Lì Xià: Start of Summer

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立夏 Lì Xià: Start of Summer

May 5th through May 20th marks the time of立夏 Lì Хià, translated as Start of Summer, the 7th term in the ancient Chinese solar calendar. It is also the first solar term of the summer season. 立夏 Lì Хià, or Start of Summer solar term begins when the Sun reaches the celestial longitude of 45° and ends when it reaches the longitude of 60°.

Let’s look at the meaning of 立夏 Lì Хià:

立 Lì: begin or commence
夏Хià: growth

Let the bountiful growth commence!

Each of the 24 solar terms is further divided into 3 pentads or a group of five. In the case of 立夏 Lì Хià, its 3 pentads are:

1st pentad – 獺祭魚crickets and grasshoppers chirp
2nd pentad – 鴻雁來earthworms emerge from the earth
3rd pentad – 草木萌動gourds reach maturity

The Beginning of Summer

立夏 Lì Хià marks the beginning of the summer season. However, if the south of China has already entered the realm of heat, Northern China is still experiencing cool temperatures and therefore it feels more like spring. The Start of Summer ushers in longer days, shorter nights, rising temperatures and increasing rain showers. Thunder also occurs more often as well as pleasant breezes and warm air follow right after it. Full of vigor and vitality, nature is flourishing and bountiful during this time. Blossoming wild flowers adorn meadows and mountains.

“If it rains on the day of Start of Summer, there will be good harvest that year.” – Chinese Proverb

Varieties of fruits, grains and vegetables are reaching full maturity and are being harvested at this time. It is traditional to enjoy locally grown and freshly picked seasonal foods during this solar term. Tea picking is at its peak during this period. Tea grows abundantly and even the slightest delay in harvesting tea leaves adds bitterness to the leaves and takes away from its value.

“If it is cold during Start of Summer, there will be poor harvest” -Ancient Chinese Proverb

The Rice Planting Festival

Beautiful reflection of sunset colors in rice terrace valley in Ubud village, Bali, Indonesia. Agricultural field of rice terraces

Each of the 24 solar terms on the ancient Chinese solar calendar has its own unique traditions and customs which have been followed by the Chinese people for centuries and in some cases thousands of years. The Rice Planting Festival and the Bama Longevity Banquet are both held annually on the first day of the Start of Summer solar term in Southern China. It is believed that rice originated in the land we call China today and was domesticated at least eight thousand years ago. The Rice Planting Festival is sacred to the Yao people of Southern China who have been planting and depending on this crop for generations. Rice terraces in this region are some of the most picturesque and breathtaking in the world.

During the 5th solar term 清明 Qīng Мíng, or Clear and Bright, the Yao people plant rice into the dry earth. On the first day of the 7th solar term 立夏 Lì Хià, or Start of Summer, the rice seedlings are then transplanted onto the wet rice paddies to ensure a bountiful harvest.

More seedlings transplanted in summer means more grains stored for winter – Ancient Chinese Saying

The entire process from planting to harvest is done by hand by the Yao community. The tilling of the soil in preparation for sowing is done by buffalo.

“This is very idyllic lifestyle. I am covered in mud and I’ve been bent over in the fields planting rice. I have to say I couldn’t be happier.” – a guest in attendance of the Rice Planting Festival

The Yao people have followed their customs and traditions for thousands of year and are known for their “unusual” longevity.

“70 year old men are regarded as middle-aged here” – saying of a Yao Man

Summer According to the Ancients

“In the three months of summer there is an abundance of sunshine and rain. The heavenly energy descends, and the earthly energy rises. When these energies merge, there is intercourse between heaven and earth. As a result, plants mature and animals, flowers, and fruit appear abundantly. One may retire somewhat later at this time of year, while still arising early. One should refrain from anger and stay physically active, to prevent the pores from closing and the Qi from stagnating. It is important to be happy and easygoing and not hold grudges, so that the energy can flow freely and connect the external with the internal. That way, illness may be averted in the fall. As problems in the summer way cause injury to the heart organ and manifest in autumn.” -黃帝內經 Huangdi Neijing, The Yellow Emperorʼs Internal Classic Simple Questions (3rd century B.C.)

“Let the mind have no anger, and things will blossom beautifully” -黃帝內經 Huangdi Neijing

The Ancient Chinese lived and worked in harmony with nature. During the colder months it was time for hibernation, and during the Spring it was time to be more active. As we enter Summer, remember to make time for the people who bring you joy, nurture creative projects, exercise outside, go on adventures, stay out a little later, drink water, and relax! Take long deep breaths and enjoy nature. Accordingly, make time for a nap in the middle of the day if you need it!

The Energy of the Ancient Chinese Summer

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Summer is the most Yang time of the year. It corresponds with the Fire element which represents the heart, small intestine, and pericardium organs. During this time you will find growth both in nature as well as in your own life. The Fire element is associated with the tongue, the emotion joy, the color red, and the sound of laughter. Likewise, the climate is hot, and the taste is bitter.

The heart is responsible for pumping blood throughout our entire bodies. In TCM it also houses the 神Shen or spirit. When the element of fire is in balance and harmony with your body, it is strong and healthy, the spirit is calm and you sleep well. Disharmony within the Fire element may display itself as insomnia, irritability, anxiety, restlessness, mania, or depression. Dao Yin exercises and specified breathing techniques such as laughing Qi Gong are great to help calm the spirit. Drink enough water and most importantly, be joyful and laugh!!!

Yíngyǎng (营养) Nutritional Corner –立夏 Lì Xià: Start of Summer

It is recommended in Traditional Chinese Medicine to eat hydrating foods during the Summer months. Try refreshing foods such as watermelon, cantaloupe, mango, pear, and mung bean soup. If you are a Yang Body Type, consider adding more of the following fruits to your diet:

  • Lemons
  • Mangoes
  • Coconuts
  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Oranges

If you are a Yin Body Type, consider adding more of the following fruits to your diet:

  • Watermelon
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cucumber
  • Mung Beans
  • Tomatoes
  • String Beans
  • Tofu (Soy Beans, Edamame)

A Note From Jiao Shi

Summer is a time to play. Release your inner child like the first day out of school. Allow your energy to flourish and expand like the ripe fruit on a tree.  Be sure to get the correct type of sunlight daily, as well as oxygen and water. Exercise and allow yourself time to rest and reset when needed. May you enjoy your Summer, and fill your days with fun and your home with laughter!

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