Photo of the Day: Qingming Certainties – Death and Snacks

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12:44 AM HKT, Fri April 6, 2018

This week’s photo theme is, well, it’s death. Not because we’re trying to be overly morbid, but because today, Thursday 5 April, is Qingming Festival in China, a day where families traditionally tend to the graves of their ancestors and an occasion often referred to as “Tomb Sweeping Day”.

See? A photo theme about death doesn’t have to be all weird and depressing. Here’s a pleasingly upbeat shot of some bright green glutinous rice cakes, which are as much a constant of Qingming as tailbacks on the roads and people talking about how it’ll definitely rain.

Known as qingtuan 青团, these little green balls are so popular – especially in Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Shanghai – that every year certain brands attain “wanghong 网红” (internet famous) status and have hundreds of eager customers queuing outside their stores for hours on end.

Here’s some background on qingtuan and their unusual color, courtesy of Time Out:

Legend has it that the tradition of eating qingtuan began 2,000 years ago during the Qing Dynasty Taiping civil war. A farmer was smuggling food to an imprisoned general, and after discovering the green colouring of Chinese mugwort, he used it to make qingtuan, which he could camouflage in the grass near where the general was being kept. Smart. The farmer’s offerings kept the general alive and, following his escape, he made it a rule that everyone in the army must learn how to make qingtuan. And since Chinese mugwort only grows during the beginning of spring, qingtuan is a speciality eaten during Qingming Festival.

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