The origin of Zongzis, symbolic food of Dragon Boat Festival

Sticky rice dumplings have become an integral part in celebrating Dragon Boat Festival. (Shutterstock)

TAIPEI (The China Post) — “Zongzi” (粽子), also known as sticky rice dumplings, are a traditional type of Chinese food eaten during the Dragon Boat Festival.

The origin of Zongzis can be traced to the Warring State Period, eaten as a way of celebrating Qu Yuan (屈原), a patriotic poet who drowned in the Miluo River (汨羅江).

Portrait of Qu Yuan by Chen Hongshou. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

During the Warring States Period, Qu Yuan was a government official of the Chu state (楚), and was widely respected for his wisdom. The King of Chu state, however, disagreed with Yuan on many occasions and later exiled him to a remote city in the countryside. 

Due to his overwhelming grief, Qu Yuan later drowned himself in the Miluo River.  In order to prevent his body from being eaten by the fishes, people threw zongzis into the river to feed the fish. 

According to legend, Qu Yuan also appeared in a fisherman’s dream, and said that the zongzis were being eaten by a flood dragon, so leaves were later wrapped around the zongzis to prevent the dragon from eating them.

Leaves were later wrapped around the zongzis to prevent the dragon from eating them. (Shutterstock)

The tradition was then passed on, becoming an essential part of the Dragon Boat Festival.

Made from a mixture of glutinous rice and special fillings, zongzis are wrapped into a triangular shape with argy-wormwood leaves, allowing it to be carried around easily.

Today, it has become a traditional food Chinese people eat to celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival.