Qiū Fēn: Autumnal Equinox

Qiū Fēn: Autumnal Equinox

秋分 Qiū Fēn: Autumnal Equinox

秋分 Qiū Fēn, known as the Autumnal Equinox is the 16th solar term on the Ancient Chinese Solar Calendar and the 4th term of the fall season. This year it starts on September 23rd and continues through October 7th. 秋分 Qiū Fēn begins when the sun reaches the celestial longitude of 180° and ends the longitude of 195°.

秋分 Qiū Fēn is the time when the night and day are equal in length, and the Yin Qi and Yang Qi are in balance. This means that the heat and cold are also balanced.

The night of White Dew and Autumn Equinox, one night is colder than the one before. – ancient Chinese proverb

Farmers in southern China are still harvesting rice during 秋分 Qiū Fēn and those living in the north are already planting winter wheat.

Thunderstorms calm down, insects make their nests and water dries up. – Ancient Chinese Proverb

Each of the 24 solar terms is further divided into 3 pentads or a group of five (5 days). Let’s take a look at the pentads for 秋分 Qiū Fēn:

1st pentad – 雷始收聲 thunder begins to soften
2nd pentad – 蟄蟲培戶insects make nests
3rd pentad – 水始涸 water begins to solidify


中秋節Zhōng Qiū Jié: The Mid Autumn Festival


中秋節Zhōng Qiū Jié, translated as Mid-Autumn Festival, typically falls during the 秋分 Qiū Fēn solar term, however this year it fell on September 9th. This festival is one of the four most significant annual celebrations in the Chinese culture.

中秋節 Zhōng Qiū Jié has gone several stages of evolution throughout Chinese history. Dating back more than 3,000 years, the Mid-Autumn Festival originally celebrated the yearly harvest.

Approximately 1,500 years ago mooncakes, a traditional Chinese food, entered the scene and became a tradition on the day of 中秋節 Zhōng Qiū Jié, or Mid Autumn Festival.

Approximately 1,000 years ago during the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) of China 中秋節 Zhōng Qiū Jié became an official holiday.

Since that time The Mid-Autumn Festival has continued gaining national popularity and has maintained its great importance among the Chinese annual festivals.

There is also an ancient legend that tells the origin of 中秋節 Zhōng Qiū Jié, or Mid Autumn Festival.

The Legend of 10 Suns during Qiū Fēn: Autumnal Equinox

Once long ago, according to Chinese Legend, there were 10 suns. It was so hot that no crops survived and people were dying. Hardship and famine filled the land. And then there appeared a hero archer whose name was Hou Yi and who was skilled enough to shoot down nine of those suns, bringing relief to the land and people. To express her appreciation, the Queen of Heaven gifted Hou Yi with an elixir of immortality. The hero archer chose not to drink it and instead gave it to his wife Chang’e for safekeeping.

On the 15th day of the 8th Lunar month one of Hou Yi’s followers attempted to steal the immortality elixir from Chang’e when her husband was away hunting. To preserve the elixir Chang’e drank it which made her immortal. As a result Chang’e had to leave Earth, making Moon her home. Hoping to be reunited with his beloved, the hero Hou Yi presented cakes that looked like moons to the Moon on the 15th day of the 8th Lunar month every year for the remainder of his life.

As the bright moon shines over the sea
From far away you share this moment with me
For parted lovers nights are the worst to be
All night long I thing of no one else by thee
To enjoy the moon I blow out the candle stick
Please put on your nightgown
For the dew is thick
I try to offer you 
The moonlight so hard to pick
Hoping a reunion
In my dream will come quick

-by poet张九龄 Zhang Jiuling (678-740) of the Tang Dynasty

Osmanthus Flowers

Picking and using Osmanthus flowers to make wine is traditional in China during this festive time of year.

You [osmanthus] are so tender, though of pale, light yellow hue
Far from caress of heart and hand, fragrant are you
How can you need the color of rose or green jade
Beside you all other beautiful flowers fade
Envious mumes should grow
Chrysanthemums feel shy
By balustrades you blow
Under mid-autumn sky
The poet Zu must be insensible of your beauty
Oh how could he forget to praise you was his duty

by poet易安居士Li Qingzhao (1084 –1155) of the Song Dynasty


The Moon

The moon is its fullest and brightest on the Autumnal Equinox, symbolizing family reunion and inviting people of all ages outside to enjoy looking at the moon. Much of Chinese folklore and art is dedicated to the moon.

“When will the moon be bright and clear
With a cup of wine in my hand, I ask the deep blue sky
Not knowing what is the time of year would be tonight in the palace on high
Riding the wind, there I would fly.
Yet I’m afraid the jade and crystal mansions would be too high and cold for me
Dancing to play with my shadow, how does it compare with in the world
Turning around the vermillion pavilion, stooping through the gauzed window
The moon shines upon the sleepless
The moon should bear us no grudge
why is it oft full and bright when people part from each other
People may have sorrows and joys, partings and reunions
As well as the moon is bright or dim, wax and wane
Rare is perfect since the ancient times
May we live long and share the beauty of the moon together
Even if we are hundreds of miles apart.”

-By poet 苏 轼 Sū Shì (1037–1101) of the Song Dynasty

The West Lake “Three Pools Mirroring the Moon” in Hangzhou, China is the place to be on the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival. It is the prime spot to appreciate the full moon. This lake and its symbolism is so significant to the Chinese, that they even printed the image of the “Three Pools Mirroring the Moon” on the back of one Yuan note.

It is important to slow down during this time of year and focus on self-nurturing, maintaining your inner peace, and safe guarding your emotional wellness.

May you continue to balance and harmonize yourself as we transition into the Autumnal Equinox. Maintain your inner peace and enjoy the journey!

Additional Resources

Looking for more information on this time of the year? Try these resources below, and enjoy!

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Bái Lù: White Dew

Bai Lu

白露 Bái Lù: White Dew

白露 Bái Lù, which translates as White Dew, is the 15th solar term in the Ancient Chinese Solar Calendar and the 3rd term of the fall season. This year it starts on September 7th and continues through September 22nd. 白露 Bái Lù begins when the sun reaches the celestial longitude of 165° and ends when it reaches the longitude of 180°.

Let’s look at the meaning of 白露 Bái Lù:

白Bái: white
露Lù: dew

白露 Bái Lù marks the beginning of an abundant dew that appears on plant life early in the morning which typically does not dry out until later in the day. Furthermore, Chinese culture associates autumn with the metal element which is linked with the color white, hence “white” dew.

“White, white the reed
Dew not yet dried
Where is she I need
On the other side

-from 诗经 Book of Songs (oldest existing collection of Chinese poetry dating from the 11th to 7th centuries B.C.)

Although 白露 Bái Lù is already the third term of the fall season on the Chinese solar Calendar, only now will you start to feel the cool of autumn commencing.

It is getting colder with every rainfall in the autumn, and a layer of white dew, a layer of frost – Ancient Proverb

Each of the 24 solar terms is further divided into 3 pentads, a group of five days. All three pentads of 白露 Bái Lù, have to do with birds:

1st pentad – 鴻雁來 wild geese arrive
2nd pentad – 玄鳥歸 swallows return
3rd pentad –群鳥養羞 birds prepare for winter

The Land During 白露 Bái Lù: White Dew


“Sunflowers smile in summer; in early autumn, cicadas wake people from sleep, wild geese return during Bái Lù and the osmanthus fragrance fills the garden at the autumnal equinox.”
–Ancient Proverb

白露 Bái Lù brings with it cooler temperatures, dryer weather, changing magnificent landscapes and white dew.

It is wise to have an extra layer of clothing on you or with you during 白露 Bái Lù as we continue dealing with fluctuating temperatures. Afternoons might still bring the heat up but mornings and evenings are drastically cooler.

Make sure you spend time outdoors enjoying the brilliant and breathtaking views of the changing landscape and taking some deep inhales of refreshing and invigorating air.

“The heavy sweat condenses into heavy fruits, and people are happy, grateful, and share”
–白露 Bái Lù, or White Dew solar term proverb

Animal life such as birds are preparing to migrate south, while others have begun their search for hibernating spots and foraging to store food for the winter.

“Thick grow the rush leaves
White dew turns to frost
He whom I love
Must be somewhere along this stream
I went up the river to look for him
But the way was difficult and long
I went down the stream to look for him
And there in the middle
Sure enough, was he!
-from 诗经 Book of Songs (oldest existing collection of Chinese poetry dating from the 11th to 7th centuries B.C.)

White Dew Tea

Chinese girl picking tea leaves

In China people are accustomed to drinking white dew tea during this time of year. White dew tea consists of leaves that have been harvested specifically during 白露 Bái Lù. Tea leaves which have been picked during spring are considered tender and bitter. Those harvested in summer are dry and harsh, while during white dew the tea leaves have a mellow taste.

“Spring tea is bitter, summer tea is harsh, Bái Lù tea tastes better.”
– Ancient Chinese Proverb

White dew tea is however not the only beverage that the Chinese people enjoy drinking during 白露 Bái Lù. Since antiquity they have collected the white dew itself and drank it as a beverage or used it to prepare drinks, such as tea for example.

“When autumn dew is plentiful, it is collected on a plate and cooked like malt, which makes people not hungry”
– 李时珍 Li Shizhen of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)

李时珍Li Shizhen of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) was one of the legendary physicians of China. In 1596 李时珍 Li Shizhenhis published an extraordinary herbology encyclopedia entitled 本草綱目 Bencao Gangmu, also known as Compendium of Materia Medica. This medical text lists white dew as a substance which carries medicinal properties and is capable of healing minor illnesses. Dr. Shizhen explains that white dew has a cooling effect on the body when consumed.

白露 Bái Lù & Rice Wine

“Bái Lù weather is fine and the rice is as white as silver.”
– folk saying

Typically by this time of the year rice has just been harvested and so another time honored tradition in China is making rice wine during 白露 Bái Lù and gathering with friends to drink it.

“Among the flowers with wine beneath the sky
Alone I drink — no friend or kin, just me
I raise my cup to toast the moon on high
That’s two of us; my shadow makes it three
Alas, the poor moon knows not wine’s delight
My shadow follows like a living thing
At last with moon and shadow I unite
In joyful bond, to seize the last of spring
I sing: it sets the moon to rock in time
I dance: my shadow cannot hold its place
Sober, we share companionship sublime
Drunk at last, we drift apart in space.
Lost to worldly things, until some day
We’ll meet again, beyond the Milky Way.”

by poet 李白 Li Bai (701-762) of the Tang Dynasty

白露 Bái Lù Indications

It is important to slow down and focus on self-nurturing, maintaining your inner peace, and safe guarding your emotional wellness during fall.

Jinling night quiet and cool breeze,
Alone up the tall buildings to look at Wu Yue,
White clouds reflect the water and shake the empty city,
And the white dew drops the autumn moon.”
“Moon under the moon in the West Tower of Jinling City” by poet 李白 Li Bai (701-762) of the Tang Dynasty


“The three months of autumn are the season for harvest. It is getting cooler and the wind is blowing stronger. The Qi of earth is clear and everything is changing color. Go to sleep when it is dark and get up at dawn, just like the rooster. Keep calm and relaxed and keep your vital energy in good balance. It will help you resist the adverse influence of the cold autumn air. That is the way to adapt to autumn and nurture the harvesting Qi. Violating it will result in injury to the lungs.”
–黃帝內經 Huangdi Neijing Su Wen

May you continue to balance and harmonize yourself as we transition into白露 Bái Lù: White Dew. Maintain your inner peace and enjoy the journey!

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