Zongzi, or simply zong, is a traditional Chinese food, made of glutinous rice stuffed with different fillings and wrapped in bamboo, reed, or other large flat leaves. They are cooked by steaming or boiling. In the Western world, they are also known as rice dumplings, or sticky rice dumplings.
Zongzi (sticky rice dumplings) are traditionally eaten during the Duanwu Festival, which falls on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar (approximately late-May to mid-June).
A popular belief amongst the Chinese of eating zongzi involved commemorating the death of Qu Yuan, a famous Chinese poet from the kingdom of Chu who lived during the Warring States period. Known for his patriotism, Qu Yuan tried unsuccessfully to warn his king and countrymen against the expansionism of their Qin neighbors.
When the Qin general Bai Qi took Yingdu, the Chu capital, in 278 BC, Qu Yuan's grief was so intense that he drowned himself in the Miluo river after penning the Lament for Ying. According to legend, packets of rice were thrown into the river to prevent the fish from eating the poet's body.
The shapes of zongzi range from being approximately tetrahedral in southern China to an elongated cone in northern China. Wrapping a zongzi neatly is a skill that is passed down through families, as are the recipes. Making zongzi is traditionally a family event of which everyone helps out.
While traditional zongzi are wrapped in bamboo leaves, the leaves of lotus, maize, banana, canna, shell ginger and pandan sometimes are used as substitutes in other countries. Each kind of leaf imparts its own unique aroma and flavor to the rice.