The Chinese calendar is divided into 24 Solar Terms. The spring season in the Chinese calendar is divided into 6 hot days from February 4 to May 4. How do natural changes during this period affect daily life?
Seasons of China (四季中国) is a TV 24-episode documentary series that examine the impact of 24 Solar Terms on contemporary China. Created by Xinhua News Agency CNC.
Episode 1: 立春 Start of Spring (li chun)
The first solar term of the Chinese lunar calendar, which begins on 4 February. During this season, the days get longer and the sunlight gets warmer. Traditionally, throughout China‘s history, people celebrated the first day of this term by holding ceremonies to welcome the spring and pray for good luck. Thus, rather than just a solar term, li chun has become a significant festival. In terms of agriculture, the Start of Spring reminds farmers that the annual cultivation is about to begin; an old Chinese saying goes accordingly: “Spring begins, rain arrives. Get up early, sleep late.”
Food-wise, many people in China follow a custom called “biting the spring”; eating spring pancakes and spring rolls. Health-wise, people are advised to open the windows, allow the air to circulate, and do more physical exercises to enhance their immunity. Other typical customs include, for example, kite-flying (a traditional folk activity with a history of more than 2,000 years) and posting spring calligraphy and paintings on doors.
Episode 2: 雨水 Rain Water (Yǔ Shuǐ)
The second among the 24 solar terms of the Chinese lunar calendar. It begins on 18 February and signifies the coming spring. In this season, the weather is gradually warming, snowfall is reducing, ice is melting, and rainfall is increasing. Traditionally, it is a time to visit the parental home. In terms of agriculture, yushui is a time for soil cultivation and fertilization; an ancient Chinese saying goes: “Rain during the spring time is as precious as oil,” signifying the importance of rain to plants and farming. The traditional food during this term is meat. In southwestern China, for example, local people stew pig with beans and seaweed in clay pots, while in northern China people cook pork and shepherd’s dumplings. Health wise, yushui is a favorable period for body maintenance and exercising.
Episode 3: 惊蛰 Awakening of Insects (Jīngzhé)
The third among the 24 solar terms of the Chinese lunar calendar. In this season, which begins on 5 March, temperatures are rising, and rainfall is increasing. Jīngzhé (literally: “awaking of hibernating insects”) indicates that the spring thunder awakens animals hibernating in winter and that the earth begins to come back to life. Accordingly, this term signifies the beginning of the busiest time for agricultural work. An ancient Chinese folk belief goes that a White Tiger – a creature believed to bring quarrels and disputes – begins hunting during Awakening of Insects and often bites people, who then encounter lousy luck and conflicts.
Thus, a common related custom for good fortune is to offer sacrifices to the White Tiger. Awakening of Insects is also a good time for fishing and outdoor activities. Health-wise, as the weather gets warmer and the air becomes dry, people tend to cough and feel their mouths are getting dry. Thus, eating pears, which help to moisten the lungs, is a widely practiced custom.
Episode 4: 春分 Spring Equinox (chun fen)
The 4 th term among the 24 Solar Terms of the Chinese Lunar calendar, starting on March 20. In Spring Equinox, the length of the day and night are equal. During this period, the temperatures are getting warmer and many birds such as swallows fly to north regions.
Spring Equinox is also a suitable time for flying kites.
Traditionally, people would let paper kites float away to get the attention of gods as well as to symbolize the flying away of diseases. Moreover, in many parts of China people eat regional spring vegetables to help them preserve health and to bring them good luck.
Episode 5: 清明 Clear and Bright (qing ming)
The 5 th among the 24 Solar Terms of the Chinese Lunar calendar, starting on April 4. In this period, the temperatures rise, and rainfall increases. The first day of Clear and Bright marks one of the most significant days in Chinese culture to offer sacrifice to ancestors – the Tomb-Sweeping Day, also called qing ming festival.
Traditionally, during this festival, people around eat cold food and eggs, as folk belief goes that eating an egg on Tomb-Sweeping Day brings good health all year. In legends, Clear and Bright is one of the three periods during the year in which ghosts come closest to the world. In this context, Buddhists believe that willow branches drive away unwelcome ghosts and evil spirits. Finally, as in the previous term, a common act is to let paper kites float away to get the attention of gods and symbolize the flying out of diseases. During qing ming, little lanterns are tied to the kites, making them look like stars at night.
Episode 6: Grain Rain (谷雨 gǔ yǔ)
The 6th among the 24 Solar Terms of the Chinese Lunar calendar, starting on April 20. This term signals the end of cold weather and a rapid rise in temperatures. The increase in rainfall in this period is vital for the growth of crops.
In fact, Grain Rain originates from an old saying that goes: “Rain brings up the growth of hundreds of grains.” Traditionally, during this period, people drink Spring tea, which is considered rich in vitamins that can help remove heat from the body. In the coastal areas of northern China, the Grain Rain festival is celebrated in fishing villages. This old custom, which dates back more than 2,000 years ago, marks the start of the fishermen’s first voyage of the year and is believed to protect them from stormy seas.