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Monday, December 15, 2008

Winter Solstice 2008 - A Story from Grandmother




This year the Chinese Winter Solstice falls on 21st December.The Dōngzhì Festival or Winter Solstice Festival (Chinese: 冬至; Pinyin: dōng zhì; "The Extreme of Winter") is one of the most important festivals celebrated by the Chinese and other East Asians during the Dongzhi solar term on or around December 22 when sunshine is weakest and daylight shortest; i.e., on the first day of the Dongzhi solar term.

My family's story of how Sii Yian came about:

Once a Chinese scholar failed his civil exams and on his way home in deep winter he lost his way and fell into a ravine. He was saved by a monkey princess and as he had lost his memory he stayed with them.

Meanwhile his wife and family were frantic not knowing what to do. It was truly a sad time for them . However after some years of searching the faithful wife heard of a man living amongst half men and half monkeys. She decided to create a way to entice the man to return home. She thus made the first sii yian which was so fragrant and so enticing . She went into the deep mountains where she believed her husband was staying and stuck a sii yian on every tree leading to her village.

When the missing scholar smelled the sii yian he started eating them plucking them from each tree and slowly he reached his home village.

The wife was all prepared with her fellow villagers who got ready a net to capture the "man lost amongst monkeys". And when the man was near the village she knew that her strategy had worked.

The man thus returned home and was reunited with his family and lived happily ever after.

The village celebrated with the family the first reunion and it happened to be the winter solstice.

Even though my grandmother passed away more than 20 years ago I can still remember her stories and teachings vividly. She was an excellent cook and a marvellous housekeeper. I am glad I have a grandmother like her. Each Winter Solstice I remember her especially. And I hope she likes my sii yian posted on the blog...in her spiritualrealm.

(This story came to me when I was young and listening to grandmother telling stories during the December long holidays.... We had no TV then. So story telling was a great part of our lives.)

What the Net sources say :

The origins of this festival can be traced back to the Yin and Yang philosophy of balance and harmony in the cosmos. After this celebration, there will be days with longer daylight hours and therefore an increase in positive energy flowing in. The philosophical significance of this is symbolized by the I Ching hexagram fù (復, "Returning").

Traditionally, the Dongzhi Festival is also a time for the family to get together. One activity that occurs during these get togethers (especially in the southern parts of China and in Chinese communities overseas) is the making and eating of Tangyuan (湯圓, Cantonese jyutping: tong1 jyun2; Mandarin Pinyin: Tāng Yuán) or balls of glutinuous rice, which symbolize reunion. Tangyuan are made of glutinuous rice flour and sometimes brightly coloured. Each family member receives at least one large Tang Yuan in addition to several small ones. The flour balls may be plain or stuffed. They are cooked in a sweet soup or savoury broth with both the ball and the soup/broth served in one bowl.

In northern China, people typically eat dumplings on Dongzhi. It is said to have originated from Zhang Zhongjing in the Han Dynasty. On one cold winter day, he saw the poor suffering from chilblains on their ears. Feeling sympathetic, he ordered his apprentices to make dumplings with lamb and other ingredients, and distribute them among the poor to keep them warm, to keep their ears from getting chilblains. Since the dumplings were shaped like ears, Zhang named the dish "qǜ hán jiāo ěr tāng" or dumpling soup that expels the cold. From that time on, it has been a tradition to eat dumplings on the day of Dongzhi.


Traditional Chinese Recipe :

Tang yuan is a dish of glutinous rice balls served in a sweet broth. In Chinese culture, it is traditionally served on Dong Zhi, the winter solstice. By eating tang yuan, you welcome in the winter and become one year older.

Tang yuan makes a delicious winter snack and is easy to prepare. Despite its association with mid-winter, it can be enjoyed at any time of year.

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Ingredients:
1 cup glutinous rice flour
4 ounces water
Brown sugar to taste
Food coloring (optional)
Fresh ginger (optional)
Preparation:
Pour the glutinous rice flour in a bowl and slowly add water until the mixture becomes the texture of dough. You may not need the entire 4 ounces of water to reach the proper consistency. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes. You can divide the dough in half and add food coloring to one half.

Pinch off pieces of the dough and roll it into small balls.

Drop the balls into boiling water and cook them until they float - about 5 to 10 minutes.

While the balls are cooking, prepare a sweet soup by boiling water and adding brown sugar. Fresh ginger can also be added to the soup.

Put the cooked balls into the soup and serve.

Tong Yuan can also be stuffed with a paste made from peanut butter, black sesame seeds or red beans.

Sources:
1`. Wikipedia
2. About Food. Com

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