It is a rite of a Chinese holiday, the Fifth Moon Festival that commemorates the death of Qu Yuan, a minister in the kingdom of Chu (475 - 221 BCE). He was esteemed for his wise counsel that had brought peace and prosperity to the kingdom. However, when false accusations were made against him, he was disgraced and dismissed from office. Realizing that the country was now in the hands of corrupt officials, Qu Yuan clasped a large stone and leaped into the river on the fifth day of the fifth moon. Nearby fishermen rushed to save him, but they failed and his body was never recovered. Thereafter, the kingdom declined and was eventually conquered The dragon-boat races symbolize the frantic attempts to rescue Qu Yuan. The people of Chu, mourning the death of Qu Yuan, threw rice into the river to feed his hungry ghost every year on the fifth day of the fifth moon. There is a special food associated with the Dragon Boat Festival called "Zongzi" or "Jung." They are the Chinese equivalent of sweet tamales. They are made by steaming glutinous rice and a combination of other ingredients such as beans, lotus seeds, chestnuts, pork fat, Chinese sausage, peanuts and the golden yolk of a salted duck egg, wrapped in bamboo or lotus leaves and tied.There were two vendors at Flushing Meadows Park offering these and other traditional Chinese delicacies. Gum Fung Restaurant, located at 136-28 39th Ave., Flushing, offered its version along with many other delicious foods prepared on-site such as corn pancakes and pork buns. This family-run business competed in the races as the Metro Atlantic Dragon team.The White Swan Bakery, 24 Bowery St., Manhattan, was another source of Jung, as well as a variety of cold Chinese foods and baked goods.The VIP tent, catered by Spicy & Tasty, 39-07 Prince St., Flushing, not only had its own version of Jung, but its own version of the legend. According to Anna, Spicy & Tasty's manager, the fisherman threw the rice into the water to keep the fish from eating Qu Yuan's body. Nowadays, she explained, it is a tradition to throw Jung into the water during the Fifth Moon Festival. That may be traditional, I thought, but I'm keeping my Jung for myself.
©2004 Community News Group
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