Special Flavour of Pu’er in the Dragon Boat Festival

How to Celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival without a Herb Soup?

The verse of “traditional Chinese rice-puddings packaged with colorful silk yarn and served in a gilded plate are for unmarried young girls.”, written by Ouyang Xiu, a litterateur in the Northern Song (960-1127), vividly depicts convivial atmosphere during the Dragon Boat Festival. To celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival and sacrifice Qu Yuan, a majority of people will make traditional Chinese rice-pudding and run dragon-boat racing and other various cultural activities. But, traditional Chinese rice-pudding is not necessary for all the people. In Pu’er of Yunnan, herb soup, as an indispensable dish in the Dragon Boat Festival, has its special and unique flavor. 

“Most of herbs are of medicinal, and hundreds of herbs may be one hundred medicines.” Several days ahead of the Dragon Boat Festival, a large number of herbs are on offer in the vegetable market and both sides along with sidewalk in Simao district of Pu’er city. They are more than one hundred eatable wild traditional Chinese medicines, such as polygonum multiflorum, Heshiwu, Chonglei, angelica sinensis, Yiwozi, achyranthes root, red garlic, radix asparagi, gaultheria cumingiana, stemona root, cirsium shansiense and others.

It is well known that Chinese herbal medicines are used to treat illness. In Pu’er, herbs have become irresistible cate in the Dragon Boat Festival after exquisite mixing and processing. Travelling to Pu’er in May of the lunar calendar, you may find that air is suffused with smell of herbs. During one week before the Dragon Boat Festival, Wuyi Road has been filled with herbs and so hailed as “Herb Street”. Many vendors choose own stall and sell herbs along with road, and customers can carefully select desirable medicinal materials. It is as prosperous as the Spring Festival. Selling herbs before and after the Dragon Boat Festival has become traditional custom in Pu’er. And every family gets accustomed to choose high quality herbs and pig’s shank or chicken to make a palatable and delicious stew.   

Relying on favorable natural conditions, Pu’er is covered with exuberant plants and trees. Due to abundant sunshine and rainwater during the festival, thousands of wild herbs of all kinds scatter around the Pu’er. If you have opportunity to travel to Pu’er in the Dragon Boat Festival, do not forget to have a taste of herb soup, which may bring a stream of different flavour. 

           Background of herb soup 

        Custom to eat pemisetum flaccidum griseb in the Dragon Boat Festival has a special background. It is widely known that Pu’er is located in tropical and subtropical zone, with a scorching and humid climate, which provides favorable environment for growth of herbs. For instance, pinus khasys will have two annual rings in one year, which is an exception of plant kingdom. Herbs grow rapidly, but their growing period shrinks accordingly. Although decayed materials will be degraded completely by the earth, air pollution also intensified. Air containing germs gets together, which is similar to miasma killing numerous people in the novel. Now, damages of miasma have been controlled with improvement of medical condition, but its adverse effects on human body remain. Days around the Dragon Boat Festival many people may suffer from poor appetite and hypodynamia, but no illnesses are found through physical examination. To alleviate these symptoms, people must take traditional Chinese medicine properly rather than western medicine. Of course, this is background to eat pemisetum flaccidum griseb. In Pu’er, a majority of people will be afflicted with such symptoms, thus eating pemisetum flaccidum griseb is also evolved into a folk custom. 

Essential herbal cate  

Healthy herb and traditional food material are enough to cook a special Pu’er dish in the Dragon Boat Festival, such as the chicken stewed with herb which can invigorate and enrich the circulation of blood, the oxtail stewed with seaworthy which can nourish liver and kidney, the nourishing herb soup which can nourish vitality and nourish a heart, and the radix problematic soup which can clear damp.