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Dragon Boat Festival
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Dragon Boat Festival, also called Duanwu or Tuen Ng Festival, is a traditional holiday observed annually over 2,000 years in China to commemorate Qu Yuan (340-278 BC), an ancient Chinese patriotic poet. Originated from south China, Dragon Boat Festival enjoys higher popularity in southern areas, such as Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Guangdong and Fujian Provinces.

Dragon Boat Festival 2017 falls on May 30 (Tuesday). The holiday in China starts from May 28 to 30, 2017.

Tasty rice dumplings with local variations in fillings have been a tradition of China's Dragon Boat Festival for centuries.

You don't have to live in China long to know that the country's most popular foods usually have a good story behind them. That's particularly true of festival foods such as zongzi, the pyramid-shaped steamed glutinous rice packages in bamboo or reed leaves that have been associated with the Dragon Boat Festival for more than a millennium.

History and lore describe Qu Yuan variously as a poet, a patriot and an imperial adviser who lived during the turbulent Warring States Period (475-221 BC). When a rival kingdom occupied his home, the kingdom of Chu, Qu is said to have thrown himself into a river.

Local folks were unable to find his body in the water, so they dropped rice balls into the river to stop fish from eating his corpse.

Enter the dragon: A fisherman claimed Qu came to him in a dream, telling him that dragons had been eating most of the rice balls. After that, on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month (the day Qu died), people would wrap the rice balls with chinaberry leaves and tie them up with colored threads before throwing them into the river to commemorate Qu's death.

That's the legend. But in fact, Echo Zhao writes in The World of Chinese, "Zongzi existed long before Qu Yuan did. Five hundred thousand years ago, our ancestors were already wrapping food in leaves, and roasting it in the fire. By the time of the Warring States, it had become a customary version of fast food, especially for farmers, who were too busy in the fields to head home for a meal."

Zongzi, rice dumplings wrapped in leaves, remain with us today as the traditional way to celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival. They've been called everything from "Chinese tamales" to "tenderly wrapped packages of pure love".

In general, northern Chinese prefer sweet versions of these steamed treats, while southerners like them savory.

Get south of the Yangtze River, however, and creative locals over centuries have added salted egg yolk, ham, braised pork, chestnuts, fragrant mushroom or barbecued pork instead of (or in addition to) "traditional" red-bean paste or Chinese dates. Shapes can vary, too, from cones to simple triangles to Pythagorean pyramids with perfect corners. The last require considerable skill in making and tying so that they retain their shapes in the steamers.

 
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