Informant KY is my aunt who was born and raised in Shanghai, and came to the states when she was in her late 20s.
KY: “a long time ago there was this dude, forgot his name, who was a war hero and a sick poet. He was loved by everyone and eventually became the emperor’s right hand man. The Emperor trusted him and listened to all of his advice. However, there began a rumor that this dude was a traitor and selling secrets to other nations, and the Emperor started believing this rumor. The guy was kicked outta nation and he just hung out on his own for a few years. Eventually he hears news that his nation has been invaded and defeated. The guy was so sad, because he really loved his country, he took a rock and drowned himself. People felt bad for him so they made these zongzi for his spirit and threw it in the river that he drowned himself in. One day as these people were throwing the zongzi the guy’s ghost floats up and was like ‘guys, the fish are eating all the food and I don’t get any’. So the people went home, put the zongzi in bamboo baskets and threw them into the river”
wait i thought they threw the rice because then the fish would eat the rice and not each the guy’s corpse
KY: “I don’t know man, thats what I remember…”
Thoughts: To me, this is a very familiar because zongzi is a large part of Chinese cuisine and culture, and I’ve heard of this story from my parents and my teachers too. Zongzi is traditionally eaten during the Dragon Boat Festival, which shows that it is a big part of Chinese culture. Anyways, this story just reminds me of when I was a kid and I would listen to my mandarin teacher tell us all these stories about why we eat different things during different Chinese festivals, and also reminds me of how much I miss home.
For another version of this story see: https://artifactsjournal.missouri.edu/2014/03/the-legend-behind-zongzi/ by Xiao Fan