International PKUers make traditional food to celebrate Dragon Boat Festival

Peking : The Zhongguanyuan Global Village of Peking University held a culinary class for international PKUers on June 11. Over 30 faculty members and students from various countries and regions gathered to celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival which falls on June 14 this year.

Through experiencing the customs of the traditional Chinese festival, participants immersed themselves in the festive atmosphere. They were gifted with colored bracelets and were welcomed with an array of Chinese-styled ornaments on set.

The event began with an introduction of the origin of the Dragon Boat Festival, related customs and food culture.

The Dragon Boat Festival is said to commemorate the death of Qu Yuan, a patriotic poet and loyal official who drowned himself in the Miluo River after he was banished and accused of treason for his well-intended advice to the king. Legend has it that upon learning of his death, locals raced boats to find his body in the river and dropped rice in the water in the hope that it would distract fish from eating Qu’s body. Gradually, rowing boats developed into dragon boat racing and lumps of rice became sticky rice dumplings known as zongzi.

The head chef of the Heyuan Restaurant at Zhongguanyuan Global Village explained and demonstrated the techniques of making zongzi, a traditional food made of glutinous rice stuffed with different fillings and wrapped in bamboo, reed, or other large flat leaves. He skilfully performed a series of steps, from selecting the leaf to adding ingredients and bundling the stuffing, leaving the participants in awe and excitement.

Under the guidance and demonstration by the head chef, participants tried their hands on, during which two international students exclaimed that “making glutinous rice dumplings is more difficult than preparing normal dumplings”. With assistance from on-site staff, participants mastered the techniques in making the rice dumplings to varying degrees. Many could not contain their excitement and began snapping pictures of their “masterpiece”.

The event ended with a rice dumpling-making competition for participants. With cheers and encouragement from the audience, two gold awards, three silver awards and five individual creativity awards were given out.

Since 2008, the Dragon Boat Festival is not only a festival but also a public holiday in China. In September 2009, UNESCO added the Dragon Boat Festival to the Intangible Cultural Heritage list, making it the first Chinese festival to receive the honor.

The extracurricular event is an initiative to help international students better understand Chinese customs through the hands-on culinary activity and tasting of representative dishes. It also helped forge stronger ties between teachers and students living on campus, thereby creating a harmonious home for all.