Today is La Ba day, a traditional festival in China. ‘La’ means the 12th lunar month while ‘Ba’ means eight.
On La Ba Day, people eat a special food called ‘La Ba’ porridge. Different regions have different recipes for the porridge. The ‘La Ba’ porridge in northern China is known as the most “authentic”. It is often called Eight Treasures porridge because many ingredients are used to cook it. The most common ingredients are: rice, glutinous rice, dried red dates, lotus seeds, walnuts, almonds, longans, red beans, peanuts, raisins, and brown sugar.
There are two legends that are mostly acknowledged for the origin of La Ba porridge.
People line up early in the morning for free La Ba Porridge at Xingshan Temple in Xi’an
One is connected to Buddhism saying that Sakyamuni, founder of Buddhism, achieved a state of illumination and became Buddha on the 8th day of the 12th lunar month after having the porridge made by a shepherdess who saved him when he fainted because of exhaustion and years of ascetic life. So on this day, many Buddhist temples make the La Ba Porridge and offer it to people for free.
The other legend says that the Ming Dynasty Emperor, Zhu Yuanzhang suffered great hunger all the time when he was young and one day he and his buddies found some soy beans and mixed grains in a vole’s burrow when searching for food. They cooked the grains and beans in a pot on a bonfire and ate it with great relish. Later when he became the emperor, one year on the La Ba Day, he wanted something special to eat and thought of the delicious porridge he had before. So he had his cook made the porridge with mixed grains which he enjoyed so much and named it La Ba porridge.