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Spring Popia Festival under way at Taipei’s Lin Yutang House

The Fourth Spring Popia Festival kicked off in Taipei’s Lin Yutang House on Tuesday, featuring not only popia (aka lumpia or runbing), a type of non-fried spring roll - a festival food that is usually eaten during the Ching Ming Festival or Tomb Sweeping Day, but also other Chinese cultural elements including calligraphy, Nanguan music and tea culture, to bring Taipei residents a feast for the ears, eyes and stomach.

Popia is a popular type of non-fried spring roll which not only contains dozens of fresh and delicious ingredients, but is also a part of a long-treasured tradition in specialty foods that goes back nearly a thousand years in Chinese culture around the world and in Taiwan, said gourmet Lucille Han韓良露, organizer of the festival.

Han, who has done extensive research on this particular food, said that it is more than just food; it is “a boat that carries thousands of years of Chinese culture,” in her words.

“The food has such a rich cultural connotation,” said Han. According to Han’s study, the food originated with the ancient Chinese chun pan春盤or spring plate, which is used as a kind of offering to the deity Spring God during the season. Its ingredients usually include five kinds of seasonings - green onions, garlic, leeks, coriander leaves and laver, collectively called wu hsin五辛or five spices.

Nanguan music master Wang Xinxin performs during a press conference held in Taipei on Tuesday to unveil the Spring Popia Festival.The food later evolved into different forms with hundreds of different stuffings inside as it spread across China.

Runbing has evolved into a thousand faces as different signature seasonings or ingredients in each region or locality around the vast Chinese mainland have been added to the mix.

“These show that runbing itself is a melting pot of food cultures.”

Even though Taiwan is not a vast land mass like mainland China, runbing is also found in different flavors in different regions of the island.

In order to keep this long-running food tradition going strong, Han launched the Spring Popia Festival in Taiwan. The festival is held annually at the Lin Yutang House located on the road to the hot tourism spot Yangmingshan, since the food was an important family dish for Lin’s family.

“We want to keep the food tradition alive, let it pass on to generations to come.”

This year’s festival also joined hands with other Chinese cultural elements including performances of calligraphy, Nanguan music and tea culture.

Meanwhile, during a press conference held in Lin Yutang House, the Taipei Department of Cultural Affairs also announced that it will soon begin distribution of the Taipei Culture Passport. The passport will guide its holders in discovering some often overlooked facets of Taipei culture.