The Solar Maximus Festival

Posted by M ws On Wednesday, June 12, 2013 4 comments
Duan Wu Jie, literally means “Double Fifth Festival”, is a Chinese festival celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month based on Chinese calendar. It is celebrated today. Also known as Chinese Dumpling Festival, it is sometimes called as solar maximus festival which happens every summer solstice or the northern hemisphere’s longest day of the year. Duanwu is also often called Dragon Boat Festival since Chinese communities in many countries hold Dragon Boat race in spirit of Duanwu celebration.

Zong zi or simply zong is a traditional Chinese food popularly consumed during the Dragon Boat Festival, hence the name Chinese Dumpling Festival. Zong zi is made of glutinous rice stuffed with different fillings and wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves. They are cooked by steaming or boiling. In the Western world, they are also known as rice dumplings or Chinese tamales.

In Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore it’s often known as bakcang or bacang, derived from Hokkien translation of rouzong which means meat dumpling).

According to Wikipedia:

Zongzi (or simply zong)  is a traditional Chinese food, made of glutinous rice stuffed with different fillings and wrapped in bamboo, reed, or other large flat leaves. They are cooked by steaming or boiling. In the Western world, they are also known as rice dumplings or sticky rice dumplings.

Zongzi (sticky rice dumplings) are traditionally eaten during the Dragon Boat Festival, which falls on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar (approximately late-May to mid-June), commemorating the death of Qu Yuan, a famous Chinese poet from the kingdom of Chu who lived during the Warring States period.

Known for his patriotism, Qu Yuan tried unsuccessfully to warn his king and countrymen against the expansionism of their Qin neighbors. When the Qin general Bai Qi took Yingdu, the Chu capital, in 278 BC, Qu Yuan's grief was so intense that he drowned himself in the Miluo river after penning the Lament for Ying. According to legend, packets of rice were thrown into the river to prevent the fish from eating the poet's body.

Although it may have originally been a seasonal food, zongzi are available year-round in most major cities with a significant Chinese population.

Description

The shape of zongzi range from being approximately tetrahedral in southern China to an elongated cone in northern China. Wrapping a zongzi neatly is a skill that is passed down through families, as are the recipes. Making zongzi is traditionally a family event of which everyone helps out.

While traditional zongzi are wrapped in bamboo leaves, the leaves of lotus, maize, banana, canna, shell ginger and pandan leaves sometimes are used as substitutes in other countries. Each kind of leaf imparts its own unique smell and flavor to the rice.

The fillings used for zongzi vary from region to region, but the rice used is always glutinous rice (also called "sticky rice" or "sweet rice"). Depending on the region, the rice may be lightly precooked by stir-frying or soaked in water before using. In the north, fillings are mostly red bean paste and tapioca or taro. Northern style zongzi tend to be sweet and dessert-like. Southern-style zongzi, however, tend to be more savory. Fillings of Southern-style zongzi include salted duck egg, pork belly, taro, shredded pork or chicken, Chinese sausage, pork fat, and shiitake mushrooms.


Zongzi need to be steamed or boiled for several hours depending on how the rice is made prior to being added, along with the fillings. However, as the modes of zongzi styles have traveled and become mixed, today one can find all kinds of zongzi at traditional markets, and their types are not confined to which side of the Yellow River they originated from.


  • Jianshui zongzi without fillings
  • Mung beans, split and dehulled
  • Red bean paste
  • Jujubes
  • Char siu (Chinese barbecued pork)
  • Chinese sausage
  • Salted pork fat
  • Chinese black mushrooms
  • Salted duck eggs
  • Chestnuts
  • Cooked peanuts
  • Conpoy (dried scallops)
  • Red-cooked pork
  • Chicken

CLICK HERE for more on variations of rice dumplings.


4 comments to The Solar Maximus Festival

  1. says:

    UP41 端午节 is not summer solstice which is around 21-23 June every year.

  1. says:

    M ws Dear UP 41

    Thanks. No, the Dragon Boat is not held on summer solstice but on double fifth. It is just an observation on the part of some sites that the festival is also called solar maximus. I am not too familiar with Chinese characters and am struggling with my Pin Yin hw. Would appreciate your input as always. Thank you!

    Best wishes

  1. says:

    UP41 "....... it is sometimes called as solar maximus festival which happens every summer solstice"

    May be I misinterpret the word "happens" & this line of yours.

    Whatever, have a bakchang day

  1. says:

    M ws Dear UP41

    No worries. When I read various websites, I was also quite confused and wondered about the implications.

    I have not had any bakchang. My insurance agent's wife used to make and give the family but sadly, she is now in remission for brain cancer and cannot strain herself making bakchang.

    Take care and God bless.

    Happy Rice Dumpling Festival.

    Best wishes

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