Today, December 22nd, marks the Winter Solstice in China. To celebrate the date Beijing local and long time Hutong School staff member Lao Guo has written an article in Chinese about the traditional food associated with this festival. Just a beginner? Don’t worry, our teacher Ding Yi has translated the article into English for you, so you can follow along no matter your Chinese level.
Dōngzhì – The Winter Solstice in China
Dōngzhì 冬至 (Winter Coming), the Chinese Lunar Calendar festival, began 2500 years ago and usually falls between December 21 and 23. It marks the date of the longest night and shortest day in the Northern hemisphere. This year Dongzhi falls on December 22.
Traditional Food to Be Eaten on Dōngzhì
There was an old saying in Beijing, “Dōngzhì húntún, Xiàzhì miàn” meaning Huntun is the food for Dōngzhì and Noodle is the food for Xiàzhì, the Summer Solstice. Huntun is a kind of dumpling from North China. The name came from the ancient war between Chinese and Tujue, a wild strong minority in the north. There were two leaders of Tujue, one was named Hun Shi and the other one was named Tun Shi. Because they killed a lot of Chinese at that time and all the Chinese people hated them, they decided to name the dumplings as Huntun.
China was never a country that loved dogs. Since Han dynasty 2000 years ago, the first emperor Liu Bang used to praise the delicious taste of dog meat, which made eating dog meat popular with the people. Even now, dog meat is still a lucky food in some areas of China, and is also regarded as a must eat food for Dongzhi.
As an old saying goes ”Shi yue yi, dongzhi dao, jiajia huhu chi shuijiao” means Dōngzhì is coming and it is time to prepare dumplings. Dumplings, as festival food, are very popular in north China
Red Bean Rice
In Jiangnan area, there was a legend that said The son of Gonggong (God of Water) died at Dōngzhì and his ghost caused a horrible disease for which the only cure is red bean. So red bean rice became a healthy food for people in south China.
According to Chinese Medicine, winter is a time to save energy. Dōngzhì is the beginning of Shujiu (a phrase for 81 days of winter). The most important health advice for this period is to keep warm. That means more hot food, less cold food, more time at warm places and less going out. Hot foods like jujube, sesame, leek, Chinese black fungus and so on are recommended.
The first and second nine days, never hand out;
The third and fourth nine days, walking on the ice;
The fifth and sixth nine days, appreciate the willow along the river,
The seventh nine days, river’s ice opening and the eighth nine days, swallows flying back, after the ninth nine days, all the farm lands are busy with farm cattle.
Translated by Ding Yi, one of our all star teachers at Hutong School in Shanghai.
Original Article in Chinese
by Lao Guo