Today is winter solstice, the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, and it is a record-breaking 30°C in Taipei 台北. 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 Xiǎonánmén 小南門, formally Taipei Prefecture Little 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 Zhōngzhèng District 中正區 not far from where I am staying these days in Wànhuá District 萬華區.
Now the days grow longer, each more than the last.