Today is winter solstice, the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, and it is a record-breaking 30°C in Taipei. In Chinese culture it is customary to consume tāngyuán (湯圓, glutinous rice balls typically immersed in hot, sweet soup) on winter solstice, better known to locals as Dōngzhì (冬至), a time when families gather together and celebrate growing one year older. Since I have no family here I will be lining up at 36 Yuánzǐ Shop (三六圓仔店) for a bowl sometime later on—though I might just skip this particular ritual if the line-up is too crazy. Two years ago I was informed, contrary to expectations, that you won’t actually age without eating tangyuan on dongzhi. If I miss it this year I suppose I won’t mind.
At the moment I’m enjoying a coffee next to Taipei Prefecture Minor South Gate (臺北府城小南門), originally built in 1879, cleaved from the old city walls by the Japanese in the 1930s, and later rebuilt and remodeled in a northern Chinese style by the Republic of China government in 1966 as part of a much broader program of Sinicization. Today it stands in a traffic circle amidst a complicated intersection of several roads in Zhongzheng not far from where I am staying these days in Wanhua.
Now the days grow longer, each more than the last.