All over the country yesterday people were celebrating the Buddhist Laba Festival by eating a special rice porridge (congee) and praying to their ancestors for a good harvest and good luck in the coming year.
Said to be the day of enlightenment of Siddharta Gautama (also known as Sakyamuni) the founder of Buddhism, the Laba festival falls on the eighth day of the twelfth lunar month and is a literal translation of the Chinese word for the twelfth lunar month known as "La" and eight, "ba".
Legend has it that Gautama, son of a king in ancient India, shamed by the suffering of the people forsook his noble position and set off in search of enlightenment.
It was on the eighth day of the twelfth lunar month, after six years of poverty and extreme ascetism, eating nothing but rice each day that he realized the truth of Buddhism.
For over a thousand years, people in China have commemorated this by eating a special rice porridge and in temples, Buddhist monks serve up bowls of free congee for locals and visitors alike.
There are hundreds of variations on the recipe but the five basic ingredients of the dish are a nutritious mix of rice, beans, dried nuts, bean curd and meat. Offered as a sacrifice to the ancestors, the dish is shared by family, always leaving some in the bowl to symbolize a good harvest for the coming year.