Zong Zi

Zong Zi is a traditional Chinese food. Westerners know it as rice dumpling, which is made of glutinous rice with different stuffings and wrapped in bamboo leaves. The most famous type in mainland China, Jiaxing Zong Zi, gets its name after an east coastal city. The filling is typically pork, but also can be Mung beans, red beans or salted duck eggs.

A picture of Zong Zi from meishi.com

Zong Zi is a must-eat food on the Dragon Boat Festival, a statutory and traditional holiday in every middle May or early June. The festival is to honor an ancient patriotic poet called Qu Yuan, and Zong Zi has a touching story relating to patriotism.

Qu Yuan was originally an outstanding minister of the Chu Kingdom. Because of his advocacy of a foreign policy, as well as the slander from other jealous officials, he lost favor from the king, and became exiled. The exile was years of depression for Yuan, but  during that period, he created a greatest type of poetry in which he expressed strong love for his motherland. Later on, with the expansion of Qin Kingdom, his country died out. After learning the bad news, Yuan ended up drowning himself in the Miluo River. In order to keep fish and evil spirits away from eating his body, people beat drums, and threw Zong Zi into the river to distract the fish. From then on, eating Zong Zi and sailing the dragon boat became a tradition in honor of Yuan’s death.

Nowadays, the ancient Chinese tradition has faced modernization challenge. Back in 2004, the Republic of Korea applied for making the Dragon Boat Festival its own world cultural heritage. The news soon sparked great disputes between the two nations. The Chinese started to realize the young generation’s neglect of tradition. Thus, the Chinese government rearranged the legal holidays and the activity system. However, it still takes huge endeavor to grab people’s attention back to the protection of ancient tradition.

 

Full accessibility tells outstanding stories

Once digging, everyone has a story. Good journalists never give up finding a better central character in their stories. However, to me, I feel the biggest challenge is not finding an idea, not shooting visuals, not writing scripts, but getting access to the strongest character.

Recently I watched a Pulitzer story entitled “Too Young to Wed: The Secret World of Child Brides.” This masterpiece features the young girls who are forced into marriage. They are vulnerable and helpless. They suffer from abuse, but they have to endure. The photographer, Stephanie Sinclair, spent over eight years in India, Yemen, Afghanistan, Nepal and Ethiopia, and got extremely compelling photos to tell this unique story to the world.

For fantastic stories like this, the biggest challenge is access to certain sources. The topic is so sensitive, and the local conservative culture makes it even harder. As journalists, we need to approach them as a friend. We need patience, and make ourselves trustable. We want to have audiences see their struggles, and hear their voices, which is a basic function of journalism.

NEVER GIVE UP COMMUNICATING. People may be afraid to expose their own life to the public, or they may be afraid that others would talk about them. In these cases, journalists sometimes act the same role as negotiators, because we persuade people to participate in our stories. We need to make people understand how important they are in order to tell a better story and get better visuals. It’s a profession that most people don’t understand, so we need to communicate and explain.

KNOW THE SUBJECTS. Another important thing to get full accessibility is to know the subjects. Their rejection always goes with invisible difficulties or controversies behind that. We need to understand them, and find a best approach that benefit both sides. This is why journalism sometimes is all about problem solving. Once you get full accessibility, the story will definitely go deeper and deeper.