|Alternative names||bakcang, bacang, machang, zang, nom asom, pya htote, chimaki, joong, doong|
|Place of origin||China|
|Region or state||Chinese-speaking areas|
|Main ingredients||Glutinous rice stuffed with different fillings and wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves|
|Variations||Lotus leaf wrap|
|Similar dishes||Mont phet htok|
|Southern Min name|
Zongzi ([tsʊ̂ŋ.tsɨ]; Chinese: 粽子) or simply zong (Cantonese Jyutping: zung2) is a traditional Chinese rice dish made of glutinous rice stuffed with different fillings and wrapped in bamboo leaves (generally of the species Indocalamus tessellatus), or sometimes with reed or other large flat leaves. They are cooked by steaming or boiling. In the Western world, they are also known as rice dumplings or sticky rice dumplings.
As it diffused to other regions of Asia over many centuries, zongzi became known by various names in different languages and cultures, including pya htote in Burmese-speaking areas (such as Myanmar), nom chang in Cambodia, machang in Philippines, bachang 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.
In Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and Taiwan, zongzi is known as bakcang, bacang, or zang (from Hokkien Chinese: 肉粽; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: bah-chàng, as Hokkien is commonly used among overseas Chinese). 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.
In Mauritius, zongzi (typically called zong), is a traditional dish which continues to be eaten by the Sino-Mauritian and by the Overseas Chinese community. It is especially eaten on the Dragon Boat Festival, a traditional festive event, to commemorate the death of Qu Yuan.
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. Known for his patriotism, Qu Yuan tried to counsel his king to no avail, and drowned himself in the Miluo River in 278 BC.[a] The kind-hearted Chinese people in the same era as Qu Yuan 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 (Shishuo Xinyu Chinese: 世说新语, or A New Account of the Tales of the World)., And a widely observed popular cult around him did not develop until the 6th century AD, as far as can be substantiated by evidence. 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.
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),[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 (jialong) 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 (呉均; Wu chün, d. 520)'s Xu Qixieji (『續齊諧記』; Hsü-ch'ih-hsieh-chih).
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. 《荊楚歲時記》(6th c.), under the "Fifth Day of the Fifth Month" heading. 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.
See also: Dragon Boat Festival
Zongzi (sticky rice dumplings) are traditionally eaten during the Duanwu Festival (Doubler Fifth Festival) which falls on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese lunar 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: 菰; pinyin: gu, a sort of wild rice) and boiling them in lye (grass-and-wood ash water). The name jiao shu may imply "ox-horn shape", 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, 195 AD). These festive rice dumplings are also similarly described in General Zhou Chu (236–297)'s Fengtu Ji, "Record of Local Folkways" Various sources claim that this Fengtu Ji contains the first documented reference regarding zongzi, even though it dates somewhat later than the Fengsu Tongyi.
In the Jin dynasty (晋, 266–420 AD), zongzi was officially a Dragon Boat Festival food. Anecdotally, an official called Lu Xun from the Jin dynasty once sent zongzi which used yizhiren (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"). Later in the Northern and Southern dynasties, mixed zongzi appeared, the rice was filled with fillings such as meat, chestnuts, jujubes, red beans, and they were exchanged as gifts to relatives and friends.
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.[d] The 6th century source for this states that the dumplings were eaten on the Summer Solstice, (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. Datang zongzi (i.e. the zongzi eaten in Tang Imperial period) was also recorded in some classical-era Japanese literature, 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] Mijiian Zong (zongzi with glacé fruit) was also popular in the Song dynasty. 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 (箬; the Indocalamus tessellatus bamboo) leaf, and then to reed leaves,[dubious ]and filled with materials like bean paste, pine nut kernel, pork, walnut, 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. Ham zongzi appeared in the Qing dynasty.[better source needed]
Until now, every year in early May of the lunar calendar, the Chinese people will soak glutinous rice, wash the leaves and wrap up zongzi.
The shapes of zongzi vary, 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. Wrapping zongzi neatly is a skill that is passed down through families, as are the recipes. Making zongzi is traditionally a family event of which everyone helps out.
While traditional zongzi are wrapped in bamboo leaves, the leaves of lotus, reed, maize, banana, 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 and dessert-like. In the northern region of China, zongzi filled with jujubes are popular.
Southern-style zongzi, however, tend to be more savoury or salty. Fillings of Southern-style zongzi include ham, salted duck egg, pork belly, taro, shredded pork or chicken, Chinese sausage, pork fat, and shiitake mushrooms.
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. 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.
The Jiaxing Zongzi Culture Museum in Jiaxing, China has exhibits of the cultural history and various styles of zongzi.