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Dong Zhi / Winter Solstice / 冬至

Dong Zhi / Winter Solstice / 冬至.

Dong Zhi (winter solstice) will soon arrive. and during this time, chinese family members would sit down together to consume Tang Yuan / 湯圓. Tang Yuan which symbolise reunion is made from glutinous flour which are roll into the shape of a small rice ball about half an inch or larger. They are then cook and serve in bowls along with sweet soup. Sometimes colouring is also added during the making process. This makes the cooked glutinous rice balls looks more attractive to Kids.

Commonly known as the Winter Solstice Festival, it is the 22nd term of the 24 solar terms in the Chinese calendar. It falls on 21st or 22nd December each year and it is a Festival celebrated all over the world by many culture. On the day of winter solstice, the chinese would get up early in the morning to prepare rice balls or dumpling, fruits, joss offering to worship the house hold deity. On this day, they would also perform cultural ceremonies, offering to heaven, offering to their ancestor, giving donations, celebrating the end of harvest festival and also gather for reunion. This is also a day to perform prayers to prevent diseases and to drive out evil spirits. In the olden times, Chinese emperors would visit the Temple of Heaven to worship and offer sacrifices to Heaven on this day.

Recorded in ancient books, it is said that on this day, the Yin energy will be very strong while the Yang energy will be growing and begins its new cycle. It will have the shortest daylight and the longest night of the year. After this day, sunlight will become longer, Yang energy will become stronger while yin energy becomes weaker.

The winter festival is a traditional chinese festival. Historically, the Winter solstice I can be trace back to the time of Xia dynasty. The culture was follow during through the Zhou dynasty. During this time, the Zhou’s would consider the winter solstice as a new year. This practice was follow by the Qin dynasty till the Han dynasty. It was then that the Han’s Winter Solstice became a Winter Festival. Government officials and commoners would have an official holiday to celebrate this day. People during the Southern and Northern Dynasties still consider the Winter solstice as the first date of a new year. During the Tang and Song dynasty, the winter solstice has became a day for remembering ancestors and offer sacrifice to Heaven. And on this day, the emperor would visit the Temple of Heaven to worship and offer sacrifice to Heaven. Records from the Qing Dynasty has stated that Winter Solstice is significantly as important as the Spring festival aka Li Chun.

The custom varies in china, The northerners would also consume dumplings on this day while the majority of the local people would just consume rice ball aka Tang Yuan / 湯圓.
There is also traditional custom to take the rice ball after offering to the house altar and paste it on the front and back door of the house. This is said to serve as a talisman to protect the family members for evil and disease.

Other activities done during winter festival includes the custom of “sending/giving winter clothing” and also to visit ancestors grave to perform offering. The meaning of “sending/giving winter clothing” has two representation. One for the human on earth and another for the Spirits of the otherworld. Sending/giving a friend or loved one some winter clothing would mean that you care for them as it is cold during this time of the year (China).

For the Spirits of the otherworld, Paper winter clothing would be offer to ancestors/spirits. There is a believe that the human lives in the human world while the dead lives parallel on the otherworld. It is said that when a person dies, its spirit/soul would leave the body and it would exist in the otherworld. These spirits would have different needs during different seasons. So during the Winter solstice, the spirits would be cold. To visit the grave this time is also a show of respect/filial to the ancestors.

A Legend from Henan says that on winter solstice, King Yama would allow spirits free to roam earth for a day. And when the time arrive he would send them back to the otherworld. So people on this day would pray to King Yama to request him to move all the spirits/ghost back to the otherworld so earth will be tranquil and peaceful. Offerings are also burned for the spirits to use when they return to the otherworld.

In certain part of Jiangnan, China, a special customs is followed where people take the opportunity to arrange a second burial for their ancestor from a coffin burial to an urn burial.
They would exhume their ancestors coffin and burn the coffin’s wood in the night. The remains of their ancestors are then place into an Urn. The Urn is then reburied. This custom is known as Dang Tian Wei / 當天為 also known as Guan Cai Tian / 棺材天.

During DongZhi, there is a game that uses rice ball for divination. This divination is to determine the gender of a future baby. The person who wish to enquire would first have make some glutinous rice balls. A fire in then build. The rice balls is then thrown into the fire. If the rice ball expand without any crack then it is predicted a baby boy is on the way and if the ball expand but cracked then a coming baby girl is predicted.

Do view my other post on “Auspicious Dates for Chinese New Year” which is posted yearly to get the date and time of the annual Dong Zhi / Winter Solstice / 冬至.



俗稱的冬至節。大约每年英歴12月21日至22日之间,在冬至這天一大清早起身,准備湯圓、水果和祭品. 祭天、祭祖先、慶团圆、駆邪防災的節日. 很久以前古代皇帝会在冬至那天前往天坛聖殿祭天仪式祀求平安。






Below:- Tang Yuan / 湯圓 ready to be serve.

Dong Zhi /  Winter Solstice / 冬至

My Time – – A web blog cataloging chinese temples in malaysia / 記錄馬來西亞廟宇文化.

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