Happy Dongzhi – Tang Yuen (Winter Solstice)

December 22nd is a big occassion for many Chinese homes. It is celebrated with the making of tongyuen (cantonese), tangyuen (Mandarin) or kueh ee (Hokkien dialect). In the olden days, the grandmothers are very strict with the making of tongyuen.

Only specific colours are allowed. The colours are red (pink), yellow, white, orange and green. Blue colour is strictly a taboo as it denotes mourning. The colours have to come in odd numbers, i.e. either three, five or seven colours. Don’t ask me why. 🙂

The white tongyuen has to be bigger and the coloured ones smaller. Grandma would supervise the children closely to see that the balls are standard sizes and very, very round. It was a lot of pressure when I was young because I had one neighbour who is extremely finicky about this.


As for me now, I would let my kids roll any colours they like. Blue being their favourite. Then, the kids would mix purple, orange and even brown! After that, they will make balls that look like planet earth, mars, etc etc.

Winter solstice is not exactly a religious festival related to Taoism or Buddhism. However, my mother would offer bowls and bowls of the tongyuen to the altar of our ancestors and gods. The cutest thing is mom would string the tiny balls through the joss-sticks’ stick (?) and left them there for months. The balls would turned into hard little coloured balls eventually.

I had been extremely busy and did not have a chance to get my kids to roll the balls today. I don’t think we will do it tomorrow also because I am up to my neck with many things.

So, I shall leave this photo taken several months back as my wishes. I hope all the families will take this opportunity to sit down together and roll the balls. The rounded balls signify a perfect and complete family. Usually, the families will have a big meal to celebrate this festival.

Happy Dong Zhi.

Link to my old blog where the recipe is :
Chinese Christmas. Remember – Use GLUTINIOUS FLOUR (TEPUNG PULUT) and not rice flour (tepung beras). Or else the result is a disaster. 🙂

Post Author: Lilian

Food, travel, recipes. Chinese Malaysian, blogger, photographer and writer.

8 thoughts on “Happy Dongzhi – Tang Yuen (Winter Solstice)


    (December 22, 2005 - 3:49 am)

    Eh Happy Winter Solstice, too 🙂
    On another note, some people told me that their nenek used to tell them to use odd numbers when making sambal belacan so that it wouldn’t be too fiery. And what about hadiah hantaran perkahwinan? It is given in odd numbers, too 🙂


    (December 22, 2005 - 7:53 am)

    Do you have the recipe? I plan to make them tonight.


    (December 22, 2005 - 1:52 pm)

    Happy Dong Zhi festival 🙂
    your tang yuan are very colourful.


    (December 24, 2005 - 1:56 am)

    I just blogged on this too. kek.

    my ‘kueh ee’ seem much smaller tho, or ur bowl is really small 😉


    (March 15, 2006 - 5:54 pm)

    Kak liliaaaann….
    I ate this last week, but ada filling (red bean paste). Kena boil in water osso (we bought at oriental store close to our house, siap ada logo halal lagi)… is it tong yuen?


    (March 15, 2006 - 5:56 pm)

    Eh actually nak tanya, to make this sama mcm tong yuen recipe that u gave ke? Sbb i seriously have a hankering for that heheh

    […] old posts on Winter solstice in 2006 and tang yuen festival in 2005 and another one rice ball in […]

    […] Here is how to make tang yuen. […]

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