Laba Rice Porridge Festival

There's a tradition of eating laba rice porridge on the eighth day of the twelfth lunar month. "La" in Chinese means the 12th lunar month and "ba" means eight.

The story of this fetival came over 3,000 years ago.

When Sakyamuni was on his way into the high mountains in his quest(寻求) for understanding and enlightenment, he grew tired and hungry. Exhausted from days of walking, he fainted away 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 (封建的)upper class, it also quickly became popular throughout the country.

Laba rice porridge(腊八粥) was first introduced to China in the Song Dynasty about 900 years ago.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.
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Some restaurants and temples will also deliver the porridge as a care and wish for the citizens. There're tens of places in Hangzhou city offerring the porridge for free, Beijing and other cities also have this kind of traditions, a tea house (茶馆, maison de thé) delivered more than 15,000 bowls. Take a look at the long queue: