WHAT DO POETS, STICKY RICE AND FISH HAVE IN COMMON?
Now this is the story all about how one 中国人’s life got flipped turned upside down, and I’d like to take a minute just sit right there I’ll tell you how he coined a new buzz word finding out rice dumplings come from …where?!
But first, a brief note on the Zongzi- 粽子 – one of Chinese staples. Glutinous rice stuffed with different fillings and wrapped in bamboo, reed, or other large flat leaves. Cooked by steaming or boiling. Named ‘rice dumplings’ or ‘sticky rice dumplings’ by its Western cultists. Soon they will lurk in every street corner as they are traditionally eaten during the incoming Dragon Boat Festival next month – Duānwǔjie.
So what is the jaw dropping story behind Zongzi’s origin? As the local tale goes, once upon a time in ancient China there lived a famous poet Qu Yuan. In Chu kingdom born and raised, in Warring States period spent most of his days. No chillin’ out relaxin’ he could, but worked as an official for the King Huai, who Chu kingdom ruled. When a couple of corrupt ministers who were up to no good, started making trouble in the ‘neighborhood’, poor Qu got framed and as a result of the plan, King Huai exiled him to the north of River Han.Yet, king deliberated day after day and asked Qu to pack his suitcase and sent him back his way. King gave Qu a new position and to Qi state ticket, he thought ’reunite Chu and Qi ? I might as well kick it!’ Then the next king came and, yo, this was bad – Qu fell a victim to another politician’s attack. That prime minister wanted Qu to vanish so to Yangze River the poet got banished. As the days and months passed in the exile, Qu’s worries made him meager and sullen. And one day very bad news came near – Qi general defeated Chu’s capital for real. That was enough for troubled old man – to express his deep grief he got hold of his pen and vented in his very last thing – a poem widely known as ‘Lament for Ying’’. Looking at his fallen kingdom he felt such a despair, that no longer wanted to exist anywhere. Holding a rock, in Miluo river he waded, protesting against the era by corruption devastated. And to keep Qu’s body unscathed, wary locals thought it had no price, they threw to the river leafy packets of rice to drive scavenging fish away.
And when one day a Chinese student heard this story, it overwhelmed him so much that he choked out the phrase我 和我的 小 伙伴 们 惊呆 了’- wǒ hé wǒ de xiǎo huǒ bàn jīng dāi le; and the translation is ‘我 – wǒ’ – I , ‘和– hé – with’’ 我的 – my’ ‘ 小 伙伴 们– small companions’ ‘惊呆 了– jīngdāi le– stunned/stupefied’. To make it sound more grammatically correct , it goes ‘My little friends and I are shocked’. Chinese internet loved it from the word go , just as the time went by, the full sentence lost its length and shrinked into ‘我伙呆’ – ‘wǒ huǒ dāi ‘ to become the China – famed shocked response to hot or a new fact. However, when I confirmed with my Chinese colleague the other day, she explained to me that the updated version goes simply ‘惊呆 了– jīng dāi le’.
All right, maybe the story took more than a minute, but now I hope that the origin of zonzi 粽子 is clear and you won’t forget how’ jīng dāi le’ came here. If anything I can say the story is rare and next time you eat rice dumplings you will feel more aware.