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Zongzi both ready to eat (left) and still wrapped in a bamboo leaf (right)
Alternative namesbakcang, bacang, machang, zang, nom asom, pya htote, chimaki, joong, doong
TypeRice cake
Place of originChina
Region or stateChinese-speaking areas
East Asia
Main ingredientsGlutinous rice stuffed with different fillings and wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves
VariationsLotus leaf wrap
Similar dishesMont phet htok
Cantonese name
Southern Min name
Traditional Chinese肉粽
Eastern Min name

Zongzi (Chinese: 粽子; ZOHNG-zih), rouzong (Chinese: 肉粽; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: bah-càng), or simply zong (Chinese: ; Jyutping: zung2) is a traditional Chinese rice dish made of glutinous rice stuffed with different fillings and wrapped in bamboo leaves. Fillings can be either sweet, such as red bean paste, or savory, such as pork belly or Chinese sausage. The bamboo for wrapping the zongzi is generally of the species Indocalamus tessellatus, although sometimes reed or other large flat leaves may be used. Zongzi are cooked by steaming or boiling.[3] People in the Eastern world often translate this dish into English as rice dumplings or sticky rice dumplings, although the Chinese government has registered Zongzi as the formal name in global use.[4]


As it diffused to other regions of Asia over many centuries, zongzi became known by various names in different languages and cultures,[5] including phet htoke (ဖက်ထုပ်) in Burmese-speaking areas (such as Myanmar), nom chang in Cambodia, machang in Philippines, bacang in Indonesia, khanom chang in Laos, and ba-chang in Thailand.

Vietnamese cuisine also has a variation on this dish known as bánh ú tro or bánh tro.[6]

In Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and Taiwan, zongzi is known as bakcang, bacang, or zang (from Hokkien Chinese: 肉粽; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: bah-chàng; lit. 'meat zong', as Hokkien is commonly used among overseas Chinese); Straits Peranakans also know them as the derivative kueh chang in their Malay dialect.[7] Similarly, zongzi is more popularly known as machang among Chinese Filipinos in the Philippines.

Japanese cuisine has leaf-wrapped glutinous rice flour dumplings called chimaki. They may be tetrahedral, square, rectangular, or long narrow conical in shape.

In some areas of the United States, particularly California and Texas, zongzi are often known as "Chinese tamales".[8][9]

In Mauritius, zongzi (typically called zong), is a traditional dish which continues to be eaten by the Sino-Mauritian and by the Overseas Chinese communities. It is especially eaten on the Dragon Boat Festival, a traditional festive event, to commemorate the death of Qu Yuan.[10]

Popular origin myths

See also: Jiaolong and Wu Zixu § Legacy

What has become established popular belief amongst the Chinese is that zongzi has since the days of yore been a food-offering to commemorate the death of Qu Yuan, a famous poet from the kingdom of Chu who lived during the Warring States period.[11] Known for his patriotism, Qu Yuan tried to counsel his king to no avail, and drowned himself in the Miluo River in 278 BC.[12][a] The Chinese people were grateful for Qu Yuan's talent and loyalty to serve the country. They cast rice dumplings into the Miluo River on the day when Qu Yuan was thrown into the river every year, hoping that the fish in the river would eat the rice dumplings without harming Qu Yuan's body.

Qu Yuan died in 278 BC, but the earliest known documented association between him and the zong dumplings occurs much later, in the mid 5th century (Chinese: 世说新语; pinyin: Shìshuō Xīnyǔ, or A New Account of the Tales of the World),[13] And a widely observed popular cult around him did not develop until the 6th century AD, as far as can be substantiated by evidence.[14] But by the 6th century, sources attest to the offering of zongzi on the Double Fifth Festival (5th day of the 5th month of the lunar calendar) being connected with the figure of Qu Yuan.[15]

As for the origin myth, a fable recounts that the people commemorated the drowning death of Qu Yuan on the Double Fifth day by casting rice stuffed in bamboo tubes; but the practice changed in the early Eastern Han dynasty (1st century AD),[16][b] when the ghost of Qu Yuan appeared in a dream to a man named Ou Hui (Chinese: 區回, 歐回) and instructed him to seal the rice packet with chinaberry (or Melia) leaves and bind it with colored string, to repel the dragons (jiaolong) that would otherwise consume them. However, this fable is not attested in contemporary (Han period) literature, and only known to be recorded centuries later in Wu Jun [zh] (呉均; Wu chün, d. 520)'s Xu Qixieji (『續齊諧記』; Hsü-ch'ih-hsieh-chih).[17][18][19][20]

Also, Qu Yuan had (dubiously, by "folklore" or by common belief) become connected with the boat races held on the Double Fifth, datable by another 6th century source.[21] 《荊楚歲時記》(6th c.), under the "Fifth Day of the Fifth Month" heading.[22] Modern media has printed a version of the legend which says that the locals had rushed out in dragonboats to try retrieve his body and threw packets of rice into the river to distract the fish from eating the poet's body.[23]


See also: Dragon Boat Festival

Zongzi (sticky rice dumplings) are traditionally eaten during the Duanwu Festival (Double Fifth Festival) which falls on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese lunisolar calendar, and commonly known as the "Dragon Boat Festival" in English. The festival falls each year on a day in late-May to mid-June in the International calendar.

The practice of eating zongzi on the Double Fifth or summer solstice is concretely documented in literature from around the late Han (2nd–3rd centuries).[c] At the end of the Eastern Han dynasty, people made zong, also called jiao shu, lit. "horned/angled millet") by wrapping sticky rice with the leaves of the Zizania latifolia plant (Chinese: ; pinyin: gu, a sort of wild rice[24]) and boiling them in lye (grass-and-wood ash water).[25] The name jiao shu may imply "ox-horn shape",[24] or cone-shape. That the zong or ziao shu prepared in this way was eaten on the occasion of the Double Fifth (Duanwu) is documented in works as early as the Fengsu Tongyi, AD 195).[25] These festive rice dumplings are also similarly described in General Zhou Chu (236–297)'s Fengtu Ji, "Record of Local Folkways"[22][26][27] Various sources claim that this Fengtu Ji contains the first documented reference regarding zongzi,[28][29] even though it dates somewhat later than the Fengsu Tongyi.

In the Jin dynasty (, AD 266–420), zongzi was officially a Dragon Boat Festival food.[30][31] Anecdotally, an official called Lu Xun [zh] from the Jin dynasty once sent zongzi which used yizhiren [zh] (Chinese: 益智仁, the fruit of Alpinia oxyphylla or sharp leaf galangal) as additional filling; this type of dumpling was then dubbed yizhi zong (Chinese: 益智粽, literally "dumplings to increase wisdom").[30][32] Later in the Northern and Southern dynasties, mixed zongzi appeared, the rice was filled with fillings such as meat, chestnuts, jujubes, red beans,[33][31] and they were exchanged as gifts to relatives and friends.[30][31]

In the 6th century (Sui to early Tang dynasty), the dumpling is also being referred to as "tubular zong" (Chinese: 筒糉/筒粽; pinyin: tongzong), and they were being made by being packed inside "young bamboo" tubes.[34][d] The 6th century source for this states that the dumplings were eaten on the Summer Solstice,[34] (instead of the Double Fifth).

In the Tang dynasty, the shape of zongzi appeared conical and diamond-shaped, and the rice which was used to make zongzi was as white as jade.[31] Datang zongzi (i.e. the zongzi eaten in Tang Imperial period) was also recorded in some classical-era Japanese literature,[31] which was heavily influenced by Tang Chinese culture.

In the Northern Song dynasty period, the "New augmentation to the Shuowen Jiezi" (Chinese: 説文新附; pinyin: Shouwen xinfu) glossed zong as rice with reed leaves wrapped around it.[e][35] Mijiian Zong (zongzi with glacé fruit) was also popular in the Song dynasty.[31] Also during the Song dynasty, there were many preserved fruit zongzi. At this time also appeared a pavilion filled with zongzi for advertising, which showed that eating zongzi in the Song dynasty had been very fashionable.

In the Yuan and Ming dynasties, the wrapping material had changed from gu (wild rice) leaf to ruo (; the Indocalamus tessellatus bamboo) leaf, and then to reed leaves,[31][dubiousdiscuss]and filled with materials like bean paste, pine nut kernel, pork, walnut,[31] jujube, and so on. The varieties of zongzi were more diverse.

During the Ming and Qing dynasties, zongzi became auspicious food. At that time, scholars who took the imperial examinations would eat "pen zongzi", which was specially given to them at home, before going to the examination hall. Because it looked long and thin like a writing brush, the pronunciation of "pen zongzi" is similar to the Chinese word for "pass", which was for good omen.[failed verification] Ham zongzi appeared in the Qing dynasty.[36][better source needed]

Every year in early May of the lunar calendar, the Chinese people still soak glutinous rice, wash the leaves and wrap up zongzi.[31]


Video of zongzi being made in Hainan, China
Prepackaged dried bamboo leaves for making zongzi

The shapes of zongzi vary,[37] and range from being approximately tetrahedral in southern China to an elongated cone in northern China. In the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei, plastic mock-ups of rectangular zongzi are displayed as an example of the zongzi eaten by Chiang Kai-shek.[citation needed] Wrapping zongzi neatly is a skill that is passed down through families, as are the recipes. Making zongzi is traditionally a family event in which everyone helps out.

While traditional zongzi are wrapped in bamboo leaves,[38] the leaves of lotus,[39] reed,[40] maize, banana,[41] canna, shell ginger, and pandan sometimes are used as substitutes in other countries. Each kind of leaf imparts its own unique aroma and flavor to the rice.

The fillings used for zongzi vary from region to region, but the rice used is almost always glutinous rice (also called "sticky rice" or "sweet rice"). Depending on the region, the rice may be lightly precooked by stir-frying or soaked in water before using. In the north, fillings are mostly red bean paste and tapioca or taro. Northern style zongzi tend to be sweet[42] and dessert-like. In the northern region of China, zongzi filled with jujubes are popular.[31]

Southern-style zongzi, however, tend to be more savoury or salty.[42] Fillings of Southern-style zongzi include ham,[31] salted duck egg, pork belly, taro, shredded pork or chicken, Chinese sausage, pork fat, and shiitake mushrooms.[43] However, as the variations of zongzi styles have traveled and become mixed, today one can find all kinds of them at traditional markets, and their types are not confined to which side of the Yellow River they originated from.

Zongzi need to be steamed or boiled for several hours depending on how the rice is prepared prior to being added, along with the fillings. With the advent of modern food processing, pre-cooked zongzi (usually in vacuum packs or frozen) are now available.


When offered for sale at the same time, zongzi with different fillings may be identified by shape, size, or colored string.


Salty or savory:

Either or neutral:


Mainland China

Southern and Northern Chinese style zongzi
Unwrapped zongzi with pork and mung beans (left), pork and peanuts (right)




Malaysia and Singapore


The Jiaxing Zongzi Culture Museum in Jiaxing, China has exhibits of the cultural history and various styles of zongzi.[49][50]


See also

Explanatory notes

  1. ^ After composing the Jiu Zhang ("Nine Declarations") part of the Chu ci; this according to Wang Yi, the ancient (Han dynasty period) commentator to Qu Yuan as a poet.[12] (More specifically, penning Lament for Ying portion of the Nine Declarations when the Qin general Bai Qi captured Yingtu, then the capital of Chu, in 278 BC[citation needed]).
  2. ^ The first year of Eastern Han (Year 1 of Jianwu era, AD 25) to be more precise.
  3. ^ The claim that the zongzi dates to the Spring and Autumn period occurs in a book by a non-expert (Dong Qiang [zh], a French literature professor and translator), and only an unnamed "Record" is cited as evidence.[24] Other web sources concur with this claim.
  4. ^ Here following Ian Chapman who renders (tong zong) as "tubular zong".[22]
  5. ^ The original Shuowen Jiezi dates to c. AD 100, but this character was added to the dictionary in the 10th century. The leaf plant is given as lu (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: ; pinyin: lu), or "reed".


  1. ^ Cantodict, 粽 (zung2 zung3 | zong4) : glutinous rice dumpling
  2. ^ ydict,
  3. ^ Roufs, T.G.; Roufs, K.S. (2014). Sweet Treats around the World: An Encyclopedia of Food and Culture. ABC-CLIO. p. 81. ISBN 978-1-61069-221-2. Retrieved November 5, 2016.
  4. ^ "還在叫「rice dumpling」? 陸推動「國際統一標準」粽子英文". ETtoday (in Traditional Chinese). 2020-06-25. Retrieved 2023-12-31.
  5. ^ "Sweet and savory: Zongzi beyond your expectation". China Daily. 2018-06-18. Retrieved 2021-10-13.
  6. ^ Avieli, Nir (2012). Rice Talks: Food and Community in a Vietnamese Town. Indiana University Press. p. 223. ISBN 978-0-253-35707-6.
  7. ^ Gwee, William Thian Hock (2006). "kueh chang". Baba Malay Dictionary: The First Comprehensive Compendium of Straits Chinese Terms and Expressions. Tuttle Publishing. p. 113. ISBN 978-0-8048-3778-1.
  8. ^ "'Chinese tamales' tastily fete culture". October 14, 2013.
  9. ^ "Grandma Hsiang's Chinese Tamales - LUCKYRICE". Archived from the original on 2018-05-27.
  10. ^ "LE DRAGON BOAT FESTIVAL : Une fête qui réunit toutes les communautés, selon Mike Wong". Le Mauricien (in French). 2014-06-08. Retrieved 2021-04-25.
  11. ^ Hawkes (1985), pp. 64–66.
  12. ^ a b Zhang, Hanmo (2018). "The Author as an Individual Writer: Sima Qian, the Presented Author". Authorship and Text-making in Early China. e Gruyter. p. 245. ISBN 9781501505195. JSTOR j.ctvbkk21j.9.
  13. ^ Ma, Xiaojing 马晓京 (1999), Zhongguo 100 zhong minjian jieri 中国100种民间节日 [100 kinds of folk festivals in China], Guangxi renmin chuban she, p. 200, ISBN 7-219-03923-9
  14. ^ Chittick (2010), p. 111: "there is no evidence that he was widely worshiped or much regarded in popular lore prior to the sixth century CE".
  15. ^ Wu Jun [zh] (呉均; Wu chün (d. 520), Xu Qixieji. See below.
  16. ^ Lee-St. John, Jeninne (14 May 2009). "The Legends Behind the Dragon Boat Festival". Smithsonian Magazine.
  17. ^ Chi, Hsing (Qi Xing) (2000). "Chu Yuan". Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism. Vol. 36. Gale Research Company. pp. 125, 95 (in brief), 132 (notes). ISBN 0-78764-378-5.: "chiao-lung"
  18. ^ a b Chan, Timothy Wai Keung (July–September 2009). "Searching for the Bodies of the Drowned: A Folk Tradition of Early China Recovered". Journal of the American Oriental Society. 129 (3): 385 and n1. JSTOR 20789417.
  19. ^ Gujin Tushu Jicheng 『古今圖書集成』Book 51, excerpt from "Xu Qixieji《續齊諧記》 .
  20. ^ Chan (2009) citing Wu Jun Xu Qixie though not explicitly mentioning zong, only paraphrasing as "rice wrapped with five-colored strings".[18]
  21. ^ Jingchu Suishiji
  22. ^ a b c d Chapman, Ian, ed. (2014), "28 Festival and Ritual Calendar: Selections from Record of the Year and Seasons of Jing-Chu", Early Medieval China: A Sourcebook, Wendy Swartz; Robert Ford Campany; Yang Lu: Jessey Choo (gen. edd.), Columbia University Press, p. 479, ISBN 9780231531009
  23. ^ The origin of tsungtsu Archived May 15, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ a b c Dong, Qiang [in Chinese] (2016). Yinshi Juan 飲食卷 [Diet]. Wei Jingqiu 隗静秋 (tr.). Anhui People's Publishing House. p. 99. ISBN 9781921816918.
  25. ^ a b c Gujin Tushu Jicheng 『古今圖書集成』 Book 51, excerpt from "Fengsu Tongyi《風俗通義》".
  26. ^ Hsu (2004), pp. 39–40.
  27. ^ Beijing Foreign Languages Press (2012). Chinese Auspicious Culture. Shirley Tan (tr.). Asiapac Books. p. 36. ISBN 9789812296429.
  28. ^ Li, Yunnan 李雲南 (2018), 田兆元; 桑俊 (eds.), "Jingchu diqu duanwu yinshi minsu tanxi" 荊楚地区端午饮食民俗探析 [Analysis of the folklore of eating and drinking habits on the Double Fifth in the Jingchu region], 『追本溯源——凤舟竞渡暨端午文化学术研讨会论文集』, Beijing Book Co. Inc., ISBN 9787307200487
  29. ^ Wu, Yue 望岳 (2007). Ershisi jieqi 二十四節氣與食療 [Twenty-four solar terms prescribed food therapy]. Jilin Science and Technology Press 吉林科学技术出版社.
  30. ^ a b c "Zongzi fazhanjianshi." 粽子发展简史:古称 “角黍” 晋代加入中药材-新华网 [Brief developmental history of the zongzi dumpling..]. Archived from the original on February 25, 2021.
  31. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Wei, Liming (2011). Chinese festivals (Updated ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 38–39. ISBN 978-0-521-18659-9. OCLC 751763923.
  32. ^ Zheng, Jinsheng; Kirk, Nalini; Buell, Paul D.; Unschuld, Paul U. (2016). Dictionary of the Ben Cao Gang Mu, Volume 3: Persons and Literary Sources. University of California Press. p. 313. ISBN 9780520291973.
  33. ^ Actually, "chestnut and jujube dates" (Chinese: 栗棗) were already documented in the Fengsu Tongyi account of zong.[25]
  34. ^ a b Jingchu Suishiji 《荊楚歲時記》(6th c.), under the "Summer Solstice" heading.[22]
  35. ^ Xu, Ruoxin 許若馨 (25 June 2020). "Duanwu jie / zong, zong, zong nage zi cai zhengcue?" 端午節|糉、粽、糭哪個字才正確?中文系講師端午節「糉」字逐個解 [Double Fifth Festival/zong, zong, zong which character is correct?]. Ming Pao 明報., citing scholar Hung Yeuk Chun 若震認.
  36. ^ "端午节吃粽子的来历由来__中国青年网".
  37. ^ a b c d Schmidt, A.; Fieldhouse, P. (2007). The World Religions Cookbook. Greenwood Press. pp. 27–28. ISBN 978-0-313-33504-4. Retrieved November 5, 2016.
  38. ^ Thurman, Jim (June 9, 2016). "Where to Find Chinese Zongzi, the Sweet Pork-Filled Tamales Wrapped in Bamboo". L.A. Weekly. Retrieved November 5, 2016.
  39. ^ a b c d e f Liao, Y. (2014). Food and Festivals of China. China: The Emerging Superpower. Mason Crest. p. pt68. ISBN 978-1-4222-9448-2. Retrieved November 5, 2016.
  40. ^ Jing, J. (2000). Feeding China's Little Emperors: Food, Children, and Social Change. Stanford University Press. p. 105. ISBN 978-0-8047-3134-8. Retrieved November 5, 2016.
  41. ^ Mayhew, B.; Miller, K.; English, A. (2002). South-West China. LONELY PLANET SOUTH-WEST CHINA. Lonely Planet Publications. p. 121. ISBN 978-1-86450-370-8. Retrieved November 5, 2016.
  42. ^ a b Gong, W. (2007). Lifestyle in China. Journey into China. China Intercontinental Press. pp. 12–13. ISBN 978-7-5085-1102-3. Retrieved November 5, 2016.
  43. ^ a b c d Stepanchuk, Carol (1991). Mooncakes and hungry ghosts : festivals of China. Charles Choy Wong. San Francisco: China Books & Periodicals. p. 47. ISBN 0-8351-2481-9. OCLC 25272938.
  44. ^ a b Stepanchuk, C.; Wong, C.C. (1991). Mooncakes and Hungry Ghosts: Festivals of China. China Books & Periodicals. p. 47. ISBN 978-0-8351-2481-2. Retrieved November 5, 2016.
  45. ^ "北方粽/南方粽/廣東粽/潮州粽 有何分別?". 恆香老餅家 Hang Heung Cake Shop. Retrieved 2021-06-14.
  46. ^ "不同地区的粽子,你了解多少?".
  47. ^ a b Ung, Judy (April 27, 2019). "Facts About Japanese Chimaki". The Spruce Eats. Retrieved 2021-10-13.
  48. ^ "Nyonya Rice Dumplings Recipe (Zong Zi) 娘惹粽子". Huang Kitchen. June 17, 2015.
  49. ^ "Museums in Zhejang: Jiaxing Zongzi Culture Museum_In Zhejiang". Retrieved 2021-10-13.
  50. ^ "Jiaxing Zongzi Culture Museum". Retrieved 2021-10-13.