Congee Festival, Warm Up to Chinese New Year

Lunar December (la) 8 (ba) in Chinese calendar is China’s traditional La Ba festival.

However, traditionally in China there is only one way to observe this special day, that is to eat La Ba congee – a multi-material rice soup cooked in one-step process, either sweet or salt.

Labazhou Festival was initially set to commemorate Shakyamuni Buddha’s regaining of physical strength on the day some 2,500 years ago after being nourished with a bowl of milk porridge given by a sheep herder girl, which enabled him to resume meditation until final enlightenment.

A free Laba congee offering ritual at Shaolin Temple on lunar December 8

Later, on each lunar December 8, Chinese Buddhist temples would make large pots of Labazhou (always in sweet flavour) offering to whoever wishing to be blessed by the spirit of charity.

There is no records documenting since when this custom began in China, but most historians believe it started since the Tang Dynasty (618–907), an era that not only made Taoism the state-sponsored ideology, but systematically introduced Buddhism into China and further spread the teaching to Japan.

Shaolin Temple abbot Shi Yongxin offering Laba Rice Soup to the public

Shaolin Temple abbot Shi Yongxin offering Laba Rice Soup to the public

Regardless since when it began, in more than 1,000 years, this practice has developed into a warm up event of a month-long Chinese New Year festival.

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