The Chinese dumpling festival falls on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month and is celebrated by eating sticky rice dumplings (known as chang in Hokkien) with fillings such as mung bean, chestnuts, cooked peanuts, pork, dried prawns and mushroom, among other foods.
This festival, known as the Duanwu Festival, is celebrated by the Chinese community around the world and recently, the children at the Hiichiikok Foundation Home for Children Care had a chance to learn more about it.
The morning of the festival was bright and cheerful. The children, who were until then unaware of the significance of the date, were brought together for a hands on lesson on the meaning of the dumpling festival, and how to make the delicious treats.
According to legend, the dumplings are eaten to commemorate the death of Qu Yuan, a famous Chinese poet from the kingdom of Chu who lived during the Warring States period. Qu Yuan, who was very patriotic, tried unsuccessfully to warn his king and countrymen against the impending attack from their neighbours, the Qin.
When the Qin invaded Yingdu, the Chu capital, in 278 BC, a grief-stricken Qu Yuan drowned himself in the Miluo river. The villagers threw packets of rice into the river to prevent the fish from eating the poet’s body.
After the story, the children proceeded to the kitchen where the bamboo leaves and all the ingredients were set out, waiting for the eager helpers.
The children were taught how to make dumplings. As expected, the dumplings came out in different shapes, but the children gamely reshaped each one until they looked just right.
According to Diana Ooi, the Hiichiikok Foundation Home for Children Care manager, the shaping of the dumplings is a reminder that the children, when they first came to the home, had different social and emotional problems, and that the caregivers are slowly reshaping them into healthy and happy individuals.
It took the children quite a while before they finally managed to get the dumplings into the desired shape, and they were very happy with the end result. One of the children even exclaimed that she felt proud as she could do something that even her mum had never done before.
Hopefully, the experience will not only teach the children how to make dumplings but also put into practice the concept of shaping their lives to the best quality.
As Ooi put it, we know it takes time but we are waiting for the day when the children come out in the desired shape.
Hiichiikok Foundation Home for Children Care manager Diana Ooi shows the children how to make dumplings.
The finished dumplings.