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Cooking Vegetable Tea on the 13th Lunar New Year Evening (Doumen District-level intangible cultural heritage)

Updated: 2018-09-20

Cooking Vegetable Tea on the 13th evening of the Lunar New Year is a 200-year-old folk festivity in rural areas of Doumen District. Villagers pay respect to their ancestors and honor the gods in the daytime whereas unmarried young women gather at a housewife's idle room in the evening. In groups, they covertly pick (steal) vegetables in the fields or backyard patches in the neighborhood and carry them back to cook for sharing.

Nonetheless, the "vegetable thieves" are not morally to blame; rather, the more ruthlessly they are cursed, the more likely the "stealers" are to outperform at school and more easily find their Mr Right. Likewise, owners of the vegetable fields never get angry upon seeing the mess the next morning.


Young maidens 'steal' vegetables

Six to nine vegetables are "stolen" from neighbors' plots, and the variety implies different kinds of auspiciousness, for instance, "six" refers to felicity and luck; "seven" means "the seventh fairy coming down to earth" for a Mr Right; "eight" stands for "make a fortune"; and "nine" suggests "remain a lifetime devoted couple after getting married."

The absolute-must vegetable is green onion (cong in pinyin), which coincides with the Mandarin pronunciation of "cong (clever)." The likes also include lettuce (shengcai -- making money) and celery (qincai -- industriousness).


Vegetable selection [Photos courtesy]

The combined vegetables are cooked with a bit of wild tea, and then both ends of the green onion will be toasted symbolically before spreading it atop the cooked mix for the group gala.

People binge during the Spring Festival, and vegetable tea is considered to regulate the diet and help digestion. Furthermore, young women gather in groups to make friendly contacts and create a joyful atmosphere while distributing blessings and greetings to one another.

Zhao Dechun, 86, a native of Nanmen Village, Doumen Town; and fellow villager Zhao Chenghua, 70, have been authorized as inheritors.

The folk custom was designated as a district-level intangible cultural heritage item in July 2010.


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