Sunday, December 21, 2008

冬至,Winter Solstice Festival

冬至,Dong Zhi literally translated as the "arrival of the Winter". It's a festival when family members gather and celebrate the good year they had gone through. Usually it falls on the 21st - 23rd December. This is the beginning of the winter, the day when the people who stays at the northern hemisphere will experience the longest night fal of the yearl. Whereas the southern hemisphere will meet it within June 20-23rd. The origin of this festival comes from various cultures and places. For us chinese, it has a phylosophycal trace on the yin and yang, which Yin symbolizes feminine, negative and dark qualities of the universe, and yang masculine, positive and fiery qualities, and when something goes to one extreme it then goes to the opposite. Winter solstice in the northern hemisphere is the shortest day and longest night. After it, days become longer, which ancient Chinese thought meant yang qualities would become stronger, so should be celebrated.

The festival can be traced back during the Han dynasty, it was a day to make offerings to heaven and people’s ancestors, something both emperors and common people did.

And, when i did some readings on this warm festival, i realised that medicine plays a great rolte on this special day.

In other parts of northern China, such as Henan, people eat dumplings in honor of a famous doctor named Zhang Zhongjing (150-219). Zhang is remembered not only as a brilliant physician but as being very kind to the poor.

According to local custom, one year the winter was so cold that many people in Zhang's hometown of Nanyang suffered from painful chilblains. Seeing that his small clinic was no longer able to accommodate an ever increasing number of patients, Zhang asked his brother to put up a tent in the village square. A large cauldron was placed inside the tent to prepare medicine, in which Zhang had dumplings stuffed with mutton boiled. Every patient got a bowl of the soup with two dumplings, and their chilblains disappeared in a day or two. Zhang's mixture soon became a popular recipe, and when he died, people began to eat dumplings on the day of the winter solstice in his memory.

But in parts of South China, the whole family will get together to have a meal made of red-bean and glutinous rice to drive away ghosts and other evil things. In other places, people also eat tangyuan, a kind of stuffed small dumpling ball made of glutinous rice flour. Since most of the Malaysian chinese has southern root, we eat tang yuan with sweet brothand thus the mutton stuff dumplings are stil not our commons. Eating Tang Yuan is symbolic of family unity and family prosperity. For good luck, families prefer to have some pink tang yuan to mix with the white ones.

Since we don't have the coloring here, we just made white ones..:) with the brownish罗汉果 sweet broth, a chinese gourd 。

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