Qu Yuan (340-278 BC) was a famous poet in the State of Chu (楚) during the Warring States Period in ancient Chinese history. Qu wrote a number of beautiful poems expressing his genuine love for his country – some of his masterpieces include: Li Sao (離騷 Encountering Sorrow), Tian Wen (天問 Asking the Heaven), Jiu Ge (九歌Nine Songs). Qu was more than a poet – he was also a loyal minister who devoted himself wholeheartedly to the King Huai of Chu (楚懷王) and to his own people. At the time, the State of Chu was warring against the powerful State of Qin (秦), and Qu advocated the strategy of allying with the State of Qi (齊) in order to resist the possible invasion of State of Qin. With the great effort and cogitative wisdom of Qu, the State of Chu grew in power. However, wise men attract envy and slander – some aristocrats and ministers did not welcome Qu’s style and began defaming him in front of the King. Sadly, King Huai chose to believe in the false accusations and gradually lost his trust in Qu. Eventually, Qu was exiled by the King, and the State of Chu was on the verge of being swallowed up by Qin.
The patriotic Qu was devastated by the thought of having his beloved country destroyed by the State of Qin. He wrote his last poem before throwing himself into the river on the 5th day of the 5th month. When the local people heard that Qu had drowned, they were all very distressed. In an attempt to preserve his body, people started throwing Zongzi into the river in attempt to feed the creatures underwater. Some fishermen also rowed their boats around, beating drums and crying out loud – some said they wanted to search for the body of Qu, some believed the sounds would frighten the possible predators away.
Over time eating Zongzi and racing dragon boats on the 5th day of the 5th month of the Lunar calendar has become a tradition in the Chinese community and is called the Dragon Boat Festival. The respect and tribute to the highly esteemed Qu Yuan still prevails deeply in the hearts of the Chinese.
You will find delectable Zongzi at the Tang The Asian Food Emporium, 185 Russell Street, Melbourne. Four flavours of Zongzi are available for you to try – minced pork, red bean paste, red date and the plain rice one (that you can dip in sugar to appease your sweet tooth).