Fiery competition is expected across China Saturday as dragon boat races are held to mark the fifth day of the fifth lunar month.
But while the intricately designed long boats have rightly gained fame worldwide, it is another feature of the Dragon Boat Festival which has been proving extra hot in China in recent years.
Zongzi, the pyramid-shaped steamed glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves with a history dating back thousands of years, has retained a special place in the hearts of Chinese seeking to join in the celebrations.
A long queue of customers formed Friday in many shops, seeking to buy the renowned Daoxiangcun brand zongzi.
Many administrative staff at the headquarters of Daoxiangcun -- one of the oldest food manufacturers in Beijing -- also took to the streets to help sell the product.
One employee told China Daily that recent market research had shown business to be booming.
Quality control authorities of Beijing Municipality have also conducted a city-wide quality spot-check recently to ensure that all products on the market are safe.
Some illegal dealers were caught making zongzi with unqualified materials or in filthy conditions.
The Beijing Municipal Bureau of Quality Supervision and Inspection and Quarantine urged local people to buy zongzi from trustworthy dealers on health grounds.
The spot-checks have also boosted business at the Gongyifu Food Factory, another prestigious food producer in Beijing which has also had their zongzi recognized by the authority.
Now, having run out of materials, they have been forced to turn down lucrative orders.
Although the Dragon Boat Festival remains the factory's most important season for selling zongzi, it has lost market share to new competitors in recent years.
"We survived only because more and more Beijing people care about these special occasions and like to buy our products," said Ren Yanhua, vice-director of the Gongyifu Food Factory.
"This is contrary to some people's belief that zongzi would lose its appeal now that it is on sale throughout the year."
Ren said the most popular variety of zongzi is still the traditional one made with a stuffing of dates or sweetened bean paste.
"Traditional zongzi for a traditional occasion, and Beijing people are especially attached to tradition," said Ren.
In Shenzhen, south China's Guangdong Province, large numbers of visitors from Hong Kong and Macao were expected Friday for the Dragon Boat Festival.
Some 1.68 million are estimated to visit the mainland for the festival from Thursday to Monday -- 11.6 percent up on the same period last year.
Although people were advised to avoid the peak period Saturday, an official at the Luohu overland checkpoints -- where 80 percent of those going into Shenzhen via land should pass -- told China Daily Friday that no obvious increase had occurred in people seeking entrance to the mainland.
"It seems the real peak will come Saturday," the official said.
(China Daily June 15, 2002)