Rice Dumplings are another popular traditional food in China. They are made with cooked glutenous rice with pork, seafood, or vegetables and then wrapped in bamboo leaves. As is with a lot of things in Chinese culture, there is a famous historical story that these rice dumplings and the boat race come from.

Whether or not you and your kids have had the opportunity of trying these dumplings, through this activity you’ll gain some insights into Chinese culture.

I have prepared a beautiful Chinese art and craft activity: Origami Paper Rice Dumplings for you and your family to make together. They can be decorations, centerpieces, toys or even just pretend food as well.

If you would like to make these origami Chinese rice dumplings TOGETHER with me and with parents from all over the world? Join us to the coming FREE 5-day Dragon Boat Festival Challenge.

OK! Are you ready now? Let’s do it!


>>> This lesson plan and photos were created by my friend, Kristy, follow her IG Love School at Home which has lots of other awesome teaching ideas. <<<

*This post contains affiliate links.

All about Rice Dumplings

Tasting and trying cultural food is part of learning the target language. Cultural food and cooking often reflects and teaches us about how these people live, what they like to eat, what the most popular ingredients were, and so on.

Rice Dumplings/ zongzi is a traditional Chinese food served during the Dragon Boat Festival. Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated on the 5th day of the 5th month of the Chinese calendar. Learn more about the activities that we can do during the Dragon Boat Festival HERE.

This holiday also signals the start of summer.

Why do Chinese Eat Rice Dumplings

Let’s begin with a story I love

In the ancient state of Chu during the Warring States period of the Zhou Dynasty of China (c. 340–278 BC), Qu Yuan was a famous poet and a royal minister who loved his country. The local people loved and respected him very much.

When his country fell and he received news that the king was dead, Qu Yuan was so heartbroken that he committed suicide by drowning himself in a river.

After the news of Qu Yuan’s death was spread, the local people made sticky rice balls and dropped them in a river, so the fish would eat the rice balls and not Qu Yuan’s body. They also played drums to scare the fish away.

Nowadays, rice dumpling is a type of comfort food for Chinese people. We can find and eat rice dumplings all over in China most of the year.

For example, during the four years living in Hong Kong, we were able to buy rice dumplings all over the local market, almost anytime throughout the year. I am happy to report my kids have come to love rice dumplings over these past few years. It makes me so happy!


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How Chinese Make Rice Dumplings in Restaurants

Even though this video is in Simplified Chinese only, it shows how Chinese people make tons of rice dumplings for selling. It also talks about the history of the rice dumplings and the Dragon Boat Festival which I mentioned above.

Different Varieties of Rice Dumplings

From this touching historical event, one of the most popular comfort food in China was born – (sticky) rice dumplings 粽子

After passing this traditional Chinese food from generation to generation, the traditional rice dumplings still can be found today, but there are also new unique and modern rice dumplings.

Now they range from sweet to savory and can contain a large selection of ingredients which range from basic to unique.

Basic Ingredients


  • Glutinous Rice
  • Salted Duck Egg Yolk
  • Pork Belly
  • Shiitake mushrooms
  • Chestnut
  • Mung beans
  • Dried shrimps


  • Red Beans
  • Lotus paste
  • Marinated or dried jujubes
  • Marinated fruits 

Some Unique Ingredients

  • Abalone
  • Roasted duck
  • Dried oyster
  • Sea moss
  • Dried scallops
  • Fish maw and cod fish
  • Braised peanuts
  • Yam or pumpkin
  • Clam
  • Mussel
  • Coconut, brown sugar, red bean and chestnut rice (sweet)
  • Green tea (sweet)

How to Make Zongzi at Home

My family never made their own rice dumplings but always bought them from the store instead, so I had no idea how to make them. However, my kids fell in love with zongzi, and it won’t be so easy to get rice dumplings when we live in the U.S., so I decided that it was time to learn how to make them for my family.

let’s take a minute and learn together.

* Have you eaten rice dumplings or zongzi before? Have you tried to make them?

Angel Wong did a great job teaching us how to prepare, wrap, and cook the rice dumplings.

Now let’s see how to make some paper zongzi.

8 Steps to Make Origami Rice Dumplings

Well, it’s time for us to make origami paper rice dumplings with our kids. It is much easier than making the real ones. Green card-stock and thin rope are the only materials needed.



1.Cut card-stock into long paper strips , 1.5 inches wide 11 inches long

2. Starting at one end fold the paper into a small triangle shape and repeat till the end of the paper strip 

(TIP: parents can draw some lines for young kids to fold them. It makes the whole folding process much easier.)

3. Unfold the paper and there will be lines forming a triangular shape on the paper strips

4. . Carefully fold the strip while following the lines into a tetrahedron (triangular pyramid)

5. Tuck the last end of the paper strip inside

6. Use twine to wrap around the rice dumpling (zong zi) and tie a double knot to secure it.

7. Repeat with each paper strip

8. Use a long piece of twine to connect all rice dumpling (zongzi) together

Use this Origami for:


Use the origami paper rice dumplings for the centerpiece of a Dragon Boat dinner party, and serve rice dumplings and watch Dragon Boat race with your family and friends.

Pretend Play

Rice dumpling is actually served as a dish of dim sum in Chinese restaurant. It is perfectly simple, easy, low cost pretend food that you can make all the time.

Chinese Play Food: Review of HeartFelt Makan’s Realistic, Non-Plastic Toys! (Chalk Academy)

Sensory Bin

Adding some Chinese elements into the sensory bins was a recent idea to teach my kids Chinese. Kids love and are more engaged in learning when using multiple senses, also when learning involves making a mess.

Sensory bins provide the opportunity for their little fingers to touch, feel, explore, and connect with different themes and topics. Those themes can be familiar or unknown to kids.

I don’t see people using the Dragon Boat Festival or rice dumplings as a sensory bins’ topic yet. But I can imagine that it would be super fun to fill a sensory bin with water, water beads, blue jello, little boats, and paper rice dumplings (if you don’t want to use water).

What do you suggest putting into the Dragon Boat Festival Sensory Bin?

Other Activities to Learn More about the Dragon Boat Festival

  • Join our FREE Teaching Chinese Challenge: 5-Day Dragon Boat Festival HERE. (I provide all the lesson plans, printable, and activities ideas for you to teach with parents from all over the world for 5-days together.)
  • Watch a real Dragon Boat Race live or on the internet
  • Make rice dumplings and share them with friends and family
  • Go swimming (another tradition during the Dragon Boat Festival)

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