Cer­e­mo­nial Sum­mer Din­ing

China Scenic - - Cover Story -

In an­cient China, ac­cord­ing to the tra­di­tional cal­en­dar, the first day of sum­mer was marked by a day called Lixia , which would soon be fol­lowed by the an­nual wave of un­bear­able heat.

Heat can lead to loss of ap­petite, and in olden times if some­one were to be­come thin it was a se­ri­ous mat­ter, so at the be­gin­ning of ev­ery sum­mer peo­ple would mea­sure their weight. Dur­ing those times sum­mer was some­thing to be dreaded, and Chi­nese medicine prac­ti­tion­ers would ex­am­ine peo­ple for a sum­mer ill­ness which they called zhuxia , zhu in classical Chi­nese be­ing sim­i­lar in mean­ing to “bit­ter”, and xia mean­ing sum­mer. Not be­ing able to cope with sum­mer is a bit­ter ex­pe­ri­ence in­deed, so the com­mon name for this ill­ness was sim­ply kuxia , or “bit­ter sum- mer”.

The foods that could be con­sumed to avoid the on­set of zhuxia not only var­ied widely, they also had a very cer­e­mo­nial feel to them. The peo­ple of Shang­hai and the sur­round­ing re­gion would pick the ears of wheat that have yet to fill and grind them into pow­der, then mix this with su­gar and make the pow­der into strips, which they called “wheat silk­worms”, so as to ex­press their wishes for growth.

The peo­ple of Chang­sha, Hu­nan formed balls out of gluti­nous rice and cud­weed, which they served in a soup, and these balls was said to grant one with great strength and agility, so that they could deftly es­cape the hot sum­mer wind. Peo­ple fur­ther south would of­ten eat a kind of “seven-fam­ily con­gee” that had to be made of rice from all of one’s neigh­bors, which was then cooked into a con­gee, rep­re­sent­ing the strength

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