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GBJ favorites: Jiaozi! Dumplings for the Winter Solstice warm the body and the spirit

Dumplings are a popular way to celebrate the shortest day of the year in Beijing.


If you are survey Global Business Journalism students and faculty about their favorite food, jiaozi (or Chinese dumplings) would likely top the list.

Dumplings certainly are on any list of famous Chinese foods. You see Chinese people eating dumplings every meal and everywhere. But for people in north part of China, there is a special time every year when dumplings are a "must-eat" food. It is the Winter Solstice Day, December 21.

"First Frost" is the 22th solar term in the Chinese lunar calendar. In astronomy, this is the day when the sun hits the tropic of Capricorn almost directly, and the Northern Hemisphere has its shortest day. Therefore, ancient Chinese astronomers used "Zhi" – which means extreme in English – to describe this day.

But why do northern Chinese people eat dumplings on Winter Solstice Day? It is believed that Zhongjing Zhang, one of the most famous doctors in ancient China, started this tradition. After his retirement, Zhang went back to his hometown. There he shaped the wrappers filled with mutton and herbs as ears, cooking soups that could stave off the chill. Then people in his hometown started to imitate him and cook similar soups, which is the origins of dumplings. Different regions of China celebrate Winter Solstice Day differently. In Shandong Province, for example, people cook mutton soup to keep the balance of Yin and Yang inside the body.

But at Tsinghua, the solstice is yet another good reason to order jiaozi at the canteens – or to make them yourself.

People in Shandong province eat mutton soup to celebrate the Winter Solstice.

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