China celebrates rice porridge festival

  • 8 January 2014
People take pictures of three men (left, from top to bottom) dressed as Zhu Bajie, Tang Dynasty Buddhist monk Xuanzang and Monkey King Sun Wukong, who are all characters from the Chinese classic novel Journey to the West, as they eat laba porridge during the Laba Festival at the Xuanzang Temple in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, 8 January 2014
The Laba Rice Porridge Festival is celebrated across China each year

It's the annual Chinese festival that Goldilocks would approve of - the Laba Rice Porridge Festival.

To mark the festival on Wednesday, many people across China have been sitting down to eat a bowl of laba porridge, traditionally made from glutinous rice, nuts, soya beans and dried fruits.

The festival has Buddhist origins, but is also seen in China as way of gaining good fortune, long life and a fruitful harvest.

It's also a time of charity. In one city, Buddhist monks this year reportedly cooked 7.5 tonnes of the stuff. Among this year's lucky recipients of a free bowl of porridge were 500 street cleaners and 100 taxi drivers.

People queue up as monks pour free laba porridge at the Yonghegong Lama Temple during the Laba Festival in Beijing, 8 January 2014
The festival, which has Buddhist origins, is also seen as a way of gaining good fortune

Last year, one newspaper reported that a Buddhist temple in southern China had handed out an astonishing 400,000 bowls of "blessed" porridge.

The monks' generosity, however, wasn't matched by the behaviour of some of the visitors.

According to the Global Times, there were "chaotic scenes" after visitors - some of whom had queued for hours - were told the porridge giveaway was over and they wouldn't be getting their serving.

One eyewitness said the "blessed" atmosphere had been ruined by "greedy" people.

But I'm happy to report that tempers eventually cooled once steaming bowls of porridge materialised. The newspaper also added that nobody was injured in the fracas.