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Zongzi Festival Leaves Sweet and Sour Taste
It seems the SARS virus was partly swept aside by Beijingers Saturday as they celebrated the Dragon Boat Festival, which falls on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month each year.

One of the indicators was the sale of the traditional festival snack of zongzi - a pyramid-shaped dumpling made of glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves - which hit a record level.

Daoxiangcun, one of the most popular stores in the city, made 2 million zongzi for the festival, most of which had been sold by Tuesday.

Many of the stores in its chain had put up "sold out" signs in their windows by Saturday afternoon.

"The sales volume of zongzi during the festival is expected to increase by 30 percent over last year and not be influenced by SARS at all," said Chi Xiangdong, the senior manager of the Beijing Daoxiangcun Foodstuff Group, which owns the chain of stores.

However, fear over the epidemic still influenced some.

In Xi'an and Lanzhou, the capital cities of Northwest China's Shaanxi and Gansu provinces, leaves from the argy wormwood plant were very popular this year, according to a China News Agency report.

Hanging argy wormwood and calamus leaves in a room is a tradition in some parts of China during the festival to scatter evil spirits.

But argy wormwood leaves were the top pick this year - experts say it is because of their special fragrance, which cleans the air and acts as a natural bug and mosquito repellent.

(China Daily June 5, 2003)

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