Festivals and diet in Linhai

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2019-02-20

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Linhai natives observe the Lantern Festival on the 14th day of the first lunar month instead of the 15th. There are many tales about the origin of this custom. Fang Guozhen, the leader of a peasant uprising in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), knew his mother ate as a vegetarian on the first and the 15th days of each lunar month according to the Buddhist creed, so he changed the date of the Lantern Festival from the 15th day of the first lunar month to the 14th and the date of the Mid-Autumn Festival from the 15th of the eighth lunar month to the 16th to enable his Buddhist mother to taste the delicacies at the festival. Qin Minglei, the Number One Scholar of the Imperial Exam during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) in Linhai, did a similar thing for his Buddhist aunt since she had to have vegetarian diet on the first and the 15th of every lunar month. 

At the Lantern Festival, zaogeng (mixed thick soup) is eaten in every household. Zaogeng is prepared by boiling the ingredients into a thick soup such as mustard leaves, bamboo shoots, pork, dried bean curd, beans, bean flour, mushrooms, jelly ears and dried razor clam, which are made into fine pieces, as well as sweet potato flour or rice flour.

There is also a tale about the origin of zaogeng. On the 14th day of the first lunar month one year, a group of foreign pirates landed on the beach. The soldiers began to build fortifications to defend the town. Since there was a snow storm that night, the residents decided to make a soup by mixing the liquor with distillers' grains, vegetables and rice flour, which brought strength and warmth to the soldiers. Since then, the custom has been passed down, but water is used instead of liquor. On the 15th of the first lunar month, a sweet thick soup is made from glutinous rice flour balls, beans, red dates, brown sugar or white sugar, cumquat powder, lotus root starch or sweet potato flour. The soup symbolizes success and sweetness. After the delicious meal, it is time to view the lanterns on the streets.


Zaogeng, a thick soup for the Lantern Festival in Linhai [Photo/WeChat account: lhtour]

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