The Tradition of Eating Zongzi

Genre: Customary lore

Category: Custom/Festival

Collection date: Apr.27th, 2022

Main piece:  

Original Scrpit:


Full translation:

“There is a holiday in China called the Dragon Boat Festival that happens around June every year. Zongzi is a type of food that uses leaves to wrap sweat rice and other ingredients such as Chinese dates, red bean paste, and pork belly. This custom comes from a legend. In ancient China, there was a patriotic poet named Quyuan. His country was defeated. He walked to a river, named Miluo. He felt very sad, and he missed his country much. He decided to end his life by jumping into the water. The locals admired his determination. They are afraid that his body will be eaten by the fishes and shrimps in the river. They threw Zongzi into the river so the fish and shrimp won’t eat his body. This is the origin of this type of food.”

Contextual data:

Social context:

The informant learned this story from all kinds of sources, including word of mouth, television, and tourist destinations. Every year during the Dragon Boat Festivals, this story will be brought up in all kinds of media. Every year, people will eat Zongzi and listen to these stories. 

Cultural context:

The informant has a mixed cultural background of northern and southern Chinese. He defines himself to have a stronger connection with northern China, specifically Beijing. 

Informant’s comment:

“The story should be real, but the origin of this food is probably not related to Quyuan’s story. To commemorate Quyuan, people related these two things together. This is a symbol of traditional Chinese culture. This food could represent Chinese culture. The spirit of Quyuan is accepted and appreciated by the entire Chinese community, and the story lasted for thousands of years.”

My comment: 

This is a very common way in traditional cultures to commemorate things, and many of these stories have the purpose of educating people about some good qualities. You can learn about a culture’s values and standards through these kinds of legends.