Planet China

The Zongzi break-up

Earlier this month billions of zongzi were consumed across China to commemorate the Dragon Boat Festival. A wrapping of glutinous rice (and assorted fillings) in bamboos leaves, zongzi are a homage to a famous poet who drowned himself in a river when a king ignored his advice about the threat from a rival kingdom.

According to legend, the poet’s admirers threw rice into the river to stop the fish from eating his body.

There are regional differences to how zongzi are made. Southerners like them savoury and add ingredients like salted duck egg and pork belly to the rice. Northerners like them sweet, adding red bean paste or taro.

The Beijing Youth Daily reports that these differences had disastrous results when a suitor from Fujian presented zongzi to his prospective in-laws from Shandong during the June festival. His fiancée’s father reacted angrily to the southerner’s salty zongzi, saying it was bad for his daughter who was accustomed to eating the sweeter variety. He then questioned the man’s suitability as a son-in-law, saying that the marriage could never be a happy one. His daughter stayed silent throughout, the Beijing Youth Daily reported, choosing not to side with her fiancé.

Netizens commented widely on the ‘zongzi break-up’, with one saying that neither party was “tolerant or sensible”. “This is not a problem of the difference between the north and the south, it is about finding an excuse to call off the marriage,” a wiser voice added.

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