2300 years ago…

..during the Warring States period in China, a scholar and statesman named Qu Yuan (屈原) who was so popular, intelligent and became so powerful that his sovereign, the King of the Chu state, (and other ministers) felt threatened by him even though he was extremely loyal. He was falsely accused of conspiracy and banished from court, so he escaped back to his hometown in the Xiling Gorge area (nowadays known as western Hubei province).

During his exile, he produced some of the greatest works in Chinese literature about his love for his country and his concerns for the future. Upon learning that the capital of Chu was captured by a rival state, he committed ritual suicide by throwing himself into the MiLuo river with a big rock to protest against the corruption of the era.

Beloved by the people, the villagers all frantically took to their boats to try to find him, beating drums to scare fish away and to ward off evil spirits. They also threw rice into the river as offerings to the fish so they would leave his body alone.

The rescue attempt was unsuccessful, so from  then on every year on the 5th day of the 5th month of the lunar calendar they continued the act of racing boats (which eventually became the dragon boat races) and throw rice into the river as food offerings to Qu Yuan to commemorate his sacrifice.

And the dumplings..?

goh zung

Well, legend has it that a fisherman dreamt that Qu Yuan came to him and told him that he couldn’t get  any of the rice offered to him, so the villagers started wrapping the rice in bamboo leaves to keep the fish from getting it.

Another story is that in that dream he told the fisherman to chuck rice wrapped in silk cloth into the river to ward of the dragons.

Anyway, these gradually became the oh-so-yummy rice dumplings (粽子) with all sorts of fillings (savoury or sweet) that I absolutely adore.


4 thoughts on “2300 years ago…”

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