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The LABA (Eight Treasure) Rice Festival

Hey Hey and a Big G'Day toya,

Today was absolutely freezing mate!

The classrooms were so cold and everyone of us spent our time jumping here and there trying to keep warm. After classes ended Luo Wei and I headed for a walk on Pagoda Hill and then across the river to the train station to see if we could get her a ticket home.

No luck at all! Every single ticket sold until the 24th january 2008! Spring Festival really is the craziest time ever here in China! What an absolutely crazy freaky thing to do...give 1.3 billion people the same holiday every year!

Enough about that, it is only going to get worse over the next month and I'm sure I will fill this Travelpod full of whinges and complaints. Hey, got to yell at someone! ha ha!

Anyhow, today China celebrated yet another of its huge list of celebrations and festivals. If you like rice and a bit of history about how 'Eight Treasure' rice make its way from India to China..........

.....Read On!

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Falling on the eighth day of the 12th lunar month, Laba Festival was originally an occasion for people to give sacrifices to their ancestors, and to pray to heaven and earth for a good harvest and good luck for the family. Many years later, it has become a Laba rice porridge eating event. A porridge that contains different types of rice, beans, dried nuts, bean curd, and meat. The 12th lunar month is called 'La' in Chinese and eight is pronounced 'ba', which is how the name 'Laba' was derived. It is not only regarded as a day of sacrifice, but also the day on which Sakyamuni (founder of Buddhism) realized truth and became a Buddha. Laba is celebrated on the eighth day of the last lunar month, referring to the traditional start of celebrations for the Chinese New Year. La in Chinese means the 12th lunar month and ba means eight. Legends about the origin of this festivity abound. One holds that over 3,000 years ago sacrificial rites called La (&Agrave;&deg;) were held in the twelfth lunar month when people offered up their preys to the gods of heaven and earth. The Chinese characters for prey (&Aacute;&Ocirc;&Icirc;&iuml;) and the twelfth month (&Agrave;&deg; La) were interchangeable then, and ever since La has been used to refer to both. Since the festival was held on the eighth day of the Last month, people later appended the number eight (ba in Chinese), giving us the current Laba. The majority Han Chinese have long followed the tradition of eating Laba rice porridge on the Laba Festival. The date usually falls in mid-January. <u>The Legend of Laba Festival:</u></b> It is said that Laba rice porridge originated from India and was first introduced to China in the Song Dynasty about 900 years ago. Buddhism was well accepted in the areas inhabited by the Han Chinese, who believed that Sakyamuni, the first Buddha and founder of the religion, attained enlightenment on the eighth day of the twelfth month. Sutras were chanted in the temples and rice porridge with beans, nuts and dried fruit was prepared for the Buddha. With the passing of time the custom extended, especially in rural areas where peasants would pray for a plentiful harvest in this way. There is, however, another touching story. When Sakyamuni was on his way into the high mountains in his quest for understanding and enlightenment, he grew tired and hungry. Exhausted from days of walking, he passed into unconsciousness by a river in India. A shepherdess found him there and fed him her lunch -- porridge made with beans and rice. Sakyamuni was thus able to continue his journey. After six years of strict discipline, he finally realized his dream of full enlightenment on the eighth day of the twelfth lunar month. Ever since, monks have prepared rice porridge on the eve and held a ceremony the following day, during which they chant sutras and offer porridge to Buddha. Thus, the tradition of eating Laba porridge was based in religion, though with the passing of time the food itself became a popular winter dish especially in cold northern China. According to written records, large Buddhist temples would offer Laba rice porridge to the poor to show their faith to Buddha. In the Ming Dynasty about 500 years ago, it became such a holy food that emperors would offer it to their officials during festivals. As it gained favor in the feudal upper class, it also quickly became popular throughout the country. <u>The Eating Laba Rice Porridge Custom:</u></b> The custom first originated in the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279) and became popular in the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911). Now it has been over one thousand years that the Chinese people eat Laba porridge on Laba Festival day. As is known to all, since ancient time&iexcl;&macr;s Chinese people have attached great importance to growing crops, so when the land bears a good harvest after years of hard work, the farmers will show great appreciation by sacrificing to the ancestors, and heaven and earth. Boiling Laba porridge is one way people celebrate their harvest. The ingredients of Laba porridge are various items that are full of nutrition. It is made of diversified rice (glutinous rice, oats, corns etc.), beans (soy beans, mung beans, kidney beans, cowpeas etc.), dried nuts (chestnuts, almonds, peanuts, etc.), bean curd and meat. Melon seeds, lotus seeds, pine nuts, sugar, and other preserved fruits are added to give more flavors. After 10 centuries of development, there are now over one hundred different cooking methods. After hours of boiling, the porridge is offered as a sacrifice to the ancestors and is presented to friends before noon. Family members eat Laba porridge together and leave some, symbolizing a good harvest next year. Some kind people hand out the porridge to the poor to show their pity. And in some regions people believe that pasting porridge on the flowers and fruit trees indicates the blossom of flowers and good fruition. Laba porridge is now regarded as a very nutritious food in winter that has the function of strengthening the spleen, stimulating the appetite, and soothing the nerves. It is welcomed by all people of different ages. Controlling the heat is of great importance in making Laba porridge. At the start, the flame must be high, but the fire is then turned down to let the porridge simmer until it begins to emit a very delicious smell. The process is time-consuming but not complicated. Laba porridge is not only easy to prepare, but also a nutritious winter food because it contains amino acids, protein, vitamins and other nutrition people need. Cooked nuts and dried fruit are good for soothing nerves, nourishing one's heart and vitality, and strengthening the spleen. Perhaps that is why it is also called babao (Eight Treasure) porridge.

Beers N Noodles toya.....shane ________________________

The soundtrack to this entry was the awesome Collective Soul The album was '1994 to 2001'

Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China

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