The Chinese calendar is divided into 24 Solar Terms. The winter season in the Chinese calendar is divided into 6 periods from November 6 to February 3. 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.
立冬 Start of Winter (Lì Dōng)
The 19th solar term of the lunar calendar. It begins on November 7. This term signifies the beginning (li) of winter (dong).
In this period, the temperatures in many parts of China decline. In terms of agriculture, the Start of Winter means that the autumn crops have been harvested and animals have hidden to prepare for hibernation.
Traditionally, people around the country, and particularly in the north, like to eat dumplings (jiaozi). A famous saying in northern regions goes: “Eating dumplings when the winter begins helps one better resist the upcoming bitter cold”. Other dishes in this period include mutton soup, chicken, fish and duck.
小雪 Minor Snow (xiao xue)
The 20th solar term of the lunar calendar. It begins on November 22, and signifies the second term of winter.
In this period, the temperatures continue to drop, the air becomes dryer, and snowfall can be seen in northern China.
Traditionally, Minor Winter reminds people around the country to have hot soups such as radish soup and eat yang dishes like chicken, mutton, and ginger to keep themselves warm.
This is also the time for preparing preserved food, which can then be stored for a long time.
In terms of agriculture, according to an old Chinese saying: “If the sky is full of snow during Minor Snow, next year will be a harvest year.”
大雪 Major Snow (da xue)
The 21st solar term of the lunar calendar. It begins on December 7, and signifies the third term of winter.
In this period, the temperatures drop significantly and the snow in some parts of northern China becomes heavy and cover the ground. In the south, people can enjoy the blossoms of the plum.
Traditionally, in Major Winter people around the country eat lamb meat or hot porridge, which are believed to nourish the body, promote blood circulation and provide protection against the cold.
冬至 Winter Solstice (dong zhi)
The 22nd solar term of the lunar calendar. It begins on December 21 and signifies the coldest season of the year. In winter solstice, the northern hemisphere experiences the shortest day and the longest night in the year, and from then on, the days become longer and the nights shorter.
Traditionally, during this term, people around China eat different kinds of dishes based on nuts, dumplings, wonton, mutton soup, rice cakes, red beans, and the famous sweet tangyuan.
In Northern China, an old saying goes: “Have dumplings on the first day of Winter Solstice and noodles on the first day of Summer Solstice.”
小寒 Minor Cold (xiǎo hán)
The 23nd solar term of the lunar calendar. It begins on January 5th and include the coldest days of the year.
In minor cold, people around China start their preparations for the coming New Year.
Traditionally, during this term, it is advised to eat dishes that contains more yang energy to prevent cold from harming the organs.
Accordingly, recommended dishes in this period include mutton hot pot, baked chestnuts, sweet potato, and warm laba porridge.
Minor Cold is also a busy time for pharmacies of traditional Chinese herbal medicine, as many people tend to consume them before the Lunar New Year.
大寒 Major Cold (da han)
The 24 solar term of the lunar calendar. It begins on 20 January and
signifies the last term of winter and of the year. In many parts of China and the northern
hemisphere, this period contains some of the year’s coldest days with snow, rain, and icy cold
weather that influence many people’s lives. It is thus a perfect time for winter sports like skiing,
ice skating, and sledding. In Major Cold, people are advised to pay attention to their health and
be prepared for the seasonal changes from winter to spring. Traditionally, people in China eat
easy-to-digest warm foods, such as rice cakes (Beijing), stewed soup (Jiangsu), fried spring rolls
(Anhui), and sweet potatoes, which can help the body adjust to the changing weather.