Ancient Chinese Observations
Archaeological research has revealed that the Ancient Chinese have been observing the movements of the sun, moon and stars for more than 4,000 years. These meticulous observations were then used to govern agriculture and various other aspects of their everyday lives, customs, and traditions.
The Ancient Chinese established 4 major solar terms, or 节气Jie Qi, as early as the Shang Dynasty (1766 – 1046 B.C.). During the Zhou Dynasty (1046 – 256 B.C.), 8 solar terms were established. The 24 solar terms as we know them now were first included in the calendar in 104 B.C. during Western Han dynasty (202 B.C. – 9 A.D.), or Taichu Calendar.
The 5th Great Invention of China
The 24 Solar Terms include:
立春 Lì Chūn, or Start of Spring
雨水 Yǔ Shuǐ, or Rain Water
惊蛰 Jīng Zhé, or Awakening of Insects
春分 Chūn Fēn, or Spring Equinox
清明 Qīng Míng, or Clear and Bright
谷雨 Gǔ Yǔ, or Grain Rain
立夏 Lì Xià, or Start of Summer
小满 Xiǎo Mǎn, or Grain Buds
芒种 Máng Zhǒng, or Grain in Ear
夏至 Xià Zhì, or Summer Solstice
小暑 Xiǎo Shǔ, or Minor Heat
大暑 Dà Shǔ, or Major Heat
立秋 Lì Qiū, or Start of Autumn
处暑 Chù Shǔ, or End of Heat
白露 Bái Lù, or White Dew
秋分 Qiū Fēn, or Autumn Equinox
寒露 Hán Lù, or Cold Dew
霜降 Shuāng Jiàng, or Frost’s Descent
立冬 Lì Dōng, or Start of Winter
小雪 Xiǎo Xuě, or Minor Snow
大雪 Dà Xuě, or Major Snow
冬至 Dōng Zhì, or Winter Solstice
小寒 Xiǎo Hán, or Minor Cold
大寒 Dà Hán, or Major Cold
In 2016 China’s “24 solar terms” were added to the UNESCO world intangible cultural heritage list. In the international meteorological field the 24 solar terms are known as “the fifth great invention of China”. Studying and understanding the 24 solar terms system and how it governs daily life has been added to primary and middle schools in China.
立春 Li Chūn: Start of Spring
“To comply with the mandates of heaven and time and act accordingly has become a way to learn from nature. Uphold harmony and cherish life which characterizes the Chinese spirit.”
-Song of Solar Terms
立春 Li Chūn, or Start of Spring is the first of the 24 solar terms and this year it begins on February 4th and continues through February 19th. It always begins when the Sun reaches the celestial longitude of 315° and ends when it reaches the longitude of 330°. Let’s look at the meaning of Lì Chūn:
立 Lì: Begins or Commences
春 Chūn: Spring
立春 Li Chūn was originally known and celebrated as ‘Farmers’ Day’ dating back at least 2,000 years. This solar term signifies the beginning of the spring season and it is mid-way between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.
The coldest part of the winter season has now passed. The Northern hemisphere has started its gradual warming. Spring enters its realm inspiring revitalization. Yang energy begins with a slow but steady explosion of life!
立春 Li Chūn is 15 days long and consists of 3 pentads (groups of five):
1st pentad – 东风解冻 east wind thaw
2nd pentad – 蛰虫始振 hibernating insects awaken
3rd pentad – 鱼陟负冰 fish swim upward near ice
“Plowed on insects awakening, the fields will be perfect for planting by Spring Equinox.”
– Ancient Chinese Proverb
A popular activity of立春 Li Chūn is to go outside and enjoy the blossoming of plum trees. Plum blossoms represent courage in Chinese culture as they persevere through cold temperatures to demonstrate their gentle beauty.
新年好 Xīnnián Hǎo – Happy New Year & Lunar New Year Poems
新年Xīnnián, or Chinese Lunar New Year, also known as 春节 Chūnjié, or Spring Festival is celebrated during this time of year. It is a 16 day grand affair and the most important and most festive holiday of the year. In 2022 it begins on February 1st, ushering in the year of the Water Tiger.
“If the northern wind can hear the plum flowers, spare the blooming wishes for a peaceful spring”
– a wish made on Chinese New Year’s Eve
A poem written by 孟浩然 Meng Haoran, a poet from the Tang Dynasty:
“昨夜斗回北，今朝岁起东； The old year passed with the handle of the Big Dipper turning toward east yesterday, and today is a new start,
我年已强壮，无禄尚忧农。 Though I am not an official even in my 40’s, I still worry about farming.
桑野就耕父，荷锄随牧童； Work as a farmer in the field of mulberry trees along with buffalo boy.
田家占气候，共说此年丰。 People divine by zodiac that it will be a bumper harvest this year.”
-孟浩然 Meng Haoran, 田 家 元 日 New Year’s Day for the Farmer’s Family
And another written by Wang Anshi from the Song Dynasty:
爆竹声中一岁除 The old year is blown away by firecrackers,
春风送暖入屠苏。 the spring breeze lends warmth to Tusu wine.
千门万户曈曈日 While the rising sun shines over each and every household,
总把新桃换旧符。 people replace old peach wood charms with the new.”
-by Wang Anshi 元日王安石 Chinese New Year’s Day
立春 Li Chūn: Spring Indications
The Yin phase of autumn and winter is transitioning into the Yang phase of spring and summer. Spring is the season of growth, rebirth, and rejuvenation. It is time for strategic planning, making decisions and acting on them.
Spring corresponds with the Wood element which represents the liver, the gallbladder, tendons and eyes. The wood energy wants to rise up, push through, and get things done. It is active, fast paced and energetic. It supports creativity, vision and leadership.
The Wood element is associated with the eyes, the emotion of anger, the color green, and the sound of shouting. Likewise, the climate is wind, the season is rebirth and growth, and the taste is sour.
The priority is always to remain in balance and maintain harmony. Therefore, focus on being assertive, persistent, creative, and flexible during this expansive and fast moving phase. Sway gracefully in the wind like a healthy tree.
Energy is strong and abounding during this period. The Liver organ is responsible for the smooth flow of emotions; therefore it is highly important that we safe guard our emotional wellness!
Sleep is an essential tool for replenishment and recovery for the liver.
The following tips will assist you with maintaining your well-being during the spring months:
- Expose your body to sunlight at the appropriate time of day for just 10-15 minutes a day. (see our article on Your Body’s Dance with the Sun)
- Spend 10-15 minutes per day outside absorbing fresh oxygen.
- Remember that the moment you feel thirsty, your body is already dehydrated. Prevent that by drinking the appropriate volume of water for your weight.
- Daoyin and the Way of Softness & Harmonizing Your Training – Such breathing methods require a minimal amount of movement to achieve maximum results leading to internal peace and a calm emotional state.
立春 Li Chūn: Spring According to the Ancients
“The three months of spring denote breaking open the old to create the new. Heaven and earth together generate life and the Ten Thousand things begin to flourish.
Go to bed later in the evening, but rise early. Upon waking take a walk in the courtyard, loosen the hair and relax the body, thus focusing the will on life.
Give life and do not kill. Give and do not take. Reward and do not punish. When one is harmed by cold in winter, he will suffer warm disease in spring, that when one is harmed by Wind in spring, he will suffer diarrhea of undigested foods in summer.”
–黃帝內經 Huangdi Neijing Su Wen
Yíngyǎng (营养) Nutritional Corner – Ancient Chinese Spring
Enjoy freshly grown and harvested seasonal foods.
If you are a Yang Body Type, consider adding more of the following fruits to your diet:
If you are a Yin Body Type, consider adding more of the following fruits to your diet:
A Note From Jiao Shi
As we transition into Spring, it is important to protect your emotions and allow them to flow smoothly. It is also a time for renewal, budding, and growth. Be flexible and sway like bamboo and trees.
Go to bed late and rise early. Get outside and breathe fresh air. It’s time to emerge from hibernation!!!
“Make your whole year’s plan in the spring and your whole day’s plan in the morning”
-Ancient Chinese Proverb
May you enjoy the Spring Season & have a Happy New Year! 恭喜發財 Gong Xi Fa Cai!!
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